The Far and Wide Reach of a Helping Hand

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A few years ago I had heard through a good friend in San Miguel about Amistad Canada and the good work they support in this area of Mexico. Health and the well being of the disadvantaged children and their families in the rural communities is the focus of five projects out of the fifteen projects they support in Mexico. Amistad is a Canadian endeavour and continues to be for the most part, started up by a few Canadian retirees over ten years ago. Responding to the vitality and warmth of San Miguel’s community life and the very evident need of the local population for more social support, many people in the expatriate community become active in supporting social agencies that provide services to those in need. Their reach has extended to a dozen or so projects today in Guanajuato, Oaxaca and Jalisco.

Bev and I, together with our friends Anne and Rick, fifteen other Canadians and Americans and the Patronato Pro Ninos staff head to the campo (countryside) to a small community where the mobile units were stationed for the week. We learn and see first hand what this amazing little company has been up to. As well as a Central Health Centre, it operates a fleet of mobile medical and dental vans, the newest ones, being funded by Amistad Canada. The programs give financial support to sick children and dental and medical care to those who have no means or access to either without the help of the Pro Ninos program.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when people gather together, sharing their organizational talents, passion and desire to help those less fortunate in our world. San Miguel is not just a winter haven for retirees. There are committed people wanting to lend a helping hand. Fundraising is a constant to keep the programs running smoothly. Many San Miguel residents have been very generous over the years. To move these vital programs forward, the goal of Patronato Pro Ninos is to include corporate fundraising in the future.

Mother watches as her child’s teeth are examined.
We meet teachers and students at the local school in the village … lots of support from Patronato Pro Ninos here as well
David Winfield, President of Patronato (on far right in beige) and his Executive Director Nory Contractor (center) share information about the programs
Doctor in the mobile unit
The Dentist in charge of the mobile dental van
A flock of sheep greet me as I explore the village
We gather around with Patronato President David Winfield and his highly enthusiastic Executive Director, Nora Contractor, who I must say is the most enthusiastic human being alive. Her passion is helping others.

I am humbled totally. This enthusiastic organization blows me away. There is much good in our world.

I loved watching this little girl ‘watching us’ 😊

Discovering yet another layer of San Miguel de Allende.

March 12, 2020, Amistad hosts a 10th Anniversary Party at Instituto Allende, inviting all Canadians living in San Miguel to the festivities. Bev and I volunteer with a handful of others, helping set up for the afternoon party.

Hanging of the flags
Loved the children’s choir

Bev and I form part of the backstage ‘security detail’ along with local staff 😊


I loved helping out, little as it was .. volunteering is in my blood

Hard to believe I started working on this post just ten brief days ago … how the world, yes literally the world, has changed since then! We learned shortly after that Amistad party on March 12th, that as Canadians, we would have to make our way back to Canada as soon as possible!! I waited another week and just managed to squeak in prior to border closings and the cancellation of many flights back to Canada. I rarely jump into a situation at first blush … I tend to wait for the furor to die down and as such, despite being borderline crazy to leave booking a flight to the last moment, it was pleasant to arrive at all connecting flights and airports with hardly a person around … have never in all my many years of travel, been in such empty airports! It was beyond a surreal experience. I breezed through Queretaro Airport in Mexico, same through Houston and Vancouver, disinfectant handy wipes in hand. Kelowna upon arrival was a total ghost town. Surreal indeed.

To think on March 16th, Bev and I hosted a small going away dinner party for our friends before we all dispersed on various flights to our homes in Canada. It was before “social distancing” became the new normal in our human interactions for the next several weeks if not months!! A few stayed on in San Miguel to weather this coronavirus pandemic here in the comfort of their homes.

Will miss them all 😢

How much has changed since this wonderful night together with good friends. Was it really just a week ago today??!! We now live with the reality of a viral pandemic that is already changing our lives forever. Stay tuned as I sit here in the midst of a 14 day solo isolation period in Kelowna, British Columbia as this global virus situation evolves. It is heartbreaking to be away from family at a time like this.

San Miguel de Allende Magic 2020

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It is early morning. The familiar sunrise ‘song’ of a nearby rooster, our reliable San Miguel alarm clock wakes me up. The rooster is an early bird … getting rather randy at 3:00 am on many mornings 🙄!! Bev and I return for our seventh year, to share a home in this charming cobbly colonial small town in Central Mexico … a town that never ceases to awaken the senses. We settle in, comfy in both our friendship and our home!

