Category: photos


My first Mexican carnival

I remember being told about how big ‘Guaymas Carnaval’ is. I was told about how many thousands of people attend over the four-day period, about the party atmosphere that ensues and about the concerts that take place at night. I was also very much looking forward to having some time-off from school. I. Was. Ready!

So my band of friends and I made our way down to downtown Guaymas, and this is just a glimpse of what we saw.

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It was cool to see the parade and to watch the different colourful floats pass by. We even caught a glimpse of a Cuban celebrity, although I still have no idea who she is.

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I think because everyone was hyping up the carnival so much, that it wasn’t as impressive as I had imagined it to be. I was expecting something on par with Nottinghill Carnival in London, or maybe even something as grandiose as Rio’s famous carnival. But it would be unfair to compare these carnivals, because they are so different and arise from different cultures and traditions. The Guaymas Carnival is distinctively Mexican; it boasts about its strong Sonoran traditions and its roots as a port town.

The Guaymas carnival is apparently one of the oldest and biggest in Mexico. It begins on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and ends at the beginning of Lent.

European immigrants and visitors passed through Guaymas’ port, and with them came the idea to organise a carnival similar to the festivals held in Europe. The first carnival in Guaymas took place in 1888 and was exclusively restricted to the upper classes. The lower classes could only watch the parades, while the main event took place at balls inside mansions.

This changed once the Mexican Revolution took place, and then over time it gradually turned into an event that could be enjoyed by the masses. The carnival is seen as an important cultural event, and in order to preserve this tradition kids have time off from school so that they can participate in, and enjoy, the carnival.

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Overall I had a great time. I danced, a lot, I ate, and I was merry. I met someone who has become a great friend and did I already mention that there was no school? So I really enjoyed my first Mexican carnival. Who knew that I’d actually be participating in the carnival the following year…

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After my incredible time in Puerto Vallarta, the next stop on my travels during the Christmas holidays was Guadalajara. Guadalajara is only about 4 hours away from Puerto Vallarta, so the journey seemed incredibly short compared to the epic 21-hour journey by bus from Guaymas to Puerto Vallarta.

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Guadalajara is Mexico’s second major city and is located in the state of Jalisco. I heard it can get really busy, but luckily for us, apparently, not as many people were around as there usually are, because they flocked off to Puerto Vallarta during the Christmas holidays. It was still pretty busy though, so I’d hate to see how rush hour is on a weekday.

Guadalajara is huge, but my friend and I stayed in the Historic Centre part of the city and we ventured out to Tlaquepaque, one of Guadalajara’s neighbourhoods. I spent about a week exploring these areas of Guadalajara, and I believe that this was enough time.

I instantly felt at home in Guadalajara. It is so busy, so metropolitan, and so eventful, that it offered me the hustle and bustle of city life that I sometimes miss and crave. The city, well at least the historical part of the city, is so scattered with colonial and modern architecture and art that it reminded me of a European city, and it made me think about going out and about in London.

Sights

The city boasts some pretty impressive colonial buildings, which is why I guess many Mexicans rave on about how beautiful Guadalajara is. And I can definitely see the appeal of this electrifying hub, especially if many towns are like the one that I’m currently based in. But I guess because I’m familiar with seeing this type of architecture around me, I was just a little bit underwhelmed. Even so, I loved Guadalajara and how energetic and full of life it is, and it is still one of my favourite cities in Mexico so far.

   

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There is a lot to see in Guadalajara’s historic centre. I recommend strolling around the Plaza de la Liberacion area, where there is sure to be many different type of activities and food stalls to sink your teeth into, depending on the season. My particular favourite activities when I went just after Christmas were the makeshift ice-skating rink in the middle of the plaza, the Ferris wheel and the ice slide.

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You also have to visit Plaza de los Mariachis, where mariachi music originated from. You’ll find many mariachi bands serenading diners or just chilling in the area. Be careful though; don’t venture too far into that area after dark as I was told by the police and by locals that it can be quite dangerous. I just remember seeing a security guard keeping watch over a video game store with a machine gun – an actual machine gun. “You steal, you die,” I can almost hear him say.

