Saturday, December 31, 2016

And That Was 2016

"2016 was a shit year" or so says everyone as they jump on the "this year was shit" band wagon. When I ask why every person begins with one of two thoughts. "Donald Trump won the election" and so "many celebrities died." With an 18 month build up of primaries, debates, 24/7 coverage and the growing obsession with all things Trump the American proved how uninformed the American public is.  As for celebrity are we so fucking celebrity obsessed that the death of a long list of public figures ruins your year. Do you stare out the window breathing long sighs and don't have the ability to get dressed in the morning or just want to bemoan the year because a musician, athlete, actor or other hero has passed on well you might be a bit celebrity obsessed. The death of a celebrity is certainly horrible for their family and friends and yes some where larger than life. These received a fitting send off but their deaths had ZERO effect on me and how I go through my day.

What do the four people above all have in common? They were at one time over the years friends of mine from high school and they all died this year.  They were not alone in the people I knew who passed on. That is my personal reality and why 2016 would be considered a shitty year for me, but then again so would have 2015 and 2014 for the friends I lost in those years. Who knows who will leave in 2017. I shared parts of my life with each of Sandra, Jerry, Michelle and Romeo and their deaths gave my mortality a solid jolt of reality.

How did 2016 treat me? I had highs and lows but 2016 was a fine year personally. I lived in Nicaragua and Mexico and did some traveling in those countries along with Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize. I climbed the highest volcano in Guatemala swam with Nurse Sharks in Belize. My Spanish improved and I am now looking forward to learning Mandarin. Mexico became much more than a scary headline in the news. They were Mayan ruins in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico and the largest Cactus Ecosystem in the world.

I gained valuable in class teaching experience in Tehuacan Mexico and Leon Nicaragua and  forged amazing relationships with students of all ages. I felt in control in my classes most days and learned the real value of preparation. I was rewarded with a great send off from the Heslington Language School.

I became a volunteer Volcano guide and climbed 7 different volcanoes 42 times leading over 200 happy hikers from a variety of countries. I tried to learn to surf and failed miserably. Eventually I climbed 9 volcanoes in 2 countries.

I developed better habits for me. I watched very little television, read more books, generally ate healthier and lost 20lbs. I walked ever where I went and distances stopped becoming a factor and a 60 minute walk was generally accepted as normal to me, abnormal to most other people. I live with less, disconnect often and do not turn on my cell phone unless I am actually going to use it.

Not all was a wondrous snow globe of happiness in 2016. Friends died, I had a brutal bout of food poisoning in Mexico that lasted almost two week and began with me puking into a plastic bag on a micro-bus full of wide eyed tourists. I re-injured my left rotator cuff and there were were some brutal days with that and there still are. I was ripped off trying to buy a Mexican chip for my cell phone, buying various bus tickets and found out the loud and smelly way why you should not eat beans every day for dinner.

I missed a flight back to Mexico from Toronto in August, was stranded at a very cold and a bit scary TAPU bus terminal overnight and lived with some of the oddest housemates I could have ever imagined. I was bit by a huge German Sheppard and was a pin cushion for mosquitoes.

2016 started in Nicaragua and finished in Canada. I had so many great experiences and I met new friends who helped me share them. I relearned that a smile and hello goes a long way and to drop my shoulders and relax when I start to put to much pressure on myself for no reason. Every year will be filled with good and bad times, people and situations. It is what you do afterwards that matters. The list of the important people that were a part of this year is as long as it is diverse. You are all in my heart and memories and as was said perfectly to me one time "see ya never!"

So good-bye Latin America and 2016 and hello Asia and 2017. The year like so many other things is just a number.

The Cold Return To Canada

My last day in Mexico and I recommend this for anyone. Take the 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. It is the same ocean, same sun, same everything as Cancun but it is everything that Cancun is not. You can rent bikes or golf carts and drive around the island. There are pure white sandy and uncrowded beaches. It was the best way to end my time in Mexico.

The next morning, Dec 22nd I woke up knowing that within 10 hours I was going to be back in Canada, cold, cold Canada. I am leaving Mexico with mixed emotions. Yes, China is calling and I will be in the land of dumplings soon enough but Mexico has been everything and more. I said I would return to Nicaragua and I did. Unless somewhere knocks my socks off when I return to Mexico it may be permanent.

