Category: travelling


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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Homesickness

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The first time I consciously felt homesick was on New Year’s Day in 2015. This was since I’d been working in Mexico for about three months. I remember it so vividly because I felt so low. I was alone in my hotel room for the first time during my travels in Guadalajara, an unfamiliar city in Mexico, a foreign country on a different side of the world to where I’m from. A friend from home, whom I had been travelling with during the Christmas holiday period, had left earlier that morning.

I distinctly remember thinking that the city was so big and that I was all by myself. And then I thought about all my family being together at that time, as New Year’s Day with my grandma and most of my extended family is traditionally a big deal for us. I was being attacked by the pangs of homesickness, and it was preventing me from enjoying my travelling experience. I have no idea what came over me; I just felt so anxious for some reason, when only a few hours ago I was having a blast, welcoming in the New Year. I just cried. I just sat in my room for about an hour and refused to leave, just spiralling into despair.

That was until I kicked myself into action. I thought that if I didn’t leave then, then I would never leave. I thought about using the opportunity that I had to just roam around on my own, to explore, to immerse myself in my surroundings and take photos. I’d be free to stop whenever I wanted, and to move around at a moment’s notice, because I’m sure my friend was annoyed by my constant stopping all over the place and just dragging her around left, right and centre. I also arranged to meet up with some people that I’d met, since I’d been in Guadalajara, in the evening. So thankfully, this change in perspective pushed me to leave my hotel room, and I ended up having a fantastic time, alone and with other people!

I thank God that I haven’t felt as low as how I felt that New Year’s morning. But that doesn’t mean that that horrible feeling doesn’t rear its ugly head from time-to-time, even if it is just to a lesser extent. I feel it whenever I hear about a friend’s engagement. It pops up whenever I think about the numerous weddings that I won’t be able to attend in England. It amplifies itself whenever I hear about the death of a neighbour, a companion, or a loved one. It returns when it’s a family member’s birthday, or when it’s Father’s or Mother’s day.  I’ve even felt it when I reminisce about eating certain foods or doing certain activities that I can’t really do in Mexico. Heck, I’ve even felt it when I’ve watched flipping Misfits, for crying out loud, because of the familiar settings and accents (shout out to all my UK people, haha! Ok). And I’ve realised that the Christmas holiday is still one of the worst periods to be away from my family, even if I’m not alone and I’m surrounded by people who care about me.

It’s constant, it’s never ending; it never really disappears. It’s always just kind of hidden, just out of your consciousness until some news or an event brings it to the forefront of your mind. And that’s the downside of living so far away from home, sometimes. But having said all this, most of my time is filled with building happy memories of new adventures, new experiences and new opportunities, and for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is for living, not for being immobilised by fear, isolation and despair.

Hi! Welcome back, guys and Happy New Year! In this episode, I talk about my experience with Mexican flirting rituals that I’ve experienced… before I met my boyfriend ;-D. This is episode is actually entitled, ‘Mexican Men, part 1: So do you have a Mexican boyfriend?’ But that’s a rather long title, wouldn’t you say? Even so, in this vlog, I’m just mainly recounting some stories about some things that my friend and I have experienced in Mexico, so this pretty much specifically relates to me. However, if you’ve been in this situation in Mexico, then you may recognise some of the phrases.

More general information about Mexican flirting/dating rituals will be given at a later date, in Mexican Men, part 2. Enjoy, folks! 😉

 

Hi – welcome back to my blog! I’ve posted a vlog about some pre-Hispanic Mexican traditions that I came across during my travels, which were pretty interesting to see. Enjoy! 🙂

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.

Curiosity

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“Where are you from?

“I’m from London.”

“London?”

“Yep.”

“In England – really? That’s great! Why are you here, in Guaymas?”

That’s pretty much how my first encounter with Mexicans goes, word for word. Well, that’s if they didn’t already ask me if I was from Cuba or Brazil. And this conversation happens quite often, well, less so now here in Guaymas. Guaymas is a small town, especially when compared to London, so I’m pretty sure that most people in the town have already seen me going about my daily errands to ask me whatever questions they may have for me. Therefore it’s definitely not the best place to be if you are trying to avoid somebody, and I’ll talk about that at a later date. Guaymas isn’t even listed in the Lonely Planet Mexico guidebook. And you can see the confusion in people’s faces when I explain that I left my job in London to live and work in Guaymas, a place that they consider to be more ‘boring’ and less prosperous in comparison.

As I’ve already explained in an earlier post, my TEFL teacher friends and I stand out when we hang out together, because we are very clearly not from Mexico and because there isn’t much of a mixture of different ethnic groups here. Since my group of friends mainly consisted of females, we would mainly attract attention from males. Much to the annoyance, or amusement, of two of my friends, because no matter how much the guy persisted in his efforts to win one of them over, they wouldn’t budge, because my two friends are an item.

