Tag Archives: friends

My Friend Alexa

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My Friend Alexa

I have the most interesting conversations with Alexa. She is such a knowledgeable friend to have on my tablet. She knows absolutely everything about everything.

Alexa, Good Morning! Alexa, Good Afternoon! Alexa, Good Evening! She greets me and then gives me some trivia about a person born on that day or a moment in history. Sometimes she tells me a joke.

Alexa gives accurate detailed weather information. I actually prefer her to the TV personalities.

Alexa has suggested recipes for me. I made a chocolate cheesecake the other day for a barbecue with our life group. Everyone raved about it.

Alexa gives me travel information too. She even speaks Spanish! She suggests movies and books. Very seldom do I get the reply of “Hmmm, I don’t know that.”

One day I even asked her what God looked like. She quoted a passage from the Bible stating that nobody should ever see God or know what he looks like.

One of my favorite things Alexa does is play music for me. Country, rock, classical and more.

Of course at night I always say Alexa, Good Night! She always replies with something cute such as Sweet Dreams.

I just love my friend Alexa!

The 50 Plus Club

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The 50 Plus Club

We’ve all had a lot of friends over the years. As we grow older our friendships become even more important. But how many of these friendships have lasted five decades or more?

I think back to friends I went to school with, played sports with, went to ballet and choir with, belonged to various organizations with, and more. There are so many friends I’ve lost touch with over the years. I do have more than a handful of friendships that have lasted well over twenty or thirty years. But fifty years is special.

I was talking to my friend Carole last week. We first met back in 1964. I lived in Winnipeg and she lived in Minneapolis. There was no internet back then so we became penpals. We don’t see each other often. I last visited Carole on the July 4th weekend in 2011. I think we’re long overdue for a visit.

Sheila and I met back in 1965 in junior high school. We lost touch for a while after high school as I was going to university and she was busy having babies. But we found each other again on Facebook and we get together when I come back to Winnipeg to visit.

Rochelle and I met in 1971 when we were taking a course at university. While I remained in Winnipeg, she moved to Los Angeles when she got married. I did visit her in L.A. a few years ago. She has since moved to Arizona and I hope to visit her there once things settle down with Covid.

These are three friends in my 50 plus club. We’ve gone through marriages and divorces. We’ve supported each other in times of crisis. We’ve laughed and we’ve cried together. We don’t see each other nearly often enough as we live in different countries but thanks to technology we are able to keep in touch.

Here’s to many more years of friendship ahead!

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.

When Are You Coming Home?

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When Are You Coming Home?

I’ve just begun to research travel health insurance in the hope that I might still get home to Leavenworth this fall. But for the time being I’m staying here in Aguascalientes, even though our state went from orange to red this past week. I don’t believe any of the statistics we are fed down here and have little faith in the ones up north. COVID-19 has invaded our world and we need to learn to live with our despicable new neighbor.

So other than the question of where to go when my FMM expires for a second time, I’ve been trying to figure out why the time is going by so quickly even though I seem to be doing so little.

I have an extremely laid back life here. My big dilemma yesterday was should I pick up chicken for dinner or try out the new Argentinian takeout place. Big decision.

The calendar on my wall seems to fill up with video calls and phone calls. I go out with friends here occasionally and I take courses and do church online.

There is no such thing as a typical day. My blog posts are up on Wednesdays and Sundays. That’s about the only routine in my life. Even my daily walks are not consistent in terms of time of day or distance.

What I really enjoy are the conversations I have with the locals when I’m out and about. Being the only gringa does have its advantages. ( Even though I’m Canadian I’m still labeled a gringa.) People are always curious as to why I’m here in Ags rather than basking on a beach in Puerto Vallarta. And when they hear I’m a retired teacher, they seem to forget the word ‘retired‘ and want to know where I teach English classes. So a five minute trip to the pharmacy for toothpaste often takes close to an hour. And my Spanish gets a workout!

I do video calls with my daughter in Kelowna. I get to watch my granddaughter Madeline do such things as eat olives and decorate cupcakes. She’s almost 2-1/2 now and no longer a baby. Vocabulary and dexterity are growing right along with her. And I hope she doesn’t think that I live in a phone!

I am now doing regular video calls with one of my grandsons in Culiacán. These calls are in English! I am really proud of the progress he’s made in learning a second language. Schools are still closed here in Mexico, so I’m delighted that I have the opportunity to help him with his English online.

