The Wheels On The Bus - Teaching English In Guadalajara, Mexico

Grab Mexico TEFL Guide

I have been living in Mexico for almost eight months and I am still continuously surprised by life here.  When I first arrived in Guadalajara, there was so much to see and get used to.  The first major adjustment I had to make was the difference in meals and meal times. 

In the United States, we typically eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with dinner being a relatively large meal.  Here in Mexico, that is not the case.  The norm is to have something small in the early morning, perhaps before work or school.  Then around eight o’clock or nine o’clock, people typically eat a hearty breakfast.
The first time the students were served spaghetti at nine o’clock in the morning, I was a bit taken aback.  However, I quickly got used to eating non-traditional breakfast foods in the mornings.  I am used to eating lunch between 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock.  Here in Guadalajara, people enjoy a small snack or a refreshing beverage.  Lunch is typically eaten around two o’clock and it is a huge meal.  “Lunch” is the biggest meal of the day and people really go all out.  The first time I saw this I was extremely confused and asked the other teachers if it was a special occasion.  They informed me that “lunch” is the biggest meal of the day.  Dinner is eaten around 8 o’clock and is usually something simple and small.  This eating schedule took some time to get used to, but now I love it!      

Adjusting to the meal schedule was a relatively small victory but one well worth mentioning.  However, I think my biggest personal achievement has been figuring out how to use the public transit system.  I am from Chicago and as such am used to a pretty efficient system of trains and busses.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I was extremely overwhelmed by the public transit system here.  In Guadalajara, there are a large amount of busses available.  The tricky part comes when trying to figure out which busses go where.  I am used to busses sticking to one street and traveling up and down said street.  The busses here work a little differently.

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The first step in deciding which bus to take is to figure out which main intersection you want to go to.  Guadalajara is a large city and it is very easy to get lost.  Most of the streets here are one-way, so even if you find the correct bus you will probably have to do a bit of investigating to find another one that will get you home from your destination.  Now, if you are proficient in the language this entire process becomes much easier.  But, if you are like me and have a vague basic knowledge of the language, the entire thing becomes an adventure.

The first time I took the bus, I had been in Mexico for about two weeks and was on my way back from looking at a potential apartment.  I was given detailed instructions (in English, thank goodness) on which bus to take and which stop to get off.  It was about 6:00 at night and it had started to get dark.  Of course, everything looks different in the dark and I had absolutely no idea where I was going.  Needless to say, I ended up extremely lost and confused.  I attempted to ask another passenger for directions to the hostel I was staying at, and she patiently explained that I was about forty minutes past where I wanted to exit the bus.  Eventually, I was overwhelmed and exhausted and hopped into a cab.  Where I again attempted to use my broken Spanish to explain where I wanted to go.

After that experience, I was terrified of taking the bus and ignored it for a month in favor of walking everywhere.  Eventually, as I began to teach more classes it became necessary for me to take the bus.  Thank goodness, one of my adult students gave me a website that helped me to figure out which busses went to which parts of the city.  Taking the bus became a lot less stressful after that.  I still get lost frequently, but I am much more confident in my knowledge of the layout of the city now.  Moreover, I am not afraid to get lost, it is all part of the fun.  The strangest thing about taking the bus here in Guadalajara is that bus stops are few and far between.  If you want to get on a bus, you have to find a relatively empty driveway and hail the bus, as you would a taxi.

Taxis here are quite another story all together.  It is necessary to negotiate with the taxi drivers before accepting a ride.  It is easy to tell that I am a foreigner, I am not proficient in the language as such taxi drivers often try to charge me more for rides.  Luckily, one of the first things I learned when I moved here was to always negotiate the price before agreeing to the ride.  Eventually, I learned the standard fare for most points around the city.  I have to admit that a huge sense of achievement comes from learning to haggle with cab drivers.  I literally did a little dance the first time I talked a cab driver down from an outrageous fare to a normal one. 

There are many things to get used to when moving to another country.  I had to completely change my routine and adapt a new one.  And it has been one of the most exciting experiences of my life.  Learning what to eat and when and learning how to take the bus, might not sound terribly exciting.  Nevertheless, when you finally figure it out, it feels like you have accomplished something amazing.  I have always taken simple tasks for granted, but when you live somewhere where your knowledge of the language is tenuous at best, simple errands become huge obstacles that you must overcome.  And when you do, it feels like you should throw your fist in the air and congratulate yourself.

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