Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas Break 2014

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I’m on Christmas break here in Mexico. And the first week has flown by way too quickly. Christmas has come and gone, and 2015 is just around the corner.

In Tlaquepaque the Christmas tree near El Parian shines brightly at night.

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But this year I spent Christmas in the quaint little pueblo of Tototlan, about an hour away from Guadalajara. One of my former housemates has a home there on the outskirts of the town.

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We spent a relaxing few days visiting and watching movies. I also cooked a traditional Christmas dinner, complete with turkey and stuffing.

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I took a walk one afternoon to a nearby park, marvelling at the scenery along the way.

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Surprisingly there was just a handful of children although there was an abundance of play structures and basketball courts.

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There were some men working on a wall.

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There was also a man working on an interesting metal structure.

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We walked down to the plaza one morning and had delicious gorditas for breakfast. We strolled through the plaza afterwards and I was delighted to see several pinatas hanging.

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There was a beautiful nativity scene outside of the church.

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But all too soon it was time to head for the bus station and bid adios to Tototlan.

The Arch

I returned home Friday afternoon with the intent to spend a quiet evening at home. Instead I wound up going to El Lugar Secreto to hear my favorite band play. I met the lead singer when I first came to Tlaquepaque three years ago when I was in need of an immigration lawyer. A lawyer by day, a musician at night and a great friend!

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Week two of Christmas Break is sure to fly by just as quickly as the first week. My housemates and I are planning a dinner for New Years Eve, complete with a pinata to smash to welcome 2015. We’ve also invited other friends over as well.

We will go along with the twelve grape tradition, but we won’t be walking the streets after midnight with suitcases. And the red underwear? Yes, there are some pretty strange customs around here. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the fireworks!

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Yes, Christmas break is certainly different now that I’m in Mexico. Frigid temperatures and drifts of snow back in Winnipeg are becoming distant memories. New traditions and new adventures are what life is all about. And I eagerly look forward to 2015 and what lies ahead.

Happy New Year!

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2014 The Year That Was

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It seems like just yesterday I wrote about the year 2013, and now 2014 is drawing to a close. Once again the months have flown by, and I am now into my fifth year here in Mexico.

January began cloudy and blustery. Despite the cold temperatures in the  wee hours of the New Year, throngs of people still crowded the streets smashing at pinatas and carrying suitcases in hopes of travel, both Mexican traditions at this time of year.

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I took advantage of afternoon sunshine and warmth and headed for Parque San Rafael. After an enjoyable half hour walk, I arrived at the park. The swimming pool was drained, but several joggers were on the track. There were also soccer and raquetball games in progress. It may have been a cold winter day, but the park was just beautiful.

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Winnipeg…….you have competition. There was a watermain break just around the corner from my house.

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One Saturday afternoon we heard music and the boom of fireworks. We went outside to investigate and were amused to see a crowd of people throwing eggs filled with confetti. A woman with a huge wicker basket was handing out bags of candies and nuts. She explained to us that it was the celebration of the baby Jesus and that new godparents had been chosen. The couple pictured below received that honor. And no, that is a doll, not a real baby.

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We also had a party at our house in January, complete with dancing and beer pong. Here is one of my housemates dancing up a storm.

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The weather in February was considerably warmer. On Groundhog Day I ventured out to Lake Chapala and Ajijic. I played tourist and took a ride on the tram.

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The following weekend I spent the day strolling the streets of Tonola.

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Another day trip later in the month found me in Tequila. Samples were mandatory on tours.

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My thoughtful housemate Omar surprised me on Valentine’s Day with this bouquet:

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The Virgin of Guadalupe parade in my neighborhood found the streets covered with alfalfa as the procession made its way to the church.

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Renovations in our house were finally complete and all the debris was hauled away.

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March was highlighted by my daughter’s announcement that she and her boyfriend were now engaged. They are planning a wedding in 2015 in The Dominican Republic.

Kimmy & Tarrant Engaged!

I stayed in Guadalajara the entire month teaching and writing. Spring was definitely on the way, along with some gorgeous flowers.

