Invierno Number Five

Wow!  How time has flown. It doesn’t seem that long that I was standing at the Nanaimo Airport in November 2nd with my maleta morado nervously awaiting the verdict of the weight of my ONE suitcase!

49.5 pounds!

A personal best!  And now I’m typing this at a downtown (not Nanaimo, yet) Los Angeles Starbucks after quite an unusual period of blogging dormancy. How very unusual because I always have lots to say about absolutely everything and anything. After attending a great MEXTESOL conference in Cancun and staying in that dreadful Americanized Mexican city because my Oaxacan rental did not start until mid November I was very happy to board that overnight Primavera Plus bus bound for my new apartment in the beautiful city of Oaxaca in Oaxaca State. Previous to this particular winter I started my half and half snownird lifestyle in Ajijic, Jalisco for two winters, San Miquel de Allende, Guanajuato for two winters and this was my first winter in Oaxaca.

Three quite distinctive locales with unique features for either snownirds or expats. It’s time for a walkabout in Little Tokyo now so I’m going to sign out now with the intent to return and scribe a comparative but yes, subjective analysis of the three different cities in different Mexican states. This was the first winter I was teaching in an English escuela hence my prolonged absence from blogging. At one point I had a split shift of two different intermediate classes and an additional three hour Satuday class and this naturally occupied a lot of my time. But, naturally I did namage to fit in a trip to Morelia, Patzscuro and the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary in the state of Michican! I also attended Spanish classes and an incredible one dat cooking class at the world class chooling school of Susanna Trilling, a former NYC chef and long time expat.

More incredible details, comments, musings, observations and descriptive write ups to come!  For now please direct your attention of my Twitter feed


Throughout the winter, I  found the 140 character format both a challenge and a way to ‘freeze frame’ those memorable moments that are so transitory but in some cases life and perspective changing!

As Joni Mitchel once wisely sang, ‘Something’s lost and something’s gained in living everyday…’

Totally true/verdad.  So I will return to blogging ‘full tilt boogie’ when I’m back on my transportation mode of choice…Amtrak!  After experiencing the two day Passover observance with my long time Jewish amigas here in Burbank, California I’ll be continuing my looooooong journey homeward bound on Sunday morning arriving in Portland, Oregon, my next ‘port of call’ so to speak on Monday afternoon.

More to follow; so much more thinking backward and forward in a mas o menos zig sag, not linear fashion which is basically how remembrances work anyway. I’m always rather suspect of those memoir writers who appear to be able to reconstruct days, weeks, months and every years in highly detailed accounts compete with dialogue?

Like who are they trying to kid?



Spanish Sentences using Fiesta | Spanish Sentences with Fiesta

Now that I’ve passed my mugwump day in Mexico it’s definitely time to get serious about breaking outta beginner espanol. Some tools recommended by FluentU point the way!

Btw, I’m using the term mugwump as meaning midway point.

Two Month Report on Oaxaca

Just where has the time gone?. I just seems only yesterday that I arrived in this beautiful colonial city. In the last two months, I have settled into my lovely apartment in Barrio Xochimilco, had daily walkabouts and basically gotten into the groove of being a first winter snowbird here.

Being out of the gringo zone definitely works for me. The prices overall are cheaper and it is necessary, not optional to speak Spanish. Many a day actually goes by where the only English I hear is in my head. I only volunteer once a week at the Oaxaca Lending Library where the small community of expats and snowbirds gather. Other than that, I speak English to my TESL students and before and after I have to get along totally en espanol.

I was a bit worried about not being able to attend Spanish Escuel because of my morning7afternoon volunteer and teaching gig but I ve found a school in Centro that offers two and three hour classes in the afternoon. They also offer weaving, cooking and dancing classes as well. This school is fairly close to my home just out of Centro so I will not have taxi expenses.

The taxis are cheaper here than Ajijic or San Miquel de Allende and it s usually easy to flag down a cruising taxi. Smetimes the driver wants to talk in either language: sometimes not. What I have found thus far that there are quite a lot of locals here who have spent varying amounts of time in the United States. They came back voluntarily or were deported in the ongoing border control sweeps.

