As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony nor coincidence that I, along with my retired firefighter hubby and our eight-year-old twins, would immigrate to Mexico to create our lives anew.
We were ready to get out of the rat race and redefine our reality.
Departing from San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of stuff that we deemed to be the “essentials” after selling, gifting and tossing the rest, we headed South!
Shortly after our arrival to San Pancho, Nayarit, we received our Permanent Residents cards (having begun the process stateside at our local Mexican Consulate) with the assistance of a highly reputable, local legal liaison.
A Historical Love
From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love and respect for Mexico–her people, her magic, her allure, her fervent sense of community and reverence for history and tradition. I often joke that in a former life, I was a salsa dancing latina!
My proximity to the San Diego-Tijuana Border granted me access to a bilingual/bicultural upbringing that allowed me to move easily between both worlds. Speaking in both Spanish and English at school, work and play has always been my norm.
And without a doubt, my relationship with my Grandfather, my Dad’s Dad, was one of the most significant influences in my connection to Mexico.
Always dressed impeccably in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shined shoes–no matter the occasion–my”Big Joe” (as we affectionately referred to him) was a humble, bright, witty gentleman with no time nor concern for nonsense. He was as tough as nails and lived his life to the fullest until the age of 94.
He adored me, and I him.
A Living History Book
Sitting in his living room overlooking Mission Bay, he would speak to me of his many adventures, of his life on our family’s dairy farm in Chula Vista, of the beautiful horses in his care, and how at the age of 14 he left his home to become a cowboy on the last rancho that spanned the US-American border.
Family historians state that he was the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” by warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ultimately ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.
I would listen in awe, taking mental notes of these precious conversations, knowing that I was bearing witness to a living history book.
We would drive down to Rosarito Beach on weekends for an early dinner at El Nido and I would marvel with pride and joy at my Grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures. Sitting in front of the open, wood-fired oven where our quail and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned 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 simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I just happened to be lucky enough to be his granddaughter.
Although my Grandfather passed before I began my teaching career, I know that he would have been so very proud that I had chosen to go into a line of work that shares the beauty of the Spanish language and culture with the youth of today.
My Grandmothers Mary & Elizabeth had their own fair share of South of The Border Shenanigans and their stories were nothing short of hilariously entertaining–like something out of an I Love Lucy Show! This 1982 picture is of the two of them (in the middle) on a day’s outing in Tijuana…I can imagine the laughter!
A Mexico Influx
It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people want to immigrate to Mexico, looking not just for an escape from “politics” that defy reason and common decency, but for a reinvented, reinspired life where adventure is affordable and time and freedom are your most precious commodities.
Life in Mexico WAKES you up from whatever slumber you might have previously found yourself in, RESETS your outlook and REMINDS you that true, mindful, engaged living results from paying attention and participating in a life of design.
I thank my beloved Grandfather for setting the bar high, for leading by example and showing me a love and respect for Mexico that is forever imprinted in my heart and has forever changed the trajectory of my life.
Mi Querido México, thank you for taking my family in, for welcoming us with open arms. These past seven years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it.
While I am not particularly thrilled that I find myself with a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder–something about 50 years of miles on my body, I guess–I am eternally grateful for the Mexican Medical System that has once again proven itself easy-to-access and affordable.
On Friday of last week, I called to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist here in Puerto Vallarta after months of a nagging shoulder pain that has evolved into something that keeps me up at night with increasing pain and limited mobility. I phoned the office directly–no having to go through a primary, no frustrating pre-authorization phone tree web or an on-average 6 week appointment wait.
I got in to see Dr. Ricardo Vázquez at Imagenología y Centro de Diagnóstico across from Plaza Caracol, just 2 days after having placed the call.
After about a 5 minute wait, I was greeted and walked back to the consultation room by the doctor himself. After a thorough evaluation, Dr. Ricardo wrote me an order to radiology for two x-rays, which conveniently was located just downstairs in the same building. Here my wait time was also around 5 minutes, if that.
800 pesos later (about $41.00 USD) and with x-rays in hand, back up to Dr. Ricardo’s office I went where he was waiting for me without having crammed several patients in during the time I was gone. Thank you.
