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Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives, we no longer live under this paradigm of life in a 21st century modern society.

I can remember being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along, inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be and feeling so READY for a change.  

That picture above represents so much of what we were ready to eliminate in our lives—breathing in exhaust fumes, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in a sea of cars. That was not how we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the hundreds of bumpers in front of me and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”. And I don’t, not one little bit. 

Since immigrating to Mexico in 2012, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in other, far more meaningful activities of our choice. 

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.

M on horseback SP 2012

Our daughter learning how to horseback ride in San Pancho, Mexico

 

Wardmens

It’s a kid’s world! Nayarit, Mexico

This is not to say that life was dreadful for us in the States for certainly it was not. San Diego is a beautiful city, “America’s Finest City” after all, with much to offer and experience. Yes, we had some rough patches, but that is just life and part of its various dimensions anywhere.

Without a doubt we miss our family and friends and that continues to be the biggest area of conscious adjustment and acceptance in our transported, immigrated lives…BUT, life here in Mexico for the past four years has proven itself to be a character-building, expansive, sustainable and life-changing move for our family.

We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their third grade year, and within three months of our arrival we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, good luck and having the right legal liason were in our favor as well.

Our twins, a.k.a. “The Reds”, were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Adventuring in Baja

Adventuring in Baja, 2006

 

Baja Babies La Gringa Beach 2008

Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be and something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for

saying goodbye to mom at SD airport 2012

Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012

We arrived to San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children were free!

1st day of a 5-day a week school in the Mexican Jungle Coastal town of San Pancho, after homeschooling for 5 years in San Diego, California

1st day at Escuela del Mundo

While the Spanish immersion component of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city the first eight years of their life. Even without those language advantages, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they can assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only Mairead and Liam their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers graciously and warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Liam 1st Day of School 12-4-12

Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, the went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, it was part of their PE program!

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease.

Costa Verde

4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another

 

Kids in Watering Hole

School field trip to Cañada de la Boca!

Our children are developing their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth. 

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to Writer/Relocation Consultant and Photovoltaic Designer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe.

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca rural school

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca rural school

From San Diego to south of the border, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives in Mexico. 

We thank you Mexico for your warmth, your hospitality, your graciousness and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us and allowing us to feel at home in our new country.

May the adventures continue on!

~Katie

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At the now four and a half year mark into our full-time relocation to mainland Mexico, there are many things that stand out to me as being unique to our adopted country—features that definitely distinguish it and set it aside from our former lives in the U.S.A.

1. A Different Place, A Different Pace

Market

Artesian Market, San Miguel de Allende

Mexico, often referred to as the “land of mañana”, embodies much more than the traditional meaning assigned to this popular cliché. There is an almost palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and take it all in, in large because of the colors, vibrancy, and sensory-rich nature of a “typical” Mexican town—so alive and pulsating with energy from the outdoor markets, music, smells from the fresh, local food; filled with people that embrace, revere and honor their national pride and cultural heritage…that assign importance to their identities and mark and celebrate them with intention and meaning.

Dancers in Banda

Christmas Celebration in Banda~Rural Community Outside of SMA *Photo Credit: Katie O’Grady

 

Dia de los muertos

Día de Los Muertos @ La Parroquía in San Miguel de Allende

A culture rich in color and embedded in history not only encourages but coaxes you to slow down and to change your perhaps previously frenzied pace of rushing through life to get from one thing to the next.

Wedding Re-size

Wedding Celebration on The Streets of San Miguel de Allende

I love that here in Mexico I am allured, intrigued, invited to stop and look, to be in the moment. My senses are awake and tuned in, I am aware of the detail and the magic of my surroundings.

Indian

Just running a few errands

Mexico has taught me, and reminds me daily, to relish and thrive in the here and now, to celebrate the present moment and the textures and layers within that moment. 

Los Mariachis

Mariachis in The Parroquía on A Break

2. Personal Freedom & Responsibility

There is a certain aspect of “controlled chaos” on the streets of Mexico—families of four piled atop a motorcycle, off-leash dogs dodging in and out of moving cars, traffic police standing in the middle of busy four-way intersections, the clashing symphony of sights, smells, and sounds emerging from the tianguis (outdoor markets), corner cantinas, garbage trucks, city buses and hard-working street vendors.

