Renewing Our Canadian Passports Abroad: A Mexican Version

With such a large family it can really hurt the pocket book to have all passports applied for at one time…so an option is to have them staggered, but not too much so that keeping on top of them becomes a nightmare.  We had 11 of ours limited to just 2 different expiry dates, but now the eldest two girls have flown the coop and so it is not my concern when they expire, or even if they have them!  (well, actually that isn’t true since they need them to come visit us!)

Everette was heading back to Canada so he just did his Renewal back in BC.  Straight forward and simple…and cheaper!  Well, the same cost as other Canadians would be paying if applying for renewal while on Canadian soil.  The savings, however, didn’t warrant a trip back to Canada so the youngest 3 kids and I did ours here in Mexico.

First step was to get our passport photos taken.

We stopped at a photo shop in Chapala where we met the delightful and talented Paulette.  She made the kids comfortable and welcome, making the photo-shoot easy.

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Although a man at the Cdn Passport office in Victoria raised questions about Everette’s photo being taken in Mexico, he was just an uninformed employee who pre-views to make sure you have all the pertinent paperwork before you enter the actual line-up.  When Everette presented all his paperwork to the actual person that accepts the application or renewal, having the photo taken in Mexico seemed of no concern.  It was signed and labeled by a professional photographer as required and that’s all that seemed to matter.

Since it was years since the last time we had to apply for the kids’ passports I had forgotten that both parents needed to be involved in the paperwork, so I neglected to get Everette to fill in the papers before he headed back to Canada.  So off he went to BC, applied for his renewal.  Weeks later I thought I should get our 4 applications sent in only to (re)discover that I needed his signatures on original papers.  So I waited for his return.

Weeks passed and when he received his new passport in Canada he booked a flight back and we ventured into the big city to have everything looked over.  We had to make an appointment for that.  At the Canadian Consulate located on the 8th floor of one of the World Trade Centers.

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Arriving early for our appointment we checked out Maria Bistro

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Everything seemed in order; we paid mucho dinero and made a stop at a DHL to have our package couriered off to the Cdn Consolate in Mexico City.

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We couriered them out on April 6/15.  One day to get to Mexico City, one day to return to us at Chapala, the rest was time spent at the consulate.  We received them May 21/15.  Thirty-nine days!! 6 1/2 weeks.

And I’d like to point out that the one Canadian brochure we received about our passports….was in French!!  I got a chuckle out of that.  I guess I need to brush up on my French.


We are thrilled that they were all approved and finally received.  These ones at least are good for another 5 years (mine is good for 10 years) and we only have a few others to worry about I think in year 2017.  All the adult kids can worry about their own.

Because our passports didn’t arrive before our T.I.P. was to run out on our van, our border-run was only partially successful.  Some of us couldn’t cross the border so Everette (& Danaka) did the van business and applied for their own tourist visas*.

By the way, for those that are curious, our T.I.P. costs about $42US (the actual permit) with a deposit of $300USD (either cash or credit card).  Prices are dependent on the age of the vehicle, so I don’t know how the deposit varies.


* Every time Everette (and Mitchell) fly back from Canada, included in their airfare is a new tourist visa for 180 days.  In essence, Everette didn’t need a new tourist visa as he had only been in Mexico 5 weeks.  But as the driver bringing the vehicle into the country (since I couldn’t cross) he needed a visa for the duration of the permit of the van.  A tourist visa costs approx $25US so it isn’t a biggie, but a necessity.


Grandma Warms Up

All went well for the 10 days my Mom came to visit us from Canada.  After spending 6 weeks at my sister’s place in Ecuador where she claimed it was overcast the entire time and she walked around town with a hot water bottle tucked under her clothes, she loved to bask in the Mexican sun by the poolside with book in hand.

We did farmer’s markets 3 days a week as we usually do.  Hit up a variety of cafes and restaurants, wandered malecons and storefronts, played card games and sat and chatted.  Before we knew it time was up and she was off to enjoy the beginning of spring back home in BC.

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Missing in Action: Radioactive

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We’ve had kids MIA.  Some of these are purported to be adults but they stick their Johnson tongues out like they are children.  Whose kids are these, anyways?

Rauchelle said her Goodbyes/See Ya Later to Mitchell, Maret and Everette and they joined us in Mexico in time for my 50th Birthday.  But first we had to celebrate Maret’s from the previous week (middle of our birthday season).  We only had to wait 13 hours and Layne joined us from Canada & then we jumped into celebrating with cake.  (Sure missing baked cheesecake!!  Just sayin’.)

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Kids were SO excited to have M&M’s back with us, the drive back from the airport was nothing short of LOUD!!  Happy the kids delight in their siblings though Everette and I had to postpone conversation for later in the day because we couldn’t hear each other.  I’m sure there will come a day when our nest is empty and we’ll be reminiscing about times like these.  Or so we’ve been told.

