My New Summer Home

Well, I am now safely ensconced in my sister’s house in Maryland – my new U.S. address and home in the summertime. I still have a few boxes of stuff in the basement of my old apartment, which I will retrieve before September, but they mainly contain paperwork and photographs.

About half the space of my car was taken up with photograph albums, about 40 years worth of photographs from before the digital age. Now all those photographs would take up small, thin CD’s, but I wonder if in the future, there will be newer forms of communication onto which these CD images must be transferred. We would be hard-pressed now to find a machine that could play an 8-track tape, though I still believe cassette players and phonographs are still available. I can’t wait to see what the next 40 years will bring, though with each new invention, it will be obsolete by the time I master it.

I am now in a nice suburban-type community, with brick houses that have wide front-yard and backyard green, grassy lawns.  I took a walk this morning, both to break in my new hiking boots and to explore the lay of the land. Sure enough, my lack of a sense of direction immediately came into play. I turned right on the main road instead of left, so instead of finding the light-rail station, I was going in the opposite direction. I truly believe that IF the Earth were truly flat, and IF I had been a ship’s captain before the time of Columbus, I would NEVER have found the end of the Earth and my crew would have been safe from that awful fate.

Mind you, I had Google Maps in my hand while I was making this mistake. I finally stopped and asked another pedestrian where the station was after I had been walking about 40 minutes. This man had what seemed to be an Australian accent, said he had only been here a few months, but indicated that the station was “miles” in the other direction.

However, my walk was not a total loss. I came upon a Barnes and Noble store, several banks, a CVS and a Latino market, where, perhaps, I can buy chayotes and purple tomatillos if I am lucky. Maybe I will even be able to practice my Spanish.

And while we do not have a jardín with a fountain, I did come upon a small park with a statue dedicated to Olympians and Paralympians. There is a statue of a boy and girl holding a globe, tables and chairs and small concrete pillars with plaques inscribed with the names of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, mostly for those who earned medals for swimming.

Either later this evening or tomorrow I will go out again, this time making sure I turn left so that I can eventually find the light-rail station. It was about 76 degrees Fahrenheit when I returned at 9am after walking for 90 minutes, and I was dripping with sweat from the humidity, so I’m not sure when I will go out again.  So – please enjoy the pictures and have a good weekend!


Back in the U.S.A. – Comparing and Contrasting my two lives

I returned to the United States on July 2nd, so I have been back for a little less than 2 weeks. I’ve been very busy trying to pack up my apartment, give away as much as I can, and plow through the piles of paperwork to update my change of address for social security, insurance, etc., etc. Maryland will be my official state of residence as of the end of this month, and once I am back in Cofradía, I will also obtain my residency in Mexico.

People ask if I have experienced culture shock since returning, and honestly the only thing I had to consciously remember was that I could drink the tap water and run my toothbrush under the bathroom faucet to brush my teeth.

The weather is about the same right now as it is in Mexico, so light clothing is fine, and my huaraches are perfect on the paved roads – I don’t have to switch to thick-soled shoes or carefully step from cobblestone to cobblestone to walk in the streets.  There is also a distinct lack of chickens and street dogs, and no children and men riding in the streets on their horses.

One very obvious difference is my accessibility to cash – my bank is 5 minutes away. In Cofradía it is a one hour bus ride to Villa de Alvarez to get to an ATM, along with numerous bank fees and international fees, so I would make the trip only about once per month and take out 7000 pesos, which would last me a month or more.

One pleasant surprise was stepping on a scale when I entered my apartment – I lost 11 pounds when I was away! With the change in diet, exercise and having to walk everywhere, plus the heat causing a decrease in my appetite, I am not surprised. However, since I was losing it slowly, I didn’t realize it until I put on a windbreaker as the rainy season started and noticed it didn’t fit as snugly as it had when I first arrived in January.

I am determined to stay healthy and fit, so I am making a conscious effort to eat as I did in Mexico. Once you have lived in both places, it is easier to see why other people gain weight once they are here in the U.S. I can stop in any one of hundreds of gas stations, coffee shops, diners, etc. to grab a coffee, a roll, a danish or doughnut loaded with sugar and calories. You can drive everywhere here, though in some places that is a necessity due to lack of sufficient local public transportation. As a result, you are eating more calorie-laden, unhealthy food and not burning off those calories through exercise.

In Cofradía, there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you can walk everywhere. Yes, the small tiendas do have things like individual servings of ice cream or packages of cookies, and you can get bread, or sweet bread (pan dulce, conchas, etc.) from the tiendas or panadería, but not in the overwhelming quantities you have here. The good weather also lends itself to increased exercise. While it can be brutally hot during the afternoons, it is cool early in the morning and late in the evening. I was walking 6 km (3.6 miles) 5 or 6 mornings a week with my neighbor Lourdes and going to exercise class at the albergue 4 evenings per week.

I am trying to keep my diet as Mexican as possible, and am lucky that here in the Goshen/Warwick area I am able to find familiar fruits and veggies. I bought chayote at Price Chopper in Warwick, and found some good yellow Mexican mangoes at the Indian market in Middletown. So I made a pot of carrots, zucchini (calabacitas), chayote, tomatillos and red tomatoes cooked up in tomato sauce with some baked chicken.  My refrigerator also contains cheese and eggs, and I have oatmeal in my cabinet, so even with less exercise, my intake should be roughly the same as in Mexico, and I will stay away from processed food and things like bread as much as possible.

