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.
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.
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.
Today is April 4th. In three weeks time I will be back in Washington. I’m now into crunch time with several last minute things to do.
Here in Aguascalientes I still have one museum and one church on my list. A day trip to San Jose de Gracia is still on my list. My one month stay turned into three months and even that isn’t long enough.
The Feria San Marcos is coming up and it is the largest fair in all of Mexico and goes on for more than two weeks. Some of the events are happening right at the end of my street. Friends have warned me of the 24 hour loud music and the millions of visitors who come here to Aguascalientes for this fair. My dilemma is do I stay here for that extra day or do I leave a day early and spend a day in Puerto Vallarta before getting my flight to Seattle.
I have also begun investigating in earnest the joys of travel health insurance plans. Not all plans cover the USA and apparently not all plans cover the state of Washington either.
I just returned from a whirlwind weekend in Culiacan with my family. My new grandson is a month old today and I met him for the first time last weekend. There is also nothing like having your six-year-old grandson crawl into bed to cuddle with you at 6:30 am on a Sunday with a Mamut (chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie). Or playing Spanish card games with him and his two brothers. The weekend flew by all too quickly.
I’m off to explore the Thursday tienguis in my neighborhood now. I enjoy engaging the vendors in conversation and always find something to buy.
This has been a very different winter for me here in Mexico. When I left Culiacan back in November, I was determined to explore parts of Mexico that I had never seen before. When I lived in Guadalajara, I traveled to various pueblos on the weekends. I visited friends in Mexico City. I lived in Irapuato for a few months and checked out Guanajuato. But there was still lots of new territory left to explore in central Mexico.
Many of my friends back in Washington were skeptical about my plans. You’re going to travel alone? You’re going to take overnight buses? You’re going to a place where you know no-one? You’re not sure where you will wind up or for how long? But that’s exactly what I have been doing for the past few months and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
When I first arrived in San Ciro de Acosta, I marveled at the quaintness and the simplicity of life there. The town didn’t even have a bank. You couldn’t use a credit card here if your life depended on it. It was like stepping back several decades in time. And I thought that a couple of weeks here would suffice.
But I was mistaken. I spent two of the most relaxing months of my life in San Ciro. I had time to work on my book without interruption. More importantly, for the first time in a decade, I had time for ME. I had time to contemplate life, time to process all the changes, time to reflect on my experiences and time to think about what lies ahead.
When I felt ready to leave, my destination was the city of Aguascalientes. Former students had raved about the beauty of this city and I was eager to see it for myself. And I have not been disappointed. The museums, churches and parks are amazing. It is such a clean city and is right up there with the Yucatan in terms of safety. Initially I planned on a one month stay.
But as the one month mark drew near, I knew that a second month was definitely in the wings. And when the second month drew near, I knew that a third month was indicated. And as the third month is drawing near, I am seriously considering returning here next winter for several months.
Years ago my therapist remarked to me that I was fortunate that I made friends easily and adapted well to new situations. Sometimes this blessing is also a curse. While the transient lifestyle has its appeal, it also has its downside.The older I get, the harder it is to say good-bye to people I meet on my journey. However the friendships I have made are priceless and the growth I have experienced has been incredible.
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.
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.
We continued our tour and it was interesting to see the gold and the quartz embedded in the rocks overhead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I can’t help it. I’m a museum addict. At least I have become one since living in Mexico. Guadalajara is still in the lead although Aguascalientes is definitely providing competition for a city of its size.
I’ve been here just over a week and have already visited three museums. My earlier post on Museo Nacional de las Muertes speaks for itself. In this post I will focus on the other two museums I’ve visited.
On Thursday I ventured down a side street close to the bull ring and was completely enchanted with Museo del Juguete Tradicional Mexicano Aguascalientes. There are over a thousand exhibits here featuring traditional toys from all over Mexico. These toys are made from a range of materials including wood, rags, sugar, newspaper, mud and even chewing gum. Admission is a mere 15 pesos, a small price to pay for a delightful venture back into childhood. Of course, coming from Canada, these toys are amazingly different from those I grew up with.
On Friday I went to the Regional Museo de Historia Aguascalientes. The building itself is an old structure with a lovely fountain at the entrance. There are several rooms with displays depicting the geological and cultural history of the area. Brush up on your Spanish as there are no English translations of the descriptive notes. Admission is 55 pesos, but it is free to seniors, students and teachers.
Thursday afternoon, my friends took me out on a drive to the neighboring state of Queretaro. The drive through the mountains was breathtaking and made me homesick for the mountains up north in Washington state.
Our first stop was Arroyo Seco, a town a little larger than San Ciro. The streets were very narrow and within minutes we were at the plaza. The plaza is the hub of the town with tiendas and taco stands surrounding it. Naturally the church is close by.
We headed back to the highway and continued our drive. We soon arrived in the quaint town of Conca. Our first stop here was the church.
Next we drove down to a park area close to the river. I chose to pass on the swimming. I was glad I did as my friends said the water was cold and the fish were nipping at their feet.
Instead I went for a walk and checked out the millenium tree. People tell me it’s hundreds of years old although I was unable to pinpoint the exact age.
I continued my walk for a while.
I wasn’t brave enough to walk across that little log bridge although I did see children running across it. I wonder if I would have done that as a child.
