Lost in Guanajuato

*A little bit late in posting-apologies*

I speak often of soul trips and the fact that often, I go away not knowing how much I need that tiny piece of peace for my soul. This weekend wasn’t like that. I knew I needed it as soon as the school doors shut on Friday, and selfishly taking this time for myself brought me right back.

Three day weekends happen often in Mexico- a beautiful side effect of living in such a wonderful country. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its usual stresses though. Being a teacher, I often find things are on top of me before I’ve realised it and that a little soul break does wonders for not only my mental health, but also my teaching. Without boring you all with the ridiculous amount I have going on, I will, instead, just share my musings over this particular trip.

Winding along dusty roads, surrounded by cacti and long ass fields, I got my sense of peace back. There’s a thing about being a teacher; there is a thing that you willingly give up. This ‘thing’, as I don’t know what to call it, is the little bit of you that finds peace at the end of the day. When you teach, you tend to lay in bed at night worrying about other people’s children and whether someone has a costume ready for the play and will that kid pass her exams and so on and so forth. Bus journeys are a great way to calm all of that; I stared out at the road, listened to music, read my book- just simply was.

Guanajuato is probably one of my favourite places I have been to so far. It’s a cornucopia of strange holes in the wall and twisting, turning streets with colourful houses. The first thing I do whenever I go anywhere is walk. I get deliberately lost. And I got so lost in Guanajuato. I stumbled upon performers and markets and side streets. I walked so far that I wasn’t exactly sure how to get back to my hostel and had to ask a Mexican family for directions in horribly broken Spanish.

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A beautiful street in Guanajuato

There’s something freeing about being lost and unsure. When I teach, I always know where I am going, what I’m doing, what my kids are learning. Travel lets me escape that. I spent the evening in Guanajuato in an Italian restaurant with a gorgeous family that were staying in my hostel. I attempted to communicate in horrible Spanish and worse hand gestures; they laughed at me and encouraged me whilst trying to speak in equally as broken English. We sat on the steps of the lit church and watched the street performers. In the morning, I wandered round more markets, read my book in silence and people watched.

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Market browsings

I guess I could tell you all the things I saw or all the ins and outs of my time wandering around this beautiful place for the weekend. But, that wouldn’t do it justice and isn’t necessarily the point of this post. You see, getting lost doesn’t always mean direction. Sometimes it’s in a broken conversation or a moment of solitude. I guess the point is that sometimes you have to get a little lost to find a little peace.

Silver Linings in Dark Clouds

This post will be half a hope for inspiration and half a book review. With recent events, or just events over the past year, both personal and political, it could be said there’s not a whole lot of hope in the world at the moment. Trump, a bullying, sexist, homophobic and frankly horrible human is the new President of the United States of America. Brexit happened. An incredible amount of minority groups feel undervalued and isolated. This includes 50% of the world’s population of which I am a part- women- who have just had it reconfirmed that it really doesn’t matter what you say as long as you’re a middle aged white man with a bit of money behind you. (Ironically, I wrote my dissertation on this back in 2013- I couldn’t have predicted then what would have happened). 

It’s easy at times like this to allow hate to swallow us whole; to look at the different atrocities that just keep occurring and place everyone else as other to ourselves and our beliefs. Or we can choose to look at this differently. These events have happened, there’s no doubt about it; but, what if we saw them as born from fear and not from hate? There has been a massive call for unity from high standing politicians, celebrities and normal citizens in the wake of these results and I find myself in their ranks. If we look at these results as a socially constructed fear, doesn’t it seem more surmountable than a deep-seated hatred? Reaching out and communicating across cultures, genders, sexualities- surely that will help this world more than violent protests and Internet outcries? This, I feel, is the first step to creating hope. 

The second step starts with a book I recently started reading  called Adventures for your Soul by the extremely talented Shannon Kaiser. The author is a woman who found herself in a deep seated fear and hatred- for her own life. In her short book, she implores the reader to ‘break up with their bad habits’ in a number of steps. As I haven’t finished the book yet, you’ll have to bear with me but the premise of the second chapter yesterday brought me pause. 

I was on my way back from a MUN competition with some of my students, (well placed symbolism for the book, universe, thank you) and happily making my way through the book when I stumbled upon the following quote: 

What if you design everything in your life, the good, the bad and the terrible? If this were true, you would be able to re create your world for good in the same way you have created your current situation.

Kaiser goes on to encourage readers to break up with their own issues by actualising gratitude for small things in their life, essentially making their lives happier. She reiterates that focusing on the negative areas of your life can never bring you joy and that by refocusing on smaller, happier things, we can always find an element of peace with our situations and with this, rediscover our happiness and redesign our lives.

