You have to get lost to find your way…
Especially for an unseasoned traveller and an Irishman like me. I quickly found out I had no sense of direction so getting lost was easy. I’m not usually a really early riser, but in a beautiful country like Mexico, I have a crazy urge to explore. So I’d get up, put on my shorts and just run. I found so much, from parks and art to statues and markets, even outdoor theatres and an observatory in the mountains. I hear the songs of morning birds and I’ve quickly learned how to ask for directions in Spanish. I learned a lot in getting lost, I could see Mexican people getting ready for school and work and witness some beautiful sunrises. The only mistake I make when falling in love with these new explorations is that I never have my camera 🙁
A world of firsts
First long-haul flight, first aeroplane food, first time waiting in an airport for hours. Every little thing from that first taco on a corner street in Mexico City, to the first time seeing some of their bugs and lizards crawling around. To others it’s normal, to me it was questions about everything. What they eat, where they’re found and how they interact with people’s everyday lives.
The first time in the Americas and using a new currency (conversion rates still don’t work in my head). First time eating such weird and wonderful tropical fruits and first time doing a salsa class.
My first taste of Mexican culture has been all positive. I’ve come to relate with the kind people of Mexico. Their Catholic culture is somewhat similar to a very traditional Irish family with the Máma or Mammy as the centre of all authority and family. I’ve had many firsts but I’m more than prepared to meet the challenge of working, opening and building part of the children’s library of Barra de Potosí.
However, I’m (strangely) disappointed that I’d never been bitten by a mosquito. It seems I’m naturally resistant, even the Mexican people are amazed at my magical ability. I’m probably the only person to actually want to get bitten, oh well.
Summary before Barra….
Here’s a synopsis on the first 2 weeks before my project in Barra de Potosi started. Where I have been working, building and upkeeping a library in the small fishing village of Barra de Potosí, Mexico.
Mexico City – 14 June 2018
Rain, kindness and a few bumps in the road. As 5 of us arrived in Mexico city from Ireland, we were greeted by our coordinator, Valeria, who waited for us for over 2 hours in the airport on her own birthday, our first taste of Mexican kindness.
We later celebrated and sang, and she’d taken us to see the beauty of the city. From the markets of Mexico to the Freida Carhlo museum and the tallest building the city had to offer. We spent 2 days tasting Mexico city culture. The city was alive with the spirit of the World Cup, places were painted in Mexican colours and football jerseys seen everywhere. Joining in on that ecstasy of Mexico in the World Cup was a true privilege (Ireland always letting us down there).
On the 2nd day, someone in the group was robbed, and 2 others became very sick. Some people panicked and some had to stay in Mexico city for an extra day or two. Valeria and some lost a lot of sleep over the incidents. After a great day of exploring we were hit with these disasters simultaneously. It wasn’t the best way to learn about being safe and well in another country, but learn we all did.
Despite the upset, on the morning of the third day, 3 of us made our next stop on the journey, Oaxaca city. Here’s a video I put together on the 8-hour bus ride covering the bus journey and some of Mexico city, just to taste some of its beauty.
An 8-hour bus to Oaxaca for language and culture lessons. Including classes, activities and helping locals with their English. Nearly 2 weeks in Oaxaca had us hungry to tackle our projects. I’d felt more like a tourist than a volunteer in Oaxaca, although the lessons are incredibly important to understanding and doing the project I found later on. A mix of indigenous cultures, foods and dancing which I threw myself into all contributed to learning Mexican culture. I was extremely impressed with how my language improved in that time, and so were many others when I got to Barra de Potosí.
Friends were made and adventures were had in Oaxaca, a place widely known for history, food, dance and art in Mexico. I seen the petrifies waterfalls of Hierve El Agua, the widest tree in the world: The Tule tree, as well as the ancient tombs and structures of Milta and Monté Alban. There’s a mystic history behind Mexico, where Oaxaca has nearly 16 different recognised indigenous peoples, they have ancient religions and gods, structures resistant to earthquakes and built around astrology. This culture is evident in their art, their designs and their architecture. Even if I’ve only tasted a small bit of what it has to offer, it’s been amazing (especially the Molé Negro my host mother prepares, delicious.).
Barra de Potosí
When the 2 weeks were up, I parted ways with the other volunteers from Ireland and friends made in Oaxaca, after the much enjoyed bonding from exploring in the early mornings (which I pulled people into doing with me) and late night bike rides and learning the language together.
I made my long journey to the state of Guerrero, a place that’s infamous for violence in Mexico. I got a whole different perspective, however. I found kind and warm-hearted people, who welcomed me. One gentleman in the airport said it was a privilege to have me in his country after we talked about our families and culture over a beer while watching the football. It made me feel happy to be here, it gives me a driving motivation to do my best and inspires me to love and nurture the people and place I am in.
Arriving in Barra de Potosí was no different. But a small village where everyone knows everyone can have a unique culture, especially with the presence of cartels, the difficulties of money and the quality of life. Read more in my next update…
Peace and Love from the west coast of Mexico.