Where do you picture yourself five years from now? This is one of the most common questions asked in a job interview. Five years ago at this time I was living in Winnipeg and teaching ESL in a program at Red River College. I recently came across some old journal entries and this was my response in July of 2010.
“I expect to be teaching ESL here in Winnipeg possibly even in this college. My roots are here, my children are here and my friends are here. These are all very strong ties.”
However life intervened and God quite obviously had other plans for me. I left Winnipeg in the fall of 2010. Other than returning for two surgeries and a book launch, Mexico has pretty much become home to me. My daughter moved to Ontario three years ago and my son built a house in Transcona, which to me may as well be another city as I’m not familiar with that area at all. And I discovered a lifestyle in a foreign country that is very appealing.
I enjoy teaching here in Mexico where students are eager to learn and are appreciative of the efforts of native English speakers. They are not demanding and do not possess that sense of entitlement which so many of the students in Canada exhibited. Pictured below are Adriana and Cecelia, two of my students last year in Zapopan.
My friendships here are very different. I don’t have the same close network of girlfriends. There is no-one here to share the memories in the same way, although people are curious about my past. Most of my friends here in Mexico are decades younger than me, as are the men I date.
Since moving to Mazatlan, this has changed. I’ve met some new friends at church and most of them are considerably older than I am by more than a decade. While I do enjoy having friends closer to my age, I do miss all of my younger Jalisco friends, especially Monica and Claudia pictured below.
As I sit here on a rainy day pondering my future, I can’t quite fathom creating a reply to that five year question. I appear to be firmly rooted in Mexico, but can’t quite pinpoint exactly where. I have an awesome Mexican family in Culiacan. I miss so many things about Guadalajara, but I really love the beach here in Mazatlan. I have met amazing people and made wonderful friends from all over this vast country. There are also so many fascinating places I have yet to discover. And I agonize over the fact that my own children refuse to come and visit me here. I wonder where I will be five years from now……………….
As a teenager, this song had been one of my mantras. But then marriage and life set in and I fell into the common trap of trying to be the person everyone else wanted me to be, but not the person that I really wanted to be. And I am now at a stage in my life where I have the opportunity to find that person who had lost her way for so many years in the gargantuan abyss of others’ expectations.
I graduated from university in May and got married in June. I was only twenty-one, but then that was expected back in the seventies. Pre-nups? Unheard of in those days. My trust fund bought our first house. My husband became firmly ensconced in a business run by my family. And I soon found myself sucked in as well. Strong and ugly words to describe that one. But in those days I always put everyone else first. My dad was ill and it made it easier on everyone if my husband and I were involved in the business. And it did provide employment for both of us. But growing up I always resented the fact that my dad was consumed by this business. He was always working. I remember packing up my homework and going back to the office with him at night so that I could spend time with him.
And then my own children came along. Fortunately I was able to move my office home and I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom. Of course when my babies napped, I never got to relax. Payroll, month-end, year-end, taxes………..there was no end to it. And I had also gone back to college to obtain business administration and accounting certifications. Yes, that business had indeed sucked me in over the years.
I look back at my life and have no regrets. My happiest days were those spent with my children while they were growing up. And I know that I have instilled upon them the importance of getting an education. Both of them are established in professional careers and are thriving. I am so very proud of them, and they are the loves of my life.
When the opportunity to sell the business arose, I jumped at it. Of course it also marked the beginning of the end of my marriage. But more importantly, it also was a time of personal growth for me. I continued to pursue my university education despite the lack of support from my husband. And then once the marriage ended, I completed my degree and created a new and exciting life for myself here in Mexico.
I am finally now doing what I want to do. I don’t care what others expect of me. I am constantly criticized because I have chosen to live in Mexico and lead the lifestyle I do. Personally I feel that it takes guts to do what I do. And I am quite content with the simple life I have here. I teach, I write and I do volunteer work. I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and eagerly anticipate what the day will bring. I am happy.
Now, if only my children would come here for a visit…………..that would make me even happier.
It’s Thursday afternoon, August 13th, and I’ve been living in Mazatlan now for about 2-1/2 months. It’s still holiday time here which means I’m not teaching at all this month. But I have found other activities to occupy my time.
My focus has been primarily on my writing. I am now in week 7 of a 9 week writing course from Duke University in North Carolina. I had not anticipated such a heavy course when I enrolled, but it has proven to be a great learning experience. Analyzing a visual image, writing a case study and an op-ed, learning about citation and plagiarism, evaluating the works of others——-it’s been intense but also very informative.
I’ve also being working on my next book. Although it will be a work of fiction, I will be drawing on some of my own life experiences. Right now I’m developing characters and plot lines. This is most enjoyable after having written two self-help books, When Glad Becomes Sad and Alive Again.
I belong to a writers’ group online called An Author’s Tale. I enjoy the weekly writing prompts as well as the camaraderie of other writers.
