I was looking over some older blog posts. I used to share tons of photos which I don’t do anymore. That’s because I used to take tons of photos which I also don’t do anymore. Photos require time, time that I’d rather spend with people or writing. And writing has been my focus this winter. I don’t have the patience to sort through photos, edit them and store them in files. I really admire my friend Ann who has literally gone through thousands of photos and is organizing them all in files. They’re family photos that span a period of decades. My family photos are haphazardly stored in cyberspace as they haven’t really made it out of the ancient photo albums in any type of order at all. But the albums are safely stored in waterproof bins in my son’s basement. I wonder if he even looks at them or if they just come out of hiding when I’m in Winnipeg which has only been a handful of times over the last almost thirteen years.
Yes. This fall it will be thirteen years since I first arrived in Culiacan. I know. The news reports tend to focus on all the violence in that city, but Culiacan will always have a special place in my heart. I have wonderful memories of the year I lived there and I always look forward to going back to visit my family there. When I arrive at the bus station I still have a feeling of coming home although I moved away from there twelve years ago.
Coming home. When I visit Winnipeg it no longer feels like home. I’ve been away too long and the city has changed. Of course I’ve changed too. I feel like I have two homes. One is where I am right now in Aguascalientes. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood now for four years. Not much has changed despite Covid. I no longer do a marathon of museums and art galleries as I did the first couple of years. My Spanish has improved and I now am more comfortable talking with neighbors or people who work in the tiendas and restaurants here. I don’t feel like a tourist anymore.
My second home is Washington state. I lived predominantly in Leavenworth the first few years. But last spring I moved to my forever home in East Wenatchee with Christina, Danny and seven chihuahuas. I was talking to Christina last night and she’s excited that I’m coming back in a month. I think she missed me. Okay, I missed her too. It’s been a great winter but it’s time to return to family.
Of course it would be nice if the snow would be gone. But that’s out of my hands. On Monday it even snowed in Tucson. It’s been a crazy winter for weather everywhere except here. I found it quite warm in Mexico this year. Last winter I needed an extra blanket and was glad I’d brought my lined quilted vest with me. But this year I haven’t even needed a light jacket. It did snow up in Durango about a month ago, but that’s miles away from where I am.
Time for my writer’s workshop on Zoom. Fingers crossed that the Internet cooperates today.
I looked at the date on the calendar last night and wondered how come I have only two months left until I head back up north. The time is flying by way too fast. And the older I get the faster it goes.
I fly out of Guadalajara and will be back in East Wenatchee two months from today. Other than my trip to Culiacan, I haven’t done any other traveling this winter. I hope to go to Puerto Vallarta next month but that’s about it. I’ve focused on writing this winter and I’ve taken some courses online. So travel has pretty much been on the backburner this winter.
Tonight I’m doing a library program online from Washington. It’s about Mount St Helens 40 years after the blast. It should be interesting. And I’ll be participating in a Women’s study with Church of the Rock in Winnipeg for the next six weeks. Whatever did we do before we had Zoom?
I’m also going to be taking another psychology course but I haven’t registered for that one yet. I’m still trying to decide. There are so many available and they all appeal.
Duolingo……. I haven’t forgotten you either. I’ve actually come out of retirement and have referred you to a new student who is anxious to learn English. Such a fun place to learn a language!
But I do find time for friends too. I’m meeting a friend from Portland for lunch today. We haven’t seen each other since King’s Day and that was earlier in the month before I went to Culiacan.
I just returned from a fabulous weekend in Culiacan with my family. And I’ll add that it’s the highlight of my winter in Mexico this year.
Culiacan. This is the city where my Mexican adventure began back in 2010. When I first arrived, my Spanish vocabulary was extremely very limited to Cerveza fria por favor. Juan wanted to improve his English and I desperately needed to learn some Spanish. We both taught at Senda and would meet in the library where Juan patiently helped me read children’s books.
At the time he and his wife Lucila had one child. Juan Carlos had just turned one. The family has grown and they now have four boys. And I have four nietos.
