Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A white Christmas!

I arrived safe and sound here in Canada several days ago. It was a huge shock to the system as it was -25 degrees Celcius when I arrived and there was a significant amount of snow on the ground! Camelia picked me up from the airport with a winter jacket and many warm clothes for me to wear. My suitcase was pretty much empty on the way here as my sandals and tank tops would hardly suffice! Luckily, my friends have lent me sweaters, winter boots, etc so that I do not freeze my butt off!

It has been wonderful to see everyone and I have been very busy since I arrived trying to meet up with all my friends. My first night back, my friends had a welcome home party for me with lots of lovely food (including my favorite Crave cupcakes) and wine. We had a great time and had many laughs reminiscing about old times. A big thanks to Camelia again for organizing the party and making sure I was all set with warm clothes and all my favorite things! I also want to thank Lenise for letting me crash at her house! It is so surreal to be back here in my old place.

Since I have arrived, we have been going out to different restaurants and enjoying all those culinary delights that I have not had in quite some time. My first morning back, we went out for one of my faves - Dim Sum. Since then, we have gone out for Vietnamese food, Ramen noodle bowls, and last night we had some friends over and Camelia and I cooked an organic turkey with yams, potatoes and then enjoyed Saskatoon Berry Pie for dessert from the farmer's market. Next on the list is Thai food, Indian food and of course, Alberta beef! We are planning on doing a prime rib roast for New Years Eve. Hmmmmm........

I have been taking lots of photos of all the food and all my friends but unfortunately, I forgot the cable to transfer them to my computer. Oops! I will definitely post all the photos when I get back to Mexico.

Today, I am back on the road and am taking the bus to Edmonton to spend Christmas with some family. I am really looking forward to seeing them and catching up. Then, I will be back in Calgary for the rest of my stay. I feel so fortunate to be here and definitely have many things to be thankful for this holiday season. A big shout out to Camelia and all my wonderful friends who made this trip possible! I love you guys.

I also want to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. I hope you enjoy every moment with friends and family.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Making a list....checking it twice

I am so excited to be going back to Canada for Christmas. I have been busy unpacking from my month in La Manzanilla, making lists of things to buy in Canada, and most importantly, making lists of things to eat while I am there. Don't get me wrong, the food here in Mexico is delicious and I am loving every bite! And the seafood here is to die for. However, there are some things that I do miss. First and foremost is the utterly divine Alberta steak. I have sampled many a steak in my travels around the world and none of them have held up to good 'ole Alberta beef. Obviously, that was first on my list. Even with the crazy cold temperatures in Calgary right now, I am more than willing to man the grill in my toque (a hat for all you non-Canadians) and scarf for a barbecued rib-eye. I have also been missing Thai, Indian and Vietnamese food which are all within a few minutes drive of where I am staying in Calgary..........I am salivating at the very thought! Oh and let's not forget Dim Sum! Apparently, the first morning after I arrive, Camelia has us set to go for Dim Sum in China Town. The anticipation is killing me! We also have an organic turkey on order from the market for Christmas dinner.

The irony of all this food talk is that I am sitting here writing this whilst eating a toasted tomato and cheese sandwich! I know, I know......but, I just had this craving and it is such a good fall back when you have absolutely nothing in your fridge and do not feel like going out. I remember when my mom lived with me for a while in Calgary, we would both return from work and look at each other and say.......what do you feel like eating? On those days when we (or shall I say I) did not feel like cooking, we would look at each other and say in unison....."toasted tomato and cheese". Ahhhhhh, comfort food. Or, if we were not in the mood for that, we would go for our usual "29A" from the Vietnamese restaurant just a hop, skip and a jump away. Hmmmm...........Good eats...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Going home for Christmas!!!!

I just found out a few days ago that I am going back to Canada for Christmas! When my friend Camelia found out my brother and family were not coming here to Mexico for Christmas, she started canvassing my friends and family to try and collect money to purchase my ticket home. As a result, a significant chunk of my plane ticket has been covered. What an amazing Christmas present! I am so touched....words cannot express what this means to me. So, a BIG thanks to Camelia and everyone who contributed to my plane ticket. I have the best, most thoughtful friends in the world!

I am so excited to see everyone and visit the mountains. Here is a shot from Sulphur Mountain in Banff

I am a little nervous though as the temperature in Calgary right now is -24 degrees Celcius. It is going to be a huge shock to my system after spending almost 5 months here in Mexico. For Calgary, this temperature is very cold and they only get extreme temperatures like this one or two weeks of the winter. And it looks like it is there to stay for a while. So, it would appear that I am heading back to the coldest temperatures of the winter!!!! But, my girlfiends are going to lend me sweaters and boots and I have my winter coats, scarves, mitts, etc packed in a box there that I can use.