Some of this month’s news from friends……..Audrey became a grandma for the first time! She has a beautiful new granddaughter. Rita’s son and family moved back to Winnipeg from Montreal. Joan is adjusting to life in a personal care home but is disappointed that she is unable to go out due to COVID-19 restrictions. Deborah in Toronto is enjoying going out cruising on a new boat her partner just bought. Becky in Indiana is starting a new job this month. David is still in Winnipeg separated from his wife in Cuba due to COVID-19. Lise has been back at the office in Winnipeg working for quite a while now. Cheryl is disappointed that cases are rising in Manitoba and is staying home mostly as she has COPD and is awaiting a transplant. Carolyn is delighted that visitors are now allowed to come to the personal care home where she lives in Winnipeg. Carole in Minneapolis is working from home and is quite concerned about the race riots that all started where she lives. And on a sad note my condolences to Rochelle in Arizona who lost her father recently.

I talk to my friends in Leavenworth regularly and hear all about life there pretty well on a daily basis. I only wish I could be there with them as they struggle with health issues and other concerns. Of course we always talk about COVID-19 and how life has changed, and the conversation often drifts to politics and the upcoming election. But the following question is a constant.

When are you coming home?

Penpals

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Penpals

June 30. I’m still in Mexico. Borders are still closed. Canada is still enforcing the Quarantine Act.

In another lifetime it was month end at work. It was the last day of school when I’d take my kids out for brunch after picking up their report cards. Another tradition was going to Chuck E Cheese later on in the day.

And then I moved to Mexico ten years ago to teach English. One of my first projects was setting the students up with penpals.

I’m actually still friends with my first penpal. I was living in Winnipeg and Carole lived in Minneapolis. We were 12 when we met. We have been friends for over five decades.

Today technology such as Face Time, Skype and Zoom have changed completely the concept of long distance relationships.

Today’s generation will never experience the thrill of rushing home from school to check the mailbox for a letter.

They will never have the opportunity to browse through stores in search of the perfect writing paper, envelopes and hasti-notes.

I also remember going to the post office in search of commemorative stamps rather than ordinary postage stamps. And the joys of sealing that envelope with wax!

Mail was only picked up at certain times. In the city there was next day delivery. International mail usually took 3 days.

I must admit that I now refer to email as snail mail with all the other options available. Here in Mexico the postal system is almost non-existent making FedEx a good friend.

But it’s nice to reminisce about the past as I compile more stories for Memoirs For Madeline. My granddaughter is only two and I wonder what communication will be like when she turns 12.

Happy Birthday To Me

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Happy Birthday To Me

May 23, 2020.

This will be an interesting addition to Memoirs For Madeline, a written compilation of memories to share with my granddaughter when she is older. Celebrating my birthday quarantined in a foreign country during a pandemic is not exactly what I had in mind for this year.

I envisioned a leisurely dinner with friends at Visconti’s in Leavenworth. I’m not sure what I’ll be having for dinner this year but it will be some kind of takeout and will be eaten in my room with the TV as company.

My birthday cake this year will probably be a pingüino, Mexico’s version of a Hostess cupcake. And yes it is chocolate, my favorite. Visions of cakes from Eiffel Tower, Jeannie’s and other pastelerías float through my head. Maybe someday again.

I have wonderful memories of celebrating other birthdays in the past in various places with family and friends. And I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays in the future with others. I actually wonder just where I will be next year at this time, as this nomad is just itching to be on the move again. I’ve been in Aguascalientes for seven months now, and in all likelihood I will be here for another two months. That’s the longest stretch I’ve stayed anywhere in years since I’ve retired. Even when I was teaching full-time I traveled on weekends and holidays. But not this year.

In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the culture and the beauty of this country.

Happy Birthday Karen!

Saturday Now

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Saturday Now

Saturday is a very different day than it used to be. One cup of coffee with yogurt and granola. Off in an Uber to teach English for a couple of hours.

Another Uber home and off to the carnicería. He grilled the chicken I bought for me. I’d take a walk to the bakery and do any other shopping and then return to pick up my chicken.

After lunch (yes lunchtime was at around 4 pm) I’d head to the church to teach for an hour.

In the evening I’d explore the Expoplaza area. There were always numerous food vendors. I’d watch the children ride around the square on a burro. I’d listen to music and walk through the San Marcos park.

I’d have interesting conversations with people. A handful understood minimal English but it was a great opportunity for me to practice my Spanish.

