El Quelite

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El Quelite

El Quelite is one of the “magic towns”  or “pueblos magicos” located in Mexico. The charm in these towns lies in their natural beauty which has been preserved in an attempt to retain the culture and historical feel of the past. Brightly painted houses and small tiendas are the norm here, with a couple of larger restaurants to attract the tourists. The streets are rough cobblestone and quite a challenge. The church and the plaza are right in the middle of town.

We were a group of just under 20 who traveled together via chicken bus to El Quelite. These are not the luxury intercity buses with reclining seats and individual computer terminals. But they do get you to the smaller towns whereas the others do not.

I am always intrigued by the churches here in Mexico. Even those in the smallest towns are opulent to some degree despite the poverty in the surrounding areas. The church in El Quelite is quaint with a lovely courtyard.

 

Although the inside was small it was quite elaborate.

 

Next door at the plaza there was a celebration going on. Children in brightly colored costumes, music and food filled the square.

 

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Daniel’s Restaurante.

 

To our delight we were treated to a dancing horse show. After lunch there was a cock fight with the roosters that were kept in cages at the restaurant. I opted not to watch that one.

Here are some random shots taken while walking around the town.

I hope that you will also have the opportunity to visit this magical town and experience the feel of old Mexico.

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Carnaval 2018

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Carnaval 2018

Carnaval was held in Mazatlan from February 8th-13th this year. A flurry of activities attracted more than a million people. Hotels and restaurants were packed and the malecon was crowded with revelers. I was fortunate to live only a block and a half away from the malecon so no problems of fighting traffic. As a bonus, I could see the Combate Naval from just down the street.

I chose to pass on the coronations and pageants. But I did attend both parades, one of which passed by close to my house and I was at ground level in the front row. The floats were amazing, especially being illuminated against the darkened sky at night.

In addition to the floats there were marching bands, gymnasts and dancing horses. Of course all the hawkers accompanied the parades selling a variety of products from donuts to glowing swords.

I was delighted to hear BandaMS perform and view the fireworks from the comfort of my front terrace. And speaking of fireworks, the Combate Naval was awesome. A few years ago I went out on a boat to view the fireworks and that also was quite the experience.

I strolled along the malecon nightly and checked out the entertainment. There were numerous stages set up with a number of bands trying to outdo each other. Until around 4 am. Mexicans like to party.

But I must admit that it’s nice to have the malecon back. It’s peaceful and once again I can hear the waves lapping against the shore. Until Semana Santa arrives next month…………….

Valentines Day 2018

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Valentines Day 2018

In another lifetime when my children were young, Valentine’s Day meant decorating the house, baking cookies and a special cake. But they are grown now and we live in different countries so I celebrate this holiday a little differently. I spend the day with friends rather than with family. Of course last year was quite memorable as I was in Guadalajara having cataract surgery.

Off I went to the bus station to buy a ticket to go to Culiacan on Saturday. This weekend there is an event at my nieto’s school, the same school where I taught my first year in Mexico. 

After I purchased my ticket, I then boarded a bus for Villa Union. Thankfully it was air-conditioned, as the temperatures here have soared recently. 

Villa Union is a small town quite close to Mazatlan with a population of about 13,000. It is quaint, although it does have a Panama and a Coppell. El Cuchupetas is  also a popular seafood restaurant that attracts people from Mazatlan.

The church was what intrigued me. I have visited and photographed several churches in Jalisco and Sinaloa. Parroquia San Juan Bautista is easily visible from the highway that goes straight through the town. I have passed by it before but this is the first chance I’ve had to actually go inside.

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Seeing as it was Valentine’s Day when I visited Villa Union, the streets were lined with colorful displays of stuffed animals and helium balloons. It reminded me of when I lived in Tlaquepaque and the square was filled with similar displays.

For lunch I opted to eat where the locals go. I checked out a few street stands before I chose a small family type restaurant that had only six tables. I enjoyed delicious enchiladas, rice and beans and had a view of the mercado and the activity on the street.