Heading North
The ADO bus to the Cancun airport was 72 Peso well spent. I was dropped off at terminal 3, wandered to the West Jet desk and was checked in, through security and eating lunch in 35 minutes. My flight to Pearson would be a quick 4 hours but if I have not said it before flying bores the crap out of me. I think I have done so much of it that the routine of the coach seat and service is ingrained in my psyche. I had a full Ipod, new headphones and a window seat. A quick hello and smile to the couple sitting beside me and that was that. Next stop, Canada baby.

My old pal Caitlyn Tran  and her beau Richard offered to pick me up and after a funny three way messenger co-ordination effort with her sister I was command to stand by post 20 outside so that is where I headed. I walked outside after and easy entrance back into Canada and was hit in the face by the cold, and I liked it. A scramble and traffic stopping load in into her car, a stop at a pub in Oakville for wings and beer and a lovely offer to drive me to the Falls had me snug in my bed by 10:30.

Next up on the return home as a trip to Orchard Park NY and a football game between the Buffalo Bills and the hated Miami Dolphins. This has been a bit of a ritual with and myself over time and one year we made the tough trek to Miami for an away game.

Fran, Kelly, Me, Katy and Nick
It was an early enough start and even with the border we were parked and sipping beer by 10:00 giving us 3 hours of tailgating before kick off. Beer, BBQ burgers, snow and rowdy Football fans is always a great time. Our seats were good and the $9.50US large cans of beer actually tasted darn delicious. The Bills lost as expected but we missed the exciting ending as we had to get out of there before the crowds. There was a large family gathering for Christmas dinner and we would not be late. It was painful to listen on the car radio as the Bills squandered a lead late in the game, then missed a winning field goal in overtime then have Miami march down and win. I expected nothing less.

Nike and his shaved chest with Kelly and Katie

 I found these great Luche Libre masks in Isle Mujeres of all places and had to have them. Kelly lost her sh** when I gave her the Dolphins mask and Katie played along with the Bills mask even though she is a die hard Cowboys fan.

Game Faces
Pre game with Nick
Staying warm with Fran

Stadium View

I made it back to Canada in on piece. I went from 30 degrees in Mexico to - 5 at the Toronto airport, to 0 in Buffalo for a football game. I had great Chicken wings, BBQ burgers and 2 huge Christmas dinner all in 72 hours. I met old friends, new friends, family and of course the animals, you can not forget Maycee, Marina, Leo, Rob, Tucker and McCabe.

With that my time in Latin America is now over. It started in Guatemala and ended in Mexico but there were long stops in Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and of course Antarctica. With a 2 year work stint in Western Canada this has been an interesting 6 years. Let's see what the insanity that is called Asia has in store for me.

gracias por todo. Este viaje ha sido espectacular. No fue sin problemas, pero los golpes a lo largo del camino ayudan a crear profundidad con las historias de todas las personas interesantes y temerosos lugares inspiradores me permitió descubrir.

Cuando la gente pregunta cuál era su lugar o país favorito todo lo que puede hacer es responder "sí" con una sonrisa de conocimiento porque cada lugar es especial.
Cada lugar es especial. Sólo tienes que abrir tu corazón y tu mente a lo que es posible.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chichen Itza and Tulum

Classic shot of the main temple
Expectations, handle with care. Chichen Itza has been on my radar for a while. I did visit the ruins in 1982 and what I do remember, aside from a few flash back type moments, was the lack of tourists and the remote feeling of the place. I should have held onto that memory and moved along. What a shi*show.
** In 2006 a woman fell to her death while climbing the temple and it has been closed to climbers ever since.

Chichen Itza is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World - Man Made Structures along with The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, Colosseum in Italy, Taj Mahal in India, Christ The Redeemer in Brazil and Machu Pichu in Peru. You will notice that places such as the Great Pyramids of Giza are not included on the list any longer. Whatever, you do not need to be included on a list to be special and spectacular. I do understand that Chichen Itza is a special place and the main temple is gorgeous however having seen quite a few Mayan Ruins sites such as Tikal, Palenque, Cantona, Copan, and Teotihuacan near Mexico City, Chitzen Itza does not rise head and shoulders above any of these. What is has on it's side is promotion and a glorious main temple that is a tourist photographers wet dream.

