And A Common Sense Approach
In Morelia, Mexico
|by David Wix
|For me, living
in Morelia was a very rewarding experience. It was certainly far different
than what I had been used to in the United States. When I went there in
1997, technology existed, however, technicians were at times limited in
their knowledge compared to their counterparts in the United States. Therefore,
on occasion, computer equipment did not work as well as what I had been
accustomed to. And, computer services were much more limited.For instance,
when I first arrived at Centro Mexicano Internacional (CMI, my school
in Morelia), there was one computer available 10 to 30 minutes a day
to students for email services.
|If I wanted
additional time and services, I had to go rent one of the two or three
available computers at a local cyber café a few blocks down the
street from CMI.
Now, I could
have felt disheartened like some of the American students at my school,
however, I viewed it as an interesting challenge. Instead of reading emails
during my available computer time, I would download them, print them, and
read them later. Then, I would hand write out any replies I wanted to send,
type them up on a non-internet computer in Microsoft Word. Afterwards,
I saved them to a disk, and the next day cut and paste my replies into
my emails and sent them during my 10 to 30 minutes of computer time.
the world of the Combi, Morelia’s at times challenging bus system! Consisting
of a fleet of VW buses, the normal capacity is 15-18 people. However, it
was not unusual to see more than 20 people sandwiched into every nook and
cranny of the Combi. It was times like that that I really hoped everyone
had used their deodorant.
|The nice thing
is that Combis went virtually everywhere and one never had to wait very
long for another in the event of missing the previous one. And, with such
closeness, it was impossible not to get to know fellow passengers. I met
many wonderful people that way. There were times, however, I must admit
I broke down and took a taxi when I felt I needed my space. That was alright
too, though, because as long as one negotiates the price prior to starting
out, most trips are quite reasonable. For instance, in 1997, I could ride
pretty much anywhere in El Centro (downtown) for anywhere between $2 and
$3. Even longer trips across town were generally never more than $8 to
I felt safe riding in either mode of transportation. One Combi experience
I had, however, was a bit tense (funny now, not too much then).
I decided to take a scenic tour around town one day. For most of the trip,
there was one other person besides me and the bus driver.
Offshore Resources Gallery
|He sat up
in the front seat with the driver and got into an intense political discussion
that eventually turned to the subject of Gringos. It was obvious neither
of them cared much for the fact that Gringos were living “south of the
border”. I sat quietly listening, hoping that I was dark skinned
enough to resemble one of them. By that time, my Spanish was good enough
that I could hold my ground in most conversations. I felt tremendously
relieved, though, when the driver looked over at me and said “you are
from Brazil, right?” I didn’t actually say yes, but I managed a quick
remark in my limited vocabulary of Portuguese, enough to satisfy him and
his friend at least. After that, I confined my Combi trips to shorter runs
and more crowded buses.
Used To Living On “Mexico Time”
The first time
I taught an English class on a Saturday, I was exposed to the concept of
doing things on “Mexico time.” Saturdays classes were always a bit more
relaxed than ones during the week as most school administrators were gone.
Students as well as teachers let their hair down a bit more than
was not as strict about breaks as I had to be during the week, so, 5 minute
breaks on occasion turned to 10-15 minute ones. It was alright, though,
because we almost always got through all of our assigned material.
break was a different matter. The first time I let my class take off for
lunch, they went off by themselves. It was supposed to be a one hour lunch
break, of course. Well, 1:00 PM turned into 1:30, 1:45, 2:00.
little after 2:00 my class returned. When I asked one of the students what
happened, one of them said “sorry teacher, we were just on Mexico time
today.” So, after that, I went to lunch with my class and kept them
together as a group. Instead of feeling penalized, they loved it. And,
I used the time to teach a few lessons not in the book.
While at CMI,
I taught classes of all levels, from beginner to advanced, from niños
(children) to adultos (adults). I even got called upon to teach a class
in linguistics to a group of teachers. My favorite class of all, I must
say, was a group of 10 to 12 year olds. At first, I was not sure I would
survive with all the antics that they pulled on me. Most of them wanted
to play in class and rarely ever do their homework. Now how does one appeal
to a 10 year old to get them to stay to task? Well, I commended them for
how intelligent they were. Then, with the more difficult ones, I mentioned
how nice it would be to meet their parents and report on their “progress”
in my class.
Now, the latter
choice worked. After that, I never had a bit of trouble. In one of our
last classes I asked each of my young charges to write about their favorite
place, person, or thing. One of the girls, about 11 at the time, really
touched my heart. She got up to describe her favorite person. “My favorite
person is my English teacher David. His Spanish is not always the best.
But, he is a good teacher and I love him.” I think I had a lump in my throat
about a mile long that day.
Just like with
the buses of Morelia, shopping areas can be overcrowded and a challenge.
There was more than one occasion I experienced pushing and shoving (never
violent though) to get through to a counter to purchase food or other items.
A Mercado (Mexican market) is nothing like the grocery stores I had been
used to in the United States. Of course, there are a few supermarket style
grocery stores in Morelia that are similar, but, they aren’t near as much
fun to go to as the Mercados. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles
– one can purchase almost anything in a Mercado (hopefully all legal).
I used to spend a lot of my free time walking all over El Centro to the
various shops and Mercados. I remember buying things from CDs to leather
goods to delightful foods I had never experienced before. At my favorite
clothing store, Milano’s, I was able to buy an entire new wardrobe for
less than $150. I found leather jackets and coats at a stall not far from
the downtown library for $50 to $75 that would easily cost $400 to $500
in the United States. Morelia has some of the best bargains I have ever
found if one is willing to spend the time and energy to look.
Living in a
different country with a different language and different customs is not
for the faint of heart. This is my point – living in Morelia is different
than where you live right now. Some of Morelia is quite modern, other parts
are not. One cannot expect conditions to be exactly the same as in the
United States or other more modernized countries. But, if you have a sense
of adventure and use common sense, you can have a wonderful time and some
marvelous experiences. I did. I have memories that will last a lifetime.
I met people, saw places and things, learned new things, lived and experienced
things that I will always treasure.
When you go
to Morelia, go with an open mind. Be willing to learn, live a different
lifestyle, experience new things. Above all, use common sense and have
humility. If you do, you will have fond, priceless, unique memories that
will always hold special meaning for you.
David Click Here
Index ~ Mexico