Mexico Life
On her horse Pico, Kerry of Chapala is part of a sort-of virtual 100-mile horseback ride. On her horse Pico, Kerry of Chapala is part of a sort-of virtual 100-mile horseback ride.

Stuck inside: readers share their tips for keeping busy—and having fun

From cooking classes to making origami paper cranes, expats keep busy while staying home

So here we are, six months or so down the road from the first lockdown orders. We’ve realized the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon; like it or not, we’re in this for the long run.

So what have you been doing?

Several hundred responses to posts on multiple expat Facebook pages gave us some answers. Many have picked up things they used to enjoy doing: playing music, knitting and sewing, all sorts of hobbies. Since there’s no going out to restaurants as much (or at all), you’re also spending lots of time in the kitchen. trying new recipes and revisiting old ones.

“A friend gave me some sourdough starter, so I’ve been playing with that,” shared Molly from Puerto Vallarta. “So far I’ve made bread, flatbread, crackers, pancakes, focaccia and cinnamon rolls.”

Mazatlán snowbird Claudia — whose plans are on hold this season — started playing the piano again. “Signed up for lessons online and am really enjoying it!” she wrote. In Lake Chapala, Sidmini is using this time to improve her ukulele skills.

Molly from Puerto Vallarta has started painting again.
Molly from Puerto Vallarta has started painting again.

And she wasn’t the only one: Sam, Tish, Carol and Greg all said they’re learning to play the ukulele through YouTube and lots of practicing.

YouTube seems to be the “teacher” of choice for just about everything.

“Using tutorials on YouTube, I started painting again,” Molly added. “I’ve been dabbling in both acrylics and oils.”

From their home in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Sharlene (who must be a saint) said her husband has been using YouTube to learn to play the harmonica. They’re both taking Spanish lessons on YouTube as well.

Learning a language, mostly Spanish, was mentioned by many. Whether starting from scratch or adding to what they already know, most people are using DuoLingo and YouTube for learning, although some chose other options.

“I’ve been taking a remote course in Náhuatl,” wrote Pat from San Miguel de Allende. “It’s lots of fun and I’m learning about the influence and remnants of Náhuatl in Mexican Spanish.”

In La Paz, photography and cooking classes have kept Jack busy.
In La Paz, photography and cooking classes have kept Jack busy.

A reader in Bucerías, Nayarit, wrote that she wanted more structure than DuoLingo offered to help her learn Italian, so she ordered the “Living Language” course through Amazon. It includes CDs and workbooks and also has an online audio component.

“I’m thrilled that my brain is open to learn another language,” said Kristen. English is her first language and she’s about 85% fluent in Spanish. “Learning Italian ties in with my long-term goal of finally going to Italy, where my family is from. That may not be for a couple of years, but at least I’ll be able to communicate once I’m there.”

In La Paz, Baja California Sur, amateur photographer Jack has been learning macro photography and Photoshop techniques and exploring Mexican cooking with online classes. But, he says, “I’m more than ready to go to a restaurant with friends, have a drink, take their photo, and then make a caricature of them!”

Those who sew have completed projects that had been stuffed away in closets and cupboards (which got a good cleaning in the process too).

In Mazatlán, Karen finished three quilts she’d started 10 years ago, and then “pieced and completed” a fourth. Her newest project is making reusable shopping bags out of old blue jeans, since the city just passed an ordinance doing away with plastic bags in grocery stores.

From outside of Guanajuato, Annie, who runs a local women’s sewing group, pivoted to keep the group going. Now they meet in her garage in groups of three at a time. “Happy to be busy!” she said.

Lots of people are doing puzzles, and in Mazatlán, Nancy found a papelería with good quality puzzles. She’s dedicated an entire room and table to her new hobby.

“Puzzling has become sort of a ‘pandemic obsession’ during the past few months for me,” she wrote, adding that she spends “about 15 hours doing puzzles during a particularly obsessive week.”

Some of you looked at the proverbial “bucket list,” and finally started doing something about it.

“I’d always been fascinated by origami and thought this was the perfect time to try it,” said Lori in Mexico City. “When I read about the tradition of senbazuru, that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted happiness and eternal good luck, I thought, hey, why not?”

Lori ordered the patterned paper and an instruction book from Amazon, and also uses YouTube. She folds three to five cranes a day, and has made so many she had to empty a drawer to store them in.

When lockdown started, Glen, an artist in San Miguel de Allende, began looking beyond her studio for things to do. She dug out a dart board she’d bought years ago, ordered darts from Amazon and looked up games and rules online.

Puzzles have become a pandemic obsession for Nancy in Mazatlán.
Puzzles have become a pandemic obsession for Nancy in Mazatlán.

“You can’t go out with friends, and I do so much stuff on the computer, this gives me an ‘exit stage left’ activity,” she said. “And I think it’s good for you — it sharpens eye/hand coordination, visualization and just going for it.”

“In the beginning I kept hitting the wall of my patio, so I put a sheet of cork around the target,” Glen laughed. “Then I got better! It’s satisfying and rewarding to see my progress.”

Covid restrictions have forced many of us to expand our technological abilities in ways we never thought we would. Besides binging Netflix series, rewatching Game of Thrones and playing video games like the super-addictive Animal Crossing, you’re having book club meetings, happy hours, yoga and pilates classes on Zoom; spending more video-call time with grandkids and family north of the border using Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts, and discovering all kinds of virtual activities to keep you busy, productive and happy.

In Chapala, Kerry and her horse Pico have perhaps the most unusual online activity we heard about.

“I’m participating in a virtual 100-mile horseback ride called the Virtual Tevis Cup,” she wrote. Because of the pandemic, this equestrian race – usually held live on the United States’ historic Western States Trail — pivoted to a virtual competition based on the honor system.

Participants log in and “see” where on the trail they would be while they log the miles on their own horses, wherever they are. So far, Kerry and Pico have logged about 65 miles.

But Joanne shared perhaps the simplest and most satisfying stuck-inside activity of all.

“My husband and I are daydreaming and planning our retirement in Mexico!”

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