27 de Septiembre – the actual Independence Day

On January 10, 2016, I landed in Mexico not sure of my future. Eighteen months later, I became a permanent legal resident. Even having lived here for almost 6 years, I am still learning new things about the country, one of which is the meaning of September 27th. There is a street in Colima named “27 de Septiembre” and I occasionally wondered what had happened on that day, and this year I finally found out.

On my neighbor’s TV, we watched the celebrations in Mexico City, and my neighbor explained to me that this was Independence Day. I was a bit confused, as we had just celebrated Independence Day on September 15-16th. Turns out that, just as July 4, 1776 was actually the beginning of the War for Independence of the United States of America, the night of September 15th was the beginning of the War of Independence for the country of Mexico – officially named Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or The United States of Mexico – the second country named United States on the continent of North America.

In the U.S., the Declaration of Independence was just that, a signed document stating that the 13 original colonies were declaring themselves independent from Great Britain. However, the British did not agree and independence was not achieved until the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris in which Great Britain officially acknowledged the United States as a sovereign and independent nation.

Meanwhile, in Mexico on the night of September 15, 1810 the Mexican war of independence began, led by the Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. It wasn’t until September 27, 1821 that conservatives and royalists (led by Augustín de Iturbide) of Mexico City joined forces with the guerrilla fighters and rode into the capital, ending the war. Independence from Spain was finally achieved. So this year 2021 was very special in that it marked the 200th year – the Bicentennial – of Mexico’s independence from Spain. Here it is called La Consumación de la Independencia.

I am pasting a link to the celebration here:

The video is more than 2 hours long, with almost the first hour in Spanish and consisting of speeches by President Lopez Obrador and other world leaders. If you start at the 58 minute 40 second mark, there is an explanation in Spanish of the events about to take place and beginning at the 1 hour 3 minute mark will be performances illustrating the history of the people of Mexico beginning with the Mayans. At the 1 hour 54 minute mark the fireworks and dancing begin. It is all in Spanish, but if you don’t speak the language, it is still awesome to watch.

So until next time, stay safe and Nos Vemos !

Independence Days – and a painful lesson learned

Greetings everyone and I hope you are all safe and healthy wherever you are. This post is actually about two Independence Days that I was fortunate to be able to experience this year – one with my family in the United States and one here in Mexico.

For the U.S. July 4th holiday, I visited my son in Colorado. After having a very bad experience with an online travel agency, I opted to schedule my trip with a live human being – a travel agent here in Colima. I figured that if there were any problems, there would be a person I could easily contact directly.

For those of you who are not experienced in air travel internationally, you need to go through customs and immigration at the port of entry in the country in which you land. That means if you have one or two stops (or more – YIKES!) before you are at your destination, your first stop upon entering the country is where you must collect your luggage and go through customs and immigration and then bring your luggage to be checked in again for your connecting flight.

If this is how you will be traveling, please make sure you have enough time between flights to accomplish this. I would rather have too much time instead of not enough time to catch that connecting flight. You never know if there will be delays in your initial flight or very long lines at your port of entry, etc. Because of this, I wanted a direct flight to Denver, and so chose an early morning flight from Guadalajara to Denver, which meant taking an overnight bus to the airport.

Of course, because of Covid, I had to have a negative Covid exam in order to board the plane. Because my flight was at 7:30 in the morning, I did not take the test at the airport, as I was not going to walk alone with suitcases to the top floor of the parking garage just to get tested. There are plenty of clinics in Colima for the test – with varying prices which seem to indicate a longer wait time for results for the less expensive ones. So I opted for a moderately-priced one and just hung out in the city until it was ready.

So the night before my flight, suitcases and exam results in hand, I had a one-hour car ride to the bus station, a 3 hour bus ride to the international airport, a 3-hour wait before I could check in, then check-in started 3 hours before take-off time, and finally got on my flight. As a nice surprise, I had baked chocolate cream cheese brownies and my neighbor had prepared a mole sauce to bring with me.

One thing you need to investigate regarding international flights, is what you can bring in with you besides personal items. I checked online and figured the brownies and sauce were ok. I put them in an insulated bag with a frozen thermo pack and they were still cold when I arrived in Denver more than 12 hours after I left my house. The bag and thermo pack were also great for bringing back something I can’t get in Mexico – boxes of frozen Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, my comfort food when recovering from a bad migraine headache.

