The International Writers
Magazine: Our Man in Mexico
New 2007 Mexico Diary Starts here
Dermot Sullivan in Mexico
am in Mexico. I left home on the 7th of January, flying via Houston
in Texas. I am working in a school in the city of Pachuca in the
State of Hidalgo. The school is bi-lingual (supposedly) and I
am trying to whip the standard of English into shape!
I often ask myself how on earth I ended up here, especially as
I was set on going to Japan. Well, I shall undertake to explain
though I never really wrote about when I left Chile
The last time I wrote was after my friend was swept over a waterfall
and cheated death. To be honest, this played on my mind for about six
months afterwards. As when one switches off a computer and the machine
whirls and whizzes and sifts through the days work, it was as
if my default setting as I drifted off to sleep was replaying the events
of my friends misfortune. It seems that powerful events make a
strong impression and they are not so easy to smooth over
the waterfall incident happened on the 18th of September
2005 and much has happened since then.
Before I left Chile in December 2005 I had a frantic fortnight bidding
adieu to the friends I had made during my time there. I spent my time
being made dinner or taken to dinner and given presents
the searing heat of Santiago in summer (around 37 degrees Celsius).
On my penultimate Saturday I held a huge party in my flat where somewhere
between 80-100 people showed up. I dont think I could rustle up
half that number in England!
I left on 18th of December, having a quiet dinner with my flatmates
the night before. I had planned to pack immediately afterwards only
for a whole posse of friends to show up and start drinking! I got no
sleep that night as I had to stay awake packing until dawn.
I said goodbye to my flatmates at the bus station (they were kind enough
to accompany me) and my bus left for Argentina. I went up into the Andes,
crossed the border and departed the country I had lived in for two years
I probably would have stayed there if it wasnt for certain
factors, the main two being that I couldnt make enough money to
live and that the pollution in the winter was simply awful. Thankfully
my health is usually good but my immune system took a battering in the
July and August in Santiago. I couldnt face a third winter of
that sort of abuse of my body!
I have no truck with nostalgia. It is a liar and we shouldnt indulge
in it (the whole 80s revival shtick is a good example of the perils
of nostalgia). As well as the two main reasons Ive already stated
for leaving, I also knew 2006 would not be so good in Chile. Most of
the friends that I had made were leaving
still, I cant
help but miss the time I spent there
I arrived in Buenos Aires
on the 19th of December, did some Christmas shopping and bought a suit
for interviews that I might possibly have in not-so-sunny England. I
flew out on the 20th of December and arrived home early the next day.
Two big things happened in Chile whilst I wasnt there which I
would have liked to have seen. Firstly a lady became President, something
of a rarity in the machista world of Latin America. What made this woman,
Michelle Bachelet, even more important to Chile was that she was a victim
of torture by the military government. Both her and her mother were
detained at the notorious Villa Grimaldi before they were exiled. Her
father, Alberto Bachelet, was a brigadier in the Chilean Airforce but
remained loyal to the constitution when Augusto Pinochet took power
and subsequently had a heart-attack whilst being tortured and died.
Someone like Michelle Bachelet becoming president would have been impossible
in Chile ten years ago.
The thing that for which I most regret not being present is Pinochet
dying! I only missed it by a year! Well, such is life
Augusto would know a bit about the latter.
I arrived home in England on the 21st of December and into a world of
darkness! It wasnt wet just bleak, cold and dimly lit through
the clouds: it was bloody depressing and I sank into what is described
as reverse culture shock. The worst of it when I went into
Folkestone town centre and tried to change my Chilean and Argentinean
money into Pounds, as well as trying to put credit onto my phone. Nobody
seemed to be able to do what I wanted and I felt that if I could just
speak Spanish to them then everything could be made clear. Alas, I was
confronted by idiots at every turn
plus I seemed to be the only
person who wasnt a chav with a tattooed head
came when the girl in front of me in the queue with her baby in a buggy
was refused a packet of fags as she was under-age! Arrrggggghhhhhh!
My only relief was running in the countryside with my father and sister
and regular trips to the gym. If I hadnt had those I probably
would have ended up killing someone
thankfully I found work after
two months and alternated between my new job and the one I had before
I departed for sunny Chile. I spent my time either teaching Japanese
kids or mixed classes of assorted teenage nationalities. I have to say
the oddest out of the latter were the Kazakhs (China meets Russia with
an Islamic influence) and the worst behaved were the Catalans. The most
trashy were the Russians who really are the kings of bling
and put London in the late 1980s to shame! The Germans, French and Swiss
were most fun
and the Arabs were a good laugh too.