After a thorough explanation of my x-rays, more clinical assessments, a 3-ingredient infiltration injection into the back of my shoulder (fun, fun!), a booklet of at-home exercises and a prescription for anti-inflammatories, I was on my way with instructions to return in a month for a possible MRI based on how I progress. I will progress!
The doctor and his assistant spent nearly two hours with me, never once looking at their watch or rushing me out the door. Thank you.
The total cost of this appointment was 2,300 pesos (about $120.00 USD). While that is not the “usual” 600 to 800 peso consult fee that we have experienced for other situations (dental cleanings, ENT consult, pulmonology, etc.) nor was it a routine appointment.
I am so grateful that we don’t have to jump through hoops, spend hours on the phone, wait for weeks or months on end to access top-notch medical care here in Mexico.
Yes, this is private care and we are grateful that we have made choices to have access to it.
So How Do We Pay?
Now onto the million dollar question…how do we finance our medical care in Mexico? IMSS? Seguro Popular? Expat Insurance? Cash?
As part of my husband’s firefighter retirement benefits, we have an HRA whereby we can submit for reimbursement for substantiated medical appointments/procedures/medications up to a specific amount in the fiscal year. We simply need the physician’s prescription, diagnosis and lab reports translated into English and the Peso to Dollar exchange rate for that date. We do need to front the money and it usually takes about a week to get reimbursed. Not all of our expenses are covered because there is a cap, but many are.
This morning, after that gorgeous horse-sized injection I received yesterday at Dr. Ricardo’s office, my pain level is significantly diminished and I am oh-so grateful! Here’s to NO SURGERY! That is the only energy I will entertain with this current challenge.
Thank you all for your care and concern. It is warmly received and truly appreciated.
Off to do my 40 minutes of in-home physical therapy!
P.S. For those of you that live full or part time South of the Border (or travel back and forth frequently), how do you manage the financial side of your Medical Care? Please feel free to share in the Comments Section below…
There is nothing “normal” about this photo. Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives and immigrating to Mexico with our children in 2012, we no longer live under that 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.
We were DONE with breathing in toxic exhaust fumes and missing out on active, joyful engagement in life, on hold in bottleneck traffic. That was not how we wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the sea of bumpers in front and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.
And I don’t, not one little bit.
Immigrating to Mexico with Children
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 more meaningful activities of our choice.
Freedom and Horses in San Pancho, Nayarit
If one of my jobs as a Mother is to facilitate and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.
A Dream Birthday Party!
We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison were in our favor as well (for a referral in Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende, feel free to PM me).
Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!
Our twins 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!
Adventuring in Baja, 2006
Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in my children’s hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection.
Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008
Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with our loved ones, the move and preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively easy as it was something we were all on the same page about and ready for.
Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012
We arrived in San Pancho, Nayarit 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 experienced freedom and discovery like never before.
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 acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city for the first eight years of their life in San Diego. Even without that advantage, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only Mairead and Liam their classmates had ever met, and their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.
Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012
From San Pancho to Sayulita
After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, they 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!
4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita
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 easily flip back and forth between English and Spanish.
From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico
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 with one festivity after another.
La Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende
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, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water in the rat race.
A Life Without Limits
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. Our children 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, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe. Immigrating to Mexico with our children was the best decision that we could have made!
My son Liam volunteering at a rural school outside of San Miguel de Allende
From San Diego to Mexico, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico and her people’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us O’Gradys and allowing us to feel at home.
“To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” ~Hermione Gingold
I owe it to Seamus, to our family and to our children to honor his memory and legacy, to memorialize this sentient being that was so much more than “just a dog”…to tell his story.
The feelings of profound sadness and loss don’t go away on their own. Expressing them with the written word is one of the ways in which I choose to process through them…to journey through the waves of deep mourning to arrive to where only memories of laughter, adventure, kisses and warm, furry snuggles remain.
This is my tribute to you, Seamies…
Our three-year-old twins Mairead and Liam were just starting to sleep through the night when my husband Frank surprised me with the grandest 38th birthday gift of all–a puppy! Working as a firefighter and away from home for days and sometimes weeks on end, he wanted to bring a gentle dog with a big bark into our family.
A New Friend
Living in San Diego at the time, we traveled up to Bonsall for the four required visits, until at last, at 9-weeks old, we were able to bring Seamus home to begin his life as an O’Grady!