Oh, I just remembered something else. Restricted items might not only apply to international flights. A few years ago, I was visiting people in Puebla, Mexico, and taking a flight back to Colima, Mexico. My friends had given me a bouquet of flowers and the agents at the airport would not allow me to take them on the plane, even though the flight was not leaving the country – it was a completely domestic flight.

Anyway, I had a great visit with my son and his future family. Enjoyed the hot and dry weather, visited Breckenridge where I got a great view of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains, where I also didn’t remember how cold it would be at that elevation and didn’t bring enough outerwear. We also drove through the Continental Divide. A continental divide separates river systems that flow to opposite sides of a continent. In North America, the line of summits of the Rocky Mountains separate streams flowing toward the Gulf of California and the Pacific from those flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean.

The 4th of July was spent with my son and his fiancé’s extended family, just enjoying being together and watching the fireworks at night. I finally went to bed at 10:30pm, but heard that the fireworks continued until about 2:30am. Everyone in the neighborhood was out in the street, sidewalks and in front of their houses, and it was a really nice time for everyone.

Eventually, it was time to return home with my macaroni and cheese, a box of Cream of Wheat (my other comfort food, which I can’t find in Mexico) and gifts for Lourdes and her family for taking care of my house and feeding my cats while I was gone. She had asked me to bring her back some Skechers shoes and told me the U.S. size. I saw different styles and through the wonder of WhatsApp, was able to take a photo of them, send the photos to her, and she could then tell me which pair she preferred.

Independence Day for Mexico is September 16th, but the celebrations start the night of the 15th with the Grito de Dolores, the cry of freedom. Tradition states that the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called the people of the town of Dolores to begin the war of independence and rang the church bells and his call to arms is the Grito.

Normally, there are celebrations everywhere in Mexico and the plaza at the presidential palace in Mexico City are packed with people. However, since this is still the rainy season and we are still experiencing the pandemic, there were no festivities held in our village square and the speech by President Lopez Obrador was broadcast on TV and the internet, as well as fireworks with no crowds in attendance. On the 16th, there were more speeches and a parade broadcast, once again with no crowds in attendance.

Around 5pm on the 15th, Lourdes’ restaurant La Casita del Café was serving sopes and enchiladas to celebrate. So – I went down there and had enchiladas with mole sauce and my favorite drink – a cappuccino.

Little did I know what I was in for. About 90 minutes after returning home, I experienced horrible abdominal pains – extremely severe. So bad that when they finally abated, I went straight to bed, figuring I could watch the festivities on You Tube the next day.

When I spoke with Lourdes the next morning, we tried to figure out what had caused the pain. There wasn’t enough chile in the mole to cause it, and I use cumin at times in my cooking, so that wasn’t it. When I said that I had had a cappuccino to drink with it, it clicked. Several people have since told me that you cannot mix dairy with enchiladas/mole. I guess it creates a volatile chemical reaction in the stomach or intestines. Never heard of it before, but that was a painful lesson that I will never forget. I guess that just demonstrates that not everything that doesn’t agree with you is from food poisoning.

So, I hope that this post wasn’t too boring and I hope that some of my “pearls of wisdom” about travel were helpful to some of you. Go online to find out what you can and cannot bring into a foreign country. Check your travel itinerary carefully. And if you have any food sensitivities, ask before you order (though I had no idea about enchiladas and dairy products so there was nothing to ask about). I almost always ask if the food is “enchiloso” or “picante” – both words for spicy hot. If they say it’s not too spicy, the English version of my standard reply is, “When it’s not too spicy for you, it is very spicy for me.”

So, for now, stay safe and healthy and see you next time !

Invitation to a Medical Conference

Greetings once again. This post will be a little different than the usual. As many of you know, I am a retired registered nurse and a member of Rotary International. In order to continue to be involved in the medical field, I joined the International Rotary Fellowship of Healthcare Professionals.

I am grateful to live in an era where people throughout the world can stay connected through the internet, and that includes Rotarians in isolated communities having the ability to be members of E-clubs as well as Fellowships such as mine which connects medical professionals throughout the world who can then promote education or implement projects.

On Monday, September 13th, we will be conducting a webinar for World Patient Safety Day and would like to invite anyone in the healthcare profession to join. So if you are in the healthcare profession, please consider signing up. If you know someone who is in the profession, please pass this on to them. We would love to have you join us. You don’t have to be a Rotarian to attend.

