Going Global

One month from today, I’ll be heading off for my sixth Global Volunteer Experience.  Timing is everything in life, and given recent political events, some think it is not the best time to go traipsing around other parts of the globe.  My opinion differs.  What better time to do something positive, to at least try to improve America’s image in other parts of the world, than now?

For those of you new to Global Volunteers, here’s a little background.  We go where we are invited, and do whatever we are asked to do, working closely with members of the host community.  We don’t proselytize — we have no political or religious agenda, other than to make friends and learn about a culture different from our own.   The only stated goal is to “wage peace and promote justice”.  I love that.

So far, I’ve worked in a preschool in Anse La Reye, St. Lucia, elementary schools in Hanoi, Vietnam and Rarotonga, Cook Islands and twice at a technical college in Queretaro, Mexico.

So, where to this time, you ask?  Beja, Portugal, in the Alentejo region.   Never heard of it?  Neither had I until I signed up.  And that’s one more thing to like about Global Volunteers:  you get to live in areas you might never have thought of visiting.

Another Global Volunteer plus is the wonderful friendships that you make.  This trip will be a mini-reunion for three of us that served on my very first project in St Lucia.

Jeanne, Norina, Laurie and I in the bar at JJ’s Paradise Hotel, on our last evening in St. Lucia.  I will be joining Jeanne and Laurie in Beja.

Not only that, but during our stay, we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the start of GV’s Portugal project.  Seems like perfect timing to me!

And that was the case for two of my other projects.  In November of 2013, I was in Rarotonga when their new Queen was crowned. What a fantastic experience THAT was–the music, the food, the costumes–how lucky was I to be able to share this joyous celebration with the most gracious, friendly people on the planet!

The Queen is the one in gold

Jeanne and I lucked out in  February, 2017,  by being in Queretaro for 100th Anniversary of the signing of their constitution.

Queretaro was the actual site for this historical event, so there were all kinds of special celebrations.  How cool is it to use the side of a centuries old cathedral as a screen for an outdoor multi media show?  We liked it so much,  we saw the show twice.  These photos don’t do the display justice.  Let me just say it was really, really wonderful.

IMG_3953 IMG_3954

If that wasn’t enough, another evening got to hear this stirring rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart” played on bagpipes, in Mexico!!   Here’s a little bit of the sound track for your viewing pleasure.  Irresistible, no?

So, who knows what awaits us in Beja?

I hope you will check back next month and join me, Laurie and Jeanne for a virtual Global Volunteers adventure.  Adeus e obrigado!


A Tale of Two Cities, Part One

“It was the BEST of times…”  Charles Dickens

That’s it. There was no “worst of times”.  Lucky me.  But good times do not make good novelists, so fortunately I’m content to be a sometimes blogger.

My other posts have all been about Querétaro, a delightful historic city–and I am far from done talking about it.  But this post is about  a SECOND undiscovered gem.  Undiscovered by most USA tourists, that is.

Global Volunteers are free on the weekend, so several of us took a bus to Guanajuato,  a two and a half hour ride from Querétaro.

And what a bus it was!  I only wish airplane seats were so comfortable.  Imagine being able to recline your seat without incurring the wrath of the person behind you.  How about having a foot rest so you can stretch your legs out, just like you are in your favorite Lazy boy.  Throw in free movies on your individual TV.  Of course, you have to watch Renee Zellweger speaking Spanish,  with her very full lips out of synch with her words.  That’s the Premiera Plus ( the name of the bus company) experience.   I preferred watching the countryside flash by, but that’s generally how I roll.  

The bus stations In both cities had snack bars, clean bathrooms (the 5 peso entry fee gets you the best seat in the house, toilet paper, soap and paper towels),  and comfortable waiting rooms, for those of you that care about such things.  (I’m definitely in that category.)

Taxis to the historic center were plentiful and inexpensive — 50 pesos, or a little more than $3.00 –got us delivered to our hotel off La Plaza de La Paz.

Check out my luxurious room.  The bathroom was also beautiful--complete with hair dryer, and huge towels.
Check out my luxurious room. The bathroom was also beautiful–complete with hair dryer, and huge towels.