Signing The Paperwork to Bring Seamus Home!
We Chose Each Other
Seamus was from a litter of nine chocolate, roly poly, running, jumping, kissing, wagging balls of labrador love.
Pure Love, Pure Joy
Although our twins were a bit overwhelmed and cautious at first with this energetic, playful, new presence in their lives (that was almost their same size!) the three of them became the best of buddies in no time at all.
Wrestle Time, Lucha Libre Style!
The Best Naps are The Ones Inside Your Pup’s Crate!
Honoring our Irish heritage and love of traditional Celtic names, ‘Seamus‘ was ever-so-fitting for this handsome, destined-to-be addition to our family. My Mother’s dinner time calls would now be “Mairead…Liam…Seamus”…
They say you can approximate the adult size of a puppy by its paws. At 9 weeks old Seamus’s were huge and by 6 months he was practically full grown, knocking over everything in his path with that big tail and chewing through all of our shoes one by one.
From San Diego to San Pancho to San Miguel de Allende, to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle–with many Stateside and Baja trips in between–Seamus lived an amazingly full and adventurous life! He was a well-traveled dog with no shortage of fun and shenanigans with his human family.
Seamus Boating with His Best Buddies in the Sea of Cortez
Seamus Watching His Kid’s Dance Class in San Pancho, Nayarit
Seamus Taking a Stroll in The Hills of San Miguel de Allende. Guanajuato
A Gentle Giant
If you were ever lucky enough to be in the presence of this Gentle Giant, you would have known what a special, wise, kind soul he was…a noble gentleman, a comedian, a loyal playmate, a never-do-harm puppy with a heart of gold.
Seamus Loved to Eat Watermelon & Pumpkin!
Seamus’s favorite place in the world was the ocean. That, and being with his family…especially in the ocean.
A Water Dog Through and Through, Baja California
Seamus in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit
Seamus Gets A Sister
Seamus wasn’t what one would call a lap dog (we never told him that), weighing in at 95 pounds of slobbery love! We not only wanted him to have a companion, but also for our children to experience the gift of adoption and the taking in of another sentient being.
Seamus had been an “only dog” for the first seven years of his life and while he was initially excited to have what he thought was an occasional playdate in Luna, he went through a period of acting slightly concerned with this new addition to our family, bringing me more treats and toys than normal.
In short order, Seamus realized that Luna had a permanent status in The O’Grady Tribe and that he now needed to share the attention, walks and pats on the head.
Famous Seamus & Luna Love Walk Through Parque Benito Juárez, San Miguel de Allende
He handled it like a gentleman and graciously welcomed Luna into his family with lots of slobbery kisses, love barks and tail chasing around our yard!
Famous Seamus & Luna Love Play Time!
Our sweet boy had suffered from skin ailments most his life–made worse in the jungle heat–and in the past year had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for which he was receiving treatment. In spite of those challenges, he was a very happy, active boy…a sweet, lovable chocolate lab. While he was in his senior years at almost 12, he did not have any joint or musculature issues. In fact, on one of our recent stateside trips, Seamus had a thorough check-up including a head to toe x-ray whereupon the vet stated that he had the skeletaure of a 5-year-old dog!
My Sweet Boy The Sunday before Valentine’s Day
On the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day, instead of being greeted by my normally goofy and happy pup, I found him sitting sideways at the top of our back laundry door, clearly in discomfort and not interested in eating at all.
He looked up at me with sadness in his eyes, turned away and laid his head back down. My heart skipped a beat knowing that something was seriously wrong.
I went outside to get a better look and saw that his left back leg was swollen and curled up and that he was unable to stand or walk unassisted.
What had happened???
Was he stung by a scorpion? Did he somehow fall, twist or break his leg? Was he bitten by a snake?
My mind went through all of the possibilities of what could have happened to our boy, who just one day before seemed fine on his afternoon walk. While he was slowing down, he was still mobile and always up for some playtime at the beach.
Seamus Happy at The Beach
Seeing my big, sweet boy in obvious distress and pain, trying to navigate those 95 pounds on three legs, was heartbreaking and so concerning, to say the least.
