Tag Archives: Culiacan

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter!

Easter is different this year. We’re all experiencing a virtual Easter.

For the past ten years I have celebrated Easter in Mexico. I’ve been in Culiacán, Guadalajara, Mazatlán and Aguascalientes.

I’ve gone on the Walk of the Cross in Guadalajara and in Culiacán with my Catholic family and friends. I’ve had Easter dinner with a variety of friends.

This year I’ll be alone in my room. I’ll have lots of church services online to keep me company.

Have a blessed Easter everyone!

April Then And Now

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April Then And Now

A year ago I was in Culiacán with my family. I always come for one last visit before heading back up north for a few months.

The last time I was in Culiacán this winter was in December. I promised my grandsons I’d be back again in April.

I hate to break a promise. But with the self-quarantine in place until April 30th there is no way I’ll be able to keep that promise. Right now Culiacán feels as far away as Leavenworth.

I try to view it in a more positive way. Obviously my departure from Mexico will be delayed this year. Where my destination will be is also up in the air. I guess I won’t know that for a while either. I may get to Culiacán yet.

Food Glorious Food

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Food Glorious Food

I seldom write about food. I have mentioned traditional foods associated with holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Years ago I wrote posts about the cooking classes I took in Mazatlan. I may have also referred to the odd restaurant here and there.

Food in Mexico varies in nature from place to place. A torta is very different in Guadalajara from a torta in Mazatlan. My vote for the best tamales still goes to Culiacán. Gorditas in San Luis Potosí are not as tasty as the ones in Aguascalientes. So far Mazatlan is winning when it comes to sopa de tortilla. Hands down the best pizza is in Tlaquepaque.

I will begin by writing about the Cocinas Economicas I frequent here in Las Flores. These are basically places where you buy prepared foods. There is always a variety of cooked food available and the menu changes daily. One that I go to has tables and you can eat there. I did that often last year when I didn’t have a fridge or microwave. 55 pesos buys you soup, a main course, two sides, salad, a generous portion of agua fresca and of course, tortillas. This translates to US $2.91.

Yesterday I picked up chicken milanesa (3 large portions), chicken stew, beef stew, California style mixed veggies, salad, spaghetti, 3 chili rillenos and vegetable soup. Yes, that will easily feed me for the week. Total cost 265 pesos or US $14.04.

All ingredients are fresh. There is not a can or a frozen product used in the preparation of these foods.

Needless to say I do eat out as well. Because I am allergic to fish and seafood, I am unable to give you an idea of the cost.

A cheeseburger with fries and a soda averages 85 pesos or US $4.50. A large pizza averages 110 pesos or US $5.83. A quesadilla averages 25 pesos or US $1.32. I could go on and on but you get the picture. It is inexpensive to eat out.

I must admit that in the morning I prefer to have yogurt and granola for breakfast. But I do go out occasionally for gorditas.

Chicken rosticerias are high on my list as well. I picked up a whole roasted chicken for 70 pesos the other day or US $3.70. In the grocery section Walmart sells a half of a roasted chicken with salad for 35 pesos or US $1.85.

A friend who owned a cafe last year also cooks for me often. A delicious home-cooked meal is delivered to my door for 60 pesos or US $ 3.19.

Food prices vary from place to place as well. When I lived in Mazatlan I found the cost of food to be almost double, but it is a big tourist area. When I lived in Guadalajara the cost was about the same as here. In San Luis Potosí It was lower.

Wherever I have lived the fruit and vegetables have been fresher and cheaper than in Canada or the USA. What better way than to start your day off with a half litre of fresh squeezed orange juice for 20 pesos or just over US $1?

Many restaurants deliver and there is also the option of Uber Eats. But I have yet to use these services.

Now if only I could find some moussaka here in Aguascalientes….

Food Glorious Food

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Food Glorious Food

I seldom write about food. I have mentioned traditional foods associated with holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Years ago I wrote posts about the cooking classes I took in Mazatlan. I may have also referred to the odd restaurant here and there.

Food in Mexico varies in nature from place to place. A torta is very different in Guadalajara from a torta in Mazatlan. My vote for the best tamales still goes to Culiacán. Gorditas in San Luis Potosí are not as tasty as the ones in Aguascalientes. So far Mazatlan is winning when it comes to sopa de tortilla. Hands down the best pizza is in Tlaquepaque.

