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.
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.
I’ve been here in Aguascalientes for 8 months now, with the exception of a few days in Culiacán back in December. I haven’t stayed in one place that long in the past 10 years without traveling on holidays and weekends. The term ” nomad” when describing my lifestyle is apparently no longer appropriate at this time.
COVID-19 has quite effectively grounded me for the time being. I’ll just have to wait and see what transpires. In the meantime there is still new territory to explore right in my barrio.
Pets are different down here in Mexico. They’re not the usual dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles or fish. The other day my neighbor posed for me with his pet rooster.
I was out for a walk the other evening when the clouds began to roll in. I captured this shot of an apartment building. The church I attend occupies the main floor. No elevator and the apartments are on the second to sixth floors.
One of my neighbors sells candy, frozen chocolate bananas and chips. Here is a new colorful sign on their house.
This friendly little one sleeps on the sidewalk or in doorways in an attempt to find shade during the day. Temperatures have been hovering in the 90s for weeks now.
I always enjoy looking at the artwork on buildings around here.
The flowers are blooming everywhere.
This nomad will continue to roam only in Aguascalientes for another month.
My calendar hanging on the wall reminds me that today is Monday. For the past several weeks the days just seem to be a total blur. They have become all too similar. Yet they pass by so quickly.
I was talking to a friend in Canada last night. She travels regularly to her cottage from her home in the city. I haven’t traveled anywhere in over two months. Not even to one of the pueblos mágicos that are so close by. My plan for this winter had initially included exploring more of central Mexico. Maybe next winter.
I checked my email earlier today. I found yet another job offer from China. Aside from the fact that I’m retired, I have absolutely no desire to ever even visit China.
Memorial Day weekend is coming up in the USA. I wonder what I’ll be missing in Washington. From what I hear things are starting to open up again. One of my friends has plans to go to her daughter’s in Seattle for a family gathering.
Yet when I check the COVID-19 USA map daily, the numbers are still on the rise. Not that I truly value the accuracy of these statistics. This pandemic is so widespread that I don’t believe it is measurable anymore.
I will soon don one of my masks and head out for my morning walk. The sun is shining brightly and it’s another gorgeous day here in paradise.
Have a great Monday!
It’s the middle of May already. Despite the fact that I’ve been primarily self-isolating for over two months now, time is going by quickly.
I’ve always loved learning. Now I have the opportunity to delve into areas of knowledge I had no time for in the past.
A course I’m taking from Berkeley on EdX deals with the science of happiness. Today’s topic was forgiveness, forgiving ourselves as well as others. The health benefits of practicing forgiveness are phenomenal. It is encouraging that it is never too late to learn to forgive. Holding grudges and exacting revenge are definitely detriments to experiencing happiness.
Another course I’m taking on Coursera is offered by University of Edinburgh and deals with how to become more active and less sedentary. Because I’m self-isolating I am not nearly as active as I was. So setting new fitness goals to improve my lifestyle is quite important to me now.
Yesterday marked my final visit to Immigration. The extension of my FMM had been processed and I returned home with my renewed visa. I am now once again living legally in Mexico and am grateful that this country has allowed me to remain here at this time.
WestJet announced that international flights to Canada will not resume until at least July. The American airlines are flying to the USA but the borders are still closed to foreigners. I have an additional 180 days thanks to my new visa. Maybe in July I’ll figure out what comes next.
It’s pouring rain here in Aguascalientes and unseasonably low temperatures have graced us. It’s a good day to sip herbal tea and to watch movies. And to write a blog post.
New Year’s Eve 2009 was when I rang in the second decade of the millenium. At the time I was with friends from church and living in Winnipeg.
In 2010 I was on a tour up in the Copper Canyon in northern Mexico. I rang in the new year in El Fuerte with friends. We had dinner at the hotel where Zorro was filmed. Zorro himself appeared at our table just before the fireworks began at midnight.
I have celebrated New Year’s Eve with numerous friends from all over the world every year since then. I’ve been in Culiacán, Guadalajara, México City, Mazatlan and San Ciro. This year I will be in Aguascalientes to welcome the year 2020.
The past decade has been one of the most exciting times in my life. “Growth” has been the key word in describing my experience. I embarked in a new career in a foreign country. I learned a new language and assimilated into a different culture. I’ve celebrated holidays with new friends from all over the world.
I’ve lived in and explored amazing areas in Mexico that I’d never even heard of before. I went on an amazing train trip in the Copper Canyon, I climbed pyramids in central Mexico and I walked barefoot in the sand on numerous beaches along the Pacific coast. I’ve visited several magic towns and have enjoyed the local cuisine in most places, menudo aside.
Mexicans marvel at the fact that I am a single female and travel solo at my age, especially when I settle down for a while in a new place. I thrive on exploring new places and meeting new people. I have friends of all ages and backgrounds. I have a family in Culiacán who have adopted me and I am the proud abuelita of four amazing grandsons.
And just when I thought that Mexico was absolutely “it”, I discovered Leavenworth. This quaint Bavarian village has captured my heart. I’ve made good friends and we’ve shared some great adventures together.
All of these experiences have contributed to my growth. At this point in time I am really living life to the fullest.
