Tag Archives: USA

All About Me

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All About Me

I’ve written hundreds of blogs posts but have never done an “All About Me” post. I’m not sure just why I haven’t, but a friend called me on it the other day. So here goes.

I go by a variety of different names depending on which country I’m in or which website I’m on. I prefer to just stick to “Karen.” Here in Washington my friends have me in their contacts as “Karen Mexico” or “Karen Canada.”

I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and lived there all my life until 2010. My son still lives there. My daughter and my four year old granddaughter live in Canada as well, in Kelowna, B.C.

In 2010 I went to Culiacan, Mexico to teach English. A family there adopted me and I am now abuelita to four nietos ranging in age from three to twelve years old.

After a year in Culiacan, I taught briefly in Irapuato before settling down in Guadalajara for four years. I called Mazatlan home for just over three years and then decided to explore more of central Mexico. After three months in San Ciro de Acosta I discovered Aguascalientes, which has been my Mexican home six months of the year since 2019.

In 2016 a friend I met in Mazatlan invited me to come visit him in Leavenworth, Washington. My two week visit turned into four months when the snow chased me back to Mexico. And that was when I turned into a snowbird, spending the other six months of the year in Washington state.

While there, I’ve lived mainly in Leavenworth with short stints in other towns. This year I’m living in East Wenatchee with my friends Christina and Danny, who tell me that this is now my “forever home.”

As far as teaching goes, I officially retired in 2016, although I had worked extremely very part-time since 2012. Occasionally I selectively take on private students, but have not taught at all since Covid arrived.

This is my sixth year as a volunteer in the SAIL program in Leavenworth where I teach fitness classes to seniors that geared towards fall prevention. Both church ministry and volunteering at the senior center ground to a halt during Covid and are just now starting up again.

I enjoy traveling both in Mexico and the USA. Last summer I took an Amtrak along the coast from Seattle to L.A. I loved it and can’t wait to plan another train trip.

I’m taking a break from Duolingo but I have my gel pens, pastels and water colors to amuse me. And I have been doing a lot of writing lately. Fiction is a new genre for me which I am enjoying immensely.

I am especially blessed to have family and a wide circle of friends in three countries. The time always fly by all too quickly before I find myself once again packing a suitcase. My days are filled with adventure and making memories.

Other trivia……I’m a Gemini, my favorite color is green, I’m a chocoholic as well as a coffeeholic and I love country music.

All About Me

La Vida

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La Vida

It happened again on Wednesday. Another bomb scare in Leavenworth. There was one last year too. The downtown area was closed off. Highway 2 through town was closed off. Thankfully no bomb was found on either occasion.

I live in Mexico six months of the year. My friends up north tell me I’m crazy to live there because it’s dangerous. Well, I’m up north and it’s just as peligroso up here.

One of my Canadian friends suggested it was time I move back to Canada. Not on the radar. I read the headlines in The Winnipeg Free Press, my hometown newspaper. Lots of crime there too.

Our world was going crazy long before Covid and the situation in Ukraine. Technology makes it far too easy to build bombs or create other weapons. Technology is also to blame for the increase in school shootings. Canada, you’re not far behind the USA when it comes to those either. Technology is also responsible for providing accessibility to all types of criminal activity and even providing inspiration to criminals.

Face it, people. Nowhere is safe. So we may as well get out there and enjoy life wherever we happen to live. Maybe I take it to the extreme because I travel a lot. At least I’m living life to the fullest.

Have an amazing week out there! You only live once!

Today Is Moving Day

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Today Is Moving Day

Today is Wednesday and it’s moving day. This time it’s from Dryden to Peshastin. Will be pet sitting for a friend…a dog, a cat and fish.

I will still be on the river, but closer to Leavenworth than to Wenatchee. Temp will be a little cooler and a little more snow left on the ground although the rain the other day washed some of it away.

I saw this the other day.

I admit that this is something this free spirit rarely does. But I’ve started doing it this year. No, I don’t have paranoid friends, although I’ve accused them of this in the past. Maybe it’s approaching the almost seven decades of life. Maybe it’s Covid. Maybe it’s what’s going on in the Ukraine. But this year I have one contact in each of the three countries who always know where I am when I’m traveling.

I was contemplating a trip to Canada next week but have decided to put it on hold until May. The crazy and inconsistent regulations regarding Covid in Canada are raising my anxiety level, and I don’t need that when I can remain here in the USA and live a comfortable and relatively stress free life with a good deal more freedom.

