… or so we thought when we set off to Colima, Mexico, to spend two weeks studing Spanish under the hot Mexican sun.
It is with shame that I admit that before I went there, my image of Mexico was heavily biased by awful Hollywood cliches. Sombreros? In souvenir shops. Heat? More sticky than I could have ever imagined but also rain showers like you won’t even experience in the UK. Flat, sandy landscape and cactuses? Maybe in some other part of the country. The Mexico I experienced was a million times better than what I imagined.
As it was a field trip from university, one of the things I had to do was write a diary noting all the cultural shocks I went through. It grew to 20 pages. Customs, lifestyle, weather; surprises with every step.
Not all of my assumptions were exaggerated though.
The consumption of tequila, chilli and tortillas wasn’t disappointing. Not to mention the amounts of beer and lime. Lime juice on everything: beer, melons, mushroom soup – you name it. I love Mexican food so it wasn’t a great two weeks for my waistline. The only thing I missed a little was chocolate, which is supposed to have been ‘discovered’ in Mexico centuries ago. Having undertaken a meticulous investigation in one of the biggest supermarkets I found only three types of the cocoa goodness, all of them available in the UK. It was kind of disappointing but easily forgiven after I tried one of the traditional coconut desserts.
Apart from going to the beach, having wildish ranch parties and trying not to melt away in the incredible heat, I mastered the history of ancient Mexico, watched Like Water for Chocolate without dubbing and learnt a few of Mexican tunes, Cielito lindo being my favourite.
Nothing compared to the visit in the local tortugario, though. Looking at different types of huge turtles and holding in hands the small ones was amazing enough but the day reached the new level of epicness when we were let release baby turtles to the sea.
They were teeny tiny and it was hard to believe they would be able to fight the waves and stay alive out there. I later learnt that they don’t – turns out only five out of 200 turtles survive the dangerous water. Had I known it at the time I would have illegally flown ‘my’ turtle, George, back to England.
As for improving Spanish, I tried my best. Two weeks was probably not enough to make me fluent but I do feel like I now speak ‘mexicano.’