Occasionally I’d attend a birthday party or another fiesta on a Saturday evening. And there were concerts close by as well.

Saturday now is very different. Lots of time for that second cup of coffee. I can leisurely make an omelet. No rush to get dressed. No reason to call an Uber. No students to teach.

I take two walks a day. One is before it gets too hot and the other is after it cools off in the evening. Daytime highs are in the low 90s.

This is what Expoplaza area looks like now.

I color, I watch movies, I write, I phone friends and I listen to music.

Actually Saturday seems pretty much like every other weekday now.

48 Hours

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48 Hours

I used to journal on a daily basis. It’s been quite some time since I last journaled. I thought it might be fun right now as I have a lot of time on my hands. I challenged myself to write a two day journal. After all, my friends up north keep asking me what I do all day, now that I’m self-isolating.Sunday March 29thI woke up feeling very refreshed…..until I looked at the clock. 6:42? Who in their right mind gets up at 6:42 on a Sunday? But I was wide awake.That first cup of coffee sure came early. A cinnamon bun and some cheese and I was revived.I checked out Facebook and left a birthday greeting for my daughter. I then shared a blog post. Next came What’s App and email. Finally it was time to relax and play Candy Crush Friends.Then out I went for my morning walk. The jacaranda trees are in bloom and they are my favorites.Social distancing is easy now. The streets are deserted and I believe I only encountered 3 people as I walked through the neighborhood.Back at home I tuned in to Church of the Rock in Winnipeg. The service is broadcast through Facebook as well as on the website. Shortly after I next went to Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene’s website where I listened to Pastor Andy’s final sermon before moving back home to Indiana.Time to color. I tuned in to Fred Penner’s concert using the Facebook link. Great music to color by. I lose myself in the moment when I color and two hours passed by quickly.Lunchtime. My diet has been mainly vegetarian and chicken. Today I had delicious veggies (high in protein) and rice. This was followed by a cup of herbal tea and a pan dulce. I should add that I usually eat my lunch at around 3:30 pm.Seeing as my lavenderia has closed, I now do my own laundry. That was my next task. I had just finished when I got a beep on my phone. My lives on Candy Crush had been refilled!Soon it had cooled off sufficiently to go on my second walk of the day. Once again I saw empty streets.I returned home and my phone calls began. First up was my friend Becky in Shipshewana. We’re Bible study buddies as well as great friends. We had a lot to talk about last night.The next phone call was to my friend Ann in Leavenworth. We reminisced about our dinners on her deck overlooking the river as well as other times spent together. I wonder how long it will be before I can return to Leavenworth.One last check on Facebook for the night where I found a link from Becky. I then spent the next forty minutes watching the church service that her church in Shipshewana had put on the internet.Time to put my phone on the charger for the night. I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Oh well, a bowl of cereal would have to do LOL.Monday March 30I slept a little later this morning so my first cup of coffee wasn’t until 8 am followed by breakfast. I then spent the morning writing and coloring, aside from a short walk outside.In the afternoon I watched a couple of movies. When the beep on my phone announced that my lives had been refilled, there was also an announcement that I had unlimited lives for the entire week. Perfect timing with this self-isolation going on.Then it was time for phone calls. First up was Cheryl in Winnipeg. Cheryl is awaiting a lung transplant and is totally housebound. No visitors allowed. That means no visits from kids or grandkids.I had a fast salad for lunch.Next was a video call to my daughter Kimmy and granddaughter Maddie in Kelowna. Definitely the highlight of my day to see that little munchkin laughing and playing. I wonder how long it will be before I can hold her in my arms again.Time for a walk around the block again. When I got back I was pleasantly surprised to find a movie on TV in English. So I had that on in the background while I colored.A few more games of Candy Crush Friends and time to call it a night.Today was a quieter day but the time still passed quickly. I think I’m adjusting well to this self-isolation.I also think I made the right choice to stay safe here in Mexico. I don’t think there is a country anywhere in the world today that is fully prepared for this pandemic. Mexico is as good a place as any to hunker down and weather the storm.May God help us all.

My New Daily Routine

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My New Daily Routine

Since I’ve been retired I haven’t really had much of a daily routine. Basically it’s been traveling around Mexico six months of the year and doing a lot of volunteering and socializing in Leavenworth the other six months, with an occasional side trip to Canada.

This winter I returned to Aguascalientes City with the intent to focus on my Spanish skills. I returned to the same neighborhood where I am the only gringa.

