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As seen on The Huffington Post: 

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 towards that endeavor.

In November of 2012, we sold, donated and discarded the majority of our physical possessions, packed the remaining essentials into a 14-foot aluminum boat and immigrated from Southern California to Mainland Mexico with our eight-year-old twins and 90-pound chocolate lab.

Departure from San Diego November 2012

My husband had recently retired from firefighting and we wanted to show our children a life outside of the States. Mexico had long been a cherished place of family adventure and connection and we were ready to have that as our norm and not just a reality relegated to vacations only.

Within three months of arriving to the small jungle town of San Pancho, Nayarit, we became permanent residents and in a few years time we will apply for our Mexican citizenship.

Mexican Mug Shots 2013

We have spent the past three and a half years decompressing, reconnecting and carving out new lives — immersing ourselves in sunsets and surfing expeditions, horseback riding through high desert plains, soaking in hot thermal pools, climbing pyramids, and imbibing our senses in the rich cultural heritage of of a country that reveres the family unit.

We have gone from mind-numbing traffic on five-lane freeways to commuting on dirt jungle roads and sixteenth-century cobblestone streets where there is no shortage of stimulus to engage our minds and activate our senses.

Burros in San Miguel de Allende

Our children are bilingual and bicultural and see a world without borders. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter, to writer and photovoltaic designer. They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that shaping one’s own way in this world is not just possible, but doable.

Our children see that it is not only okay, but of great value to slow down and pay attention to the details, to relish and thrive in the here and now, to be alive and awake to the magic of the moment… to value conversation and interaction that does not involve tuning the world out behind a computer screen.

Cañada de La Boca

We have not traded in some “American Dream” for a second-hand version of a life. We are not living in Mexico by default, but by choice.

And we are not so naive as to not see — as we have lived them first hand — the struggles and challenges and hard edges of living here. In many regards, Mexico is like the Wild West. It is not for the fainthearted or weak of constitution.

Our kids are independent, artistic, thoughtful, perceptive, tuned-in. They have two hands-on, present parents who are no longer running the rat race, struggling to keep our financial heads above water. We can afford housing, food and medical care. I have recently had two major, life-saving surgeries in Central Mexico, with top notch, patient-centered care. My husband and my son’s food allergies have lessened.

If our contribution to the good of this world is raising decent, compassionate, wise, strong-willed children, then things are looking pretty good. Moving to Mexico has played a huge part in our parenting success.

M & L 11 YEARS OLD SMAIf you are feeling courageous and up for an unforgettable life adventure, perhaps you too are ready to mix it up and get out of your comfort zone — to see what’s out there waiting to awaken your senses, shake you upside down, and see what you’re really made of.

You just might surprise yourself.

Huffington Post Link: We Left the American Dream to Raise Our Children in Mexico

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It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people are moving to Mexico, looking not just for an escape from the current political and social climate north of the border, but for a reinvented, reinspired life where adventure is affordable and enhanced quality of life is your most precious commodity.

As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony that I, along with my husband and two young children, would immigrate to Mexico nearly five years ago.

Departing from San Diego with nothing more than a car and trailer full of stuff that we deemed to be the remaining essentials after gifting, donating and selling the rest, we headed south.

Shortly after our arrival to the beach town of San Pancho, we became permanent residents, having begun the process stateside to facilitate its expediency.

From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love for Mexico–her people, her magic, her fervent sense of community amongst family and friends…the sense of freedom I feel in her rich biodiversity. 

Growing up a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana border, my relationship with my grandfather was by far one of the most significant contributors to this undeniable connection I have with Mexico.

My “Big Joe” as we called him, adorned in his Stetson cowboy hat and crisp-collared Oxford shirts, modeled such a deep respect and brotherhood for our south of the border neighbors, that I too could not help but fall in love with a land and people so magnificently rich in corazón y alma (heart and soul).

I would marvel with the pride that only a granddaughter can feel at my grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures.

He would turn the ordinary into magic.

His affinity for conversation, his staid charisma, his thoughtful ways and his sharp sense of humor made for a dynamic mixture that quite simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I was just lucky enough to be his granddaughter.

