Tag Archives: Travel Mexico

Museums, Parks and Attractions in Guadalajara and Mexico

Mazatlan Sunsets

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Mazatlan Sunsets

Mazatlan has the most beautiful sunsets as well as fabulous beaches. The other night I was totally mesmerized by the colorful display in the sky. I was out on my second floor terrace and cannot believe that my iPhone did such an incredible job of capturing the vivid colors.

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My next project is to wake up early enough to view the sunrise, which I;m sure will be equally as spectacular.

Monday After Motorcycle Week

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Monday After Motorcycle Week

It’s Monday morning again and another weekend has gone by all too quickly. It’s April already and yesterday the clocks sprang forth an hour with the time change, finally catching up to the rest of the continent who did it three weeks ago.

Time changes should not be allowed the weekend of Motorcycle Week. I went to the parade on Saturday and was totally blown away by the number of bikes that had invaded Mazatlan for this event. MazatlanCity.com claims that over 20,000 bikers were here. The Malecon was completely closed off to traffic Saturday afternoon and evening as the cyclists made their way from the aquarium to Olas Altas. I’ve been to parades in my life, but have never seen anything like this before.

Thousands of people lined the streets hours ahead of time in anticipation of this event. Hawkers circulated amongst the crowd selling ice cream, donuts, chips, balloons, cotton candy, bandanas, candy and anything else you can imagine. The beaches were all but deserted as the parade was THE place to be on Saturday.

Motorcycle week also involved much more than a parade. For 450 pesos, a wrist band admitted you to the grounds for four days of music and displays. (You also received a t-shirt.) There were also events on the beach such as pole dancing contests and bikini contests. Hotels and restaurants were overwhelmed with people, and of course traffic was a nightmare. And the noise of these bikes !!!!!!!!

Here are some pics I snapped during the parade:

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The bikes are gone now, the roar of engines a fading memory, and the streets are no longer parking lots due to traffic jams. The outdoor band concerts and the numerous displays are done for this year. Many locals tend to run away from Mazatlan during Motorcycle Week. Not me! I can hardly wait until next year!

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Reverse Culture Shock

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Reverse Culture Shock

Traveling and living in another country are amazing experiences I have had. I have immersed myself in in a foreign culture, have acquired a new language and have adjusted to a different climate. But the biggest challenge has been returning to my hometown for visits.

After eight months in Culiacan, I returned to Winnipeg intent on finding employment and remaining in Canada. While it was great to see my children and my friends, it definitely was not one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I had grown accustomed to a far different way of life in Mexico and I was quickly overwhelmed by the stressful lifestyle in Winnipeg. I lasted five weeks and breathed a sigh of relief when I boarded that flight back to Mexico.

The following two years were a split of six months in Guadalajara and six months in Winnipeg as I had two knee replacements done a year apart in Canada. I really had to psyche myself up for those lengthy Canadian stays. Anxiety and panic attacks were my constant companions along with grueling physiotherapy following the two surgeries.

When I returned to Guadalajara, it was for eighteen months this time. I planned a brief visit to Winnipeg to launch my second book in May of this year. However the two weeks dragged out to five weeks and it really was no vacation. I had a myriad of appointments and endless issues to contend with. Those weeks were exhausting and stressful.

I returned to Mexico in June and moved directly to Mazatlan. I welcomed the challenges of a new city to explore. Of course I did have to deal with Immigration and that comes in second only to divorce in terms of stress and aggravation.

Reverse culture shock is common when you have lived in another country and return to your hometown. The biggest obstacle for me is the concept of time. Here in Mexico, the pace is much slower. I like to call it the “land of manana.” There’s always another bus, another train and another day. There is no rush and multi-tasking is not a necessity. Everything gets done in its own time.

When I returned to Winnipeg, multi-tasking was an absolute necessity. Appointments combined with shopping in the same morning or afternoon left me feeling like I was in a marathon. I missed my little corner tiendas and the neighborhood tienguis. I missed the leisurely stroll to a coffee shop or a bar instead of the hassle of driving in traffic.

I missed the sound of the beautiful Spanish language. Although English is the predominant language in Winnipeg, I heard far more conversations in a variety of foreign languages when shopping in the malls.

I missed the smiling Mexican faces greeting me with a Buen Dia although they were complete strangers to me. Bus drivers would wish me a good day when I said gracias as I alighted from the bus.

While it was nice to return to some of my favorite restaurants, I missed the street food in Mexico. Wherever I was, a taco stand or a churro stand were never far away. And many of the foods I had become accustomed to in Mexico just were not available in Winnipeg.

I missed the loudspeakers blaring in the streets advertising tamales or fruit or mattresses. I missed the jingle of the Zeta gas truck and the bells of the ice cream vendors. I missed people trying to sell me pencils or tools through my window. I missed people offering me pots and pans in exchange for jewelry.

I could go on and on. But until you have actually done what I have, I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand the struggle in returning to your home town after a lengthy stay in another country.  My world no longer begins and ends in Winnipeg. I have grown and learned so much in the past five years in Mexico. And isn’t that what life is all about?