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There is a really big market place called San Juan de Dios, and there is a lot of things happening in and around that area. If you are feeling super adventurous, then you could walk down the really long road to see the Vallarta Arches and the Minerva Goddess statue guarding the city. Please only walk there if you have a lot of time on your hands. I totally underestimated the distance and I ended up walking for an eternity. It seemed a lot closer than it was on the very basic map we were given; little did I know that it missed out a load of streets. But I saw some cool sights on the way, so it wasn’t that bad.

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You can also take in the sights of the cobblestoned streets of Tlaquepaque and shop in the various markets and boutiques where you can buy a lot of handcrafted items, jewellery, shoes, furniture, paintings and other items.

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Entertainment

Aside from the action-packed festivities that you can indulge in in Plaza de la Liberacion during the Christmas holidays (they are free, but free also means that there are long queues), my friend and I went to Plaza de los Mariachis for NYE. It was a quieter affair than we expected and the sky hardly lit up with fireworks as we were hoping and expecting, but we were entertained by the singing, the traditional dancing, and the mariachi band playing. This was pretty much the first time that I encountered the famous outburst of laughter during the middle of a mariachi song, even if it sounds sad. We were given 12 grapes for each month of the year so that we could eat it during the countdown to midnight and make a wish. It wasn’t properly explained to us what we had to do though; they just made a nice snack.

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Disregarding the Christmas season though, there are various street performances that take place throughout central Guadalajara. There is pretty much always something happening if you walk in the area between San Juan de Dios and Instituto Cultural de Cabañas, which is a gallery. The gallery itself is a pretty interesting place to visit, especially if you have time to just roam around. What’s more is that it’s free one day during the week and free is always good! You just have to enquire for details, because I forgot which day we went there for free, sorry.

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In terms of the nightlife there, my friend and I love salsa music, so we frequented El Callejóon de los Ruberos and La Mutalista. If bars are more your thing, then there are plenty dotted around, especially in the fashionable Chapultepec neighbourhood. If you just prefer drinking in general and you love Tequila, then you can go on day trips from Guadalajara to the surrounding towns of Tequila, Amatitán or Atotonilco El Alto.

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If you feel the urge to do something healthier, then on Sundays, central Guadalajara’s main roads are closed for a few hours to provide a clear path for cyclists, runner, skateboarders, skaters, walkers, etc.

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Or if you prefer to watch physically challenging feats rather than partake in them, then you can head down to Arena Coliseo to watch the Lucha libre, Mexico’s version of WWF, but with masks and costumes. I’ll go into more details about this in another post.

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Accommodation

We stayed in a place called Hostal Plaza Liberacion. It was pretty cheap and you have the option to stay in the hostal or the hotel part of the building. My friend and I shared a twin room (hotel) and I felt pretty comfortable. It also has kitchen appliances, so you are able to cook if you want to save money. What I really loved about this place was its location. And I liked this place so much, that I decided to stay here when I returned to Guadalajara for Easter for a couple of days.

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I absolutely loved Guadalajara, so much so that I even considered moving here. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that the city is 4 hours away from the beach.

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As I’ve already stated elsewhere on my blog, one of the main reasons that I am teaching English is that it gives me the chance to earn money while I’m travelling. Obviously, my travelling is restricted to the holiday periods, because of the fact that I’m a teacher.

So for my first actual travelling trip during the Christmas holidays, I went with a friend by coach to Puerto Vallarta. It was far too expensive to travel by airplane, because there are only few domestic airlines, which then means that they can charge an arm and a leg for the ‘privilege’ of you using their services. And for some reason, even though there used to be more passenger trains, this is no longer the case. Passenger trains are restricted to certain areas in Mexico; only freight trains run up and down the country. So the most economical way that most people travel around Mexico is by coach.

Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco, which according to Google Maps is approximately 734 miles from where I live. This was my first epic coach journey and it lasted around 21 hours. It was only when I was planning my trip that I realised how humongous Mexico actually is, because Puerto Vallarta is only kind of situated in the middle of Mexico; I would hate to travel by bus to Cancun. But my first bus journey (yes, I annoyingly am succumbing to using the American word for coach – curses) was very luxurious and comfortable. But this special TAP coach service set the bar far too high, and all my other coach journeys since have paled in comparison. As we travelled to Puerto Vallarta, I got to see the different kinds of landscapes that Mexico had to offer, and it was awesome to see greener surroundings in comparison to where I had been living.

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Once we arrived and had checked-in to our accommodation, my friend and I tried to do as much as we possibly could in Puerto Vallarta (P.V). We covered a lot of ground in a short space of time and we had a lot of fun. P.V. is a coastal town and a lot of activities focus on, but are not restricted to, beach life. We were there for about a week, and I think that’s more than enough time to see what the place has to offer. That is unless you are one of the Americans or Canadians, who like to ‘winter’ here for months on end, taking everything in at a laid-back pace.

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Sights

P.V. is a pretty, coastal town and it really doesn’t take a long time for you to feel relaxed. And in comparison to Cancun, it’s pretty cheap, and that’s why many Americans, Canadians and Mexicans choose P.V. as a holiday destination.

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The beaches are a pretty awesome sight as well. Just be aware that there is a beach with ‘pebbles’/big arse rocks on it, and then there are the sandy beaches as well. Also the waves can get pretty huge unexpectedly as well, as I’ve personally experienced. I just remember one minute that I was standing up in the water, I turned my back to the sea to say something to my friend (school-boy error), and then the next minute I was knocked over, surrounded by water, looking at the light so that I could get out of the water. As a new swimmer who doesn’t feel comfortable in the sea, that was a pretty traumatic experience for me, but I like to think that I played it cool.

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Excursions

There are many different types of excursions that you can go one to suit your taste. There are many stalls and many people walking up and down the beach who will try and sell you the best offer. Your waiter may even hustle in on the action, and claim to know someone who can give you the best deal. My advice would be to shop around different sources, and then haggle. But don’t expect a luxury service if that’s not what you have paid for. For me, the highlight of the trip was what we ended up seeing. Also If your excursion involves travelling from the Port then be prepared to pay a little bit extra to enter the port.

On our first excursion, while half of the people on board went to Las Animas, a beautiful beach that hardly had any people on it, we ventured on to a place called Quimixto to go horse riding to see a waterfall.

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Our next excursion on Christmas Day was to see the Marietas Islands, in particular Playa del Amor, also known as the Hidden Beach. We had a little detour on the way as there were some dolphins and whales that were swimming by, so we stopped to watch them. Once they swam away, we then continued on our journey to Playa del Amor. The beach is a beautiful place, and it was truly awesome to see it. But there were a few downsides though, which you should be aware of.

First of all, despite what photos show you, you will not be the only person on the beach. In fact, you will share the small beach with many, many people, which makes for a very crowded experience. What’s more, you’ll only have 15 minutes to enjoy the beach, as there are so many tour companies that have allotted times to visit the beach. Taking into consideration that you have to swim about 150m to get there, because it’s a protected area, so boats aren’t allowed past a certain point. This is fine, if not long and arduous, if you’re an ok swimmer like myself with a life vest. But it’s a bit more challenging if you don’t swim at all, like my friend and a few other people on the tour. But the tour guides were always there to help you if you got into trouble so that was fine.

The real challenging part of the experience was swimming through the cave. Whenever you tried to swim inside, the current would push you back. There were so many people there, so be prepared to get limbs hitting you left, right and centre. It was particularly dangerous because the water rose every so often, so you risked hitting your head at the top of the cave or you getting pushed under. Therefore you had to time your swim through the cave perfectly. For all I tried, I just couldn’t do it by myself, so a guy encouraged me to grab hold of his lifesaver with a couple of other people. “Fuerte, fuerte,” I remember him shouting. He was telling us to kick harder against the current. It was a huge relief to just be able to lie on the beach after having gone through all of that trauma. Little did I realise that I was walking around half-naked for a good few minutes until someone alerted me to that fact – how embarrassing. Regardless of all the negatives, it really was worth seeing Playa del Amor.

