Tag Archives: blogging

Traveling During A Pandemic

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Traveling During A Pandemic

Two weeks ago yesterday I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t leaving Mexico anytime soon. Two weeks ago today I found out I could get travel health insurance from the company I usually use that covered COVID-19 if I traveled to the USA. Two weeks ago today my flight was booked. I purchased the health insurance and reserved the Wenatchee Valley Shuttle. Talk about things changing overnight……

My adventure began at 4 am on Monday when Raúl came by to drive me to the airport. After weeks of sanitizing mats, having my temperature checked everywhere and drowning in antibacterial gel, I was surprised that none of these measures were being taken at the airport. There was no physical distancing either. In the waiting area at the gate, there were seats blocked off for physical distancing. However people merely sat down in them anyways despite the clearly labelled tape on them.

My favorite airline is Alaska but that would mean traveling to Guadalajara or Puerto Vallarta first. That would also mean an extra airport. I opted for American Airlines that flies out of Aguascalientes and has a decent connection to get me to Seattle. This airline does not block off middle seats and the flight was completely full. Thankfully everyone wore masks without complaint.

When we landed in Dallas it was business as usual. No health questionnaire. Other than people wearing masks, there was no physical distancing or antibacterial gel anywhere. Once again a completely full flight to Seattle. No objections to the masks either.

When I arrived at SeaTac, the airport was much quieter than usual. When I took the Wenatchee Valley Shuttle to Peshastin, there were only two of us although it was the last shuttle of the day.

This was my experience traveling during a pandemic. I’m thankful that my flights weren’t cancelled or delayed. But I must admit that I’m not looking forward to traveling again in the near future.

Like most people, I want things to revert to the way they were before COVID-19. I want my beach days in Puerto Vallarta back before heading up north in the spring. I want to divide my time equally between Leavenworth and Mexico with side trips to Canada to see my children and my granddaughter. But right now that is only a dream.

Nomad On The Move Again

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Nomad On The Move Again

I’ve enjoyed my time in Aguascalientes. But 6 months became 11. I’m not used to staying in one place for such a long period of time without traveling. But now that travel health insurance has become available again and covers COVID-19 it’s time to move on.

My destination is Leavenworth and I leave tomorrow. I’ve missed my friends and my church family. I can’t wait to see the trees and the mountains again. Autumn is my favorite time of the year.

My major regret is that I haven’t been in Culiacán with my family since December and won’t see my grandsons before heading up north. I’ve never gone so long without seeing them in the last ten years since I’ve been coming to Mexico. And I always squeeze in one last visit before I head north. Leaving feels really strange this year.

The worst part of leaving is always saying goodbye to people. It’s especially hard this year because I don’t know when I’ll be coming back. My familiar pattern of six months here and six months up north has been disrupted by the virus.

In the meantime, let’s take care of each other. Wear your masks, use lots of soap and antibacterial gel and practice physical distancing whenever possible. Above all, avoid crowds.

Stay safe!

I Will Miss You Raul

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I Will Miss You Raul

When I head up north next week, I know I am going to experience the reverse culture shock I usually do. I will miss the laid back life I have here in Aguascalientes. And one person who I will really miss is my friend Raul.

Two years ago this October I arrived in Aguascalientes from San Luis Potosí. I had researched the city and thought that two or three weeks would suffice to visit the museums, templos and pueblos mágicos close by. Instead I stayed for three months.

When I lived in Mazatlan a few years ago I was looking for an opthalmologist and asked for a recommendation on an expat Facebook group. Jose Alberto responded along with a few others. I wound up going to Guadalajara for the cataract surgery instead.

Flash ahead two years and I’m in San Luis Potosí. Again I post in Facebook groups looking for recommendations. Jose Alberto responds and tells me that Aguascalientes is his hometown. He refers me to his nephew Fernando who still lives there. Fernando refers me to his cousin Raúl who owns a hotel.

Fernando offered to pick me up at the bus station and take me to Raul’s hotel. However he had to cancel as he had come down with the flu and was running a fever.

I took a taxi to the hotel. Expecting a hotel, I was quite surprised when I was dropped off at the door of a house. Two workers repairing a drain answered the door and showed me to my room.

I was anxious to settle in and go exploring despite the light drizzle but wanted to talk to Raúl first. What if the workers had let me into the wrong room? And of course I had no keys.

