Tag Archives: Mexico

One Church Aguascalientes

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One Church Aguascalientes

Finding a Christian church in Mexico is difficult enough as this is definitely Catholic country. Finding a Christian church where I feel comfortable and welcome is another hurdle. Finding a church where I am able to become involved is a blessing. I’ve lived in several places in Mexico and have attended a few Christian churches. The gringo churches were not my favorites. While I am still not completely fluent in Spanish, I still prefer the Mexican churches over the gringo churches.

Here in Aguascalientes I have discovered a gem of a church, and it’s only two blocks away from where I am staying. One Church is only two years old and has only fifty congregants. A husband and wife, both pastors, not only spearhead this church but they also financially support this church with outside jobs. Although One Church is affiliated with Redime (Redeemed Church), it receives no funding from this organization. Additional funding is provided by contributions from the congregants at the services. Tax receipts? Not in Mexico.

Services are held Sunday mornings at 11 am and Thursday evenings at 7 pm. The worship team lead the congregation in prayer and praise followed by a short coffee break. A nursery as well as a children’s program are available when the pastor next gives a sermon. The service concludes with more prayer and praise.

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The church has an active group for young adults that meets on Saturday afternoons. A time of prayer and bible study is often augmented by going out into the community and evangelizing. The church also sponsors a radio program on Saturday afternoons where the pastors and congregants participate. The pastors were also instrumental in establishing a drug rehabilitation center in Aguascalientes. Many of the congregants volunteer their time at this facility.

The pastors themselves come from very different backgrounds. Martin attended Ana Sanders Seminary in Mexico City and received a doctorate from Vida Nueva Para El Mundo. Elizabeth had traveled around the world with profeta Yalile Diaz, Interestingly enough, Martin and Elizabeth met on Facebook. They have been married for three years and have an adorable two-year-old son.

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If you ever find yourself in Aguascalientes, I highly encourage you to seek out this church in Las Flores. I’ve been in Aguascalientes for only three months, and I truly feel that I belong to this church family. The pastors and the congregants have been most welcoming to this gringa, and I know that I will miss them when I head back up north in a couple of weeks.

A Day in Zacatecas

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A Day in Zacatecas

Last week I went on a day trip to the city of Zacatecas. My primary destination was the silver mine that had been made into a museum, La Mina del Eden. The bus trip from Aguascalientes took about an hour and a half. The taxi from the bus station to the mine took another 15 minutes.

Admission is 100 pesos, but half price for seniors and children. To my surprise, I was told that a tour in English was available. I decided to opt for that one. I have taken several tours in Mexico in Spanish. While I do grasp most of the content, sometimes details are missed.

Clad in hard hats, we boarded the train that would take us deep into the mine.

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We disembarked in the darkened mine. To my delight, I was the only one on the English tour so I had the tour guide all to myself. Ruben is Mexican but had lived in Illinois for a while and his English was amazing. He was very knowledgeable and I thoroughly enjoyed my private tour. We stopped several times as he explained the history and the logistics of the mine. We were several meters below the surface ourselves, and we were able to view the water running through several meters below us as well. This photo shows just one of the many displays along the way.

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We continued our tour and it was interesting to see the gold and the quartz embedded in the rocks overhead.

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My guide further explained that there is still untapped silver in the mine. However the city of Zacatecas has grown and is now encroaching on the mine, so official mining has stopped and the mine is strictly now a museum only. My guide also pointed out that there is actually a night club  in the mine that is open in the evenings and nights on weekends.

After I left the mine I decided to walk a little, no easy feat in this city. The streets are extremely steep. I found myself at the teleferico, the cable car that goes up to the top of the mountain. But that day my fear of heights triumphed and I wound up taking an Uber to Centro instead.

I checked out the Basilica and some stores close by. That was when I noticed the tour bus.

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The tour itself was in Spanish. The bus navigated the steep, narrow streets providing me with an amazing view from the upper deck of the city below. Our guide pointed out the various historical buildings, parks and statues along the way. It was most informative and interesting.

After the tour, I came across this man sitting on a bench.

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I realize that Zacatecas has numerous museums and other attractions, but it was getting late and time to return to the bus station to board a bus back to Aguascalientes.

While I can envision another day trip in the future, the silver mine was definitely the highlight for me on my first visit to Zacatecas.

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!

Diana’s Story

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Diana’s Story

I first met Diana in Aquismon on Thanksgiving Day in November. Six years old with a bright smile, she charmed all of us. A few days later, she moved to San Ciro de Acosta and my friend Bonnie became her new mother. Diana’s mother had abandoned her shortly after she gave birth and Diana had been living with her grandmother.