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The cave of doom

After our tour here, we went near one of the other islands to snorkel, kayak or body board. If your tour operator is anything like my one, then they don’t have enough equipment for everyone to kayak or body board at once, so you’ll have to wait until it’s your turn. I went snorkelling, but it wasn’t the best experience I’ve ever had. Even though the facilities and the resources weren’t great, the entertainment on the boat was excellent. I have videos, but I’m not allowed to make them publicly available.

Accomodation

We stayed in a place called Hotel Ana Liz. Even though it was a budget hotel, with our room costing around $390 pesos per night, the location was great. We were only a ten minute walk from the beach and we had everything we needed close by, including a launderette.

Food

There a many restaurants that you can eat at, and a few food stalls that can whet your appetite as well, and although many of them are really good, some of them are only ok. There’s one place in particular that had awesome food and superb service, and that was Bravos. Every time we went in there, we felt like celebrities. This, along with another restaurant that was a few doors away from it, if I remember correctly, quickly became our favourite place to eat.

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Entertainment

There is a lot of entertainment in the area, from groups recreating ancient rituals by the sea, to outdoor plays and comedy acts that you typically see in the evenings in a Mexican town.

There are also a myriad of bars and clubs along the beach, particularly close to the malecon. I particularly loved La Bodeguita del Medio, because of its melodious Cuban vibes, which I love.

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Overall, my friend and I had a great time in P.V. and my experience there is something that I would treasure forever.

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*Aside from the map and the pictures of Playa del Amor, the rest of the photos are mine.

The whole story started off gloomily. My housemate had just been let go unceremoniously from the school earlier than she had expected. She had another job to go to but the problem was that this wasn’t due to start until a month’s time. She thought she would give the school a month’s notice, but Mexico doesn’t appear to work on those standards. She was understandably worried about finances and the fact that she would no longer be able to afford the vocho, an old blue mini, that my housemates had been ogling a few days ago.

Martin went out of the house for a while and then came back. He invited us outside, and to Sara’s surprise, the vocho was parked on the driveway. Everyone was really excited, including Piña the cat; Sara was really thankful and the sight of the car on the driveway of our new house made everything feel complete.

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Sara wanted to test drive the car, especially since she would need the car to drive to her new school as it was a bit far away. She really needed to practice; she hadn’t driven in a while, and when she drove a car a couple of weeks before, it was a little bumpy to say the least. But disregarding this fact, we all decided to take the car for a spin to the centre of town, during rush hour, so that she could practice driving – schoolboy error.

Martin drove to the centre and then stopped in a car park so that Sara could drive back home. After a jerky start, we were off and things were ok, considering. This was until all of a sudden I heard someone shouting and saw someone angrily flash their torch at us as we were driving past. It was a traffic cop and we had just driven past her when I’m guessing we were supposed to stop. In fairness, it was pretty dark and she wasn’t wearing a hi-visibility vest.

We had to stop at a red traffic light around 50 metres away. I decided to provide some light-hearted commentary.

“Oh my gosh, she’s coming,’ I said half amused.

You could feel the tension in the car; my housemates didn’t say a word. I think we were all just waiting for the red light to change so that we could just drive off. It didn’t.

I turned to the rear window again to check where she was. “She’s getting closer. Wow she’s really powering through.”

Silence, but the silence was deafening.

“She’s right behind us.”

“Thanks Monique,” somebody dryly said.

The police woman tapped on the window and told Sara to pull up. She did, but the extra stress prevented her from parking properly, so in the end someone else had to do it. She was scared, Martin was pissed off, and I was just kind of taking it all in and provided a running commentary to my friend on Whatsapp.

