Mis Amigos…………Mi Familia

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I love this quote. We are born into a family by blood, but as we grow we have the opportunity to expand our family to include close friends. As we share life experiences together, our bonds become stronger. And we are closer in so many more ways than we are with our own blood family. Indeed my close friends have become my brothers and sisters, and I am truly blessed to have them all in my life.

My two children are my only close blood family. My other blood family of a sibling and cousins have not been there for me in years. It is my friends who are my constant source of encouragement and support, and I treasure the special relationships that we share.

The past five years have been especially challenging for me. When my marriage ended abruptly, it was my friends who stood by me through an ugly separation and divorce experience. And it was my friends who were awesome when I had two major surgeries in the past two years.

And so I would like to dedicate this post to my family of friends.

In Winnipeg, I have an amazing group of friends. Although I have been living in Mexico for most of the past four years, when I do return to visit they have opened their hearts and homes to me. We still talk on the phone regularly, and it doesn’t feel like we are thousands of miles apart. It’s just so nice to hear that familiar voice and realize that living in the same city is not what counts. What is important is that we are still an important part of each other’s lives.

I have known Audrey, Joan, David, Pauline, Cheyenna and Sheila for over twenty years. Audrey and I met when our children were friends in elementary school. I met David in Edmonton when my daughter was bowling in Nationals. I became friends with Joan and Cheyenna when I took courses at Red River College. Pauline is my daughter’s godmother. Sheila and I met back in junior high school.

Here is a pic taken last summer with Pauline.

Pauline & Me at Daily Grind

I  began attending auctions in 2000, and this is where I met Lise, Rita and Natasha. When I joined the YMCA-YWCA I met Donna, Glenda, Iris and Ethel. Laura and I became friends when I went back to University of Manitoba to get my CTesl. And more recently Alice and Nancy have become good friends.

Donna and I enjoyed our afternoon at the English Gardens last summer.

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When I had my first knee replacement surgery, I met Carolyn and Brenda in physiotherapy sessions. Carolyn and I had more than knee surgery in common. We had both been married just shy of 36 years when our marriages ended in divorce.

Carolyn (2) at The Forks

 I also have two other very special friends in my life. Carole lives in Minneapolis and we have been friends since we were twelve years old. Rochelle lives in Los Angeles and we have known each other since university back in the 1970’s. She was also one of my bridesmaids when I got married.

Here is a pic when I visited Rochelle in Los Angeles.

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 Last summer I returned to Winnipeg for a second round of surgery. I have Karen and Chad to thank for providing me with the most awesome home that made such a difference in my recovery time. I also really enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with them in Warren. Here is a photo of their son Josh with Aunt Mabel (100 years young!) at that dinner.

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I now live in Mexico where I have no blood family at all. And I am far away from my children and my family of friends in Winnipeg. But I have expanded the circle of friends whom I now consider to be part of my chosen family.

There is one very special family in Culiacan who are very dear to my heart. 

Juan and I taught together at Instituto Senda del Rio. Our friendship began with his helping me with Spanish and my helping him with English. His wife Lucila would pick him up from school at the end of the day, and they insisted on driving me home as well as the days became hotter in the spring. They would often take me out for raspados or to parks or to Forum. Their son Juan Carlos was a toddler and soooooo adorable! (And he still is!)

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On Mother’s Day Lucila made me a bracelet which I treasure. And on my birthday we all went out to a wonderful Chinese restaurant to celebrate.

Lucila, Juan and Juan Carlos

 I no longer live in Culiacan, but I do visit my family there regularly. Juan Carlos now has a brother and I have two “nietos” to enjoy.

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Whenever I visit Culiacan, all of Juan and Lucila’s family are very welcoming. I have gone to several family celebrations with them. This photo was taken at one of the birthday parties.

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Another close friend in Culiacan is Juan Pablo. One of the rare English speakers I met there, our adventures included everything from going to the beach to cruising Juarez to find the best rates on currency exchange. This photo was taken on my most recent visit to Culiacan in November.

