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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this being Mexico, of course there was music.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I make a point of walking approximately five miles a day to and from my destinations. All other walking is incidental. Amazing what a difference new knees have made in my life. Yesterday I unexpectedly by far exceeded the five miles and I was confident when I climbed into bed that sleep was imminent. I put on some classical music that almost immediately lulled me to sleep.
But it was not a restful sleep. Although I can’t recall the dreams I had, they must have been pretty strange and wild. I awoke with a start at 2:41 am. One of my characters in the book I’m writing was vying for my attention. I soon realized that Lorne was going to win this round.
Karen, you need to listen to me NOW! I have this situation with Misty. I know it should never have gone this way, but it did. I know this wasn’t what you had in mind for me when you first wrote me into your book.
Lorne, shut the F up! It’s the middle of the night and I need to sleep. Your crisis can wait. It hasn’t been put into writing yet.
Exactly Karen! You need to get it down now. While it’s going down. I know your laptop is just sitting there waiting to be booted up. And this is so incredibly important. You don’t want to miss out on this.
I left my cosy bed and plopped down in front of my laptop. It took only seconds to boot up and a minute or so to find my file.
Okay Lorne, let me have it. Just what is so traumatic that you disturbed my sleep?
I glanced down at the corner of the screen and was amazed to see that it was now 4:47 am. More than two hours had passed since I had been so rudely awoken by Lorne. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with fatigue.
I fell asleep to the sounds of roosters crowing outside my window. Yes, my neighbors have roosters. And they crow at all hours of the day and night. But alas they are camera shy.
I came downstairs to get my coffee one day and the dining room had been transformed into an exam room. An eye chart was prominently displayed on a wall and my friend was seated comfortably in a chair. The optometrist busily changed clunky lenses around until he was satisfied. The exam was complete and the new glasses were ready within a couple of days. Hmmmmmm………
I love shopping at Oxxo. It puts 7-11 and Mac’s to shame. Milk, beer, wine and more. Cleaning and laundry supplies. Fresh brewed coffee and cappuccino. Cell phones and memory sticks. Bread, cookies, pastry. Fruit, vegetables. Pay your utility bills here. And so much more. These stores are conveniently located on just about every other street corner.
A friend and I had breakfast on the second floor of the mercado last week. Bacon and eggs, beans, rice and tortillas a mere 20 pesos. Fresh squeezed orange juice 18 pesos.
The other day a woman came to my house. For a mere 600 pesos, my housemate had a one hour massage, a manicure and a pedicure. I think I need to find some time for this.
Last night we went to Museo de Arte and saw an amazing performance of contemporary dancing. The dancers performed outside on an uneven brick floor. This afternoon we enjoyed a spectacular concert of Handel’s Water Music. The venue was the majestic Angela Peralta Theater. The best part is that everything is within walking distance of where I’m staying this year.
Carnaval is just around the corner. Last weekend we saw the parade of the king and queen contestants. Today was the coronation. And there are a variety of events yet to come. The large statues are beginning to appear and strings of lights adorn the malecon.
Ah yes! Did I mention the absence of SNOW? Yes, things are interestingly different here.
One of the things I love most about Mexico is the variety of music that fills the air. When I lived in Guadalajara Mariachi was the prominent genre. But here in Mazatlan Banda is the big one.
On Friday there was a mini-parade for all the candidates for queen and king of the upcoming Carnaval. We viewed this from Plazuela Republica and listened to an amazing band for almost two hours. They only took a short ten minute break and really sang their hearts out.
On Saturday we went to a 60s rock party at La Chupeteria on the malecon. The group was called The Continentals and their performance was awesome. Three hours of all the favorites from the 60s. The place was packed and the dance floor crowded. Interestingly enough, admission was only 50 pesos (just over $3 Canadian) and included a margarita or pina colada.
Jazz is the word at La Bohemia on Tuesday nights. This week the music of Santana was featured. Last week there were two keyboards in addition to the brass and percussion.
This coming Sunday I’m looking forward to hearing Handel’s Water Music at the Angela Peralta Theater.
My music teacher in middle school introduced me to Water Music and it has been a favorite of mine for decades. I actually have a CD with me here in Mexico that I listen to often.
As I walk along the malecon in the evenings, there is always a variety of music that fills the air…..even karaoke in Spanish as well as in English.
Today is Wednesday and I’m headed over to El Recreo shortly to listen to some jazz. This is more of an open mic type of thing so not sure just what I will hear today.
This week in music…….banda, 60s, jazz and classical.