There are quite a few English schools here and I was fortunate to get a teaching gig at one of them. I thought I was going to start teaching English online this winter and I got all the equipment to do so but I m finding face to face teaching so much more personal as well as enjoyable. I ve done a fair amount of research on the various TESL sites including video series and was quite surprised to find so few of real value as far as my intermediate students are concerned.

Viva   This site has been indispensible for so many aspects of Intermediate English. The creator/teacher, Shayna speaks clearly, slowly enough to understand and does not have either an Australian or English accent. Far too many of the video series are what I call vanity videos. They feature a teacher standing in front of a whiteboard talking to the camera.  Yawn.  What i needed especially in a two or three hour class is interestin visuals and variety not the old chalk talk (albeit with a whiteboard!)

Oaxaca is a wonderfully walkable city devoid of the dreaded cobblestone streets! The sidewalks are much wider here and mostly in reasonable shape. There are the odd perilous patches or high curbs so you still have to be present and pay attention but walking here is so much more enjoyable here than on cobblestones. Centro is more or less in a grid pattern so places are easy to find and walk to.

And the mercados!  I just live for the markets here and each one has its own personality to the Anything Goes El Abastos Mercado to the charming neighbourhood Merced Market quite near my escuela. One thing I bought right during my first visit was a super strong bola made of old but strong and serviceable sugar sacks. A mere five pesos this bag has served me very well on subsequent mercado outings and weekly produce shopping trips.

I did get hit with a bot of bronchitis here possibly due to the heavier traffic and the reduction in air quality. Since I took an early retirement, I have been sick very, very rarely since I no longer operate in a germ pit working environment. I was able to attend the Christman Eve mass on December 24th but on Christmas Day I thought it prudent to go and find a Discount Farmacia and visit a doctor to obtain some antibiotics. Fortunately, during one of my previous walkabouts I had made notice of this efficient combination at the end of my street. With what little energy I had remaining I got in right away to see Dr. Sanchez and she confirmed my diagnosis. I took the prescription next door got my bag of antibiotics, antihistimines so I could sleep and some vile tasting cough syrup.  The fee for the doctor was a mere 30 pesos and the med bag about 20 dollars CAD.

I took a while for my energy to return but now that it has my snowbird life can unfold as usual. I m back walking and exploring different neighbourhoods and getting more serious in practicing my espanol. Starting today, I pledge to study for the next 49 days straight which wil take me to Leap Day at the end of February. Starting today and every Monday I pledge to listen to and apply one of Jack Canfield s Success Principes program. I gratefully received a scholarship at the end of September but the week and months have again slipped by interrupted by the extended Navidad season here.

Time to become more disciplined in my blogging posts, my Spanish and the Canfield Program which actually has its own blog to chronicle my journey through the 58 Success Principles.










ESL Library

Have fallen a bit behind in my blog posts due to a surprising new opportunity to home my English adult teaching skills right here in Centro Oaxaca. But so far, with my two intermediate classes and two conversation classes it’s been tremendously rewarding!

And of course,a very complimentary adjunct to the new TESL online certificate program I’m working on from the University of Arizona. Last night, I finished the first of four components.

As they say, ‘it’s all good’ and it really is!

La Noche de Los Rebanos in Oaxaca


A week ago, I was in one of Oaxaca’s fantastic mercados and my attention was drawn to this poster. I had heard if this only-in-Oaxaca festival and this winter I count myself fortunate that I am present for this years’s event.

And what a spectacle it is! Located all around the zocolo or Plaza Principale as they call it in San Miquel de Allende this is a well organized and yes, heavily policed event. Riot barriers were erected outside a raised walkway where you could view the amazing carvings from an optimum viewing level.

I arrived in the zocolo just as they were setting up and putting up the name signs and I was very glad I did. Within an hour the crowds that could initially move fairly freely to see the exhibits grew to full throng size. By the time I left about 5 o’clock it was a flowing sea of humanity and some it was quequed up to enter the raised walkway.

Because I had arrived early I was not compelled to join the one and two hour wait line.

So what was my impression as a first time visitor?

One word? Incredible1  Apparently, special radishes are grown just for this event. They are huge and carvable. The elaborate carvings even though they are covered need to be spritzed with water during the event so they will make it to the evening. I took my intermediate English class to this amazing event and some of them had never witnessed this festival.

