I’m back in Tlaquepaque enjoying one of my favorite Mexican celebrations…..Day of the Dead. This is a time when family and friends gather together to pray for and remember family and friends who have passed away. Altars are constructed and food and photos are prominent. Personal possessions are also displayed. Faces are painted and traditional dress is also featured for both adults and children alike. Brightly colored marigolds are everywhere and the cemeteries are alive with celebrations of the spirits of the deceased.
I spent hours walking down Calle Independencia and Calle Juarez taking photos of altars. It was fascinating watching the various artists painting faces of children and adults. The costumes were outstanding and Catrinas were everywhere.
In the evening I checked out the amazing altar outside El Parian in the square. An added delight was the celebration inside the government building which featured altars, catrinas and mariachis. In the Jardin Hidalgo a stage had been set up and various singers and dancers performed.
The vendors were out in full force. Food ranged from tortas ahogadas to churros. Other vendors sold everything from leather goods to jewelry. Needless to say, the people watching and photo ops were plentiful. Here are a few:
Last month I was in Guadalajara four times related to my cataract surgery. And I took advantage of every moment to spend time with friends and to visit some of my favorite places. I loved living in Guadalajara and if it had an ocean I’d still be there.
On my first trip, I headed out to Parque Mirador for the afternoon. The view of the canyon is breathtaking, and I used to spend hours here gazing out at the spectacular scenery and writing, while sipping my favorite Bohemia.
I spent a fair amount of time in the Jardin Hidalgo in San Pedro, the area where I used to live. It is so peaceful there early in the morning and the pigeons are a delight to watch. The two churches are busy places with people coming for early mass. The man selling cheese and the lady selling bread have their usual spots. The shopkeepers have not yet opened their doors and the garden is a perfect place to relax.
In the evening the Jardin Hidalgo is a busy place. Salchichas, tortas, churros, ayot and hamburguesas are only a few of the offerings here. What I enjoy is plopping down on a bench and watching people. And of course there is the added spectacle of the churches lit up at dusk.
I stayed with my friend Pedro and his family and it is always a delight to visit. Pedro is a former student and we used to get into quite the conversations in the classroom. My students always tell me that they are so grateful to have a native speaker of English teach them, but I feel privileged to have students like Pedro as I have learned so much from them. Here is a shot of Pedro, an avid cyclist.
On a sad note, my favorite coffee shop closed down. Claudia and her mom ran this place for eight years and their lease was not renewed. The ambiance was awesome and I treasure the memories of hours spent there with friends over the years. The food was outstanding and always cheerfully served. I was able to enjoy one last meal there in February just before it closed.
Another one of my friends opened up a cantina and I spent an enjoyable night there with friends. I highly recommend Alaz Luchas for cold beer, great music, interesting decor and of course wonderful food.
I enjoyed a morning in the Centro Historico although the main street was ripped up by the construction for the third line of the Tren Ligero. Here are some shots I took of the cathedral and the area nearby.
One morning I headed to the mercado for a delicious breakfast of pizole and tacos. The lower level is where the crowds of locals come for traditional Mexican fare.
I also squeezed in a quick trip to Forum Tlaquepaque, one of my favorite shopping malls in the area. I had planned on seeing a movie, but time just got away from me.
The main purpose of all these trips was the cataract surgery. The following photos are of this amazing clinic in Zapopan where I saw the opthamologist and had the surgeries done.
I miss you Guadalajara. If only you had an ocean. I look forward to returning again soon, but this time it will be all pleasure and no medical issues to contend with. I intend to spend time with friends and revisit my old haunts.
I was talking to my son last night and he remarked that I am a nomad. Apparently what I consider a long period of time and what he considers to be a long period of time are miles apart. Fourteen months in Mazatlan to me is a long period of time. The move to Leavenworth for three months is a much needed change.
I glanced back over my blog posts and noted that I had already published Am I A Nomad back in January of 2014. And I have been on the move since then. Therefore I have titled this post Still A Nomad.
