I can remember being stuck in that kind of traffic in our Stateside lives—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.
Breathing in toxic exhaust fumes and missing out on active, joyful engagement in life–on hold in bottleneck traffic–was not how we wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime lives. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the sea of bumpers in front and send them to my husband at work with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.
And I don’t, not one little bit. Family? Yes. Five-lane freeway traffic? No.
Thanks to creating a radical shift in our lives by moving to Mexico with our children in 2012, we no longer live under that paradigm of life in a 21st-century modern society.
Moving to Mexico with Kids
Since immigrating to Mexico seven years ago, 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 soul-enriching, meaningful activities of our choice. Time is precious. Spend it well.
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 immigrated when our twins Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year.Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison at our side paid off and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico.
Baja California, Our First Mexico Home
Our twins were seasoned 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.
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 as it was something we were ready for.
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, our children experienced freedom and discovery like never before.
While the Spanish immersionoftheir 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 Mom 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.
Changing Schools, From San Pancho to Sayulita
After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, Mairead and Liam 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, surfing 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 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.
Our children are learning and growing 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 to survive in the rat race.
A Life Without Limits
They 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. Our children have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from Firefighter and Teacher to Solar Designer and Freelance Writer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners, interacting with the world around them with their bicultural perspective.
We O’Gradys embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us and inviting us to feel at home.
Moving to Mexico with our kids has been an undeniable adventure that continues to shape the trajectory of our lives, and we are forever grateful.
A question many of us Expats in Mexico are asked–Is Mexico Safe?–is one I understand but also admittedly grow tired of it.
Seeing the toxicity in the White House these days and the news channels that propagate fear, racism and all sorts of ugliness, it is no wonder some people question the safety–not just in Mexico–but all over this big blue globe that we humans inhabit.
The bigger, the bolder, the more horrific the headline, the more clicks and ad revenue.
Staying encapsulated in one’s own world, never traveling or adventuring outside the boundaries to experience new foods, people, music and cultures different from one’s own, certainly does not serve to cultivate a broadened and diversified view of life. It is that simple.
Is this to say that bad things don’t happen in Mexico? Of course not. Bad things happen every single day, in every country of this world, sadly. Human free will–a reality since the evolution of man.
Utopia, Where Are You?
We all want that utopic, safe place to live and raise our families.
Alas, there is no magic wand, elixir, or perfect answer to address one’s concerns about safety in the world, including Mexico.
Nonetheless, I will share with you my simple and clear position on this matter:
Use common sense and situational awareness everywhere you go.
Limit night driving, know where you are going, map out your travels.
Do not be flamboyant, rude, pompous, loud nor inebriated in public.
Don’t hang out with the cartels, drug lords or mafia.
Learn and respect the culture and customs of the country you are lucky enough to be a welcomed guest in and to call home.
Everyone must define the reality that what works best for them.
The following has been making its rounds on the internet regarding this hot topic of Safety in Mexico–perhaps you have seen it yourself.
Gringo: Hi, where are you from?
Mexican: Hi, I’m from Mexico
Gringo: Ah! The land of Chapo Guzmán, narcos, marihuana, crime and extortion.
Mexican: I’m sorry, are you a drug addict or a TV junkie?
Gringo: No!!! Why?
Mexican: Because if you were an athlete or sports fan, you would have identified Mexico with Ana Guevara, Hugo Sanchez, Julio Cesar Chavez, Finito, Chicharito Hernandez, Canelo Alvarez, Rafael Marquez, etc.
If you were an educated person, you would have asked about the Aztec empire, the Mayan culture, the Olmecs or any other of the great Mesoamerican cultures.
If you were a well-traveled person you would have talked about our majestic archaeological sites, our tourist-friendly colonial cities, our megalopolis or our exotic beaches…the astonishing biodiversity of our rainforests, mountain ranges, deserts, conifer forests.