A few minutes later Raúl showed up. And he spoke English!!! I felt better already. That day was also the first of many times I would hear the comforting expression “don’t worry” from Raul.

Seeing as Fernando hadn’t picked me up and taken me to the ATM as I had anticipated, I didn’t have rent money for Raul. He assured me I could pay him when I found an ATM once I settled in.

I then asked him where I could find a garrafón of drinking water as tap water is a no-no here. He asked me to wait and in five minutes was back with one and installed the pump as well.

Another comforting expression I heard for the first of many times was “anything you need, anything you want, just ask” And I admit I did take him up on his offer a couple of times.

His son had a birthday party and I was invited to the celebration. His wife and all of his family were most welcoming. Fernando had a loncheria and I would often see family members there as well.

It was time for the Ferria and I was supposed to have left by then. Raúl had already rented out my room. No problem. Raúl moved me into his home for the weekend. And he drove me to the bus station when I left for Puerto Vallarta.

I told him I wanted to come back the following winter. There was a communal kitchen at the house that I didn’t use. I asked if it was possible to have a fridge and a microwave in my room. No problem. Just a week’s notice before I return.

And return I did. At first I moved into a room on the second floor in another house. However when a main floor room became available at the house I’d stayed in last year, Raúl moved me over.

I had intended to stay for six months, but COVID-19 changed my plans. I had numerous frantic emails from the Canadian government urging me to return immediately to Canada. I couldn’t go to Leavenworth as the insurance companies refused to cover COVID-19. I decided to stay in Mexico.

My FMM expired in April. At that time Mexico was allowing tourists to obtain another FMM, for humanitarian reasons, without leaving the country. When Raúl offered to help me deal with INM, I’m not sure he realized it would mean four visits (two on one day once) and a mountain of paperwork. It was great having him as a translator. The staff at Immigration spoke really fast and the masks made it even more difficult to understand.

Then came the advisory from Mexico Hotel and Tourism that hotels would be shut down and tourists would have nowhere to stay. Raúl said that didn’t apply to him as he was registered as a long-term hospice. He also assured me that if he was shut down that he would move me in with his family.

For three months we were under lockdown. I went out for daily walks to pick up groceries only. Raúl chauffeured me to the ATM and to Telcel to renew my phone plan. He also stopped by regularly to check on me and chat.

I had begun to stockpile some extra medication in anticipation of spending six months in Leavenworth. When that ran out, I went to Farmacia Similares where I was told it was no longer available in generic form. I then went to Farmacia Guadalajara where something got lost in the translation when I was talking to the pharmacist. Raúl to the rescue and the medication magically became available.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Farmacia Guadalajara to pick up extra medication for my upcoming trip to Leavenworth next week. I bumped into Raúl at the pharmacy and jokingly suggested he stick around when I talked to the pharmacist. And it was a good thing he did!

There was none in stock and the other locations weren’t answering their phones. Raúl offered to drive me to Farmacia Ahorro and I eagerly accepted.

His translation skills were extremely helpful once again. This pharmacy had a slightly different medication that also had a diuretic included in the formula. So now only one pill a day to control my blood pressure. A separate diuretic not necessary anymore.

Then it came to paying. I had a discount card I’d gotten in Guadalajara years ago, but my card was at home and not with me. I speak a lot of Spanish but don’t really know the alphabet all that well. Raúl helped me spell my name so it could be checked on the computer. And they found it!

Thank you Raúl for being more than just a great friend, for being a part of my family. I never worry because you always say “don’t worry” and I will miss your comforting words “anything you need, anything you want, just ask”

At the moment I’m not sure just when I’ll be coming back to Aguascalientes, but I know I have more than a room here. I have a home.

The Dilemma

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The Dilemma

There is a part of me that says it’s time to settle down in one place. I often think it might be nice to have one home again. I could have houseplants and a dog again.

But then there’s that other part of me that says I’m not getting any younger. The time to travel is now while I have my health.


I came to Mexico almost ten years ago at the tender age of fifty-eight after having lived my entire life in one city in Canada. Teaching ESL here meant assimilating into a new culture and learning a new language.

The huge bonus was the opportunity to travel. Christmas break that first year I found myself on El Chepe and an amazing train ride in the Copper Canyon.