We took Seamus to the vet, fearing that our day had arrived or was soon in sight, but Dr. Jorge said to give it a few days with anti-inflammatory injections and oral meds at home. And so we did, willing to do anything to give him some more time with us–as long as it was free from pain and suffering.
Dr. Jorge ruled out any venomous poisoning or bone break, conjecturing that Seamus might have tripped and fallen and therefore perhaps sprained his leg, but to me, it seemed to be much more serious.
A Mother’s Intuition
I knew in my heart that we likely weren’t going to come out of this one on the other side with dry eyes or intact hearts, even for as much as I wanted to deny the reality right in front of us.
Over the next several days, Seamus continued to suffer and decline. His breathing became labored, he lost interest in eating, could not relieve himself without being lifted up and moved to the grass, and then he began to hemorrhage and bleed externally.
We knew it was time. Time to do only what love propels you to do. Time to do the right thing. Time to do the humane thing. Time to release Seamus from the physical condition that now held his body captive in pain with no apparent hope of improvement.
How Do You Tell Your Daughter It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Her Best Friend?
In a “perfect world” or a “best case scenario”, maybe Seamus would have passed in his sleep. But life and death are not so neat and tidy and they certainly have their own timeline.
I believe that Seamus wanted us to each have our individual and then our together time as a family to say our goodbyes, and we did.
Thank you, Seamus, for the gift of you…thank you for picking Valentine’s Day–a day of love and friendship–as your day to transition from one energy form to another. Thank you for the undeniable impact you have left on each of our hearts.
Rainbow Bridge, Valentine’s Day
I laid with Seamus throughout the day, in those last hours with my sweet boy in this realm.
I brought him warm, lavender infused towels from the dryer and sang, talked, laughed and cried with him–telling him all of the funny stories about his life as a 9-week-old puppy up to now, this very moment as my senior pup, hours before his rainbow crossing. I named all of the people and animals that loved him, each and every one by their first name. He looked at me with acknowledgment and understanding, hugged me, wrapped his paws around my arms, smiled, snorted and slobbered with all the energy he could muster up. Noble and gallant to the very end.
I asked Frank to bring home the largest bone he could find, but Seamus was not interested in it at all.
My Boy Letting Me Know It Was Time
We picked our children up after school, came home to get Seamus, and the five of us drove to the vet’s office for our 4:00 appointment.
To say that the next few hours were excruciatingly painful and very emotional for our family would be an understatement.
Stand by Me
From my husband Frank’s Facebook Post:
Our dog Seamus had to leave us this afternoon. If there were ever a dog to represent unconditional love he was it. He taught me many lessons regarding being happy in a moment. I do and will miss him mightily. I hear the ocean outside my window, and I feel his physical absence palpably…but, I know he is free from that pain he tolerated with no complaint and he is happy and at peace. He grew up with my babies, he was one of our babies, he was part of our O’Grady Tribe. I am so grateful to be part of a family that stayed with him until the end, grateful to Dr. Jorge at Pets and Vets in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for his sincere compassion and care and his tenderness not only with Seamus but with us. My hope is that we can all carry forward a bit some love, tolerance and compassion in this oftentimes hard world we live in. I have to say that I marvel at the strength of our children. They were with Seamus until the end…laying with him on the floor of the vet’s office, giving him their hearts and love with hugs, petting and no shortage of tears until well after his heart stopped beating. Seamus died literally surrounded with love and touches…and touches and love were what he lived for. My family, Seamus included, give me reason to marvel every day. It is beautiful outside and I will reflect on Seamus’ life, my children, Liam and Mairead, my amazing wife Katie and us as the family we are often throughout this day. Peace and love to all of you.”
We had Seamus cremated and released his ashes into the ocean blue, his favorite playground.
Farewell Our Sweet Boy
On this particular day, in this particular spot, there were whales and dolphins gathered together, splashing and playing around. Seamus would be in good company here.
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Seamus, you will always be our Gentle Giant, our Guardian Angel.
My Daughter Mairead Honoring & Returning Her Pup to His Favorite Playground
The Cycle of Life
The life and and death of our Famous Seamus is a powerful reminder of the transient nature of life, that all things have their time and place…their beginning and their end. Life is a precious and fragile gift.
