Monday, September 10, 2018

One Month In

It has been an odd first month back in Mexico. A mixture of nostalgia, stress and excitement has lead the way. Now, the dust has settled and I have found a bit of a routine. I forgot how nice a routine can be when you enjoy it but I do need to be careful. Routine can and usually does, allow time to slip by without much fanfare. I have made a pledge to stay on my toes and to try and challenge myself every day. Be it writing this blog, improving my Spanish, wrapping my head around a new grammar rule (who would have thought that was possible) or just exploring the nooks and crannies of Tehuacan.

On the home front, I am back at the teachers residence and in the same room as I had before. However the house has been upgraded and looks great. I am living with 5 other teachers and it is not without it's challenges. I am lucky to have my own room so with that comes the ability to find some private time, a luxury to be sure.

The walk to school is about 15 minutes. The neighborhood is filled with fruit and vegetable shops, a few bakeries, a large pharmacy, a variety store on every corner (beer beer beer), a great butcher, a few laundromats where a kilo of washing costs 10 pesos. There are food stalls, carts and family food outlets on every street so hunger is a choice for us, not an option. I am looking for my own place, with the help of the school, as I am here long term, well longish. Let's see how it goes right. I have been known to change my mind on things. For the record, a clean modern apartment will run me about $150 - $200 Canadian, and that is a top end place.

We have not been without our fun times the first month. We hit Cerezos most Fridays after school for massive mugs of beer for 40 pesos ($2.75) or 3 for 100. What do you suspect my Friday night choice is? Remember these are mugs that hold 1.5 litres of beer so that is 4.5 litres of beer for the equivalent of about $8.25 Canadian, $9 with tip. There are a few places in the Zocalo that we have spent time at. The area is hopping and and 1.5 liters of Corona is 71 pesos....stupid tourist prices!! I did get dragged willingly to the Roof a few weeks ago. Cerezos was closing and the Roof is a club that stays open until dawn, and a 5 minute walk we walked. At 5 am after dancing like fools and maybe sipping a few tequilas, the 8 of us decided it was time to leave. On Sunday I slept in until noon, napped at 2 and 5 and then back to bed around 9. There is a reason I don't try to run with the yung 'uns.

School life is all about lesson planning and teaching. I only have 2 one hour classes. In the morning I train with the current teaching supervisor, Matt Poy, to learn the workings of the school. Included in this are the interview techniques developed my Matt through trial and error on how to choose the best candidates. This is also helping me build relationships with the owners Rachael Heslington and her husband Teo. This is arguable the most important part of the next 4 months. Matt has been here for 8 years and they rely on him something fierce. I have my work cut out on this front.

On the Mexican side, Tehuacan is living under military rule right now. Yes, military rule. It is the safest city in Mexico right now. How did this come to be you ask? The current mayor and most government officials including senior police offices are horribly corrupt. There was an election a few months ago and the mayor and her crew were voted out. The transition to the new government takes 3 months, a normal transition time. Well the current leaders said "fuck it" and stopped ruling. The police stopped policing and the mayor and her staff, embolden by the lack of police presence started looting the treasury.

New of this emerging "wild west" situation brought the Zetas out of their dark places. They opened a new bar called Dubai in town and started demanding protection money from local businesses. Hikers were being robbed at gun point along the popular, an my favorite hiking trail up to Cerro Colorado. So, the president of the country, Enrique Peña Nieto called in the military. Enrique Peña Nieto is horribly corrupt but that is another story. He just lost the Federal Election to Andrés Manuel López Obrador who takes over on December 1st.

Back to my lovely little town. The military came in 1500 strong plus lots of 50 Caliber mounted jeeps, low flying helicopters and armored personal carriers. Read the story here. All the corrupt police were fired scattered into the desert...or were shot. The running news here is the military will one day walk into the Dubai bar fully armed giving only one choice, leave immediately. If there is any pause for thought they will open up on the Zeta's. So, it goes without saying I will never go into Dubai regardless of the awesome patio and good looking menu. In the game of Mexican Military vs. Drug gangs the military always wins. Mexico is ranked 32 (of 136) currently reviewed under the  global firepower review, Canada is 25th. These lads are serious.