A Bus Standoff

It’s a bus standoff! *Photo Credit: Katie O’Grady

It seems that in the States personal freedoms are pervasively being taken away—walking your dog off-leash at the beach and having a beer while doing it are completely out of the question (and illegal) in San Diego. Yes, in an ideal world, humans could self-regulate and self-moderate, throw their cigarette butts in designated trash cans, buckle in their kids, and not text while driving. There are indeed certain laws that are sound, make sense, and that I absolutely agree with.

But akin to good parenting and teaching, over-regulation and modification of one’s behavior—which ties into a perceived limitation of freedom and autonomy—inevitably tends to backfire, creating a culture of resistance and sometimes defiance. Throw in there human nature’s capacity to be rebellious, and well…you just might have the perfect cocktail for disorder.

No

Just Say No

Here in Mexico, the disorder and the coloring outside of the lines just seems to work itself out in a “let the cards fall where they may” kind of way. 

3. Family Time

IMG_1602

La Cañada de La Virgen

Different pace, personal freedom…FAMILY TIME—by far the most important and remarkable difference in our Mexico life versus our stateside one. I love the Mexican culture’s emphasis, focus, and importance placed on the family unit…and the extended one at that, including second and third cousins—some related by blood, some not.

A very good friend is often referred to as a primo (cousin) and they are taken into the family as such. Conversations at gatherings and casual run-ins are sin prisa (without hurry)—not vapid or full of fluff, but rich in sincere inquiries as to how each other’s family, businesses, and other social affairs are going…and most often an invitation to get together again soon. The art of conversation is well preserved in the Mexican culture. Greetings and farewells? You can count on the customary hugs and kisses on the cheek between men and women, young and old alike.

There is a strong sense of community and connectedness amongst the Mexican people. They are united, loyal, hard-working, welcoming, and generous of their time and help. Recently one of our neighbors saw Frank out in front of our house working on our car, and offered to take him to the auto-part store. He accompanied him in, helped him out where needed with Spanish translation, waited for the transaction to be done, and then gave him a ride back home. Some friends that heard of a recent respiratory illness that went through our home gifted to us bags of medicinal plants and herbs, all labeled with their indicated usages. These are only two examples of the many kind, demonstrative acts of care and community bestowed to us in the three and a half years that we have lived in Mexico.

4. Fresh, affordable, local food

Street Tacos

The Reds enjoying ten peso street tacos on a Friday night!

10 peso street tacos, 20 peso super-sized fresh fruit cups, 5 peso sweetbreads, 25 peso organic coffee, bags full of fresh produce for 100 pesos, 100 peso chicken rotisserie dinners complete with tortillas, rice, salad and grilled peppers….shall I stop?

Fruit Cups

Less than a dollar fifty for one of these delicious fruit cups!

 

Rotisserie Chicken

Mairead and I picking up our seven dollar family dinner!

 

Panaderia

La Colemna Panadería, San Miguel de Allende

With the current value of the dollar to the peso about 18 to 1, you can calculate how amazing these prices are! There is never a shortage of readily available, fresh, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, wines, breads….and many, thankfully, are organic.

Via Organica

Vía Orgánica, Colonia Guadalupe

5. Photo ops

This was not meant to be a pseudo-ad for Coca-Cola, but I just love this shot that I captured at La Parroquía in San Miguel de Allende of a cowboy with his horse, taking a break from the day’s work.

Coca-Cola

Break Time at The Parroquía

I have personally taken all of the photos on my blog, often with nothing more than my cell phone camera. From the jungle to the desert highlands, I have thousands and thousands of images—many published, many still in the queue waiting for their turn. I am grateful that I live in a country that provides plenty of sensory-stimulating experiences and that I am able to express myself creatively in this blog forum with an audience who appreciates my work.

These are but a few of my favorite things about Mexico….

What about you? What are some of your favorite things about Mexico? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!

Cheers,

~Katie

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