I first met Bonnie in a Facebook group back in November. I was looking for a small non-expat town where I could focus both on my writing and on my Spanish. Bonnie is from Texas and had married a Mexican and moved to San Ciro. Her mother Connie had moved to San Ciro a couple of months before I arrived.

I was curious as to why Bonnie and Ricky were so eager to adopt a child. Both have children and grandchildren from previous marriages. While Ricky’s family are here in Mexico, Bonnie had left all of her family behind in Texas. In addition, Bonnie’s daughter had died at the young age of 28 only 3 years before. To quote Bonnie, “I was left with an empty feeling. I was very lonely and I’ve always loved kids. When I saw how many kids really needed homes, I really became interested in adopting.”

They spoke with staff at DIF and learned that adoption is a difficult and long process here in Mexico. Ricky thought that maybe someone might give them their baby if they could not afford to feed and clothe another child. Months went by and they had resigned themselves to the fact that if it was God’s will an opportunity might arise.

And an opportunity did arise unexpectedly when they hired a boat guide one day. They had taken one of the neighbor’s children on their excursion that day. Mr. Martinez saw how they interacted and asked if Luis was their only child, Bonnie jokingly told him that Luis wasn’t their child, but that they were looking to adopt. He told them that his sister was raising her granddaughter and was looking for a home for her. Phone numbers were exchanged. Mr. Martinez invited them over for dinner. A friendship developed and the families began to see each other regularly. However no word was ever spoken about the child.

We were eating dinner on Thanksgiving Day when Bonnie and Ricky were asked if they’d like to meet Diana. After dinner, Bonnie and Ricky went to Mr. Martinez’s sister’s home and a couple of hours later they returned with Diana and her grandmother. Apparently Diana had already told her teacher that she was moving far away.

Bonnie and Ricky wanted to make sure that everything was done legally. Four days later they returned to Aquismon to pick up Diana. They consulted with a lawyer in Aquismon who drew up documents granting them full custody and guardianship. These papers were signed by Bonnie, Ricky, the grandmother and Mr. Martinez.

Adoption is complicated here. Had they gone that route, the process would have taken two years or more and Diana would be placed in an orphanage for that time period. As it stands, they are not allowed to take Diana out of the country. They also opted not to change her name as that would have added an additional 50,000 pesos to the legal fees already incurred.

The next step was to enrol Diana in a public school. Registration was 480 pesos and fees for the uniforms were another 2000 pesos. They also had to pay 80 pesos for breakfast fees although the school has yet to provide any food in this program. Students are expected to be immaculately groomed and in full uniform. Points are deducted from their grades if they are not.

The school itself has no heat or air conditioning. Parents must purchase all supplies, including toilet paper. Parents take turns cleaning the classrooms. They are also responsible for setting out cones to control traffic before and after school.

Parents are also expected to bring lunch to the children each day. Bonnie hands Diana her lunch through the bars as parents are not allowed on the campus. There are no chairs or tables and the children eat their lunch standing up outside in the courtyard.

Diana is adjusting remarkably well to her new life. She is learning to play and be a child instead of working in the sugar cane fields after school. She has made friends and eagerly shares her new toys and dolls with them. She has been introduced to swimming and indoor plumbing. Her diet now includes a variety of healthy foods in addition to the rice and beans she was accustomed to.

Most importantly, Diana is basking in the glow of all the love that Bonnie and Ricky have to offer. And I feel blessed that I have been a part of their lives and have shared in this amazing experience.

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Who Am I?

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Who Am I?

I’ll be honest. I’m still trying to find myself. Yes, I know that this expression is decades old. But so am I, and I still crave adventure and who knows what else. I have been so many different people throughout the years. Baby to child to teenager to adult to wife to mother to name just a few. Babysitter to bookkeeper to manager to business owner to counselor to social worker to motivational consultant to teacher to writer to fitness instructor to name just a few. But who am I really?

Many followers of my blog know me personally. However there are others from around the world who read my posts and have never met me in person. So this post is dedicated to you. Here is a glimpse of who I am as I travel through this journey of life in an attempt to find myself.

My name is Karen and I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of the province and is smack dab in the middle of the prairies. It is infamous for the brutal winters and has justly earned the nickname of “Winterpeg.” Other than a brief few years in Oak Bluff, Manitoba I lived in Winnipeg all my life until November of 2010.

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I still vividly recall the day I left. First stop was Grace Hospital to say goodbye to my daughter, who was a nurse there at the time. From there my son took me to the airport where another tearful goodbye transpired. I was on my way to my first ESL teaching job in Mexico. I had never been apart from my children for more than a couple of weeks at a time, and this was going to be a ten month separation. I cried all the way to Minneapolis and my first layover on the journey to Culiacan. And I must admit that I am still tearful as I don’t see my children often enough. I love them, I am so very proud of all their accomplishments and I miss them terribly. But we are all adults and we all have our own lives to lead. 