You could have identified Mexico with our great painters, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco; our composers: Agustín Lara, Consuelo Velázquez, Armando Manzanero, Juan Gabriel Jose Alfredo Jimenez, our writers and poets: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, Juan José Arreola, Elena Poniatowska, Amado Nervo, Jaime Sabines; our inventors or scientists: Manuel Mondragón, Guillermo González Camarera, Luis Ernesto Miramontes; our cinematographers: Ismael Rodríguez, Emilio Fernández, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki, and even Luis Buñuel, who, being originally from Spain, chose to adopt the Mexican nationality.
If you were a gourmand, you would have asked about Tamales, Cochinita Pibil, Mole, Adobo, Chilaquiles, Chiles en Nogada, Guacamole, Pan de Muerto, etc. Or our traditional beverages: Tequila, Mezcal, wines and beers.
However, I can see, the only thing you can relate to Mexico is the provider to American drug addicts.
I just want you to realize that México is a lot more than what ignorant people and fear-mongering media knows or chooses to propagate.
There are millions of honest Mexicans, who even without knowing you, will open the door to our homes, and that if you care to visit, you will love to get to know us and to visit us. Mexico is even more than I can possibly tell you!
Thoughts from Another Expat Friend
“It’s a complex and complicated issue. It appears that violent crime is on the rise, but it’s hard to know if that is true or if crime is simply more visible now. There has been a big push on social media the last year or two to report crimes and try to hold authorities accountable in a way that really never happened before. Everyone is certainly more aware of it than they were in the past. With the continued growth of Expat-popular areas and the ever-increasing income disparity, it’s not surprising that the situation is exacerbated. Now, it’s probably worth noting that in just the past few months there was another mass shooting in New York and in San Francisco. And I read about travelers being murdered on a Canadian highway. I guess I’m starting to wonder if anyone is safe anywhere these days.”
My Final Thoughts on Safety in Mexico
I too see the alarming posts and articles on various media outlets and while I am not a Pollyanna with her head in the sand, I choose to limit my exposure to the news while staying as informed as necessary.
Worthy of stating again, Common Sense, Cultural/Situational Awareness, Language Skills, Kindness and Respect truly are golden, anywhere in this big wide world.
Mexico is complex and layered, just like any other country, and we love her dearly. She is not for everybody, and that is just fine too.
We all have to create the lives and make the decisions that sit best with us.
I welcome you to respectfully and thoughtfully participate in this conversation in the Comments section below. Thank you.
As a horse-crazy girl growing up in Southern California, had anyone predicted that one day I would ride in The Blessing of The Horses in San Miguel de Allende, I might have fallen right off the back of the saddle! Moving to Mexico let alone participating in such a grand, once-in-a-lifetime event might have been a lot for my developing brain to digest!
Spending my weekends at the barn and my summers at Rawhide Ranch, mucking out stalls and refining my lassoing and barrel racing techniques was a grounding anchor of a dynamic childhood.
“Pigtailed Cowgirl” was my go-to Halloween costume, complete with a Western-brimmed hat, boots and the biggest belt buckle my jeans could support.
Barbies and dolls never held my interest. Showing hunter jumpers during the school year and spending my summers working hard and getting dirty at a dude ranch was my idea of a good time.
Thanks to my lucky shamrocks I had the opportunity to participate in the ultimate equine experience of my life–The Blessing of The Horses–an annual central Mexico pilgrimage that convenes at The Parroquía of San Miguel de Allende.
While my emergency spinal surgery one year later was a success and I was thankfully not sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of my earthly existence, little did I know that this ride would be my last.
Heading out atop Guerrero (Warrior), a 17-hand black Friesian horse, into the desert plains of central Guanajuato,
traversing the trails and sometimes no trails at all, we met up with many other groups of riders from the surrounding communities on our way to El Jardín, the town center of San Miguel de Allende.
Watch Out for The Tree!
I was so mesmerized by the totality of the experience that I did not notice the low-lying tree branch just inches in front of my head. With no time to duck, it ripped my hat right off and brought it tumbling down to the muddy ground below. Fortunately, it landed to the side of the puddle, and even better than that, the spikey branch spared my face. One of the cowboys riding next to me was gracious enough to hop off his horse and retrieve it for me. Gracias, muchas gracias.
