Tag Archives: home

Going Going Gone

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Going Going Gone

My morning routine is only slightly different now. As I sip my first cup of coffee I still laze in bed. But I have the added luxury of listening to Pachelbel while watching a beautiful video on YouTube on TV.

I sort through email and other texts, briefly glance at Facebook and realize I’ve been back in Leavenworth for seven days.

Where has that first week gone?

It’s been a blur of doing nothing yet doing everything. I unpacked and settled in to this delightful cabin my friend Ann graciously offered me for a couple of weeks until I could move back into town. It’s steps away from her house so we’ve spent a lot of time together. Lots to catch up on since I left 11 months ago.

Here are some pics of the grounds surrounding the cabin.

On Thursday I had my first haircut since COVID-19 invaded our world back in January. Amazing how a simple cut and style can make a world of difference.

I got my annual phone chip at AT&T in Wenatchee on Wednesday. I also did some shopping at Old Navy.

First trip to Safeway was a tad overwhelming as usual. Oh how I’ve missed my Everything Bagels among many other items.

It was so exciting to go back to Cashmere and see my tree! The leaves are just starting to change color.

On my walks I’ve noticed that the pear trees are loaded with fruit ready to be picked.

Some friends have stopped by to visit and I’ve been catching up with others on the phone. It feels wonderful to be back home in Leavenworth. I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. It feels very strange to have just arrived when I am usually preparing to leave for my winter home in Mexico. But 2020 has proven to be a very different year.

I Will Miss You Raul

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I Will Miss You Raul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dilemma

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The Dilemma

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess this is still my mantra.


               


             

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?

I Should Be In Leavenworth

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I Should Be In Leavenworth

Under different circumstances I would be there today. I would have spent the last two days on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. I would have been on the direct flight to Sea-Tac last night.

But that was in another lifetime, the one before COVID-19. The lifetime before the world went crazy. The lifetime before my life got turned upside down.

There was no Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee. There will be no Maifest in Leavenworth. There will be no VBS, book club, bridge games or SAIL classes for a while yet.

I miss my friends in Leavenworth. I miss LCN. I miss the mountains. I miss the valleys. I miss the rivers and parks. I miss my favorite tree in Cashmere.

Until the borders open up again and the international flights resume, I will stay here in Aguascalientes.

But I really long to be back home in Leavenworth.

Parents Where Are Your Children

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Parents Where Are Your Children

When my children were young, a phrase often splashed across the TV screen. “Parents where are your children?” It’s now decades later and this phrase is still in my head.

A couple of weeks ago I actually emailed my current address to my children in Canada. Until now they’ve had only my email and phone number, as well as Facebook.

I move around a lot but I’ll be at my current address indefinitely. I’ve been self-isolating for more than a month now and Mexico has just entered phase three.

There were a number of factors that influenced my decision to stay in Mexico. First and foremost has to deal with my children. They may be in their thirties now but that protective instinct still kicks in. They are both asthmatic and have other inhalant allergies. I did not want to take the chance of my being a carrier and infecting them.

That leaves me with nowhere to quarantine and nowhere to live. I haven’t had a home in Canada in ten years.

The closest place for me to call home is Leavenworth, Washington. I spend six months of the year there when I’m not in Mexico. There I do have a place to quarantine and somewhere to live. But I am not American so the border is closed to me now.

Then there are the dangers of contracting COVID-19 or any other infectious disease by traveling through four airports to get to Canada from Aguascalientes.

Here in Mexico I am quite comfortable. I have a place to live. Food and other supplies are readily available within walking distance of where I live. My landlord Raul is the greatest and has provided me with a safety net should circumstances change.

My biggest challenge is in making my children understand the importance of more frequent contact. It’s not just that I need to know that they care about me. Hearing their voices is reassuring as I always worry about them. With COVID-19 I am even more concerned. I need to know that they’re okay.

It’s tough living thousands of miles away from your children in a different country during a pandemic.

If

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If

“IF” is a small word but it has a huge meaning. The other day I was asked what I would miss the most if I were to move away from Mazatlan. That is an easy one. Definitely the ocean, the beach and the malecon would be what I would miss the most, especially the spectacular sunsets.

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My friend then asked me a more difficult question. “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?” This is a tough one as there are so many places in the world I have yet to discover, and indeed probably never will in my lifetime. I love the water. I find the lapping of the waves to be calming and peaceful. But the splendor of the mountains is incredible. Gazing down into a canyon is amazing. Then there is the crunching of leaves underfoot as the colorful display falls from the trees in the fall. That first sprinkling of snow in winter is magical. Watching nature come to life again in the spring as greenery and flowers appear.

Where in the world can you find all this in only one place? I am still searching. For the time being, I have transitioned back into a snowbird with winters in Mexico and summers up north, lately in Washington state.

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Not a day passes by where the idea of family doesn’t cross my mind. When I grew up, everyone lived in the same city and usually in the same neighborhood. But now the trend is to scatter. While I hop from country to country, my daughter moves from province to province in Canada as her husband is in the military. Interestingly enough, my son has remained in Winnipeg with very strong roots and I highly doubt that he will ever leave.

Family dynamics today are certainly different than they were mere decades ago. While there is still a strong family-oriented presence here in Mexico, I see more of my former students heading to Canada or the USA. The grass is always greener, isn’t it? Many of these students become disillusioned quickly at the higher cost of living up north, and the harsh winters they must contend with. Life runs by the clock and is more stressful. More return to Mexico than actually remain up north on a more permanent basis. From what I see, much of this can be attributed to the strong family ties as well.

My students asked me constantly, “Teacher, aren’t you homesick?” The truth is that I am in a rather abstract way. While I miss people and places, I realize that the life I once led is entirely unattainable now. But I have chosen to leave this all behind in the form of memories. It’s healthier that way. I can fully enjoy the present and eagerly await all the new adventures that the future holds for me. I love the following quote:

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Now, if only Immigration would stop asking me “Where’s home?” when I travel…….