I only stayed until dusk. The crowds were getting bigger by the minute and the line up was forming to view the carvings from the raised walkways around the zocolo.

I missed the fireworks to come later but I did see ALL the radish carvings and corn husk creations!



When do people learn languages?

This it’s such an excellent question and one that has a multitude of different facets. Certainly, my tenure in public school French classes ( grade five to twelve) did not help me become even functional let alone fluent.  Although to their credit they did help me somewhat when traveling in France, Quebec and St. Pierre & Miquelon.

Of much more use in my present post elementary teaching life and lifestyle is Spanish and I only started learning this widespread language during my first snowbird winter in Ajijic and Guadalajara, Jalisco. I became aware of a highly successful Spanish program for mature learners called the Warren Hardy Approach.

Starting with just 100 high frequency verbs I was able to quickly navigate the daily requirements of living in a small lakeside Mexican village albeit one with a significant foreigner population. After two winters there I moved onto San Miquel de Allende, another place with about a ten per cent gringo population. And now I’m happily settled in Oaxaca a larger city with even fewer foreigners.

In this almost immersive environment coupled with additional Spanish language instruction after Navidad I should be able to break out of beginner espanol and speak not only in the present tense but in the past and future as well.

Viva Oaxaca!

Oaxacan Musings of a New Arrival

Time to relaunch my snowbird/retirement blog on a more active basis. Hoy es la dia! This city is so beautiful and sometimes in a very wabi sabi (celebrating the perfection of imperfection) way!


I’m pecking this out at Conchita’s Restaurante awaiting mi comida muy barato. Right here in my barrio at the end of a loooooong lane that goes past the church, a very large cemetery (completely cleaned up after the Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertes) and a neighbourhood pinata making workshop! Manana miercoles/Wednesday en la tardes!

These are the star/estrella shaped pinatas commonly seen at Navidad.. Two winters ago, in my apartment in Ajijic on the balcony I had the village’s biggest pinata which I got hung up overhead in the middle of my balcony/mirador. Must look on Google Drive to see if I can find this 150 peso (bargained down from 180) paper mache wonder! I’m sure it was a tourista attraction in Centro Ajijic that Christmas season! In the new year the rains came and there really is nothing sadder than a soggy falling apart pinata.

But I digress. I’ve now been on this side of the border for three weeks mas o menos. Little less than two weeks in Cancun, 29 hours on an ADO bus getting from there to Oaxaca and just a little over a week here. I’m now nicely settled in my well appointed ground floor apartment in the Xochimilco barrio/ neighborhood.  There are two apartments in this three story white house house and I’m in the front one bedroom apartment. Look for the bars to the back of this picture and you will see my private entrance to the street. Because of the lockable bars I can actually open up my two upper windows for both light and fressshhh air.


The friendly owners, Yolanda and Pablo were on hand to meet me late Saturday night when the ADO local bus arrived an hour late due to traffic and road construction. I miraculously found this place on Craigslist Oaxaca, if you can believe this. Only 6000 pesos all inclusive con WIFI pero no Telecable.  But the movies in the mercados here are ten pesos so no hay problema. 

Since I left Cancun at 6 o’clock and it was an overnight bus there wasn’t a lot to see at night and the intercity stops for passenger pick ups or driver changes were very short. Fortunately, I can still sleep on buses and I had my eye mask.  However, at one presumably higher elevation point the fog was soooo thick I got a bit worried but the drivers here are highly experienced so we made it through. I was incredulous at the totally blind Hail Mary passing on double solid lanes though!

On to what Oaxaca is like.  For starters, just let me say I’m soooo happy, well jubilant, in fact to be outta the gringo zone thus winter. There is a small expat community here but it’s NOT a foreigner dependent place like Ajijic or San Miquel de Allende. In SMA I always felt I just never had though money to go where I wanted and do what I wanted. If anything,I was always mentally beating myself up for not saving or investing enough for my retirement. And I wasn’t living in the right colonia in San Rafael and mi ropa/clothes were all boring and unfashionable. And how come I didn’t have 350 USD for a three mixed media workshop?

