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How A Year in Mexico Changed My Perspective

The view from our kitchen window allowed me to see the world pass by in the small town of San Pancho, Nayarit—a kaleidoscope of sensory stimulus throughout our first year in mainland Mexico.

We lived one lot back from the main street, Avenida Tercer Mundo. The overgrown green would bring the pueblo’s burros and horses—always willing to help out with weed control—right to the front of our kitchen window.

The town soccer field on the other side of the street provided its own myriad of entertainment, ranging from weekend soccer games—especially interesting on Sundays—and the daily activity of kids on their bikes, dogs, and families passing through.

On the terra-cotta colored planter edge closest to our side of the street, there was a consistent gathering of what I came to understand to be regulars, but once thought to be wanderers– “suspicious ones”.

And perhaps they were just that–wanderers–but it was here, on this makeshift bench, that they found their resting spot for the day, to sit on all day long…to look around, sit some more, talk, not talk, watch the world go by themselves, stand up, turn around, go out into the middle of the street, turn around again, only to come back and sit back down on the very ledge of the planter box that called to them early in the morning.

Back in the States, most people—or at least those conditioned to life in the overcrowded, chaotic, heavily-sanctioned and regulated city—would have deemed this “suspicious behavior” and likely called the police—or at least locked the doors, closed the blinds and peeked out from behind the perceived safety of their four walls until such “suspicious people” with their “suspicious activity” left the area.

Our first year in Mexico came to show me–allowed and encouraged me to see–similar to the post I wrote titled Vecinos–that sitting and engaging in conversation and taking the day as it unrolls and reveals itself is just part of the natural rhythm and ebb and flow of life in a small town with community, life and her nuances all braided together.

In the States, in Southern California, our lives are so different, much more agendized, time more accounted for with “productive”, “purposeful” and “meaningful” activity—with outward and tangible signs of accomplishment and success…with little down time and minimal contact with Mother Nature, of working, working, working to support ourselves in a non-sustainable system.

Here, in our first mainland Mexico home, we learned to slow down, to breathe, to observe and to take it all in. We learned by example and by practice to stop for conversation—eye-to-eye, present conversation–where there is an exchange of speaking and listening, of giving and receiving…of unabridged communication.

At the one-year mark of living full time in Mexico, the valuable life lessons were plain to see: we learned to slow down, to enjoy the moment, to feel and to listen, to redefine what is truly important.

I am happy to report that individuals once seen as “suspicious ones” contributed to a radical shift in my life perspective.

They were not only a fundamental part of the dynamic backdrop that made up daily life in a magical little pueblo like San Pancho, but their presence and lessons greatly improved and broadened my life quality and evolution. These “suspicious wanderers” became my acquaintances, my neighbors, my friends, an integral part of the collection of life teachers on this ever-winding path of discovery.

Gracias, mi querido México, como te quiero. ❤️

 

 

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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

 ⇑This is definitely not normal–or at least not my kind of normal. 

I can remember being stuck in that kind of mind-numbing traffic in our former Southern California lives–anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel trying to get from point A to B, 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.  

Breathing in toxic exhaust fumes and missing out on more meaningful engagement in life–on hold in hours of bottleneck traffic–was not how my husband and I wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime lives together with our children.

Being married to a firefighter who witnessed up close the extreme fragility of life was without a doubt a significant contributing factor to our decision to recreate our lives anew in Mexico–a land that embraces community, connection, conversation and a quality of life having nothing to do with the numbers in your bank account. 

After several years of research, planning and downsizing, on November 30th of 2012, our eight-year-old twins and I boarded a one-way flight to Puerto Vallarta while Frank and our 90-pound chocolate lab, Seamus, made the 4-day trip down South by car.

We said adiós to the frenetic paradigm of our north of the border lives. No more disconnection, traffic rush, hurry scurry, worry flurry…no more concrete jungle and burning candles on both ends.