That same puppy face that we saw the first day we met Seamus in 2007 was the very same puppy face we kissed goodbye as Seamus took his last breath on Valentine’s Day, 2019.
“Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk to me as if I were beside you. I loved you so… ‘Twas heaven here with you.”
~Isla Paschal Richardson
Love hurts. Love extracts her price. But she also gives, tenfold. Love stretches our hearts in ways unimaginable, changes the mosaic of who we are for the better, if we consciously allow it to.
Lucky are we to experience it in its fullest, most unconditional form.
RIP my King. We love you forever and a day…
*I have been receiving an amazing amount of feedback to this article, including the sharing with me of this story that got the waterworks going all over again: The Dog Who Means Nothing to Me
Even after six years as permanent residents of Mexico, there are certain parts of our lives here–some of the cultural and regional norms and facets of day-to-day living–that still cause me to pause, laugh, or even gasp in intrigue and bewilderment.
Take for example:
1. Three lanes on a two-lane highway
Navigating oneself on the highways often feels like a game of Russian roulette, as there seems to be a nebulous middle lane, created and bordered by nothing more than the driver’s risk-taking spirit and willingness to tempt fate.
Riding as a passenger usually has me alternating between holding my breath and blurting out various unladylike profanities as an attempt to distract myself and make the ride as tolerable as possible.
You can imagine how much my husband Frank loves this when he’s behind the wheel!
2. Ice Cream, Knife Sharpener or Trash Truck?
I wasn’t too sure at first if the loud, clanging noise was the ice cream vendor, the knife sharpener (he actually blows a whistle) or what, until I asked a nearby shop owner who informed me that it was the trash truck—on its way down a narrow, one-way, cobblestone street with pedestrians on both sides.
3. From Farm to Market
A walk through a tianguis—an outdoor market filled with a potpourri of every imaginable regional fruit, vegetable, handmade craft and meat—certainly leaves no doubt as to the origin and same-day-freshness of the carne asada tacos you might find yourself eating at one of the many open-air stalls–likely having been delivered that very morning from a nearby rancho.
Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende
If you are accustomed to purchasing your t-bone steak or chicken bits all cleaned up, trimmed and nicely packaged–or if you are a vegan–prepare yourself for a bit of a surprise while meandering through one of these vibrant and dynamic markets.
It is not uncommon to see an entire cow or pig head sitting on the corner of a butcher’s stand, along with various other parts of the animal that in the States are normally discarded and not necessarily considered edible, let alone desirable to look at on full display.
Cabeza (Cow Head) Tacos
Refrigeration? Arrive early!
When I took my Mom through the mercado during one of her visits with us, she was quite startled to come face-to-face with a large cow’s head, eyeballs and all, sans the skin. I suppose if one were playing with the idea of veganism, a walk through a tianguis just might seal the deal. For carnivores, it is an important reminder to support farmers who are raising their animals in the most ethical conditions possible.
4. Consume Today or Let Ripen
It’s the small things in life…
Many thanks to the supermarkets for separating their avocados into consumo para hoy (consume today) and a para madurar (let ripen) piles. Also, when going into a Mom & Pop’s frutería, you might have to ask for the avocados as they are usually behind the counter, hidden away and protected from public fondling.
Consume Today/Let Ripen
5. Round and Round The Glorieta We Go
Glorietas…those perplexing roundabout traffic circles that serve as an intersection for oncoming vehicles from all four different directions, often converging at the same time. If you are not careful, alert and prepared as you enter this whirlpool of automobiles, you just might find yourself getting stuck, going around and around, like on a spin toy at a child’s playground, feverishly trying to calculate the right moment to jump off and get out!
I have learned that I must enter the glorietas with confidence, ready to kick ass and take on the fast and furious obstacle-like course of oncoming cars, trucks and motorcycles. I do find myself holding my breath until I have successfully exited the glorieta and am, hopefully, headed in the right direction!
Round and Round
6. The Mysteries of A Left-Turn Signal
It is not safe to assume that a blinking left turn signal means that a left turn is about to be executed by the driver in front. Quite the contrary, it often means “go ahead, it is safe to pass me now—on the left”.
However, don’t assume that either, for a pass on the left, when in fact a left turn is in the making can be a risky assumption. Additionally, in Mexico, it is common road etiquette to pull to the right-hand side, before making a left turn.
