Mexico: An Overview
7 Takeaways of Speaking Spanish in Mexico
Even though I have been taking Spanish classes for 8 years, it is quite different when you are thrown into a country and have to try and use what you have learned! There’s a lot that has been forgotten over the years, and I wish it would have come more naturally when I was trying to talk to locals. Here’s a few takeaways or tips that I have…
1. The basics that I learned in school were quite helpful for understanding what someone was trying to say to me. Try to brush up on basic vocabulary before leaving.
2. Even if you don’t understand every word that the Spanish speaker is saying, try picking up on the simple words that you do know, and use deductive reasoning to try and guess what they are saying.
3. Context can help a lot. Take into consideration the context of your conversation, and realize that the Spanish you are hearing more then likely has a lot to do with the context of what you are talking about or doing at the moment. From there, you can determine that if you're eating lunch, the Spanish speaker is more then likely talking to you about your lunch, or asking some kind of lunch related question.
4. Body Language is a good thing to know how to read when you don’t speak the native language. Look at facial expressions, hand gestures, and other ways that their body language can indicate what they might be saying to you.
5. Ask them to repeat what they're saying, or ask them to speak slower.
6. It’s a lot easier to understand Spanish then it is to speak it. If you read body language well, know how to consider context, and can pick up on common words and phrases, then understanding Spanish shouldn’t be too hard. Speaking doesn’t come as easy though.
7. Speaking the language takes confidence which can only be gained through practice and making mistakes.
Overall, Mexico was full of fun adventures including cliff jumping, mountain biking, deep sea fishing, and swimming with whale sharks. Cliff jumping was awesome! Jumping off a huge water fall is always thrilling; even those who didn't jump had a good time relaxing in the cool pool of water below. Mountain biking was a tough adventure but a great one. One of our group members went from whooping and hollering out of joy on the top of a hill to a pile of limbs and metal at the bottom. But don't worry, we all came back in one piece (more or less) and were able to laugh about the experience later. Deep sea fishing was mostly waiting, getting excited for something that never happened, and pretending to be excited for your brother who caught the only fish on your boat while you were taking an ill-timed lunch break. But given the opportunity I would do it again, probably because I am still upset that I didn't catch anything. Finally swimming with whale sharks was an adventure I would recommend to anyone. Being so close to a peaceful giant is unlike anything else and incredible. Swimming at arms length with a shark that is unable to eat you is awesome. It feels like it’s just you, the shark and the your slower older sister trying to get your flippers to stop hitting her in the face. I am sad that we are leaving Mexico but I am definitely excited to be down under where we will continue to experience many other amazing adventures.
A Photographers Perspective
Photography is a new thing for me and I knew it was something I wanted to improve upon for this trip. Given this special opportunity to see the world, I knew that I would want pictures to remember the trip with and to share with others. In order to have nice pictures, I started by saving up all of my money to get an Olympus camera that I had been eyeing for about a year! In Mexico, I would take my camera with me everywhere in hopes to get a good shot. I am learning as I go, as I have taken small amounts of photography classes and learn mostly from youtube videos! I am definitely still a beginner photographer, but by the end of this trip I hope to have great improvement. I do think I have an advantage, as I am blessed with so many beautiful and exciting things to capture! So far, I have come across a few struggles as the group photographer. One is that we tend to do our main activities in the middle of the day, which usually entails bright and contrasty sunlight. Another is accessing the photos and exporting them. We don’t always have the best wifi, which makes it difficult to upload them. It is also difficult to take the time to edit and sort my photos, as everyone wants them immediately! I guess that’s what happens in a large family of 7 people where each person has their own social media to satisfy. Through the social media, I'm not sure if people know its me who has been taking these photos since I rarely get credit in the captions…perhaps its time to create a watermark? Anyways, I hope you enjoy seeing my photos throughout the rest of our journey! Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions!
A Food Review
WARNING ⚠️ The food in Mexico is unbelievably delicious! Some of my favorite foods were...fresh fruit, refried beans, fish tacos, fajitas, fresh guacamole, homemade chips, and just about everything else I ate. Even the cheeseburger was better than in the USA! In Mexico there is this drink that I've never had before. Then my dad asked me if I wanted to try it. He said it was called Limonada, and when I tasted it I fell in love with it. At home, Lemonade is usually from powder with artificial flavoring but in Mexico, the Limonada is a mix of freshly squeezed lime juice, agave syrup, and sparkling water. It's amazing!!! Changing the subject, if you are sensitive to spicy food and you ask a Mexican waitress or waiter if the food you want is spicy at all, and they say there is a little kick to it, then usually that means it is extremely spicy! Or at least it is to me. I might be an extreme case because I think ketchup, mustard, BBQ Sauce, Doritos, fizzy drinks, and mint gum are all super spicy!!! So just be careful! All and all the Mexican food and drinks are outstanding and I highly recommend going to Mexico because there is tons of fun activities to do there.