I will paste the contents of my email and link to register here:

NOBODY SHOULD BE HARMED IN HEALTHCARE
THE VOLUNTARY SECTOR AND NGOS ARE MAJOR PROVIDERS OF HEALTHCARE IN MANY COUNTRIES

LET’S SHARE IDEAS AND TAKE ACTION
WEBINAR ON MONDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 9:00AM US CENTRAL TIME (3PM BST)
Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtcOmvrTsvG9Lr3s2otJzZTtIjyqgvQMsN

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.  
We will focus on how to harness the vast experience of the voluntary sector and advocate locally appropriate strategies to improve patient safety, through a network of Ambassadors.  
OBJECTIVES

To raise awareness about the burden of unsafe health care. To bring together the voluntary sector with a stake in health improvement programmes, to adopt a charter for patient safety and integrate safety strategies into their programmes.

I hope to see you there.

And I promise that more posts about life in Mexico are coming soon.

Take care,

¡¡¡¡¡ Nos vemos !!!!!

Cross-Border Marriages – Do your homework, Protect your spouse

See the source image

Ahhhh !!!! Love is in the air. You’ve found THE ONE and proposed (or you received a proposal) and said YES!!!!! Time to plan the wedding. Just as there was more than meets the eye with the Death Café, there is more than meets the eye when marrying someone who is a citizen of another country.

For the marriage itself, the fiancé needs to apply for a K-1 fiancé visa, then you must get married within 90 days of entering the United States. . You can go to a justice and have a quick ceremony to be legally married, and then have a grand wedding and reception at you leisure. Of course, the K-1 visa is not the only way to go, so as you are considering how to go about tying the knot, check with the State Department and consult a good immigration lawyer.

So – just as giving birth is not the whole experience of parenthood, saying “I do” is not the whole experience of marriage. “Life is what happens when you’re making plans” and as unpleasant as it might be, you both still need to think about possible unpleasant or even tragic events in your life and Be Prepared. Too many times I have witnessed the devastation left behind when a family member was not prepared.

In the past few years we have seen that elections have consequences. With the stroke of a pen, laws can be changed. With new administrations, commissioners and secretaries of departments can be appointed with very different ideas about who should be let into the country or who should be allowed to stay

Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not automatically make you a citizen. Consult an immigration lawyer to learn how to get your green card, how to become a citizen, etc. Learn your options and decide what is best for you. If the U.S. citizen spouse wishes to live in the country of the husband/wife, or retire to that country, seek legal advice which will protect the foreign spouse if he/she wishes to visit the United States in the future.

That final thought is not just pulled out of the blue. It is an actual situation, currently a problem for certain widows of U.S. citizens. Under the previous administration, the rules for survivors receiving social security benefits of their deceased spouses were changed. Now it is required that in order to receive the benefits, the survivor must reside in the United States for one calendar month every 6 months. However, also under the previous administration, a visa WILL NOT be issued for that purpose. So the SSA says, “We have your money. Come and get it.” While the consulates say, “But we will make sure you never receive a penny.” Hopefully, the new acting commissioner or whoever becomes the commissioner, will change that. Maybe the State Department will also have a change of heart under this new administration. So the moral of this situation is to plan ahead – get sound legal advice and do what you need to do to guarantee as much as possible that your spouse will retain the ability to travel freely between countries.

Another concern is about pensions. I know a lot of jobs in the past did not have pensions and if I understand correctly, fewer and fewer jobs these days offer them. However, you and your spouse should be equally educated and aware of your financial status as a married couple and have serious discussions regarding this. Will there be a pension after retirement? Will there be a monthly check or a one-time payout? Has the spouse with the pension borrowed against it, so that you will owe money after their death? Is there no savings or pension, so the spouse will be left with nothing?

While this is a subject that is unpleasant for many people to think about, especially if you are considering marriage or just beginning your married life, it is actually a labor of love to provide for your family’s wellbeing. One of our local justices said to me the Spanish equivalent of, “You think an awful lot about death.” My answer was that I am a nurse and too many times I have seen the devastation that resulted from not planning ahead.

For me, I am retired in a country different from that of my family, in a Spanish-speaking country while my family does not speak Spanish, nor do they know the legal system. So I have prepared as much as I can so they do not have to figure it all out while also dealing with the stress of my illness or demise, and I have discussed with them in detail my plans, my legal documents and provided the names of two bilingual friends that will help them when the time comes.