In the huge ball court
Let's focus on the positive. Chitzen Itza is indeed an impressive site with an equally impressive history. The technology, stone work and art work in the buildings are a sight to behold. Learning that they were created, as were most Mayan ruins, with the yearly trajectory of the sun and moon to coincide with the winter and summer solstices. It can make your head spin when you try to learn as much as you can in one short trip. The thing that seemed to impress most people including myself was the acoustics of the Great Ball Court. At 225 feet wide and 545 feet long it is twice the size of an American Football Field. What is incredible is while standing at on end you can hear clearly the whisper of someone from the other end, over 500 feet away. This acoustic phenomenon has never been clearly defined. Legends say that the winning Captain would present his own head to the losing Captain, who then decapitates him. While this may seem very strange reward but the Mayans believed that this to be the ultimate honor.

Looking from the Great Ball Court to the Great Temple
There were numerous platforms and temples each with their own special purpose. The site was accented with Jaguars and Eagles and the open aired spaces gave it a calm and serene feel. I found myself sitting on the grass in the court yard just taking in all in. Along with great buildings and structures there was the Sacred Cenote. The Cenote Sagrado ( Sacred Cenote ) was a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people. Archaeological investigations support this as thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the Sacred Cenote, including material such as shell, gold, jade, wood, obsidian, cloth, as well as skeletons of men and children. The Yucatan Peninsula is a limestone plain, with no streams or rivers. The region is pockmarked with natural sinkholes ( Cenotes ) which expose the water table to the surface.
One of the most impressive is the Sacred Cenote, which is 60 m. in diameter, and shear cliffs that drop to the water table some 27 m. below.
The legendary Sacred Cenote (natural waterhole) of Chichen ltza was special to the people for its social and religious significance. On occasions, the sacrifice of human life was part of the offerings made to the Water God.

This is a major tourist location so be prepared for long lines, vendors selling cheap merchandise inside and outside the ruins, tour buses and confused travelers of all shapes and sizes but that is part of the fun if you just accept it for what it is. Like Cantona before I was admitted free (240 pesos) because of my teaching card which a nice little bonus so I had a very nice lunch after wandering around for 3 hours.

Main Temple At Tulum
Tulum was a different animal all together. The town itself has an interesting feel to it, a hippy wanna be place peppered with coffee shops and cafes. I am sorry I did not stay here for a couple of days but I did have a clear blue skies and a warm day to enjoy so off I went. When you leave the bus station, turn left and start walking. I bought fresh pineapple and water melon along the way for breakfast, loaded up on cold water and was on my way. I walked the 40 minutes from the bus station to the Ruins site at a leisurely Mexican pace.

Showing off the new travel hat that I bought in Ajalpan
Tulum sits on the coast and the views are are breath taking as you are imagining. Azul clear waters, warm ocean breezes, iguanas sunning themselves everywhere and the smell of the ocean side all embrace you as you walk through history. If I was Mayan this is where I would be, to hell with the sweaty nasty jungle and all the creatures of the night.

I did not learn a whole lot about this site. It was such a great day I did not care to really. I just wandered the site and took it all in. It was however the opposite of Chitzen Itza with lack of tourists, there were some but nothing dramatic and there were no vendors inside the site itself. Everything was contained to a huge "welcome centre" between the parking lot and the entrance. They did sell ice cold beer for $1 so there was that.

After about 3 hours of wandering Tulum I decided to head back into town. I figured I would see what there was to see. I took the ADO bus to Tulum, as I did to Chitzen Itza but figured there must be a better way. I found some Wifi and a with quick search I discovered there were collectivos that ran between Tulum and Playa del Carmen and then another from Playa to Cancun. They were faster and cheaper. The ADO bus was 220 pesos. As I was wandering I saw a micro bus with a Playa/Cancun sigh and waved him over. Yes sir a third option, the local bus for 60 pesos. It would take a bit longer but I justo had t yell where I wanted to get off when the time came. Sure enough a loud "oye, aca" and I was dropped off in front of the ADO in Cancun. Always remember there are options and usually cheaper than any guide book tells you.

I had one more day in Mexico and I was heading to Isle Mujeres for a day of sun, sand and a cold beer. For as much time as I have been in Cancun it has been the trips out of Cancun that have been the best. Remember that the next time you decide to go "All Inclusive" because there is so much more to do than hang around the Hotel Zone where you overpay of the American Experience if you leave your resort.

Monday, December 19, 2016


Wind in my shirt fatness. I like the fat guy with a new hat look.

Lets cut to the chase. Cancun in North America's Whore.

Until this week my last trip to Cancun was in 1982 when it was not even on the tourist radar.  Read an interesting history of Cancun Development here and the Wikpedia page here.  Crazy to think that in 1970 there were only 3 people living here and 174 in nearby Puerto Juarez. Now there are almost 800,000.

