Tag Archives: COVID-19

Challenges Of A Teacher

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Challenges Of A Teacher

I’m retired now, but I’m often asked what kinds of challenges I faced while teaching English here in Mexico. I basically divide them into two distinct areas….. actual English teaching in the classroom and the challenges associated with the difference in the culture here from up north.

In the classroom, aside from the obvious grammar and pronunciation, there were the more abstract things included in the curriculum. I always found the topic of white lies versus black lies a challenge. There was always that one student who insisted that his steady girlfriend of so many years didn’t need to know about the new woman in his life because he wasn’t sure which one he wanted to be with until he got to know the new one better. He’d tell his girlfriend he was going out for a beer with the guys instead. In his eyes this was no different than telling a friend his new shirt was amazing even though he really thought the shirt was hideous.

Classroom management was definitely an adventure. Teacher aides for students with behavioral issues such as autism simply do not exist here. At one private school where I taught I had one student who consistently tried to climb out of a second story window when he wasn’t interested in the topic we were studying at the moment. Needless to say, his behavior always disrupted the entire class.

As a teacher, students rely on you for far more than just teaching them English. They often came to me with personal problems. The culture here is different, and I was always cautious, especially when it came to teenagers. Many problems students struggle with are really quite universal, adults and children alike, no matter which country you live in.

But these challenges pale in comparison with what teachers face today in light of COVID-19. The additional responsibility for providing safety from infection to students is huge, not to mention that teachers are putting their own lives at risk the moment they step into the classroom.

There is so much controversy about whether or not schools should open again when the virus is still surging. Here in Mexico the schools will not open this month. My heart goes out to teachers everywhere else in the world where schools are reopening. I admire your dedication and I pray for your safety.

Random Reflections

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Random Reflections

Canadians are calling upon Trudeau to resign. Trump somehow marches on. Fauci throws a pitch on a baseball diamond but the real pitch falls on deaf ears. Race riots and anti-mask demonstrations are becoming all too common. And here in Mexico…well, I just won’t go there. Politics are not my thing, especially when I’m a visitor in a foreign country.I started a new course online on Mindfulness offered by Price University in Houston, Texas. I used to dabble in mindfulness along with meditation. But the longer this pandemic goes on the more important these practices become. Now is the time to do things. Stop procrastinating. Be aware and be mindful of every precious moment of your life.My Facebook memories today remind me of being in Kelowna, Winnipeg, Altona, Guadalajara, Mazatlan, Leavenworth, Wenatchee and McAllen on this date. Three different countries, two different provinces in Canada, two different states in the USA and two different states in Mexico.I don’t get around much anymore. I feel like a kid again that got grounded unfairly, but this time by a pandemic and not by a parent. But at least I’m in a beautiful place.Ever since my Mexican family in Culiacán adopted me almost ten years ago, I have never gone seven months without seeing them. Until now.I enjoy my video calls with my daughter and granddaughter in Kelowna. Madeline turned two in February and I’ve only seen her twice in her lifetime. This photo was taken a year ago in July when I was in Kelowna.I learned an interesting fact about water in Aguascalientes. It’s hot and dry here so there is water rationing. The city pumps it out in the morning. If individual households run out during the day……tough luck! No more until tomorrow.Why are the beaches and malecons crowded in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta? Are they competing with Florida to set a new record for COVID-19 cases and deaths.Here in Aguascalientes people wear masks and physical distancing is the norm. I’ve had my temperature taken more times in the last week than almost in my entire lifetime. Sanitizing mats have replaced welcome mats. Antibacterial gel is readily available everywhere when entering shops as well as restaurants.Time for my morning walk. I wonder what awaits me today.

Do You Scroll

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Do You Scroll

Facebook……what has happened to you? There was a time when I enjoyed scrolling through my news feed to catch up on my friends’ activities. I have friends all over the world. Many of these friends I met in my teaching and traveling in Mexico in the last ten years. I have friends back in my hometown in Canada and friends in Leavenworth. These are the people I primarily stay in touch with through Facebook. And a one liner at one time replaced email that I now view as snail mail.

But it’s getting more and more difficult and time consuming to find the posts that I really want to see.

Recently an American friend had posted photos of her new granddaughter in Mexico. Another American friend shared an excellent article on PTSD related to living in this COVID-19 world. A Canadian friend posted news of how the virus has affected life in my hometown. A friend from England shared some beautiful photos of the countryside.

I almost missed all of these.

Why?

There are too many people sharing posts out there without even reading what they are sharing first. Aside from all the misinformation, there is no reason to share upwards of ten posts every single day.

Political posts annoy me. They just add fuel to the fire that is already out of control. They divide a nation and promote animosity between neighbors no matter what country you live in.

Then there are the people who use Facebook as a daily diary. FYI I really don’t care what you ate for lunch or that it is naptime. Or that you just can’t find anything to watch on Netflix.