On Saturday night my granddaughter Madeline called me from Kelowna. This was a really special video call because she got to meet my Mexican family. She was a tad overwhelmed as the boys were eager to talk in English to her and one even showed her a picture he had colored. Madeline commented that it was a little crowded with everyone in the room. She is an only child so it is very different.
The boys were all excited to see her and commented on her blond hair. I have always talked about Madeline to them and it was nice that they all had a chance to meet. We’ll have to do it again the next time I go to Culiacan.
One of our favorite pastimes is playing board games. This weekend we played Uno and Scrabble. We play in Spanish and English.
The boys are learning English at school. Juan Carlos received a certificate from Cambridge recently. I helped Jose Agustin with his homework over the weekend, another of my favorite things to do when I visit.
Although I’m not Catholic, I always go to mass with my family. Sunday evening we were at La Lomita. My ten year old grandson was sitting beside me with his arm around me and his head resting on my shoulder. He looked up at me and said “Grandma I love you” and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Life just doesn’t get any better than that.
Coffee revives me in the morning when I get up. It prepares me for the day that lies ahead, whatever that may happen to be. I don’t have regular structured activities when I’m in Mexico. My life is very different from when I’m back in East Wenatchee. There are lots of white spaces on my calendar that hangs on the wall. And that leaves me more time for writing.
Then Thursday morning happened. I admit I don’t always check the newscasts first thing in the morning. So it wasn’t until later on that I found out about the violence in Culiacan. My initial reaction was an emotional one. My Mexican family live there. Culiacan is a pretty wild city at the best of times and I must admit that I’m always concerned about their safety. But on Thursday the concern became fear as I saw the video footage of the the city under siege.
Shelter in place. I lived in Culiacan the first year I came to Mexico so that phrase is familiar. But when I heard that the entire state of Sinaloa was shutting down, that really bothered me. Highways and airports were closed. The military were firing at the cartel from the air. I had lived in Mazatlan for four years and had never experienced anything like this. Hurricanes suddenly don’t seem like such a threat anymore. I can only imagine the terror tourists felt trapped in their hotel rooms.
Thankfully I was able to reach Juan by phone and found out that my family was safe at home. The entire city was shut down. The only ones roaming the streets were Cartel members seeking revenge because one of their leaders had been captured. Culiacan was littered with burning vehicles and the sound of gunfire echoed throughout the city. An Aeromexico jet sitting on the tarmac was riddled with bullet holes. A cloud of black smoke filled the air.
I was supposed to go to Culiacan on Friday. My family had invited me to come celebrate King’s Day with them. I’m not sure just why, but I had decided to postpone my trip and come the following week. I believe someone up there was looking out for me and it wasn’t just a go with your gut feeling.
The airport is back open, public transit is moving, kids are going back to school tomorrow……………………typical normal daily life in Culiacan. I have my tickets and I do plan to go to Culiacan this Friday. Unless something astronomically crazy happens again.
I have decided to divide the year end review into two parts. Part 1 will cover the first six months of the year.
I woke up January 1st in Jilotsingo where I had celebrated New Years Eve with fifty-nine others. The next day I went back to Angie’s home in Pachuca. I returned to Aguascalientes after King’s Day. The rest of the month was spent getting together with friends and writing blog posts. I also had a SAIL training session on Zoom.
February was an exciting month. My characters started talking to me again and I was finally inspired to continue working on my book of fiction. My granddaughter in Kelowna also celebrated her fourth birthday. And I went to Culiacan to spend time with my Mexican family before heading back up north for the warmer months.
On March 1st I crossed the border at Nogales and headed for Tucson, where I spent a few relaxing days by a pool at a hotel. Then came the rather unusual but interesting Greyhound bus trip to Seattle where I was finally able to pick up an Amtrak into Leavenworth. One of the first things I did was get a Covid booster. I moved around a lot staying in Leavenworth and Dryden and did some pet sitting before finally settling down in East Wenatchee. It was wonderful to be at Sage Hills in person again and to resume teaching SAIL classes.
April was a fun month of garage sales, different from the usual tienguis in Mexico. Life Group resumed and a series of library programs began on Zoom. My characters continued to chatter so it was also a great writing month.
