Feeling Like a VIF (Very Important Foreigner)

Today’s most urgent task was to get to the bank and take out what I hope will be enough pesos to get me to the border. I underestimated badly last year and hope I didn’t overestimate this year…

I headed out just after noon and stopped in at Kim Express on Juan Carrasco for lunch. It’s tiny hole in the wall type Chinese place that I would have never noticed were it not for their sign on the sidewalk announcing their specials. I’ve been there a few times now and am never disappointed. $44 gets me a decent egg roll, a too large portion of fried rice (if I’m really hungry, I might get through half!), an icy cold tea, and a choice of main. I always go for the beef and broccoli with carrots as it seems like a healthier option than the gooey fried stuff like orange chicken. The restaurant has AC, which is most welcome, and if I go at lunch, I catch the news on their TV (was shocked to hear about the flooding in Houston!). The food is always fresh, too, and never seems like it’s been sitting there for ages. Glad I found them.

Next stop was Scotiabank. There was just one person ahead of me for the ATM, but the line up inside was looooong. So I felt a tad obnoxious cutting to the head of the queue to be next for the teller who changes my money, but did it anyway. I did hear some murmurs behind me and the teller said something quite loudly that I didn’t understand. I handed her my Post-It with what I wanted written on it. I’d added a note saying, “Thanks for your help. This is the last time,” with a smiley face. She laughed at that and asked why it’s the last time and I told her.

Banking done, I headed down to Ley to get a few things and then decided to treat myself to a pulmonía as it could very well be my last time for that. 🙁 When I got to this side and started walking under the crushing humidity, my bags felt twice as heavy as they were and I was really glad I hadn’t walked from Ley to the embarcadero. Thank goodness it’s much cooler by the water. But I’m not complaining! 🙂

Four days left… But I’m buoyed by the fact that this time next week, I’ll be heading into Utah and looking forward to four days of hiking in Arches National Park. In this life by design, the end of an adventure is always the start of a new one!

Last Lunch on the Malecón

I hadn’t planned to go out today, but work for the next and a half dropping in made me acutely aware that I only have five full days left here, of which at least one needs to be full on dedicated to packing and cleaning. If I wanted a final relaxed lunch on the Malecón, today was the day to have it!

It’d been a relaxed day so far. I’d picked up a cinnamon roll at the bakery yesterday to enjoy this morning and I was really happy with how fresh and cinnamony it was without being insanely sweet and gooey. After savouring it with a coffee and enjoying the quiet of an Isla Sunday morning where all you hear at the birds, I went for a long way down the beach. There were lots of herons out and I also saw what I believe to be a hawk as well as a vulture. The vulture was eating a pelican and at one point, a heron came up to them. It really looked like the vulture and the heron were having a chat around the proverbial water cooler. After a few minutes, the heron took off. What an incredible wing span!

I came in not sure what to do with the rest of my day. I’ve been sidelined by “something” since Wednesday and the coughing has kept me up at night, so I’ve been very lethargic because of lack of sleep. It’s really strange — I’m congested and coughing up a lung, but otherwise, I feel fine (except for the lack of sleep, of course). I have a normal appetite and am still enjoying my beer at the end of the day. So I’m not sure I want to say that I’m “sick,” but I definitely don’t have much energy. So I was rather glad for the kick in the butt to go to town!

I headed out around 2:00 (okay, so it would be linner more than lunch) and was slightly concerned that the Copa de Leche wouldn’t be open since so much is closed on Sunday afternoons. I was really craving their enchiladas mole, but was certain I’d find something else suitable along the water if they were closed.

From Emilio Barragán, I took 21 de marzo to Centro rather than Leandro Valle to avoid the big hill and rather than Constitución to avoid construction. 21 de marzo isn’t great for strolling since the sidewalks are lacking and the buses are numerous, but it’s fine on a Sunday and it takes you right to the cathedral. Then, I meandered my way to the water. I’m always surprised by how far the restaurants on the Malecón are from the embarcadero when I walk straight there. Normally, I make stops along the way.