Local ladies creating amazing beadwork
Bev skipping along the cobblestones 😊

Travelling with friends has always added a totally different dynamic to my adventures! It is a definite departure from travel with my husband or children and grandchildren or my more frequent typical solo excursions. I welcome the diversity and remain grateful for both family and friends, so willing to share the experience of opening ourselves to different cultures, countries, experiences.

Many years ago, on our first adventure together, Bev and I were delighted to have the opportunity to soak in the warmth of the San Miguel ambiance in lieu of a wintry Calgary. We committed to a month initially, now stretched to two 😊. We get along, despite the odd mild spat once in a blue moon … how cool is that to say after all these years??!!

Love the local street vendors ❤️

I was not always much of a ‘girlfriend’ throughout most of my childhood or even in the decades that followed. I grew up with five sisters, most of us barely a year apart in age … that seemed about as much female company as I needed or wanted.

Times have changed and I have grown to value my women friends over the years … more then I ever thought I would. Despite that, I do so relish a daily dose of quiet solo time, be it walking a nature path in the mountains, parks, beaches or walking the streets of San Miguel … I have heard this yearning for quiet moments in solitude could well be a Finnish trait 🙄. One of my all time favourite ‘activities’ is still laying down in a sauna, in total silence 😌! My Finnish roots run deep. The sauna available at the Rosewood Hotel remains a main draw every year as I sign up for the monthly membership! The gym and pool are peripheral benefits 😂!

A tradition when I sign up at Rosewood … margarita and guacamole on their patio after a good workout and sauna!
Iconic San Miguel street view

A year or so ago when I stayed at the Osho Ashram in Pune, India, what delighted me no end was when I discovered a true Finnish sauna, tucked away in their tiny spa!! Needless to say, I rarely missed a sauna day 😂! I was often the sole occupant! Though my passport is Canadian … and despite that I love and value my country dearly, a substantial part of my soul remains Finnish to the core!

Sauna in Pune, India

But … onward and forward to this charming city of San Miguel where life moves along at a leisurely pace. We walk these familiar cobblestone streets where an interesting array of entertainment offerings are available daily … talks and documentaries at the Biblioteca, musical concerts at Paprika, Bellas Artes, Instituto Allende, plays at Santa Ana, movies at Mercado Sano, dinners in or out with friends, yoga with maestro Antonio, or sometimes opting to just stay put, have a nap, read or enjoy an evening of Netflix, wine and leftovers 😊.

Sunday mornings find Bev and I bathing in community at the Unitarian Universalist Church, where joys and sorrows, music and stories are shared in a deeply spiritual accepting atmosphere of love and respect for all, where every one is welcome … inclusivity permeates the atmosphere!

San Miguel can be as busy or relaxing as one wishes. It is said there are many layers to this magical little city. After living here for a part of all these winters, we continue to peel away layers, always discovering something that stirs and stokes the intellect, warms the heart, connects us to what ultimately sings to our souls …

Bev’s Calgary yoga group, in San Miguel for a retreat join us for lunch
The grand lady of San Miguel .. the neo-gothic 17th century pink spired Parroquia
UU Sunday church services
Me in a happy place, mixing with our spiritual community
The wooden chalice sculpture, a UU symbol created by and donated to the church by a local artist
Rooftop patio dining at Casa Papaya with Anne, Rick, Owen and Heidi
I make weekly stops to sit quietly inside the Parroquia
A visit with Francoise in her new apartment
Police presence in town 😗
Bev’s indulgence above and mine below 😊
Tequila tasting with chilli powdered fruit 😊

Beachside Solitude

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On my own once again. Linda left for the comforts of home last week, leaving me with a bit of quiet time before my next leg of travel to San Miguel de Allende.

I head off for an afternoon stroll to explore the markets, the street side cafes, the graffiti art along the side streets, the Pochutla produce market … all capture the brilliant textures and vibrant colours of this coastal region of Oaxaca, home of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico … undoubtedly the earliest inhabitants!


