Teaching English in Mexico: a day in the life

I was standing up in front of about 20 Mexican students reading from a script I had prepared which explained exactly what a 21-year-old lad from England was doing at their university.

The palms of my hands grew sweatier by the second as I told my students-elect what my role would be for the next three months and when I got to the end I looked up to see a potent combination of raised eyebrows and tilted heads.

The former signifying confusion, the latter in recognition of the fact I was trying my best. Anyway, it ended well because lots of people signed up to my classes which meant one of two things: they were blown away by my enticing speech, or they were so desperate to learn some English (for free) and decided I would have to do.

See, in my head I was going to Mexico to teach and that was it. Little did I know the project would become just a small, though still significant, part of my experience.

It was strange because on the face of it my daily routine was no different from that of an employee back home. I got up, showered, breakfast, got the bus to work, worked, had lunch, worked some more, got the bus back home, went out for a beer at night.

But underneath that exterior lay a complex web of bewilderment and fear. But for whatever reason, and this isn’t just looking back and idealising, I found it exhilarating.

There was the massive cockroach I had to share a shower with on many a morning which initiated a paralysing fear of these ghastly creatures.

The failure to communicate to my host family on day one that I was not too fond of papaya (thank you, lack of Spanish) which lead to almost daily doses of papaya with papaya juice for breakfast.

The straining of the eyes as a bus appeared on the horizon. You see, there were no bus stops, no timetables, and although there was a vague bus route, it was lottery as to whether or not a) I would be able to read the number on the front as it blew past me in a blaze of black smoke, and b) simply whether or not the driver felt like stopping that day.

The constant risk of eating street food for lunch and wondering, with every mouthful, whether or not this particularly spicy taco would be the one that killed me. Or at least lead me to a diet of Imodium.

There was the casual nature with which my students would sometimes turn up late, incredibly late or not at all and think little of it as they introduced me to ‘Mexico Time’ and a land where the clock is of little relevance.

Finally, meeting up with other volunteers from all over the world to indulge in a couple of drinks, perhaps a little salsa dancing or some live Mexican banda music ending the night by gorging with the locals at late night taco stands.

Living the dream? It certainly felt like it.

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