Upon rounding the corner of the train tracks, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of riders that had all joined together, some who had made the trek from bordering cities and states, for the procession up Canal Street into the main plaza.
I was one of a very small handful of female riders in a sea of cowboys and my face hurt by the day’s end from all of the ear-to-ear smiling!
I know my Grandpa Joe was smiling down from heaven, seeing his granddaughter out there in Central Mexico, atop this extraordinary, high-stepping, magnificent horse riding into a 16th-century colonial town amidst hundreds of cowboys and spectators, living my best life, in Spanish, in Mexico!
¡Viva Santo San Martin!
The procession didn’t begin without first a cleansing downpour from the high-desert sky, adding another element of surprise and adventure to the ride. Within moments of the first drops, all of the horses did a 180-degree turn around to position their hindquarters to the rain and thus shelter their faces as much as possible. Quite a sight amongst so many horses!
One of the more senior cowboys performed the honorary task of charging up and down the cobblestone street, shouting“Viva Jesus Cristo, Viva Santo San Martin!”. The parade officially commenced and in groups of two and three, we made our way up to the Jardín, passing by hundreds of waving, smiling spectators to the base of The Parroquía where a full Catholic mass was given to bless the horses and their riders.
El Centro was filled with flower-adorned arches and papel picado strung from the buildings. Riding through this tunnel of color, celebration and tradition was an honor for this 45-year-old California Cowgirl in Mexico!
Blessing of The Horses & Riders
Arriving at The Parroquía, hats were removed and heads bowed down to receive the blessings from the high priest.
There are experiences in one’s life that have the power to change who you are—to impact you in such a profound way that you see the world around you differently, with more depth and perspective. This was one of those times for me.
Thank you, Guerrero, The Gentle Warrior, for being my grand, majestic, safe companion and guide for the day. Thank you Mario and Rodo for your protection and navigation along the ride…an experience and a day I will never ever forget!
If you would like to read about another central Mexico pilgrimage on horseback that I had the fortune to participate in, please click on this link:
Four years ago this April we took our twins to their long-awaited and much anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara. We wished them a good time, smothered them with hugs and kisses and told them we would be back on Monday afternoon to pick them up.
My husband Frank and I were excited for them and for us, as we were going to have ourselves an adventure-filled weekend in nearby Lake Chapala, an area of Mexico we had yet to discover.
A Grain of Salt
After extensive research on TripAdvisor as to what were the best hotels in the Lake Chapala area, we chose Hotel Villa San Francisco. Looking at their five-star ratings at that time, we certainly didn’t see anything that would make us question the legitimacy of it being a safe, well-maintained lodging for us. Nor did we–yes, even as a firefighter family–ever think to travel with a carbon monoxide detector. How many of us have? Clearly we know better now and nearly scream it from the rooftops to inform and protect others. (See bottom of this post for a TripAdvisor review posted 7 months after Frank’s CO poisoning at the same Hotel Villa San Francisco, speaking of yet another hot water boiler problem on their premises).
After Frank’s medically-confirmed carbon monoxide poisoning at Hotel Villa San Francisco, TripAdvisor kept taking down our first-hand accounts of the poisoning. After multiple re-submissions–including Red Cross, Private Hospital & Hyperbaric Chamber diagnosis, treatment, photos and discharge notes–they atlas left them up. Frustrating, dismaying, exhausting and shocking to say the least.
Overbooking on A Holiday Weekend
We had reserved a second-floor room with a view but at the last minute prior to our arrival, the manager of HVSF notified us that on account of their having overbooked on a holiday weekend, they would need to relocate us to a different, ground-level room (Barroca) for our Thursday and Friday night reservation and then again move us to the owner’s personal home/Airbnb Villa Wilshire in a different town–Ajijic–for our Saturday night stay. Definitely not what we had signed up for but we are good sports and went with the flow, as they say.
After dinner our first night in Lake Chapala, Frank and I returned to HVSF to get some much-needed rest after our five-hour drive from Nayarit. Although very much looking forward to a hot shower, there was no hot water to be had and so a quick cold one it was.