Last week I was able to get a booster shot that had not been available to me in Mexico. While I was at Cascade Medical in Leavenworth, I realized how much at home I felt there. I’ve been there a handful of times in the past few years, yet I can no longer even envision the clinic I went to for so long all those years ago in Winnipeg.

I have friends who marvel at my lifestyle and I have friends who are very critical of it. In all honesty, sometimes I question it myself. But then I think of the amazing people I’ve met and the incredible adventures I’ve had and settling down in one place for a long period of time loses its appeal quickly.

So where’s home?

It’s true that I have called Aguascalientes home six months of the year for the past three years. But I don’t stay there all the time. It’s my home base for traveling elsewhere. Although it’s been more difficult traveling during Covid, this past winter I did get to Culiacan twice to see my Mexican family, celebrated Thanksgiving in Mazatlan, New Years in Jilotzingo and got to explore new places near CDMX and in the state of Hidalgo.

And it goes without saying that the other place I call home is Washington state. I have fond memories of my first visit in July of 2016. I came for two weeks and stayed for four months. The snow in mid November chased me back to Mazatlan. I have lived mainly in Leavenworth when I come to Washington, but that is going to change when I leave Peshastin next week.

Hint: Leaving Chelan County and moving to Douglas County.

It’s That Time Again

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It’s That Time Again

Spring. Primavera. And the nomad is on the move again. I usually fly up north from either Aguascalientes, Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan. This year was different. I took a bus across the border at Nogales. I don’t have a bucket list, but if you read my last blog post, you know that for some strange reason I’ve always wanted to go there.

I hate saying goodbye to people. You think I’d be used to it by now. But I’m not. I’ve been wandering around for the last twelve plus years. I’ve lived in numerous places in Mexico and the USA. And I’ve added to my extended family.

When I wrote this post, I was in Tucson, Arizona. I had hoped to plop down there for a month and just work on my book. But that isn’t going to happen. And that’s okay. One of the habits I’ve formed in the lifestyle I lead is always having a Plan B or Plan C all the way to Plan Z.

Whatever direction I wind up going, I’m comfortable with it. Why? Because there are always new people to meet and new places to see. So although it’s often difficult to move on, new adventures always lie ahead. And I continue to grow.

It Only Took 25 Years

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It Only Took 25 Years

I’m in Tucson right now. I arrived yesterday from Mexico. I crossed the land border at Nogales. It only took 25 years.

The last time I was in Tucson was 25 years ago. I was here with my ex and my daughter. One of the things we did was take a drive down the highway to the border. From the American side, I was enchanted with the Mexican side I saw from a distance. Back then you could just walk across the border without even a passport. And that is exactly what I wanted to do.

My ex wouldn’t get out of the car. He was a snob when it came to Mexico. Actually he had often spoken quite derrogatorily about Mexico in the past which of course  resulted in my daughter becoming hysterical and not wanting any of us to get out of the car.

Two to one. I never did get to Nogales, Mexico that day. But I finally did get there! I came from Mexico by bus yesterday.

Tucson has changed in 25 years. Two lane undivided highways are now freeways. Resorts line the freeways on the drive up from the border. I took yesterday to just breathe. I went out to eat and spent some time by the pool. Today I intend to go exploring.

Now, for those of you who are asking what’s next……..I haven’t decided!

The Gong Show

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The difference between Chuck Barris and The Gong Show vs. Justin Trudeau and The Gong Show is that the American one was entertaining. The Canadian version is disgusting.

To all my friends in Canada who complained bitterly about Trump and wondered how I could possibly want to live in the USA………Trudeau is a million times worse! He is destroying the country completely, carrying on the path of destruction his father began back in the sixties.

I try not to write about politics when I travel. When I’m in a foreign country, I’m a guest and have no right to criticize or complain. But I’m a Canadian citizen. And right now Canada is not a country I am proud to call home. Actually, this winter when I’ve met new people here in Mexico, I’ve stopped saying I’m Canadian. I’m given a lot more respect if I say I’m from Leavenworth and people assume I’m American. It used to be the other way around.

That’s my vent for today. But I want to leave you with something more positive.

Not The Usual

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Not The Usual

0ne of my writing friends challenged me to write a post about unusual things that have happened in my life throughout the years since I left Winnipeg. Interestingly enough, some of these do involve travel back to Winnipeg. This is a real challenge as I’m only supposed to choose one thing per year. Here goes!