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When I lived in Culiacan, I went to Los Mochis on a holiday and went to the Copper Canyon by train. This was where I met Angie and her family. Angie lives in Jiminez and her children live in Mexico City, but we kept in touch by email and Facebook. Last year I spent New Years with Angie and her family. I stayed at her son Ventura’s home, and we really had a wonderful reunion.

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Here is a pic of my friend Pilar, a colleague when I taught for a brief period in Irapuato. Pilar’s mother went out of her way to drive me to church on Sundays, and always made me feel welcome in her home.

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Another friend whose family have embraced me is my language partner Isaias. I have spent the past two Christmas Eves with them and have also been invited to other family celebrations. 

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Two years ago when I needed my FM3 renewed, I was told by the director of my school to go to Otro Nivel and speak to the lead singer in the band. Not only is German an excellent immigration lawyer, but he has also become a great friend. And I enjoy listening to the Barbershop Rock Band perform here in Tlaquepaque.

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Claudia lives here in Guadalajara and her mom has this fabulous coffee shop called Jahanve that I frequent.

Claudia

Luke is an American who is married to a Mexican here. I first met Luke just over two years ago when we taught together at a language institute.

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For the past two plus years I have been in Tlaquepaque, I have taught with many teachers and have lived with many housemates from all over the world. Because we are all foreigners and many of us are transients, we become like family as well. This year on Christmas Day, my housemates and I cooked a fabulous Christmas dinner together.

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Sean has gone back to the USA and Omar has moved elsewhere in Mexico, but we still keep in touch. Stephen and I have known each other for more than two years now, and he has just returned to Canada.

Mike and I met in a Spanish class last winter. He returned to Mexico on a holiday this month and we enjoyed catching up over a lovely dinner at Italianni’s.

Mike at Italianni's 

Many of us who taught together here in Mexico still keep in touch on Facebook and by email. It’s quite interesting to see what everyone has been doing since they left Guadalajara. Some of us return and it’s always great to see each other again.

Here is my friend Miriam from Norway who divides her time between the two countries.

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Brandon is from Wisconsin. An avid reader, we taught together at a language institute a couple of years ago. He is back in the USA now, although he has been back recently o visit Mexico.

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Alfredo is from California and we also taught together here in Tlaquepaque. And if you ever need a suitcase packed quickly and efficiently, he is definitely your man.

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And then there is my friend Kate from California. We were housemates for about one month last winter, but we became very close. Kate is an amazing woman with an incredible zest for life. She not only has encouraged me in my writing, but she has also opened my eyes to envision an exciting future in my own life. Kate is now following her dream of volunteer teaching in Colombia.  I know she will have an awesome impact on those students’ lives.

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I also have my church family at La Casa del Alfarero. It is difficult to find an Evangelist church here in Mexico where Catholicism  is the dominant religion. And I am very thankful that not only was I able to find a church, but it is only four blocks from my house. Below is a photo of my friend Chelo, also the pastor’s wife.

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And I have a third group of friends whom I include in my family. These are all my Facebook friends. I’d like to share a post one of my friends in Huntsville, Alabama shared on his wall. Bill and I have never met in person, but our friendship has grown as we regularly acknowledge each other’s life experiences.

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I really value everyone’s friendship and I love you all!

My own children continue to live in Canada, in cities where they have no blood family in their lives. My son is in Manitoba and my daughter is in Ontario. We all live thousands of miles apart and our correspondence is limited to the odd phone call, text or message. I miss the relationship we once had when we all lived in the same city, and I treasure the memories I have in my heart. But I am confident that I have instilled upon my children the value of cultivating close friendships, so that they too have created and expanded their own family of friends. 

KTeam at Clay Oven

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About iamkaren23

I am a Canadian writer currently living in Leavenworth, Washington. I published When Glad Becomes Sad in 2009. My second book, Alive Again, was published in March of 2015. Both are self-help books. I am currently working on a third book, this time a work of fiction.

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