In between packing, I am catching up with old friends and with family, and happy that most of my things are going to a good home – people that care about them and will take care of them, and many things will be kept in the family.

As for Rotary, thanks to e-clubs, I can still be a Rotarian and still be active, even though there is no physical club where I am in Mexico. A few days after arriving here, I was the guest speaker at my old club, the Monroe-Woodbury Rotary club, and discussed what it is like being in an e-club and all about my volunteering and life in Mexico. My e-club, the Rotary E Club of the Southwest USA, does have a banner, which they sent to me, so I was able to exchange banners.

Through modern technology and social media, I can still stay in touch with everyone in a timely manner. I thought it would be nice for my grandchildren to get a paper letter from Mexico, so I sent two to them and one to a friend, and it took a month to reach them. One former co-worker sent me a letter, and it took 3 months to reach me! So while I mourn the loss of paper letters, this is so much more efficient, and you can still make it as personal as necessary.

I remember my friend Victor having to be away from home for two years, but being able to talk with his family via Skype. I remember him telling me how his toddler son tried to feed him through the screen, so technology can be a wonderful thing to help families stay in each other’s lives.

So on this note, I will close, and probably not write another post again until August, after I have moved. I really must find time to write to my three students whom I am sponsoring and start a post about GROW, the organization of banana growers that provides immense support to our students at Project Amigo. I am so far behind that everyone must think I have forgotten them, so I will apologize profusely once I am caught up.

Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures, and I’ll speak to you again next month…..20160706_082415

Exchanging banners – Sue Ketterer and Patricia Green



I have had a very good two full-day visit here in Tlaquepaque and will be catching a taxi at 4:45 tomorrow morning to go to the airport and catch my flights home. Since I am going to end up in Stewart Airport, it should surprise no one in the Hudson Valley that I will be going via Los Angeles to Philadelphia and then to Newburgh/Stewart. I leave Guadalajara at 7:15am local time and finally arrive at Stewart at 10:30pm local time, or 14 hours total. But that is OK, and I will only be bringing a carry-on and my laptop case, so I don’t have to worry about customs, immigration and passport lines after having to go pick up my checked bag when landing in LA, which will shave off  a lot of time and stress.

My Casa Tlaquepaque hotel is very nice and a short walk to the Centro where the Feria de San Pedro – Feast of Saint Peter – is taking place. The roads are all paved, which is great as I only brought my huaraches and no other shoes, and as citified as this town is, I never expected to hear roosters crowing in the morning, but there it was. I will be including 2 or 3 photos of a hen from Cofradía.

When I first saw this hen near my house, she was sitting in the street next to the curb, and not moving. At first I wondered if she was dead, and then if she was sick, but upon closer inspection, I could see that her feathers were puffed up and tiny chicken feet were underneath her. As I approached closer, she got up and walked to the other side of the road, with four tiny chicks following her. Apparently she sits on them at night when they all go to sleep.

After getting situated in my room, I decided to do some exploring. I still get lost finding my way around this hotel, even though it is rather small, but finding my way to the Feria was quite easy – right turn out the front door, go to the traffic light, make a left and after one block turn right onto the Calle de Independencia.  No mistaking it as there are pilons blocking traffic from going down that street, so you can walk for many blocks and not have to worry about oncoming traffic, except at the crosswalks to the side streets.

On this plaza – for lack of a better word – there are many shops, museums, restaurants of all types, stores selling clothing and artesanal wares, food, sweets and alcohol of many types. There were street musicians and many statues ranging from commemoration of historic events and people to the abstract. Also tables set up all along the street with handmade wares of many types, including beaded jewelry.

I decided to have lunch at one of the fancy restaurants, the Casa Luna. The interior was amazing, with blue walls that reminded me of the blue in Frida Kahlo’s house, the Casa Azul. There was a huge fake tree with enormous glass raindrops hanging from its bare branches, and large glass decorations scattered throughout the room for which any words I can think of would be inadequate.

There was also live music, including a female singer singing in French. It gave me the feeling of being in France rather than here in Mexico. After spinach salad and lasagna with panela, and a piña colada that I probably shouldn’t have had, I had a bit of a buzz on, and made my way down the street to where the musical entertainment would be.

They had quite a variety of musical entertainment, from a quartet, to an orchestra that played classical music to folkloric groups. I attended last night and the night before, but had to cut it short last night before the big band music started. It was something that I had really wanted to hear, but between the heat and the drink, I really needed to lay down in my air conditioned room.

This morning the first thing I did was confirm my reservation for tomorrow and print out my boarding pass.  Quite different from the U.S., where the airlines won’t allow you to print up your boarding pass ahead of time for international flights.

Afterwards I went for a walk and explored another block parallel to Independencia,visited a museum and came back to pack, just to make sure everything would fit in my two bags, and they do, just barely.

So now, I will post pictures, hit publish and try to get some sleep and get up before dawn…  Enjoy!