2010. As if moving to Culiacan wasn’t unusual in itself, I’d have to say that the trip on El Chepe in the Copper Canyon stands out. I headed for the bus station in Culiacan and looked up at the departures on the board. A bus to Mazatlan in a half hour, a bus to Los Mochis in twenty minutes. Hmmmm. Los Mochis. Sure. Why not? When I got there I was in a taxi where by some miracle the driver spoke English. I asked him what there was to do in the area. He told me about the train. He took me to a hotel that had a travel agent. She arranged a package for me and the next morning I was on the train. And I really must add that it was on this trip that I met Angie and her family. We are still great friends and I spent this past New Years holiday with them all in Tlalnepantla, Jilotzingo and Pachuca.

2011. Definitely my escape from Irapuato to Tlaquepaque. A school had flown me down to Mexico from Canada but never lived up to their end of the bargain. I wasn’t interested in working more hours for less money. They never came through with renewing my work visa or providing a health plan. I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a school in Tlaquepaque with a job offer. I packed up my suitcase and Sunday morning I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. I started at the new school Monday morning.

2012. Knee surgery number one. Terrified. My mother had died having knee replacement  surgery. I returned to Winnipeg and rented a room in the lower level of a duplex. Of course there were steps to get into the house which meant walker to cane and back to walker for the first little while. And my walker didn’t fit through the bathroom door. And the laundry room was in the basement. Not conducive to recovering from knee surgery. But I did it and headed back to Guadalajara in the fall.

2013. Back to Winnipeg for knee surgery number two. This time I lucked out and was able to rent a house that had been completely renovated for a handicapped individual. Wheelchair ramp at the front door, walk in shower with a bench, lots of room to maneuver a walker…. I was in heaven! And recovery time was much faster. Soon I was on my way back to Mexico.

2014. I discovered that teaching Business English was a lot more lucrative than teaching ESL. I ventured into areas of Guadalajara that were new to me as I taught on site. I taught in high security buildings for private companies and government offices, as well as in places such as Fedex.

2015. I had just moved to Mazatlan when I found myself on a plane to Toronto to meet up with a group en route to Punta Cana for my daughter’s wedding. Kimmy wanted a destination wedding and chose the Dominican. It was quite the trek for me but as all moms know, you do anything for your kids. It was a beautiful wedding and I have wonderful memories, but in all honesty I was very happy to return home to Mexico.

2016. I had a leading role in a murder mystery dinner theater and was winding down my teaching career with a handful of private students when a friend I’d met in Mazatlan invited me to come to Leavenworth, Washington for a visit. I thought it was the prison place until I realized Kansas was home to that one. So off I went for two weeks, only I wound up staying for four months. One morning I got up and there was this white stuff on the ground. I hightailed it back to Mazatlan.

2017. I had this really strong gut feeling that I wanted to be with my son on Mother’s Day. I’m glad I did. That’s the last time I was in Winnipeg and I haven’t seen Kyle since. I certainly hope Canada can get it’s act together so that I can go to Winnipeg this summer.

2018. My granddaughter  Madeline was born. On my way back to Leavenworth I flew up to Canada first to see her. My daughter now has a daughter of her own. I remember holding Madeline for the first time. Exciting and emotional. It was really hard to leave and I cried all the way from Belleville to Toronto on the train.

2019. This was the year I discovered Aguascalientes. I arrived in January after spending three months in San Ciro de Acosta. I had a list of museums and art galleries and visited them all. But there was still more to explore and I came back in October to spend the winter. Besides, Las Flores was beginning to feel like home. I am very comfortable in my room on Begonias and Raul is the most amazing landlord ever.

2020. March already? I was anxious to go to Winnipeg to see Kyle. Oh oh. Covid arrived. My six months in Aguascalientes turned into eleven when I sought asylum and was given an extra six months as I chose to stay in Mexico to ride out the pandemic. What I never told my kids was that when Covid first hit and people were panicking and packing airports and dealing with canceled flights, I’d been in bed with the flu for a few days. Who knows? It may have even been Covid. There was no testing being done back then. I finally made it to Leavenworth in September when I was able to secure health coverage that included Covid.

2021. My 180 days in the USA are almost up and the CDC issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel To Canada advisory. I retained an attorney and once again sought asylum. It was granted and I remained in Washington for twelve months instead of the usual six.

2022. It’s early yet. I’ll have to wait and see what unusual thing wins this year, not that there haven’t been a few that are definitely in the running already.