I will begin by writing about the Cocinas Economicas I frequent here in Las Flores. These are basically places where you buy prepared foods. There is always a variety of cooked food available and the menu changes daily. One that I go to has tables and you can eat there. I did that often last year when I didn’t have a fridge or microwave. 55 pesos buys you soup, a main course, two sides, salad, a generous portion of agua fresca and of course, tortillas. This translates to US $2.91.

Yesterday I picked up chicken milanesa (3 large portions), chicken stew, beef stew, California style mixed veggies, salad, spaghetti, 3 chili rillenos and vegetable soup. Yes, that will easily feed me for the week. Total cost 265 pesos or US $14.04.

All ingredients are fresh. There is not a can or a frozen product used in the preparation of these foods.

Needless to say I do eat out as well. Because I am allergic to fish and seafood, I am unable to give you an idea of the cost.

A cheeseburger with fries and a soda averages 85 pesos or US $4.50. A large pizza averages 110 pesos or US $5.83. A quesadilla averages 25 pesos or US $1.32. I could go on and on but you get the picture. It is inexpensive to eat out.

I must admit that in the morning I prefer to have yogurt and granola for breakfast. But I do go out occasionally for gorditas.

Chicken rosticerias are high on my list as well. I picked up a whole roasted chicken for 70 pesos the other day or US $3.70. In the grocery section Walmart sells a half of a roasted chicken with salad for 35 pesos or US $1.85.

A friend who owned a cafe last year also cooks for me often. A delicious home-cooked meal is delivered to my door for 60 pesos or US $ 3.19.

Food prices vary from place to place as well. When I lived in Mazatlan I found the cost of food to be almost double, but it is a big tourist area. When I lived in Guadalajara the cost was about the same as here. In San Luis Potosí It was lower.

Wherever I have lived the fruit and vegetables have been fresher and cheaper than in Canada or the USA. What better way than to start your day off with a half litre of fresh squeezed orange juice for 20 pesos or just over US $1?

Many restaurants deliver and there is also the option of Uber Eats. But I have yet to use these services.

Now if only I could find some moussaka here in Aguascalientes….

Adiós 2019 Bienvenida 2020

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Adiós 2019 Bienvenida 2020

I was in San Ciro de Acosta, San Luis Potosí when this year began. About two weeks later I traveled to Aguascalientes City, Aguascalientes.

A frenzy of visiting fourteen museums, countless churches and beautiful parks followed. I also went leather shopping in León, Guanajuato and visited the pueblo mágico of Calvillo.

Three months flew by and I found myself on a flight to Seattle from Puerto Vallarta. And shortly after I arrived in Leavenworth.

The months I spend in Washington state are filled with activity. I volunteer at church, teach fitness classes, belong to a book club, play bridge and am active at the senior center. But of most importance are the friendships I’ve made over the years and the time I spend with these special people.

This past summer I also took a side trip to Kelowna to see my granddaughter. Madeline was just a few weeks old the last time I saw her and at 17 months she was now an active toddler.

Other highlights of my time in Washington included Vacation Bible School at Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene, as well as attending the 9/11 service at Spirit of America in Cashmere.

All too soon fall arrived and I boarded a flight to Guadalajara. A short bus ride followed and I was back in Aguascalientes City.

I’m staying in the Las Flores area again. Last winter I found a church close by and it felt like returning home this winter. I truly am blessed to have a church family here in Mexico as well as in Leavenworth.

This winter has been very different. I am not running around playing tourist. I’m taking time for ME instead. I do have friends here and I am teaching English a few hours a week. But I find time to color and to go for long walks. I am really focusing on my Spanish language skills. Because I live in a very Mexican neighborhood where virtually no-one else speaks English, I am totally immersed both in the culture and in the Spanish language. I also watch movies in Spanish with no English subtitles.

Other than one trip to Culiacán, I haven’t traveled much this winter. However I do have some travel ideas for 2020.

I spent Christmas with friends and will be attending an event at my church on New Year’s Eve.

This is my last post for 2019. At this time I’d like to thank all my readers for taking the time to follow my blog posts. I wish you all a Happy and Healthy 2020. May it be another fabulous year for everyone!