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April arrived and I remained in Mexico rather than returning to Winnipeg as I had in past years.. Instead I made a quick trip to Texas as my tourist visa was about to expire. Upon my return to Guadalajara I visited Hospicio Cabanas and was delighted with the amazing murals, statues and other artwork on display.

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I also participated in a Via Crucis before Easter where we walked approximately 5 kilometers in San Pedro and visited twelve churches.

Another day trip found me in Zapotlanejo, a small town renowned for its clothes shopping. Many of the stores featured live models. But the town also has a beautiful as well as very old church.

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And of course I visited my beloved Parque Mirador.

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May began with a bang with celebrations for Day of the Holy Cross. Around the corner from my house was a festival complete with rides, food , music and, of course, fireworks.

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I visited my friend Omar in Tototlan, a small town close to Guadalajara. It was very relaxing and also a treat to have someone cook breakfast for me on Mother’s Day. Here is a view of the church in the plaza.

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I celebrated my birthday in May as well with my friends and housemates. My actual birthday fell on a Friday, my day off, so I was also able to spend a relaxing afternoon at Parque Mirador, my favorite place in all of Guadalajara.

May was also Teacher’s Day in Mexico. Below is a photo of two of my students who presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

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I spent the month of June checking out churches, squares and statues in Guadalajara. I also went to the Regional Museum and marveled at the artifacts, statues and art throughout the building.

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July began with a fourth of July celebration at St. Mark’s Church.

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It was also another touristy month for me here in Guadalajara. I visited churches, admired statues and checked out more museums. Templo Espiatorio is an amazing church not far from Centro.

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At the Museo De Las Artes I was overwhelmed by the magnificent Orozco murals.

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And of course I visited my beloved Parque Mirador again. I also spent a relaxing afternoon at Parque Agua Azul. The fountains were not flowing, but the scenery is lovely and it’s a peaceful place for reading.

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The end of the month found me in McAllen, Texas for my interview at the Mexican Consulate.

Consulado Mexicano McAllen

August was highlighted by reunions with two dear friends. When I lived in Culiacan, Carmen and I were neighbors. We had brunch together when she came to Guadalajara for a conference.

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Miriam returned from Norway and we went out for pizza, along with her boyfriend Cristian.

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I continued exploring Guadalajara. I visited more churches, returned to the canyon, and found this delightful elephant at Centro Magno, a shopping mall.

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September was an exciting month here in Mexico as Independence Day is celebrated on the 16th. A friend and I sat at The Parian sipping tequila and had an awesome view of the government building. The gritto was followed by fireworks and music.

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September was also exciting as my work visa finally came through after months of documents, visits to Immigration and waiting.

Mi Tarjeta!

October in Tlaquepaque means preparing for Day of the Dead. The streets are colorfully decorated and extravagant altars are displayed in El Refugio.

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But the highlight of October was traveling to Culiacan to spend Halloween and Day of the Dead with my family. I also was delighted to meet my newest nieto.

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My next stop was Mazatlan, my favorite beach. Although Hurricane Vance stopped by for a brief visit, I still had time to bask in the sunshine on the beach.

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And then November arrived with blusteringly cold temperatures. Overnight lows of 0 and 1 convinced me that it was time to buy some gloves.

But there was lots to do indoors when the temperatures plummeted. El Refugio was a haven from the cold when the Oaxaca exhibit was held. An abundance of music, dancing, food and vendors prevailed.

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In Centro a multitude of vendors set up in stalls to display their Christmas items.

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Around the corner from my house a neighborhood celebration was held with music, magicians, luche libre, and rides for the children. And on another evening these characters came to visit courtesy of Coca Cola.

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December has passed by quickly in preparation for Christmas. My favorite coffee shop, Jahanve, has these festive angels on the tables along with the usual sugar and serviettes.

Angel at Jahanve

I went to Sueno Magico at Clover Lawn Mansion, an amazing winter wonderland with a magnificent display of lights and awesome entertainment. Rides and activities for the children as well as a visit with Santa Claus were also featured here.