Then there are those who use Facebook as a pity party. They constantly complain of their aches and pains and of how life is so unfair.

All of the above mentioned people need to get a real life and stop living a virtual life.

In addition there are all the unwanted advertisements thanks to cookies.

I honestly don’t have the time or the patience to scroll through dozens of post to find the ones I am truly interested in. And selecting unfollow doesn’t seem to help.

I post notifications for my blog on Facebook. I check the groups I belong to. I use Messenger. I try to post meaningful items and not an abundance of them. Occasionally I post a Facebook memory. I very selectively share articles posted by friends.

But I no longer scroll regularly. Do you?

6 Is Now 9 And Counting

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6 Is Now 9 And Counting

When I arrived in Mexico back in October, the plan was to return to Leavenworth in April. It’s been a very comfortable balance of relaxing in Mexico and a somewhat hectic schedule of volunteer work in Leavenworth. I also had decided to take two side trips to Canada so that I’d get to see both of my kids this year. My son is still in Winnipeg and in Kelowna I have my daughter and granddaughter.

But then COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

I am still in Mexico. It looks like I will be here until September. Should a miracle happen I would still like to go to Leavenworth. My Plan B is Canada.

Contrary to what ROCA has advised, there are no shortages of food, medication or supplies here.

I have a wardrobe of masks and physical distancing is the norm here. So are sanitizing mats, having my temperature taken before entering restaurants and larger stores, as well as an abundance of antibacterial gel everywhere.

I am well aware that these precautions are not being taken in every state in this country. But they are also not being taken everywhere up north in the USA or Canada either from what friends tell me.

Then there are the statistics. I don’t believe them. It’s impossible to get reliable numbers. There are way too many variables when it comes to testing. And are all the deaths being reported solely due to COVID-19? Or are there other factors involved?

Then there are the many conspiracy theories that many people dwell upon. Decades ago when I was in college I took a course in World History. My professor’s words have always haunted me, and even more so today. “There will be another world war in your lifetime. But it will not be fought with guns or bombs.” Interestingly enough, I also recall that this professor was Chinese.

But dwelling upon conspiracy theories and assessing blame on politicians is not helpful either. COVID-19 is here to stay and we need to learn to live with it.

Man’s inhumanity to man is what is at the core and it needs to be addressed. Selfishness is being displayed all too prominently right now. Instead consideration for the lives of others should be where the focus is placed. This virus does not discriminate between race, religion or socioeconomic background. And neither should we.

We are all in this together. And together we can get through this. Together.

Two Questions

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Two Questions

I usually travel a lot. Of course COVID-19 has temporarily grounded me here in Aguascalientes at the moment. But when I do travel to new places there are two questions that people ask me and quite honestly these questions annoy me. Why? Because the answers are complicated.

The first question is What’s your name?

I was twenty-one when I got married and that’s when I legally changed my maiden name to my married name. When the marriage ended, I had just published my first book. My publisher suggested I continue to write under my married name. And I still write under that name and I use that name on my Facebook author page.

However I decided to revert back to my maiden name when the marriage ended but thought I’d wait to legally change it until the divorce was final. By then I was living in Mexico where I had yet a different name on official documents. Here in Mexico your surname consists of father’s surname followed by mother’s maiden name.

I never did get around to legally changing my name back and the fun started when I arrived in Leavenworth four years ago. In order to volunteer in children’s ministry in the church, a criminal records check and child abuse registry check were mandatory. I can still see the puzzled looks on the two pastors’ faces when I pulled out my ID from my wallet and couldn’t find two photo IDs with the same name. Thankfully I remembered my passport that was at home in a drawer.

I prefer to just use the name Karen and totally eliminate all surnames.

The second question is Where’s home?

Actually that seems to be American Immigration’s favorite question. Once again the answer is complicated.

Undisputedly my hometown is Winnipeg. I was born there and lived there until ten years ago.

Culiacán with my Mexican family is home to me in Mexico. When I walk through the door of their home a wave of familiarity washes over me. This is definitely home to me, especially with my loving family surrounding me.

Four years ago I discovered Leavenworth, Washington and that also has become home to me. COVID-19 has screwed up my plans for my annual six month visit this year. But once things settle down I plan to return to Leavenworth. I miss my friends and I miss the volunteer work I usually do there.

But another place that has become home to me is where I stay here in Aguascalientes. I spent three months here last winter, intending to stay only three weeks initially. This winter I’m now in my ninth month and still counting thanks to COVID-19.

So……….Where’s home?

Nomad Not Now

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Nomad Not Now

I’ve been here in Aguascalientes for 8 months now, with the exception of a few days in Culiacán back in December. I haven’t stayed in one place that long in the past 10 years without traveling on holidays and weekends. The term ” nomad” when describing my lifestyle is apparently no longer appropriate at this time.