Like Querétaro, Guanajuato is safe, clean, inexpensive, beautiful, friendly, musical, historic—AND it has a miradora–a panoramic view, something I can’t resist.

The pale blue building to the left of the yellow/orange cathedral is our hotel.  The hotel de la Paz
The pale blue building to the left of the yellow/orange cathedral is our hotel. The hotel de la Paz

I rode the funicular to the top of the hill, the site of the statue of el Pipila, who is clearly visible from just about everywhere in the city.

El Pipila
El Pipila

Those so inclined can climb inside, sorta like the Statue of Liberty. I decided to take one for the team, so I climbed to the top, and I’m going to tell you–the view’s not worth it.
See how narrow the stairs are? The ladder to the top is even narrower, and just a tad scary.
So, how did el Pipila get his very own statue at summit of Guanajuato?  Are you getting tired of the history trivia? I hope not, because I’m going to tell you.

The Mexicans decided they had had quite enough of Spanish rule, so they started a rebellion (actually this is more of a Querétaro story, which will be a future post, but I’m drinking wine while I’m writing this, so let’s just go with it. Okay?)
El Pipila put a flat stone on his back to protect him from the Spaniards, who were holed up in a granary and tossing dreadful, dangerous things at him. He set fire to the door of the granary, which allowed the Mexicans to enter, slay with Spaniards and win the battle. Oh my God. Am I REALLY talking about battles and wars? Has it come to that?

Time to change the subject.
Guanajuato has an abundance of museums, and I was able to visit several of them. The things hanging on the walls were all very lovely, but what floats my boat are the buildings that house the exhibits. The Diego Riviera Museum is his childhood home.


I don’t know whether he and Frieda actually slept there, but who cares? The architecture is fantastic, and the cutouts weren’t half bad.
Guanajuato has its fair share of churches, and if there is a wedding happening, I never miss an opportunity to crash it. This lovely bride’s veil was pinned to her groom’s shoulder. After the ceremony was completed, they were unpinned. Don’t know the background, but I thought it was an interesting custom.

imageWhat else can I tell you about Guanajuato?  The food was excellent.  The Mexican wine was delicious, and of course I felt compelled to take photos of everything, so you can see for yourself.

This bread was AMAZING!
This bread was AMAZING!


Enchiladas with mole (my guy's favorite) and green sauce, with frijoles.  For less than $12...including that great bread Nd a cappuccino!
Enchiladas with mole (my guy’s favorite) and green sauce, with frijoles. For less than $12…including that great bread and a cappuccino!


Mexican wineries?  Who knew their wine could be so delicious?
Mexican wineries? Who knew their wine could be so delicious?

I could keep posting photos till your eyes roll back into your heads. But I won’t. I’d encourage you to enjoy visiting this amazing city and will leave you with just two more photos.

One of many bars in the town.
One of many bars in the town.


I'm not sure why Don Quixotes is so big in Guanajuanto.  That's my Ssignment for my next visit.
I’m not sure why Don Quixote is  is so big in Guanajuato. That’s my assignment for my next visit.

I’m almost out of power, so I’ll post. Please forgive the typos…drink a little wine, and this will all make sense to you. Visit this wonderful city and fall in love with it!

Ready for My Close Up

Okay, gang, so here’s the background:

Every day, one of the Global Volunteers writes a journal entry, accompanied by a thought for the day.  These are read aloud when our group meets–either in the morning at breakfast or in the evening before dinner.  As I was the first to arrive in Querétaro, our leader asked me to do the first entry.  Well, guess what–it made it on to the Global Volunteers website, accompanied by photos taken yesterday while I was working at school.

Yes, I know that some of you think I spend all my time cruising the ‘calles’  (that’s ‘streets’ for those of you that don’t share my oh so vast knowledge of the Spanish language; I’m easily as fluent as the average Mexican two year old) but no, I actually DO do something that vaguely resembles work.  Here’s proof:

image image

I tried to imbed a link to the site into this post, but my iPad is cranky this morning, so instead, a copy of my journal entry follows.