I will be staying at my old house - the one I sold to my good friend Lenise. Oh, and I am very excited to build a fire in the fireplace.

Here in Manzanillo, it does not feel like Christmas to me. There are lots of Christmas decorations and things in the malls, but it is a disconnect for me because of the warm weather, I think. I know once I step off that plane in Calgary and see all the snow and Christmas lights, it will feel like Christmas very quickly!

And I will not be able to make snow angels like this here in Mexico!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Last day in La Manzanilla

Today is my last day in La Manzanilla. It is hard to believe that I have been here for 4 weeks! My Spanish has improved considerably and I have a solid base to improve upon. I will have to make a concerted effort to continue practicing on a daily basis once I am back in Manzanillo.

I have become quite attached to my host family here in La Manzanilla and I will miss them dearly. The family and I have developed a strong connection and Rosaura and I have become good friends. They are a very special family and I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity to stay with them and get to know them. I know that we will be life long friends. They have asked me to come back and visit which I will do often. Natalia, the 3 year old, and I have also developed quite a bond. Every day, when I come home from school, she yells out my name and comes running to me and gives me a huge hug. She likes to crawl into the hammock with me and always ask me to sing the same lullaby every day - Rock a Bye Baby. I sang it to her one day and since then, she demands that I sing it to her daily!

Isn't she precious?

Rosaura wanted to learn how to make lasagna, so earlier in the week, we gathered all the necessary ingredients and I taught her how to make my favorite lasagna recipe. The whole family loved it and thinks that Rosaura and I should open a restaurant here! She has also asked that next time I visit, I teach her how to make risotto.

Ketzali and Gina

It is going to be an emotional goodbye for me this evening. It will also be a big adjustment for the dogs to have to go back to my small apartment after being free to roam and play outside all day. They absolutely love it out here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More on La Manzanilla and weekend fun

Last week, here in La Manzanilla, the family I am staying with had a lobster night. They invited many of their friends over and we had a huge lobster feast. What a feast! It was delicious and a big treat.

The father, Hugo preparing the lobsters.

Rosaura cooking the lobsters. She is am amazing cook!!

Elizabeth, the other student in my Spanish class had her last day of class on Friday before returning back to the US. Here she is with one of our teachers Miguel on her last day.

The sunset was stunning that night.

This is my last week here in La Manzanilla. I would love to continue and take more classes but finances and the current situation in the financial markets will not allow it at this time. I have a solid base and will continue to work hard in Manzanillo and practice as much as I can.

On the weekend, I went back to my apartment in Manzanillo and went to a retro costume party for my friend's husband's birthday party. The ony requirement for the party was that you had to dress retro but were not restricted to any one era. Given that I was in La Manzanilla all week, I was not able to organize a costume. Luckily, friend Chelsea let me raid her closet and I was able to put together a disco outfit for the night. There were some great costumes and the creativity was fantastic! My friend Nuly, the organizer, had hired a DJ who played great retro music all night and even had laser/light shows and dry ice! Definitely retro! We danced into the wee hours of the morning.

Chelsea and I in our costumes. Her outfit cracked me up!

Organizer Nuly and birthday boy Nick

Rob and Sandra

Monday, December 1, 2008

I never thought I would say this....

...but I am cold! I am actually wearing a bunny hug right now (hoodie for all the non-Canadians) and have goosebumps. I am being completely serious. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining or anything and fully realize that it is ridiculously cold back in Canada, but I just never thought I would feel cold here. I guess after living here for several months, my body has acclimatized. It is such a strange sensation to feel cold after several months of sweating bullets! When I arrived in class, our teacher was talking about how cold he was today and I was thinking, what???? When class finished at 7pm and I was walking home, I was wishing I had a sweater!

As for the weekend, I went back to Manzanillo. I went out salsa dancing with some girlfriends on Friday. I had not salsa danced in quite some time - it was so much fun. We also went out dancing again on Saturday night. Dancing is good for the soul - I was feeling kind of low and after all that dancing, my spirits are definitely lifted and I feel so much better. I spent alot of time with my girlfriends and was just thinking today about how lucky I am to have made such wonderful friends here. I also got in some beach time with friends which always makes me feel better!

A girl riding her horse on the beach and rode right up to the beach bar we were hanging out at

Here she is with my friend's husband Rob and their little girl Olivia

On Sunday, I helped out with a one day PATA spay/neuter clinic for stray animals in a poor part of Manzanillo. Similar to my experience last week in Melaque, it was very rewarding.

Well, I am on week 3 of my Spanish classes and they are going really well. There is only one other student in my class (there are other students in the school but they only put you with people at a similar level).

The other student Elizabeth (from the US) and one of our 4 teachers - Valentin (he is also a teacher in the local high school).

Here is Rosaura and children Ketzali and Natalia after returning from church tonight.