Day two of CELTA and I’ve already taught my first lesson. It was too short. It was supposed to go for twenty minutes but ended up being just around 15. Could have been worse, though. At least the students didn’t throw rocks at me or anything.

The tutors and students in my class are all super-nice, coming from all over and in all stages and walks of life. There’s a retiree (I think?) and her daughter from the States that have a house a couple towns away, a student from Australia, a primary school teacher from Holland, a few Americans of varying ages and careers, and two Mexicans, one an English teacher working on certification and the other a student. They’re all really enthusiastic and friendly. I think it’s going to be difficult to say goodbye in August.

The classwork so far has been intense but enjoyable. There’s quite a lot of picking apart weaknesses and determining how to strengthen teaching (and learning!) skills as well as group and pair discussion time. The great thing is that, even though you’re being told all the things you did wrong, no one is blaming or judging you because they all screwed up too! Worlds of difference from the faceless red marks across the blue book.

The students in my class are all very keen and eager to practice speaking English. For them, its not just a matter of getting credits or anything, but rather of getting or keeping a good job and making a better life for themselves. Yesterday, one guy in the class started asking me about American politics while we (the teacher trainees) were going around the class meeting the students. It was interesting hearing his perspective on the place of the States on the world stage, even if he sometimes had trouble expressing exactly what he wanted to. He wants to emigrate to Toronto in a year or two. I said that was probably a good choice as far as the Western hemisphere goes.

Anyway. That’s all I can say for now, Got some homework and trip to Walmart to get to tonight. (I never shop at Walmart in the States but there’s one two blocks or so down the street from where I’m staying so I’m like, “yeah, ok.” I just hope they don’t revoke my liberal card or anything…)

more posts later,

Mat

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Well, yesterday I learned that I have been awarded an everything-except-airfare scholarship to study at China Three Gorges University in Yichang, Hubei province, China, come August/September.

Pretty sick news. No, I mean seriously. I almost barfed.

In any case, we’ll talk more about that later. Right now, as the title suggests, I want to talk about marijuana.

marijuana leaves

(this guy)

Now, I may or may not have previously indulged in the odd reasoning session with good ol’ ganj at my side. (Plausible deniability. In case I want to run the homeowner’s association later in life. [Yeah, right. Of where, the houseboats on the third wharf in Phnom Penh?]) I would not, however, partake were it to be offered to me now. (Unless I was living in a houseboat in Phnom Penh. Or, as it turns out, in Playa). In my ripe old age I have found that remembering stuff is useful. Also, I generally have no money. In any case, I’m getting to the part about pot, but first I must needs set the scene.

So I was walking down Quinta, just strolling, looking at funny people and listening to the sounds of the street when a guy walks up and starts talking to me. Now, this happens pretty frequently on Quinta, and its usually fairly easy to disengage oneself and be on one’s merry way. This guy, however was persistent. He also told me straight up, “Its ok, you don’t have to buy, just look. Then maybe you come back.” So he led me to his jewelry shop and showed me his wares which, admittedly, were actually quite nice. We talked a bit about the jewelry and stuff, he asked me if I have a girlfriend, to which I replied “no.” Then he asked me,”you smoke, amigo?”

“Sometimes,” I replied.

“Cigars or weed?” he inquired in a lower voice.

In that instant my mind raced. On the one hand, I thought, “I’m in a tropical paradise right now. There is a beach literally 100 yards away. There’s a dude in a gaucho outfit singing songs and pretty girls walking on the beach and old ladies selling ice cream and holy shit that would be great.” For a split second I seriously considered saying, “you have weed?” I then recalled the drug-law homework I had done before coming here. Y’see kids, possession of marijuana in small amounts was decriminalized in Mexico in 2009 (along with smaller amounts of harder drugs). Possession of 5 grams or fewer of pot is no longer a criminal offense. This legislation was motived in part by the idea that it would reduce drug cartel activity, though the U.S. pulled a bad face and accused the Mexican government of slacking on their end of the (non-functional) “War on Drugs.” Its partially the US’s fault the drug cartels are as powerful as they are anyway, so we can pretty much tell them to sit on it. But I digress.

So, I thought about it, but seeing as how I didn’t actually have any money on me, didn’t really trust the guy to not have spiked his stash with heroin or something, and couldn’t eyeball five grams to save my life anyway, I declined, saying, “just cigars.” Then they tried to sell me three improperly stored Cuban Cohiba Robustos for USD 115. (Hint: that’s a little overpriced.) I left just as the old guy with silver teeth that had had walked in after me and cornered me into the shop was starting to get pushy.