Family & Curriculum
Our 15 days in beautiful Baja California can be summed up for me in one word – priceless. I use this often used and unoriginal word because that’s what would always come to mind when cherishing every quality family moment. While there are plenty of costs associated with travel, I cannot put a price on our valuable family moments and what we all gained from them. Our family activities included discussions on current events, home-schooling, group meals, adventures to a desert oasis, deep sea fishing, swimming with whale sharks, mountain biking and climbing a coastal mountain. These activities alone are great learning experiences, but I soon realized how much more powerful they are when shared as a family. These family moments are the invaluable and all important ‘curriculum of family’ that is diminishing in our time crunched days and can only be solved with prioritizing our time. The curriculum of family is full of values and relevant experiential learning. The values of sharing, supporting, challenging, discussing, engaging, exploring and love are defining aspects of our family curriculum. Our Mexico experience was the starting point and realization of this all-important family curriculum and for me a time that I will always remember as priceless.
Prior to this trip, I was ecstatic for this opportunity and the sights and experiences to come. Along with that came a bit of fear; I was a bit apprehensive about the whole “family” part. This may sound silly to you, but we are a relatively new family. Sure, we love each other, but to be frank, we just didn't get a long. At all. I just remember telling my friends “Yeah, this trip is going to be amazing, but I am not sure how we will all survive it with each other”. There are a lot of us…and we all are pretty different. You could say we are certified experts in getting under each other’s skin. The last time we went on a family vacation I don’t remember us being able to sit down for a full meal without anyone upset or in a sour mood over something completely silly. I was worried to see what the family dynamic would be, and I think everyone else was, too. Our week of trip prep in the U.S. solidified these fears, as some people didn't want to participate, resisted homeschooling, and fought about petty things. But, shockingly, things really took a turn once we arrived to Mexico. I guess miracles really do happen because this was a complete turn around. We actually started having fun together! I think that through all of our time spent together and activities planned we were able to bond and gain better relationships with each other. We definitely all still have our patience tested at times, but I think we really conquered this fear of getting along that many of us had. I can’t really explain how this was possible, but I have a few guesses. Perhaps it is the weather and beautiful sights? Or maybe it’s the fact that we are so busy, there’s just not enough time or energy to fuss about the silly things? Maybe it’s the rising maturity levels? Whatever it is, it’s working! We can finally have dinners together where we all participate in conversation, tell each other stories, laugh together, reminisce on our crazy adventures, and sincerely enjoy each other’s company. Now I can confidently say that these people are not only my family, but some of my closest friends!
Out of the Comfort Zone
"Stretch your arms and touch your feet", I heard from my son, who is more flexible than a chimpanzee! "My toes are too far and I just can't do it" was my frustrated response. That's when it occurred to me that I was being pushed, yet again (since we had left home) to be UN-comfortable. It was just our morning family stretch by the beach. How hard could it be? For the eighth day in a row, it felt awkward, embarrassing, painful and physically impossible! Its not that I don't like exercise, I love it, but I'm used to doing what I always do, run a few miles. I had run that morning, but being asked to put my body in positions it is was no longer used, was stretching me not just physically but mentally. Well into the second week of our trip and I realized that as eager as I was to jump into new experiences, I was rusty and had become sluggish, a creature of habit. Since we had left our home in Saint Louis, I had caught myself unusually frustrated at little things and I was finally understanding why; I was being stretched and forced to grow!
This was eye opening but also a bit unsettling. From the moment we landed in San Jose del Cabo, all kinds of comforts were taken from me, from the several outfits I left hanging in my closet at home because they could not squeeze into my tiny carryon, to willingly venturing off with my husband to mountain bike a sand covered windy and hilly desert trail in the heat of the day, to a six hour sea fishing adventure with a silent Mexican skipper, to seeing one of our daughters loose consciousness after a bike fall, to watching our children giggle as they jump off a 40 ft rock into a natural pool, to willingly swimming with whale sharks in open sea waters, to overcoming sickness on a family hike up a steep mountain, to preparing an hour lecture on Mexican art, and should I mention being around our exuberant brew of little chiefs without any personal space. Yes, I was definitely being stretched!
Traveling is not comfortable. Traveling means going to different places instead of being in one place, according to Webster. Being comfortable then means not going anywhere, not growing. We resist change and growth, because it's uncomfortable but when we try new things we discover new talents and new loves and a greater appreciation for the world around us. Best of all, when we stretch ourselves we begin to see we are capable of so much more than we think we are. Whether we are home or abroad, we want to nurture a desire for "stretching ourselves" physically and mentally.
Our first ten days were packed with uncomfortable experiences but each one showed me a whole new set of colors in each of our family members. I am not the only who is being stretched. We are all moving, not just geographically but closer as a family. We are seeing new qualities and talents flourish out of everyone and that is so exciting to be a part of.
Traveling begins with a mental willingness to go somewhere, where you have not been before and trusting this new direction will bring something new to your perspective, to your relationships, even to discover new talents you didn't know you had. I will admit that it takes courage and a strong dose of persistence and patience, but it's worth it. Mary Baker Eddy writes "We live in an age of Love’s divine adventure to be All-in-all." (Misc. 158:9) and this says to me that every adventure, every trip, every time we move out of our comfortable routine we are taking part in Life with a capital "L", and will gain more love for others and the world as a result. As we get ready to take flight for Australia, I am committing myself to reaching for "my toes" and to grow a little more uncomfortable every day!
We are currently in Australia. Sorry for the delay -- more posts will be coming soon! Thank you for your patience!