Moving to Mexico with Kids

Since moving to Mexico 10 years ago, we have gone from chaotic 5-lane freeway madness to driving on  coconut-tree lined roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets where pedestrian safety and right of way is a real thing. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to purposeful engagement in soul-enriching, meaningful activities of our choice.

Time is precious. Spend it well.

Daughter Horseback riding in San Pancho

Baja California, Our First Mexico Home

Our twins were seasoned little travelers prior to our move to mainland Mexico, 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 my children’s hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Departure Day

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with our loved ones, the move itself and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively easy and something we were so ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

We made the move when Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Patience, planning and having the right legal Visa liaison at our side paid off and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. We arrived in San Pancho, Nayarit on a Friday, and that following Monday our previously homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at the former Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, they experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

While the Spanish immersion 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 and by their Spanish-Teacher Mama for the first eight years of their life in San Diego. Even without that advantage, children’s sponge-like brains, when given the opportunity, are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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.

Schooling, From San Pancho to Sayulita

From Escuela del Mundo, Mairead and Liam transferred to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surf culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the trusting, positive attitudes that they approach life with.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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…and surfing! In fact, surfing was part of their PE program!

Now in the 4th grade, Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of our family’s move to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our relocation, they could easily flip back and forth between English and Spanish.

From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

After a year and a half of living in San Pancho, 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 moved to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country.

San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule and life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride with one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Life Without Limits

Our children see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true and that carving one’s way in this diverse world is achievable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from Firefighter and Teacher to Solar Designer and Freelance Writer/Relocation Specialist. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners.

Moving to Mexico with Children

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 with our kids has been one great step towards that endeavor.

We O’Gradys embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give daily thanks for Mexico’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming, adopting and inviting us to feel truly at home. Moving to Mexico has been an undeniable adventure that continues to shape the trajectory of our individual and collective lives. 

~Katie

Moving to Mexico With Kids, A Father’s Perspective

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Moving to Mexico: Our Top Tips

It was our first big Summer storm since our return to the Pacific coast that clearly reminded us of the importance of proper house maintenance (and disaster prevention) in Mexico–or any country for that matter! While many hurricane warnings do get downgraded to tropical storms, it is still best to do some trouble-shooting and storm preparation prior to the grandeur and power of Mother Nature making her appearance. 

1. High-Quality Roof Sealant

Ensuring that the roof of your home has been properly inspected, sealed and protected against leaks and moisture intrusion should be a top priority. We learned this the hard way when our San Pancho rental grew large circular mold spores from the outside in after our first rainy season there. A disgusting and unsafe “inconvenience”, to say the least, and one that a layer of paint would not remedy! Needless to say, the roof had never been sealed. A slight oversight of the owners and as newcomers, a question we never thought to ask. Live and learn, in this case, the hard way.

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

Hire a reputable company to assess the roof’s condition and if needed, power wash it prior to putting on a quality sealant that has not been watered down. If you are renting, ideally your landlord has taken care of this very important detail, but it also wouldn’t hurt to have it assessed on your time and dime prior to the Summer rainy months.

There are various types of impermeabilizantes (sealants) available. Spending a bit more to ensure a quality result is well worth it. We went with this one, considering the amount of rain we receive here on the coast of Nayarit. 

2. Check That All AC Compressors are Optimally Functioning 

Speaking of roof maintenance, it is not such a bad thing to have the AC compressors (that are likely on the roof) checked for proper maintenance, wiring, etc. It is best to not assume that these important details have been tended to prior to your occupancy of the home. Taking matters into your own hands is not overkill. Trust me. 

In our case, on one of our first nights in our beach rental, the powerful lightning came cracking down like an arrow landing a bullseye, resulting in one of our rooftop AC compressors catching on fire! 

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

Fortunately I am married to a firefighter and knew that our family (and my nerves) were in good hands. The downpour extinguished the fire and the AC wires were changed out and the unit spared! 

