Tag Archives: Mexico

A Year Later

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A Year Later

It’s now Easter of 2021, and the second Easter of the pandemic. Last year I was in Mexico and didn’t go to church. At that time I avoided crowds and religiously wore my mask when I went out for my daily walks. I went out only to buy food or use the ATM.This year I’m in Leavenworth. I went to church on Good Friday and am going to a service today, Easter Sunday. I usually wear a mask only when I go into a public building or a shopping mall. I seldom wear a mask when I’m out walking unless I’m in the downtown area where there tend to be lot of people.My favorite place to walk is in the town of Cashmere. Here are some pics I took the other day while strolling down Cottage Avenue.When I’m in Mexico I don’t get to see the flowers and trees budding. And I’ve missed it.Cashmere is amazing when it comes to scarecrows and Halloween in October. But I did see some Easter decorations including this tree.I stopped at the bakery and was delighted to find hot cross buns. I haven’t tasted those in eleven years. In Mexico Easter is synonymous with empenadas.Happy Easter to those who celebrate. Easter 2021 is definitely better than Easter 2020. But I do wonder if we’ll still be wearing masks in church in Easter 2022.

Two Down And Done

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Two Down And Done

Yesterday I had my second dose of the vaccine. Now to wait another couple of weeks until it’s fully effective.

A year ago today I was in Aguascalientes. Masks were not yet mandatory. Restaurants and parks were open. There were no temperature checks or health survey forms. Schools were open.

I wonder what life will be like one year from now. Will masks still be part of our wardrobe?

We went to Sage Hills Church in Wenatchee on Sunday. It reminds me of Church of the Rock in Winnipeg. But Washingtonians are rebels so no masks or physical distancing in this huge sanctuary.

Costco was a zoo on Sunday. However masks are required. Limited menu in the food area and no sauerkraut or onions for the hot dogs.

Now that I’ve been vaccinated I feel more comfortable about traveling again. I’m not used to staying in one place for such a long period of time. Last year I was in Aguascalientes for 11 months with only one side trip to Culiacan. In another week I’ll have been in Washington state for 6 months.

It’s a wait and see game as to when I’ll leave here and where I’ll go. I’d like to go to Canada before returning to Mexico in the fall. But with all the quarantine and other restrictions it doesn’t really appeal.

My Canadian friends envy me because I have been vaccinated already. They still have a long wait ahead of them.

I remember when the vaccines first came out. I was reluctant to be vaccinated. But I travel a lot, and it’s only a matter of time before airlines will require proof of vaccination for international travel.

Two down and done.

And So It Begins

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And So It Begins

Just because it is now 2021 does not mean that 2020 is over. The events of 2020 will not be forgotten. Covid-19, race riots and bombings readily come to mind. But while we need to deal with these traumas in some manner, it is important to move beyond these issues in search of the positive in order to remain mentally healthy.

We have all experienced trauma in our lives prior to 2020. We have addressed it and learned how to cope with the anxiety and depression associated with these traumas. I, for one, am not content with remaining stuck in the past.

As I look back on 2020, I look at my extended stay in Mexico as a time of reflection, a time when it was okay to slow down the pace of my life and really live in the moment. I would take long walks and appreciate the beauty of nature. I watched an incredible amount of movies and that gave me the opportunity to practice my Spanish comprehension skills. I began doing video calls instead of just phone calls. I colored, I read, I did word searches and I spent a substantial amount of time playing games on my phone. Unfortunately my laptop chose that time to rebel and disappear into electronic heaven. So now my blog posts were all made from my phone.

And I also was in Mexico for Independence Day, although the celebrations were very low key.

Instead of spending the usual spring and summer in Washington, I am now enjoying the fall and winter seasons. It was interesting shopping for boots and other winter clothing for the first time in over a decade. It’s been a challenge adjusting to the layers of clothing.

But the trees were absolutely glorious in the fall. The leaves turned such spectacular colors. And when they fell from the trees I enjoyed the crunching sound as I walked down the street.

I admired all the scarecrows in Cashmere back in October. This town really goes all out for Scarecrazy.

Cashmere also goes all out for Halloween.

Even the snowfalls are beautiful. The light dusting on the trees has a beauty of its own. Here is my favorite tree in Cashmere after the first snowfall. No brilliant red leaves at this time of year.

The lights in Leavenworth are amazing. This Bavarian village attracts thousands of tourists. The lights are on from Thanksgiving in November until the end of February.