Are you following all of this?
Keep in mind too, while you are mentally and tactically navigating the road conditions, that there are often burros, cows, horses and dogs on the shoulders that one must avoid for both their safety and yours.
Similar to the dynamics of a glorieta, stay alert, aware of your surroundings and able to respond quickly and safely!
7. Metric, Who?
Algebra and metric conversions, admittedly, are not my strong suit. Fahrenheit to celsius, inches to cm, kilos instead of pounds…it’s enough to make a girl dizzy!
Upon my first few trips to the local butchers, I held my breath, wide-eyed, waiting to see what the two kilos of salchicha that I had just ordered would amount to. Fortunate for me, my family loves Mexican sausages and over four pounds of them could easily fit into our fridge and freezer!
Time to get to work and study this helpful chart!
Photo Credit: K5 Learning Blog
8. Translate with Caution
9. Where There’s a Will…
Determined, resourceful, ingenious, skillful are all adjectives I would freely use to describe the Mexican people. Whether it is reusing, reconfiguring and repurposing or coming up with the most interesting ways to assign function and form to something that might otherwise be thrown out or thought impossible, the Mexican ingenuity truly embodies the “where there’s a will, there’s a way” expression.
During one of my morning walks around Parque Benito Juarez, I saw this woman in the photo below balancing what appeared to be a very heavy load on her head, navigating her way down the slippery cobblestone streets in flip flops! Impressive indeed!
Determination & Will
10. Is That Side Mirror Really Necessary?
To avoid collisions and keep your side mirror intact as part of your car, pull it in on narrow, cobblestone streets. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did if you deem it a necessary part of your car.
11. Hard-Working Burros
In many parts of México, burros are used for field work, transportation and delivery. It is not uncommon to be out and about and come across a pair of them hard at work.
Knock-Knock, Special Delivery!
12. A Different Kind of Saint
One morning after dropping our twins off at school, Frank stopped by the tortillería to pick up a medio kilo of flour tortillas. Next door was a small furniture store that had this little treasure on display out in front:
Art Is in The Eye of The Beholder
I’m sure you can use your imagination to to guess what this darling little saint statue looked like from behind. I’m thinking the creator of this treasure had a laugh or two.
13. Pig on A Leash
This was a first.
As seen in El Jardín
14. Trampoline on Third Floor Terraza
Yes, and yikes! No playdates for my kids at this house!
Life Without Safety Nets
While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the more noteworthy sightings and experiences I have had in these past 6 years. I am grateful that I get to live in a country that keeps my senses alive and teaches me to take things in stride.
Have you ever experienced or witnessed something in Mexico that has made you wonder, pause, or question in fascination, confusion, amusement, and gratitude?
I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!
Last but not least, today’s Spanish Lesson:
The Spanish Teacher in me just can’t help herself! You will notice that many of the words throughout this article are cognates–words that sound alike or are possibly spelled exactly alike as their English counterpart. Another reason that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn—truly!
1. Carretera: highway
2. Tianguis: open-air market
3. Centro: center
4. Mercado: market
5. Consumo para hoy: consume today
6. Para Madurar: need to ripen
7. Frutería: fruit shop
8. Glorieta: roundabout
9. Salchicha: sausage
10. Tortillería: tortilla shop
11. Medio: half
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While we consider ourselves fairly seasoned travelers, we never once thought that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in our travel preparedness until tragedy struck and my retired firefighter husband was poisoned by carbon monoxide at a “boutique hotel” in Lake Chapala, Mexico.
After dropping our twins off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our children would be in good hands in the company of their classmates and camp counselors.
But instead of enjoying our weekend sightseeing and relaxing together, we spent it fighting for Frank’s life at the Red Cross in Lake Chapala and an Emergency Room and Hyperbaric Chamber Facility in Guadalajara.
Continuous High-Dose Oxygen Therapy in Hospital While We Waited for Hyperbaric Chamber Facility to Open in Morning
Do mistakes and bad things just happen? Absolutely.
So does gross negligence.
After several hours of working next to the open window in the Barroca Room at Hotel Villa San Francisco, my husband Frank, upon standing up, was overcome by severe visual disturbances, full-body weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking, pallidness and vomiting.