The kids have been making music videos with their friend Emma for several of the kids’ birthdays, and I’d love to share a video (or 2) with you but we aren’t in possession of any.  Maybe in the future; for now I’ve added photos of the video up on the television!!  Sung to Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.2015-02-04 15.39.43

They are hilarious and at the same time well done.  We are all proud of our t(w)eens creativity, perseverance and team-work even thru the trials & fits.  They have done a great job on each of the videos bringing much cheer to the birthday parties.Collage Radioactive

In the (above) top left picture it looks like the presence of ghosts!  And as you can see, Mark is cracking up with laughter.  Gaelyn managed to pull off both a Moonwalk and The Worm (not pictured); and she looks like she’s the Statue of Liberty rather than a sign of Victory!

Collage cakeGlad to have the Sampson family join us for the February-part of party season here at Hotel Perico, and a delight to have RambleCrunch as our long-term neighbours.

Let the Parties Roll!!


Full Circle in Mexico: Photo Collage Mega Overload

It’s been a GREAT year, this 2014.  And we anticipate that 2015 is going to be even better.  More adventures we haven’t even dreamed of, because after all, a lot of 2014 played out completely different than we had imagined at the beginning of the year.  Bigger and Better it turned out to be so that’s what I’m expecting for 2015.

With only hours left before we flip the calendar to the New Year here’s an overview of highlights from our past year.

JANUARY: The year started at Barra de Navidad where a few days later my mom and sister Joanne came to visit.  Though us Johnsons were all sick, we fit in crocodiles and cafe and markets.  After they left we camped on the beaches in Michoacan. Beautiful….

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and before the month was out we were ‘living’ at Ajijic, Jalisco but left shortly for the mountainous interior of Michoacan state where our eldest Layne came to visit us and we celebrated Maret’s 14th Birthday.Collage Layner

We  ventured up into the mountains to marvel at the Monarch butterflies, and visited wonderful Mexican artistic communities famous for copper, furniture making, etc.  We loved this area of Mexico.

FEBRUARY: This is the highest concentration of family celebrations with 3 of our birthdays and Everette’s and my wedding anniversary.  We had a Tigger celebration for Gaelyn’s birthday, and went to the zoo in Guadalajara for Anders’.  That sweet little family, the Sampson’s….their little girl’s birthday is also in February, and we’re hoping they’ll join us this February so we can all celebrate together when their precious K will be turning magical 2!

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MARCH: Toveli turned Twelve.  The kids spent loads of time all spring volunteering with the dog rescue, and for near two weeks they attempted to rescue this mourning dove but sadly it died.  But what a huge learning experience that was.

A highlight of the month was helping prep and celebrate their friend E’s 13th ‘Doctor Who’ birthday.Collage March

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APRIL: We had to temporarily ‘move’ into a couple of apartments in April which helped us prep for our drive north to Canada.  (We thought we were going to be moving to Puerto Rico, but that never transpired.)

MAY: End of April we received a Petition from our children, insisting that we hurry north to surprise their sister Rauchelle for her birthday.  So, we headed to Portland, OR.  Inspite of van troubles & sandstorms we covered coastal northern Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California (& here) lickety split and arrived in Oregon in plenty of time.

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When we got back to British Columbia, a friend we knew from previous years thru homeschooling, invited us to share her house with her and her 3 kids.  Just that gesture helped shape our entire summer, which has become one of our children’s FAVOURED SUMMERS OF ALL TIME!!  Thanks, Shelley!Collage Yaremcio's

Shelley introduced us to the Hamilton’s (Chris and Shelly).  We had showed up to volunteer at their Hobby Farm, but what I discovered later was that Shelly H was initially overwhelmed with our crew and worried that we would be ‘too much’ for her to use.  But, we filled in a need (she desperately wanted help with preschool groups during the week while regular school-aged volunteers were still in school) and that turned in to the kids volunteering full time for the summer, and the family moved onto the farm.Collage Hamilton Farm

JUNE: We enjoyed the summer being at the beaches in Parksville and Qualicum Beach, or stomping grounds for near 20 years of married bliss.  Fun to see our kids enjoy their time here, too.  We left here when Laars was just 2.5 months old.  This summer he turned 7 as we celebrated with our Ortwein friends on the beach at Qualicum.Collage JUNE

JULY: Danaka and Everette spent 2 weeks in Puerto Rico, a few days of which was taking a certification course on Aquaponics, in anticipation of our family settling on the island in the Caribbean sun (wasn’t to be).  While they sweltered in the heat there, we enjoyed a Canada Day and summer days at the Hamilton Hobby Farm.Collage July
Collage July MWAUGUST: Throughout the summer we visited with family and friends.  We shaved heads as we dealt with lice for the very first time, and took excursions to Cathedral Grove, Englishmen River Falls, Lake Cowichan, Duncan, Bramberton, Sooke and (local) Coombs.