However, I  encourage you to wander on over to GlobalVolunteers.org to check out all the wonderful opportunities for personal growth that this organization offers.  I’m kinda hoping that when you see how much fun and how worthwhile the projects are, some of you will be inspired to sign on.  Who knows, maybe we’ll  be together on a future trip!

Journal entry for Sunday, February 8, 2015

Thought for the Day
“Before you try to change the world, let the world change you.”

Volunteers arriving yesterday were greeted by a fiesta going full blast in Hotel Hidalgo’s courtyard. A father of 15 was celebrating his 90th birthday, with 80 of his direct descendants. Perhaps the secret to a long life is to know how to party hearty? Not a bad way to kick off our time in Mexico–with music, dancing and very happy people.

The "birthday boy" is wearing a white hat, and waiting for his guests to arrive.
The “birthday boy” is wearing a white suit.  He’s waiting for his guests to arrive.

Our leader, Pam, has a dedicated group of followers who enjoy serving with her. This is the 7th time Bill has volunteered in Mexico, followed by Roger who is on his 4th tour of duty. Eunice, Mary#1, Joe and Mary #2 will be serving here for the 3rd time. You don’t have to be with Pam for very long to figure out why she inspires such loyalty.

Although this will be the first time in Mexico for Shannon, Leslie and me(Shelley), we have all served in other countries. Lorraine is our “official newbie” and we are all delighted that she has joined the team.

During breakfast in the hotel, we introduced ourselves, then got a well organized and thorough orientation from Pam. Mary and Joe very thoughtfully had obtained brochures and maps IN ENGLISH for all of us. Although Querétaro is a tourist destination, most of the visitors are from other parts of Mexico, so there is not an abundance of English materials. Thanks to Mary and Joe, we can easily view the many appealing options the area offers for our free time.

Carolina, the head of the language department at U. Tech, joined us after breakfast. A warm, inspirational woman, who speaks beautiful English, Carolina shared information about the school and described the positive impact GV has had on the students.

Our meeting concluded with GV’s traditional team building exercises. First, we described fourteen characteristics of an effective team. If our ability to quickly identify those characteristics is any indication, this team will be highly effective indeed. Next, Pam asked us to think about why we signed on for this particular project. In other words, what were our goals. We each wrote three goals on separate index cards, took turns reading them aloud, then Pam grouped similar goals into categories. These were:
Help students
Cultural exchange
Personal growth

After a wonderful lunch, we were free to settle in, explore or rest until we meet for dinner at 7 PM.


Queretaro, Mexico

Okay, for those of you that have visions of me basking in the sun, with a cerveza in one hand and sangria in the other, while you shiver amid the snow flakes, let me disabuse you of that notion. This morning started on the nippy side—39 degrees, according to Weatherbug.

I hit the street early, looking for an ATM. The good news–people on the street understood my Spanish. The bad news? They thought I could actually speak the language, so they went into “rapid” mode for giving directions, but quite fortunately accompanied it with LOTS of pointing.

Those green spots on the map in the last post? They are indeed lovely squares.
Near the hotel

Check out what the locals are wearing. See, I wasn’t kidding about the temperature.

On the taxi ride from the airport, I got the night view of the bustling city of Queretaro, as we roared along the six lane highway.  From what little I could see, it appears to be quite large and modern.

Our hotel is in el centro, the historic district. No cars are allowed on the street in front of the hotel, so the taxi driver very kindly walked me the half block to my destination.
That yellow building is where I’ll be hanging my hat for the next 17 days.

My room is on the second floor, 31 steps up. There is no elevator, so I was grateful that I had taken Pam’s advice and packed light. And I’m happy to have this built in opportunity for exercise.

My room is small, but very clean, and the bed is extra firm, which is my preference. The best part–the wi-fi seems to be working really well from my room.


Okay, so after looking at those photos, wouldn’t you think that my room is windowless? Well, that’s what I thought too, till I stepped into the shower this morning, and found one hiding in there. Not only do I have a window, but it was open all last night!
However, between the blankie on my bed, and el Diablo, I managed to stay quite warm.
Off to explore the old town!