Given the past few years have been somewhat emotionally charged ones, losing my sister, brother in law and a dear close friend, it has been pure ‘comfort food’ to start off a new year, a new decade in the company of a friend who knows me so well … someone I can just hang with, be myself around, who accepts me despite my many quirks. Good soul infused companionship! Sometimes I even make Linda laugh out loud 😂!

It’s been a pleasant month. Leisurely mornings, sipping coffee on our patio, listening to the waves, the ocean view so soothing. Often we strolled into town for a late breakfast of fresh papaya juice, toast and beans or an omelet at either Posada San Cristobal, Nice Place on the Beach or Buda-Mar next door.

Zipolite has a unique small town vibe with an eclectic mix of accommodations. There are tents perched on the beach, mixed in with thatch roofed huts, small boutique hotels, all manner of little casitas with rooms to rent dotting the hillsides and main streets. Not a five star luxury place within a hundred kms of Zipolite … some sort of building ordinance I would think? The town consists of a handful of streets along the stunningly beautiful Zipolite beach …. normally these bits of real estate are nabbed by the big chain hotels that dot tropical coastal regions around the world. The population is somewhere in the range of a thousand people. It is an interesting mix of various indigenous Mexicans, tourists from everywhere … Americans, Canadians, Italians, French, Germans, Austrians, Finns, Scandinavians! Many are young backpackers who often come for a week and decide to stay for months or years … seekers of every persuasion, artists, musicians, surfers. Some seem lost in a different era … the sixties perhaps 🙄. Lots of alternative lifestyle sorts are drawn to Zipolite … the eclectic extends beyond the accommodations 🙄 … we are definitely an interesting assortment. As a local homeowner told us “there is no place anywhere quite like Zipolite” 😌

My favourite part of living here is enjoying a daily glass of freshly pressed papaya juice every morning! A simple pleasure 😊.

Since Linda left, I have walked the beach to welcome sunrise every morning, sans clothing as many here choose to do. Very natural and freeing. “When in Rome” …….. 😊! I sense this may well be a main draw for many ….. the only legally sanctioned nude beach in all of Mexico. It has become a rather pleasant side benefit this week. I opt for early mornings just before sunrise … fewer if any people around 🙄!! The play of morning light on the water mesmerizes … the gentle ocean breeze on my bare skin … perfecto!

After too many years of a rather haphazard “on again, off again meditation practice”, a meditation routine of sorts is slowly taking shape. I am learning to apply a meditative attitude wherever I am, whatever I am doing. My emotionally turbulent self of old, rarely surfaces … still I do honour that too … it was a chapter in my life … ok maybe too many chapters 😂 … all part of my journey. Today, thankfully, I feel at peace more often than not.

Aaah these rambling reflections rumble around in my head, competing for space with the zenny more mindful moments 🙄

Aiming this year for more calm, less doing, more being, less having, more sharing, less judgement, more kindness, more compassion, more love ❤️

Zipolite – January, 2020

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And so a new year, indeed a new decade begins. Hola 2020! January 1st, Linda and I meet at the airport, catch an early morning flight – Calgary to Huatalco, Oaxaca … and onward via an hour long cab ride to Zipolite! Linda had never travelled to Mexico and was keen to stay at a condo offered to us by a friend of hers … so onward ho to our second global adventure together! Monarca, an 18 suite condo project smack in the middle of the only ‘legal’ nude beach in all of Mexico! A nude beach in this Catholic country ??? 🙄. Say what??!!

It was not tucked away discreetly in a remote part of the beach area, as we had thought, but ran the entire almost two kilometres of beach! Took a few days to become accustomed to bare bums and various other body parts, fully displayed in all their free flying glory!

So after a few days of visual adjustment, the sleepy, zen like ambiance of Zipolite took hold of both Linda and I. There is a relaxing bohemian vibe to this wee Oaxaca town, drawing both young and not so young from all over the world. Gay folks constitute a good number … nice to see such a relaxed accepting atmosphere for those who in past decades, have been so cruelly marginalized. On daily walks through this primarily one street town, cannabis smoke wafts through the air.

Oaxaca is, by and large, the most ethnically complex of Mexico’s thirty-one states. Oaxaca is the historic home of the indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec peoples.