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And we made a special trip back down to Portland to share in our Precious Marin’s Second Birthday.Collage Aug Marin

SEPTEMBER: In anticipation of the Farm closing for the winter the kids put in more hours of riding.  Danaka enjoyed ground work but got herself up in the saddle a few times….just can’t find any photos to prove it!  Shelly Hamilton, you got any???

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There was a Year End Party for the farm, the kids helped with final chores before we headed south for another winter.  It was sad Goodbye’s to give, having spent four and a half months getting to know and then loving these people that let us become part of their family.  Kudos to the Hamilton’s.Collage Hamiltons

OCTOBER: We’ve only got one son-in-law at present so he’s high on our priority list so we drove internationally (!!) to be there for his 4oth Birthday.  Well, ok, so they were on our route south….but we would certainly go out of the way for those Burkes anyways.  They are some of our very favourite people, even if we don’t see eye to eye on things.  We still enjoy spending time with them, and celebrating some of the big days of the year with them.  Any day would be nice to spend with them….we’ll take all the days we can get.Collage Seth

And just before we were going to celebrate Halloween and Where the Wild Things Are our second granddaughter showed up.

Elita BurkeNOVEMBER: I had stayed behind in Portland to witness the birth of Elita and provide support for Rauchelle, along with Maret and Mitchell while Everette and the other kids headed to warmer (except at night) climes in anticipation of heading to Mexico.  Finally we were reunited in early November and we made a quick trip south.  We were blessed to be invited to camp at Squire and Cami’s yard in Alamos, a town in the hills of Sonora state where we had never gone before.  It was a delightful weekend with new drinks (Cami started me on gin and tonic) and new friendships and a wonderful time of music.  We arrived at our Mexican destination near the town of Ajijic by the 18th….in time to celebrate Thanksgiving.Collage Nov

DECEMBER: This is month of festivities all around the world, and certainly here in Mexico.  The children helped Tina decorate for every event there is here at Hotel Perico, and they enjoy attending each festive event, too.  The boys are becoming real dancers (the style is hard to decipher).  We could all do with more practise.

Danaka turned 18 on Boxing Day.

Collage DecemberAnd today….what have we done today?  Nice enough for a swim in the outdoor pool, and I worked on this here post reminiscing over pictures.

DSCF0017 The kids are watching a movie, eating chips trying to stay awake in anticipation of champagne at midnight when Everette will blow the shofar and we’ll probably be hearing Mexican music to blaring and the fireworks going off.  All to wish each other…..New Years

Christmas Preps: Decorating Reception

For years we didn’t celebrate Christmas; tired of the expectations, the commercialism, the whiny kids on sugar-highs, the over-extending of ones family for all the activities at the church where we once belonged.  As fun as Bethlehem Walk was it was outright exhausting, particularly with a cart-load of little kids while hubby and teen kids were intimately involved in the activities.  We baked a thousand cookies over weeks.  Music practices never ceased.

For various reasons we caboshed the whole fanfare.  We tired of the Christmas carols (except for a few of them, and Rita MacNeil is still probably one of my favs since her songs weren’t so worn out!).  We stopped sending Christmas cards and sent out Thanksgiving Newsletters instead (which the feedback was absolutely positive, as so many people get tons at Christmas and nothing the rest of the year) which kept family and friends abreast of our almost-yearly addition of new family members at that time in our married life.

So years of quiet solitude, no tree, no lights, no gifts.  It was refreshing.  No squabbles over who got the nicest gift.  No debt-incurred.  A nice dinner, some games and family time.  And usually some chocolate.

Over the past few years we’ve started to do something for each Christmas.  Different each year, there are no expectations.  No tradition.  For some, that’s almost blasphemous.  Christmas without tradition?!!!  Can’t be.

But we’ve enjoyed it, I think… included.  One Christmas my eldest brother+ came to the Island and did a big scrumptious turkey dinner.  Next Christmas we had an impromptu potluck at our palapa on a Baja beach, a mixture of stuffing and fresh skewered prawns, smashed potatoes and baked yams.  Last year we found ourselves sharing fresh snapper with Matt the Frenchman and Pamela in a Mexican fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta where English was certainly the minority.Collage reception

This year we are at Ajijic with people we met in the spring.  Here in time for preparations……and some decorating!  The kids volunteer to help decorate the Reception hall where we hold Movie Nights.  This is enjoyable for them, these artistic kids.  Their creative juices start, and plans are made for our own suites.  But first, the Reception is complete.

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Side note: I found it very interesting that as we sent out less and less Christmas cards the number we received diminished.  Within four years we received virtually NONE.  So much for the Spirit of Giving that everybody else purports, supposedly without any bearing on receiving.  Really???