I am excited to learn that there is a writers’ group right here in Mazatlan. Meetings begin again in the fall and I look forward to meeting other writers and sharing ideas.
I have also become an active member of La Vina in Zona Dorada. As well as attending services on Sunday mornings, I have become involved in an outreach program. And I have also made some new friends here as well.
Although I haven’t found a bridge club yet, friends have introduced me to a game called “hand and foot” which I now play twice a week. This is the view as we sit by the pool and play cards.
I have also joined an organization called Vecinos Con Carino. This group is involved in supporting students and schools and also involved in the Lids For Life program.
Exploring Mazatlan fills my time as well. Before I moved here, when I visited I would stay at the Hotel Playa Mazatlan in the Zona Dorada and spend most of my time in that area or strolling along the malecon. Now that I live here, I have discovered a variety of other interesting places to check out, and my list is growing daily. I have mastered some of the major bus routes and navigating this city is less stressful than in Guadalajara.
My favorite place is still the beach, especially at sunset. I no longer merely bask on the beach all day as I did when I was a tourist. I read, I write and I gaze out at the magnificence of nature. There is something very calming about the ocean. I love the sound of the waves pounding or lapping at the shore, depending upon the weather. I love that salty sea smell in the air. The sand beneath my feet is a cushion of velvet. I have walked beaches from Hawaii to the Atlantic coastline, but Mazatlan surpasses them all. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision myself living in this magical paradise.
I do admit that in the soaring temperatures and high humidity I often take refuge in an air-conditioned mall, theater or restaurant. By bus, Galerias is ten minutes away, Gran Plaza is about 15 minutes away and Sendero is about 20 minutes away. These malls all have theaters and restaurants which I frequent.
Tomorrow is an open day and I plan to visit the art museum and the English speaking library, followed by lunch and a walk along the malecon. Weekend events include a pool party and an anniversary dinner.
Here in Mexico, I am constantly bombarded with questions by my students. Where is your favorite place in Mexico? What is your favorite Mexican food? What is your favorite Mexican music? These are the three most common questions. It is obvious that they are proud of their country and their culture as they eagerly await my answers.
I have a lot of favorite places in Mexico. Culiacan will always have a special place in my heart. This is where my new life began almost five years ago. This is where I started my new career. This is where I found my Mexican family.
I took an incredible train trip through the mountains up in the Copper Canyon during Christmas break. The view was breathtaking and I made some really great Mexican friends.
Next came almost four years in Guadalajara. My favorite place there is definitely Parque Mirador. I spent hours gazing out at the canyon, sipping a Negra Modelo. This was also a great place to read and to journal. I also loved going to the zoo and exploring museums and parks.
I traveled to several smaller pueblos all over Jalisco. I enjoyed visiting magnificent old churches and sitting on benches near the kioskos in the plazas. Puerto Vallarta was the local beach although it was five hours away by bus. I also checked out Manzanillo, but it was just a little too quiet for me.
I traveled up in the Baja Norte. Rosarito was quite disappointing and Tijuana was ugly. I have yet to visit Cabo or La Paz in the south, which several of my friends have raved about. But there is a ferry out of Mazatlan, so perhaps that lies in the future.
Favorite food is definitely a tough one as there are so many amazing dishes to try here. I’m allergic to fish and seafood so I can’t comment on those items. Tacos here are fabulous and do not resemble the ones offered by Taco Bell in Canada. I adore the many stands on the streets that offer chicken, birria, tortas, burgers, roasted vegetables, mullettas, hotcakes and hot dogs. The fresh fruit juice is always welcome in the heat of Mazatlan. I enjoy the tortillas made fresh daily instead of the packaged ones in Canada. Pizza is also popular here although I can’t quite bring myself to put salad dressing, ketchup or crema on it. I have also come across some awesome Chinese restaurants as well.
Mexican music is definitely different from what I used to listen to in Canada. I was first introduced to Banda when I lived in Culiacan. I enjoy the lively style and it is most conducive to dancing. Then when I moved to Guadalajara, Mariachi strains filled the air. I lived very close to El Parian and Calle Independencia, so this type of music constantly filled the air. Interestingly enough, English rock music is very popular here among my students. Often when I am on buses the drivers have English music blaring as well. Many of my students enjoy metal and rap, but these are definitely not my faves.
But my big faves are the people and the culture here in Mexico. Smiles, hugs and kisses are the norm here. Holiday celebrations are amazing, filled with music, dancing and fireworks. People here are very proud of their country despite the political unease. When the Mexican national anthem is played, voices ring out loudly.
It goes without saying that the beach here in Mazatlan is definitely one of my favorite places. The sunsets are magnificent, as are the sunrises. I don’t miss the snow in Winnipeg winters or the torrential rains of Guadalajara. Although the temperatures and the humidity soar in Sinaloa, I am quite content to call Mazatlan home for now.