I do not remember much from that trip only because it was so long ago. I was working as an employee with Disney Florida and we received huge discount tickets on flights and hotels to help promote the place. I remember the airport being tiny and rustic and during the ride in we passed through small towns with crumbling buildings. Etched in my mind is a small crumbling church and I do remember thinking to myself "this is not Canada or the United States".

The Cancun of today has a modern airport with incredibly efficient bus service to downtown or if you are in the Hotel Zone you have unlimited "pre-paid" options on pick up and delivery services. The entire operation is fast and efficient to say the least. I am staying at the Granada 6 hotel/hostel downtown where a private room and bathroom is $21 a night, a splurge in my world. We are a 10 minute walk to the ADO bus station and the chaos of downtown Cancun and I would not have it any other way. Street vendors, dangerous traffic, honking horns, random pretty parks, cheap delicious food and helpful locals. I am sharing my time with like minded travelers of various ages and backgrounds who are always eager to share their story if you just take a minute and ask.

** As an aside I met Chinese girl here who as it turns out if from Xi'an, the city in China where I will be moving to in January. We have already arranged to meet and she will show me her city. How serendipitous (thanks for the word Lucy) is that.

As I have mentioned before long travel knocks the crap out of me. From Tehuacán I caught the 10:30 am bus and I was sipping a beer in my room in Cancun at 11:00 pm. In between it was bus/taxi/bus/flight/bus/taxi and all the travel and wait times that go along with it. After a solid sleep I wandered the downtown for a couple hours stopping for various snacks and drinks along the way. There was a feel here that was definitely not Tehuacán and just outside the downtown core it was more like Niagara Falls. Bus after bus tearing down the road at breakneck speed to the Hotel Zone, taxis honking, money exchanges, tour operators of every type, souvenir and trinket shops, touts trying to sell everything from booze to drugs and girls. Prostitution is legal in Mexico and the local parlors are quite impressive, from the street view that is. This was my first taste of what I was to learn is the very real Cancun.

"Cuando usted escupirá hasta que aterriza de nuevo en su cara".
 "When you spit up it will land back on your face"

That simple quote was casually said to me during a late night tequila conversation with Hymie and Maria, the owners of Granada 6. Maria is yet another intelligent and insightful Mexico who used that quote to describe the Hotel Zone that is home to the "North American All Inclusive Crowd". This was in reference to the fact that all the hotels are build on a sandbar and when the next big hurricane comes through they are going to be destroyed. Hurricane Wilma came through in 2005 and caused extensive damage. "The foreigners come here, build and then leave. They don't care because the are insured."

This conversation went late into the night. It touched on topics including American Politics, Mexican Politics, How the Media and Corporations control the world (them not me for a change), People becoming dumber (again them) and how Mexico should be a huge player in the world but feel second best  to the United States, butt and this was said with emphasis "that is changing because this generation knows America is disgusting"

I could rant about the hotel zone but why bother. It is NOT Mexico by any stretch of the imagination but it brings happiness to millions of sun seekers during the cold winter months. Like the Casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Everyone complains about it but the city would be nothing without it. Like it or not that is how it has evolved.

I am going to the hotel zone tomorrow. I am going to catch a boat to Isla Mujeres where I will go snorkeling, work on my tan and drink cold beer while enjoying a great seafood lunch. That is why I came to Cancun. I love the fact that I listened to the tequila fueled local opinion, however having been born, raised and dependent on the nasty tourist trade for the first part of my life I can appreciate and respect the dialogue.

But Cancun is North Americas whore!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Thank You Tehuacán

Tehuacán. When I first read about you I did not know what to think. You are a working town known more for egg production than travel highlights. You were in the middle of the desert which meant hot days and possible cold nights. Plus you were in Mexico where my preconceived thoughts about the country itself dominated my thoughts. I just jumped on a bus, crossed the border and hoped for the best.

Well here it is 8 months later. We started slowly but now I find myself a bit overwhelmed with emotion to leave. I have documented most of my exceptional experiences in Tehuacán and my final 3 weeks piled on. 

There was one final hike to the cross at Cerro Colorado. This time I lead the hike with Lucy and Dan plus a local woman, Miriam who is also my Reiki therapist. She has lived in Tehuacán her entire life and had not climbed to the cross. She was unbelievably excited to complete the hike  and got very drunk on 1 cold beer from the local shop after the hike. 