Quite a few Americans come and go through my area as it’s pretty close to the border and I am pretty sure that Mexicans assume my friends are from the U.S. Mexicans however, don’t have a lot of face-to-face contact with black people, so I’m told, and my friends have pointed out to me the fact that I get a lot of stares. People do come up to me and start speaking to me in Spanish. But when they see the blank expression on my face, they change tactics. So they’ll try and practice their English on me, or they’ll make gestures to try and communicate. For example, someone would gesture for me to dance with them if I was in a club, or gesture for me to take photos with them and all of their family members – as a group and individually, or one time a mother beckoned me with her hand towards her daughter and said (this was translated to me) that her young daughter wanted to hug me. …Yes, you read that correctly, she actually just wanted to hug me… I’ve been told that Mexicans don’t generally point fingers at people because it’s considered rude behaviour, so people haven’t necessarily pointed and stared at me. But you can obviously still point at people by using your words, as one man did, when he walked past me with his daughter in a touristy area in Guadalajara. This is the English equivalent of what he said: “Look child, an African!” I laughed out loud at this father’s statement; that moment couldn’t have felt more surreal.

Then there’s curiosity in the form of hair touching, which can be a pretty touchy subject for black females. Most black women I know would not allow anyone to touch their hair, full stop, no questions asked, because we are not exotic animals that you can stroke and because our hairstyles get easily messed up if someone runs their fingers through our hair. Heck, it even gets messed up if we run our own fingers through our own hair. But how would you know this golden rule if you don’t come in contact with people to tell you this? This is where I personally make exceptions. As much as my eyes twitched when the first kid in the school reached for my hair, I let them do this now without feeling the need to clench my teeth together out of apprehension; just as long as they ask me first. I give a bit more leeway with the younger kids in the school, as they can’t really form the sentences to ask me yet.

“Teacher – muy suave,” one girl excitedly exclaims every single time she touches my hair. Literally, every single time without fail, with the same intonation and everything. “Teacher – very soft,” she means in English.

And I don’t mind adults asking to touch my hair, as long as they ask. It’s actually a nice feeling when people tell you that they like the way you’ve styled your hair, when you know full well that it looks crap, but people don’t know any better because they haven’t been exposed to people with the same hair texture as you. Whereas if you left the house with that same hairstyle, your family and friends would probably die from not being able to breathe as they are laughing at you so much. Yes, I am the ‘you’ that is so often referred to in the above scenarios, and yes, I do get away with a lot of hair offences, unless I decide to film a vlog. Damn technology. But I’m very low maintenance with my hair, and I don’t care too much about it. What I do care about, however, is if I have given you permission to touch my hair and then it’s very noticeably messed up after you harassed it. That happened one time, and I was pissed off. Or, the worst is when no permission is asked at all and I feel my hair being tugged from behind me. That’s happened to me, twice. That really pissed me off. They are lucky they did that to me; they definitely would not have survived if it was another black woman.

All jokes and exaggeration aside though, from the people that I’ve met so far, I can honestly say that Mexicans are generally very friendly and I have never experienced any racism while I’ve been in Mexico, from a Mexican. The only racism I have experience was from a young American teacher on the bus one day. She said: “Don’t people get scared of you and move away because of your darker skin?” I really had no words to waste on her and my conversation with her ended abruptly. But that has not been my experience so far with Mexicans; they have just been very curious.

Piñata!!

Helloooo!!! In this vlog, I talk about piñatas and I show you a video of the very first (and only, so far) time that I took part in this Mexican tradition. Apparently I was too… eager… Enjoy!

European invasion

Most people’s exposure to the English language in Mexico has been through the U.S., through films, music, tourists and teachers, etc.

And since people, especially in my town, are used to seeing U.S. foreigners, they naturally assumed that my housemates and I were also ‘gringos’ or from some other country until we opened our mouths. Then they were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were collectively from the UK and Spain, Europe, and that we were all English teachers at a local school. They would then say that we’ve travelled far to live and work in Mexico. Going out together as a unit, we obviously stood out and we received a lot of attention, as though we were Z-list celebrities or something. They loved Sara’s Spanish accent, they loved Martin belting out karaoke songs, and they loved the fact that I was black; I’ll go into this in more depth in another post.

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I know that there have been a couple of English teachers from the UK at the school that I teach at, but I’m pretty sure that most of the TEFL teachers have been from the U.S. Even so, our merry crew grew bigger when two more TEFL teachers arrived from England – Laura and Jen. Well actually, they dramatically escaped from the clutches of a draconian Chinese school to arrive in Mexico apparently, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that they added a distinctive British flavor to our European mix, with their tea-sipping, curry-cooking ways, and it was just refreshing to have some more fun people to hang out with. Every single one of us in the group had a different accent from England, and our eclectic mix was music to my ears. There’s a common misconception around the world that there is only one British accent, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m trying to change that one classroom at a time. I’m useless at accents though, so I just use a video instead to demonstrate this.

