Friday, March 26, 2010

What to Do in Mexico

For a long time in Mexico, I assumed that I could find something productive to do with my time without any problem. After all, I am an American right? I speak English and Spanish and therefore I should be wanted all over Mexico. That was naive and not true.

Mexico City is such a big place that it is hard to find somewhere I can volunteer. There are few functioning websites (even the main university, UNAM, has a broken site) and I haven't been able to find a phonebook. There aren't signs on buildings, and I can't just stroll into any building and ask about volunteering. I have to talk to security for them to open the gate and let me in. I'd like to find somewhere close to avoid traveling for an hour or more to get to where I volunteer, so some of the options I have found aren't really workable.

After weeks of searching, I found an orphanage near us. When we called, we were told to talk to someone else to see if there are volunteer positions open. However, it looks like you have to be 21 to volunteer. We are still going to talk with the woman in charge of the volunteer program, and even if she won't take us, she might be able to give us some resources to find somewhere else.

I was considering going to school at UNAM for awhile. They have a social work program. It would be hard for me to get in, because the entrance exam they use in place of an application includes physics, calculus, analytical geometry, and chemistry; none of which I know. A test like that would be unbelievably hard in English, and I can't imagine in Spanish. If I were to not pass one section, I wouldn't be able to enter. I have tried hard in every math and science class I have ever taken, but only statistics and biology have ever made sense. Then I found out that UNAM assigns schedules and classes so I wouldn't be able to choose when I go or what classes I took. The schedule is like being in high school and classes take up the whole day. I would like to go to school, but considering that I would just have to start over as soon as I got back to the U.S, it doesn't seem like the best use of time or almost $1,000 USD. I could be seeing Mexico City, experiencing everything there is to do here, and volunteering somewhere that would give me experience for the future.

I would be happy to work in a cafe or restaurant part time to earn a little money, give me something to do, practice my Spanish, and meet new people. Mexico doesn't allow foreigners to work unless they have special qualifications that no Mexican has or they are teaching English. I could teach English, but I'd have to complete a program on teaching English that costs $2,000 USD. That's a lot of money, plus I am absolutely dreading the idea of teaching English. I would need a bachelors degree to get a good job in most real language schools so I'd most likely be giving private classes to adults for business.

Anna and I have both been surprised by how few opportunities there are for us here. She said she would like to stay here for awhile longer, but there isn't much she could do and no real future so she's going home in June. I know eventually I will find something, but it is so much harder than I expected.

-Emma

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