Thankfully, the Copa de Leche had a few customers. Since I have tons of Tecate and Pacifico in the fridge, I “splurged” on a XX (dos equis), which was $5 more and the price that you pay for a beer on the beach here on Isla. It’s the one in the green bottle. Shame there was a truck blocking my view…


Here’s my plate of enchiladas. Buried under all that delicious sauce are three corn tortillas wrapped around a filling of chicken and veggies.


The sauce is so good that I asked for some tortillas so I could mop it up. Tortillas are always free, so if your meal isn’t quite enough, they’re an inexpensive way to stretch out your food a tad. But in this case, it was pure indulgence 🙂 The tortillas came out with a different server and I watched in amusement as he presented the basket to two of the three Mexican tables before I was able to catch his attention. The tortillas were warm and lovely and soft, but with crispy charred edges, just the way I like them best.

The bill was a bit of a shock. I hadn’t paid attention to the enchilada prices and expected them to be $120.


Even with the tip, I came in at under 10CAD for my meal!

I walked along the water for a bit after lunch and then headed back towards the embarcadero, stopping to see if my favourite nieve vendor was working. Yes! My last one of those was prune, strawberry, and lemon. Mmm.

Unfortunately, the mercado is closed on Sunday afternoons, so I wasn’t able to pop in there one last time. I did go to the little Ley for a few sundries.

Tomorrow, I need to go back into town to make a withdrawal of enough pesos to get me to the border. Just in fuel and tolls, I’ll need around $3,000 (230CAD), plus I’ll want enough for a hotel and am willing to pay up to $700 for a bed (54CAD) for a bed. Shame that hotel prices in Mexico aren’t much better than those north of the border. Of course, Totonaka is well under that, but I really don’t want to go there.

Even though departure day is looming, it doesn’t feel real yet. And yet, I am steadily saying my goodbyes.

Little Moments of Joy

April is turning into a distressingly slow month for work. I’m doing what comes in and working leads. Thank goodness I have really good reserves, although I’m not looking forward having to tap into them very soon! Anyway, these things ebb and flow. I’m learning not to freak out over the quiet moments since they never last.

Today, I did a small job then spent a few hours refreshing my professional site and also creating a Facebook page for my transcription and proofreading services. Around 3:30, I shut down and headed to the beach for a walk.

Well, I had no sooner reached the RV park that there was a dog running up to me and dropping his ball at my feet! I doggy sat him, Cody, a few weeks back and I must have made an impression. Cody’s dad confirmed that I could take him out so off Cody and I went to the water’s edge so I could throw the ball into the ocean and Cody would swim out to get it. He’s a really good dog and listens well, a real joy to play with, and I couldn’t help but laugh with joy at just how happy Cody was to play. After some time, he let me know he’d had enough by grabbing his ball and heading back to the RV park. There, I hosed him off and then accepted a beer from his dad before sitting to chat for a bit. What a way to spend an hour!

I came in and did some chores before going out for dinner. I have had “yardmates” for a few weeks now living in the little suite next to mine, M&S. They’re a young American couple and absolutely lovely. Sharing the yard and laundry with them has not been a hardship like it was sharing with the crazy woman last year. They’d asked me to go to dinner tonight, so we headed to Che’s around 6:30. There, we had a fantastic, and funny, meal since our saucey shrimp came with the heads on them and we had a lot of work to (and mess to clean up) to get to our food! They’re trying to figure out their lives and partook of some of my “being there, did the questioning, here was my solution” experience.

The beach was very dark as we walked home. It’s really peaceful at that time of night, especially with the sound of the surf. I’ve never had any concerns walking when I can barely see a few inches in front of me.

We came in our respective doors and, unbeknownst to me, M was putting together a surprise for me as I was putting out my water bottle. She showed up at my door with a huge slice of “guava pie,” which is basically a cheesecake (complete with Graham cracker crust) with chopped guava over top and caramel. I was rather craving something sweet after all that garlic so it’s hitting the spot! Not bad neighbours, huh?

Days like today are numbered and I’m savouring them!

Last Full Week

I’m starting my journey north next Saturday, April 23rd. So this is my last full week in Mazatlán.

