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  • Background Info About Our Winter Trips

    April 7 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    Each of our travel blogs have included an introduction similar to the one below with a new add-on at the bottom regarding new plans. This introduction has been growing and growing but I like to keep this going as a summary of our life’s major adventures. This year's winter trip is number 16.

    Here's how we caught the travel bug...

    In 1999, after taking a one year leave of absence from our teaching jobs, selling our house and purging most of what we owned, Chris and I packed our bags into a van and headed to Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico, to teach English to Mexican students. Our youngest daughter Caitlin had already left home to perform for a year with a traveling group called Up With People. Our other daughter, Amy had studied Spanish at school, so she traveled to Mexico with us, helping us navigate our way to Zamora. Shortly after we got to our destination, she flew home and started her 3rd year of university. She lived in a townhouse, with two other students, that we had purchased to store 1 roomful of our valuables and to have a place to 'come home to' when we returned. During that year that we taught in Mexico, we fell in love with its daily blue skies and sun, and the latino lifestyle. We promised ourselves, that in our retirement we would return.

    Four years later, after retiring from teaching, we went back to Mexico. We spent four months on the shores of Lake Chapala in Mexico, in a beautiful house where we made lots of wonderful friends.

    The second year we backpacked through Central America from Guatemala to Panama taking a puppet theatre and puppets with us.

    The third year we focused on learning more about the Mayan culture by spending a month in the Yucatan Peninsula, a month in Guatemala, a month backpacking from San Cristobal, in the Chiapas, up the Pacific coast of Mexico to Puerto Vallarta. Along the way, we had several visits with friends. Finally, we ended up once more in Ajijic on Lake Chapala, where we stayed for a month.

    The fifth year, we felt that we wanted to venture a little further south so we did something a little different. We headed to South America following a three week layover in Guatemala where we spent Christmas and New Year's eve with our daughters and one of our future son-in-laws. We took and distributed 300 pairs of reading glasses, continued to learn Spanish and volunteered for two organizations in needy communities in both Guatemala and Ecuador. We helped to paint a huge mural on the side of a coliseum with artist, Susan Shanley. The highlight of our trip was the creation of a Grand Circus of Puppets which was performed by all the children in a Biblioteca (library), as well as 25 volunteers, in Banos, Ecuador.

    Year Six was a favourite of ours. We spent a month in Peru, three months in Bolivia and then returned to Peru to see Machu Picchu. Because we had enjoyed volunteering in the Arte del Mundo library in Ecuador the previous year, we looked for another library to help out in Bolivia. We were able to find another wonderful, non-profit organization called Biblioworks, based in the capital city of Sucre.

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    The North Carolina group who runs this project provides disadvantaged Bolivian communities, in the vicinity of Sucre, with access to books and learning materials. Since 2005, they have been able to build 12 community libraries, support teachers and students, and put countless books in the hands of adults in both North and South America. The eighth library opened when we were there and we took part in an exciting inauguration with our amazing 'boss' from South Carolina, Matt Lynn. What a wonderful organization.

    Our very good friends, Pat and Gail, who we met in Mexico in 1999/2000, joined us in February and March. Due to the generosity of many of our good Ontario friends, we took down 6 puppets which were used in a puppet show, puppet-making workshop materials (so that 200 children can make simple rod puppets), an educational parachute for games, and 200 pairs of
    reading glasses. Four classes at Greensville Public School, near Dundas, Ontario, prepared artwork which we took to Bolivia as part of an art exchange. Fun!

    The next three years were spent back in Mexico. Year Seven was in Ajijic, helping at the Tepehua Community Centre. A fantastic lady, Moonyeen King, was trying to help out the extremely poor people in this part of Chapala by forming a centre where people could eat a hot meal and have a shower once a week, get medical aid and feel that they were part of a community. We helped out by distributing food, playing with the kids, performed a Xmas puppet show and organized the painting of a huge mural on the side of the building, once again led by artist, Susan Shanley. We also travelled to the beautiful Sierra Gorda where we met two very special people, Margarita and Juan, as well as a traveling group of puppeteers. Two hundred pairs of reading glasses were also distributed.

    Year Eight saw us in Queretaro, Mexico - a beautiful old city, just on the west side of Mexico City. There we studied more Spanish and helped out a young puppeteer, Diego Ugalde. Once again we traveled into the amazing Sierra Gorda and then went north to ride the El Chepe train in the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.

