All posts tagged: Mexico

The nomads of Mexico: how to afford a life of travel

How can people afford to spend their lives travelling? It’s a question I’ve been asking ever since I experienced my first months’ backpacking and the wonderful, heightened state of existence they allowed me to access. Even now, out in the world again with my life on my back, the question is ever-present, seductive and unanswerable: how can I sustain this? It was only when I found myself staying at Junax, a small hostel in San Cristóbal Mexico exclusively for volunteers, that I began to understand how it could be done. There we found a very different kind of traveler – the kind you need to become to make travel a sustainable lifestyle. These were people staying in the city for long periods of time and working with charities, some of these placements arranged by the owner of the hostel herself. Most were also working on their own side projects – one author, a couple of PHD students – and this hostel, deliberately low cost to encourage volunteers, made a long-term stay more than affordable. Combine …

Lost in translation: linguistic challenges in Chiapas

A definition of intelligence: the ability to adapt quickly to new environments. I have never felt less adequate of this definition than last weekend as I sat for an hour in meditative silence beneath the impenetrable Spanish of my five new Mexican companions. Despite spending around £600 and at least five hours each week on my language learning effort to prepare for this trip, my Spanish level is still little more than inebriated toddler. And that’s when I can work up the courage to speak. Early last week in one of my rare moments of bravery I wandered into a torillaria in the beautiful city San Cristóbal where we’ve been helping our latest project. I wanted to establish whether they made tortillas with corn or flour, and therefore if I could eat them. My questions were met with amused bafflement and I ended up abandoning the mission and leaving the shop empty handed. Elliott turned to me wearily and asked if I wanted him to try. He returned with a stack of tortillas and the …

Giving working children the tools to protest: fighting for human rights in San Cristóbal

The children in Chiapas seem a lot older than normal children. They already have the weary weight of responsibility in their eyes. From as young as three they wander the streets of San Cristóbal till the early hours, selling bracelets and flowers and any number of miscellaneous objects. One girl heads straight for me in the wine bar where I sit with the evidence of privilege spread around me; my digital appliances charging on the table, my Harris Tweed wallet, my resounding European laugh. She must be about six years old. She can smell my oestrogen levels from the other end of the street and uses just one calculated expression to send me into broody fits of moisten-eyed sympathy. “Una Tortuga. Diez pesos,” she says – that’s about 40p. It’s very difficult to resist as she lines up her selection of little clay animals on the table, and I do buy the tortoise first presented to me. I even exclaim childishly, “dos tortugas!” pointing out the second small tortoise on the back of the first. …

Disorientation: our arrival in San Cristóbal de Las Casas

A bewildering fourteen-hour overnight bus journey takes us far from the relentless bustle of Mexico City and into the tranquillity of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, high in the mountains. Cars wait in lines to greet us, adorned with bunting and bright balloons. The sun extends their colours to dance in arcs through the clear air. Uplifted by this exquisite welcome, we stumble into a taxi and watch the sleepy streets pass. We’re staying at the artisan’s commune Kza Libertad, the House of Liberty, on the recommendation of a volunteer on our second project, and approach it with more than a little apprehension. We find a ramshackle and not altogether structurally sound building with hammocks in the open courtyard, friendly dogs and a bleary-eyed household, whether from the morning or the smell of marijuana permeating every wall and fabric, it’s difficult to tell. We drop our bags and leave for a more appropriate moment to explore our living quarters. San Cristóbal is just waking up. After some negotiation with the unfamiliar roads, their colourful houses, …

The gift of English: inspiring teens through teaching

We’re so very fortunate in the UK to be handed the shining gift of the English language from our early years. This advantage has never been more evident as I’m introduced to Chema, a young teen who’s just finished a two year English course at one of Fundación Proaccesso’s community learning centres on the outskirts of Mexico City. His proud teacher Hector has pulled him into our intimidating presence, and nods encouragement as Chema self-consciously joins our conversation in the new language.  To him, he explains, English has been life-changing. It opens up so many opportunities for his future. Such has been his experience on the course and the understanding of the opportunities English can create, it’s inspired him to teach, joining with four other students to lead summer classes in English and a variety of other subjects to kids in the community. Completely voluntarily. We watch him return to the classroom where the first lesson of this course is being taught and already sounds like a riotous success. Hector is visibly moved. He explains …

Glossophobia and an inauguration: community education through technology in Mexico City

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I may have been on Mexican national television last week. On my second day as a Field Evaluator, little did I think I would be giving a speech on behalf of Global Giving UK at a much anticipated launch event. But there we were, jet lagged and barely recovered from our ludicrous journey, standing alongside a representative from Nokia at the official opening of the Makers Lab, cameras winking expectantly at us from around the room. The lab is a new space in a low income community just outside of Mexico City, designed for young people to innovate and create with the latest cutting-edge inventions. When we arrive, we’re given a key-ring made with a laser cutter, a small plastic rocket fresh from the 3D printer and shown a musical instrument made from floppy discs, which dutifully plays us the Star Wars theme tune. The machines are exhibited with relish by a grinning band of teenagers, each technical aspect explained in rapid Spanish. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and …