The following morning, Frank showered prior to breakfast and still, no hot water.
We Notified The Management
It was here at breakfast at HVSF on Friday morning when we notified the manager Jorge of the lack of hot water in our room. He told us that “the wind had blown out the hot water heater the night before”, that they would “light it and monitor it throughout the day” and that they had been, “having problems with it”.
Monitor it? Had been having problems with it?
We were not particularly smitten with this Barroca Room that they had bumped us to–not just because of the absence of hot water–but because it was a dark, dirty, storage-space like room with a foul smell coming from the shower. We had asked the receptionist to please move us to a different room if one became available.
Frank and I had breakfast together this Friday morning on the veranda of the hotel, enjoying our time together, grateful that our children were nearby at their 6th-grade camp and appreciative of some couple time. It is painful for me to look at the following picture, knowing that it could have been our last meal together.
After breakfast we returned to the room so I could pack up our belongings (in anticipation of our room change) while Frank got caught up on some work at the window-side table.
CO-Leaking Hot Water Heater Right Outside Room Window
For the next three hours, Frank worked while I showered and then alternated packing up our belongings and resting on the bed as I was beginning to not feel well with a sore throat, burning eyes and a headache–all symptoms of the first stages of CO exposure.
Malfunctioning Water Heater on Other Side of Window
While we were at breakfast, after having spoken with the manager Jorge, someone came to reignite the hot water heater for when I turned on the shower to hot in the hopes of now getting a hot shower, Frank–who was working next to the window where just on the other side was the hot water heater–heard it “kick in”. He called out to me telling me that I should now have hot water, and while it never got hot, it was at least warm.
It was at this point, with the malfunctioning hot water heater now ignited, that the activation and expelling of the carbon monoxide poisonous gases began. As Frank was sitting literally to the side of and above the water heater (no more than a foot away), he was inhaling these CO fumes for 3 hours.
Thank God we didn’t ask to have the heater checked the night before as the outcome would certainly have been far worse for both Frank and I after a full night of breathing in the carbon monoxide as we slept. Thank God our children were not with us.
I told Frank that we should go wait outside in the garden while they finished the cleaning of the room we were to be moved to, that I was tired of being in a dark room on a bright sunny day, and feeling like I needed fresh air. Our bags were all packed and we were ready to move them into the courtyard.
When Frank stood up from this table where he had been working, he collapsed onto the bed, stating that he was having severe visual disturbances, nausea and a headache. His eyes were rapidly moving side to side and he was having great difficulty focusing and responding to me.
Needless to say, I was terrified, not having any idea what was occurring other than that it was very serious.
Was he having a heart attack? Was he having a stroke? He had no chest pain and he was not exhibiting any of the symptoms of a stroke…the strength in his hands was equal on both sides and his mouth was symmetrical. What could be happening?
Red Cross Arrives
I ran out to the hotel lobby and asked the front desk staff to call for emergency help. Running back and forth between the room to check on Frank and to the lobby to see if an ambulance had arrived yet, Frank’s symptoms continued to worsen. He was turning a grey/white color and losing consciousness. When the Red Cross arrived to the room and took his blood pressure, it was 190 over 90.
Red Cross Transport to Guadalajara
With the Red Cross medics getting Frank on the gurney, and me grabbing any of our valuables that I could carry, I went to the table where Frank had been sitting to get his laptop and saw right outside the window, an on the ground, hot water heater—hissing and spewing yellow/orange colored flames. I called this out to Frank as we were leaving the room, “Oh my God Honey, there is a water heater right under where you were sitting with yellow/orange flames!”
Once at the Red Cross in Lake Chapala, I phoned Hotel Villa San Francisco, asking to speak to the manager Jorge but was told that he was not available. I told the employee that answered the phone about my having just seen this yellow/orange flame spewing water heater and that I suspected that it was the cause of Frank’s condition.
Hotel Villa San Francisco’s Lack of Responsiveness
This Hotel Villa San Francisco employee CONFIRMED to me during this phone conversation that TWO CARBON MONOXIDE LEAKS had been found by the person that had just come out to look at it.