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Just blocks from my house in Tlaquepaque this amazing tree shines brightly.

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Tomorrow I am off to Tototlan to spend Christmas with a friend. It will be interesting celebrating this holiday in a small Mexican town. We are preparing a traditional dinner complete with turkey and all the trimmings, different from the usual pozole and ponche which is the norm here in Mexico.

As this is my last post before Christmas, I would like to wish my family, friends and blog followers a Merry Christmas. Enjoy your holiday celebrations wherever in the world you may be. May they be filled with family, friends and fun.

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Where To Go……What To Do

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As I write this, my daughter has just returned from New York and Broadway plays, and my son is in Las Vegas. And I am here in Guadalajara planning my holiday travels.

I am spending Christmas with a friend in Tototlan, a small pueblo about an hour away from here. It’s a quaint little place, and I’m looking forward to returning there again. It will be interesting spending Christmas in a small Mexican town and will be a different experience from the other tourist areas or large cities where I have celebrated Christmas in the past few years.

The first stop will be for grocery shopping in Ocotlan, another pueblo, as we are planning on having a traditional Christmas dinner rather than the pisole and ponche that are common here in Mexico.

My current housemates and I are planning on spending New Years together on the beach somewhere. Yes, somewhere, because we haven’t decided exactly where yet. We know we don’t want to encounter the frenzy of snowbirds that flock to Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan.

Possibilities include Sayulita, Bucerias, Guyabitos or maybe even Manzanillo. The inevitable snowbirds will be there, but hopefully fewer in number.

One of my housemates lives near the beach in Australia, and my other housemate is from The Netherlands. We are all looking forward to leaving the hustle and bustle of Guadalajara behind for a few days.

Living here in Mexico, the possibilities for travel are endless. This is a magnificent country, and every area boasts its own treasures.

The highlight of my time up north was a train ride up in the mountains to Chihuahua.

The pyramids outside of Mexico City were amazing.

My favorite beach so far is still Mazatlan, although I have yet to explore the east coast of Mexico.

And I hope that my travels will take me to the jungles of Chiapas this coming spring.

My students constantly suggest new territories worthy of exploration, and my list continues to grow.

I will be returning to Winnipeg for a launch of my second book, Alive Again, on May 5th. While it will be nice to see my family and friends again, my heart is in Mexico and the many adventures that still await me here.

 

Plaza De Las Armas At Christmas

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One of the things I love about living in Mexico is that it is possible to stumble upon the most interesting things when you least expect it.

Yesterday I was in Centro walking down one of the main streets when in the distance I spied a Ferris wheel. I decided to investigate. My walk took me to Plaza De Las Armas, and I was delighted with what awaited me.

First of all, there was a stunning nativity scene.

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There was also a skating rink, a very popular attraction for children and adults alike.

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The Ferris wheel caught my eye, and although I have a fear of heights, I decided to accept the challenge. I’m glad I did. The view was spectacular!

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People also sped down a slide in inner tubes.

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 And of course there was the obligatory Coke tree, the sponsor of this venue.

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Music was also on the menu as a band was just warming up as I was leaving. And there were a variety of stalls set up selling Christmas items and food. And have a look at this quaint little structure.

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Yes, this little Christmas wonderland brightened up a cloudy day in Guadalajara.

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Sueno Magico

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Last night I spent a few hours in an absolute wonderland! Mansion Clover Lawn is open to the public only twice a year—on Halloween and at Christmas. Located on Avenida de la Paz near Chapultepec, there was already a long lineup when I arrived fifteen minutes before the opening time. I purchased my 70 peso ticket and then joined another line at the gate. This sight greeted me at the entrance.

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Wow! And this was only the entrance! The spectacular display that awaited me was truly amazing. Gingerbread men and houses, a nativity scene, Santa Claus, brightly-lit trees, an awesome castle as well as live characters in costume were a delight. This was one magical fairyland!

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A performance on stage at the castle thrilled children and adults alike. In addition, there were a variety of hands-on activities for children. There was also an area with rides for the children.