Farewell To Another Decade

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Farewell To Another Decade

It’s pouring rain here in Aguascalientes and unseasonably low temperatures have graced us. It’s a good day to sip herbal tea and to watch movies. And to write a blog post.

New Year’s Eve 2009 was when I rang in the second decade of the millenium. At the time I was with friends from church and living in Winnipeg.

In 2010 I was on a tour up in the Copper Canyon in northern Mexico. I rang in the new year in El Fuerte with friends. We had dinner at the hotel where Zorro was filmed. Zorro himself appeared at our table just before the fireworks began at midnight.

I have celebrated New Year’s Eve with numerous friends from all over the world every year since then. I’ve been in Culiacán, Guadalajara, México City, Mazatlan and San Ciro. This year I will be in Aguascalientes to welcome the year 2020.

The past decade has been one of the most exciting times in my life. “Growth” has been the key word in describing my experience. I embarked in a new career in a foreign country. I learned a new language and assimilated into a different culture. I’ve celebrated holidays with new friends from all over the world.

I’ve lived in and explored amazing areas in Mexico that I’d never even heard of before. I went on an amazing train trip in the Copper Canyon, I climbed pyramids in central Mexico and I walked barefoot in the sand on numerous beaches along the Pacific coast. I’ve visited several magic towns and have enjoyed the local cuisine in most places, menudo aside.

Mexicans marvel at the fact that I am a single female and travel solo at my age, especially when I settle down for a while in a new place. I thrive on exploring new places and meeting new people. I have friends of all ages and backgrounds. I have a family in Culiacán who have adopted me and I am the proud abuelita of four amazing grandsons.

And just when I thought that Mexico was absolutely “it”, I discovered Leavenworth. This quaint Bavarian village has captured my heart. I’ve made good friends and we’ve shared some great adventures together.

All of these experiences have contributed to my growth. At this point in time I am really living life to the fullest.

Farewell to the second decade of this millennium. Welcome to the third decade. Can’t wait to find out what comes next!!!!

How Do You Do It? Part 1

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How Do You Do It? Part 1

I am in my tenth year here in Mexico. No two years have beared much resemblance to each other. I’ve lived in different cities and different homes with different people. I’ve worked in different schools and taught different subjects.

My friends up north are always asking me how I do this. How do you decide where to go? How do you find somewhere to live? How do you find teaching jobs? They also ask a myriad of other questions but I’ll focus on these three in these posts.

It was a Tuesday evening when my phone rang in Winnipeg. The caller was the director of English at a private school in Mexico. He wanted to know if I was available to teach in Mexico. The start date was the following Monday.

By some miracle and with the help of good friends, my apartment was packed up and the contents moved to a storage unit. My son made the travel arrangements for me. And less than a week later I found myself in Culiacán. The school arranged my accommodation.

Dave’s ESL Cafe was a popular website at that time for teachers and employers alike. I had posted a resume there and that was how the school in Culiacán had found me.

The school year ended and I found myself back in Winnipeg. I had totally forgotten about the resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe. Until my phone rang and it was a director of English at a private school in Irapuato. I thanked him for calling and explained that teaching in Mexico had been a one year plan. He offered to pay my flight down there. I accepted.

I wasn’t impressed with Irapuato or the school. The actual job in no way resembled the job description that had been outlined in the original contract. I decided that I would tough it out until Christmas.

I was out for coffee with my supervisor on October 1st when my phone rang. The caller was not in my contacts so I disregarded it and turned the ringer off. When I got home a few hours later I saw that the same number had called me four more times. I thought that maybe someone was urgently tried to call the person who previously had my number. And I called the number back to let them know they had a wrong number.

To my surprise the voice that answered asked, “Karen, is that you?” Going through an ugly divorce at the time, I was immediately suspicious. However the caller identified himself as the owner of a school in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. He had seen my resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe ( once again I had neglected to remove it) and offered me a job. It was around five in the afternoon on a Saturday. He needed me in Guadalajara Monday morning.

The next few hours were hectic as I hurriedly packed up my belongings. The following morning I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. Once again the school arranged my accommodation.

I also found myself teaching business English that year. A friend from Norway needed a substitute while she went home for a visit. Her boss was impressed with me and offered me a job. So that winter I taught for him as well as at the other school.