Sara didn’t bring her driving license, she was apparently speeding (the speedometer wasn’t working), she didn’t stop when she was told to, the car didn’t have license plates and we were travelling without registration documents. We were there for a while, while the policewoman constantly asked us (Sara) questions in a menacing way. She looked into the car to see who else was in there. She thought I was a man, great. She was threatening us with fines and said the car may be taken away. Sara pleaded for her not to and said that we were all just foreign students. It didn’t seem like she cared. Some more things were said that I couldn’t understand.

In the end, Sara got back into the car with Martin at the steering wheel and told him to go quickly. I thought at first that she was trying to escape from the policewoman; that really wouldn’t have been a smart idea. I had images in my head of a ‘high-speed’ police chase in our old banger with the Mexican police and their big-arse machine guns behind us taking fire. I definitely would have died. But apparently the woman just said that we could go. We went quickly before she had the chance to change her mind. We all just laughed in disbelief and relief. I clearly found it more amusing than they did, but vowed I wouldn’t write about it until their emotions had settled down. I’m pretty sure that time has passed by now. So what did we learn? Many things, you might expect. Not as much as you would think, actually, and this became apparent in our second encounter with the Mexican police, which was a little more… eventful…

Protest

In my former flat, I used to live right on the main road. The increase of the noise outside alerted to me to events that were happening on the street. I would run outside with my camera, in the hope of trying to capture something, and I’d be pleasantly surprised to see various kinds of musical parades, if I got to the balcony fast enough.

On 5th November I saw my first protest in Mexico. I saw people with banners and pictures of faces, and I knew immediately what the march was about.

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On 26th September 2014 43 students from a teacher training college in the Mexican town of Ayotzinapa went missing. Their plan was to travel to the town of Iguala, 125 miles from Mexico City, to protest against alleged discriminatory and funding practices from the government.

According to reports, police intercepted the students allegedly on the orders of the local mayor, Jose Lusi Abarca, as he wanted to prevent the students from interrupting a speech that his wife was giving on that day.

A clash ensued and the police opened fire on the students just outside Iguala, killing three students and three people in other vehicles, with many more injured.

Police officers seized students who were trying to run away during the shootout. They were detained at a police station and were allegedly handed over to Guerreros Unidos, a local drug gang. According to Mexico’s Attorney General, gang members have confessed to taking the students to a landfill site, killing them, and then burning their bodies, in the belief that they belonged to a rival gang.

The remains that were found at the site have been sent to a lab in Austria for analysis. Only one of the 43 students has been identified from the badly burnt remains. The families of the remaining 42 students refuse to believe that their loved ones are dead until they have proof. However, earlier this year, Mexican investigators stated that all of the students were dead based on confessions and forensic evidence around the landfill site, since the lab is unable to identify any more remains.

Understandably, many in Mexico are angry about the connection between the police, the drug gangs and local authorities, and this anger sparked nationwide protests. Many are also angry about how the case has been handled and how slowly it has progressed.

Since the incident, many people have been arrested, including gang members, police officers and the mayor and his wife.

Home

‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello! I have yet another vlog for you. This time, it’s about the first time I felt at home in Mexico, and it includes a short video from Viva Mexico. Just click on my picture to watch it. Enjoy! 🙂

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Hey guys!! So this blog post comes in the form of a vlog, where I’ll be talking about patriotism in Mexican schools. Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

The notion of non-English school kids being disciplined and well-behaved is a myth; whoever came up with that idea is a liar and should be punished! In fact, it probably came from some schoolteacher in a desperate bid to try and install some discipline in the classroom.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the picture-perfect image of smiling kids, who eagerly cling on to a teacher’s every word, quickly dissipated. To be fair, my 1st, 2nd and 3rd Graders weren’t children from hell, but they definitely were challenging, particularly the 3rd Graders.