And now for the far from usual but the one thing that spans the more than decade since I left Winnipeg. That first year in Mexico when I worked at Senda, Juan and I taught together and became good friends. He wanted to improve his English and I desperately needed to learn Spanish. Juan’s wife Lucila used to pick us up from school and drive me home. At the time their son Juan Carlos was a year old. To make a long story short, they adopted me. This was huge to me. Coming to a foreign country solo, my own kids back in Canada, I now had family again. Juan and Lucila now have four sons and I am the proud abuelita of four amazing grandsons. Can’t wait to hug them all later this month when I go to Culiacan.

Changing It Up

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Changing It Up

For over a year now I’ve been posting on Wednesdays and Sundays. It’s time for a change.

I started writing this blog years ago when I lived in Guadalajara. At the time it was mainly directed to my friends I had left behind in my hometown in Canada. I replaced the mass emails with blog posts. My close friends know that I detest email and consider it to be snail mail. I don’t check it regularly.

What I do check daily are calls and texts on my phone, Messenger and What’s App. I don’t even check my stats on WordPress daily, although it is interesting to see that I have followers from a variety of countries, some whose names I can’t even pronounce and have had to look up on a map.

Over the years I’ve taught with people from all over the world. Everyone seems eager to come to Mexico to teach. People stay for varying lengths of time. Some return to their home countries although many keep right on traveling.

As for me, after six years here I reverted back to snowbird status. But I don’t return to Canada. I spend the summer and fall in the USA. Covid complicated things and I applied for and was granted two extended stays in foreign countries during the pandemic.

Just as my life has changed, it’s time to change up the blog posts. I do look forward to posting on a regular basis, but it won’t necessarily occur on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Thank you to all my readers. It’s gratifying that so many of you follow my blog. I appreciate your feedback and comments, although I seldom publish them on my page. I know that when I read other people’s blogs, I prefer to form my own opinion rather than scroll through a myriad of comments, and am determined to spare my followers from just that.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

So What?!

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Monday, Monday. Facebook down. What’s App not working. Didn’t bother checking Instagram.

It certainly made for a quieter day. No constant pings and dings of notifications on my phone. I actually spent very little time on my phone.

Here in Mexico What’s App is a lifeline to many. I’ve met a lot of people who just put 50 pesos at a time on their phone. They don’t have a phone plan like I do.

For 200 pesos a month, less than $10 US, I have unlimited talking and texting as well as long distance to the USA and Canada. Some data is included ans all social media is also free.

Without a phone plan, What’s App that runs off WiFi is free, so that is a very popular option for those who do not have a plan.

Therefore a lot of people were impacted when everything went down on Monday. Their pesos on their phones would not stretch quite as far.

I find it interesting that phone plans here are so reasonably priced. In the USA a similar plan with AT&T costs me $40. Canada was even more expensive the last time I was there.

While buying cell phones is far more expensive in Mexico, using them is definitely much more affordable here.

Fly With Me

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Fly With Me

The other day I was talking with a friend and somehow the topic of airports came up. We compared experiences and horror stories. He commented that I’d flown in and out of a lot more airports than he had.

Later on I thought some more and decided to list all the airports. So here goes.

I’ll start with Mexico. My favorite airport to fly into is Guadalajara. My favorite airport to fly out of is Puerto Vallarta. My least favorite is Mexico City. Other airports I’ve used include Culiacan, Mazatlan, Cancun, Aguascalientes and Leon. That’s a total of eight.

Next will be Canada. No favorites or least favorites here. Just Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, London, Montreal, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Kelowna. That’s a total of eleven.

The winner is the USA. My new favorite airport is Pangborn in Wenatchee. My least favorite is Houston. The others include Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Ontario, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Tucson, Dallas, San Antonio, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, Rochester, Fargo, Grand Forks, Chicago, Buffalo, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Savannah, Charleston, Honolulu, Wendover and Las Vegas. The total is thirty.

Oh, and I can’t forget Havana and Punta Cana. That’s two more.

Grand total is fifty-one. And I haven’t even gone to Europe!

My favorite airline is Alaska. There’s a tie for my least favorite airline between Air Canada and Westjet.

Airports have changed over the years. Many are now like small cities and have multiple terminals and trains connecting them. Dallas-Fort Worth even has its own zip code.

Traveling has definitely become more complicated since 9/11 and is even more so now with the additional challenge of COVID-19. I don’t envy the staff at TSA. And then throw in my knee replacements that always set off the metal detectors and require the body scanners.

Yes, I remember when I actually used to enjoy traveling by air. Not anymore. I now travel by air only because I have to.