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If they have the budget to do so, schools around the world often desire to hire native English-speaking teachers, and you can find many of these adverts online. According to this article a few years ago, approximately 250,000 native English speakers work abroad as English teachers in more than 40,000 schools and language institutes around the world. There are a number of advantages for getting native speakers in the classroom. But it doesn’t mean that non-native English-speaking teachers are ‘less superior’, and Sara is an excellent example to demonstrate that they are just as good.

Even though some people become TEFL teachers because they have a genuine desire to teach, I would say that most become TEFL teachers so that they can immerse themselves in another culture and earn money while they travel. And because of this short-term outlook, there is a high turnover rate of TEFL teachers. In my school alone, there were five different teachers over the course of the school year for one post. In general, some teachers leave without warning, as I’ve described in an earlier post, and this can be very disruptive for the children’s learning. Some have unrealistic expectations of what TEFL teaching is all about, and then they decide that they no longer like it. Some people aren’t meant to be teachers, as I’ll discuss later when I talk about how I heard one teacher ‘disciplined’ their kids. Some find better opportunities elsewhere. And even if teachers stay till the end of their contract, most move to another country or city, or they go home; few stay for another year, but this depends on a number of factors, such as your region and your pay. And schools are put under pressure by parents to fill these gaps, especially if the school is a private school. But some schools also treat teachers badly, forcing the teachers to leave. Or they can get rid of teachers at a moment’s notice if they suddenly have alternatives to choose from.

As a group of TEFL teachers, we’ve been on a number of memorable adventures together. A particularly memorable one involved the Mexican police, which was actually my second encounter with the Mexican police, and this will all be explained in another post. As a group, we have also gone through a number of changes, numerically speaking. Sara left, but then a new Irish girl arrived. Her name is Shauna and she has some crazy artistic talent. Laura and Jen left, then our European group declined to three again. Two more people from the UK are due to come in October, so we’ll see what happens then. After umming and ahing for the longest time, I’ve finally decided to stay for another year in the same place. I’ve been told that it will be a lot easier, and that I’ll notice the children’s progress even more. Watch this space.

group 5  group 6

griup 1  IMG_0695_1024

group 4  group 8

Cold

The first time I felt cold, or at least to the extent where I felt goosebumps, was the night that I had my first Mexican street party. I remember it so vividly because it was such a strange sensation; a foreign concept. I thought I’d left that feeling behind in England, but the cold reared its ugly head in the form of raised bumps on my skin. It was night time, and I was armed with just a t-shirt. I wrote it off as just a freak occurrence and I shoved it to the back of my mind. School-boy error, I should’ve taken heed.

That Monday at school, I saw most of the students wrapped up in body warmers, scarfs and gloves. “Muuuuuy frio, teacher, it’s very cold,” they complained. I chuckled and said that they needed to come to England, because a consistent temperature of 20-oddC with sunshine is pretty much regarded as the height of summer in the UK. If the temperature averages 28C or more over a period of time, then hold the front page – there’s a heat wave in the UK and it is endlessly compared to other countries that it’s hotter than. People are happier and friendlier, there’s a party vibe in the atmosphere, the BBQs are out, the parks are packed with sun revellers, and everything is well in the world, generally speaking. But I digress.

Nevertheless, even though I rationally knew this, and no matter how stubborn I was about accepting this fact, I too eventually succumbed to this change of temperature and I also began to feel cold – damn it! I had to start wearing shoes and trainers instead of sandals. My feet felt restricted; they were definitely not accustomed to the concept of closed shoes. I needed to layer up and wear jumpers, but I only brought two jumpers with me. I had to buy a duvet for my bed (that was devastating!). I got my friend, who visited me for a couple of weeks, to bring some jeans from home for me. I had acclimatised so much, that the lowest temperature, I believe 15C, was now too cold for me. The mornings and evenings were particularly cold, the daytime was fine.

In the end, I ended up with a chest infection and a throat infection. I think the throat infection was a result of the use of the air conditioners though when it started to get hot again. Even so, I paid $500 pesos (approximately £20) for the privilege of seeing a doctor each time, even though I wasn’t in there for more than 15 mins. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot considering the wage I’m on; for most Mexicans that is simply unaffordable. Also the fact that it’s free to see the doctor in the UK made the amount that I had to pay hurt even more – oh how I missed the NHS during those desperate times; I’ve grown a new appreciation for it. Not to mention the money that I needed to buy the medicine, some of it was not cheap. I later found out that there were cheaper doctors that I could’ve gone to, but in terms of the quality of service they provide, I’ve been told that some of them are hit or miss. Generic drugs, which are cheaper to buy, are also available from a chain of pharmacies called Farmacias Similares.

Let’s hope I learnt my lesson and that I’m more prepared the second-time round…