Shortly before I headed back to Winnipeg for knee surgery the following spring, I was in a bar where I met a man who owned another school in Tlaquepaque. I accepted his job offer when I returned to Mexico after my surgery. He also managed properties and found me accommodation.

But I only taught there a couple of months. Parents were using his school as cheap babysitting for their kids, and it was far too frustrating trying to teach kids who hadn’t the slightest interest in learning English. But I did continue to stay in the accommodation he had offered me when I taught at his school.

Meanwhile, another friend had taught at yet another school but left to teach English on-line. The owner of the school called me with a job offer and I accepted.

I then received a call from the man whom I’d taught business English for, so once again I found myself with two jobs.

In the spring I was visiting with my family in Culiacán before going back to Winnipeg for a vacation. I got a call from the owner of a school in Mazatlan. Apparently we had a mutual friend on Facebook who told her I was an English teacher.

After my Winnipeg visit I found myself in Mazatlan where once again the school had found me accommodation. I only taught there a few months. I had met the owner of another school at Starbucks one day and had accepted his job offer. I also moved in with another friend at that time.

Unfortunately that school folded. And I decided that I was going to semi-retire and teach private students only. I also moved again and was delighted to find private students right in my condominium complex.

My last year in Mazatlan I completely retired. I moved again. Once you’re in a place long enough, you meet people and it’s quite easy to find affordable accommodation.

That’s all for this post. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll talk about life in San Luis Potosí and Aguascalientes.

It’s All Relative

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It’s All Relative

I’ve been back in Mexico for over a month now and I finally made it to Culiacán. This city was the first place I called “home” when I came to Mexico nine years ago.

Juan Carlos was a baby. He’s now 10 and almost as tall as I am. The family has grown and I am now abuelita to 4 boys. Jose Agustín is 7, Angel is 5 and Christien is 8 months old. I come to Culiacán regularly to spend time with my family.

Culiacán has been in the news recently when the prominent drug cartel literally took over the city for a few days. It has always been a dangerous city because of the cartel.

But danger is all relative.

Just last week a fire truck was hijacked in my hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. Yet my friends in Winnipeg are not happy that I still visit Culiacán. Back in Aguascalientes my friends there have the same concerns. And everyone in Canada and in Mexico wonder why I want to spend several months of the year in the gun-toting state of Washington.

I look at it this way. Life is short. Living in fear of what may or may not happen detracts from our enjoyment of life. In order to appreciate every single precious moment, we need to really focus on the present. For once that moment has passed, it is gone forever.

Sunday night was filled with moments. We went to mass at a church nearby. My grandsons were excited because a movie was being shown outside in the parking lot after the mass. Chairs were hastily set up. Thanks to modern technology involving a computer and a screen, we were treated to Disney’s Christmas Carol, in Spanish naturally. What a beautiful way to begin the festive Christmas season!

Last night we went to Juan’s father’s home. Candles were lit and prayers were said to begin the Advent season.

Other special moments this visit include playing Scrabble with my grandsons and watching Juan play basketball last night.

Juan Carlos read me a beautiful story he had written in English entitled “A Friend Is Better Than A Videogame.” It rivaled any 10 year old native speaker’s story.

I’m sure we will share more special moments when the boys return from school later today. Sadly I must leave for Aguascalientes tonight, but I look forward to my next visit to Culiacán.

Into The Home Stretch

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Into The Home Stretch

Today is April 4th. In three weeks time I will be back in Washington. I’m now into crunch time with several last minute things to do.

Here in Aguascalientes I still have one museum and one church on my list. A day trip to San Jose de Gracia is still on my list. My one month stay turned into three months and even that isn’t long enough.

The Feria San Marcos is coming up and it is the largest fair in all of Mexico and goes on for more than two weeks. Some of the events are happening right at the end of my street. Friends have warned me of the 24 hour loud music and the millions of visitors who come here to Aguascalientes for this fair. My dilemma is do I stay here for that extra day or do I leave a day early and spend a day in Puerto Vallarta before getting my flight to Seattle.

I have also begun investigating in earnest the joys of travel health insurance plans. Not all plans cover the USA and apparently not all plans cover the state of Washington either.

I just returned from a whirlwind weekend in Culiacan with my family. My new grandson is a month old today and I met him for the first time last weekend. There is also nothing like having your six-year-old grandson crawl into bed to cuddle with you at 6:30 am on a Sunday with a Mamut (chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie). Or playing Spanish card games with him and his two brothers. The weekend flew by all too quickly.