The examples I’ve given are taken from actual situations. I have advocated for some people as much as I can, but it would have made their lives so much easier if the spouses had planned ahead, gotten good legal advice and made sure their spouses would be secure for the remainder of their lives. As with many things in life, it is much easier to take precautions than to clean up the resulting mess.

I don’t want to leave you with such gloomy thoughts, so I will say:

Enjoy what life has to offer. Love, even if it is across borders. Live life to the fullest. Travel to other countries (once the pandemic finally ends, that is). Experience other cultures, food, lifestyles. Go forth unafraid, yet remember that not everyone dies in their sleep, at home, at the age of 100, surrounded by family. While you’re planning and experiencing all the wonderful things life has to offer, also prepare for the unexpected.

Until next time – Love to All and stay safe and healthy……

Death Café update

In 2019, I wrote a post about the Death Café – important information for U.S. citizens living abroad, or for that matter, any foreigner living in another country. I write about my experiences in Mexico, because that is what I know, but the same questions can be applied to any country with answers being according to the laws of your particular country.

Warning – this is a long and detailed description of things to be considered if you plan to spend your life in another country, especially if the official language of that country is not your native language. As long and as dry as this post might be, it is a very important subject and will save your loved ones a lot of grief if you are prepared ahead of time and have these important discussions with them.

For those who didn’t read the previous post, and for those who did but don’t remember the details, I will recap the information here. Every baby born in Mexico has a first name, possibly a second name, and two last names called Apellidos. The first last name is the name of the baby’s father. The second last name is the last name of the baby’s mother. For example, if the father’s name is José Gómez González and the mother’s name is Rosa López Ceja and they have a baby girl they name Maria Guadalupe, her name will be Maria Guadalupe Gómez López. She can be called Maria Gómez for short, but the full name is the one she will carry for her entire life. The same rule applies to boys. When a girl marries, her name doesn’t change.

When a person dies in Mexico, the name on the death certificate is the same as the name on the birth certificate, and therein lies the problem for foreigners who have changed their name. In the United States, it is common for married women to take their husband’s last name, which is what I did. Therefore, my legal name is not the same as the name on my birth certificate.

And so, in order to reduce complications for my family when I eventually pass away, I needed to make sure that my death certificate here in Mexico would be acceptable under my legal name in the United States. The first task was to get a copy of my birth certificate, since my original was so old it was faded and much of it was unreadable. However, it was not sufficient to have a new birth certificate from the Department of Health of my state – an Apostille had to be attached. An Apostille is: ” a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the other countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention.” That involved sending the original new birth certificate to the Secretary of State and for a fee they attached the Apostille to it, certifying that it is legitimate.

After receiving the documents, I then took the birth certificate with apostille, my marriage certificate and divorce decree to a certified translator in order to have certified translated documents. Once all of that was accomplished, I was ready to take my original documents plus my translated documents to a lawyer or a justice. I chose a justice and had him create a document that stated the person listed on my birth certificate, and my current legal name are one and the same person.

I then asked the justice about a Mexican healthcare proxy. There doesn’t seem to be a standardized form, as there is in the United States, so it would appear that I will have to create my own, and that will be another post at some point in the future. Meanwhile, talking about end-of-life wishes is not something that is normally done here, as I realized when the justice said to me, “You think a lot about death.” My answer was that, as a nurse, I have seen too many times the distress and problems caused by people or families faced with a sudden death or critical condition of a loved one when no conversations have been had ahead of time.

So – I have my plot in the local cemetery, my “tomb” has been constructed, my paperwork is in order for the death certificate, and it was time to create a contract with a local funeral parlor. Since I have no idea when, where or under what circumstances my time will come, it will be left to my family to decide on embalming or cremation, but all other services are included in the contract.

With all of that done, I have the originals in a secure locked box and copies of all documents in an easily accessible place in my house, with two close friends aware of where to find them. Included are names and phone numbers of people to contact when the time comes, and since I am in Mexico, I have a bilingual friend who is responsible for notifying my family.

I am very grateful for having attended the Death Café and learning that simply purchasing a plot in a local cemetery is far short of all that is necessary when you pass away in a foreign country. And since I also live in a non-English-speaking foreign country, I have done all that I can do make the burden on my family as light as possible.

A final point that I would like to make is that, even if you reside in your home country, it is always a good idea to discuss with your family, loved ones, or even a close friend what your wishes would be in the event of an accident or illness and where to find important papers and documents that you or your family will need. But, as I said, more detailed information will be in a future post, and so, until next time, stay safe everyone. Nos vemos.