No mas! I pay for my beautiful and comfortable ( with pillow top bed) departemente in pesos and the prices of almost everything here is significantly lower. Right this minute I just finished a full comida, soup and ham and cheese torts/sandwich with drink for only 40 pesos. I’m having cafe con leche now while I’m composing this which will bring my tab up to 45 pesos. The noodle soup was not particularly noteworthy but the sandwich was on a fresh crusty bun and included generous amounts of ham, cheese, avocados and crunchy pickles picante. Naturally, there was some type of mole sauce inside; presumably Conchita’s special family recipe.

Much, much too early to identify which one of the seven mole sauces Oaxaca proudly features and celebrates in the Seven Moles of Oaxaca Festival. But I’m positive by the end of March my mole knowledge will increase exponentially as well as my repertoire via cooking classes.

So far, I have done a few walkabouts in Centro stopping in at the Biblioteca/ Oaxaca Lending Library to meet some locals and to volunteer in the cafe on Thursdays 10 to 2. I was also invited to join the insider Clandestine Oaxaca Appreciation Facebook grupo. It was here that I discovered a way cool volunteer opportunity to help out with a Spanish production of the Vagina Monologues.

I though it was going to perhaps be bilingual and was going to try out for a part but at this point mi espanol is still at the beginner stage. I’m just as happy working behind the scenes helping out the director. The first organizational meeting is tomorrow night at a coffee shop in Colonia Reforms.

This V Day Production is a fundraiser for a community agency. It’s a really interesting project and a great artistic outlet. Recently, the playwright, Eve Esler spoke at a conference in Vancouver, B.C. some twenty years after the play’s controversial debut. She remarked on the progress and yes, lack of womens rights worldwide. The play has now been translated into 50 languages and performed internationally usually in February around Valentine’s Day.  

And yes, the topic is absolutely relevant and timely for women (and men) in Mexico due to the still machismo subtext in this culture. I bought the Sunday paper on the weekend and one of the feature articles was on violencia de mujers.

Anyway moving right along let me say on the brink of American Thanksgiving that I am soooo very grateful that I am here in this vibrant city full of very distinctive architecture, history, arts and culture. I AM truly blessed.

Oh, did I mention that the streets are paved and when there are cobblestones they are flattened and cemented in?

That, too.

And what about past and current labour unrest by unruly teachers in the Zocolo?

Well, like anything or anywhere else I have to take the good along with the bad.!

Next week, I’ll post a blog on location IN the Zocolo, the area of Oaxaca that seems to make the international news from time to time.

But Oaxaca IS so much more. Sign up to be notified of new blog postings on either lunes o martes as they are uploaded and follow my ad hoc on-the-fly 140 characterTwitter postings

@jypsygrrl .

! Senora Conchita, la cuenta/check por favor!


Amtrak 15-Day Rail Pass Live Blog – Week One

Just parking this here for future reference since my rental here in Oaxaca is until the end of March and then ‘m flying back to New Orleans to begin with. Then I’ll activate an Amtrak Rail pass and be a hobo until May mas o menos!!


My Week One report on my new winter home in Oaxaca! So very glad to be outta the gringo zona esta invierno!


The white house shows my winter rental in this beautiful city! I am just beyond thrilled to be here!  My apartment is at the front of this white house in the Xochimilco Barrio/Colonia/Neighbourhood.  I arrived here from Cancun after a 29 hour bus ride. OMG. What was I thinking?  In any case after a muy rapidly taxi ride I arrived here and my gracious Mexican landlords Yolanda y Pablo were awaiting me.

It’s the REAL Mexico…at last!

Authors Among Us Right Here in Oaxaca

As an atypical snowbird, I’m currently reading Oaxaca blogs to garner some insider tips so Viva Oaxaca will be my first book purchase here. The ones I brought here well be donated to the Oaxaca Lending Library once I’ve finished reading them.

Do have a Dell tablet bought on sale at Liverpool department store in San Miquel de Allende, Guanajuato (that changes easily back and forth between English and Spanish) with the intention to transition to ebooks but I’m not quite there…yet!

Amate Books?  Will check it out this week! No time like the present, as they say although I’ve always wondered exactly who ‘they’ might be.