I wandered around the town capturing photos and talking to some of the locals. It was an excellent opportunity to practice speaking Spanish as I did not hear one word of English the whole time I was there. Here are a few shots taken around the town. 

All too soon it was time to return to Mazatlan for the jazz jam at El Recreo. It was a most enjoyable Valentine’s Day. I hope yours was too.

Who Am I?

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Who Am I?

I’ll be honest. I’m still trying to find myself. Yes, I know that this expression is decades old. But so am I, and I still crave adventure and who knows what else. I have been so many different people throughout the years. Baby to child to teenager to adult to wife to mother to name just a few. Babysitter to bookkeeper to manager to business owner to counselor to social worker to motivational consultant to teacher to writer to fitness instructor to name just a few. But who am I really?

Many followers of my blog know me personally. However there are others from around the world who read my posts and have never met me in person. So this post is dedicated to you. Here is a glimpse of who I am as I travel through this journey of life in an attempt to find myself.

My name is Karen and I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of the province and is smack dab in the middle of the prairies. It is infamous for the brutal winters and has justly earned the nickname of “Winterpeg.” Other than a brief few years in Oak Bluff, Manitoba I lived in Winnipeg all my life until November of 2010.

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I still vividly recall the day I left. First stop was Grace Hospital to say goodbye to my daughter, who was a nurse there at the time. From there my son took me to the airport where another tearful goodbye transpired. I was on my way to my first ESL teaching job in Mexico. I had never been apart from my children for more than a couple of weeks at a time, and this was going to be a ten month separation. I cried all the way to Minneapolis and my first layover on the journey to Culiacan. And I must admit that I am still tearful as I don’t see my children often enough. I love them, I am so very proud of all their accomplishments and I miss them terribly. But we are all adults and we all have our own lives to lead. 

I returned to Winnipeg in July of 2011 and halfheartedly began looking around for a job and a place to live. I also had legal issues to deal with as my divorce decree was nowhere in sight although the marriage had ended in January of 2009. And then I received the phone call.

Are you interested in coming back to Mexico? We have a job opening in our private school here in Irapuato. Really? Hmmmm, teaching in Mexico was to be a one year plan. But the Skype interview went well and a couple of weeks later I was on my way back to Mexico.

It is now February of 2018. And I have retired from teaching. I’m into my third year here in Mazatlan after a few years in Guadalajara. I have also discovered a new summer home in Leavenworth, Washington where I lead an active life including a fair amount of volunteer work. Yes, summer home. Mazatlan is far too hot in the summer.

I have published two self-help books. “When Glad Becomes Sad” deals with depression and anxiety. “Alive Again” deals with separation and divorce. I am currently working on a book of fiction and enjoying writing it immensely. I have contributed articles to books published by other authors, and hope to publish more of my own poems and short stories in the future.

When I’m not writing, my favorite pastime here in Mexico is attending music and dance performances. I enjoy traveling and meeting new people. I belong to a Red Hat group and I play Hand and Foot regularly. I spend hours walking along the malecon. I love the ocean. That is what influenced my decision to leave Guadalajara. I like to watch movies and am hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush. I also take hundreds of pictures with my smart phone. And I have more recently begun volunteering at a Christian mission. And as an aside to my friends in Leavenworth, yes I am still coloring.

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I am forever indebted to former Tlaquepaque housemates Omar and Sean who encouraged me to begin writing a blog on WordPress. And I am flattered that so many people take the time to read my posts. And I now have the time to read other writers’ blogs.

Now that I am retired, my focus will be on my writing, especially my current work in progress.  I have no idea what my next post will be about. I hadn’t anticipated this one until the words began to flow. So we’ll all be in suspense until the next one.

Finally!!!! A Beach Day!!!!

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Finally!!!! A Beach Day!!!!

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.

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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.

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And this being Mexico, of course there was music.