Video of my Presentation

For those of you who may have wanted to see my presentation, but were unable due to your circumstances, I am pasting the link here:

https://democratsabroad.webex.com/democratsabroad/ldr.php?RCID=080e661c73bf4da6a398500ed31d902d

Please keep in mind that although Democrats Abroad is the host, this is not a political presentation, but rather I tell my story of how volunteering opened the world for me and eventually led me to my life here in Mexico. It runs for about 54 minutes.

If you have any comments, questions, or care to share your own experiences, please feel free to leave a comment. So – enjoy the video and enjoy the rest of your day.

Save the Date for my Livestream

Hello to all my readers and I hope you are all safe and well.

I am thrilled to share the news that I will be doing my first livestream presentation. It will be on the WebEx platform and I will be talking about my experiences as a volunteer, how these experiences eventually led me to live in Mexico and what life in rural Mexico is like. The host will be Democrats Abroad Mexico, but this is not a political event. I just will be sharing the experiences and benefits of volunteering and living abroad, as well as talk about Rotary International and Project Amigo, just as I do with this blog. For those who will be unable to attend, it will be recorded. No RSVP is needed.

It will be held on Wednesday, May 19th at 7pm Mexico City time.

The link is:

https://democratsabroad.webex.com/democratsabroad/e.php?MTID=ma11dcb3d7b5bc912f026af4545f1b695

and the password is: dems

You will be able to comment or ask questions. So, I look forward to “meeting” you all in real time and having a fun and lively conversation. Take care and have a great week !

It’s election season!!! – so that means Let’s Dance!!!

I’m going to keep this post short, as I am also preparing for a live presentation/conference about life here in rural Mexico and how I came to live here. I will also shortly be preparing a program in Spanish and one in English regarding end-of-life care vis-à-vis healthcare proxies. I will keep you all informed of those broadcasts, which will not be here on my blog, but will provide links so that those interested can join.

Anyway, election season is here, at least here in the state of Colima. It is not long and drawn-out as in some other countries where candidates might begin electioneering for the next round of votes shortly after entering office. Our elections will be in June. So we are starting to see the electioneering only two months ahead of the voting.

Some of the offices for which people will be voting are the governor of Colima and the president of Comala (a municipality of Colima). Signs are hung from walls of buildings and balconies. People may be ignoring them or reading them with interest, but as far as I can tell, there is no rancor such as tearing them down or fights among neighbors. Or maybe I am just unaware since my Spanish still isn’t 100% perfect – which also helped out where gossip was concerned. When I first moved here, I did not understand a lot of the conversations I was hearing, so I had a good excuse not to have to take sides in gossip. As my Spanish improved, I could feign ignorance and poor understanding of the language even when I could understand the topic of conversation…………….But it does seem that everyone is ignoring them.

On radio and television, they will air commercials for the political parties, one after the other (there are 4 major parties here – Morena, PAN, PRI and PRD). As far as I can tell, there is no station that airs only one party to the exclusion of the others.

And now we come to the dance music. I don’t know about the large cities throughout Mexico, but we are a rural/agricultural state here and maybe different, but cars with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs blare music and songs extolling the virtues of their preferred candidate and party. The music just makes you want to dance, and I imagine that even if it is not for your preferred candidate, just listening to it will make you dance – or want to dance and brighten your day.

So for your enjoyment, I bring you a little bit of political music, Colimense style:

Making Pizza in Colima

Have you ever inhaled a pleasing aroma and it brought back wonderful memories of your childhood or a pleasant event? In addition, have you ever had a craving for a favorite food? When you are in a foreign land that has a very different cuisine, that is bound to happen. Initially for me, I greatly missed lemons and lemon juice, since everything here is flavored with limes. I also missed bagels, lox and cream cheese, so when I last visited my son, he made sure to take me to a deli where I could have them.

Eventually, you get used to the new flavors of your new country of residence, but at times you still wish for “a taste of home.” Since I am from New York, I can understand why we have so many ethnic neighborhoods with their tasty and varied cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Dominican, Afghan and many, many more.

Over time, you get used to the new foods and flavors – though for me it is still difficult to physically tolerate picante/enchiloso food, seasoned with chilis. In any case, I recently had a craving for pizza, and before I go any further I have to describe pizza in Mexico.