I actually did remain in the same house in Tlaquepaque until April of 2015. The plan was to visit my Mexican family in Culiacan and then fly to Winnipeg out of Puerto Vallarta. I was having a book launch for Alive Again and had a few medical appointments scheduled. Then I would return to Guadalajara.
While I was in Culiacan, I received a job offer in Mazatlan. So I decided to check it out. I stayed with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, and it was a great reunion. On the way to Puerto Vallarta, I spent a couple of days in Sayulita with a former housemate from Guadalajara.
Back in Winnipeg, my 10 days soon became five weeks. I stayed with my son and a variety of friends and lived in various areas of the city during that time. By the time I returned to Mexico, I’d been living out of suitcases for almost eight weeks.
I moved in with a family from Mexico and stayed there for 5-1/2 months. I then stayed with a friend for three weeks until I was able to move into a condo. I remained in the condo for eight months before arriving here in Leavenworth almost three weeks ago. I plan on staying here until sometime in October when I will return to Mazatlan for the winter.
I still haven’t found that perfect place yet where I might settle down. And I don’t know if I ever will. But it has been the most amazing experience traveling and moving around after spending decades in Winnipeg. Obviously there doesn’t appear to be any real stability in my choice of lifestyle unless you categorize change as stability. And that is an interesting thought to ponder as I sit out on the deck and enjoy this view:
I can’t believe it’s December already. The months have flown by quickly and 2015 has been quite a hectic year filled with activity. In reality, the older I get the faster the time flies by.
In January I was living in Tlaquepaque and teaching at Avery Franz De Witt. I was working on the final edit of my second book, Alive Again. And I bought a pair of mitts and a headband because it got so cold at night in Guadalajara with lows of zero degrees. But the fountains still flowed with water in the daytime.
February was another busy month of teaching and writing. I celebrated Valentine’s Day with Carlos. Then I found myself traveling to Manzanillo for a few days by the beach.
When I returned to Guadalajara I began the arduous process of preparing for a book launch in Winnipeg. March was the first of many stressful months. I had to book flights to Winnipeg and arrange a variety of appointments while I was there. I had medical matters and financial issues to deal with in addition to the book launch. I had to sort out accommodations and ensure that I had time to see my friends.
April was insane. Right after Easter, I headed to Culiacan for a visit with my family. Off to Mazatlan next where I reunited with Larysa whom I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. I also accepted a teaching position at a language institute. I headed south to Sayulita to visit with Debbie who now owns a bed and breakfast there. We also spent a day in Bucerias before I headed back down to Puerto Vallarta to catch my flight to Canada. Yes, four different beaches in just one week!
I flew to Winnipeg via Calgary. David met me at the airport and I moved in with Donna and Loris for a few days. Next it was Audrey, Nancy, Kyle, Carolyn, Kyle, Donna and Loris, then back to Mexico. I had my book launch at McNally Robinson, spent time with my friends and had a myriad of medical and other appointments.
I flew back to Mexico at the end of May and rented a room with a Mexican family in a working-class Mexican neighborhood. It was a fabulous opportunity to get immersed in the culture and practice my Spanish skills.
In June I taught staff English at Hotel Torres. July was a holiday month from teaching and left me time to explore Mazatlan and do quite bit of writing. I also volunteered at The Vineyard Church making sandwiches to distribute to the poor people out near the dump.
The months flew by and I was soon on my way to Toronto. I spent a couple of days with my friend Deb whom I hadn’t seen in years. I then joined my daughter Kimmy and the rest of the group at the airport and was on a flight bound for Punta Cana, the destination for her wedding.
What an amazing week that was! I spent many happy hours by the pool with my daughter and her friends and new family. Kimmy had organized a fabulous group event that included everything from cigar-making displays to horseback riding and everything in between. There were also family dinners, a bachelorette party and then finally it was the wedding day.