I asked them to please send someone from the Villa right away to the Red Cross to explain this to the doctor that was treating Frank, but no one from Hotel Villa San Francisco ever showed up. In fact, in the first 30 hours post carbon monoxide poisoning at Hotel Villa San Francisco, in spite of my multiple phone calls and emails amidst managing the critical care of my husband, NO ONE—not the manager nor the owners of Hotel Villa San Francisco responded to me nor reached out to offer a helping hand, nor to see if my husband was dead or alive. Furthermore, the rest of our belongings–2 suitcases and our car–were still at the hotel.
It was only upon my telling both the manager Jorge and the owners (whose contact information I had to hunt down through their Airbnb profile) that I would go public with our story that I received the following email from the owner on Saturday, April 29th at 8:46 p.m.
First Communications from Hotel Villa San Francisco Owner
I do find it interesting that an owner of a five-star hotel that serves so many guests did not have the ability to access both our phone and email information from the management when that very information was requested upon making our reservation.
My response to the owner on Saturday, April 29th at 10:37 p.m.
*when I returned to HVSF to retrieve Frank’s truck and our belongings, they had removed the small water heater
When we arrived at the Lake Chapala Red Cross via ambulance on Friday afternoon, I was not initially allowed back into the room with Frank. I asked the doctor and staff to please allow me to be by my husband’s side, that not only was he not coherent enough to speak for himself, but that I needed to translate for him and explain the chronology of circumstances that led up to his symptoms.
After the confirmation by the hotel staff that indeed two carbon monoxide leaks had been detected in the hot water heater right outside the window where Frank had been sitting for three hours, I shared this information with the Red Cross Doctor and he then allowed me to be by Frank’s side.
Hospital Confirms Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
It all made sense. Frank’s symptoms were every one of carbon monoxide poisoning—visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, blood pressure issues, confusion, headache, exhaustion, difficulty hearing and responding. The confirmation by the hotel of the two CO leaks, my sighting of the yellow/orange flame water heater, Frank’s symptoms and the doctor’s diagnosis all matched up. Now we knew what we were dealing with. The Red Cross Doctor immediately ordered Frank to be transferred to a private hospital in Guadalajara.
Lake Chapala Red Cross
On Saturday afternoon April 29, 2017 at 12:08, I sent the manager Jorge the following email:
“Buenas tardes Jorge,
Como ya saben, mi esposo Frank se intoxicó con la fuga de monóxido carbón del calentador del agua. Los médicos siguen tratando de salvarle la vida. Necesito que me mandes de inmediato los datos de los dueños para ponerme en contacto con ellos. Siguen guardando las maletas y cuidando nuestra camioneta Ford 150 que está en la calle enfrente. Paso hoy para ellos.
Los O’Gradys in Mexico
xxx-xxx-xxxx (my cell phone)“
“Good afternoon Jorge,
As you all already know, my husband Frank was poisoned with the carbon monoxide gas leak from the hot water heater. The doctors are still working to save his life. I need you to immediately send to me the contact information of the owners so I can be in contact with them. Continue keeping the suitcases and an eye out for our Ford 150 that is on the street in front. I will come today for them.”
When I arrived at the hotel on this Saturday, I walked into Room Barroca to double check that none of our personal items were left behind, and guess what? They had removed the hot water heater that had been directly below the window just a day before. Gone, no longer there.
Jorge and various other staff members were sitting in the courtyard right outside the Barroca Room, perhaps waiting for my arrival since I had notified Jorge that I would be coming up, and not one of them acknowledged what had happened, inquired as to whether or not my husband was dead or alive, offered an apology nor expressed any concern. Nothing.
I opened our suitcases to make sure everything was there and asked them to make a copy of our reservation showing that we had in fact stayed in and paid for that one night in Room Barroca.
On Sunday, Apr 30 at 11:44 AM I received this message from who I am assuming to be Jorge since it was written in Spanish and came directly from the same email address he had used to correspond with me previously during the reservation process.