Jalpan is classified as a Pueblo Magico. Thankfully the sun was shining and it was warm on the day I chose to visit. The weather here in San Ciro has been quite a challenge. One day it will be 85 degrees and the next day only 60 degrees. Several cloudy days with sporadic drizzle as well.
Nonetheless Monday dawned sunny and warm and I accepted a ride to Jalpan with Froylan, the man who owns the hotel where I am currently staying. He also owns the junkyard that surrounds the hotel. And my ride that morning was one of the vehicles he buys for parts. Electrical tape secured the sensors beneath the hood and the back seat had been removed to accommodate space for an engine that needed transporting. However the vehicle made it to Jalpan with no problem once the battery had been boosted.
The drive was beautiful and afforded a view of the spectacular mountains. Actually it made me kind of homesick for the mountains in Washington state. It seems that I just can’t get enough of mountains!
My first stop, of course, was the church. This magnificent structure was at least a couple of hundred years old. I asked several people the age but none of them knew for sure.
I then headed for the plaza. There was a celebration going on and the stage was alive with music, a play and speeches. I was totally enchanted with some of the statues as well as the Christmas displays already in place.
I then wandered the streets. I came across this little footbridge near a hotel. It led to a steep staircase that ended on the highway. I chose to remain on the bridge and admire the view instead.
As I continued meandering through the streets, I saw the usual loncherias, taco stands and a variety of shops. I engaged in a variety of conversations with the friendly locals who were all curious about the single gringa wandering around their town.
I boarded a bus for the return trip to San Ciro and enjoyed the amazing scenery along the way.
I received an email this morning from a friend in Leavenworth. She wanted to know how long I was staying in Mazatlan. Well, you miss a blog post and you lose track of yours truly. Two weeks in Guadalajara, one weekend in Mazatlan, and now I’m in Culiacan. Right now the plan is to stay here for a week, and then your guess is as good as mine. After decades of routines and schedules I am completely caught up in the world of mindfulness and moving along when the time feels right. That’s why I found myself on a bus to Culiacan yesterday morning.
I mus tell you about the bus ride. ETN/Turistar is my preferred mode of travel but my route from Mazatlan to Culiacan has been discontinued. I reluctantly bought a ticket on TAP, on a first class rather than an executive class. The plan was to arrive in Culiacan around 2 pm so that Juan could pick me up after school.
It’s been years since I took one of these, and I forget how annoyingly entertaining it can be. The TV hovered inches above my head. Amazingly enough the movie was in English. No computer terminal at my seat on this bus. I put in my headphones and scrolled through the music channels. Nothing too exciting there. But the air conditioning was blasting and it was only a couple of hours. Suck it up princess.
The bus slowed down on the outskirts of the city and two vendors got on. I’d forgotten how amusing this can be. Vendors are not allowed on the ETN buses.
The first vendor to approach me was a young woman with a basket filled with wind-up toys. I smiled back and shook my head. No, gracias. But she was determined. She must have demonstrated four or five toys before she moved on to the next passenger.
Apparently the toy sales were not doing well. Moments later she was back with chocolate……melted chocolate. After all, the temperature outside was in the nineties before she boarded the bus. Once again I declined her offerings.
The second vendor was hot on her heels. This man had a cooler full of tamales. He wasn’t quite as aggressive and a shake of the head was sufficient enough to send him on his way.
She’s back! Vendor number one was now spouting me the benefits of the cream with marijuana she held in her hands. And then vendor number one was selling honey while she was still promoting her cream. I shook my head once again, reclined my seat, and closed my eyes.
Years ago when I’d go on short winter holidays, I always marveled at the fact that the locals from California, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Texas always looked pale. They didn’t have that bronzed suntannned look. However now that I actually live in that type of climate here in Mexico, I completely understand it. In the days when I was teaching, I had to travel to a beach area so that limited the opportunities. Even living here in Mazatlan and retired now, there are just so many other things I have found that fill my days.
But I finally did it! On Friday a friend and I ventured out to the beach on Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island). We took a bus down to the embarcadero and paid 30 pesos for a round trip ticket on the ferry. Of course “ferry” is a loose term for some type of watercraft that amazingly not only remains aloft but makes dozens of trips a day out to the island. I took advantage of the life jackets provided anyways.
There were two other gringos on the boat with us. They were two men from Penticton, BC who were looking for somewhere to stay on the island. There was a young Mexican with a huge tray of pastry he was going to sell out on the beach. The rest of the passengers were Mexicans and did not speak English.
Our brief voyage over was uneventful and minutes later we were on the beach. We claimed two loungers and were delighted with the prompt arrival of a server to take our drink orders. It’s important to keep hydrated and I carefully balanced my cerveza with bottles of water.
My friend prefers an area with more solitude but the photographer in me thrives on the hustle and bustle of vendors and other beach goers. A line was strung across the sand to keep the hawkers at a distance. Jewelry, tattoos, clothing, hammocks, sunglasses, hats, fruit, a variety of seafood, donuts, pastry and much more were readily available.
And this being Mexico, of course there was music.
The beach at Stone Island is very different from the rest of Mazatlan. There is a completely different feel to it. There are no strings of hotels along the beach. The restaurants are more casual. Bare feet and bathing suits are accepted attire. There is no evidence of Senor Frog’s or Oxxo.
I didn’t venture into the town itself. That will be for next time. I was quite content to hang out on the beach for seven hours instead working on my suntan.