Tag Archive: travelling


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.

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!

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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My Biggest Fear

Hi guys! So, I thought I’d share with you what my biggest fear is in Mexico. For those who know me well, I’ll give you two guesses to figure out what it is before you play the video. But you’ll probably only need one ;-). Enjoy!

When you hear the word desert, what image comes to your mind? If you’ve not really been exposed to a desert in ‘real life’, then maybe one of these images below spring to mind…

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Well, these were the images that I had in my head, when I heard that I’d be riding a horse through the Sonoran Desert, and more specifically through Nacapule Canyon. I knew that I’d be living in a desert, but because I didn’t initially see much of it around me, I just forgot about that fact. That was until I arrived at the stables; I was really surprised to find myself in one of the greenest deserts I have ever laid eyes on. Ok, it was the only desert that I have personally seen, but that’s beside the point. I was surrounded by a lot of vegetation, and it quickly became apparent that this was the source of my allergies, or at least one source because I am so frail (apparently, I will never be able to survive the zombie apocalypse). Some ‘city dudes’ from nearby Hermosillo mocked me for making the assertion that the pollen was affecting me.

“How can you be sneezing because of the pollen? We are in the middle of a desert,” they playfully scoffed. But in the end, I was right, so they can put that in their pipes and smoke it!

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With even the least amount of rainfall, the desert just soaks up the water like a sponge, allowing plants to thrive. Even though the Sonoran Desert is apparently the hottest desert in North America, it is home to approximately 2,000 species of plants, such as legume trees and columnar cacti, as well as many species of mammals, reptiles, birds, bees and fish. The desert covers around 100,000 square miles and spans across parts of the U.S. and Mexico.

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A small section of the desert, Nacapule Canyon in San Carlos, is no exception to this rule of a diverse ecology and it too has its fair share of wildlife and plants… and caravans, much like Breaking Bad, but perhaps with more meth labs working collaboratively or in peaceful coexistence.

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And did I mention snakes and tarantulas? I saw a couple of tarantulas crawling along and it sent shivers down my spine, as if I wasn’t already apprehensive about riding a horse in the first place. Let’s just say that the last time I rode a horse was… eventful, and I was left with a souvenir of my experience in the form of ringworm. But the owner of the horses, who has now become a friend, looks after her horses really well and the horses are well behaved.

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Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread and fear. I mean there were flipping tarantulas and snakes – I mean, real ones! I heard that horses can get freaked out by them. What if it did, and I fell off and then they decided to crawl all over me?! I would die from fear alone!!

Well on my first ride on my second weekend in Mexico, my horse didn’t get spooked. Instead while I was trying to take photos, my lens cap dropped on the floor. I have to admit I started to panic, but Natalie, the owner, came to my rescue, and then everything turned out ok. Apart from the point towards the end when my horse decided that it really wanted to gallop, because it was bored. I could feel its muscles contract; that it was preparing itself to go faster. It was then that I truly understood the meaning of horsepower, and I was petrified! But nothing really happened in the end, this time. I’ll talk about my time horse riding on the beach at a later date.

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All in all, horse riding through the canyons was an awesome experience, and I liked it so much that I did it again at a later date.

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If you’re in the San Carlos area and you fancy riding a horse, then you can contact my friend, Natalie.

Rancho Nacapule Trail Rides.

Email: natenglish77@aol.com

+52 1 622 101 2208

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My epic journey

Phew! So after a very hectic and action-packed few weeks, I finally have enough time to pen my thoughts and to let you know that I’ve arrived safely in Mexico – huzzah!!

For those of you who know the story, I stupidly thought it would be a brilliant idea to finish work, including having work leaving drinks, on Friday 26th September and to fly to Mexico the very next day. Considering all the things that were going on in the background with my visa etc., I thought it would be best not to delay since I should have been in Mexico about a month beforehand.

Even though I packed my suitcases a week early (that was a huge feat for me, so I’m patting myself on the back right now) I didn’t quite factor in how much of my life I would be able to pack into two suitcases weighing no more than 23kg each. As you can probably guess, I didn’t quite manage to do that despite my best efforts even up until the airport car park, and I had to pay an extra £60-odd British whole pounds for the pleasure of having 7kg worth of overweight bags.

After saying my goodbyes to my family and friends, I jetted off on my 20-odd hour journey to Mexico. At around £800 (not including paying for extra luggage and for my overweight bags), I chose to fly with AeroMéxico – the cheapest flight I could get. Since I was expecting it to be the Ryanair of international flights, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I had my own TV, which compared to Air Europa when I went to Cuba, was a luxury! … That was pretty much it, to be fair; I had a window seat, which was ‘ideally’ situated right above the wing, and a TV, so I was fairly content.