I believe in this theory wholeheartedly but not just on a personal level. Looking back  step one of this post, I believe if we actualise the things we like about each other, situations like Tuesday’s elections will become something of the distant past. The vicious circle we are currently stuck in of hatred and fear will be broken. The glass ceiling might even crack a little deeper. 

I’ll start us off. 5 things I’m grateful for, in no particular order:

  1. I work a job I love that, although it’s difficult, will always bring jo pay and inspiration.
  2. I have a creative outlet at work.
  3. I have known and know unconditional love.
  4. I get to go home and see my family at Christmas time.
  5. I’m healthy and able and can dance around the kitchen in the morning to cheesy music with my puppy.

Now, it’s your turn. All one of you who reads this. Be grateful. Be happy. Spread that. Reach out. Change things. 

Day of the Dead

This year, Halloween has taken on a whole new meaning. Living in Mexico, Halloween, or Day of the Dead, is less abou dressing as spooky entities (although that happens too!) and more about honouring the dead that have passed. 

One of the most interesting things I have learned about this festive time is that of the altars that are set up around different residences, schools and through the town itself. These altars are an array of flowers and candles that use traditional colours to portray religious pictures or sentiments. They have pictures of loved ones lost all along the altar, accompanied by the deceased’s favourite food and drink. All of this is supposed to lure the spirit of people you love to your house so they can visit you. The food and drink tempt them and the candles light the way. 

I love this tradition and think there’s something about really honouring the dead once a year and keeping them alive in your thoughts that makes this holiday extra special in this country. 


The picture above is one of the traditional altars that was in the reception of our school!

Of course Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without some creepy costumes. I attempted to make my own SFX zombie make up and was pretty pleased with the result! Have a look:


As for me now, I am now finally on half term! Chilled out days lay ahead!

Trips And Tequis

Apologies for the silence on the blogging front recently- a new culture and a new job is a lot to get used to! As I write this, I sit in a small bar in the middle of Tequisquiapan, listening to a traditional Mexican band play songs on bass guitars. There’s a quaintness about this town, a simple humanity, where people stop and say hello at any moment of the day and you are immediately folded into the community. I will try and run down some of the highlights of my month briefly in list form as obviously, that’s my forte: 

  1. A new school, new children and new friends: I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome in Tequis in the short time I’ve been here, meeting a variety of new people and being invited to partake in their lives like I’ve been there forever. I was understandably nervous moving to a new school after a much loved time at Braeburn, but the staff are as welcoming and the kids as lovely as I could have hoped. My workload feels heavy and the terms are longer, but I’m relishing the new challenge! 


2. Riley: If you don’t have me on Instagram, you will have missed being inundated with pictures of my gorgeous puppy, Riley. She’s called Riley for the old saying ‘the life of Riley’ and I adore her. Found near the school, chilling in a plastic bag, she now very much has the life of Riley living in my little house and running me ragged. 

3. Nevado de Toluca: I was lucky enough to go on a staff trip hiking around Nevado de Toluca, about three hours away from Tequis. The coach takes you a good way up this inactive volcano so the hike itself isn’t difficult- until you encounter the altitude. My breath sounded like Darth Vader trekking up and I’ve never felt so inadequate in my own lung capacity. The views and the company made it all worth it however, and it was a great day to get outdoors and see something new. The pictures below are of one of the paths up the volcano and one of the Lake Luna, lake of the moon, with my ridiculous face in a bobble hat just peeking in. 


4. School trips: The last two weeks I have been lucky enough to get about on two very different school trips. the first was to Tollontongo, a beautiful place with caves and steam pools and waterfalls with year 12. The second was a trip to Huasca with my form group and the rest of Year 11. Watching 16 year olds put their fears aside to go zip lining through a forest in the middle of a gorgeous valley was amazing, and I felt very lucky to be there with them. The trip felt easy and it was gorgeous to get away from Tequis for a couple of days, even if just to spend it with the kids in nature. 


Although this was an extremely brief round up, I promise not to leave it as long this time! Adios and Asante. 

p.s Toluca definitely counts for my 25 before 25! 

Sisters in Spain: Exploring Barcelona

My sister and I are a unit; we have been since we were tiny. My mum used to prop her up in her jammys against my grumpy toddler self because that was the only way she would go to sleep. She is the only person I trust to tell me the (sometimes unwanted) absolute truth about any given situation I’m in. We’re a team. This year is a big year for us- I’m moving to Mexico in a week and in October, Jade jets off on her own adventure around South East Asia. This is the longest we will have ever been apart so in that spirit, we decided to have our own adventure. 

