Hola Senors and Senoritas!
I am alive and well, would you believe it, in a tiny little town in the South of Mexico.
I have been living at Playa Viva for the past week, in a town called Juluchuca. Playa Viva is an Eco-friendly resort that hosts Wwoofers.
It is a beautiful resort right on the beach, with an agriculture area 5 minutes by truck from the resort. Us commoners can be found there during the day, weeding and planting, painting and lazing. (Only sometimes lazing we usually work pretty hard 😉 )
I have learnt a lot in my time here in Mexico, I have had a lot of ups and downs. Most of the ups include coconuts and most of the downs include mosquitoes. I thought I would tell you all a little about the knowledge I have gained that other travellers might find helpful when preparing for a trip to Mexico!
So here it is; 10 things I have learnt since being in Mexico:
- Nothing will ever prepare you for the attack of the mosquitoes – I am NOT over exagerating on this. I arrived in Mexico, my legs bare from my nails, from blood and scabs… This did not last. As soon as I hit the mountains, the mosquitoes hit me, and badly. The first night I woke up vigurously scratching my bites in the humid heat, I was almost crying. My nails were filled with dead skin, I was making myself bleed, and I had nothing to ease the pain. As well as this I learnt a week later that Dengue fever is highly common in Mexico, and that we should all be very aware of this, especially with the way our legs were looking. Dengue fever is a tropical disease that gets past through to humans from mosquitoes, trust me, you do not want to get this, especially whilst travelling. You will find yourself stuck in bed with a high fever for a week, crying and contemplating your sanity of leaving your comfort zone.
Once we got to Playa Viva, things got worse, as our bites continued, we discovered our lovely little Casablanca (The Wwoofers home in Playa Viva, we call it the white house) beds are ridden with bed bugs. Ah the joys of travel hey!
Playa Viva has however provided us with mosquitoe spray, which has helped immensly. My legs are finally starting to look human again. As for the bed bugs… well we dont necessarily want to keep them as pets, but until we leave our casablanca there isnt much we can do but to put up with them. Do yourself a favor before entering Mexico, buy some bug spray, and some cream to ease your wounds.
- If you like coconuts, you will like Mexico – I personally, go loko for coco, (crazy for coconuts!). I travel with a jar of coconut oil wherever I go and use it for my body, my hair, cooking oil, everything! Imagine my delight when I get to Mexico and as you would assume, coconuts are EVERYWHERE! Coconuts to drink, coconuts to eat, coconut candy, art made from the coconut shells, jewerlly made from coconuts, and yes, even houses made from coconut!
A lovely Mexican genius, Sapo, our guide at Playa Viva, made a barn out of coconut and bamboo three years ago, we are currently renovating it to help build it stronger. It is AMAZING! Who would of thought coconuts could be strong enough to build a pretty awesome barn! Agriculture at its best I would say.
At work coconuts get cut open and shared around all day long, they have amazing properties that keep your thirst quenched and are so so good for you! Electrolytes for days! I get very excited when I talk about coconuts as you can probably tell, my favourite Spanish phrase is “Quiero oon coco”, which means “I want a coconut!”.
- If you are a vegetarian travelling Mexico, be prepared to struggle – Especially if you do not speak Spanish. You will become an outcast to those around you. Mexicans love their meat. To them a “vegetarian” is someone who would like vegetables with their meal. The first week in Mexico was dull, we filled up on cheese and corn, until we learnt how to say “without meat”. Even then you struggle, they do not have much to offer you in the ways of vegetables, you can get quesadillas with salsa and beans. You can get beans. You can get rice… That’s about it. Until you learn to get creative, I had some delicious pineapple tacos in San Miguel De Allande! It can be tough but as long as you dont mind walking past stalls of fishy, meaty produce getting cut into in the markets, you will survive. It has gotten easier as we have travelled further down the coast. Just prepare to be laughed at, I can’t tell you the ridiculous responses we have gotten, I think the best was when our Spanish speaking friend Jake, told his friend from Ecuador that me and Forrest do not eat meat, her response was a laugh followed by a “What, no way?!” in Spanish followed by a “Why?”.
- If you are just learning Spanish, no one will understand you when you speak what you have learnt – Since being in Mexico I have been teaching myself Spanish. My Australian accent doesn’t do much for Mexicans, even when I speak what I have learnt. There are so many different meanings for different words, and different ways to say words that are spelt the same or similar. Sometimes when I speak Spanish to the other Wwoofers who know English, they just laugh and correct me. But I am trying that’s what counts right! Well yes… but understand that you can get very frustrated trying to speak and having people not understand you even though you feel you are being very clear and saying what you need to say, correctly. All in good fun though!
- Mexicans are friendly! – Don’t listen to those Americans who say, “WHAT?! Your going into Mexico, and your a single white female? Are you STUPID?”. Mexicans are SO friendly, especially to white single females! They all want to learn English and even when you come across those who know not a word of English, it can be SO much fun trying to have conversations with them! You both usually end up in hysterics saying, “No entiendo, no entiendo!”.
Mexico can be dangerous, we all know about the huge drug cartel problems right now, and the currupt issues of the police and whatever else. But it is no more dangerous to travel here then to travel SE Asia, or even the USA. If you are smart and cautious you will be fine!
