If Projects Abroad said to me 'Describe your time in Mexico in four words, they would be 'Time of my LIFE!'
I have so many fantastic memories and I could tell people about them all day, every day but for now, I’ll give you an overview of my time abroad, then hopefully you’ll pick Projects Abroad and create some fantastic memories of your own.
From the moment I'd booked my place, I knew I'd made the right choice. Jerylee, the Mexican Desk Officer at the time made me feel comfortable with how things work in Mexico and answered all of my queries straight away. The staff were all really friendly and approachable, and they were supportive through my journey with them.
I had a shared placement whilst I was in Mexico. I worked both at Casa Juan Diaz orphanage for boys, as well as the University of Guadalajara (CUCEA campus). In the three months I was working, I met the most inspirational people and had the most fun I've ever had.
At the University, I taught English for a few weeks and also ran a conversation club so the students could practice their English. We had varied topics to discuss from Mexican politics to what we're afraid of and funny topics such as most embarrassing moments…those conversations usually ended up with the whole group in hysterical uproar! I learnt a lot about Mexican views and culture and also made some fantastic friends for life.
Although my overall experience was brilliant, I think a huge part of my love for Mexico comes from the boys I worked with at the Casa Juan Diaz orphanage. I love them with all of my heart and miss seeing their little smiling faces every day. Each afternoon, I'd arrive at the orphanage and all the boys would turn around and wave excitedly shouting 'Hola Stacy'. I'd get the occasional kid who would run and jump on me to give me a kiss and cuddle. It all made the experience totally worthwhile.
There are so many times I could reminisce about. The most vivid memories I've got of the kids are their excitement over the simplest of things. As soon as I took out my camera, they all pulled their best pose and shouted 'yo yo' for me to snap a shot of them. My sunglasses or 'lentes' were a particular interest for the boys, and I have lots of great shots of them posing wearing them. We had lots of fun playing games such as volleyball, frisbee, football or basketball, and the boys found my attempts at looking good at them hilarious! As well as the fun times, I helped the boys with basic care and homework after school, although my favourite times were definitely cuddle times.
Not all times at the orphanage were happy. Hearing the kids' stories, why they were there was upsetting, but it made me love them even more and want to bring happiness to their lives. The boys are amazing. I realised it really doesn't take a lot to make them feel wanted, just a kiss and cuddle to showing that you care. It brought a smile to my face seeing them take every moment as it comes and appreciate what they do have in life.
I'll never forget 'my boys'. I felt so special when I was with them. Unreal experiences like being asked to bless one of them before he went to bed, sitting with them during mass and being given bracelets from a few of the boys (which I haven't taken off!) are cherished memories and hold a special place in my heart.
Bettzy and Martha who I worked with at the orphanage are two of the most inspirational women I have ever met. They would do absolutely everything to provide love and care to the boys. I admire their dedication to the job. They no longer work at the orphanage but Bettzy has two foster homes nearby in Sayula with even more gorgeous boys to work with.
On my last weekend in Mexico, we took 11 of the orphans to the Turtle Camp. It was incredible. It was great seeing their faces light up when they saw the turtles and realised we were by the sea, within an hour, they were all soaked and covered in sand, but it was all worth it. I had to leave a day early to catch my flight home, and it was the hardest thing saying goodbye to my friends and my little guys. They all gathered together and began singing 'Ti Quiero Stacy Ti Quiero', my eyes filled up and as I walked away, I realised 'I've made a difference to their lives'. It was an indescribable feeling.
My accommodation during my stay was with a host family who I adored. My room-mate, Sarah, and I were made to feel completely at home. Our host mum, Lety, was without doubt the best cook in Mexico. The family invited us to parties on a few occasions so we felt so welcomed and part of the family.
I made some fab friends during my time abroad, both volunteers and locals. Almost every evening I spent time getting to know everyone, going out for dinner, salsa dancing, going for street food and cookies, going to the cinema, travelling around different parts of Mexico, attending festivals and gigs…plus many more new and exciting things we came across. As a volunteer, you’re all in the same boat but it’s so much fun getting to know new people and as cheesy as it sounds, you do make friends for life.
Mexico itself was a culture shock for me, but a good one. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, I got the odd look, but it was a look out of interest - why was I there? The cultural traditions were a pleasure to watch and participate in.salsa, tequila drinking (of course!), religion and fiestas until the early hours of the morning! It wasn't uncommon for the guys to be flirtatious, but it was all in good spirit.
The experiences and friendships I have made are so special to me. Mexico was truly life changing and I'll never forget it. I'd recommend travelling and volunteering to anyone!