    Year Nine. Back to Mexico, but this time in a city south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca. We stayed in a lovely house with beautiful gardens, hidden behind high walls. We started this trip by flying to Manzanillo and spending a week on the ocean with our friends, Pat and Gail. Then off to Cuernavaca where they joined us for a week. We flew to Puerto Escondido for Chris' birthday and saw our friend from Panama, Scott, as well as cottage neighbours, Dale and Michelle. We helped out a young artist who was setting up a business in Cuernavaca. From him we learned how to make traditional Papel Piedra dolls. In March, we flew to Los Angeles and did something that we have never done before. We rented an ESCAPE campervan for a month and camped through South California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Fabulous!

    Year Ten had a big change... Where did we go, and why? Well, I happened to read a blog entry entitled, "Ten Reasons You Should visit Namibia" by fellow Canadian travelers, Kevin and Ruth, and I was hooked.…

    I easily convinced Chris, and without much effort, in the way of coaxing, enticed our friends, Pat and Gail, to join us in Windhoek, Namibia? We went off on a camping safari trip extraordinaire in Namibia and Botswana! Of course, we took puppets for a travelling puppet show, ukuleles and a parachute to give away to a needy community. Pat and Gail flew home in February and we had a few weeks to kill so flew to Capetown, South Africa, where we rented a car and drove a couple of thousand kilometers along the beautiful Indian Ocean coast staying in guesthouses along the way.

    After that amazing trip, we had to rethink where we would like to spend a winter and we came up with a crazy plan.

    When we were in Ecuador, we heard stories from travellers about the thrill of sailing through the San Blas Islands in Panama and the rugged beauty of Colombia.

    So Year Eleven in 2015, was the year that we saw for ourselves what others have been talking about. But Colombia wasn't the only place we visited. The Yucatan and Cuba were also in the picture!

    President Obama recently made the decision to allow Americans to legally visit Cuba and we know that major changes will take place. We wanted to see the real Cuba before those changes took place. It was an eye-opener.

    So, as we ask ourselves every summer, "Where will we spend our winter this year?".

    We are in good shape, physically, and are still up for some adventure so for Year Twelve in 2016, we decided to go back to Colombia and see some of the beautiful areas that we did not get a chance to see on last year's trip. The difference will be that we will meet up with our good friends Pat and Gail and do some parts of this trip together. Ahhh, more Colombian coffee, birds plus the Amazon and good times with our travelling friends.

    Year Thirteen, 2017. We have missed visiting Mexico but still want to continue heading south in South America. So this year, we will spend a month in Uruguay (and a few days in Buenos Aires) and then fly to Mexico City. We have rented a beautiful house for 3 months in Patzcuaro, Mexico. Dear Texan friends live there. We haven’t seen them for at least ten years. It will be a wonderful reunion. Pat and Gail may also come down for a visit and we hope our daughters will have the time to come down too. (These plans sadly didn’t happen.)

    Year Fourteen, 2018/19. A big change in plans this year. We are heading to Portugal! Not just the mainland, but also to the lovely islands of Madeira and several of the Azore Islands. In fact, our daughters and their families have already bought their plane tickets to Sao Miguel in the Azores and will be joining us during the March Break. What fun we will have!

    Year Fifteen, 2019/20. Back to Mexico where we will spend Christmas and New Years close to Puerto Vallarta, in the tiny mountain village of Mascota, then three weeks with our travelling buddies from Bellingham, Washington, Pat and Gail, in the Pacific beach village of Chacala. But that’s not all. At the end of January, we will fly to New Zealand for an action-packed, two month road trip. A great place to travel for Chris’ 70th!

    Well, that trip was cut short by 2 weeks, when the Canadian government told travellers to return home due to the spread of the Corona Virus. In 2021, we did not go on a winter trip. It was the first winter that we stayed home since 2004.

    Year Sixteen, 2022. In October 2021, we took a wonderful weeklong trip to Vancouver Island with our two older grandkids, Audrey (9) and Cal (8) to visit Great Grandma Peg for her 99th birthday. We rented a motorhome in Victoria and drove to Courtenay where she lives. Totem poles, whale watching, hiking through tall trees, oh my!

    Year Seventeen, 2022. We felt that we needed to get back into the saddle and spend the winter in a warm and sunny place. Our longtime friend Jeremy Ament said that he was building a house in Majahua, Guerrero, Mexico on the Pacific Ocean. If we wanted to rent it, we could. We jumped on his offer and glamped in his beautiful house with a pool in the jungle, far from Covid sicknesses. A little paradise for Connie’s upcoming 70th birthday!

    P.S. We are still contemplating trips to Egypt, Mongolia, the Azores, ....

    NOTE: The blog will be written and left in draft form. The way that you see it, is the way it was written.
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