Fighting for His Life & Saying My Prayers
Two Carbon Monoxide Leaks Found in Hotel Hot Water Heater
Confirmation by the hotel staff that in fact two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the hot water heater, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, diagnostics and treatment, verified that it was carbon monoxide poisoning that had my husband fighting for his life—something that the simple installation of a CO detector would have prevented, not to mention the proper checks and maintenance of the hot water heater by the hotel management and owners themselves.
Only removal from the carbon monoxide and immediate medical intervention with continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy would save Frank’s life. Mega prayers and support from family and friends played their huge part as well.
Hyperbaric Chamber Treatments
As a result of this terrifying, near-death experience, we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectorsin addition to having them in our home in each of the bedrooms and next to any gas appliances.
We can’t emphasize enough the importance for others to also equip themselves with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety.
Please, protect yourself and your loved ones with aCO alarm. Or several, depending on the size of your home and travel accommodations.
If one is suddenly overcome with nausea, headache, vision disturbances, confusion and other mind-boggling symptoms, best to seriously consider a CO exposure and get OUT of the room/building until authorities can test for its safety. Of course if you have your own monitorS, that is a prudent measure of self-protection without needing to rely solely on the establishment or the proper authorities.
Something so simple and so affordable can save your and your loved one’s lives in the event of a carbon monoxide leak.
Buy yours today:
*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*
I hope this information saves just one life. Please share it with your loved ones.
*Disclaimer: this article contains affiliate links for products we use. The price is the same whether you use our affiliate link or not. We only recommend products we have spent our own money on and can stand by the value of.
Guest Post by The One & Only Frank O’Grady–Retired Firefighter, Solar Entrepreneur, My Right-Hand Man, Husband, Best Friend, Partner-in-Adventure, Father to Our Children and Love of My Life…
Authored by Frank O’Grady
Our immigration to Mexico was my dream, not my children’s.
We moved here when they were eight years old and, in my eyes, still babies in so many ways. They turn 15 this Summer.
Their faith in us was paramount to us having a successful move to Mexico—a part of Mexico where we were not going to be able to bounce back easily over the border to whatever perceived comfort zone that might have existed.
My dream for Liam, Mairead and Katie was for a life that was not completely centered on commercialism and struggling to keep our heads above water…a life without the incessant chasing and worrying about dollars in a world gone mad with the need to buy and consume just a little bit more than can be reasonably earned–a life with involved parents, instead of home just being a place everyone gathered at night after a day or days at work.
We did not just pick up and leave a life in the USA on some fantastical mid-life crisis.
Retirement at 50?!
Baja California, Our First Mexico Home
We prepared our children in a multitude of ways with many experiences in and about Mexico well before we even broached the subject of moving here.
Katie was only a few months pregnant and Mairead and Liam were fishing with us on the Sea of Cortez out of a tiny aluminum boat.
We journeyed down the Baja Peninsula, stopping at the same restaurants, rest areas and hotels…our twins hugged and held and squeezed and cheeks pinched by every female worker in these stops.
A love for Mexico was born in our twins from a very early age…
Little twin ducklings following their Mama down to the water’s edge~Camp Gecko, Bahia de Los Angeles
As they became more aware of the differences in their country of birth and the country we vacationed in, they eagerly looked forward to our journeys to a place where we all felt very much at home, a place where we had the time to be together as a family instead of constantly trying to meet an agenda or drive across a city of two million to get somewhere.
Jumping for Joy in The Middle of Baja Desert!
It felt as if every time that we went to Mexico that we were actually going home.
At a certain point in our careers, Katie and I both realized that continuing to support our lifestyle in Southern California was going to essentially condemn us to many decades of work so that someday, when we were close to 80, we might have a paid off house that we hadn’t had much time to enjoy because we were constantly working to pay for it.
When Liam and Mairead were around seven we really started talking to and involving them in our plans to move to Mexico. The existing paradigm wasn’t working for us emotionally, physically or mentally…we knew there was a better way and we were determined and committed to create it together, as a couple and as a family.
We viewed this move through our children’s eyes…how they would experience it as 8-year-olds, as 10-year-olds, as teenagers. We knew that we had an age window to move successfully with them and to do it as a team.