COVID-19 has quite effectively grounded me for the time being. I’ll just have to wait and see what transpires. In the meantime there is still new territory to explore right in my barrio.

Pets are different down here in Mexico. They’re not the usual dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles or fish. The other day my neighbor posed for me with his pet rooster.

I was out for a walk the other evening when the clouds began to roll in. I captured this shot of an apartment building. The church I attend occupies the main floor. No elevator and the apartments are on the second to sixth floors.

One of my neighbors sells candy, frozen chocolate bananas and chips. Here is a new colorful sign on their house.

This friendly little one sleeps on the sidewalk or in doorways in an attempt to find shade during the day. Temperatures have been hovering in the 90s for weeks now.

I always enjoy looking at the artwork on buildings around here.

The flowers are blooming everywhere.

This nomad will continue to roam only in Aguascalientes for another month.

June 17 Memories

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June 17 Memories

Aguascalientes has now changed from red to orange on the virus map. Trudeau is keeping the Canadian border closed. Leavenworth seems farther away now.

But I’d rather be where I am today than where I was seven years ago on this date.

Seven years ago today I was having surgery at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg, my second knee replacement.

Another memory. Eight years ago today I was also in Winnipeg. It was the day before my first knee replacement.

Today I just returned from a short walk to the Cocina. My fridge is now full of fresh vegetable and fruit salads, chicken and pasta.

Today is June 17 and I am living in Aguascalientes in the midst of a pandemic, creating more memories.

EVERYTHING IS OPEN

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EVERYTHING IS OPEN

I went to bed on May 31st and woke up to an entirely new world the next morning that suspiciously resembled life before COVID-19.

Although people are still wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, most of the smaller shops that have been closed for months have now reopened. Restaurants are also now open for dining in.

A friend came in from Zacatecas and we went to Terraza Italiana for coffee. In the photo below you will note the physical distancing I observed.The tianguis In Las Flores was in full swing this morning. Much more than just food was available for purchase. Physical distancing was not at all evident.My feelings are quite mixed about this reopening. I would have preferred a more gradual reopening in stages. By the same token I enjoyed sipping freshly brewed coffee in a cafe rather than the instant Nescafé which has been my norm for several weeks now. It’s also nice to see the streets filled with activity once again.

But thousands of new cases of COVID-19 are being confirmed every day. This virus is here to stay. On the one hand we need to protect ourselves but on the other hand we need to build up immunities.

I have no faith in the statistics they provide us with, especially here in Mexico where testing is practically non-existent.

I’m beginning to question the idea that travel is more dangerous than staying at home and I look forward to the borders opening up again so I can go home to Leavenworth.

Quarantine has done its job of slowing the spread. But quarantine does not prevent COVID-19.

The fact of the matter is that life simply cannot go back to the state it was in prior to COVID-19. The economy has been crushed. The fragility of our mental health is evident in the catastrophic increase in suicide rates. And now the anger and frustration of being confined is showing up in the forms of protests and race riots.

Enough of man’s inhumanity to man. There is a new reality now and society needs to adapt. And the sooner the better.

Tomorrow is June 1

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Tomorrow is June 1

I’ve been reading a lot about June 1 lately. That’s the date tourism is supposed to resume in a big way here in Mexico. Hotels are to open again and the beaches are expected to fill with vacationers.

In the past week restaurants have begun to welcome customers once again. Of course they do have to follow some rigid guidelines. I’m still sticking to takeout for the time being. I’m quite content with that right now.

I must admit that I’m just a tad reluctant to go to a hairdresser yet. I’ve passed by a couple of them in my neighborhood and it just looks like business as usual. No physical distancing. In one of them the stylist was not even wearing a mask.

I noticed that several shops had signs stating that only two people were allowed in at a time. Some food stores limited their cliental to only one per family. Absolutely everywhere you go there are bottles of antibacterial gel on countertops. That’s something that I’ve usually found seriously lacking in the past here in Mexico.

By the same token, there are no shortages of soaps, disinfectants or other related products. Nor is there a shortage of toilet paper. Food shortages have never been an issue.

Just yesterday the internet was flooded with articles about how the whole country of Mexico has now been declared a red zone. Who do you believe?

June 1 is tomorrow. I wonder just how “open” this country will be.

Too Soon? Not Soon Enough?

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Too Soon? Not Soon Enough?

Things are starting to reopen here in Aguascalientes. That leaves me a little confused. Cases and deaths are setting record numbers in Mexico, although I must admit I don’t have much confidence in the statistics released daily. Even the state officials can’t seem to agree if Aguascalientes City is a green area or a yellow area.

I went for my daily walks today and noticed that several shops, restaurants and doctors’ offices had reopened.

We’re all getting cabin fever from being cooped up for so long. Yet I know that I have mixed feelings about reopening.

I will continue to maintain an appropriate physical distance and will wear my masks when I venture out. And I will definitely avoid crowds.