Let Me Be

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Let Me Be

I heard a song the other day that I hadn’t heard in decades. The tune keeps running through my head and the words haunt me. I’m referring to “Let Me Be” by The Turtles.

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As a teenager, this song had been one of my mantras. But then marriage and life set in and I fell into the common trap of trying to be the person everyone else wanted me to be, but not the person that I really wanted to be. And I am now at a stage in my life where I have the opportunity to find that person who had lost her way for so many years in the gargantuan abyss of others’ expectations.  

I graduated from university in May and got married in June. I was only twenty-one, but then that was expected back in the seventies. Pre-nups? Unheard of in those days. My trust fund bought our first house. My husband became firmly ensconced in a business run by my family. And I soon found myself sucked in as well. Strong and ugly words to describe that one. But in those days I always put everyone else first. My dad was ill and it made it easier on everyone if my husband and I were involved in the business. And it did provide employment for both of us. But growing up I always resented the fact that my dad was consumed by this business. He was always working. I remember packing up my homework and going back to the office with him at night so that I could spend time with him.

And then my own children came along. Fortunately I was able to move my office home and I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom. Of course when my babies napped, I never got to relax. Payroll, month-end, year-end, taxes………..there was no end to it. And I had also gone back to college to obtain business administration and accounting certifications. Yes, that business had indeed sucked me in over the years.

I look back at my life and have no regrets. My happiest days were those spent with my children while they were growing up. And I know that I have instilled upon them the importance of getting an education. Both of them are established in professional careers and are thriving. I am so very proud of them, and they are the loves of my life.

When the opportunity to sell the business arose, I jumped at it. Of course it also marked the beginning of the end of my marriage. But more importantly, it also was a time of personal growth for me. I continued to pursue my university education despite the lack of support from my husband. And then once the marriage ended, I completed my degree and created a new and exciting life for myself here in Mexico.

I am finally now doing what I want to do. I don’t care what others expect of me. I am constantly criticized because I have chosen to live in Mexico and lead the lifestyle I do. Personally I feel that it takes guts to do what I do. And I am quite content with the simple life I have here. I teach, I write and I do volunteer work. I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and eagerly anticipate what the day will bring. I am happy.

Now, if only my children would come here for a visit…………..that would make me even happier.

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A Week In The Life

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A Week In The Life

It’s Thursday afternoon, August 13th, and I’ve been living in Mazatlan now for about 2-1/2 months. It’s still holiday time here which means I’m not teaching at all this month. But I have found other activities to occupy my time.

My focus has been primarily on my writing. I am now in week 7 of a 9 week writing course from Duke University in North Carolina. I had not anticipated such a heavy course when I enrolled, but it has proven to be a great learning experience. Analyzing a visual image, writing a case study and an op-ed, learning about citation and plagiarism, evaluating the works of others——-it’s been intense but also very informative.

I’ve also being working on my next book. Although it will be a work of fiction, I will be drawing on some of my own life experiences.  Right now I’m developing characters and plot lines. This is most enjoyable after having written two self-help books, When Glad Becomes Sad and Alive Again.

I belong to a writers’ group online called An Author’s Tale. I enjoy the weekly writing prompts as well as the camaraderie of other writers.

I am excited to learn that there is a writers’ group right here in Mazatlan. Meetings begin again in the fall and I look forward to meeting other writers and sharing ideas.

I have also become an active member of La Vina in Zona Dorada. As well as attending services on Sunday mornings, I have become involved in an outreach program. And I have also made some new friends here as well.

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Although I haven’t found a bridge club yet, friends have introduced me to a game called “hand and foot” which I now play twice a week. This is the view as we sit by the pool and play cards.

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I have also joined an organization called Vecinos Con Carino. This group is involved in supporting students and schools and also involved in the Lids For Life program.

Exploring Mazatlan fills my time as well. Before I moved here, when I visited I would stay at the Hotel Playa Mazatlan in the Zona Dorada and spend most of my time in that area or strolling along the malecon. Now that I live here, I have discovered  a variety of other interesting places to check out, and my list is growing daily. I have mastered some of the major bus routes and navigating this city is less stressful than in Guadalajara.

My favorite place is still the beach, especially at sunset. I no longer merely bask on the beach all day as I did when I was a tourist. I read, I write and I gaze out at the magnificence of nature. There is something very calming about the ocean. I love the sound of the waves pounding or lapping at the shore, depending upon the weather. I love that salty sea smell in the air. The sand beneath my feet is a cushion of velvet. I have walked beaches from Hawaii to the Atlantic coastline, but Mazatlan surpasses them all. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision myself living in this magical paradise.

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I do admit that in the soaring temperatures and high humidity I often take refuge in an air-conditioned mall,  theater or restaurant.  By bus, Galerias is ten minutes away, Gran Plaza is about 15 minutes away and Sendero is about 20 minutes away. These malls all have theaters and restaurants which I frequent.

Tomorrow is an open day and I plan to visit the art museum and the English speaking library, followed by lunch and a walk along the malecon. Weekend events include a pool party and an anniversary dinner.

A week in the life.

Why Mexico? Why Mazatlan?

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Why Mexico? Why Mazatlan?

