Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sometimes Things Just Go Wrong

view from my hotel
Yesterday, as I was waiting from my late afternoon flight from Vancouver to Mexico City, I had an uneasy feeling.  Nothing specific…I had my boarding pass with an upgrade to Preferred Seating (worth the $40 as I had no one next to me or behind me and was given a blanket and a pillow and boarded ahead of the other economy passengers.) I was able to rest and read for the five hour flight.

The Aztecs hosted Hernan Cortés in this house. He turned out to be a bad guest.

I arrived at the airport at 10:30pm. and paid for my authorized airport taxi to take my to the Hampton Suites Hotel that I had booked through Expedia. If you are travelling in Mexico, always book a taxi in the airport or hotel if possible. When I reach my destination, I am told that the hotel does not not have my reservation and that they are full. I have my printed confirmation but there are no rooms!   What can a woman do?  I want to cry but definitely not a strategy…The nice desk clerk telephones another hotel and dispatches me to an hotel 5 blocks away. A hotel employee rolls my bags through the streets of Mexico City which are dark and almost deserted. Despite the earlier phone call, when we reach the second hotel, it is the same problem….no rooms!

The zócalo is a very big square.
The patient Hampton Suites employee and I set out in search of a third hotel The Central Zócalo hotel. 
Yes, there is a clean, bright room for me. The Balcón Zócalo restaurant looks over the square, one of the largest and certainly the oldest (Aztec times) in the world. I gave my guardian a tip and he gave me a pat on the arm as we parted. Guiding a lady of mature years through the streets of the city was probably not part of his job. At 1:30am, the desk clerk at Hampton Suites called to say that they had a room for Saturday. I am not moving.. Lo siento.

My daughter and I had a discussion earlier this week about temperaments. Some get angry, some get sulky, when I am anxious, I get irritable. None of these reactions would have solved my problem last night. I don't know whose fault the booking was (Expedia, Hampton's booking centre or the hotel) but the employees took good care of me. I was tired and I understood about 1/3 of the Spanish conversation. This can be deceiving to others because they come at me with rapid-fire Spanish and I get overwhelmed…

It is difficult when these misadventures occur but I am safe and getting used to Mexico City.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Last Week at Home

view from the wetlands this morning

I have less than a week to go before I travel to Mexico. January and February have flown by. It seems as though it is already spring on the west coast of Canada! I've walked every day this week and I've noticed new green leaves, pussy willows and blossoms everywhere.
This rhododendron bush is very early.
I have been trying to simplify my travels by packing very little. I will by taking a very small carry-on bag and a tote. Despite all my difficulties with luggage last year, I will still check my suitcase. I won't be able to purchase some of my toiletries in Oaxaca so I don't have an option. I had my hair cut shorter than usual so upkeep will be minimal.

no rain to spoil the camellias
The weather seems so lovely at home that I have mixed feelings about leaving. Oaxaca is very different from Paris. Different foods, different people and a different language.  I'm a little bit afraid. I've researched markets, grocery stores, churches, concerts and special celebrations. Since I will be alone much of the time, I will need to seek out activities and new friends.  I'm sure that when I am volunteering, I will meet interesting new people.
close to home
I will continue to work on my writing and on my blog in Oaxaca. I have packed my stitchery and I am wondering about my small sketch book. There is an excellent lending library in Oaxaca and I have a favourite book store, Amate Books, which is near my apartment. Perhaps I will read some Spanish books while I am in Mexico.

This week, I have prescriptions to fill, banking to arrange, last-minute laundry, and Monsieur-proofing the apartment. I usually put ornaments away so that it is easier to clean. Monsieur is a bit minimalist so
no-wife and no woman-stuff for a while is a bit of a break for him. It's odd but true!

I am still reading the Phillip Yancey book What's so Amazing about Grace and will continue the study-book while I'm away. I feel the tote bag getting heavier as I type.  Oh, well! As my brother keeps repeating "It's all part of the adventure."