I would sit mesmerized on his living room couch, predicting my future in his black Magic Eight Ball, listening to his stories of herding cattle and training horses down at our family’s dairy ranch in Chula Vista.

He would speak of his many adventures, one of them of having left home at the age of 14 to become a cowboy on the last rancho that spanned the US-American border.

Family historians have shared with me that he was known as the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” on account of his warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.

He died when I was a freshman at university, and while I miss him dearly, I will carry the strength of his legacy, his humility, and his wisdom with me always.

Growing up in a border city gifted me access to a bilingual and bicultural world, allowing me to move easily between both realms to this day. 

If former lives exist, I am certain that I was a salsa-dancing Latina in mine!

My Grandmothers Mary & Elizabeth had their own fair share of shenanigans south of the border and their stories were the material of an I Love Lucy episode! The picture below is of the two of them (in the middle) in Tijuana, in 1982 when I was just 14, an impressionable age for sure.

Why Mexico?

Here in Mexico, there is a palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and to take it all in, to be in the moment and to not rush from point A to point B on autopilot for the sake of checking off a to-do list.

The stimulus and sensory-rich nature of the Mexican culture—alive with a detectable vibra (energy)—beckons one to be awake to and appreciative of the details around.

Life in Mexico takes you out of whatever slumber you might have previously found yourself in, RESETS your outlook and REMINDS you that true, mindful, engaged living results from paying attention to and participating in LIFE.

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, and to always, always be grateful…for health, life, family, friends and fun!

Mi Querido México, thank you for taking us in, for welcoming us and for graciously adopting us with open arms. These past four and a half years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it….mil gracias. 

For more stories about our immigrated life in Mexico, please follow us here:

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                                               “We should not moor a ship with one anchor, nor our life with one hope.”                                                                                      ~Epictetus, Ancient Greek Philosopher

She calls me Kayyyy (said with a thick Colombian accent) and I call her Sophia–as in Sophia Vergara. Her waist-length, brown, ringlet hair with sun-kissed caramel highlights, flawless terracotta skin, and long, graceful limbs made it hard not to notice her in my morning yoga class.

In a room where one does their best to be simultaneously connected and disconnected–somewhere in between half moon and standing bow poses–I was drawn not only by her undeniable physical beauty, but more remarkably, her calm and confident energy. My kind of energy.

In spite of our nearly ten year age difference and having been raised in two different worlds, Daniela and I forged a friendship that knew no borders nor generational differences. The fact that we are both considered “extranjeras”—foreigners, outsiders, not originally from Mexico—is of interest to me as both a writer and a student of life.

Daniela—a native Spanish speaker, who is all things Latina—is nonetheless considered an expat, an immigrant…much in the same way that I, with my Dutch-Irish ancestry, am considered by many, a “gringa”. 

Colombian Dance Lessons in Our San Miguel de Allende Living Room!

Colombian Dance Lessons in Our San Miguel de Allende Living Room!

My friendship with Daniela got me thinking about some of the “life anchors” of an immigrant—special relationships with people, objects or even places that provide a sense of comfort and stability in a new environment.

1. Family 

Reinventing one’s life in a foreign land carries with it its own unique set of challenges. Surviving the unexpected, kick-you-in-the-arse, pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap moments, and emerging more connected, resilient and determined with a sense of humor and character still intact, is no small feat and certainly something to be admired and celebrated!

O'Grady Style! #ogradystrong

O’Grady Style! #ogradystrong

2. Home

Ensuring the habitability and maximum comfort of your home in a foreign land is an exercise in awareness, adaptability, and gumption. Whether figuring out how to best heat your home in the desert highlands of central Mexico or the most efficient means of mold abatement in the hot and muggy tropics, home safety and comfort is key to settling into your new life.