At least half of the population of Oaxaca still speaks an indigenous dialect! Sixteen different indigenous groups have been formally registered as indigenous communities, defined through dialect, customs, food habits, clothing, artistic beadwork, embroidery, rituals. By all accounts, most are gentle, helpful and kind to all of us foreigners invading their turf. Of course as tourism helps keep most everyone employed it becomes a circle of reciprocity. The history of this state intrigues .. onward with some research!

No surprise running into two Finlanders one evening. Seems wherever I travel, I run into someone who is from Finland!! Be it in such far flung unusual places as Pune, Dubai, Quito, Ulaanbaatar, or parts in between throughout Europe and Asia, Finns are out there exploring the world! So why not add tiny town Zipolite into the mix??! I imagine my own gypsy tendencies could well be a cultural heritage 😂

Sunrise to sunset …. papaya juices to margaritas, Linda and I indulge ❤️

Morning view from our patio ❤️

December’s Tender, Joyful, Celebratory Moments 2019

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December 10th, I close my Kelowna home down for the winter, head to the airport and arrive shortly after to a rather … hmmm … minus Celsius double digit wintry Calgary just in time to celebrate Oliver’s 5th Birthday. I doubt there is a sweeter more dear five year old anywhere. He is a kind, thoughtful, giving, sensitive, compassionate little soul. He is also a little rascal trickster at times, delighting my heart no end! I love him so dearly.

It was a busy month with many family dinners, skating and skiing outings, Christmas gift exchanges and of course, Sarah, Rob and Rob’s brother Jackson’s annual Christmas Eve party! New this year was sharing Christmas Day at Rob’s sister Lisa’s home with the James and Overmann families and Lisa’s partner Rick and his mom Janet. (Drats … totally forgot to take pictures at Lisa’s!!!). Delicious dinners all with many love filled moments sharing them. Pictures tell the story 😊

These last weeks are reflective ones … it was a year of both sadness and celebration. Family members and a dear friend passed on to the other side.

When we lose those we love, it reminds us to savour the moments … they are after all, transitory … nothing lasts forever.

I love the Ram Dass quote …. “We are all just walking each other home”. How love filled is that?? What if we collectively made sharing moments of kindness, compassion, love and hugs all around, our daily acts of creativity, of grace? What if we make it a goal to live in the moment, every single day as the wisdom traditions and sages suggest. What if …..

No doubt about it … my grandchildren epitomize living in the moment ❤️. Probably why I so enjoy being around them 😂 … they ground me to the exquisite beauty of life.

And so ends 2019 ❤️.

California Dreaming … A Return to Desert Serenity

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Mickey and I decided early this spring, shortly after Gordon’s passing, to return to La Quinta for our first trip together sans Gordon. A quiet kind of tribute journey … the three musketeers reduced to two. Our time here is short and although poignancy may hang in the air, we are still both buoyant with humour as we revive memories of our early years of friendship and the many global travels we shared over the decades. An early morning sunrise walk in the peaceful Santa Rosa Mountains soothes our souls …

There are many precious memories to savour as we reminisce, walking along these well worn trails or hopping around the boulders of Joshua Tree National Park. Mickey never ceases to crack me up … her sense of humour remains contagious 😂. When we arrived at the car rental booth at Palm Springs airport, for some reason, we were given a teenage boy’s dream car, a turbocharged black Dodge Charger!! Mickey in quick order, dubbed this our ‘Thelma and Louise’ adventure … set us off chuckling as we revved the engine, leaving other cars in a pouf of desert sand …. ok not quite 😂 … The novelty of driving this clamorous muscle car had faded by the next morning! We turned it back in to an astonished young clerk who couldn’t fathom anyone trading in his dream car for a Jetta 😂!!! We figured a few men might relish reliving their teenage years in this vehicle more than we ever would 🤪.

We toast Gordon often, sipping his favourite sauvignon blanc at the various desert happy hours in La Quinta, Joshua Tree or Palm Desert.

La Quinta has long been our Webb family favourite for golf getaways or short winter breaks at the PGA Residence Club villa … memorable holidays were enjoyed over many years with both extended family and friends often invited to join us. Although we sold our interest in the villa a few years ago, I was happy to return to the comforting soothing desert ambiance ….