A friend of Kimmy’s performed the ceremony on the beach Thankfully the rain held off until after the big event, but the dinner on the terrace was moved indoors. And then it was off to the disco for dancing.
One more day of relaxing by the pool and then we were heading back to Toronto. Except that WestJet had mechanical problems so our return flight was delayed by a day.
I returned to Mexico and had a very busy November. I started teaching again and then made plans to move into a condo with another woman from Canada. But the condo wasn’t available until early December, so I wound up moving in with another friend for three weeks.
December was another busy month. I moved into the condo and began to settle in. There is a pool so it has been nice to get back into the water again. And of course there is another new neighborhood to explore. Christmas was approaching and I found myself traveling again, to Guadalajara and Tototlan.
I am now back in Mazatlan and happy to be home. I’d like to wish everyone all the best for an amazing 2016, a year filled with peace, happiness and good health.
This year I took an overnight Turistar to Guadalajara. I arrived early in the morning and headed to the Jardin Hidalgo. The shops surrounding the square were just opening up as were the vendors’ stands. It was very peaceful and I have missed this pastime.
Next I went to Jahanve, a coffee shop I used to frequent. It was great to see Claudia again and I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast. My friend Steffie was visiting from Switzerland and we hadn’t seen each other in three years. Another friend, Monica, also joined us.
That night I stayed with my friend Pedro, a former student, and his family. Pedro and I used to get into sparring debates in Conversation Club, and it was great to converse once again. Here is a photo of Pedro and his wife Mary.
The following day I headed out to Parque Mirador, my favorite place in all of Guadalajara. The canyon is amazing, and I have spent hours gazing out at the beauty of this marvelous creation of nature.
That night we headed to Indio Rock to hear my friend German’s band play. Barbershop is an awesome band with fabulous renditions of 60’s and 70’s English rock. The guys posed for a photo before their performance.
The next morning found me on a bus to Ocotlan, where I met my friend Omar. We went grocery shopping and then headed to his home in Tototlan. We enjoyed a traditional turkey Christmas dinner, visited, watched movies and relaxed.
We also ventured out around town on his moped. We had a delicious lunch one day near the plaza. Omar has a large family and we visited with his aunt and several of his cousins. We then headed up the mountain to the temple and the view of the town was spectacular.
All too soon I was headed back home to Mazatlan. The days had flown by far too quickly. It was indeed a Merry Christmas.
Halloween falls on October 31st and Day Of The Dead is close on its heels on November 2nd. While Halloween is celebrated in some areas in Mexico, Day Of The Dead is the more popular of the two.
Halloween began as a pagan ritual, and has evolved into a celebration including costumes and candy treats. It was also believed that Halloween, a day that marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, was not only a transition between seasons but also a bridge to the world of the dead.
Day Of The Dead asserts that the souls of the deceased are allowed to leave heaven and reunite with their families on this day. Families gather in cemeteries and adorn their loved ones’ memorials with beautiful wreaths of flowers. This celebration also involves food, drink and music.
Although Day Of The Dead is a government holiday, restaurants and retail proceed as on any other day. I actually went grocery shopping in the morning and had dinner out with a friend on Monday.
When I lived in Guadalajara, this was Day Of The Dead central. In Centro in the Plaza Del Armas there was a huge display of Katrinas. In Tlaquepaque the streets were colorfully decorated and Calle Independencia was lined with altars. El Refugio also had an array of altars and Katrinas.
Here in Mazatlan there was a huge parade in the Centro Historico, and people flocked to Plaza Machado in elaborate costumes. There were also festivities at the Angela Peralta Theater. On Sunday a friend took me to the Municipal Cemetery and I was amazed by the activity there.
Instead of candy, sugar skulls and special bread are the norm.
I was disappointed that I only saw one altar here in Mazatlan. Families build altars in their homes and in the streets to honor their ancestors. Here are some pics from Tlaquepaque.