I’m off to explore the Thursday tienguis in my neighborhood now. I enjoy engaging the vendors in conversation and always find something to buy.

 

 

My Faves

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My Faves

I’ve traveled a fair amount in my years in Mexico. The culture and food vary greatly from area to area, as does the geography and climate. People often ask me about my favorite places and foods, so I’ve decided to write a post about some of my favorites.

Tlaquepaque is still in the lead. It is a quaint typically Mexican area only 20 minutes away from central Guadalajara. The Jardin Hidalgo, Calle independencia and Calle Juarez were my favorite haunts. Dia De Los Muertos is amazing. The best churros, rotisserie chicken and pizza are found here. The shops are quaint and ATMs are plentiful. But best of all, the locals are all friendly and there is always music in the air night and day. Uber and public transit are accessible, making commutes to Parque Mirador, Tonala, Zapopan, museums, art galleries and parks easy. Lots of day trips to smaller pueblos in Jalisco are most enjoyable.

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I’m about to begin my third month here in Aguascalientes. I live in Las Flores, a neighborhood adjacent to the Centro Historico. People are friendly and I have found a wonderful church two blocks from where I’m staying. The best gorditas are two streets over. My favorite coffee shop, Buenos Aires Cafe, is close by. The woman who runs it is from Argentina and the food she prepares is outstanding. The best omelets are at Loncheria Fer, run by my friend Fernando. Day trips to Leon, Zacatecas and the three magic towns are great. There are museums, art galleries and churches to explore.

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I spent two months this winter in San Ciro de Acosta in San Luis Potosi. This small town didn’t even have a bank. People are friendly and collectivos are available to Rio Verde, a larger town that even has two museums. Christmas celebrations in the plaza were most enjoyable. Day trips to other areas in the state as well as in Queretaro are best done by car, as buses and collectivos don’t go to many of them. I found the food very greasy as everything is fried. Finding fresh vegetables was difficult as beans, rice and tortillas were the norm to accompany the main course. I did find one place that made Chinese food, but it too was quite greasy and used frozen vegetables in their dishes.

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Culiacan is probably the most dangerous city I’ve lived in here in Mexico. It’s also home to the best tamales and incredible bakeries. I go back there often as my Mexican family live there. The first school I taught at in Mexico is also here, and occasionally I go back to visit. Culiacan has some lovely parks and the main cathedral is beautiful. I also explored art galleries and museums when I lived there.

I first went to Mazatlan in 2010 and dreamed of retiring there at some point. I moved there in 2015 when I was still teaching. But after three years, it was time to move on. The quaintness is gone and the city has become far too touristy for me. But Mazatlan has the best beaches and the most beautiful sunsets, and I’ve been to quite a few beach towns along the west coast. When I lived in Guadalajara I even preferred Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. Carnaval  is the third largest in the world. Fabulous concerts are found at the Angela Peralta Theater. Motorcycle Week and Semana Santa I can easily do without.

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I think my favorite park is Chapultepec in Mexico City. It boasts a castle, a zoo, botanical gardens, boats and more. The city itself is much too large for my liking, but it does have so much to offer in terms of art galleries and museums. The pyramids in Teotihuacan are awesome and are a must for visitors. My least favorite place in this city is definitely the airport which desperately needs more than a face lift.

I was very disappointed in Rosarito in the Baja. A few years ago I had planned on spending the winter there. After one week of a very dirty beach and warnings of not to go out after dark because of the high crime rate, I headed back to Tijuana, another not so great place, and then found my way back to Guadalajara.

I also lived in Irapuato, Guanajuato for a few months. This is another area I wasn’t too fond of. Day trips to Leon and Guanajuato City were good escapes. There really wasn’t much to do in this town. Even the Centro are was disappointing.

Let’s end this post on a positive note. A ride on El Chepe in the Copper Canyon is the train ride of a lifetime. The spectacular views made this quite the experience. I opted for a five day tour with overnight stays in four towns along the way. I actually hope to do this again someday.

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Mexico is one huge country and there is so much more I want to explore. My plan is to explore the Yucantan next winter. I also still want to go to Oaxaca, Chiapas, Morelia………the list is endless!