Memories Light the Corners of My Mind

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Returning to a country for the third time has been an experience tinged in nostalgia. Memories resurface of a twenty four year old me, motoring throughout Austria with my boyfriend Brian (we married a year or so later) and his parents, Norm and Edith … Brian had long wanted to treat his parents to a cultural tour of Austria, home to all the various famous composers, Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn, Mozart. Norm knew every piece of music they had ever written … he was a virtual virtuoso …. his extensive knowledge of classical music and his collection of albums was legendary in Brian’s family. I was a total classical music neophyte. We coached along throughout the bucolic Austrian countryside in 1975, visiting the former homes, now museums, of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn … Norm was often moved to tears, as we walked through the homes, viewed the pianos and violins once instrumental in creating the music he so deeply loved … music that sustained him his whole adult life. I think it may have been his only ‘hobby’ and he excelled at it! It was a magical trip for me too … I well remember the me of decades past, a young woman so full of wonder and hope, so in love with travelling, exploring … new adventures around every corner. I like to think I have retained some of that youthful verve 😙! The body may be showing its age but the attitude remains reasonably fresh 😊.

Flashing forward to my mid fifties, I was again exploring Vienna but this time with a group of friends … I toured the palaces, museums, music halls with my good friends Mickey and Gordon and the rest of the Springbank Travel Troops. It was in many respects, a two week long party throughout Austria and into the Czech Republic. Lots of happy hours where local delicacies were consumed by us all … from the ubiquitous wiener schnitzel and street side stalls serving grilled wurst of every variety or the myriad of pastries such as apfelstrudel, palatschinken, sacher tortes …. washed down with frothy cappuccinos or tasty local white wines. The cafe culture has always been central to life in Vienna and we certainly tried many out after full days of exploring the historical sights … certainly a different experience and perspective from that of my first visit … diversity always welcome in my world.

A dozen or so years later, I am back with my dear friend Linda Mackid. It has been a more sedate trip in some respects … thoroughly enjoyable in its own way. Linda had two back to back knee replacement surgeries in the last few years, resulting in painful sciatica issues as a side effect. Although it curtailed how much exploring we could do, we adapted and explored differently. Linda is a world class trooper with a healthy attitude despite the lack of mobility. Hop On/Hop Off buses and cabs came in handy. Deva Premal’s concert was a highlight for both of us … Sanskrit chant satsangs are by far our favourite kind of concert these days! We did enjoy more classical fare as well, Vivaldi in the beautiful Karlskirche church and Mozart in the stunningly beautiful Musikverein Concert Hall.

Enjoyed lots of great food wherever we stopped. Linda’s favourite .. wiener schnitzel, mine .. gulasch. Surprisingly, we did not consume too many of Austria’s famous pastries. A favourite stop was at an ‘heurigen’ wine garden where we tasted a variety of Austrian white wines that are rarely exported outside the country. On another day, Belvedere Castle to view Gustav Klimt’s famous ‘The Kiss’ … followed by yet another great lunch stop at the palace cafe.

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Our Airbnb apartment in central Vienna was simply lovely … shabby chic elegance throughout … a warm home to savour both our morning coffee or enjoy a glass of local wine in the evenings and some days, crash in our comfy beds for a most welcome nap 🙂

There is no denying the aging process and remembering the verve of a youthful me at 24 , the still somewhat me in denial about the aging process at 55 to the reality at age 67 that time ticks on and muscles, joints and energy may not always be what we wish them to be! But what does remain unchanged, is my intense nomadic tendency to savour and relish walking the cities and towns of whatever country I am in, endlessly exploring, chatting with locals, learning about our differences but more importantly, celebrating what unites us … I hope I never lose my sense of wonder and awe, captivated as I can sometimes be, walking through nature trails or gazing at an amazing piece of art or wandering the hallways of churches, castles and palaces, steeped in the history of bygone days. My gypsy spirit is alive and well … travel continues its hold on my senses, still a strong gateway for exploring both my inner and outer landscapes.

Lovely view from our living room window … will surely miss this.

On the last few days, Linda and I finally stopped to enjoy a food stand wurst sandwich … Austria’s idea of fast food 😊 … delicious! Before heading to the airport, we stopped for cappuccinos, eggs benny and a green smoothie at Cafe Schwarzenberg, one of, if not the oldest cafe in Vienna. A most fitting final Austrian meal 😊.

Auf wiedersehen Austria, tschuss Linda’s Austrian family (love them like my own❤️) … til we meet again.