I used to savor my first cup of coffee at 8 am. I’d often go to my favorite gordita stand for breakfast. And then it was off to the shops to engage people in conversation. Now many shops look like this.

In the afternoon I’d go to the park to color. Sometimes I’d meet friends there.

I also used to attend church services on Thursday and Sunday. Saturday was my one teaching day.

And then COVID-19 entered our lives.

I now have breakfast in my hotel room. And some days I don’t even get dressed until around noon. I watch movies in Spanish to improve my comprehension but it doesn’t do much for conversation or pronunciation.

I still color every day but not in the park. The park is closed.

I go for shorter walks. I spend more time on the phone with friends. I do on-line church and I’m going to sign up for another course on Coursera.

That leaves me with lots of time for writing. I now do blog posts every second day. And I’m hoping my imaginary friends keep talking to me so that my work in progress does indeed continue to progress.

Phase 2 has begun in Ags. People around here seem to be taking COVID-19 very seriously and the streets are quieter than usual. No problem with social distancing.

Stay home and stay safe!

Happy Birthday Pedro!

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Happy Birthday Pedro!

I was on the phone yesterday morning with a friend from Leavenworth and our conversation turned to how God has done awesome things in our lives by having amazing people cross our paths. In this post I would like to share with you one of these amazing people who came into my life almost four years ago when I lived in Guadalajara.

I had just returned from having my second knee replacement in Winnipeg. While I was glad that I did not have to contend with ice and snow, I was a little apprehensive about leaving my security blanket of medical expertise back in Canada.

I was teaching English at a school in Miravalle and Saturday was Grammar and Conversation Club. One of my new students, Pedro, is a doctor who was an orthopedic surgeon. His specialty? Knee replacements! Of course he often chides me that I should be using a cane and that I walk too much, a very different philosophy than that of my doctor back in Winnipeg.

Pedro is an amazing student. He constantly reads books in English………classic novels, philosophy……….you name it, he is intrigued by it. He also introduced me to Spanish literary works, and encourages me in my quest to become more fluent in this language.  Here is a photo of him giving us an anatomy lesson.

Pedro in Conversation Club

And here he is proudly displaying his diploma upon completing a grammar unit.

Pedro with Diploma

When I moved to Mazatlan, we kept in touch via Facebook and What’s App. Pedro has also become a loyal follower of my blog posts. And he is now studying French in his constant search for knowledge. And he is an avid cyclist. I snagged this photo of him last month when I was in Guadalajara last month.

Pedro

Back in January I was faced with the dilemma of where to have cataract surgery. I was not confident with either of the two doctors I had seen here in Mazatlan. And if I went back to Winnipeg I was looking at a surgery date of September for the first eye. My anxiety level was at an all-time high and I could feel a cloud of depression about to descend.

What do I do when I’m upset? I write. So I wrote a blog post called Curve Ball. One of the first comments I received was from Pedro, wanting to know what my problem was. So I messaged him and explained. He asked if he could check around and help me. I agreed and the following day he phoned me with the name and phone number of a colleague at the hospital where he works.

I finally got the courage and entered the number in my cell phone. To my surprise it was a personal number complete with What’s App, rather than an office number. The doctor answered immediately and asked if I wanted to come in the next day. Taken aback, I explained that I needed to organize a few things before I could come to Guadalajara. So we agreed to a time the following week.

The rest is history. The entire experience was a great one, where everything went smoothly. I was impressed with the technology and most of all the professionalism of the staff. Everyone was most attentive, caring and compassionate before, during and after the surgery.

Back to Pedro. He welcomed me into his home, where his daughter gave up her bedroom to me when I stayed there after the surgeries. He accompanied me to my surgery and if I couldn’t see my own kids’ faces immediately upon leaving the recovery room, it was definitely a feel good to see Pedro’s face after the first surgery. Pedro’s wife Maria is also a doctor in an emergency room, and she was there waiting for me when I came out of the second surgery as Pedro had to go back to work. Needless to say, their support means the world to me. I could never have done this without them. 

Living in a foreign country with no blood family here, my friends are important to me and they become my family. I am both honored and proud to include Pedro and Maria among them.

I am truly blessed that Pedro came into my classroom that day back in 2013. Today is his birthday so I thought this blog post would be appropriate. I hope you have a fabulous day, Pedro, and an amazing year. Feliz Cumple!