Over the years I have lived in different areas of the country. I have visited art galleries, museums, botanical gardens, canyons, pyramids, churches, beaches, parks and zoos. I’ve celebrated Independence Day, mesmorized by the throngs of people gathered to hear the gritto and watch the fireworks. I have visited cemeteries in different places for Day of the Dead  although I admit that my favorite place is Tlaquepaque for this holiday. The parades and festivities in Mazatlan for Carnaval are awesome and I went on a cruise one year to view the fireworks.

But it’s the people I’ve met along the way that have enhanced my life here. It’s the friendships we’ve developed and the experiences we’ve shared that have contributed so greatly to my enjoyment of this beautiful country.

I have taught with teachers of all ages from all over the world. I admire the younger ones who gain a far greater education from traveling and working in a foreign country than they would ever get from a classroom in their own native countries. When I was their age I never would have dreamt of such a thing.

COVID-19 has certainly put a damper on my travel plans this winter. I didn’t get to Mexico City to see Angie and her family. I didn’t get to Cuernevaca to see Elsa. I didn’t even get to the beach in Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan this year and I’ve been here for eleven months.

But mostly I regret that I only got to Culiacán once to see my family. And I don’t know when I’ll see them again as I’m leaving Mexico later this month and am not sure when I’ll return. Until then video calls will have to suffice.

I guess this is still my mantra.


               


             

Are We There Yet?

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Are We There Yet?

No we’re not. There are still four more months left before the year from hell is over.

Topping the list of disasters is COVID-19. It’s closely followed by race riots, typhoons, cyclones hurricanes and wildfires.

Politics? I usually shy away but today feel the need to rant. The United States will soon have to change its name to The Divided States as both parties are intent on ridiculing and condemning the tactics of each other. And as if Canada has not attempted to control our lives enough they are now issuing directives about how to conduct our sex lives. And I’m still here in Mexico where conflicting reports as to the status of the virus have become the norm.

All three countries have totally lost sight of the true concept of democracy and keeping the best interests of the people in mind. Instead they have succeeded in creating a world filled with panic and anxiety.

The effects of this trauma on children will be huge in the future. While the younger ones think internet classes and masks are part of an interesting game, older children are fearful of all the uncertainty in their lives today.

Children today are already too addicted to technology. Interpersonal communication is a skill that is seriously in jeopardy more today than ever before.

Can Zoom or FaceTime ever replace in person contact?

Can a virtual hug replace a physical hug in terms of nourishing feelings of love and security?

I highly doubt it.

9/11

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9/11

We all have memories of 9/11. I was watching the news on TV before heading to work that day. What I initially thought was a replay of the first plane crashing into the towers was actually a live version of the second aircraft hitting the building.

Disbelief. Shock. Confusion. Fear. Anxiety. Anger. Overwhelming sadness. These were a few of the emotions I struggled with that day.

Back then I managed a group home for mentally challenged adults. I was riveted to the TV set until they returned from their day programs. I delegated staff to take them out for dinner so that I could continue watching the coverage.

When I got home that night my kids wanted to talk. They were young and their experience of the day’s events was quite different from mine. That made it even more complicated as I didn’t want my fears transferred on to them, especially seeing as I was scheduled to fly to the USA on a business trip less than two weeks later.

For the past four years I have been in Washington state on September 11th. A highlight of my time there is attending a memorial service at Spirit of America in Cashmere. This year the memorial service has been cancelled because of Covid-19. But I know in my heart that when I am finally able to return to Washington state, Spirit of America is one of the first places I will visit.

Try To Remember The Kind Of September

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Try To Remember The Kind Of September

Try To Remember The Kind Of September

This song captured my heart when I heard it live for the first time decades ago at a performance of The Fantasticks at the old Playhouse Theater in Winnipeg. I love live performances and much prefer them to movies.

With September’s arrival this year it reminded me of this song. Then other September memories resurfaced.

September was synonymous with going back to school after summer holidays. It was never a favorite time when I was going back to school myself, but once I had children it sure became one. I was exhausted from juggling year end at work and chauffeuring my kids around all summer to their many activities and play dates.