Farewell to the second decade of this millennium. Welcome to the third decade. Can’t wait to find out what comes next!!!!
I am constantly being asked this question. My friends up north wonder why I spend 6 months of the year in a country ruled by a drug cartel. My friends in Mexico wonder why I spend 6 months in the gun-toting state of Washington.
I think about my hometown in Canada. Winnipeg for several years was synonymous with the highest homicide rate per capita in the nation. Just last week a three year old child was stabbed to death by his mother’s boyfriend.
So where exactly in this world is “safe?”
I long for the days when air travel was fun. Security has become an ordeal. Take off your shoes and jackets. Take out cell phones, tablets and laptops. No liquids over a miniscule amount. And I have knee replacements. Bring on the body scanners and pat-downs.
Do all these precautionary measures make me feel safe? Nope. Just makes me wonder what might come next.
Please stop asking me if I feel safe. In this crazy world we live in, no-one is safe. But what we can do is enjoy the time we have left in our lives instead of dwelling on whether or not we feel safe. After all, when you were a child, did you not just enjoy life without a thought to being safe? Maybe it’s time to start being a child again.
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.
And that’s OK.
Facebook has this remarkable feature entitled “On This Day” where I am reminded of what had gone on in my life by the posts I had made on that particular date. These memories are amazing. Some of them I can’t believe I had the audacity to share on Facebook while others are absolute treasures.
For example, this past week I saw photos of Mother’s Day celebrations with my kids in Winnipeg. This photo goes back to 2013 when I had returned to Winnipeg for knee surgery. Another photo dates back to 2015 when I had returned to Winnipeg for my book launch of Alive Again.
A post from 2009 has me teaching an aquafit class at the West Portage YMCA and then going to a church service followed by lunch with friends. In 2011 I was in Culiacan, enjoying my first year teaching in Mexico. Back in 2015 Donna and I had gone on a tour of the Legislative Building in Winnipeg.
In 2016 I was in Mazatlan and in 2017 I was here in Leavenworth. And I wonder where I will be next year at this time.
On This Day is much more than a conglomeration of posts and events. It is the story of my emotional and spiritual growth. It depicts the trials and tribulations of being single again after thirty-six years of marriage. It hits on some of the more sensitive experiences and awesome adventures I’ve had in the past ten years.
Of course there are numerous posts I could have written about my life, but the more personal issues are not things I care to share with the Facebook world. Much of my life will always remain private and will be known only by those closest to me. And that’s the way it should be.
The past ten years has seen me living in three different countries and in seven different cities. And yes, Kyle, your mother is still a nomad. Even U.S. Immigration has adopted that term in my conversation with them last month when I returned to Washington.
I think a lot about the meaning of life these days. I guess that comes with growing older. Time is precious and life is to be lived. The life I have chosen involves extensive exploration, exciting discoveries, constant change and adaptation. It is not the conservative, conventional life that I once so tightly embraced. It has drawn a magnitude of criticism from family and friends. Nonetheless it has become my mantra. And I’m sticking to it.
On This Day, I reflect on all the remarkable people who have shared in my life in the past and continue to do so today. I am truly blessed to have friends wherever I may go. And I always look forward to the new friends I will meet on my journey, wherever that may take me.
And now it’s time for a Facebook post……………
For someone who despises routine, I apparently do have one that includes packing, moving and unpacking. And it seems to be done on quite a regular basis. In the past month, I have repeated this process on my journey to Leavenworth from Mazatlan which included stays in Culiacan, Frankford and Toronto. And I have just moved again here in Leavenworth. While I am getting more efficient in organizing this whole process, it’s nice to finally unpack with the idea of staying here for a longer period of time.
My room is quite comfortable and is bright even on a gloomy, rainy day like today, a day very conducive to writing. It’s nice to slow down after a hectic week of packing and running around. Once I get this post up on my blog, I hear my characters calling in my current work in progress.
I once again joined the Bavarian Book Club at the Leavenworth Library. These meetings will be held immediately after my memoir writing class at the Methodist Church, so Mondays will be busy days. The book we are currently reading fits right in as it is a memoir of a family and culture in crisis entitled Hillbilly Elegy by author J.D. Vance.
I spent all day Tuesday at Grace Lutheran Church in Wenatchee with other fitness instructors. It was a most informative professional development day with presentations by physical therapists. It was also a great opportunity to interact with other SAIL instructors from across the state of Washington. The SAIL program is aimed at seniors and focuses on preventing falls as well as remaining fit.
Wednesday was moving day in the morning followed by lunch and bridge at the Leavenworth Senior Center. And then it was major unpacking and organizing my bedroom. No idea where I found the energy but somehow I got it all done.
Yesterday I unexpectedly taught the fitness class in the morning as the scheduled instructor was unable to teach. Then it was off to Wenatchee to do some shopping in the afternoon. Dinner with a friend rounded out the day. We ate outside and to our delight saw a deer wander down the street.
The rain began last night and has continued throughout the day. It’s a great day to stay in and write. Skies are predicted to clear tomorrow so I intend to pursue some outdoor activities.
The view from my bedroom window at sunset, just a tad different from Mazatlan.
Have a great weekend!