Then there was the 10 location pub crawl that began at 1:00 in the afternoon and surprising lasted until almost midnight.
We added a poker run with a card at each location and "Simpson's Trivia" that Lucy put together at "Moe's Bar which sadly was closed so we had it at the bar downstairs.
Ending at Cerezos, our home bar, for the last beer of the night was the logical choice. As we grogged our way in we were met with knowing smiles. Oh, and I won the 240 pesos of the poker run!

One final highlight was being invited to a very formal family wedding. Keane's host family, whose daughter Lily was my student, took great pride in having us be a part of the celebration...that lasted until 5am. The Mariachis did not even start until 2am. I believe their main goal was to get us drunk and watch us act out. It was a "whiskey only" affair with random shots of tequila being administered by a wandering minstrel. Although quite formal the four of us did begin the night by wandering down to the local shop where we bought large cans of beer and drank them on the street corner, well as you would expect us to do.

Aside from fellow teachers, students, administration and families there were many more people that became a part of my daily weekly routine. From the butcher, laundry, fruit and vegetable family, market prepared food family, local restaurant, coffee shop, dentist, bakery, corner taco stand, beer vendors, corner shop, the bottle collectors, gas delivery men and everyone that said "good morning, good afternoon and good evening with big smiles" as I made my way around town. The longer I stayed the harder it was to leave. 

No, this is not a tourist town and thankfully so. This is a town of real people who thrive to live happy lives. Who are quick to share what they have with a genuine kindness that seems to be fading in the world. A compliment is genuine and magnanimity is a way of life. I have always said that when the time comes I would move full time to Nicaragua. Well it is a no brainer now, Mexico is my future home. It is a large country with so much to offer and it should be a major player on the world stage. Fate, history and proximity to the United States has stunted that but those days are fading. This generation is educated and opinionated and Mexico is ripe for change. It is not to say it is without problems and that change will be easy.

Take for example the kidnapping and murder of 43 students in September of 2013. They were ordered killed by a government official when he learned they were going to "peacefully protest" corruption within the government. The story came out that they were mistaken for a "newly formed drug cartel" and were killed by an existing gang. Drug cartels and government officials work together here and the effects are felt everywhere. From the simplest of street vendors to most businesses they have to pay some sort of "protection money" to either gangs or government officials, and that is just the start. Every country in the world has corrupt political leaders, even lovely Canada. In Mexico it is just blatant.

That aside the people of Mexico have endured and even thrived. No, not all Mexicans want to go to the United States. Most are disgusted by the country regardless of the possible opportunities that await. Many are more afraid of being in the USA than they are of their own country, one that is considered dangerous but yet is visited by millions of tourists each year. 

The word is getting out. Mexico is fantastic. I am not talking about the "10 day all inclusive never leave the resort Mexico" that is filled with people from your own country. I am talking about getting on the bus and traveling around Mexico. Visit towns that are not on your radar. Visit sites that are not on the cruise ship agenda. Eat at roadside stands and grab a beer at a place that challenges your comfort zone for you will be amazed at the world that opens up to you and clears your mind of clutter.

No, Mexico is not perfect but then again neither am I. Given the chance I think there is a possibility we will be perfect together but only Father Time knows best. Thank you Tehuacán, thank you Mexico. Stay proud, stay generous, stay kind. 

Here are just a few of the friendly faces I had the opportunity to consistently interact with.

Market cheese vendors

Greeted every day by Sid the happy street dog. Food helps
Nastiest roof dog in Tehucan.
Beer shop girls
Ever drink beer with your butcher? I sure did. Phil will be missed
The friendliest Hello Mr Ken greeting every time
Weekly Prepared Rice, Beans and other goodies
Always greeted with a smile at her families market stall

Despedida x 6

Despedida means farewell so to give someone their despedida is to give them their farewell party. I have been the recipient of a few "farewell parties" along the way. Some brought to many tears to my eyes such as Guatemala where 120 or so students excitedly lined up in front of me so they could individually give me a hug good-bye. There have been dinners with teachers and drinks with "fun" teachers and small trinkets and gifts of appreciation from smiling faces. The despedida is one of the best and worst days of contract work in a foreign country.

What was so special about my despedida? Well it was 3 day of tacos, tortillas, tamales, cakes, cookies, soda of every possible flavor and the tradition of getting your face pushed into a cake, 2 times no less. All done by what could only be described as excited and appreciative students.

