1st Chapter

1st Chapter - student project

Hello Tammy. Thank you for this really helpful class. 


My Ordinary World section is throwing me a little, because my real adventure (the subject of the book) grew out of an initial one, which was taking a job in Mexico. 


I'd really appreciate some feedback on this opening. I know it doesn't entirely fit in with the Ordinary World as you outlined. I wrote Act 1 before watching the class actually. Thank you 



I knew very little about Sahuayo, Michoacán before arriving. In all honesty I knew very little about Mexico in general, except what films and Wikipedia had taught me. But in hindsight, I’m glad that I didn’t do extensive research on the place, because I would have been deprived so much of the delighted, incredulous surprise that awaited me. I’d assumed that all the popular images of cowboy hats, moustaches, colourful bunting, tequila and tacos, weren’t really what Mexico was all about. Surely in the 2010s things were different to the revolution years of Frida (the film from which most of my Mexican insight had been gleaned). I had prepared myself for the disappointment of not seeing all the wide-brimmed sombrero and maraca stereotypes that Mexican restaurants and parties had entrenched over the years. I’d studied anthropology after all; I knew better than that.

So you can understand my audible gasp of joy when I spotted, during my six hour bus journey from México City to Sahuayo, an elderly, moustached man in a cowboy hat, riding a donkey through some dusty agave fields. The scene could have been taken directly from a film. I felt like a child who had just seen the real Santa flying away on his sled. But that was nothing compared to what Mexico had in store.

I’d like to say that my lack of preparation was down to spontaneity and bravery; closing my eyes and pointing to somewhere on the world map, then gallantly packing a rucksack to embark fearlessly on a solo adventure. However, in reality it was because I needed a job, and the one I was offered in Sahuayo had the soonest start date. There was something else that pulled me towards this unknown town though, something that caused me to favour Culturalingua’s obscenely low salary over the very well  paid positions in China and South Korea, with flights and private accommodation included. I didn’t know what that something was, but I couldn’t resist it.

Anyway, as I said, I needed a job; my mum wasn’t going to put me up forever. Well maybe she would have, but my step-dad was enthusiastically pushing the agenda for the January start dates. The sooner the better. Christmas was over; so was my three month rent-free stint with mum and Barry. It was time to pack my rucksack and hop on a plane to Mexico. My friends and family thought I was terribly brave, and I confess I did bask in this a little. But to tell the truth, I just didn’t consider that there would be any risks involved. Mexico just seemed like a great big laugh. Yes, I was aware of cartels and murders etcetera, but everyone knew that the media wildly exaggerated all of that…didn’t they? I was also just so excited to be leaving the gloom that my life had been for the past seven months that it felt like a holiday. It really was a rucksack by the way; I’d decided to pack light, for ease of travel.  The day after my Mexico themed going away party, with a raging hangover, I stuffed as many clothes as I could into the backpack that turned out to be a fair bit smaller than it had looked on Ebay. That was when the nerves kicked in: how was I going to get through the six month contract with so few clothes? But I reassured myself that there would be clothes shops in Mexico. 

Standing in Mexico City’s busy airport, reality hit me. It was midnight; there was no way I was going to take the Metro, as I’d optimistically planned. I’ve since experienced the Mexico City underground system and I know now I would never have made it to my hostel that night. Instead, I almost didn’t make it to my hostel in a taxi. Despite showing the very chirpy grey-haired driver the exact location on a map, he didn’t have a clue how to get there. When we finally found the right street (it had become a team effort), he couldn’t work out how to get to the right end of it, due to the perplexing one-way systems. We drove around and around in circles, him laughing, shaking his head and banging his palm against his forehead, me disconcerted by how he could have possibly obtained his taxi licence. He was very nice though and he got me to the hostel eventually, after having driven past it several times already.

Once the thrill of drinking a Corona on the roof top, and exploring Mexico City the following day had subsided a little, I started to get a bad feeling about my destination: Sahuayo. This was due to the fact that every time someone asked me where I was going, I had no idea how to say it. In fact the name itself would vanish completely from my mind and the person asking would look at me with great concern, especially Mexicans. She doesn’t know the name of the place where she’s going to be living. She’s not going to last long, their expressions said. I’d only heard it correctly said out loud once- during my interview, and once isn't enough for such strange words to sink in. I’ll make it easy for you:  the town is Sa-why-o, and it’s in the state of Mitch-o-a-can, with the emphasis on the “can”. I was going to have to get my tongue around many more strange names soon, because while I’d set out with the intention of being an English teacher, the universe had very different plans for me; little did I know then how choosing that unknown town in Mexico was going to take me on an adventure I could never have predicted.