Por favor acepte mis disculpas por todas las molestias incluyendo la demora a su contestacion, pero le aseguro que estamos muy preocupados, pero hemos estado ocupados realizando nuestras propios inspecciones e investigaciones con el fin de encontrar una explicacion a esto, le aseguro que nos comunicaremos con usted tan pronto nos sea posible.
Elegancia en la Ribera de Chapala
Hotel Villa San Francisco agradece su preferencia”
“Please accept my apologies for all of the bother including the delay in response to you, but I assure you that we are very concerned, but we have been busy doing our own inspections and investigations with the point of finding an explanation to this, I assure you that we will be in touch with you the soonest possible.”
On Monday, May 1, 2017 4:41 pm I heard from Anthony, one of the owners:
You very much do deserve to be treated as kindly and as efficiently as possible, and I do acknowledge that it may not seem that that has been the case. However, you may be assured that everything possible has been done from the perspective of the hotel. A huge part of the challenge has been that we are out of the country, and we are dealing with the cancer death of a close family member who was too young to have died. This, plus other stresses too involved to detail here, have made things extra difficult. Further, being a holiday weekend in Mexico has made it especially difficult to get professional assistance.
That said, our main problem was the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning itself. Given that we take great care to maintain our systems at full operating efficiency, I was quite stunned to learn of your husband’s apparent difficulty. It was only last month that we spent $6500 doing regular boiler maintenance, and replaced regulators, and did thorough cleanings. And in fact, in over 2000 nights of operations, with therefore 20,000 room nights of guests, such an issue has never once occurred. Furthermore, the boiler is many feet to the side of the window, and is in the complete open air, and in fact is operating perfectly, at least as far as Proteccion Civil has confirmed on being immediately asked to inspect on Friday. Please understand that your use of the words “gross negligence” feels exceptionally harsh when measured against our actions, both recent and in the immediate aftermath of your husband’s very unfortunate incident.
You indicated that the water heater was suddenly “moved” by us! I can assure you that absolutely nothing was ever moved. It was placed there years ago, and is still there.
Katie, I am as anxious as you to be sure of what happened, but please understand that while my sympathy could not be greater, my genuine concern over the cause remains. We are continuing to investigate, but it will be difficult during the holiday weekend.
I shall contact you when I have further information. In the meantime,
My response to male owner on Monday, May 1, 2017 7:42 pm
Thank you for responding.
The fact of the matter is, there WAS a much smaller, gurgling, spitting, malfunctioning with orange flames single unit hot water heater directly outside the Barroca window looking DOWN directly onto the ground, NOT the one to the left where the larger hot water heater is.
When we checked in on Thursday night April 27, 2017 there was no hot water in the Barroca shower nor the following morning of April 28, 2017 when my husband showered prior to 10 a.m.
In fact, the condition of the Barroca room when we first entered, with hair on the bathroom floor not our own, an old failing mirror with poor visibility, run down shower doors and a foul smell from the shower, made us wonder if the room was only used for emergency over bookings or for your staff and therefore not maintained in a public rental standard.
We left the Barroca room for breakfast on the veranda on the morning of 4-28-17 where we spoke to Jorge about the cold evening and morning shower who stated that ‘”the wind had blown the pilot out” and that they would be “monitoring it throughout the day”….monitoring, not having an authorized technician check and fix it. He said he would keep us informed.
He then went into a lengthy explanation as to how the hot water would take a very very long time to get back to the Safari room where we were to be transferred to as soon as it was ready post cleaning.
We assured him we would rather have SOME hot water than NO hot water.
Jorge was doing his best to convince us to stay in Barroca but we assured him we wanted to be moved to a different room even if that meant we would literally be moving every single day of our 4 night stay due to the complications of overbooking on the part of your staff.
One of these nights was to be at your Villa Wilshire where we were told we would be placed on the terraza level, but again, due to overbooking, were moved to a ground level room.
We were offered a full breakfast instead of the continental and a reduced fee for our last night in Hollywood if we were to agree to the multiple room changes which we did.
