Teaching English

I move south from Puerto Escondido on a beautiful sunny day like countless others I’ve had in Mexico. I get stopped by the military guys who want to search my Jeep, this time they do a very through job taking about twenty minutes. The guy in charge of the whole show starts asking me something in Spanish and just doesn’t leave it alone, he really wants something. Soon it is apparent he’s talking about my headlamp and five minutes later he eagerly points to the word “gift” in my dictionary. I use my headlamp all the time so I’m pretty determined not to give it to him. He doesn’t want money and he doesn’t want to “take” it from me, he wants me to give it to him.
I stick to my guns and he eventually lets me and my headlamp go on my way.

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Statue at the entrance to town

I meet Victor, who has a small English school in the busy little town of Tehuantepec and we quickly become good friends. Victor taught himself English because of the advantages it makes available and is now passionate about teaching others. His students pay whatever they can, all he asks in return is their hard work and dedication. I start out by introducing myself and observing a few classes, and then move up to running 90 minute classes. The students have excellent vocab, they are just uncertain on pronunciation and sentence structure.

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The students from one of my English classes

Hanging out with Victor in his town is great, he knows everyone and everything cool we need to checkout. Some of the events in random order are:

  • Attending a wedding, huge sweet 15 party and a traditional Bella party where people in traditional dress dance until 5am. I’m not sure why, but a requirement of all these parties seems to be music at a volume that rattles the teeth in my head.
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At the wedding, confetti was thrown at the bride & groom before clay pots were smashed on the ground

  • Eating traditional Mexican food for every single meal, always cooked on an open fire by Victor’s mother and grandmother. They have a stove and oven, but prefer to use the fire.
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  • Going out on a Saturday night and drinking our fill of Corona for all of $15 USD each.
  • My guitar gets stolen from the back of the Jeep – it’s been sitting there the whole time and I expected it to go long ago, so I’m not at all surprised. I’ve been playing it a lot in recent weeks, so I’m going to miss it. Now I’m glad I didn’t buy a surfboard and risk losing it so soon.
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The colours at the Bella were amazing

  • While at Victor’s house we feel a very small earthquake, similar to a heavy truck driving by.
  • I fall out of a hammock onto concrete when the supporting hook bends open under my weight. Everyone including me can’t stop laughing for ten minutes.
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The traditional dresses worn for the Bella are hand sewn and cost many thousands of dollars

  • Many of the students in my English class go to university in Mexico City and it’s really exciting to hang out with them and learn so much about Mexico and it’s history. Many of the students have exciting ideas as to how Mexico can improve it’s many problems, from pollution and unemployment to corruption and stray dogs.
  • On Christmas I meet a friend of Victor who moved north to a border town to work in a factory making flat-screen TVs for the US. The town is regarded as the most dangerous in Mexico, but the pay is comparatively very good so he continues to live and work there, along with thousands of other Mexicans from all over the country.
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Victor & Dan ready to goto the Bella party

  • I get flat tire number four repaired, a very slow leak on the bead on the spare.
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Smashing a pinata, always a good time

I really enjoy teaching English and with Victors help, my Spanish improves ten fold.


15 Responses

  1. Ciara says:

    I came across your blog in class today.
    I do have to say, I am overjoyed at seeing someone living a very similar dream to my own.
    I graduate finally in June, and all I am going to be doing is driving, staying in state parks, meeting people and growing.
    I guess I just wanted to let you know that you are a huge inspiration, even though I just discovered your page today.
    It helps me believe that even though everyone is saying I can’t, I will be able to follow my dream.
    If you ever plan on driving into Texas (which you should), there are tons of things to see and places to go.
    Just ask.

    Warmest Regards,

    • Dan says:

      Hey Ciara, I’m happy to have you aboard!
      No matter what you want to do in your life, no matter how adventurous or how mundane, there will always, always be a line of people telling you you can’t do it. For some reason that’s just how life seems to be. I like to listen to those people to make sure I have some perspective and am cautious, but I never let it crush me down.
      Surround yourself with positive people, read inspirational books and you will find yourself doing something amazing before you even know it!
      I’ve always wanted to see Texas, and I’m sure I will one day.

  2. Ioana says:

    A wedding…wow :)

  3. Konstantin says:

    I know it sounds weird – even if don´t know each other, I´m really happy that you´re havin a good time!

    • Dan says:

      Thanks Konstantin. I think that’s one of the most amazing things about the internet, even though we’ve never ‘met’ there is a friendship there.

  4. Brian12566 says:

    Looking forward to the pictures of the crazy customs!
    Off topic….I agree with Konstantin. Even though we never met (well almost did) I am happy for you and I am glad you are having a great time. Hope you come back to NYC soon.

  5. Ted Baird says:

    Hi Dan, I recently found your site after watching ‘Into the Wild,’ and researching the Magic Bus area. I very much enjoy travelling with you. It just so happens that I entered the Yukon (and posed in front of the same sign on July 4th) two days before you on my last adventure; only 12,000 miles, but on a motorcycle. Now that I’m home, working, building my vacation balance back up, I feel very fortunate to still be on an adventure through you. All the best…I’ll be watching.

  6. Amanda says:

    Hola Dan,

    I came across your site while actually doing a bit of research on Victor and his school in Tehuantepec. I teach prekindergarten now, and would love the experience. Not to mention, the experience will help improve my own spanish. Being in my mid twenties and female, Ill admit Im a bit nervous to make the trip alone, but I’m ready to jump in. Its clear that you are a busy guy (your adventures look stunning, might I add!!!), but if you happen to find a few spare minutes Id love to hear your opinion, thoughts, etc on your stay, as I’m wanting to help teach there in August. Thanks for any help!!


    • Dan says:

      Hey Amanda,
      Great to hear from you. I wonder what you want to know about teaching with Victor?
      He’s a really great guy, and very much a part of the community there. He treats his students like family, and their respect and appreciation for him really shows. They study hard and learn really fast when they put their minds to it. Victor will take you around town introducing you to everyone, showing you the local markets and sampling all the local cuisine.
      In the afternoons, you’ll probably hang out at Victor’s mother’s house, where you will be treated to some amazing cooking and Mexican culture, or you can wander around the streets yourself.
      Tehuantepec is a very cool little Mexican city – and a great place to learn more Spanish and get to know the culture. You can read about all the things I did while in town, and it was all thanks to Victor, his friends and his family.
      I highly recommend some time there!
      (let me know if you want to know something specific)

  7. Nick says:

    Hey, I’m looking for volunteer english teaching jobs for a couple of weeks, and I found this after googling the information I found on HelpX because I don’t want to pay the fee. Any chance of passing Victors email address on to me if you still have it?

  8. Dan, I am slowly making my way thru your first adventure. When I sneak time at work to read your stories I hear them in your Australian accent in my head. LOL! I am truly amazed at the friends you make along the way.

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