Overall Rating:/ 10I am happy to report that my time in Mexico went well, better than I could have imagined in fact. Before arriving I started to feel doubts about traveling to a country where I did not know anyone and many negative stories about foreigners running in the unexpected trouble in the country. Once I arrived at the bus stop in Cuernavaca, Estela (the local volunteer coordinator) found me with little trouble only a half hour or so after my arrival time. As I got to know her that first day when she drove me to her house and even introduced me to her niece and nephew I became more relaxed. She told about her special mission and her experience bringing knowledge of indigenous medicine to places all over the world.
On Sunday she brought me to Xochicalco which was every bit as amazing and awe inspiring as it is described to be. Estela told me about the history of the site, its people, and her own special connection to the site where she spent much of her adolescence among the pyramids.
On Monday I started teaching at Colegio Gran Britania. When I signed up for this opportunity with Love Volunteers I was worried that the students would still be on summer vacation during the dates I chose and that I would have little to do and few children to interact with. Fortuitously and unbeknownst to me, my first day on the program was also the first day at school. The roads in Temixco were rugged and neglected so the drive to the school was bumpy and winding. The school facilities looked well-tended to however. The walls were brightly painted and the large open courtyard definitely gave the school a unique, unconstrained feel. Even though some rooms were unfinished the classrooms seemed to have all they needed to teach the students.
I was introduced to the students during their opening school assembly. I met Nazza, the English teacher that I spent most of my time with. He was very generous in allowing me to interact with the kids and guide lessons because he understood that I was only there for a week and that the students would benefit from listening to a native speaker. I think we collaborated and worked well together for the short time and little resources we had. I brought with me some school supplies and teaching materials that he assured me will be useful in the classroom after I am gone.
I taught English at a high school in Tokyo for two years on the JET Program. One year removed from that experience, teaching English still felt natural for me. The major differences were that I was translating between English and Spanish rather than English and Japanese, and that the students were much younger. Together we taught 7 classes a day, and in that fashion I was lucky enough to interact with all the students at the school. Classes sized ranged from 2 to 15 students. I felt sad that my experience only lasted a week, which could not be helped because I had a full time job to return to.
All of the other staff were extremely friendly towards me, including one of the school directors Lucia. I stayed at Lucia's home for the majority of the week. She and her husband Antonio were very welcoming and I enjoyed speaking to them in Spanish about many things. The food was also incredible.
Estela told her nieces, nephews, and other local children in her neighborhood that I was available to give lessons in the evening. Every day after school I would teach up to six children and even some of their parents. We played games and I taught them basics English expressions. Though it was tiring, I am glad I could maximize the time I spent with local children given the short time I had allotted myself on the trip.
As an aside, it is currently the rainy system in Morelos. At night there were some terrifying thunderstorms but the weather during the day was generally beautiful.
On Saturday, Estela and I traveled to Taxco with a local family that she knew. Taxco is known as one of Mexico's "Magic Pueblos" and it lived up to its name. The view of the rolling Mexican countryside on the drive to Taxco was beautiful in itself but the town of Taxco is unlike any I have ever been to before. The whitewashed buildings mesh together well with the steep hills, and narrow alleyway that characterize the town as it winds up all the way to a giant monument of Jesus Christ. The silver on sale was also a bargain.
I just returned home to New York yesterday. I am back in my regular groove of things but I feel that my time in Mexico definitely left an impression on me. Two things that stick out to me is the discrepancy in value between US and Mexican currency. Comparatively things were so much cheaper and I realized that the people in Mexico earn very little despite being dedicated workers. The other thing that bothers me is the negative perception of Mexico as an overwhelmingly dangerous country. Though I took the usual precautions of a traveler, I never felt unsafe or threatened. One of the reasons I decided to go to Mexico in the first place was because the recent political climate in the U.S. painted Mexico in a bad light and I wanted to see the country for myself. I only got a glimpse of the many socio-economic problems the country faces so it is not my place to pass judgment. I can say with certainty though that the people are beyond kind. I hope my small trip left a good impression.
That's all I have to say for now. These reflections are very rough and unfiltered. I am writing this while I am likely still tired from jet lag! Thank you for all you help and for this opportunity. I will recommend Love Volunteers to all of my friends interested in this kind of volunteer experience! Thank you!