Things are kind of in limbo right now because of work unexpectedly grinding to a halt. I’m not worried as things always pick up and I did better in February and March than I thought, although I have a significant outstanding receivable that I’m concerned about. But it doesn’t look like I’ll have any income worth mentioning for April and May. That determines what kind of trip north I’ll have. Thankfully, the coffers are in fine shape and so far I don’t need to change my Europe plans, even though I’m still not at a point of being able to focus on that. I tend to be a one milestone at a time kind of gal.

One thing that is helping me be so relaxed about this lull is my beloved Haven. I remember when departure day would loom when I was full-timing and I was always stressed about where I’d land and how long I could stay. With Haven, I know I can land sometime in May and be in absolutely no rush to head out again. I’m not looking forward to insane grocery prices and crappy internet, but setting foot on my very own 5,000 square feet of property?  I can’t wait. Four years now that I’ve owned Haven and the novelty of having my own land hasn’t worn off.

But there is a whole country between my Mexican casita and Haven. It’s not like I can snap my heels together and, poof, be in Saskatchewan. Because of work commitments in the spring, I did a mad dash south. With spring having come early to Haven, I thought of doing the same thing to go north, only with a long stop in Wyoming rather than in Nogales. My friend Vicki, whom I stayed with in Keystone last year, is going to be in Cody for the summer and has graciously invited me to pop in. Cody is on one of my three most direct routes home from Nogales, not even a detour, so it’s a no brainer to go!

That means I’ll be driving through Utah. And if I’m driving through Utah, I have to find a way to spend a week at Arches National Park to do some hiking. So now, I’m looking for reasonably priced accommodation around the park, similar to what I did to visit Zion Canyon. I haven’t started doing any real searching yet, so I hope this will be possible. With the current exchange rate, anything more than 40USD a night will be a stretch (I paid less than that in Hurricane to visit Zion, at a weekly rate). Of course, I can reduce the stay to a few nights only if I don’t find a reasonable weekly rate. I just want to make sure I can fit in at least two really good hikes.

So far the trip home looks like this:

April 23rd: Isla to San Carlos. I need to find accommodation in San Carlos since I refuse to stay at Totonaka. I’ve been asked why I go out of my way and don’t stay in Guaymas instead. San Carlos will be my last chance to see the ocean before heading into the desert, then Prairies. I cherished my last Mexico evening last year and think I will regret skipping San Carlos this year.

April 24th: San Carlos to Tucson or even Phoenix. Last year, I had work to do right around border day, so I was glad to have an excuse to stop in Nogales after a tiring morning. But this year, if I don’t cross too late, I’d like to start pushing north, especially since I’ll be gaining an hour. In fact, I’d really like to get as far as Phoenix.

April 25th: Tucson (or Phoenix) to Moab(ish).

Then Moab(ish) to Cody, very likely with a stop halfway. Then Cody to home. As long as I’m on the road by 7:00 or 8:00 am, I’ll be able to get to the border well before it closes and still get home before dark. I don’t feel the pressing need I did last year to be home early in the day.

So at this point, I’m seeing myself at home by the end of the first week of May to the end of the second week of May, two weeks earlier than last year. I’m prioritising the trip to Europe over more gallivanting in the U.S., of which I’ve done plenty. 🙂

This week, I’m just enjoying being on Isla. I went out both days last weekend, so I’m glad to stay in this week and enjoy the beach. I had an nice dinner at Miguel’s last night and my yardmates and I are going out to Che’s on Thursday evening. Next week, I’ll probably want to do a couple of excursions into town, to say my final goodbye to at least the Malecón. I don’t think I’ll be heading back up to the Golden Zone, though. And, of course, I need to start packing and deep cleaning!

I remain a little distressed by how quickly the winter flew by. I wonder what I did all this time and, yet, I know I did a ton, including two vacations! I think part of thing is that while I was here, I didn’t have as much novelty of discovery as I did last year. However I look at it, these have been the best six months of my life.

And now, ¡nuevas aventuras!

