RETURNING TO MY NORTHERN COUNTRY
After having spent about six months in Mexico, I hoped it wouldn’t be as cold in my province as it had been last year in April on my arrival. This time, I came back a month later to ensure spring would have arrived, and it had indeed done so with a bang. It was the same temperature at my arrival at the Kelowna airport as where I came from, a balmy 24 degrees at 11 p.m.
My cat in her travel kennel didn’t have to shiver at all (after having left her warm second home), and when I let her out at home after 9 hours in her “prison”, she happily started scratching her nails on the steps of my carpeted stairs as soon as she was out of the cage.
Photos of my neighbour washing his horse. This was about the last scene in my calle before I left Mexico.
Adjusting from my calle, where I live in Mexico where people wash their horse in the street, to the very clean streets and very organized life in my Canadian middle-class, conservative city takes some doing. It took me a few weeks to get back into a routine and to resume my life here. My home was not as dusty as I had expected, but the deck was dirty from old snow melts and dust, so cleaning up that section became my first mission. As I am hoping to sell my place this summer, I started with prep for emptying and tidying up articles and furniture that I cannot keep in my newly constructed, 700 square feet condo that, with some luck, will be ready in the fall.
My deck, cleaned up and new plantings of Hibiscus.
One of my beefs in my environment, wherever I am, is smell, as I have a well-working nose with an acute sense of smell. In my Mexican neighbourhood I smell my neighbours at lunch and supper times, when the small fires of barbecues start up with some initial fire-starting liquids and the sharp smell of charcoal burning. I close the window on that side, until they are done with the cooking. No problem.
In my Canadian home, banning the unpleasant smells is not so easy to do. Closing my open window and patio door doesn’t do the trick to stop the smoke of marijuana and tobacco coming in from my neighbours’ homes. If that was the only source, it would be not a problem, but the smell also enters my home through their exhaust system that deposits their used air right next to my fresh air intake in the adjoining breezeway. My stove hood and bathroom fan exhaust systems are located right beside my neighbours’ exhaust outlets. When my exhaust fans are not running, the exhaust openings in the breezeway outside allows the neighbours’ smoke to waft back into my apartment. I have to accept the constant smell of tobacco and marijuana in my home, or have my exhaust fans running all day to vent out the smells and block passive air coming in. This is basically the reason for my move to new digs, beside the thrill of moving into a brand-new home for the first time in my life that is even built with the highest standard of environmentally responsible construction (LEED).
When I arrived, the deciduous trees were all out and the flowering shrubs wafted their sweet smells throughout the neighbourhood. I started walking again; the swimming pool was opened soon afterwards. Although I have to share it with my neighbours, often there is nobody in the pool, and the water is heated to a balmy 25 degrees. To compare it with my Mexican home: I have a small solar-heated pool there with high walls around it for privacy, so I have taken up the habit of skinny-dipping there in water of up to 29 degrees centigrade. It makes me feel ten years younger to be able to shed my clothes and not having to care what my body looks like nowadays.
Photo of pool.
At about five minutes walking distance from my complex, I can turn onto a dead-end road that stops at the end at the back entrance of a gated housing development. From that point on, a system of gravel paths leads to a pond (Munson Pond) with a protective area around it, where no dogs are allowed in protection for the wildlife. Another path where dogs are allowed leads to the next major thoroughfare, KLO Road. By Munson Pond are signs that indicate with pictures (drawing of a dog with a red cross over it) and text that dogs are not allowed, and yet, more than a few times I encountered people with dogs. Recently, even a guy on a bike was racing over the narrow hiking trails with a dog that wasn’t even on a leash trailing behind him). When I pointed out to them that dogs aren’t allowed here, they breezily wave my objection away, and the guy on the bike even called “why not”, as if his dog wouldn’t have it in him to chase geese or quail.
Believe it or not, but I found that Canadians are often just as loathe to follow rules as any other people—they only do it in a politer manner than, let’s say, Dutch people. These friendly people in the wildlife-protected area gave me the impression that they are convinced they are right, or somehow have a status that puts them above the rules, and nobody can convince them otherwise.
By comparison, in Mexico, the free-running dogs are often not leashed and they do their business anywhere. Nobody seems to pick up after the (unleashed) dogs in the streets. In the morning, most women sweep the street in the barrios and for special occasions the water hose is coming out. Living in Mexico’s villages is like returning to my old stomping grounds in Amsterdam of thirty years ago, where the walk in the street on the sidewalks was a dance between the dog piles. I have to say, the residents in my apartment complex and in the Canadian streets do pick up after their dogs.
I guess everything is relative, seen in their context.
We live in a nice and neat development with open access on all sides with lawns all around. The strata fees pay for: fertilizer, irrigation and maintenance/repair, mowing at least weekly and trimming of the edges. Cedar hedges separate the lawns from the parking lot of the business section and the mall. When car owners park in reverse (I have noticed mostly men do that) and start up and run their vehicle stationary, the hedges get the full blast. Every year some have to be replaced as they are burnt from the car exhaust. I don’t know why men have to park backing up in reverse, if not to get a quick get-away when they leave in a hurry after some offence, or is it just on accord of the rat-race—always in a hurry?
Beaver and goose trail to the pond.
The flower for butterflies. I hope there will be many of them this summer. Next time in Mexico, I am planning on visiting the Monarch butterfly sanctuary.
Well, anyway, after having lived and adjustment to my narrow calle in Mexico, where the drivers have to possess extraordinary skills and much patience to squeeze by parked cars at both sides, or a coca cola truck stops all traffic, and the rules seems optional, the Kelowna fast and busy traffic seems very organized and the streets very wide, and some of the drivers are extremely rude and selfish.
The garbage truck coming by in my calle.
I have to conclude that people are in the rat race in the city of Kelowna—as it now feels to me—since I have all the time in the world and have relaxed to a slower pace in retirement. It suits me well.
Having been raised in another world in The Netherlands, and now living in two different worlds in Canada and Mexico, makes one realize there is no perfect way and not one way of doing things. I have taken up my walks and yoga class again, and play Mah Jongg at the recreational centre for seniors, and to occasional visits with friends.
Each country and lifestyle has its advantages and disadvantages. We just have to adjust to the change in scenery. One thing that didn’t change is the talk about Trump and I am getting tired of it!