I learnt so much while teaching them during that first full week. I learnt how to think quickly on my feet. For example, if an activity wasn’t working, then I had to change it up a bit on the spot. And who knew that the ABC song would have a pied-piper effect on the 1st Graders? Whenever they heard the song, no matter what activity they were doing at that point in time, or how noisy they were, they would stop immediately without fail, and chime in at the top of their lungs, as if the song triggered some kind of hypnosis.

I’ve already explained in a previous blog post that I don’t have the best memory when it comes to names. During the previous week, I got them to write their names on the board, write their name cards for their cubby holes, and then I wrote their names on a piece of paper. I learnt the names of, shall we say, some of the more disruptive kids in the class first, because of the amount of times I had to say their names. But by the end of the week, I had learnt the names of all 37 of my students, which really was an amazing feat for me as it usually takes me an age to learn just one name. So to learn people’s names in the future, I now know that I not only have to see it written down, I also need to repeat it several times for it to be etched into my brain.

      

I learnt that I’m not actually as bad at drawing as I thought I was. I was pretty much forced to be more creative with my hands, as most of the learning aids that accompanied the course books had apparently been destroyed by a hurricane around five years ago.

   

                                        

I learnt that despite my preconceived idea that younger kids are ‘harder to handle’, the youngest grades weren’t actually that badly behaved; it was the older kids who posed the biggest problem.

I learnt that I apparently only really became a teacher when I was inundated with so much work that I had to stay behind after-hours just to try and catch up with everything. One late afternoon as I was stuck behind my desk, I heard a cackle outside.

“You’re a real teacher now,” Yudith, the 2nd Grade teacher, playfully said with a cheeky grin on her face as she made her way home, because I was still working.

Yudith is quite a character; she makes me laugh and I know that her comment wasn’t malicious. She was one of the first “Spanish teachers” to start talking to me, and she let me borrow her paint so that I could decorate the windows in my classroom, but anyway, I digress.

I learnt about how loving, thoughtful and generous kids could be. I received love from them in the form of a gift, such as a sweet, a flower or even ‘just’ a hug. Teenagers tend to be ‘too cool’ to show this kind of affection and appreciation, but I discovered how unashamed ‘my kids’ were to express these feelings. I learnt about their capacity to ‘forgive’. I would tell someone off for doing something and they would huff and puff about getting into trouble, but the very next day they would act as if nothing happened and that everything in their world was bright and rosy, until they got into trouble again.

And finally, I discovered that I could bond with the kids so much so, that I felt as though I was their parent. I genuinely felt proud and happy for the children once I could see that ‘aha moment’ in their eyes and their expressions – the moment that they understood what I was teaching them. I had to stop arguments and then get them to ‘make up’ or at least tolerate each other. I saw them at their most vulnerable points, such as when I consoled them as they cried; I had to do all sorts. And even though at times they got on my last nerve, they were my kids. And I didn’t fully realise that I had this feeling until I had to think really hard about leaving them, when I was offered to teach the older grades, as an opening suddenly arose…

My first weekend!

My first weekend in Mexico was pretty eventful. I met up with the school’s other English teachers, Martin and Sara, who were already there and we decided to go out. Someone who works at the school, Gloria, very kindly and warmly invited us to her house so that we could all go together to a beachside restaurant/club called La Salsa in San Carlos, Guaymas.

La Salsa, which is about a 20-30 minute drive from central Guaymas, is a very popular place to go out at the moment in the area; one Mexican described it to me as a “boom place”. I later discovered that there aren’t actually that many places to go out where I am, and that Friday nights are pretty low-key with the locals, but I don’t really like going out on Friday’s, so that actually suits me just fine.

“This place didn’t exist about 10 years ago or so,” muses Gloria’s husband, Adan. He told us that there was nothing on the beach front where La Salsa now stands, and that he went to that beach most weekends with a friend and there was hardly anyone on there. They started to invite people to come with them and have parties there, then those people invited other people, and then it just kind of snowballed from there.

What I quickly discovered once I arrived in Guaymas is how little information there is on the internet about events and activities that take place there. For example, I had been searching high and low online for a capoeira club in Guaymas, among other things, and had been coming up with absolutely nothing. All that kind of information is usually spread by word of mouth through your connections.