May was a little on the stressful side. The results of a biopsy were not what I’d hoped for and I needed to have a growth removed. On a more positive note I celebrated a birthday and had a delightful day in Lake Chelan. And I also received great news that while the growth indeed had been malignant, there was only healthy tissue left and no further sign of cancer. So no need for more treatment.
I had training in the A Matter Of Balance program during the month of June and I’m looking forward to coaching it when I return to Washington in the spring. And towards the end of the month I found myself on a plane headed for Winnipeg for the first time in five years.
I’m taking a break from blogging so no post this coming Sunday. 2022 Part 2 will be on December 28th.
My friend Ann in Leavenworth texted me a photo of the snow the other day. Quite a heavy blanket covered her car. Reports of two feet of snow. Chains needed to head over the mountain passes.
It’s very different here in Aguascalientes. Sunny and warm with temperatures hovering near 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It does cool off in the evenings. When I go out for my walks I need a light sweatshirt.
I was talking to David yesterday. It’s cold in Winnipeg. Temperatures are in the minus 20s Celsius. Not sure how to convert that. I’m still in American Fahrenheit mode.
My featured photo is one I took in Leavenworth two years ago when I spent a Covid winter there instead of returning to Mexico. I miss those gorgeous trees. That Bavarian village is a spectacular winter wonderland.
I remember my first December in Mexico back in 2010. I was living in Culiacan and it was extremely hot. My students didn’t like the air conditioning in my classroom and started wearing hats and gloves to class. I took the hint. Off went the air conditioning. The teacher got to roast so the students didn’t have to freeze. As soon as class was over I ripped off my uniform and changed into shorts and a tank top. I stopped at the first tienda and bought an ice cold Coke to put up against my cheeks to cool me down. It was much hotter in Culiacan than in Aguascalientes with temperatures soaring around the 100 degree Fahrenheit mark.
When I lived in Guadalajara the temperatures in winter were much cooler. Yes, there were nights when it dropped down to the freezing mark and we actually used the fireplace in our house. And I wore gloves and a hat. Atole was always welcome. And then there was one year when it actually got so warm that we had a thunderstorm on Christmas Eve.
I must say I enjoy seeing all my friends’ posts on Facebook with the photos and videos of snowfalls. They’re beautiful to look at from here in Mexico. But I sure don’t miss shoveling snow or driving in it. When I lived in rural Manitoba I rolled two cars off the highway due to black ice and totaled them both. I also do not miss the treacherously icy sidewalks.
So wherever you live, readers, be cautious and aware of inclement weather. Be prepared and stay safe.
I was sitting outside the other day enjoying the warm Washington sunshine and wondering why it is that I’m meant to be here. Have you ever done that? Wondered why you found yourself in a certain place or in a particular situation? I mean, you know how you physically got there, but it’s the why you came to be there that is so totally fascinating.
I vividly remember sitting in a bar one night in Guadalajara with my then boyfriend more than one decade younger, listening to a Mexican band playing music from the British invasion. As a teenager back in the 60s listening to the same music while living in Canada, never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself ever having this experience. It’s now several years later and I still wonder why I was meant to be there at that time, other than the obvious reason that I was teaching ESL in Guadalajara.
Just last month I was in Culiacan with my Mexican family. Although I am not Catholic, I always go to mass with them when I visit. My nine-year-old grandson did a reading and I was so very proud of him. The service was outdoors in the evening and I found myself distracted from the priest’s sermon by the stars twinkling above. It was as though they were smiling down at me and telling me that I was meant to be there and there was no need to even ponder the why.
I’m having great difficulty putting the finishing touches on this post as I have an Australian sheepdog and a cuddly cat vying for my attention. Thank goodness the fish are in their own tank. I wonder why I’m pet sitting in a home along the river in Peshastin, Washington aside from the obvious reasons that my friend needed a pet sitter and I needed somewhere to stay. Six years ago I’d never even heard of Peshastin, Washington.
I guess I’m always going to wonder why I’m meant to be where I am.
And that’s okay.
Because I have complete faith in The One who does know.