Thankfully I didnt have to teach many Belgians, though I taught
one Belgian guy who was cool (an exception that proves the rule that
all Belgians are horrible), plus I did teach some very nice Catalans
too (note to other teachers: keep the different Iberian nationalities
separate. Barcelona and Madrid hate each other and pray to God
that you dont get any Basques thrown into the mix either!).
Anyhow, my original plan was to go to Japan. I had my interview with
JET on the 1st of February and it took them two months to let me know
that I didnt get it. I have been told since that they prefer people
with zero teaching experience who are straight out of university, though
I find that explanation somewhat weird. That could indeed be the reasons
as the Japanese have a tendency to the weird. One very plausible explanation
is that my interviewers thought that I sucked! Well, too bad for them,
but it pissed me off as I put in a lot of work preparing for the interview,
including sending the application papers directly from Chile by super-rapido
(i.e. super bloody expensive) post and then having to dig up my grades
from university (they charged £50 the bastards).
Being stuck at home I decided to do the sensible thing and buy a house.
This was quite a good thing as it forced me to be really selective with
the work that I accepted. If anyone told me that they couldnt
pay me much but promised me an amazing cultural experience
I had no choice but to refuse. Christ, if I wanted that Id go
and work on some collectivised farm in Bolivia and learn to speak Spanish
properly. Having to pay £800-and-something a month as a mortgage
is a good lesson in the harsh realities of life. Thankfully I have some
Gurkha tenants (two families in one house!) who bear the brunt of mortgage
with their rent, otherwise Id be screwed. Alas though the evil
Bank of England keeps putting up interest rates, meaning I have to pay
I was offered work in Japan by other schools but it was never what I
wanted, when I wanted. One school simply didnt pay enough for
me to live and work in the centre of Tokyo, another wanted me to go
however I had been teaching the kids in England and
they were they were beyond special needs
teachers were weird, sleeping and working in the same clothes and never
washing! Needless to say that they stank to high heaven and there was
no way in hell I was going to work them. The cool Japanese jobs didnt
seem to be starting until April 2007 and that left me with no work at
home for three months. Having been unemployed for two months at home
during the winter of the year previously I knew a repeat was not an
It was then that my Canadian flatmate Robert from Santiago (the nice
one from 2004, not the psycho from 2005 whom I might slay if I ever
come across him again) told me about the school where he was working
in Mexico. To be honest, he had tried to sell me on Mexico since the
time we were living together but I wasnt having any of it. All
if ever pictured Mexico as was dust and corruption, a line
hes thrown back at me from time to time. Faced with the prospect
of an unemployed winter of discontent in Folkestone I sent my CV to
the school where he was working and they pretty much hired me over the
phone that day. I turned them down at first as the flight was too expensive,
but they found a cheaper flight for me and offered me more money to
cover the cost of flying from England. That and the fact that Id
have to pay no rent sold me on Kidnapping-Capital of the World (Colombia
is now Number Two hurrah!).
been here in Mexico for a little over a month now. I left England
on the 7th of January and arrived late that night in Mexico City
airport. I proceeded to lose my passport whilst waiting to be collected
by my new employers, but amazingly it was handed in to the police
and I got it back within no time whatsoever (thus challenging my
preconceived ideas about Mexico City being full of thieves and the
police being ultra-corrupt)!
Actually, the airport
in Mexico City was a great relief after the prison-like treatment meted
out to passengers in England and the States. My problem was that to
fly to Mexico City I had to go via Texas and any flight to the U.S.
requires one to be as inconvenienced as humanly possible. I had my return
date on my flight changed by the airline to fit visa restrictions placed
upon Mexico by the United States: it seems that the Americans consider
Mexico their own and therefore decide who and who cannot enter the country.
The other highlight in London was watching a young Vietnamese couples
baby milk for their infant child be seized, leaving the child with no
food. One can, of course, buy alcohol at the Duty Free but cant
bring baby milk through security
I would advise all passengers
to travel barefoot in the future as youll have to take your shoes
off about four times
flying used to be fun but now it feels like
a trial by ordeal.
