Monthly Archives: February 2018

February……. A Dreary Month?

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February……. A Dreary Month?

This is my eighth winter in Mexico and I can’t recall ever having such dreary weather. Clouds have permeated the skies all month, what the weather forecasters here term as “intermittent clouds.”  My heart goes out to the tourists who have come for only a week or two. It has also been unusually cold in the evenings. I can’t remember the last time I walked along the malecon at night without a sweatshirt. And some of those ocean breezes are quite strong as well.

What do you do in Mazatlan when the weather is so grim? There is a lot to do here aside from indulging in tequila or cerveza at the local cantina. It’s true that there are restaurants and bars in abundance. But February has been the perfect month to immerse oneself in the Mexican culture.

One of my favorite places here in Centro is the Plazuela Machado. While the days are relatively quiet aside from cruise ship days, the nights come alive with a flurry of activity. Music resonates from the numerous restaurants in the square. There are often musicians and dancers performing in the square itself. Vendors have their stalls resplendent with jewelry, clothing and souvenirs. Traffic is quite congested as pulmonias and taxis clog the narrow streets. And holidays find colorful displays of lights and festive decorations.

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Teatro Angela Peralta is conveniently located just off the square. The variety of entertainment here is absolutely amazing. Sunday afternoons feature classical music. I attended a concert of Handel’s water music and the renowned Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra pales in comparison to this performance. On Friday night I attended Los Diez Pianos and was totally enchanted with the music and the vocalists.

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Another favorite venue is El Recreo. I’ve gone to movies and jazz jam sessions here. There are a variety of other activities such as travelogues, fashion shows, yoga, Spanish classes and other musical events that are held here. Also popular is a book swap. The snowbirds all flock to El Recreo during the winter.

Museo de Arte is home to numerous musical and dance performances. Many are free or charge a nominal admission fee. I even attended a play there where the dialogue was entirely in Spanish. Tonight I’ll be going to a guitar festival.

Of course February began with a bang with the celebration of Carnaval. Over half a million people lined the streets to attend the main parade. I also went to the second parade and it too was crowded. The fireworks were awesome and the music was excellent, highlighted by a performance by BandaMS. There were other events held at various places as well. Busloads of tourists came to Mazatlan for this popular festival.

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I did escape to sunshine and soaring temperatures one weekend when I went to Culiacan to spend time with my family. It’s interesting how you go a few miles inland and north and the humidity drops and the heat rises. We spent quite a few hours outdoors as we were at an event at my grandson’s school, the same school where I taught when I first came to Mexico. In this photo my grandson is sporting his medal.

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I belong to a Red Hat group and we get together for lunch twice a month. We all wear purple and red clothing and jewelry. We even accessorize our purses and wallets in these colors. We go to different restaurants and always have our photo taken.

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I also belong to the Mazatlan Solo Snowbird group. In addition to the monthly meet and greet, this past week we went on a day trip to El Quelite. This charming town is one of the magic towns in Mexico and we are transported back in time to a place where the natural beauty has been preserved and there is not an Oxxo in sight.

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I also volunteer in a kitchen at a Christian mission in my neighborhood. At the moment there are approximately 150 young adults from countries all over the world. Some live at the mission and study there. Others come and go for days or weeks. The program offered provides a wonderful opportunity for people to experience life in another culture.

I still play Hand and Foot with my friends out in Sabalo Country. I had never heard of this game until I arrived in Mazatlan almost three years ago. Until then I had only been an ardent bridge player up north, especially in Leavenworth.

One of my neighbor’s has a catering company. In addition to buying delicious prepared food from her, I enjoy her weekly luncheons. In the past there had been a mixed market, but it has evolved more into a social gathering place and a book swap.

If there were more hours in a day, I could be playing bridge and cribbage. I could be attending numerous fundraisers and musical events. I could be spending hours on the beach daily instead of the mere one day at Stone Island earlier this month. I could be doing more exploring on my own although I did get to Villa Union a couple of weeks ago. I could go more often to the air-conditioned malls.

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However I am determined to focus more on my writing. When I am at home, I am working on my book or on a blog post, except for the courses I take on the internet through coursera. I just completed a course from Stanford on nutrition and this week I start a course on relationships from University of Toronto.

The weather this month may have been dreary, but my life certainly is far from dreary.

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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.

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.