Last week, we jetted off to Barcelona. I was almost immediately overwhelmed by the architecture and culture of one of the easily most beautiful cities I have ever seen. 


Most of our days were spent wandering the streets, eating ice cream and taking in as much as we could. Spanish culture dictates a laid back pace, filled with siestas and afternoon drinking sessions juxtaposed with a bustling metro and hordes of tourists (myself included) desperate to see the many sights it has to offer. After seeing so much in such a short space of time, it probably makes sense for me to write about the top three experiences we had in our short little trip:

  • Parc Guell- Parc Guell was both mine and Jade’s favourite place in Barcelona. Filled with buildings and architecture created by Gaudi, the park seemed to move from concept to concept. Describing it as something from Crash Bandicoot, we wandered around the park taking in the sights and eating picnics. 

  • Gothic Quarter- The architecture in the Gothic Quarter was beautiful but it was the journey there that made me love it. We got lost. This is not a new experience for me and usually, I hate it. The difference with Barcelona was that being  here means there is always something to look at, always something random and new to explore. On the way to being lost in the Gothic Quarter, we stumbled across the Arc de Triomf, Placa de Santa Maria and El Borne. By the time we stumbled (and I do mean stumbled) across the Gothic Quarter, we were happy to walk in and out of shops and stare blindly at dark alleys and gorgeous architecture. 

  • Food!- Lastly, the food! As a lover of tapas, I was so excited to go somewhere where tapas is basically a religion and seafood is fresh. Throughout the holiday, we ate more icecream than you can shake a stick at and there was barely an hour went by without a call for drinks, snacks, street food or icecream. 


These were all highlights of our trip but the best thing by far was spending time with my baby sister and having an adventure together that we can both take with us into our next ones. Barcelona is well worth a visit and I’ll definitely be planning more Europoean trips in the future! 

Be brave. Be kind.


In my recent downtime, I have watched a lot of movies that had one common theme: the importance of kindness. In Cinderella, the main character is rewarded for having the courage to be kind when all around her are arrogant or outright cruel. Everyone knows this story and while the message is important, it’s not the one that’s touched me the most.

Tonight, I watched Me Before You, based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes. The female lead is a clumsy, happy go lucky, girl next door type and she is unbelievably and inherently kind. The novel has all the wonderful and tragic elements of a romance, but that wasn’t the message I took away from it. 

The male lead is quadriplegic. He misses the adventurous life before his accident & the female lead wants him to live life to the fullest. I took two elements from this: courage and kindness.

Have the courage to live your life completely as you don’t know what is around the corner. Have the courage to accept obstacles and leap over them. Have the courage to try new things, to risk, to move, to use the gifts you were given, to love.

Be kind to everyone- it costs you nothing. Be kind when people are unkind to you. Be kind when you’re hurt. Be silly, be patient, be fun, be kind. I firmly believe doing this lets you be the best version of yourself. 

To be inspired by media, be it film or books, is one of the greatest joys of my life. Watch the film & let me know your thoughts! 

A Goodbye Letter to Tanzania

Dear Tanzania,

Jeez, you were a difficult one to leave. I arrived hungry and ambitious- keen to teach, learn and explore. I leave you now much the same way, just wiser in my bones. It wasn’t always easy- but as the cliche states, when you move to Africa, Africa becomes a part of you. Well, Tanzania, you did that. It’s the right time for us to go our separate ways; but, I still have that part of my soul carved out just for you.

Oh, how we have laughed, my friend. You delivered friends to me that even I didn’t know I needed; people that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. I have been on crazy boat trips; had people offer cows for my hand in marriage; laughed through nights out, mornings after and normal day to day happenings. In our brief fling, I have taught over 150 children to love literature. I have loved those children more than you can imagine and I leave a part of myself behind with them.

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The self-discoveries I made were real. I learned that I can trust myself more than anyone else. I also learned that the best of friends just float around you like a safety net sometimes, waiting to catch the pieces. I learned that it is more fun to be brave than regret. In Tanzania, I learned to explore. I walked headfirst into white water rafting, into bungee jumping, into gorilla trekking in a thunderstorm. I refound my love of solo travel. I relearned how to take risks. I want to thank you, Tanzania, for slowly prodding me into adventures- you have been a slow, relentless nudge in the back, pushing me into the unknown and the scary.

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Thank you, Tanzania, for giving me a team of people I can count on, that are more family than friends. Thank you for teaching me to be myself. Thank you for surrounding me with wonderful colleagues and the most funny, glorious children I have ever come across. Thank you for beautiful landscapes and unbelievable experiences.