3. Fur Babies

I know some people have to make the very difficult decision of re-homing their pets prior to an international move, but that was not an option for us. Our Famous Seamus and Luna Love are our kids, just with four legs and fur. Seamus, our big brown lab, came with us from the States and Luna Love, our little feisty fluff ball, was adopted in San Miguel de Allende. They are two of the sweetest gifts of unconditional, slobbery love. #adoptadog

move to Mexico with dogs

Famous Seamus and Luna Love

4. Mementos

My grandmother’s antique rocking chair, the crucifix from my grandfather’s memorial, the kid’s collection of books and legos, all of our many musical instruments—even Frank’s tools! They each have their own story, hold their own memory and represent, in their own way, permanence through the flux, fluidity and transient nature of life.

Altars & Life Anchors

Altars & Life Anchors

5. Care of Self

Our bodies are our most precious vehicles via which we integrate, communicate, operate and define our place in this world. Taking good care of them provides a source of wellness and maximized life experience. I am eternally grateful for the amazing health care my family has received in Mexico, including two major surgeriesER visits with our children and saving my husband’s life from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness~Travel with a CO Detector

Carbon Monoxide Awareness~Travel with a CO Detector

6. A Connection to The Divine

God, Alibaba, Buddha, Swimming with Dolphins, Yoga, Tai-chi, Hiking The Sierra Madre Mountains…call it and find it how you wish. Moments to pause, reflect and connect with the divine. Whether in a 16th-century colonial church, atop horseback in the high desert plains of central Mexico or surfing in the Pacific Blue, having a place to pause in reverence and gratitude for life and its many gifts is a defining, grounding source of connection.

An Expat in Mexico

Catching Rainbows with My Son~Nayarit, Mexico

9. Climate

Having lived the majority of my life in “Sunny San Diego”, my activities and production levels were consistently high year round. Now having experienced both the cold winters of the desert highlands and the hot, humid summers of the coast, I have seen first hand how much climate alone can affect productivity, mood and overall quality of life.

The months of October through February in Central Mexico can be cold, requiring extra blankets, socks, scarves and layering of clothes. Since most homes in the colonial regions like San Miguel de Allende are not outfitted with central heating, fireplaces and free-standing gas or electric heaters are often used. *With any gas-heating appliance, it is highly recommended that you have carbon monoxide detectors installed in each room.

Knock Knock, Someone's at The Door! Firewood Delivery in SMA

Knock Knock, Someone’s at The Door! Firewood Delivery in SMA

Life along Mexico’s Pacific Coast can be hot, muggy and buggy from May through October. Sleeping with air conditioning, battling cockroaches the size of golf balls and frequent mold abatement is enough to put your sense of humor, grit and gumption to the test! There are prices to be paid for living in paradise!

10. Technology

 

WhatsApp, Messenger, Email, Skype, Google Chat, phone—thank goodness for them all! Although we are thousands of miles away from our loved ones in the States, these various options in communication allow us to stay in close touch with our family and friends north of the border. 

 

 

 

Friends, Family, Home, Pets, Sentimentals, Health, Spirit, Weather, and Communications…these are some of our Life Anchors as Immigrants to Mexico.

If you too are living a reinvented, reinspired life in a new land, what are some things that allow you to feel tethered and grounded in your new world?

I would love to read about them in the comments section below! 

Cheers & Saludos,

~Katie O’Grady

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In the planning stages leading up to my 2015 abdominal surgery in Celaya, Central Mexico, I researched pain management options online, in discussions with other feet-on-the-ground expats and nationals, and during my consultations with the various doctors that I was vetting. In addition to surmising their experience in the particulars that I needed professional help with, I asked each of the prospective surgeons if they administered narcotics like Morphine, Vicodin or their equivalent for post-surgery pain and recovery.  

I was answered each time with a vague, “well, not exactly”, that there was a “concern of addiction” with meds of that class, but that narcotic “type medications” would be available and sufficient for my procedure—which ultimately turned out to be a rather involved and complicated one not foreseen via pre-op imaging. (Life, always an adventure, may we all keep our sense of humor!)

Having gone through several previous abdominal surgeries in the States (no, nothing cosmetic–we’re talking bringing life into this world and then saving mine), I knew firsthand how important adequate and appropriate pain management would be in those first few days post surgery. I did not want to be uninformed, unprepared nor suffer needlessly. Stoicism has its place, but this was not one of them.