Besides having to pay extra for my bags at the check-in desk, in cash, everything went by fairly smoothly. Well, somehow I spent a lot of time in the shops looking for headphones as my sister conveniently took mine, but then I had to run for the plane and I managed to lose my travel pillow along the way. Oh, and at the security check point at both airports, they wanted me to fit all of my nail varnishes into a ’little’ transparent, resealable plastic bag, as the litre bag that I provided was apparently too big. I was expecting everything to be more problematic to be honest, because I worry, a lot. Do not tell me facts that will potentially scare me into thinking about the worst possible outcome, because I will take on board everything that you say and then multiply that by a thousand. Such as the morning my manager told me a couple of weeks before I was due to fly that there was a hurricane in Mexico. After a quick Google search, I found out that the hurricane passed by my region and that it was preceded by earthquakes – plural!! Although I must say that ‘my town’, Guaymas, was not really affected by it. On that same day, I read about how some Americans were scared about ISIS terrorists entering the USA through Mexico, and I was particularly worried because my request for a halal meal on the plane was rejected and my mind raced through all kinds of terrible scenarios. But my fears proved to be just that – a product of thoughts I had created.

I arrived safely in D.F. (Mexico City) at stupid o’clock in the morning on a Sunday. I walked around and found somewhere where I could nap for four hours until my next flight. The odd thing about that experience was that even though I had a connecting flight, I had to take my luggage from the conveyor belt, go through customs, then go to a connecting flights conveyor belt to drop off my suitcases. Very strange. It was at this airport where I encountered my first language barrier, when I had to ask where my terminal was.

My journey continued on a flight to Hermosillo, where I quickly found out that AeroMéxico domestic flights were more like the vision of a budget airline flight that I had in my head. But the good thing was that the flight was not full, so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone, and it only lasted a few hours.

I arrived at a small airport at around 7:30am, then I had to take a taxi to the coach station. This was straight forward enough, I guess. Apart from the fact that my ‘Latino’ friend said I should never get into a taxi with a stranger. Well, the driver was lugging my luggage into a van full of strangers. I panicked and was slightly unnerved. But then I realised that everyone else was going to the same bus station, so it was fine.

Once there, I had to get the coach to Guaymas. I had been practicing my line for this in Spanish during the flight to Hermosillo; I was ready. The lady at the ticket office seemed to understand me, up until I got to the name of my destination, “Guy-yam-as”!

“¿Qué,? she asked, with baffled look on her face.

“Guy-yam-as,” I replied even louder, making sure to pronounce every syllable.

“¿Quéééééé?”

I showed her the spelling of the place on a sheet of paper that I had.

“Ohhhh… Gwhy-mas,” she said. I had been pronouncing it the wrong way for months, and even now, I’m not sure if I’m actually saying it properly.

Anyway, a worker who spoke English came to the rescue and sorted out everything for me, and I was comfortably sat behind the driver in seat number one.

As we drove through Guaymas at around 10am, my first impression was that it didn’t seem like much at all; it just seemed quite run-down and bland.

As soon as I sat down at the bus station, a hustler came over to me and tried to sell me something. “Ah, Monica…” he would always exclaim and he kept hovering around me.

I was instructed to call someone called Elsa, whom I later found out was the coordinator for the primary school and the director’s wife.

“I’ll be wearing jeans and a blue top,” she said on the phone.

A lady walked into the station with that description, and I was about to get up and greet her, until I realised that she wasn’t actually looking for anyone, so I sat back down, deflated.

Elsa finally arrived to pick me up and drop me off to my new home, arriving with her signature smile that I have come to know. She really is the embodiment of happiness, but I can also imagine that if you cross her, she would destroy you.

We arrived in a matter of minutes, but we had to recruit some guy to carry my heavy luggage up some stairs to my apartment above some shops.

I walked in and it was really dark and dusty. To my left was a room with bunk beds in it. Then as you walk through, the kitchen is located on your left. If you take a couple more steps, then the bathroom is on the left. Taking a few more steps forward, I saw another bedroom, this time with a double bed, and I immediately claimed it for myself even though I had no one else to compete with. In hindsight that room was a good choice, because the flat is located on the main road and the traffic is quite loud and can even be heard from my room at the back.

Once I dropped off my bags, Elsa took me out to eat and she offered me some options. I’m ashamed to say it, but I wanted something that was familiar to me, especially as I was super hungry after my epic journey, so I opted for Burger King. It was so strange to see that the price for the food started from about $70, but it’s about $20 to £1, so it’s not as bad as it seems. What’s even more confusing is that the sign for Mexican pesos and the sign for American dollars is exactly the same, and some shops, particularly in touristy areas, show their prices in dollars rather than pesos. Confused.com

So, once I received the food, we sat down in a booth and talked business. We discussed what was expected of me in the role, blah, blah, blah and then my ears pricked up with the words “start tomorrow”.

‘What!!!!?????’