Karen Swanson writes at Karen Moves to Mexico, a blog I’ve been following for quite some time now. Her stories about the children at the shelter she and her husband volunteer at are inspiring!
Like many expats, our dream of living here in Mexico started soon after we started vacationing here. In addition to the regular tourist activities, we found ourselves repeatedly visiting a Children’s shelter in Bucerias, Nayarit and our growing love of the children drew us here permanently. Now we are daily volunteers at this orphanage, teaching English classes, fostering children and giving lots of hugs.
Well, I called my blog Karen Moves to Mexico because I really wanted to share the whole moving process with those closest to me. I guess I didn’t foresee that I would keep writing long after the move was over.
This blog focuses on the daily life of my husband and me in Bucerias, Nayarit which is just north of Puerto Vallarta. It covers our personal experiences, stories from our community and many stories are about the children we care for at Manos de Amor, Casa Hogar.
I started blogging to keep my family and friends from panicking about this crazy move. I wanted them to know what was happening with us and to be okay with it. But I began to realize that writing was helping me process my own feelings about it all. As we got more involved in the orphanage and started working with many families in surrounding villages, I began to realize that my heart was full of both pain and joy. So much poverty, so many problems in the lives of these little ones. But also, so much joy as we connected deeper with each child. This blog became more of my personal journal than a how-to guide on moving to Mexico. And people began to respond to the stories – offering encouragement and support that was good for me and for my husband.
This was hard – I have so many blog posts about the children we work with and my heart is touched every time I reread one of those posts. But the post entitled “What I’ve Learned…So Far” is a good overview of my feelings here. That was written last year on the anniversary of our move. This year’s anniversary post was just written last week “Are We Happy?” and it also is a reflection of my current heart thoughts.
The most difficult has been blogging about some of the crappy things I have seen in the homes of the children we work with. I want to tell the stories of these moms and dads without judgment – I think mostly they are doing the best they can – but sometimes that is difficult. I get mad and I get frustrated and that is hard to write about.
Our best experience has absolutely been working with the children of Manos de Amor. To give up our fast-paced work lives to invest in the lives of broken children has been heartbreaking but so satisfying. Having children live in our home on weekends, a little one with an STD live with us for 5 weeks – it has been one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done but so very meaningful. A lot of my blog talks about what we’ve learned and how we’ve changed because of that so you must read the blog to learn the lessons!
Just a few months ago we were on our way to Canada pulling a long trailer when a motorcycle driver hit us in Guadalajara. As happens here after an accident, the insurance agents tried to negotiate a deal but when the injured motorcycle driver refused to accept any deal (he was fully at fault in the accident but wanted to get some $$$ from it) we were told that our vehicle was being impounded and my husband would have to go to jail for 48 hours until court convened. That was a pretty scary day. After 8 hours, we were let go but the idea of Mexican jail made that our worst day here. Thank goodness we had great friends who were helping us negotiate with the police. That is our biggest takeaway from that day (besides don’t pull a trailer through Guadalajara!) – it’s okay to lean on friends. We’re used to being pretty independent but it’s good to have people in your corner. Also, we really need to improve our Spanish!
I would tell someone planning on moving to Mexico to give up all your expectations of how things ‘should’ be and go with the flow. You will be so frustrated if you don’t accept waiting in lines, bureaucratic nonsense and things never start on time. So what? That’s part of the charm and if you accept the fluidity of it all, you will be okay.
I think there will be a time when I will share more of the details of what to do and how to do it here. Things we’ve figured out the hard way. For now, I’m happy sharing from my heart about what it is actually like to live here. I hope others are inspired by my stories. not just to move to a new country, but to step out wherever they live and take risks. Try scary things. Find deeper meaning in their lives. Make a difference in the lives of others. Keep stretching and growing.
I can be found at: