A Different Kind of ExPat

H and M Barra
Heather and Michelle in Barra Navidad

When I started researching living abroad, I really didn’t understand what the term “expat” meant. As an abbreviation of expatriate, it sounded to me that this was a person who rejected his own country somehow, or perhaps was even rejected by their country instead. Of course, it simply means one who lives outside their land of origin, which I finally realized.

I’ve met so many expats in my travels, from young people who were in the exploration mode and still traveling regularly to retirees who had settled into a gated community and rarely stepped outside their “safe” zones. To varying degrees, I’ve enjoyed my interactions with most of them, depending on the degree to which they were open to and appreciative of the people and traditions of the places they now inhabited.

So, of late, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with the two Canadian ladies who jump into Manzanillo with gusto. Heather, in her mid-sixties and Michele, in her mid-seventies, bought a home here in my neighborhood of Las Brisas four years ago and are now fixtures.

What I love about the two of them is their embrace of their new home and the degree to which they’ve explored their surroundings. Their home is something of a mecca to other expats in the area and several well-loved Mexicans, one of which they trust deeply. Their friend Gabriel has assisted them in everything from their home and car purchases to repairs and travels to other cities.

Heather, a widow, and Michelle, a divorcee, had traveled together before settling in Manzanillo. As co-workers for many years, they knew each other very well and the deep connection shows. They are very complimentary roomies, lucky to have found someone with whom to share a new life.

The newest puppy, Bella! She’s two months old and incredibly tiny.

I did the “deep dive” with them both the other day, as we rode together to pick up a new puppy from the vet. I wondered what they were seeking when they came here and if they’d do it again.

Heather quickly answered that weather was a big factor. Being from Alberta, Canada, she and Michelle both lived with annual extreme cold and snow. Now, they chuckle because Manzanillo can sometimes be a bit too warm, but they’ve adjusted with the help of a lovely little home with a pool. And there is a degree of acclimation at happens for most people.

The language barrier was also another big surprise. Both had expected to learn Spanish quickly and without much effort. That hasn’t turned out as planned, although both get along with some Spanish and a lot of gestures. However, buying a home and car without the ability to read what she was signing gave Heather pause. If she knew what she knows now, she thinks she may have chosen a location with more English speakers than Manzanillo, which is starting to have more people who do but is still mainly Spanish-speaking. It can be a challenge.

But what is so fun about these two ladies is their ability to see the beauty in the things around them, instead of complaining about what isn’t like “home.” Just a tiny example is in the picture below. Heather has a bit of an artist in her and their home is covered in items of everyday beauty that are totally and completely Mexicano! Here she’s elevated a simple Frida Kahlo shawl to window décor and on the wall next to it hangs a beautifully embroidered blouse as artwork.

H Frida
Just one example of the incorporation of Mexican culture in their home.

H and M, as I’ve mentally begun to call them, have taken me on adventures with them and wow. Just wow. A simple walk through town and lunch at a local eatery is enough. More than enough. Just my style. So, I’m happy I’ve managed to stumble into a friendship with these two, different sort of expats, and look forward to many more adventures in the future!


Author: Kathy Lynn Hall

I've embarked on the lifestyle of vagabond as a solitary woman and I'm excited about sharing my experiences with you.

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