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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. 

What To Do What To Do

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What To Do What To Do

Today was supposed to be a beach day. I’ve been back in Mazatlan for almost three months and have yet to spend a day at the beach. Yes, I walk along the malecon every day. But that’s walking BY the beach, not ON the beach. And I go to restaurants and bars that overlook the beach. I even play cards by a pool that has a view of the ocean. But I have yet to feel that cushion of sand beneath my feet.

I had really set this day aside to lie on the beach. But then the clouds rolled in. Then the drop of rain spattered against my bedroom window. Instead I have opted to stay indoors today. It’s actually been a productive writing day. But I am going to brave the rain and wind shortly and head out down the malecon. It’s Wednesday which means that there is a jazz jam at El Recreo. And after that there is a dance performance at Museo de Arte.

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The weather this winter has been strange. Above normal temperatures greeted me in November when I returned. But December was cold and January even more so. Jackets are a necessity once the sun goes down. Jeans have become a regular part of my wardrobe.

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Of course the tourists who come for a week or two still think this is paradise as there is no snow or windchill factor. They are easily identifiable by their pale faces and wardrobe of shorts and tank tops. But even they remark on how the global warming idea has actually had the opposite effect on the climate.

While the weather is not the greatest right now, there is so much to do indoors. Music is everywhere. There are malls and movie theaters. Pre-Carnaval events are underway. Yes, we are only a week away from Carnaval, the third largest celebration of its kind in North America.

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Construction crews are in a frenzy trying to complete the work on the malecon. The parade routes have been announced and it’s imperative that the malecon be open. This season it has been a nightmare of traffic delays and rerouting of vehicles due to the closure of several streets in Centro as well as the malecon itself.

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I think back to gloomy winter days back in Winnipeg. Somehow a little bit of rain and clouds just don’t seem so bad after all.

Saturdays Then and Now

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Saturdays Then and Now

Do you remember back when you were a kid………..Saturday morning cartoons! Somehow it was easy to get up on Saturdays when you weren’t trudging off to school. My favorite was, and still is, Beep Beep The Roadrunner.

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As a teenager, Saturdays were spent hanging out downtown with my friends. We’d take a bus to Eaton’s and meet at the statue. That was THE popular place to meet in Winnipeg. We’d check out clothes and makeup and then snack on fries and Coke in the Valley Room or over at Hudson’s Bay (as it was called back then) in The Paddlewheel.

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In the early years of marriage before kids, Saturdays were spent shopping for groceries and other items we never had time for during the week as we both worked. Stores and parking lots were always so crowded. I much preferred doing my shopping during the week, even with kids in tow.

Once the kids came along, Saturdays took on a new meaning of hectic. I was busy chauffeuring them to activities such as ballet, bowling, music lessons and birthday parties. When the kids grew up and began to drive themselves around, Saturdays became my own again.

Saturday mornings meant garage sales, flea markets and auctions hunting for treasures for my Ebay business. I became quite familiar with the small towns surrounding Winnipeg. But my Ebay business ended when my marriage ended. I lost my storage room, shipping room and supplies and moved into a cramped one bedroom apartment.

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That then gave me the opportunity to teach Aquafit classes at the YMCA on Saturday mornings. I enjoyed this and often went out for lunch with friends afterwards. The afternoons were often spent studying as I was now back at University earning more letters after my name.

When I first came to Mexico, Saturdays were days of exploration as I taught full-time during the week. When I moved to Guadalajara I began teaching in language institutes where I quickly discovered that Saturdays were THE most requested class times.

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I’m now retired and Saturdays are my own again. Mornings are leisurely and then I head out with friends. I’m off to a 60s rock party today in The Gold Zone. I heard this group play in Centro a couple of weeks ago and they were amazing. The 60s was MY decade and the best years ever. And the memories the music conjures up………flower power, free love, hippies, peace, sit-ins, caftans, bell bottoms, love beads and much, much more. 

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