The fall of 2008 found me sitting in Santiago, Chile after nearly a year of traveling through Latin and South America. I was facing a move back to the United States to re-enter the workforce and “settle down.”
The thing was…I loved Latin America and the thought of working in an office 40 hours a week didn’t seems so appealing. So, I decided right then and there that I was going to find a way to live and work in a Spanish-speaking country.
After researching different options, teaching English quickly topped the list. I had never been a teacher, but that wasn’t a problem. I didn’t speak much Spanish either, but I could speak English…and that was all I needed.
Back then, the term “grammar guru” wouldn’t have applied to me. I had no idea what a past participle was but as it turned out, I didn’t need to.
I was soon on a flight to Orizaba, Mexico, to take up my first job teaching English at a private school. I had traveled a little in Mexico, but those short trips were nothing compared to immersing myself in the local culture. The job allowed me plenty of time to explore…and what a country to find yourself in!
I had no idea just how many religious holidays Mexico had and I got time off for all of them. Every month there was at least one long weekend and then I was given nearly three weeks off for both Christmas and Easter.
I went to Carnival in Veracruz (much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans). I passed through Oaxaca during Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), where locals celebrate their ancestors by dressing as skeletons and parading through the streets in a colorful celebration of remembrance. I also spent Easter break at the beach, watching the sunset everyday over the ocean, sipping milk from a freshly cut coconut.
But, even more than the traveling to big celebrations and sunny beaches, I enjoyed my weekend trips to the local market. About 20 minutes walk from my house, the normally quiet streets would swell with vendors from the surrounding area.
I always enjoyed what I call the “refreshing randomness” of Mexico. The local market is a place where you can buy chickens’ feet in one stall, power tools in the next, a handmade cooking pot three feet away, and in the next step an ice-cold freshly-squeezed pineapple juice. The local markets have it all.
I also love the slower pace of life. In the evenings and on weekends you will find people young and old walking together or spending time in the town square, just for the sheer gratification of being outdoors and enjoying the company of those around them. This is something I feel our modern Western society has lost.
I loved it so much that I stayed. Four years later I’m still here…still loving my job and my life in this incredible country.
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