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck

Friday, February 13, 2015

Preparing for a Different Trip

Oaxaca 2011
Four years ago, I visited Oaxaca for a month in the summer rainy season. At that time, I was recently retired and had longish red hair. Brown and orange were my wardrobe staples. Now I am planning a carry-on suitcase wardrobe of grey/black/blue clothing that can be washed out in a basin and dried without much fuss. I will be away for 10 weeks. I will be staying in a non-resort area of Mexico and so want to appear modest and inconspicuous.

In the last 4 years, my approach to my wardrobe has changed. I don't need so many pieces and would really prefer to have a simple uniform that I can dress up or down. Four years ago, Monsieur and I were both working so I could afford to have "wardrobe orphans." Today, I have created an "active duty" section of my closet. Gradually, the other items are being donated or given away to friends. As my basic neutrals have changed, accessories, shoes and bags seem "off"but I really can't afford to replace everything. For ideas on how to combine colours that seem difficult, I read The Vivienne Files daily. Janice Riggs has shown me how to use a scarf to integrate colours from different palettes.
I'll probably wear grey capris and many different tops.

For the next few months, there will be few accessories of any sort. Oaxaca is a culturally and historically rich state but its people are poor. I hope to volunteer in a tutoring centre or library so I will probably wear loose pants or a skirt. The weather will be about 28 degrees celsius with cooler nights and mornings. I will probably walk over 8-10 km. of really treacherous sidewalks. Retired Teacher, a very interesting blogger, just wrote about his experiences last week. His blog is definitely worth the visit.

I will miss Paris this year and I will miss sharing "my Paris" with my visiting friends and family, especially Janet who has shared my adventures for three years. I have been doing a lot of research
to locate my nearest market and grocery store. I won't be "eating out" much but will probably prepare simple meals at the apartment. There are few sidewalk cafés but a lot of vendors and food trucks. The first year that I visited, I bought a tamale in the park and my host cautioned me against it. However, I met a Home Ec teacher from Baltimore who ate from every mercado in the villages and had no problem. I've had hepatitis shots and will be packing Immodium so I should be okay.

If the food is freshly cooked, it should be safe for me to eat.
There are lots of cultural and religious activities during the Lenten season in Oaxaca.  Music and colourful processions occur at least once a week. It's only two weeks until departure and I am eager to go.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Sense of Belonging

a new library book

I haven't been blogging much these days as I've been busy reading and trying to write a plot outline for
a simple "chapter book" for ages 8-10. I have visited the editor ( who does in fact publish award-winning children's books) with ideas but so far I have come up with "nothing that I could sell".

Consequently, I have been reading an assortment of Newbery award-winning children's books for ideas. What I know for sure is that my first attempt is not going to win any awards! My editor is not going to let me "waste time" on an idea that has no potential. Discouraging... but that's life! I'll be seeing him next week for another session.

In order to read these books, I've been visiting the library frequently. Often I pick up books from the display shelf and this week, I am reading Count Me In by Emily White. The book discusses the need that we have for belonging to a larger group. Apparently, it is not the number of people that we encounter that determines our sense of belonging  but the number of people that we perceive as helpful, interesting and trustworthy.
Amazing Grace
Speaking from personal experience, I have made many connections since joining a "small group" at 
church. Right now, we are reading and discussing What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey. We often use words like "graceful" or "gracious" but our group is having difficulty defining what "grace" really means. This group of people definitely has enriched my life spiritually, intellectually and socially. This afternoon, one of the members will come for a private French class.
spring on the coffee table
While it seems contradictory, did you know that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton found that those who described there homes as "warm" and "welcoming"  were most likely to be interacting with the community. There is a "psychological link" between having flowers on a table and engaging in the community.

In three weeks, I will be in another "nest" in a different community. I'm a little afraid because I have no visitors coming from home. I will be volunteering and there is a large and welcoming "ex-pat" community so I'm sure that I will quickly acclimatize. My first "home" will be Casa Pereyra, where I will have a two level suite with private sitting area. Lots of room for reading and writing!

Well, on to my teaching time now. I may need some refresher classes in Mexico as I have focussed on French for so long!

Planning is the almost the best part of the adventure!