Here are a couple of links to have a peek at where I am now working/living

The schools website     The schools Facebook page

 I will add some photos of the neighborhood tomorrow.

Mexican sun means Mexican smiles.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Tehuacan 2.0

My return to Tehuacan was delayed by a quick stop in Cancun for a week. Sure, not the worst place to wind down after 18 months in Asia and I had been here before when I left Tehuacan a couple of years ago. I stopped here because flights from London fly direct to Cancun (no stops in the USA which is important for me). If I was thinking at the time, I would have stopped for a night near the ADO bus terminal and then head to Merida or somewhere I have never been. Regardless, I found a cheap hotel downtown with a single room for $20 a night. There is a local bus for $.50 that will take me to the hotel / beach strip in about 30 minutes and cheap and delicious food all over the downtown area. What's not to love?

A bit of sun tanning, lounging by the pool, splashing in the ocean and swimming with whale sharks capped a fun filled week. There were decent chicken wings, cold delicious beer and many, many tacos. I understand that when booking a trip to Cancun the usual choice is to check into an all inclusive beach front hotel in the hotel zone. After all, you work hard and come vacation time you want comfort and 5 star service. If you want to change your habits, and challenge yourself a bit and save a shit-ton of money find a cheap flight, book into a decent downtown hotel and change your experience. You might be surprised that you enjoy yourself more.

Now swimming with whale sharks was not even on my radar. Then I read that this was the season of their migration and tours were available. The decision took about 1 second to make. Swimming/cage diving with Great Whites is high on my agenda. Whale sharks would do for now. Let's just say it was as incredible as you could imagine. The boat trip was a bit long and bumpy, about 90 minutes out past Isle Mujeres. You teamed up with a "dive buddy" from the boat. When a shark was spotted and it was your turn, you slipped into the water and there it was, a 40 foot fish no more that 15 feet away.

They are docile and seem slow moving but I was swimming like a crazy man just trying to keep up. I did not take any pictures but did take a few videos. This one is raw and uncut and the best I could do considering the situation. Ultimately I wanted to enjoy the experience, not spend my time trying to capture it.

I took my flight from Cancun to Puebla, a taxi to the ADO bus station and then the 2 hour ride into Tehuacan. I was met at the airport by Matt Poy, the Teaching Supervisor who I will be replacing in January. He is a good dude and I do consider him a good friend. He dropped me off at the teachers house where I lived before, gave me my keys and off I went. I wandered the familiar streets, noticed the small changes and met people who remembered me.

The first excursion made was to the recently opened pyramids in old Tehuacan in Tehuacan Viejo, about a 20 minute combi ride from the city centre. The ruins themselves are small when comparing them to PalenqueChitzen Itza or Tulum, however this area of Mexico was critically important for the Poco Loca Indians and then the Atzecs. There are deep caverns of fresh water from the natural run off from Popocatépetl near Puebla. A very active and gorgeous volcano.

When you hike in the surrounding hills the trail is littered with broken pottery shards. It's odd, you can pick these pieces of history up but most people, myself included, are not compelled to put them into their pockets. They toss them back onto the trail where they belong. I will take a few photos next time I head out. It is estimated that there are over 200 temples and pyramids in the surrounding area. As with every other archaeological site in Central America, money is a huge factor. There is not enough to uncover the treasures that lay beneath the soil. Hopefully Tehuacan draws the attention of the Universities and clubs that fund such projects. For now, visit this site and support its growth.

I don't know why I have taken to Tehuacan. Don't get me wrong, there is not a long term plan to stay here. Let's call it a mid term plan. I honestly think I returned to regroup and plan things moving forward. I do believe that there is something here in Mexico waiting for me, ready to take me in a new direction. I am 100% sure it is not here in Tehuacan but this is where I need to be for now. Lets see how it goes.

I did write quite a bit about Tehuacan in the past. Here is the link to my first post.