I’ll remember you in Mexico,

Love,

Hope

 

Perfection- or lack thereof…

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

–Salvador Dalí

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the idea of perfection. As a teacher, one of the greatest compliments that I have been given is that I have created an environment where my students are not afraid to fail, not afraid to make mistakes. Recently, however, I have been wondering why I don’t afford myself the same luxury?

I recently decided that I would listen to podcasts while I run- as I’ve previously mentioned, I’m not a natural runner and therefore have to have some kind of distraction as I run. TedTalks are the perfect distraction for me; I love to listen to other people’s ideas about topics I am unsure of or topics that motivate me. Yesterday, I listened to Reshma Saujani’s talk ‘Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection’. Plodding along, I resonated with Saujani’s observation that boys are raised to take risks, to climb, to reach, to be inherently brave; whilst, little girls are taught that they should look pretty, stay silent, be perfect. Saujani argues that, through this teaching, we are actually telling our girls that they should stick to the norm and not risk looking silly by turning our hand to something different or scary.

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Thinking more about this, my mind inevitably turned to the media. The media streams pictures of perfect bodies and perfect personality traits to young girls, whether that be the glossy magazines on the shelves or social media’s own personal indoctrination of hashtags like #fitspiration. I’m guilty of all of this, by the way. I’m guilty of buying into the idea of perfection. I’m guilty of not wanting to try something new because of fear. I’m guilty of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram photos that depict women with unbelievable bodies that I’m pretty sure mine will never bend into. This, although not a wholly female disposition, is something that girls, women even, battle on a daily basis- this need to be perfect in every way.

Saujani states that the only way out of this is to fail- and fail often. And I agree.Too often, girls are being left behind in our society because they have been taught that perfection is the aim and risk is not worth the humiliation if you get it wrong. However, I believe there are risks we can take every day. A build-your-own-bravery, if you like. Try new things, like a food you don’t think you’ll like. Move to new places. Travel- often and far. Apply for a job you’re not sure you’ll get.  Tell someone you love them. Forgive someone. It’s all a risk but it’s also all brave. As my beautiful Nana says, ‘Life is in the messy parts’.

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Drinking Clean

In the recent months, I have become very aware about health. As somebody who loves to travel and someone who has also spent a fair whack of her life being hopelessly unfit, I am always looking for exercises and healthy recipes that I like. Part of travel is being able to enjoy new experiences and I have always felt that if you’re not comfortable with your fitness, you limit the amount of things you can experience and your enjoyment of them.

For the last six weeks, I have exercised consistently, running the 5K course at the back of my school at least 3 times a week and I can feel the difference. But, and here’s the kicker, my diet still sucks. Point me towards the nearest junk food and I’m going for it, guns blazing, new running legs taking me even faster towards it. My main downfall? Fizzy drinks. I have a huge sweet tooth and love of fizzy drinks that not many can believe. I also enjoy a party and we all know what hangovers do to the body…

However, I have made a new discovery! Introducing green juices! Now, I can’t say I wasn’t suspicious. Vegetables, in my head, are made purely to go on a plate, not in a juice. On my most recent trip to Zanzibar however the lodge introduced me to a tasty green juice that I feel everyone should try- especially those unhealthy ones with a sweet tooth among us!

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Juice ala Zanzibar

This juice consists of one avocado, two passion fruit and the juice of one lime. Water down to your taste (I recommend watering down a fair bit as otherwise the avo is a bit overpowering) and wala! – a healthy juice with all good natural elements and enough sweetness for those of us battling the sugar cravings.

Give it a try! Let me know what you think!

The Calm of the Ocean

This week, myself and three other teachers took a group of students to Zanzibar to explore the island. The four days we spent there were hectic but filled with laughter and it soon became evident that this little corner of the world is one that I will miss dearly.

Our days were filled with wandering around spice farms, seeing monkeys in Jozani forest and petting giant tortoises in a sanctuary on Prison Island. I was very excited to see giant tortoises! Fun fact: if you tickle their necks, they stretch them out further for you because they love it!

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Giant tortoise on Prison Island

The morning of the third day, the kids woke me up early, desperate to get down to the ocean and swim. I grumbled the whole wander down to the beach, being a great lover of sleep; however, as soon as we got there, I saw why they were excited. I am a self-professed lover of the ocean. There is something in the water that I find calming and gives me a great sense of contentment. This is true whether I am sat on the beach, just watching, or splashing around like a small child.

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Paje Beach, Zanzibar- look at that sky!

Just sitting and looking out at nature in all its glory can sometimes do more for you than all the material possessions in all the world. As Pysche Roxas-Mendoza so eloquently puts it:

“Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.”