- You are a novelty to Mexicans – This could fall under the “Mexicans are friendly” category but I think it deserves its own. Mexicans love you just because you are foreign to them. Watch them fuss over your skin or your hair, whilst you look at their skin and hair and wonder the same thing they are probably wondering, “HOW do they keep it so lush?!”. Don’t be one of those tourists who is rude and stand offish, just take it for what it is and let them stare at you, you are of course, in their territory.
- Over night buses are COLD – Bring a blanket, a coat, a scarf, a beanie. SOMETHING to keep you warm, because bus rides can be long, and bloody cold! I curse myself every time I am a half hour into a bus ride, “Why did I leave my jacket in my back pack under the bus? Why arent I wearing leggings?”. I sit there and tell myself how when I get to the next town I am going to buy a pair of jeans and boots and a blanket and carry them around Mexico with me. Of course, I have not done that. Just be prepared for the air conditioning to be full blast the whole 8 hour bus ride through the night. Or end up like I did, after your third long over night bus ride you catch tonsilitis and complain for a whole week.
- The water is not safe to drink – I learnt this the hard way. Mexicans may tell you it is safe, because they are use to the water provided for them. We are not! The first week or two in Mexico in the mountains I was drinking the water and had no problem. As soon as I hit the coast line I thought to myself that it could be dangerous to drink the water here, resulting in illness. After a week of being here I let my guard down and started boiling water for tea to drink and to put the boiled water in the freezer to drink cool later, all so I could avoid paying for water. I should have listened to my intuition. Pay the few Pesos and get yourself some bottled water! Not all of you will get sick, some of us having stronger immune systems than others, and when it comes down to it, it is just a whole lot of new bacteria entering your system and bacteria is good for you right?
- It’s more expensive then you think – 50 Pesos equals around $4.20 AUD. 20 Pesos here for this, 30 Pesos there for that. It’s cheap right! Dirt cheap in fact! This is true, though you leave the house with 400 Pesos and by the end of the day you have burned through almost $40 dollars on absolutely nothing! The thing that got me the first week I was in Mexico was the delicious snacks in the carts on the streets. I would see delicious fresh fruit cut up and by some to eat, 20 minutes later I would find a coconut, another 20 minutes later I would find ice cream. By the end of the day you have spent an unnecessary amount of money on things you didn’t need too.
As well as this, the buses are a lot more expensive then what I thought they would be. In my first 2 weeks here I spent maybe $250 AUD, the majority, probably more then half of this, was on those way to cold buses. Just be cautious of how much you will be spending on transport.
This is fine for most, but for those (like me) traveling on a budget, do yourself a favor and make a plan of how much you want to spend each day, each week. It’ll make your life easier.
- Things are not always what they seem – Our first Wwoofing farm sounded so perfect and exactly what we were looking for! An organic farm in the mountains with a darling restaurant at the front of it. Two horses, a few sheep and dogs. We would be working picking the organic vegetables and tending to the animals, staying in a little home specially made for the Wwoofers who visit.
Our first two days we thought we hit the jack pot, we had done next to no work, we spent our days lazing around the house, reading, making crafts and showering in the AMAZING out door shower they had built in the main home, where the family lived. How ever at this point it was only the 28 year old son who was living and running the farm.
When we first arrived he stated that our Wwoofers home was not ready for us so we would stay in the spare bed room in his lovely home until it was ready.
On our third day we were getting itchy feet, we were over lazing around and wanted to work, and learn about his crops. That morning one of the workers took us to the horses pen to clean out their home. What we found was horrible. The horses, a mother and a foal, were malnourished, and standing in ATLEAST a foot of their own feces. Their home was tiny and they did not look happy. We took them out of our cage and spent the day shoveling their poop out.
Over our time there we also came to recognize that the produce was not organic at all, as well as that the main crop was sugar cane, which is obviously just being sold to the USA to help fatten the population.
Aside from these factors we were still willing to stick out the 2 weeks we had promised to stay… Until we were moved to our ‘Wwoofers home’ and saw what awaited us.
It related more to a jail cell then to anything else. A small room, with a mattress laying on maybe two planks of woods, it smelt of rot and mould and the mattress was torn all over, if you hit the mattress you could see the dust escape it.
I will sleep in the wild, on a rusted bed or a small room. But no way was I sleeping in that room. We moved on. We later learnt that in Mexico animals are more seen for their purposes, food, skin, transportation, and not usually well kept. Of course this is not the case everywhere, but we were not prepared to be in an environment that supported to what I believe to be animal cruelty.
Now we are on an incredible farm where animals are seen as amazing creatures that help us! Our first day at Playa Viva we released around 70 baby turtles onto the sand and watched them crawl into the ocean and get swept away!
Life at Casablanca
So there it is! Some factors I have come across since living that Mexican lifestyle!
The positives most definitely out way the negatives! Don’t be dis-heartened by the negatives, Mexico is an amazing cultural country with beautiful landscapes and people!
Apologies also for any grammatic mistakes in this post. I sit here at an internet cafe in the closest town, Zihuatanejo, at a computer that has outlined everything I have written with a little red line underneath it as it is use to Spanish words.
More to come next Sunday on our time at Playa Viva!
Buones Tardes ladies and gents!
PS. If you want to check out Playa Viva, below is the link to the website!