Jungle and central highland storms can be powerful, messy and destructive. They are equally exciting and regenerative–popping out the dense, lush, canopies of green and the multitude of ecosystems that thrive inside of them–reminding one of the absolute magnificence of Mother Nature.

3. Silicone is Your Best Friend

Rainstorms also provide an opportunity to identify where exactly more silicone is needed, like around the collection of leaking windows at the base of a 20-foot high boveda ceiling! Tall ladder anyone? Those first few falls on our slick marble floors were not so fun (especially while still recovering from spinal surgery!) and made us delay not in tending to this issue ASAP.

The jungle wasted no time in welcoming us back and reminding us of the fortitude, sense of humor and determination one needs to both survive and thrive in this thing called Life. Yes, there is a price to pay for living in paradise, folks!

4. Have All Air Conditioners Serviced

Have all AC’s serviced at least once every six months, if not more frequently. The filters should be cleaned of mold/dust/debris and the electrical panels checked for any unwanted critters that can wreak havoc. Apparently electrical wires are a delicacy to geckos–ridding your AC’s of them is far easier than having to replace the entire unit.

5. Over-The-Bed Mosquito Nets

Screens on all doors and windows are not just a luxury but an absolute necessity lest you want to share your home with mosquitos, spiders, geckos, scorpions, iguanas and stray animals. Additionally, these-over-the-bed mosquito nets  are must-haves and will allow for peaceful, uninterrupted sleep ( ie. no annoying buzzing in your ear or waking up to ankles full of bites!)

6. Drain Covers

If you want to prevent golf ball-sized flying cockroaches and sewer smells coming into your living space, you’ll want to get some of these

7. Moisture Absorbing Bags & Room Dehumidifier

Jungle living equals hot and humid for at least 6 months out of the year! Ventilate your home as much as possible to protect your clothes, shoes and other household items. Using these moisture absorbing bags inside closets and other closed spaces helps to absorb excess humidity and to protect your items from musty odors and mold. 

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

Room dehumidifiers work really well and you’ll be amazed when you empty the water collection tank how much moisture they remove!

8. Polarity Tester for Electrical Outlets

Make sure your outlets are grounded and wired correctly with a polarity tester or hire a qualified electrician to do so.

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

9. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you’ve been following us for any time, you know why we recommend carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety. We recommend placing one in every bedroom and next to any gas-fueled appliance such as a stove, clothes dryer, hot water heater, fireplace and any freestanding gas heater. Of course we recommend smoke and explosive gas alarms too! All a small investment for peace of mind.

These House Maintenance in Mexico 101 Tips are based upon our own personal experiences from our now eleven years in country. I hope they are useful and help you to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your frustrations!

Do you have any other tips that you would like to add? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. 

Saludos,

~Katie O’Grady

House Maintenance in Mexico 101 Reader’s Tips:

Arturo: For the summer months it is highly recommended to put your clothes in airtight/vacuum sealed bags so that mold doesn’t grow in them especially if you skip town. I highly recommend doing this process with your shoes because if you don’t, the soles will disintegrate completely from the salty air and humidity.

Margaret: Keep all your food in the refrigerator, even if you wouldn’t normally, especially fruit. Clean up your kitchen messes as soon as possible to deter unwanted scavengers and never ever ever let your kids eat in the bed unless you want… ANTS ANTS EVERYWHERE! (and they bite)! Even with screens and drain covers, if you leave food out they will find you.

 

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*This article contains some affiliate links for products we use. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and loved it, you won’t see an affiliate link for it on Los O’Gradys in Mexico. It doesn’t change the price of your purchase it just helps support our platform. Thank you. 

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I write…

I write...

I write because I must
I write because it is the life force
that sustains my good cheer
my hope for the present
and the future

I write because it opens
me up
to the adventure of possibilities
and the possibility of adventures

I write
because without it
I am shut down and closed off
to the magic
of life
and therefore
of me

I write
because it speaks
to who I am
who and how I want to be,
my personal dreams
aspirations, goals and longings

I write
because it is my connection
with the divine
in me
in you
in all

I write.