Jorge went on to tell us about how he and his wife live in the back and that if she was doing dishes, there might not be hot water or that it could take up to 20 minutes for the hot water to get there and other various comments about hot water issues on site.
The 2 gentleman clients sitting at another table came up to assure us, in spite of Jorge’s narrative about the limited and long taking hot water in the Safari room, that in fact they had had plenty of hot water during their stay in Safari.
After breakfast, we went directly back to Barroca. When I turned on the shower to take my shower, my husband HEARD the small hot water heater ignite and begin to heat, as he was sitting right next to it at the table and window.
I then alternated between packing up our items and resting on the bed on the opposite side of the room/window under the ceiling fan.
My husband Frank did not move from the small table by the window where he worked on his laptop for nearly 3 hours, thus getting a direct hit from the carbon monoxide fumes coming in through the window.
When I phoned the Villa from the Red Cross on Friday April 28, 2017 at 3:28 pm, the male hotel representative that I spoke to on shift CONFIRMED that TWO carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the water heater and that they “had fixed it”.
I suppose the entire removal of the water heater constituted “fixing it”..???
I pleaded that they send someone from the villa to the Red Cross but NO ONE showed up. I was told during that phone call that Jorge was not on site, that he had gone to Guadalajara.
It is insignificant to me that this has not occurred in your previous 20,000 guests. What is significant to me is that this did happen to my husband.
Perhaps your manager Jorge can explain to you what alterations or problems they were having with this now removed small water heater when you were not in the country.
Lastly, there were NO actions taken in the “immediate aftermath” by you, Roseann, Jorge nor anyone representing Villa San Francisco. In fact MORE than 30 hours had passed when I finally heard from Roseann after stating to she and Jorge via email that I would bring our story to social media to inform and hopefully protect others.
With your being out of the country during the time of this incident, perhaps you are not aware of whatever modifications your manager Jorge did or did not do and/or communicate to you.
That is your responsibility as the owner.
I have provided you with sufficient information.
Tomorrow when I am more rested from this trauma I will put together the rest of the paperwork including copies of all expenses up to date.
Katie & Frank O’Grady
Los O’Gradys in Mexico”
On Monday, May 1, 2017 6:04 pm I received this from the owner Rosann:
I then sent both owners on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 10:25 a.m. the following:
“Good morning Anthony & Rosann,
At any point since my husband’s carbon monoxide poisoning in room Barroca at Villa San Francisco on Friday 4-27-17 (not Saturday 4-28-17) morning, you could have obtained my email from your manager Jorge or had Jorge provide me with yours, thus not needing to go through Airbnb, clearly.
Your staff witnessed what happened and I phoned the Villa from Red Cross while there fighting to save my husband’s life.
NO ONE contacted me in the first 30 hours post incident. NO ONE!
If Jorge did not inform you until Saturday that is just unconscionable. Although your husband mentioned knowledge of it on Friday 4-28-17.
If Proteccion Civil did an inspection on Saturday, a full day later, it was on a different hot water heater, not the one that nearly caused my husband his life.
The one with the carbon monoxide leak had been removed from where it originally was, directly below the Barroca only window.
It was there on Friday when the poisoning occurred and not on Saturday when I returned to retrieve our items and car and took photos.
I’m sure Jorge could explain the removal of the offending water heater.
While your own health challenges and the loss of a family member are unfortunate and a priority to you, you and your husband have an ultimate priority as business owners operating a facility that rents rooms to the public to be responsive and responsible.
“You are sorry about my husband’s health” is hardly an acknowledgment, apology nor statement of accountability.
I am attaching for now both the Red Cross and Hospital’s diagnoses of Carbon Monoxide Intoxication.
While we are not interested in going the legal route at this point, we are interested in a formal apology and recuperation of all of our expenses including the one night at Villa San Francisco resulting from this nightmare.