The mountains are snow covered. The only downside is that the passes can be somewhat treacherous.

Here in Wenatchee the snow has fallen and melted away a couple of times. The slush reminds me of Winnipeg in the springtime. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before the temperature drops and the snow will remain. But it’s January 3rd, the sun is shining and boots are not needed today.

It’s Been Years

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It’s Been Years

There’s been snow up in the mountains for days now.

But yesterday was the first snowfall here in Leavenworth. And it’s already beginning to melt.

In another lifetime I would take the change of seasons in stride. Winters on the Canadian prairies were harsh. Plunging temperatures and high windchills were the norm. Warming up even a little meant icy roads and treacherous sidewalks frequently hidden by a fine dusting of snow.

Covid-19 has turned my world upside-down. Last year on this date I flew into Guadalajara en route to Aguascalientes. I eagerly looked forward to my usual six months of summer rather than winter.

Six months turned into eleven before I was able to leave Mexico and return to Washington State. The joys of being Canadian and finding travel health insurance to be in the USA during a pandemic!

But I did it and I’m here. I still don’t know how long I’ll be here. My plan to return to Canada is on the backburner for now. Quarantine has to disappear and Winnipeg has to reopen it’s airport to international flights. And don’t even get me started when it comes to the apps the government wants me to put on my phone.

I miss you Mexico and I pray for you. The precarious state of healthcare there more than intimidates me. What little resources still available should be reserved for the citizens of your own country.

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.


               


             

All Aboard!

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All Aboard!

This spring I had planned on taking the Coastliner from LA to Seattle on my way back to Leavenworth. But that will have to wait until COVID-19 is under control in the USA.

The one and only time I was on a train in Mexico was in December of 2010. This was the most amazing train ride I’ve ever taken in my life. El Chepe in the Copper Canyon area in northern Mexico is an absolute must for every visitor to this country. I did a four day three night excursion that included a variety of activities such as visiting missions, a cable car ride, spectacular mountain views and stays in beautiful hotels along the way.

My first train trip was from Winnipeg to London, Ontario when I was eight years old. I really don’t remember much about that trip other than the card games I played with my Dad. I also can still see the porters making up the berths at night. Their starched white smocks were in striking contrast to their dark skin. Back then I’d never encountered racism and just accepted that all porters on trains were black. The innocent eyes of a child.

My Mom and I took a train to Minneapolis to go clothes shopping once. Winnipeg really wasn’t known for fashion back then. And I must admit I still prefer to shop in the USA.

Another memorable train ride was back when I was in high school. This was a long trip from Winnipeg to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I participated in a student exchange program called The Young Voyageurs that was created as an event to celebrate Canada’s Centennial. A highlight along the way was spending a day at Expo 67 in Montreal.

The Prairie Dog Central is a train that goes from Winnipeg to Gross Isle and operates during the summer. It’s also a steam engine. I recall taking my kids on it when they were young. They loved it as most of their travels usually involved busy airports and crowded flights where they weren’t able to wander around as freely.

Another regular train ride in the summer was at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. This coal fuelled train went around the park and passed by the zoo and the cricket fields.

And then there are the trains at Bush Intercontinental and Sea-Tac, as well as Via Rail and the Go Train I’ve taken in Ontario. And the subways I’ve ridden in Toronto and Guadalajara. I can’t say any of these are my favorites but they are efficient.

Here in Mexico I’ve been on quaint miniature train rides in shopping malls and in town squares in Sinaloa, Jalisco and Guadalajara. I also went on a miniature train ride in Wenatchee.

Amtrak…..I hope to see you once it’s safer to travel again in the USA.

Random Reflections

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Random Reflections

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

6 Is Now 9 And Counting

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6 Is Now 9 And Counting

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

But then COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Go For A Walk

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Let’s Go For A Walk

Las Flores and the surrounding neighborhoods provide for some very interesting walks. These are quite traditional Mexican barrios although I did notice this car that really stood out.On another block a children’s party was in full swing. Bouncers are extremely popular and they are set up right on the street as homes here do not have yards.This fellow was wheeling his cart near Expoplaza the other morning.Colorful murals adorn walls everywhere.And I never tire of admiring the beautiful flowers.How sad that the Jardín de San Marcos is still closed due to COVID-19.However the Templo de San Marcos Is open.I’m almost home now as I see the infamous Plaza de Torres in the distance.

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?