When I asked what these “other options” were, I was told that a combination of paracetamol (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and other non-opiate analgesics, such as Ketorolac (for light to moderate postoperative pain) would be used. I didn’t think any of those singularly nor in combination with each other were going to cut it. 

I seriously contemplated returning to the States for the surgery, even though none of the other logistics of traveling there were convenient, affordable nor logical.

My home was in Mexico, my family was in Mexico…my life was in Mexico. 

I decided to stay, plan for and literally pray for the best.

To say I was disappointed and dismayed to discover that opiate-level medication was not the standard of care for post-operative pain management would be an understatement. The thought of going forward with major surgery with what seemed like nothing more than slightly stronger versions of Tylenol and Motrin was not easy to digest. I had visions of waking up from the surgery in agonizing pain and suffering through the recovery unnecessarily. 

Some people would state, “oh, narcotics are available in Mexico, you just have to find the right doctor”, never really quite understanding what that meant, where to go nor who to ask for. I hadn’t yet cracked the secret code on this component of my integrated life in Mexico.

So, how did I fare?

Waking up from the general anesthesia after a total hysterectomy, removal of a large (thankfully non-cancerous tumor) and massive endometrial implants was something akin to an out-of-body experience, and not of the good kind. Writhing in my hospital bed, squeezing the very life out of my husband’s hand as they wheeled me into my recovery room, I’m pretty sure I resembled a scene out of the Exorcist as I screamed in agonizing pain. Through the haze of pain-induced delirium, I begged my husband to help me, telling him that what I was experiencing was ‘barbaric’.

I am strong, I am tough, but this was other-worldly. There were whispered discussions of giving me another spinal block but that was not an option I would entertain, as feeling and being able to use my legs, I knew, was part of pulling myself out of this state.

God as my witness, had it not been for Doctora Margarita de Michoacán, who stayed by my side for those first 24 hours, seeing to it that I was being administered the maximum amount of approved non-narcotic meds and that I was paid a midnight visit by the anesthesiologist himself to authorize two single-use injections of morphine (finally), who knows if I would have survived the night with all strands of hair still intact.

Doctora Margarita held my hand in hers and distracted me with tales of her mother’s Michoacán mole, helping to re-route my brain and its response to this all-consuming pain. Mil Gracias Doctora Margarita…para siempre voy a estar agredicida por su amistad, su compañía, su ayuda…para mí, siempre será mi ángel. 

“That which does not kill you makes you stronger?” Well, wiser for sure, and in this case, it provided me a much-needed understanding of how to navigate the medical system here in my beloved, adopted country of Mexico.

Five months into regaining my strength from this abdominal surgery, whilst doing yoga of all things at our home in San Miguel de Allende, two of the discs in my back fully herniated and onto the floor I fell.  I spent the next week and a half-paralyzed on the left side of my body, requiring that my husband carry me from point A to point B in all things necessary to get through the day, which in my case at this time, included from the bed to the bathroom and the bed to the car for my multiple doctor’s appointments. Yes, 2015 was a bit of a rough year for me.

Thanks to already being in the care of an amazing physical therapist and realizing in short order (after multiple failed injectable steroids and consultations with orthopedic docs who acknowledgment the severity of the situation at hand) that surgery itself was likely my only hope for being able to walk again, I scheduled an MRI in Querétero.

My first attempt was not successful for I was unable to lie on my back for the required 45 minutes due to the excruciating pain. The MRI was rescheduled for several days later, this time under sedation. My PT Dra. Rosario knew that the weekend ahead would be a long and literally unbearable one for me without some type of effective pain relief. 

Dra. Rosario took me to the office of Dr. Paulo Gonzaléz of Querétero—anaesthesiologist, angológo and paliativista—a specialist in the pain management of advanced conditions that is licensed to prescribe opiates. Thank God! I sure wish I had known about him and/or his specialty prior to my abdominal surgery! (Now I know the questions to ask and the provisions to be made. I hope the sharing of this experience and information helps you too.)

