Where to start? The teacher training we received from AV on arrival was golden; we learnt tricks for teaching vocabulary from numbers to verbs/tenses to objects, and songs, and keeping their attention span high. We were also taught about how to cook ingredients most commonly found in the markets.
We were a small group of 15 volunteers and bonded straightaway.
Our village was big with a supermarket, numerous corner shops selling snacks and drinks, and a big outdoor market on Sundays. Unfortunately our house wasn't equipped with a fridge (something that the locals found inconceivable as they all had fridges, ovens, toasters, kettles. It meant that each day we had to plan our meals on the spot, and go food shopping every day. (I learned the hard way by eating one day old eggs that were left on the window sill.) There was a taxi rank, and numerous internet cafes.
I taught with another girl, who didn't speak any Spanish. We wouldn't have felt safe or confident enough to teach every day had it not been for my A-level Spanish. We taught in San Juan, a tiny village about a half hour away, walk along the main road. We got some odd looks and unwanted attention, but nothing harmful as we were sensible and kept our blond and ginger heads down. The most sound advice I can give is to simply make use of common sense regarding what could be conceived as 'dangerous' situations. The police were scary, but we were told that their weapons were rarely armed, and we didn't engage with them ever.
The children were so cute! Aged 5 to 18. The little ones marveled at the crayons and pencils we brought in to class for 'drawing days'. The students were more interested in asking about our countries than learning English. They enjoyed simply hearing us speak (English or Spanish). They loved knowing that we were interested in helping them. Sports days at the secondary school are memorable, when we joined in under the scorching mid-day sun! Food at the schools was typically Mexican (not Tex-Mex) refried beans and scrambled eggs, spicy sausage, maize tortillas. The food ladies (mothers) were adorable and kept us our respective favorite things!
We didn't drink the tap water. Do take anti-diarrhea tablets if you need them - they are the only way to get over travelers' flu! Support staff provided help if someone was down (either physically or mentally).
We managed to get away and explore a lot of Mexico which is a vast and diverse country. I would love to go back, to see how Amanalco has grown from a town into a small industrial cityn and to go back to the fantastic destinations we explored (Merida, Isla Mujeres, San Luis Potosi, Cabo San Lucas)
The way to travel is by overnight bus or plane. Travel in even numbers. Use common sense about leaving belongings unattended or flashing desirable objects (wallets, passports, ipods, cameras).
My time in Mexico made me more mature, improved my Spanish and worldliness, and gave me a thirst for teaching young Mexicans. I would recommend the experience to anyone who is looking for a rewarding, leisurely, emotional, and fun-packed time!