Living in Paradise

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September 3rd 2015
Published: February 1st 2016
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Coming over to Mexico was a bit of a last minute decision. I could have gone back to live and teach in Barcelona but after travelling Spain and Portugal myself in the summer I felt that I wanted to have more of an adventure. So Mexico it was. It didn't really sink in until I was on the flight over that I was going here myself to live on a little island. My family are usually quite chilled and upfor my travelling decisions but this one seemed to shock and worry them all. Mexico seems to have this bad rep of being dangerous and not somewhere to go especially as woman alone. Couldn't disagree more!

I landed in Cancun and then had to get a 20 minute ferry across to Isla Mujeres - the island of women! I would be spending almost 4 months, until Christmas, here volunteering as an English teacher in the local schools. Probably one of the best things I have done yet. I had a house provided for me where I lived with 3 other teachers. One dude left after a week and then it ended up being only 3 of us chicas - me, Katie and Nikki. Nikki and I were to share a room and even after the dude left I still stayed in the same room with Nikki. Couldn't have asked for a better room mate! All of us had a great little set up in the house. 3 vegetarians (Nikki and I newbies), we cooked, chilled and worked as such a fab team with our planning and doing things for work. There were also 3 volunteers who helped us in the classroom - Brett; who was with Nikki, Olivia; who was with Katie and Zoe who was with me. Zoe and Olivia were only with us for the first 6 weeks which was such a shame to see them go, and Brett stayed with us until the end!

Words cannot describe how much I adored my kids. Because the other dude left I then worked morning and afternoon which was long, hard days but so worth it. The kids just absolutely loved us, they were so enthusiastic about learning english and just constantly wanted to hug and give you little notes or gifts. We taught from first grade to fourth - 5 year olds to 8 year olds. The older ones were a bit crazy but manageable,however the first grades - oh my goodness! They were absolutely insane! It didn't help that at school they are fed sugar all day so they are little crazy hyped up people all day. It was more like chasing them around a room to sit down than teaching. I found breaking into song would help and they would all pipe down to sing along. So much fun. It really broke my heart to say goodbye to them all. Some of them just have such hard life's outside of school yet they'r so lovely. I hope they will remember me as much as I will them! Even the other teachers and staff at the school made me feel so welcome. Teaching isn't a walk in the park though. In the classroom it's great fun, however the amount of planning and grading means that it is a job that you take home with you. We even worked at the weekends. I do enjoy it but a little career/travel break is needed afterwards.

Even though work was tough going and constant us chicas still managed to enjoy being on Isla. It is such a magical little place. Sunsets were my favourite time. We often try catch them when we could and even got up one morning to go and watch the sunrise. You had the opportunity here to see both. Only 5 miles long which means you can cycle around it all in about an hour. We all had bikes ( mine had a basket and was always getting wee compliments!) so we'd spend all our time out on them going to the beach or just going around the island. The south side of the island - Punto Sur, is a more peaceful and has some Mayan statues. One of my best friends actually got engaged there last year! Really romantic spot for it! Playa Norte is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Literally clear blue water! And downtown is by there which is where the main shops, restaurants and bars are. We were here mainly during low season so it wasn't too touristy which was good. We had our fave places to go downtown - there is a bar called Miguels which does two for one cocktails and a guy sits playing a keyboard like Ross out of Friends, another bar called La Tereza is quite fun with a band and some salsa, there's one hostel called Pocna which has a bar on the beach and most tourists go there at night but the music is horrendous with tunes such as Men in Black or regaton being played; however my fave was T&T! It was the only bar on the island that played decent music - techno/house/electronic, a dj called Mandrik played on a Friday and I would do his head in as he always played some of my favourite tunes. The owner is an Italian guy called Toni who is a great guy, and then I took a fancy to the barman! His name is Mau (short for Mauricio). After a few weeks of being there I gave into his Mexican charms and he became a big part of my Isla experience; and also meant I got free tequila at the bar!