We arrived at Dr. Paulo’s office and even without any intake paperwork or long office wait, my husband and both doctors lifted me up onto the treatment table. Dr. Paulo began an IV concoction of morphine and some other goodies and for the first time in a very long six days since my spinal injury I, at last, had a significant respite from the pain. The tears of relief flowed profusely.

Dr. Paulo monitored my vital signs throughout this whole process, asked me every few minutes how I was feeling, and adjusted the meds as needed. I think I was able to take my first full, deep breath since the discs had herniated.

Dr. Paulo wrote me a prescription for a variety of pain and anti-inflammatory medications, including morphine, to use while waiting for my Tuesday surgery and as needed for post-surgery pain. To get these prescriptions filled, we needed to go to a Farmacia Especializada (a specialty pharmacy), where my husband Frank was required to show his ID and sign several pages of paperwork. 

As luck and design would have it, Dr. Paulo ended up being the anesthesiologist during the six-hour procedure, who along with my neurosurgeon Dr. Salvador Galván, the amazing OR and recovery nurses and a fair share of my own grit and gumption, I regained the gift of walking.

Prior to and after my spinal surgery, both Dr. Paulo and Dr. Galván would check in with me via WhatsApp to see how I was doing, monitor my pain levels, and adjust my meds accordingly.

Yes, narcotic-like pain management is available here in Mexico, it is just a matter of finding the right doctor, support team and pharmacy(s) to guide you through what could be an otherwise overwhelming, unknown path–especially in the middle of a medical crisis. 

I am forever grateful to my earth-angel doctors here in Mexico who have more than once saved my life and returned to me the gift of health and freedom! Se lo agredezco de mi corazón...

I do hope this information proves helpful to others.

In peace and health to you all…

Saludos,

∼Katie O’Grady

For the full stories on the two surgeries referenced in this article, click on the links below:

I Had a Hysterectomy in Mexico

I Had Spinal Surgery in Mexico 

Do you have your own pain management in Mexico experience you would like to share? If so, feel free to do so in the comments section below.

For more stories about our immigrated life in Mexico, please follow us here:

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Inside a narrow corridor down at the Mercado Emiliano Zapata in Old Town Vallarta is one of our favorite Mom and Pop restaurants where we are always guaranteed a hot bowl of delicious birria de res (beef stew soup), huevos rancheros and a chile relleno plate that almost makes you blush!

As to the name of the restaurant, I have no idea, but of the 3 different stalls that are there, it is the one directly in the middle. 

The prices are incredibly affordable, the serving sizes enough to fill you for the day, and the ambiance local, comfortable and casual.

My favorite is the birria, a traditional Jaliscan spice-filled soup that is served with rice, tortillas, cabbage, onions, radishes, lime and three different salsas on the side.

For two plates and 3 large glasses of fresh-squeezed OJ, our bill is usually around 220 pesos, less than 13 dollars.

Another great meal at Mercado Emiliano Zapata!

Another great meal at Mercado Emiliano Zapata!

After indulging to our heart’s and stomach’s content (there’s always room for one more bite!), a walk is in order so around the market streets and in and out of the various stalls we love to explore.

Post-meal walk time!

Post-meal walk time!

For a behind-the-scenes view of the tortillería at el mercado, click on this video below but do keep the volume low lest you enjoy a nail on chalkboard sound. 

 

A trip to el mercado Emiliano Zapata is not complete without a stop at one of the many fruterías where one is immersed in a bouquet of fresh produce! 

One of my favorite things to do--shop local & fresh!

One of my favorite things to do–shop local & fresh!

Looking around eye-level for the bananas, lo and behold, they were right there at my feet! No question as to their freshness!

Right off the tree!

Right off the tree!

If you are ever in the downtown Vallarta area and are wanting to have a unique, local experience, I highly recommend an outing to El Mercado Emiliano Zapata! It is sure to delight your senses and fill your belly!

If you have had the pleasure of going to this mercado or others in the Vallarta area and other regions of Mexico, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!

Follow along with the adventures of Los O’Gradys in Mexico by subscribing below and joining us on Facebook…

Saludos,

~Katie

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