Here in Colima, I have seen two pizza establishments, Little Caesar’s and Benedetti’s. I don’t know about the rest of Mexico, but here everyone likes those pizzas with either pepperoni or ham and pineapple. In addition, once they have their slices, they cover them with ketchup and chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is composed of garlic, peppers, cilantro, parsley, olive oil and salt. I’ll just say it’s okay and leave it at that.

Lourdes’ daughter Nadia made some pizza from scratch, but didn’t like how the crust tasted, so I told her I would ask my son for a recipe, which I did, and then one day we had “pizza day” and made our pizza, which came out pretty good.

Sometimes products available in your home country are not available in your current place of residence, and this is what I was faced with here. My son said if you are going to use bottled sauce, you should use marinara sauce. Well, there is no marinara sauce in Colima, so I settled on Prego brand Tradicional and Prego brand Pizza Sauce. Second problem was onion powder. Besides an abundance of fresh garlic and onions, and dried garlic in every configuration you can think of, such as garlic powder, garlic salt and dried chunks of garlic, there is a definite lack of the equivalent when it comes to onions. As a seasoning, garlic is much more popular here. So I searched through several stores and finally came across onion powder in a very large container. So now I have enough onion powder to probably last me the rest of my life.

So Nadia, her husband Gustavo and I set to work making the sauce, mincing garlic cloves and onion, adding spices to taste and letting it simmer. While it was simmering, we started on the pasta. My son told me he buys the pizza dough already made into balls of dough at the supermarket. Not available here. So he directed me to a web site named “sugarspunrun” and I copied the recipe that was called “The Best Pizza Dough Recipe” and had 5 stars and good reviews. My son also told me it is better if you add a little honey to it. We mixed the dough, put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and set in on a stool in the sun to rise – it’s currently in the 80 degree range Fahrenheit here during the day (26.7 Celsius) so it only took a half hour to double in size.

We then spread out the dough with our fingers, ladled out the sauce, sprinkled imitation mozzarella cheese (no real mozzarella available at this time) and then topped it all off with pepperoni and ham slices. Popped it in the oven, and the flavor was good, but it needed a thinner crust and not so much sauce. So we made a second pizza and it came out much, much better. Everyone LOVED it and no one even put ketchup or chimichurri on it. YAAAYYYY!!!!!

The other day, I bought a bunch of plum tomatoes and decided to make the sauce from scratch. Sautéed minced garlic and onions, added diced tomatoes and put the whole thing over a low flame for I-don’t-remember-how-long. Seasoned to my taste and then blended it with an immersion blender. Since I want to eat healthy, I now use it as a sauce for my steamed vegetables.

And that is my latest adventure in adapting local produce to my taste. As for the lemons mentioned at the beginning, they were occasionally obtainable in Colima City, and now we see them more frequently. So I buy maybe 10 or 20 of them when available and squeeze and freeze the juice so I don’t run out.

So, wherever you are, I hope you will try and come to love the local cuisine, but when you get nostalgic for something from home, there are ways to prepare a familiar dish that is exactly or close to the original (though I still haven’t managed to find anything close to Stouffer’s Frozen Macaroni and Cheese, which is my comfort food when I am recovering from a migraine headache. If anyone can send me a recipe for that, I will be ETERNALLY grateful….).

So, see you next time and ¡Buen Provecho! and Bon Appétit!

Pandemic Life in Mexico – Year #2

Hello once again from my home in Mexico. It has been many months since my last post and honestly, I had been at a loss as to if I should write and what I should write about. There has been so much suffering around the world with the pandemic – sickness, death, loss of jobs, horrific weather, schools and businesses closing; I didn’t feel it was right to post cheery travel blogs nor did I want to write about the misery.

In addition, there were the elections in the United States. It seemed to bring out the worst in many people, especially on social media where people who didn’t even know each other felt free to hurl venom at those with whom they didn’t agree, which led me to finally take a break from social media, which I mostly continue to do today with Facebook and the comments sections of online articles. However, I did do my part by phone banking to assist Americans living abroad to vote, assessing their status and giving them information that they would need to register to vote, obtain their ballot and submit their ballot. So even in the midst of a pandemic and restrictions, I was able to be a part of a wonderful group of people that helped Americans abroad exercise their right to vote.