Gilberto, Monste, Luz, Paula, Carmen and Me
The precursor was a surprise Tamale breakfast on the final Monday morning after class. A tamale is a made of corn dough, which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. The wrapping is discarded before eating and it can be stuffed with anything but vegetables, chicken or even pineapples are the most common. The leaf keeps it hot for quite a long time and they are delicious. Carmen made them and it took her 4 hours from start to finish. Do not let the look fool you, they are tremendous especially with a hot cup of coffee. It is also a "code" if a Mexican woman asks you if you would like to have a "tamale breakfast". I guess the more romantic version of coming over to "chill and watch Netflix"

Amando, Luis, Alin, Penelope, Jose, Pablo
 8:00 Workshop/Fluency The last class of my day is an advanced fluency class where our topics were varied from Facebook and Social Media, Movies, Pollution and world cultures. For a conversation class they were oddly quiet at times. They surprised me with Tacos (naturally) and all the tasty things that go with it. This was the precursor to the Taco fest t that was about to begin. Remember these are not your parents disgusting Taco Bell Tacos.

Angel, Ricardo, Diana, Laura, Michelle, Andrea, Anna, Ricardo
6:00 Beginner
 The next day was the Tuesday for the final exam. My class of beginning students, who were hilarious through out the entire semester added to their reputation. I have back to back classes over 4 hours in the evening. This is class number 2 and when it was their turn they mysteriously told me that the office staff need to speak to me. That in itself made no sense but the grins and giggles spoke volumes. So the second I left the class the door was slammed and the sounds of chaos immediately erupted inside the room, that I was now locked out of. When I return there was a very sweet and well organized display that was proudly presented to me complete with signs snacks and well wishes created with the gusto and enthusiasm.

Uriel, David, Elizabeth, Luis, Gonzalo, Mary, Fernanda
 7:00 Pre-Intermediate
 Immediately following the sweetness of the previous class came the gluttony of the next class. Complete with a large pizza, 3 kilos of two types of tacos with all the fixings and more than enough chips and crisps to treat the entire school. This became a gorge fest of extreme proportions.
Added to this frenzy Fernanda surprised me with chapolines. I have spoken about these dried and fried grasshoppers but I had promised her I would eat them if she brought them in, so I did. When I told her they were not half she grinned widely and declared "try these they are spicy' I did.

Neria, Lily, Susana, Uriel, Blanca, Ramses
 5:00 Workshop/Fluency
 Ahh, the early Workshop 2 class. They are as diverse as they are fun. From 14 years old to 69 years old they do as Mexicans do and accept each other without issue, even showing respect to the oldest student especially when she struggled. Susana is a baker and brought in a delicious chocolate cake as well guess it, Tacos!! We had some great conversations and they took great pleasure in teaching me as many bad words and phrases as possible.

Paola, Gilberto, Paula, Carmen, Luz, Ana
 10:00 am Pre - Intermediate
Then there was breakfast with the funniest class that I had. This is the crew that made the effort during the Halloween party and wore great costumes allowing us to win...wait for it..A FREE TACO PARTY.
They took me to breakfast which was delicious and proceeded to give me a few small gifts including a framed and signed photo. They then each gave me a napkin and asked me to write a personal message to each of them.

Laura, Teresa, Annete, Angel, Mercy
 9:00 am Beginner
 My final morning was spent with this excellent group having a delicious breakfast I took my bus out of town. Although beginners they took to the language quickly and in turn found time to destroy and laugh at my inability to speak any advanced Spanish.

The restaurant was near the school and it was fitting as this was the same restaurant that I had my first meal in Tehuacan.

 Each class presented their own unique challenges and I have to many fantastic moments to count but in the end every student passed the semester. This is not so much a testament to great teaching but more a testament to how smart and dedicated the students were. Contrary to what your perceptions are, Mexicans are some of the smartest and focused people I have ever met. They take personal pride in learning and doing the best that they can do. I had the opportunity to share experiences with many of them outside of school. (Get your mind out of the gutter!). We hiked, went to a wedding, family parties, shared beers, coffee, lunches and had long fun conversations that added to my personal insight into the "Real Mexico". They helped to destroy the preconceived negative perceptions that I realized that I had, which I have to thank the Main Stream Media for drilling into my head over the years.

Adiós mis amigos. Gracias por hacerme un techer mejor y una mejor persona. Cada uno de ustedes ha entrado en mi corazón a tu manera. Nunca olvidaré a ninguno de ustedes. Encontré mi risa otra vez por tu culpa y nadie puede quitarme eso de mí