The past few years I’ve really enjoyed the month of September. In Washington state the leaves on the trees begin to change color. The temperature cools down. I look forward to Autumn Leaf Festival, Chelan County Fair, Apple Days and Scarecrow Days. But this September I’m still in Mexico.

September 16th is Independence Day. And I wonder what type of celebrations will be held here in Aguascalientes. Will crowds of people gather to hear the gritto? Will there be fireworks? That has been my experience in the past in other areas of the country. Of course COVID-19 wasn’t around back then.

I’ll have to find a more patriotic-looking mask than the one in the above photo.

I’m An Addict

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I’m An Addict

I admit it. I’m an addict. I am hopelessly addicted to chocolate.

In another lifetime I had a collection of thirty-five cookbooks loaded with yummy chocolate recipes. And I recall my kids complaining to me, “Can’t you ever bake something without chocolate?” Yet somehow they always attacked the cookies, fudge and cheesecakes with vigor. And I often did humor them and bake items that didn’t contain chocolate.

I suppose that as an addiction chocolate is a relatively harmless one as compared to drugs or alcohol. But nonetheless it has its dangers.

My biggest concern is that chocolate contains caffeine. And I really watch out for caffeine. I drink real coffee only in the mornings and limit myself to a maximum of two cups delay.

Chocolate is not usually a breakfast item. Chocolate is something I crave later in the day.

A candy store near me sells a variety of individually wrapped chocolate items. Perfect! No temptation to eat an entire chocolate bar.

No Bulk Barn here in Mexico so that rules out an overabundance of numerous chocolate items.

Whenever I head to the USA my first purchase is an American Hershey bar. Hershey bars made in Mexico or Canada just don’t taste as good.

However I now have a new favorite here in Mexico. There is a bakery a mere 10 minute walk away that has chocolate truffles the size of a baseball. They cost only 10 pesos, less than 50 cents, and I nibble daily. And it lasts me an entire week!

Doesn’t it look amazing?

Hurricane Genevieve

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Hurricane Genevieve

An active hurricane season was in the forecast for the Pacific coast of Mexico. This prediction has definitely been put to the test this season.

This past week Genevieve grew quickly to a Category 4 but thankfully remained out in the ocean and did not make landfall. Warnings were issued for high surf and dangerous waves along the coast, along with strong winds and torrential rain.

Aguascalientes is inland but nonetheless it is the rainy season. The effect of Genevieve barreling up the coast resulted in substantial rainfall here.

Torrential rain usually seems to begin at around 5 o’clock and pounds away for four or five hours, causing streets as well as some homes and other buildings to flood.

Sharon and I had just finished lunch at Osteria the other day when the rain started. We were sitting in the covered patio area but were forced to move indoors when the overhead canopies could not support the weight of the water.

Walking home was not an option so we opted for Uber. Instead of the usual two or three minute wait it was close to a half hour. Safe and dry inside the car, we were amazed by the water in the streets that had overflowed the curbs.

Note to self: The next time a hurricane charges up the coast, it is imperative to be home by 5 o’clock.

I Still Collect Dolls

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I Still Collect Dolls

When I was a child I always loved playing with dolls. At night many of them shared my bed with me.I remember one rag doll I received from Kellogg’s. I vaguely recall saving up boxtops from cereal for her.My grandfather brought me a doll from New York. When you squeezed her hands together her lips puckered and she blew kisses.I had another doll that walked with me. She stood almost half my height and even had brown hair like mine.I also had a collection of Barbie, Ken and Midge dolls. My mother was an amazing seamstress and sewed beautiful clothes for them.My children had cabbage patch dolls. Other than that I don’t recall my daughter spending much time playing with dolls.When I was in Kelowna last summer I brought my granddaughter a Minnie Mouse doll. She really loved her and my daughter tells me she still plays with her.Four years ago I was in a thrift shop in Wenatchee and came across this precious little porcelain doll. Small enough to travel with me in my suitcase, I eagerly purchased her that day.A couple of years ago I found another porcelain doll even smaller than the first one. Perfect company for each other.Years ago when I was in Winnipeg, my friend Audrey gave me this little darling with a suitcase. She said she thought of me when she saw her as I’m always traveling and living out of suitcases.The other day I was out for lunch with my friend Sharon and she gave me this little treasure. More memories created.I wonder if I ever really settled down in one place how many more dolls would be in my collection.