A Backwards Day

Normally, I work in the morning and go play in the afternoons. But a tianguis Juárez day is backwards since you want to beat the crowds and get there before all the goods are picked over. So I had a lazy morning, going so far as to take my coffee back to bed, before getting ready to go out. I tried on one of my new blouses with a slim pair of black capris and the difference to the fit compared to my flowy black skirt was amazing! So I decided to wear that outfit even if the fabric weights were a little heavy for a day that was already hot and sticky at 7:30 a.m.

Needless to say, the brief lancha ride to town was woooooonderful. I’m almost jealous of the captains who get to spend their day going back and forth. 🙂

Since this was a “special” day, I treated myself to a doughnut from the vendor at the embarcadero. Don’t miss her if you see her. Her doughnuts are always fresh and never taste of rancid oil, with just enough cinnamony sugar to make them a fluffy treat.

I walked to Júarez last time, it’s only about 3KM, but since I knew I’d walk for a couple of hours there, I didn’t want to be completely wilted at the start. $7.50 for a bus that goes right by the embarcadero just makes sense in these weather conditions. I got on the first bus marked Juárez and the driver stared at me for a second before asking me in English where I was going. I replied in Spanish, “To Juárez, like it says on your windscreen…” All he could say to that was, “Oh.” Strange…

I have a routine now when I go to Juárez. I get off on the edge of the tianguis (flea market) part and go up and down each aisle, oggling clothes and other wares, until I find an agua fresca vendor, and then walk some more in the area. This time, I found a rare vendor who has a smaller size (poor value), but this meant I could get another flavour later and also not have to spend all my time holding a huge cup. My first one of the day was guava (but of course). I then continued exploring the aisles, even though I wasn’t really in a spending mode. It was just fun to see what was on display. I did keep an eye out for the flip-flops I normally buy at the City Deli, but which they don’t currently have in my size.

After about an hour, I headed to the interior market, where I knew I could find a clean bathroom, and then I was ready for tacos! I have my preferred vendor for those and, thankfully, they weren’t too busy, although I was unable to get a seat. I ordered two tacos with everything, confirmed that spicy was fine (whatever they call spicy isn’t), and then did my best to elbow my way to the condiment counter, but failed. A cook took pity on me and asked what I wanted. I said guacamole and salsa mexicana. He put enough of the former on, but not enough of the latter. When I asked for more, he said, “¡Picante!” and I just had to laugh before telling him to go ahead. Two very full and delicious tacos there are just $30! They’re the best deals on tacos I’ve found thus far in Maz. I then went across the street to get a litre of lime agua fresca.

Once I’ve had my tacos and done a circuit of the shops, I’m pretty much done in. I bought fruit from various vendors and then spotted a garbage bag man. I don’t know if this is unique to Maz or if it’s something seen in all of Mexico, but there are guys who collect for a children’s charity (they have official ID to this effect) and for a $10 donation give you two or three large and super thick garbage bags, the best quality I have ever seen. I put out my trash in little bags from the store, but they can add up when trash collection doesn’t happen (it’s not reliable) and I like to consolidate the little bags into a bigger bag for easier handling. Plus, I have yardmates now who have their own trash, so we share a larger bag. Anytime I see a garbage bag man, I “give a donation” so I can have a few of these big high quality bags on reserve. I’ve even flagged one down while sitting in a pulmonía at a red light!

Then, it was time to see if I could get home on the bus without going a million miles out of my way. I flagged down a bus that I thought went by the embarcadero and asked if the driver if that was the case. He said he would go “close” to it. Always the adventurer, I hopped on and started reading the Noreste newspaper I’d picked up at some point. As we approached the corner of Gutíerrez-Najera and Gabriel Leyva, about two blocks from the embarcadero, I had a feeling the driver would turn onto Gutíerrez-Najera, so I signaled to get off. Good thing I wasn’t relying on him to tell me when were close to the embarcadero because I was right! So first successful bus trip home from Juárez!

My yardmates were home from a week away to Guadalajara when I got in around 11:00. I wish I’d made it to Guadalajara at some point, but it was not meant to be.

Now, I need to get to work…