0ne of my writing friends challenged me to write a post about unusual things that have happened in my life throughout the years since I left Winnipeg. Interestingly enough, some of these do involve travel back to Winnipeg. This is a real challenge as I’m only supposed to choose one thing per year. Here goes!
2010. As if moving to Culiacan wasn’t unusual in itself, I’d have to say that the trip on El Chepe in the Copper Canyon stands out. I headed for the bus station in Culiacan and looked up at the departures on the board. A bus to Mazatlan in a half hour, a bus to Los Mochis in twenty minutes. Hmmmm. Los Mochis. Sure. Why not? When I got there I was in a taxi where by some miracle the driver spoke English. I asked him what there was to do in the area. He told me about the train. He took me to a hotel that had a travel agent. She arranged a package for me and the next morning I was on the train. And I really must add that it was on this trip that I met Angie and her family. We are still great friends and I spent this past New Years holiday with them all in Tlalnepantla, Jilotzingo and Pachuca.
2011. Definitely my escape from Irapuato to Tlaquepaque. A school had flown me down to Mexico from Canada but never lived up to their end of the bargain. I wasn’t interested in working more hours for less money. They never came through with renewing my work visa or providing a health plan. I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a school in Tlaquepaque with a job offer. I packed up my suitcase and Sunday morning I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. I started at the new school Monday morning.
2012. Knee surgery number one. Terrified. My mother had died having knee replacement surgery. I returned to Winnipeg and rented a room in the lower level of a duplex. Of course there were steps to get into the house which meant walker to cane and back to walker for the first little while. And my walker didn’t fit through the bathroom door. And the laundry room was in the basement. Not conducive to recovering from knee surgery. But I did it and headed back to Guadalajara in the fall.
2013. Back to Winnipeg for knee surgery number two. This time I lucked out and was able to rent a house that had been completely renovated for a handicapped individual. Wheelchair ramp at the front door, walk in shower with a bench, lots of room to maneuver a walker…. I was in heaven! And recovery time was much faster. Soon I was on my way back to Mexico.
2014. I discovered that teaching Business English was a lot more lucrative than teaching ESL. I ventured into areas of Guadalajara that were new to me as I taught on site. I taught in high security buildings for private companies and government offices, as well as in places such as Fedex.
2015. I had just moved to Mazatlan when I found myself on a plane to Toronto to meet up with a group en route to Punta Cana for my daughter’s wedding. Kimmy wanted a destination wedding and chose the Dominican. It was quite the trek for me but as all moms know, you do anything for your kids. It was a beautiful wedding and I have wonderful memories, but in all honesty I was very happy to return home to Mexico.
2016. I had a leading role in a murder mystery dinner theater and was winding down my teaching career with a handful of private students when a friend I’d met in Mazatlan invited me to come to Leavenworth, Washington for a visit. I thought it was the prison place until I realized Kansas was home to that one. So off I went for two weeks, only I wound up staying for four months. One morning I got up and there was this white stuff on the ground. I hightailed it back to Mazatlan.
2017. I had this really strong gut feeling that I wanted to be with my son on Mother’s Day. I’m glad I did. That’s the last time I was in Winnipeg and I haven’t seen Kyle since. I certainly hope Canada can get it’s act together so that I can go to Winnipeg this summer.
2018. My granddaughter Madeline was born. On my way back to Leavenworth I flew up to Canada first to see her. My daughter now has a daughter of her own. I remember holding Madeline for the first time. Exciting and emotional. It was really hard to leave and I cried all the way from Belleville to Toronto on the train.
2019. This was the year I discovered Aguascalientes. I arrived in January after spending three months in San Ciro de Acosta. I had a list of museums and art galleries and visited them all. But there was still more to explore and I came back in October to spend the winter. Besides, Las Flores was beginning to feel like home. I am very comfortable in my room on Begonias and Raul is the most amazing landlord ever.
2020. March already? I was anxious to go to Winnipeg to see Kyle. Oh oh. Covid arrived. My six months in Aguascalientes turned into eleven when I sought asylum and was given an extra six months as I chose to stay in Mexico to ride out the pandemic. What I never told my kids was that when Covid first hit and people were panicking and packing airports and dealing with canceled flights, I’d been in bed with the flu for a few days. Who knows? It may have even been Covid. There was no testing being done back then. I finally made it to Leavenworth in September when I was able to secure health coverage that included Covid.
