Studying Spanish in Mexico.
A fascinating and efficient way to learn Spanish is by cultural immersion for a month.
some good things to do.
some of the problems.
ways that ugly gringos can be a little better.
some stuff to take.
An anonymous, well-traveled educator from a National Museum wrote, about this article:
"I loved your report, admonishing people about whining."
Just going and living in another country is a great way to learn a foreign language.
Many (perhaps most) Mexican cities have language schools (search the web) where you can take classes in Spanish Grammar,
the History of Mexico, Mexican Current Events, Mexican cooking, dancing, etc.
As a special benefit, many of these institutions can arrange for you to stay with a Mexican family
(where you can practice more Spanish) rather than in an hotel. This is a privilege.
Here are some suggestions:
- You are going to someone else's country and possibly into someone else's home:
- Citizens of the USA have a reputation for being spoiled brats.
So above all:
- A gift is a nice idea. Preferably more than one.
As always, the thought may mean more than the actual gift.
I have managed to take a canister of
chocolate-coated cherries to someone who could not eat sugar, and a bottle
of sparkling wine to someone who did not drink alcohol.
The gifts were accepted with a courtesy that gave no indication of the inappropriateness of
the presents (which I only discovered indirectly and weeks later).
So it was fortunate that I had more than one gift - soap, hand lotion, a gag gift of 'panacea' mints,
a pen that lit up. Also it turned out that some of the things that I took for myself were
well-received as donation to the household - a box of green tea bags, a big bottle of aspirins.
Or buy some flowers while you are there. Or something more practical. One woman in my group
bought a shower curtain and some
towel to brighten the guest bathroom she used, and volunteered her trouble-shooting skills to
mend a broken toilet.
The gist of this is:
- If you have a chance to visit other cities on the weekends, or to stay over for an extra week, try to do so.
Great places to visit include Mexico City and the silver-mine cities like Guanajuato.
- Likewise, if you have a chance to take a cooking class or a salsa-dancing class, try it!
If you have a chance to go to any non-tourist event, like a concert by local musicians for local people,
check it out.
- A lot of Gringos get tummy trouble in Mexico.
You know the usual things - don't eat salads except in restaurants
recommended by reliable sources; don't drink tap water; don't
use ice made from tap water.
- Some people recommended that I take a daily prophylactic dose of something
(such as Pepto-Bismol)
to keep stomach and intestines
handling their jobs correctly.
I chewed one tablet/day and had no upsets.
- The AARP magazine (March 2004) in Barry Golson's La Vida Cheapo
(he lives in Mexico with his wife)
quotes his wife, Thia, who says about Guadalajara:
"not being able to speak Spanish can be frustrating."
Excuse me? Get a grip. If you want to live there, learn the language.
- And remember:
"No matter where you go, there you are."
Let's face it. USA citizens can come across as jerks. Here as some ways to be less of a jerk
as a guest student in Mexico.
- Don't refer to the USA as 'America'. America is a continent not a country.
You're from los estados unidos.
- There are many beautiful churches throughout Mexico.
They are religious buildings. Respect and don't interrupt the religious practices of the people, whether
they are worshipping singly or in a huge congregation. The sign:
should remind you that it is not appropriate for tourists to use flash photography in churches.
- Homes not heated nor air-conditioned?
Just be grateful that some countries aren't overusing resource like the USA.
- You can't figure out the meal times.
First of all, ask.
Can't speak Spanish? Buy a phrase book.
Second, if you are a guest student in a home, in my experience the Mexicans rarely eat breakfast together
during the week. They get what they want when they want it. Lunch starts somewhere between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.,
sort of like Christmas dinner. So eat a snack of a piece of fruit or a sandwich in late morning
if you are likely to need some fuel before lunch. Supper, like breakfast, is usually uncooked and it
is eaten late, at 8 or 9 p.m.
- If you're a guest student and you have to get your own breakfast and supper,
get on with it. Grow up.
Some things to take.
Increasingly, these can be bought in Mexico.
Taking them with you saves you the time and hassle of trying to find them, though.
Most of these would be welcomed by people you meet,
if you don't want to carry them back to the USA.
- absorbent and quick-drying travel towel.
- baby wipes - great for cleaning your hands before you eat.
- bungee cords.
- ear plugs or (if you can afford them)
Then you can study in a peaceful environment.
- panty liners (replace them daily to cut down on underwear laundry).
- pens (boligrafos) - In 4 weeks, I used up 2, lost one, gave one away.
- protein bars - they can stop your tummy rumbles while you wait for the 3 p.m. comida
- rubber (elastic) bands.
- socks - lots of them.
- super glue (small tube).
- tea - My current favorite was Bigelow's Green Tea with Lemon. I took a box
and wished I'd taken two.
If you like green tea or fruit-based tea, take bags. You will, however, find
black tea and their camomile tea is delicious.
- tee-shirts of home that you can discard or trade for local souvenir shirts.
- toilet paper - your own roll (or at least a few sheets carried everywhere)
will save you aggravation in the many public toilets that do not have paper.
They will also remind you why you may not be immune to some of the lifeforms
in the food of some restaurants and street vendors.
- warm night clothes for unheated winter houses - include nice thick socks.
- water bottle (refillable from reliable source).
- zip-lock bags.
[Thanks for visiting.]