 

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My Two Worlds, Mexico & The USA (A Cross Border Life)

2015

I was glancing down at our flight itinerary on our car ride to Tijuana from San Diego, and even without looking up (no, I was not driving), I just knew that we had crossed into Mexico.

Call it a sixth sense or a cellular recognition of the sounds and smells of mi Querido México, but something just joyfully registers in my brain when I know that I am back again on Mexican soil—when I am, home again.

Once at the Tijuana International Airport, the friendly and hard-working maletero (porter) greeted us curbside and put all eight (we had purchased snow clothes for the Colorado portion of this trip) of our suitcases onto his dolly, accompanied us to immigration and then to the Volaris check in. He chatted our children up (intrigued that these blue-eyed redheads are bilingual) and assisted us in getting all of our luggage handed off to the ticket agent. We tipped him generously (I believe in taking care of people that take care of me and my family), exchanged adióses and made our way through security and to our gate. 

My Two Worlds, Mexico & The USA (A Cross Border Life)

Once settled and waiting for our flight back to Leon, Guanajuato, I felt this profound sense of relief, comfort and familiarity upon being back in Mexico–to a land, people, culture and language that have been home to us for over three years now.

Growing up a half an hour away from the Tijuana/San Diego border and crossing it back and forth more times than I can count has also left my heart feeling equally—if not more so—at home in Mexico than in the US, especially now at this time in my family’s life with our permanent residency status and our long-term plans to continue to raise our children here.  

With this recent three-week trip to the States (spent in both California and Colorado), I am again reminded, and wonderfully so, of all the things that I love about both countries—my adopted one of Mexico and my birth one of the States.

Things That Stand Out to Me as Being Undeniably Mexican

  • Random, unorganized (often chaotic) flow of traffic–especially on the roundabouts/glorietas
  • The undesignated third lane on a highway
  • Family of four piled atop one motorbike
  • Burros and their door-to-door deliveries 
  • Gas, water and trash trucks with their loud jingles (especially in the mornings!)
  • Mobile fruit & vegetable vendors cruising the neighborhoods
  • Entire carcasses of cows and pigs being delivered to the local butcher
  • Early morning lines at the tamale stands with the flocks of pigeons waiting for their fallen portions
  • Fireworks for any occasion at all (like it is a Wednesday)
  • Mariachi bands, the barking dogs, the crowing roosters, the torrential summer downpours
  • The smells from panaderías, taquerías, tortillerías, sidewalk cleaning products
  • Colorful, fresh produce
  • Cordial comments of “a su servicio” from grocery store clerks and doctors alike
  • Pausing to chat, take in the moment, enjoy conversation and people watching
  • Lots of homeless, street dogs
  • Very few homeless, street humans
  • A 3D Life
My Two Worlds, Mexico & The USA (A Cross Border Life)

It is Fun to Reflect upon My Cross Border Life

These reflections are but just a small sampling of my experiences in and of Mexico that represent to me the kaleidoscope of color, texture and joy of life here!

Some people might find this cacophony of stimulus too much, too overwhelming or so foreign that it is unsettling and not within their comfort zone. I, on the other hand, find myself exhaling and smiling, like I’m putting on a comfortable pair of jeans. 

What are your interesting, positive or funny cross-comparison experiences of Mexico & The US?

Feel free to share in the comments section below. 

P.S. I realize I have not included a list of “things that stand out to me as being undeniably characteristic of the USA” and perhaps I will circle back to do so in more detail at a later date. For now, I will share these two reflections from a recent stateside trip to my hometown in Southern California:

  • Lots of homeless, street humans
  • Very few homeless, street dogs

Do I have more? Indeed, but I need to take some time to process through how I want to share them.

Saludos,

~Katie

 

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