It was sad to see Zoe and Olivia leave. They were both from Ohio and still at school. Such fun girls. They had managed to eat out at all the places on the island. One of our favourite places to go to was near our house in the heart of the island where you could get a pot of melted cheese (cheese fondu they called it) with tortillas. I went a bit far with this that now even the thought of it makes me feel a bit ill! Brett the other volunteer who stayed was an amazing girl! Only 19 yet so mature and had such a good direction with her life. Katie my other housemate was a hoot also, never met anyone who loves food more than me! Then Nikki was like my little sister, she is 21, me 26 yet it never felt like an age gap with us. Probably because I'm such a nutter and young at heart! Us two were the only ones from the UK, which was fun with the others teaching English UK and US to each other. One thing I learned from America is a thing called Pot Lucks where you all make and bring little dishes to someone's house - great idea! Every Friday night we would host pot lucks at the house and have little dishes to share. Guacamole was a fave, especially with most of us being veggies! We also got some trips provided for us from our boss on the last Friday of every month. One was to Mayan ruins called EK Balam which were amazing and also another trip to Isla Contoy with a boat, unlimited drinks and some lunch on the island. Great day!

The Island also seemed to be just one big party all the time. We were really fortunate to be part of Mexican Independence day, Day of Revolution with huge street parades with the kids, Day of Dead and so much more. Almost every night tunes would be pumping from the local community centres or houses. So great that everyone is just upfor it, no noise restraints or complaints. The funniest event was the school haloween disco which I went to. The teachers had a big projector screen playing music videos with mainly featured woman butts and them dancing on cars, and they had the kids do dance offs with each other encouraging them to 'sexy dance'! No wonder there's a high rate of teen pregnancy here!

Once our teaching had finished on the 18th of December, Brett and Katie left Isla not long after. Nikki and I hung about for another couple of weeks. We did our Padi Open Water Scuba Diving course which was amazing as we got to dive to a reef and the underwater museum at Isla. I struggled a bit with it though as I'm so small I could hardly carry or control my tank, and I also had to wear two wetsuits as I get so cold! But I passed and got my certificate! Yahoo! Expensive hobbie though diving so hopefully I can afford to do some more dives over the next few months!

For the last few weeks I also spent most of time with the man, mainly eating out - both absolutely love food. The best and cheapest place to eat was literally right next to where he lived, it's a restaurant called Bastos which is a little family run place. The food is traditional Mexican and really tasty. They even started doing breakfast by November time which was very handy to go down for. I never used to be one to go out for breaky but think it might be my fave meal to go out for now. Other great places on the island for breakfast are Green Verde and a place called Mango Cafe which is really great but little bit more pricey. They have cinnamon in their coffee which I loved! Otherwise me and Mau would chill with with music (both love same music which is great), did some snorkelling at sunset, he also has a slack line which I tried to do but its so difficult and need a lot of practice, or we would be chilling at his. I practically lived at his the whole time and did move in for the last couple weeks. He has a really nice apartment with an American dude called Brian who is a hoot! They have a rooftop terrace and nice balcony, also right about our office which was handy. Nikki moved in with me too to the apartment at the end couple weeks which all worked out well. It meant we all had Christmas together. Iv been away from home for about 5 Christmas's I think! It did feel strange being away somewhere warm and on the beach! Didn't feel the spirit at all but we still had fun. Mau, Nikki and I went to T&T for Christmas dinner on the 24th where Toni, the owner, set up a table for about 10 of us and we all had dinner together. We then partied until 9am Xmas morning and I had my traditional hangover Christmas day!

Isla is somewhere that will always hold a special place in my heart. It is so safe, we wouldn't even lock out door most of the time! Everyone in our neighbourhood, all the local Mexican people, were just so welcoming and lovely. Our next door neighbours were so generous, always helping us and killing cockroaches for us when we would come running and screaming out the house. They even had us round for dinner one night. They work so hard and life so simply yet family is their life and they are so The kids would constantly shout 'teacher' at you on the street or in the shops! Everyone knows everyone and sounds cheesy but we loved just being part of it. Everyone I met I will never forget and I cannot wait to return back there.

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