The early morning sky is cluttered with color. The large crowd that woke up as early as 5.00 a.m. to be here oohs and aahs in unison as yet another balloon inflates and calmly lifts off the ground. There must be nearly 30 of them up in the skies of north-central Mexico by now and many more to take off.
The whimsical sight of a sky full of wicker baskets held up only by brightly colored nylon and hot air makes me feel like a kid again.
I’m at the four-day International Balloon festival in Leon, Guanajuato, the biggest of its kind in Latin America, which attracts thousands of visitors and 200 hot air balloon teams from all over the world.
Floating alongside the traditional style balloons (my favorite) are at least 20 others designed in more unconventional shapes. A penguin, a butterfly, an upside down balloon, an ice-cream cone, and even a glitzy white-suited Elvis cruise through the skies above the park where the event takes place.
After dark, the pilots fire up their air crafts as part of a spectacular show where the propane burners illuminate the balloons in time to a synchronized music program.
As an English teacher in Mexico, these are the kinds of events that I can attend during my vacation time. Being able to explore the country and enjoy some of the many festivals offered is one of the main perks of this career. Teaching in a foreign country is not a 9-5 job; it’s a whole experience that colors all parts of your life. I have had the opportunity to visit several regions of the country (which differ greatly in culture, cuisine and landscape), experience countless fiestas and holidays unique to Mexico and witness large scale events like the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Leon.
The best part is that I am not shelling out big bucks for tourist accommodations, tours, or constantly buying plane tickets to do this. As a foreign language teacher, these kinds of experiences become a normal part of your lifestyle.
Whether you have a lot, a little or no experience at all teaching English, there’s a job for you in Mexico. For some roles you may be required to have a university degree or certain certificates… but for many roles, you just have to be a native English speaker. Often what students are looking for is the opportunity to practice conversation and pronunciation with a native speaker.
The great thing about all of these roles is that your working day is a lot shorter than it would be back home. I’ve never worked more than 30 hours a week as a teacher.
Pay varies depending on the school, so do your research first. But because the cost of living in Mexico is low, a teacher’s salary is enough to live and travel on as long as you’re frugal. And if you need to supplement your income further, there are always people looking for private and online classes.
And though, like any job, teaching English sometimes has its frustrations, the short hours, being paid to live in beautiful places, and having the opportunity to attend events like the balloon festival in Leon more than make up for them. And that’s not just a bunch of hot air.
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