I am often asked why I keep returning to Mexico to teach. After all, there are dozens of other countries out there all over the world that are crying for English teachers. Mexico is definitely on the lowest edge of the pay scale. Flying to Winnipeg from here is a nightmare unless it’s snowbird season.

For me, the biggest attraction is the people. I have met such incredibly warm and loving people. They have welcomed me into their homes and included me in family celebrations. When I walk down the street complete strangers greet me with “Buenos Dias” or “Buen Dia”. When I get off the bus the driver comments “Que le valla bien”. If I’m eating in a restaurant other diners always remark “Provecho”. Smiling faces are the norm here. Children play together randomly in the streets or in parks. At night the streets are alive with music and the aroma of luscious cuisine from taco stands or barbecue grills fills the air. And there are the loud blasts from the bullhorns of the tamale trucks as they cruise through the streets. 

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My students are tremendously appreciative of the efforts of their Canadian teacher. They are respectful and eager to learn. They are kind and thoughtful, and always ready to offer assistance without my even asking. They have also taught me a great deal about Mexico, and so much about life itself. I often receive messages from some of my most challenging teenage students from years gone by who excitedly tell me that they are now pursuing a career in university. As a teacher, it is most gratifying to hear of their accomplishments.

Along with the people comes the culture. The Mexican people have a fascinating history and take pride in their ancestry. The holidays and traditions are rooted in family, and I have participated in some amazing celebrations. On Mexican Independence Day I attended the reading of the Gritto in Tlaquepaque and it was just the most awesome experience! Thousands of people crowded the square singing the national anthem and responding to the greeting. Bands played and fireworks lit up the sky.

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But my absolute favorite holiday is Day of The Dead. Tlaquepaque is renowned for its celebrations. Calle Independencia is decked out in colorful flags and flanked with altars and Katrinas. El Refugio has an amazing display of altars as well. The cemeteries are resplendent with flowers from the thousands of visitors as the joyfully celebrate the lives of their relatives who have passed on to another world.

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I have just moved to Mazatlan after spending most of the last four years in Guadalajara. OK, I admit it. The beach was the big lure. Another big plus is a much smaller city and commutes to work will be just minutes instead of hours. The air quality here is far superior. Hopefully the torrential rainstorms here will not be as frequent. The climate is stiflingly hot and much more humid. Sorry Jalisco, but I have always preferred the food in Sinaloa. Chata tamales and machaca ……..how I have missed you!
In Guadalajara I lived in shared housing. I am currently living with a family. My house is ideally located close to major bus routes and shopping as well as to the school. Tacos, hamburguesas, salchichas and birria are readily available from street stands. Unfortunately I have an allergy to seafood, so I must pass on the mariscos that are so popular here.  
My work experience here will also be a little different. In addition to the usual school classroom setting, I will be teaching on site to staff in a hotel. The focus here is more on conversation rather than grammar, and that blends well with my communicative approach to teaching English. And I am pleased that my students are all adults as this is the age group I prefer to teach. This is my classroom in the hotel.

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I am also delighted that I will only be a couple of hours away from Culiacan. I taught there when I first came to Mexico in 2010, so it holds a special place in my heart. I am excited that I will be able to see Juan, Lucila and my nietos more often. I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays and holidays together now that we live so close to each other.
I also fervently hope that my children and my friends might decide to come and visit me this winter. With the beach here, I’m certain that Mazatlan has more appeal to them than Guadalajara had.
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Why Mexico? Why Mazatlan? You really have to come here and experience it for yourself. I hope you do.

 

Lago Chapala, Jalisco

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Lake Chapala is a short drive from Guadalajara. If you are from Manitoba, you will understand my comparison of Lake Chapala-Ajijic to Winnipeg Beach-Gimli. Except that the water at Lake Chapala is disappearing from the lake! Three years ago when I first visited this area, it looked like this.

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Today it looks like this.

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However it is still a lovely place for a day trip from Guadalajara. And Lake Chapala also boasts a large expat community. English is widely spoken here as well. A large WalMart is minutes away, in between Lake Chapala and Ajijic, another large expat community. There are numerous restaurants, shops and businesses. I enjoy walking along the malecon and strolling through the tianguis. 

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I decided to play tourist on this visit and made my way to the Chapala Inn, my favorite lunch spot right on the lake. Here I purchased a ticket for the Chapala Express, a quaint trolley that tours the streets of Chapala and then proceeds on to Ajijic. The tour is given in Spanish and I was amazed at how much I understood. And the tour went by a sports park and a cultural centre that I had never seen before. 

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I also spent some time in the church. I love rambling around in old churches in Mexico. The architecture is amazing, as well as the stained glass, art and statues. Fortunately there were few people there so I was able to take quite a few photos. I always limit my photos when there are lots of people focused on prayer.

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On my way back to the bus station, I stopped for a quesadilla and a cerveza by the square. The shade was very welcome and I sat for a while, enjoying the scenery.

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All too soon it was time to head back to the city. The bus station was bustling with activity and the buses were crowded. I boarded a direct bus and was blessed with air-conditioning. Traffic was surprisingly light and an hour later I was back in Guadalajara.