As some of you may or may not know, I am also a member of Rotary International – a worldwide volunteer service organization. My club has members from many countries around the world and we meet online, in the same manner in which I attended University when I went back to finally earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (graduating at the age of 61 I might add). My club posts our meeting on Monday mornings and we attend at our convenience before the following Sunday night. We pay online and post comments at the end of the meeting. Back in New York, I was a member of what we call a “terra club” where we would meet in person at a set time, but here there are no terra clubs nearby, so I joined what we call “an E club.” It took some getting used to, and at first I missed the in-person camaraderie, but now I have adjusted and am perfectly happy to be able to attend at a time that is convenient for me.

Every year, Rotary has an international convention in a different country every year. Last year’s venue was in Hawaii and this year’s was to be Taipei, but due to the pandemic, both were cancelled, with the convention being held virtually. I hope that they will continue this practice, or at least have a virtual component to it when we can travel again. It would be nice to be able to attend from home for those who are unable or don’t wish to travel every year.

Because I am a retired nurse, I also joined one of our Fellowships for healthcare professionals. It is wonderful to be able to converse with other healthcare professionals around the world, plan projects, learn what is happening in other parts of the globe and have educational conferences. We have had many lectures about Covid-19 since this started and are also involved in other aspects of medicine, such as telehealth, maternal/child care, pediatric heart procedures, etc. Even though I am retired, it is a great way to still be involved in the medical profession and do good in the world.

Meanwhile, here in Mexico, vaccines are being distributed. I had read in the news about various different vaccines being sent to Mexico, including the Russian Sputnik V. After reading about the various brands, I decided that I would take whatever is offered. From what I have read and heard, I believe the brand delivered must vary from state to state. Here in Colima, the healthcare workers are receiving the Pfizer vaccine and the rest of us are receiving AstraZeneca. We had a clinic in the village in which those of us 60 years old and older received our first dose, with the second dose arriving in somewhere between 8-15 weeks. From what I’ve read, the second dose is more effective if given after 12 weeks, so I hope that second shipment arrives after the 12-week mark.

Mexico is using a stoplight system to let people know how severe our pandemic restrictions are at the moment. Currently there are two states that are green, with many others (including Colima) being yellow. Within our village, we have to wear masks outdoors, no celebrations such as for Christmas, Easter, quinceañeras, funerals, etc. However, except for those celebrations, my village is usually pretty quiet anyway. There is plenty of open space here; I think it is quite different for people who live in apartments in major cities, making their lives much more difficult and stressful.

The nearest city is Colima (same as the state, kind of like New York, New York), about 20 km away, 40 minutes by car and one hour or more by bus. Some of the stores allow me in after a temperature check, hand gel, stand on a mat with disinfectant and wear a mask. Some of the stores there will only allow anyone 60+years old, those under 12 years old or pregnant women to enter between the hours of 7am-10am with the same other restrictions (temperature check, etc.). When I went to Toyota the other day for routine maintenance, I was only allowed to enter the dealership alone – no companions allowed.

Regarding school, classes are online only, at least in my area. Fortunately for the grandsons of my friend Lourdes, the teacher has many activities to keep the boys (8 and 10 years old) interested besides the usual studying, reading and writing – such as art projects.

Also regarding education, I have kept in touch with the two students I sponsor at Project Amigo, our local literacy project. We talk with each other by email, and the project has also helped them with care packages of food and cash. They are a little stressed at not being in school and seeing their friends, etc., but are adjusting. Hopefully by the end of the year, or sooner, they will be able to go back to their physical school. I am happy that I live here, just a few streets over from the main office of the project, so that I can stop by, speak with the administrators and find out ways that I can be of help.

On another note, recently we were in the path of the International Space Station and were able to watch it fly overhead – an amazing sight that lasted for 5 minutes. This coming Sunday, it will pass overhead again and Lourdes, her family and I will view it from her backyard. In the meantime, I have shared online videos with them – interviews with astronauts, view of space and the space station, etc. It’s easy to find these videos on YouTube narrated or dubbed in Spanish. Hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future we will visit a planetarium. I see online there is one in Guadalajara, which is only 3 hours away. It will certainly be a nice post-pandemic trip.

So – that is about it for now. Life goes on, we adjust and continue to maintain precautions and with the arrival and distribution of the vaccines, hopefully this pandemic won’t last too much longer and life will continue with fewer restrictions. Meanwhile, I present you with a video about my state of Colima, Mexico and a photo from my kitchen of flowers I received from Lourdes and her family for Valentines’ Day, or as we call it Día de Amistad y Amor (Day of Friendship and Love)

Take care everyone – I hope you stay safe and healthy and have access to all the services that you need.