I returned to Winnipeg in July of 2011 and halfheartedly began looking around for a job and a place to live. I also had legal issues to deal with as my divorce decree was nowhere in sight although the marriage had ended in January of 2009. And then I received the phone call.

Are you interested in coming back to Mexico? We have a job opening in our private school here in Irapuato. Really? Hmmmm, teaching in Mexico was to be a one year plan. But the Skype interview went well and a couple of weeks later I was on my way back to Mexico.

It is now February of 2018. And I have retired from teaching. I’m into my third year here in Mazatlan after a few years in Guadalajara. I have also discovered a new summer home in Leavenworth, Washington where I lead an active life including a fair amount of volunteer work. Yes, summer home. Mazatlan is far too hot in the summer.

I have published two self-help books. “When Glad Becomes Sad” deals with depression and anxiety. “Alive Again” deals with separation and divorce. I am currently working on a book of fiction and enjoying writing it immensely. I have contributed articles to books published by other authors, and hope to publish more of my own poems and short stories in the future.

When I’m not writing, my favorite pastime here in Mexico is attending music and dance performances. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I belong to a Red Hat group and I play Hand and Foot regularly. I spend hours walking along the malecon. I love the ocean. That is what influenced my decision to leave Guadalajara. I like to watch movies and am hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush. I also take hundreds of pictures with my smart phone. And I have more recently begun volunteering at a Christian mission. And as an aside to my friends in Leavenworth, yes I am still coloring.

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I am forever indebted to former Tlaquepaque housemates Omar and Sean who encouraged me to begin writing a blog on WordPress. And I am flattered that so many people take the time to read my posts. And I now have the time to read other writers’ blogs.

Now that I am retired, my focus will be on my writing, especially my current work in progress.  I have no idea what my next post will be about. I hadn’t anticipated this one until the words began to flow. So we’ll all be in suspense until the next one.

Saturdays Then and Now

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Saturdays Then and Now

Do you remember back when you were a kid………..Saturday morning cartoons! Somehow it was easy to get up on Saturdays when you weren’t trudging off to school. My favorite was, and still is, Beep Beep The Roadrunner.

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As a teenager, Saturdays were spent hanging out downtown with my friends. We’d take a bus to Eaton’s and meet at the statue. That was THE popular place to meet in Winnipeg. We’d check out clothes and makeup and then snack on fries and Coke in the Valley Room or over at Hudson’s Bay (as it was called back then) in The Paddlewheel.

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In the early years of marriage before kids, Saturdays were spent shopping for groceries and other items we never had time for during the week as we both worked. Stores and parking lots were always so crowded. I much preferred doing my shopping during the week, even with kids in tow.

Once the kids came along, Saturdays took on a new meaning of hectic. I was busy chauffeuring them to activities such as ballet, bowling, music lessons and birthday parties. When the kids grew up and began to drive themselves around, Saturdays became my own again.

Saturday mornings meant garage sales, flea markets and auctions hunting for treasures for my Ebay business. I became quite familiar with the small towns surrounding Winnipeg. But my Ebay business ended when my marriage ended. I lost my storage room, shipping room and supplies and moved into a cramped one bedroom apartment.

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That then gave me the opportunity to teach Aquafit classes at the YMCA on Saturday mornings. I enjoyed this and often went out for lunch with friends afterwards. The afternoons were often spent studying as I was now back at University earning more letters after my name.

When I first came to Mexico, Saturdays were days of exploration as I taught full-time during the week. When I moved to Guadalajara I began teaching in language institutes where I quickly discovered that Saturdays were THE most requested class times.

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I’m now retired and Saturdays are my own again. Mornings are leisurely and then I head out with friends. I’m off to a 60s rock party today in The Gold Zone. I heard this group play in Centro a couple of weeks ago and they were amazing. The 60s was MY decade and the best years ever. And the memories the music conjures up………flower power, free love, hippies, peace, sit-ins, caftans, bell bottoms, love beads and much, much more. 

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Dia de San Patricio 2017

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Dia de San Patricio 2017

March 17th is synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day. I used to teach my students in Mexico all about the legend behind this day, but close on its heels is the holiday celebrating Benito Juarez’s birthday, and a school holiday here in Mexico. Needless to say, the students were always more interested in getting a day off from classes.

Last year we succeeded in finding green tequila in Sabalo Country. This year we found green beer at Twisted Mamas, one of the gringo restaurants in the Zona Dorada. Combined with good friends, a live band and delicious food, it was a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year.

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The servers were all decked out in green.

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The menu included traditional fare of corned beef and cabbage as well as Guinness beef stew.

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Even yours truly got into the spirit.

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And that was St. Patrick’s Day here in Mazatlan.