In Mazatlan I did see a few children in costumes going door to door in the Zona Dorada and they were quite young and looked adorable. Unfortunately we drove by them in a car and I was unable to get any photos. Where I’m from in Canada the streets are filled with young children and teenagers on Halloween but Day of the Dead is not celebrated. But here I have the best of both worlds!
A memory showed up on my Facebook page today. Four years ago today I had just arrived in Tlaquepaque and had begun teaching at Culturlingua. One night after class I went to a bar called Otro Nivel with some other teachers. There was a fabulous Mexican band playing awesome English rock music from the 60s and the cerveza was 2 for 1. I live in Mazatlan now and that night at the bar still seems like yesterday although years have passed by.
Life is for living. There are so many adventures out there just waiting in the wings. Of course the hitch is that this involves change, and many people thrive on routine and the security that it provides. I’ve come to the conclusion that I thrive on change, not on routine. Otherwise I would never have arrived in Tlaquepaque in October of 2011.
In July of 2011 I returned to Winnipeg after teaching in Culiacan. I halfheartedly began searching for a job. But Mexico had stolen my heart, and I knew that I no longer wanted to call Winnipeg “home.” I received a job offer from a school in Irapuato and a month later I was on a plane headed for Leon.
I was excited to be back in Mexico although life in Irapuato was definitely different from life in Culiacan. A sleepy little pueblo where the highlight was the soccer stadium didn’t have much appeal. The school was a disaster as the actual job in no way, shape or form resembled the promises on the Skype interview. But my supervisor Pilar became a good friend. The last Saturday in September, Pilar and I were sipping cappuccinos at The Italian Coffee Company when my phone rang. I glanced at it briefly and Pilar asked who I knew in Mexico City, as that was the area code on the call display. I remarked that it must have been a wrong number or a telemarketer as I didn’t have that number stored in my contacts. My phone rang again a few minutes later and the same number showed up. Annoyed, I turned it off.
I returned home several hours later and turned my phone back on. That Mexico City number had called another four times! Intrigued, I decided to call that number. After all, what if it was an emergency or someone was dying and they were frantically calling my number in error? But it was no error. Instead it was a job offer.
Greg was the owner of Culturlingua in Tlaquepaque. A teacher had left unexpectedly and he was looking for another teacher. He’d seen my resume up on Dave’s ESL Cafe and had been calling me all day. I told him I needed some time to think about it. He gave me until later that evening. I hung up on him and tried calling Pilar but got voicemail.
And I pondered the situation. I was dissatisfied with my job. My housemates were less than desirable. The school had yet to provide me with promised health coverage. But the best was that they had not provided me with a contract either so there really was nothing tying me down to Irapuato. I called Greg back and accepted his offer. And I left a message for Pilar.
It was now after 8 pm and I had a lot to do. I had to pack and that was complicated by the fact that I had two heavy suitcases that I needed to somehow get down the stairs. Nate and Margie came to my rescue. They were teachers from Hawaii and were as disillusioned with the situation in Irapuato as I was. They agreed to meet me early in the morning and help me with my suitcases. I was so excited that night I could barely sleep!
Early the next morning before anyone in my house was up, Nate and Margie arrived and helped me with my suitcases. We had to walk a couple of blocks down the street until we found a taxi. I felt like I was fleeing a prison! Did I mention that the director of English at the school lived next door to me in the same house as Nate and Margie? He was pretty livid when he realized I was AWOL. But by then I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. I should add that Nate and Margie made their own escape shortly thereafter.
I have never looked back. Moving to Tlaquepaque was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I have met some amazing people, have taught awesome students and have had incredible adventures.
My move here to Mazatlan was far less dramatic. I miss Guadalajara and the friends I have left behind. But I am drawn to the beach, to the calming azure waters and the smell of the salty sea air. And I know that more amazing people and incredible adventures await me here. Life is about living. Life is about change.