Katie & Frank O’Grady”
*sent with the following four attachments taken by my phone while still in Guadalajara:
Red Cross Treatment & Diagnosis: “Toxic Substance & Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide”
Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Intoxication
Hyperbaric Chamber Oxygen Treatment
Receipt for Hyperbaric Chamber Treatment for Carbon Monoxide Intoxication
I then sent the owners of Hotel Villa San Francisco the receipt with letterhead from the Doctor of the hyperbaric chamber facility where Frank received two 90 minute sessions.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017 @ 2:12 p.m.
“Anthony & Roseann,
Attached please find the receipt for the two hyperbaric chamber treatments my husband Frank O’Grady received to aid in the detoxing of his body from the carbon monoxide poisoning that occurred at your Villa San Francisco in Lake Chapala on Friday, April 28, 2017.
I will be sending the other various receipts of charges incurred to save his life in subsequent emails.
Receipt from Doctor from Hyperbaric Chamber Facility in Guadalajara
First of Two Hyperbaric Chamber Treatments
High-Pressured Systemic Oxygen Treatment
#2 of 2 Hyperbaric Treatments in Guadalajara
Just Do The Right Thing
I have heard nothing else from the owners nor the management beyond what I have shared here.
Perhaps on account of it being a holiday weekend and their hotel overbooked, they connected this small, temporary, and obviously malfunctioning water heater up to the outside of Room Barroca so as to not have a larger demand on the other water heater(s).
Clearly, only the manager Jorge and the owners of Hotel Villa San Francisco can speak to this addition/modification—a deadly one that nearly cost my husband, our children’s Daddy, his life.
Now nine days post poisoning, Frank continues to detox from the effects of the carbon monoxide. He will have a couple of more hyperbaric chamber treatments and follow up tests in the hopes that there are no long-term consequences.
*Disclaimer: this article contains affiliate links for products we use. The price is the same whether you use our affiliate link or not. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and loved it, you won’t see an affiliate link for it here.
Apparently we weren’t the only ones that had hot water heater problems at Hotel Villa San Francisco in Lake Chapala:
As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, it is no small irony that I, along with my retired firefighter hubby and our eight-year-old twins–burnt out on the consumerism-centric, rat race grind of life in Southern California–would immigrate to Mexico to create our lives anew.
Departing from San Diego with nothing but a car and trailer full of the “essential belongings” that remained after selling, donating 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 and with the assistance of a highly reputable, Puerto Vallarta-based legal liaison.
A DNA Kind of Love
From a very early age, perhaps even encoded in my genetics, I have had a deep love and respect for Mexico–her people, food and music…her allure and absolute reverence for community, history and tradition.
Growing up just a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana Border gifted me a bilingual/bicultural upbringing and thus an ability 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 was one of the most significant influences in my love of and connection to Mexico.
Grandpa, A.K.A. “Big Joe”~Chief of Us-Mexico Border
Always dressed impeccably in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shined leather shoes–no matter the occasion–my “Big Joe” (as we affectionately referred to him) was a humble, bright, witty gentleman with no time or 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 quail and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned the ordinary into magic.
His affinity for conversation, charisma, thoughtful ways and 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 was 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 also had their own fair share of South of The Border Shenanigans and their stories were nothing short of hilariously entertaining–truly like something out of an I Love Lucy Show! This picture is of the two of them (in the middle) on a day’s outing in Tijuana…I can imagine the laughter!
Grandmary & Baba in The Middle. Can You Hear The Laughter?
Crossing The Us-Mexico Border
It comes to me as no great surprise that we find ourselves in a time when more and more people want to move 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 eight years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it.
“Katie tells it like it is, the good, the great and the not so good. She is very encouraging but honest and doesn’t sugarcoat. And that has helped me immensely in narrowing down my search for the perfect place to retire in Mexico. I will be making the move soon and won’t hesitate to use her services.” ~Sylvia
¡Eres como una especie de héroe para mí, cómo encajaste tú y tu familia muy rápidamente en una cultura opuesta a la estadounidense. Sigue escribiendo esos posts, hacen por menos estar allí cuando los lees y soñar!” ~José
Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Home & Travel Safety
“You are a force to be reckoned with and you lift us up with your postings. You spread a light and love that is not easy to come by these days.” ~MJ
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