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And of course there were numerous food vendors with everything from steamed vegetables to cotton candy and churros.

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The mansion itself was incredible on the outside and on the inside. Apparently photos are not permitted inside but I did manage to snag a few before being reprimanded by staff.

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I chose not to wait in a long line-up to visit with Santa.Perhaps next time. But alas it was time to leave this magic land.

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Adios Santa! Hasta luego!

 

 

 

So You Want To Learn Spanish

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I arrived in Mexico City on a flight from Houston on November 2, 2010 and tentatively approached the Immigration area in the airport. My knowledge of “hola, adios and cerveza fria por favor” would not be of any great help here. I foolishly assumed that there would be someone here who spoke English. Consequently, I left the area without the highly coveted copy of my tourist visa. But that’s a whole other story for a different blog post.

 

Living in Culiacan that year was quite the experience. This is a city where hardly anyone speaks English. The principal at the school where I taught did not even speak English. Nor did the lady whose home I shared. Nor did the staff at the grocery stores or pharmacies or bakeries or convenience stores that I frequented. But it often made for some interesting purchases.

My next job found me in Irapuato, a city considerably smaller than Culiacan. Other than the other English teachers at the school, only a handful of people who spoke English. However I was unprepared for the animosity displayed by the locals because I was a gringa, especially that of the Mexican teachers at the school. They refused to make any attempt to understand English, and instead expected the English teachers to overnight become fluent in Spanish. The hilarious part was that the school provided us with Spanish classes, but they were taught by a gringa and not a native speaker. A total waste of time as she taught only vocabulary as she herself did not know the grammar.

My next home was, and still is, Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. For the most part, that first year I spent my time with other English teachers who were native speakers. And we usually made ourselves understood when traveling or shopping although our knowledge of Spanish was limited.

Flash ahead and I am now in my fifth year in Mexico. I am nowhere near fluent, but I am also well beyond survival. Duolingo has become one of my best friends and we spend hours together regularly. I can definitely empathize with the difficulties my students have in learning English. Learning a new language is not easy.

 

Spanish is a beautiful language. It has a unique melody of its own. Now, if it weren’t for all the irregular verbs and the strange rules regarding pronouns and………. Yikes! I’m starting to sound like my students!

 

My Friend Claudia

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The other day I was having breakfast at my favorite coffee shop in Tlaquepaque when my friend Claudia jokingly remarked to me that I never write about her. I thought “Why not?” So Claudia, here is your post.

When I first moved to Tlaquepaque more than three years ago, one of my housemates told me about a quaint little coffee shop on a side street just off the square. He told me that the coffee was great, the food excellent, there was WiFi, and that best of all were the people who owned it. Always eager to explore new areas, I packed up my laptop in my backpack and headed off to find Calle Constitution and this coffee shop called Jahanve. Needless to say, this has become my second home. And Claudia has become a great friend.

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Claudia is very creative in the culinary area. Check out the Christmas cookies in the above photo. Below is a carrot cake.

Carrot Cake at Jahanve

And the following photo is my favorite chicken salad.

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And this is the best breakfast anywhere in Tlaquepaque.

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Here are photos of my favorite beverages. The first is a cappuccino and the second is an Oreo frappe.

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Claudia is also the proud mom of a darling baby girl, Camilla. This photo is a three generation with Claudia’s mom as well.

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Camilla often comes to visit at the coffee shop while Claudia is at work. And Claudia always has amusing anecdotes to share about her precious little girl as she grows. Just yesterday Camilla’s bright smiles and laughing eyes lit up the room. Yet Claudia insists that she is a terror now because she is teething!

Claudia is also a wealth of information when it comes to life here in Mexico. Healthcare, travel packages, shopping, sightseeing and current events are all her forte.

While the coffee and food are fabulous, it’s Claudia herself with her welcoming demeanor and warm personality that really makes Jahanve the best coffee shop in Tlaquepaque. Many of my former housemates who are back in their own countries often reminisce about the many enjoyable hours spent at Jahanve.

Saludos Claudia y hasta pronto Amiga!