“What sports do you guys like to do?”Adan asked the three of us. For each activity, his response was, “ Well, I have a friend who…” and then bingo, the connection was made, for most of us.

The night out in La Salsa was so much fun and was a great way to celebrate my move to the country; Mexicans definitely know how to have a good time! And instead of having a kebab, or something similar, as post-club food, Gloria and Adan took us back to their house and gave us some homemade tacos, which were bloomin’ awesome!

       

The next day, we spent the day at the beach, which was bliss, despite the fact that there were quite a few rocks and shells on the beach. This was because a couple of weeks before, the area was affected by a hurricane. This was the same hurricane the my manager alerted me about before I came, which sent me into panic-mode before I arrived, but it had obviously impacted San Carlos more than it had central Guaymas.

      

      

On Sunday, we went snorkelling. I was nervous about going snorkeling anyway. What made it a thousand times worse was the fact that I read that there was a hurricane in the area. Being out on the open sea with the storm was definitely the last place I wanted to be.

We arrived at the boat rental shop, and the owner said that they would have to turn the boat around while we were out there if the storm got any closer to our location. I was petrified of the storm, I was terrified about swimming, I was anxious about snorkeling for the first time; it was just all too much for little old me and I began to have heart palpitations! However, upon hearing about the nearby storm, Sara squealed and said: “Cooool, a hurricane!!!!” Gulp!

“Does everyone know you can’t swim yet?” a friend so helpfully asked via WhatsApp. I can actually swim, I’m just not a strong swimmer, but I assured him that I had told them that and I thanked him for his encouragement.

I was panicking and I unintentionally made my friend worry by mentioning the storm through a WhatsApp message and then leaving my phone in my bag, without relaying a message back that everything was actually ok.

As it turned out, as with most of my fears, the storm didn’t come anywhere near us, thank God!! So that was one less thing to worry about. However, I was still apprehensive about swimming.

We arrived at our location and Sara and Martin effortless jumped into the water and began to happily swim around the cove. Even though I had a life jacket on, I was too paralysed by fear to jump into the water. In my head, there were too many things to remember: spit on the googles then wash them in the sea so that they didn’t fog up, jump into the water a certain way so that the flippers don’t come off, jump in without putting the mouth guzzle into my mouth and then position it into my mouth once I had surfaced – it was just all too much!! So I just stood on the edge of the boat for what must have been an eternity. The two crew members tried to count me in so many times that they just gave up in the end, laughed so hard at me and went about their boat duties. To be honest I really don’t blame them, I must have been a pathetic sight. I’m pretty sure I saw one of them get out his camera phone to take a picture of me, but he denied it when I asked him to send me the photo.

I eventually plucked up the courage to jump in. Ok, so I actually slid into the water from a seated position at the edge of the boat, but that was a proud moment for me, even if it didn’t look so graceful. I initially panicked with the whole breathing-through-the-snorkel malarkey, but once I calmed down I actually genuinely loved it, even though the picture of us in the water below, which was taken at the end, tells a different story. The water was so clear and I could see a variety of fish. The boat crew even had to call me a few times to swim back to the boat as I didn’t really want to leave. It was such a great experience and it was definitely something that I wanted to do again!

From that day, we made a pact to do something active every weekend… It hasn’t quite turned out the way that we hoped, though. Us English teachers aren’t quite paid enough to have that kind of luxurious lifestyle; but we initially gave it our best shot!

         

My 2013

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so instead of writing a lengthy post about how my year has been, I’ve decided to portray my 2013 by using over 200 pictures (not that I was planning to write over 200,000 words or anything).

So here’s my reflection on the year. Each photo, or group of photos, tells a story. Thanks to everyone who helped to make 2013 memorable. Have an awesome 2014! And if it doesn’t turn out all rosy, I hope you find the strength to deal with whatever life throws at you. Peace and love.