I would like to say that all has been peachy since I arrived but true
to past form I have been ill here. My stomach did not take to the travel,
change in temperature, different water, food and the altitude. The latter
here in Pachuca is anywhere between 2500-3000 metres above sea-level,
which can be somewhat tough when you consider that Folkestone is at
sea-level! Quite often Ive found myself sucking in the air, though
I have been at higher altitudes (my personal record was in Bolivia at
5000 metres). So that I didnt spend my life on the toilet I simply
gave up food and drink and not surprisingly the weight dropped off me.
Ive started eating now but I have to be careful as so much of
the food here is super-spicy
Ill just have to get used
the local food of the area is the pasty! The city used to be a big
mining town as there is a lot of silver in the ground. It seems
that the Cornish came here en masse and as a result the pasty entered
Mexican cuisine. Here though they are called pastes and the fillings
are somewhat different. Im obviously not to keen on the super-spicy
stuff, though the rice pudding one is very nice! The Cornish also
introduced football to Mexico through being here in Pachuca. Sadly
I cant see much evidence of English or Cornish surnames remaining
amongst the local population, but I have only been here for a month.
Most people have problems with my name, but that was the norm in
South America as well. Anything that isnt obviously English
or deviates too much from the Latin Model is just utterly alien
Drivers Are Crazy here
As I said, I am
teaching English at a bi-lingual school. It fancies itself as bi-lingual
but the children just speak in infinitives all the time. There are some
really nice students, but the place has a bit of discipline problem.
It seems that Mexican children are about two or three years less mature
than Europeans. I teach 13, 14 and 15 year olds, so I was rather surprised
to find them act like babies and after being told off burst into
tears! I shall write more about my school next time
want to be fired (yet)!
One thing I found very surprising was how less developed Mexico was
in comparison with Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. A major hassle for
me has been problems with my accommodation, especially not having water
hopefully that has been resolved now
Im not sure
exactly what happened but I think one of the mains burst in the street.
One morning I couldnt get any water from the taps and I saw some
indigenous-looking chap brushing up a watery mess outside my house.
I asked him what had happened but it was a little difficult as my Spanish
is bad and he had no teeth. I had to go to my neighbour and colleague
from the school, Ryan, to have a shower or use the toilet. I then had
water intermittently for the next fortnight.
From having no water I ended up sleeping in it the other night when
I went camping with some work chums (including my Canadian friend Robert).
Apparently its not supposed to start raining in Pachuca until
I woke up in the middle of the night to have water coming
in on top of me, a stream running to the right of me and my feet to
be submerged in a puddle! Its a rather grim feeling when you are
out in the rain, cannot get dry and know that the sun wont come
up for another five hours. Even though I had fun on the trip I cant
remember a more miserable night in my life!
After rain abated we all stood around the campfire trying to come to
terms with what happened. We then went and climbed some strange rockforms
a little more difficult as the altitude was around 3500 metres
or maybe even higher. I noticed something weird as I was climbing
I had acquired a fear of heights since my friend was swept off the waterfall.
I ignored it but it was disconcerting. I made it to the top but I wasnt
keen on being too close to the edge
I suppose that Ive
always been that way but I had the image of my friend being swept over
the edge in Chile, making the feelings more intense
I found the
descent rather difficult. A funny thing happened though when I returned
back to my house: (after I had a shower and put on some dry clothes)
I started writing this, and I havent written anything since September
2005 after witnessing his watery misadventure. Its funny how the
I promise I shall write more soon. I havent mentioned my trip
to Teotihuacán, nor have said much about my school or the general
character of the Mexicans Ive encountered.
On Tuesday the 13th of February I shall turn 30.
© Dermot Sullivan Feb 12th 2007
(Hey Happy Birthday from Hacks Dermot and WELCOME back!)
Turns 30 in Mexico
Sullivan in Chile 2004/5
Year in Santiago
Dermot Sullivan's Chile Diary
Gringo - Diary Entry 2
From Santiago No 3
Diary No 4
Diary No 5
The Naruda House
Dermot Sullivan No 6
Week in Bolvia:
Dermot Sullivan's Diary No.7
Dermot Sullivan's Diary No 8
Diary No 9
Dermot Sullivan explores
Dermot goes North & South
Airies: Diary No 11
Dermot is back 2005
Le Boca & Iguaca Falls
Santiago - Politics and Religion
Chile Diary 14 - Sawdust
Chile Diary 15
- Floods, fruit and beer
Back to Life
Dermot Sullivan Oct 2005
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