2021. My 180 days in the USA are almost up and the CDC issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel To Canada advisory. I retained an attorney and once again sought asylum. It was granted and I remained in Washington for twelve months instead of the usual six.
2022. It’s early yet. I’ll have to wait and see what unusual thing wins this year, not that there haven’t been a few that are definitely in the running already.
And now for the far from usual but the one thing that spans the more than decade since I left Winnipeg. That first year in Mexico when I worked at Senda, Juan and I taught together and became good friends. He wanted to improve his English and I desperately needed to learn Spanish. Juan’s wife Lucila used to pick us up from school and drive me home. At the time their son Juan Carlos was a year old. To make a long story short, they adopted me. This was huge to me. Coming to a foreign country solo, my own kids back in Canada, I now had family again. Juan and Lucila now have four sons and I am the proud abuelita of four amazing grandsons. Can’t wait to hug them all later this month when I go to Culiacan.
2021 is drawing to a close. A sigh of relief. Almost through year two of the pandemic. It appears that Covid and all of its mutations are here to stay. I wonder how different 2022 will be.
I was living in Wenatchee when 2021 arrived. It was my first winter in snow since 2009. While it was a relatively mild winter compared with the Canadian ones I’d experienced before, it was winter in a cold climate nonetheless.
This afternoon, seven of us enjoyed lunch together outside on the patio of an Italian restaurant. Now that feels more normal to me. With the exception of last year, outdoor dining in December has been the norm since I first arrived in Mexico in 2010.
In January I moved back to Leavenworth. There was more snow and the temperature was colder than in Wenatchee.
In February I was vaccinated and I began thinking about the future. I wasn’t ready to return to Mexico yet and the USA issued a Level 4 travel advisory against travel to Canada.
In March I retained an attorney and applied for an extended stay. I didn’t receive the confirmation that my stay had been approved until July. So I was in limbo for a while.
In April I had biometrics done at the USCIS Field Office in Yakima. Quite an interesting experience. But one step closer to getting that extended stay.
In May I moved to Dryden. It was peaceful living along the river, away from the hoards of tourists who continuously flock to Leavenworth.
The month of June flew by quickly as Amtrak became my new best friend. I traveled by train along the coast from Seattle to Los Angeles, visiting with friends in Portland and Sacramento along the way.
July and August were tense months. I was trying to figure out a way to get to Canada to see my kids and my granddaughter. Every day the rules changed with regards to travel restrictions. The Canadian airlines were gouging customers and I refused to pay quadruple the airfare I had paid before Covid. PCR tests were not available in small-town Washington.
In September I returned to Mexico for the same airfare I’d paid in years previously. No gouging here. No PCR test required. I was back home in Aguascalientes.
Considering that I’m not teaching or doing any volunteer work, I now find myself at more than halfway through my 180 days. The only traveling I’ve done was to Mazatlan for Thanksgiving and to Culiacan to see my family, as well as a day trip to San Jose de Gracia.
I will be with friends in Mexico City for New Years, and then on to Pechuca, Hidalgo. After that, who knows? What is certain is that the travel bug has returned, and that makes me happy.
I woke up in Culiacan this morning and, to my delight, found this pic on my Messenger from my daughter. My granddaughter Madeline had a visit with Santa in Kelowna.
I only wish it was as easy to get to Kelowna as it was to get to Culiacan.
This weekend I’m with my Mexican family. Some of the things we’ve done have included a picnic in Sanalona, raspados in Imala, going to church and watching a movie together. But most of all I’ve marveled at how my grandsons have grown since I saw them last about two years ago. Here we are two years ago.
And here they are today with Juan.
Before I came to Culiacan I was in Mazatlan for Thanksgiving, another whirlwind visit. Day of the Dead at Plaza Machado and Christmas at Galarias.
Tonight I’m heading back to Aguascalientes. It’s been a fabulous week.