Tomorrow, if the snow gods allow, I will be winging my way toward my fourth Global Volunteers experience, in Queretaro, Mexico. Although I’ll be sticking to North America, and will have no jet lag to contend with, I’m still giving myself a couple of days to acclimate to my new surroundings. And what wonderful surroundings they will be!
I will freely admit to having extremely limited knowledge of our southern neighbor’s geography. I signed on without having any idea where Queretaro is, or anything else about the area, for that matter. But that is all changing. In the past two days, I’ve been cruising the internet, like a college student at exam time, trying to learn everything I can about the place I’ll call home for the next 17 days. And I’m more than happy to share this new-found knowledge with you–oh, my loved ones.
In the past, my experiences with Mexico were confined to the coasts: Cabo San Lucas and Playa del Carmen. This time, I’ll be in the interior of the country, so no need for bathing suit or flip-flops. Here’s a visual, for those of you, like me, who need to see where you are going, with Texas providing a point of reference.
Queretaro is right smack dab under that red dot. The city and the state share the same name–although the city is officially called Santiago de Queretaro. I didn’t even know that Mexico was broken into states–I just thought of that land mass as “Mexico”. But there are 31 of them, and Queretaro is one of the smallest, as you have probably figured out by its obliteration under the dot. It’s about two and a half hours from Mexico City, to give you an idea of distances and scale.
As with other things in life, don’t be fooled by size. Queretaro may be small in territory, but it has a lot going for it. It is chock full of beautiful 17th and 18th century buildings, enough to be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Many were former churches, convents and missions, (not surprising given the Franciscans founded the city in 1531, looonnnng before those Pilgrims and Puritans set foot up north). There’s scads of history in them thar hills, but I’m saving all that for future posts and possibly a quiz or two.
Here’s a sneak peek at my new world. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Hidalgo, which unlike the Casa de la Marquesa, probably didn’t give Google any advertising dollars. Still, what did we do before Google maps?!
The green patch in the bottom right corner is the street market, which I will undoubtedly visit. I also checked out Jardin Zenea, and that looks to be quite lovely. I’m thinking I’ll have plenty of photo ops on my days off.
In the upper left hand corner is where I’ll be working: the Technological University of Queretaro (UTEQ), giving the students opportunities to practice English. (I am reluctant to describe what I do as “teaching” English, given my lack of teaching experience…but hey, I sure know how to talk and to listen!)
This will be quite a change of pace for me. For my other three projects, I worked with either preschool or elementary school children. This time, I’ll working with adolescents and will be following a varied schedule. To accommodate early and late classes, some days we’ll go from 7AM to 2 PM and others from 3 PM to 9 PM. Because the volunteers are in such demand, and the need is so great, we will not see the same class twice, something else that will be quite different for me.
I’m lucky enough to have an Ecuadorian sister-in-law, who humors me by letting me practice my Spanish on her. Any time yo hablo espanol, it is guaranteed to get a laugh out of mi hermana preferida. I’m sure it is because of her amazement and admiration of my fluency. We’ll see how it goes with the students. I’m betting I’ll be able to pick up a phrase or two from them to completely dazzle and amaze the folks back home.
I’m not sure about the internet capabilities in the hotel, or MY capabilities given the work schedule, but I plan on posting whenever I am able.