Then I ate Chinese food, bought from a girl of Chinese descent who had obviously grown up speaking Spanish. There is no reason for that to be weird for me, but it was. Also it was stupid cheap so I’ll probably go there more.

I’m trying to get ahold of a decent camera to take more pictures for these posts. I’ve been leaving my phone in my room because I find that I don’t really have any use for it, especially when my entire day consists of going to the beach and derping around the town on foot.

New post soon. Class starts tomorrow, so I’ll keep you up to date!

ciao,

Mat

(Why, yes, yes I did think of the pun in the title all by myself! I’m so happy you mentioned that!)

So. Straight to the point! One outstanding thing about Mexico is the beer here. It fits perfectly with the climate and its ultra-cheap. And while I do relish the occasional Guinness when the mercury starts to fall, gimme a nice, cold, preferably lime-injected, cervecita when the sun is shining any day.

Now, all the beer snobs out there are shaking their heads right now over my admonition of respect for the brewing prowess of our friends to the south. “But it has no body!” they say, “The amount of hops is completely insufficient for my hops-destroyed, IPA-swilling tastebuds!” they cry, in (they think!) mockery of my still-functional ones, “I only drink craft beer made by dudes with large beards because beards,” they mumble form behind a bird’s nest only a mother or a female hipster could love, and so on, in a similar vein. Of course, there is a time and a place for delicious craft beers (actually, there’s a specialty beer store next to where I’m staying) but that time is not now, and that place is not this post.

So now, for your reading pleasure, a brief anecdote about cervezas.

Cerveceria Modelo and Cerveceria Moctezuma are two of the big breweries around these parts (and by these parts I mean “in Mexico”) and produce a substantial amount of cold, bright yellow, fizzy, and delicious beer, guzzled in gallons by good little American boys and girls every Cinco de Mayo. (Which is not, incidentally, Mexican Independence day. For reals.)

One of these beers, brewed by Cerveceria Moctezuma, is Sol.

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An oft-forgotten cousin of the likes of Dos Equis and Corona, Sol is a fizzy, yellow, refreshing brew that bottles up the very essence of the Mexican Caribbean: that is, its fucking hot so drink some super-cold-ass beer that doesn’t make you feel like you just ate a bunch of potatoes. Then go swim naked in the ocean or something.

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(These can’t swim naked in the ocean, but you get my point.)

Now, since Texas was blessed by the Good Lord with (among other things) proximity to Mexico and a large Mexican immigrant population, back home, brews like Dos Equis and Modelo are readily available in even the most back-water of Texas highway towns; right alongside the Natty Light, pork rinds, (disgusting) moist chewing tobacco, and (disgusting-er) huge-ass cans of Mountain Dew. This means that our Mexican beer is generally fresh, crisp, shelved near some rock-hard and dried-out limes, and bursting with heat-busting Beerenoids (patent pending) just waiting for a good little American boy to convince his older cousin to buy him some so he can get that girl he likes drunk enough to consider sleeping with him.

Unfortunately, the Good Lord saw fit to not put the Modelo and Moctezuma breweries in Texas (mysterious ways and all that), so, every once in a while, what should be a crisp and refreshing experience full of tradition and all that nonsense turns into a malty, skunked out tongue-lashing. (Pun #2!) And therein is the reason for this post.

Truth be told, the last couple days have been difficult for me. Culture-shock, the heat, not really having anything pressing to do, the fact that all the other residents here are like seven feet tall, super hot, and Australian or something, and only sort of understanding what people are saying to me have all conspired to render me a fearful, blubbering mess. Because of these unfortunate circumstances, I decided that tonight would be a good one for beer, so that’s what I had for dinner.

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(Shut up, the bread had raisins in it. That’s a vegetable or whatever. Also, a joke about bimbos.)

I gave the Sol a try because I hadn’t had one in forever and thought it might hit the spot. (It did.) My drinking experience, however, was far from the vaguely interested “hmm, this is pretty good” kind of reaction I thought it was going to be. Instead, it was, by far, the best cerveza I have ever had. And out of a can, no less! Without a lime, no less! I caught myself pulling the can from my lips and looking at it in astonishment, thinking, “surely this was just poured by a buxom-yet-still-slender Mexican lass in traditional garb!”

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(Like this, except with beer and a colorful frilly skirt. Also, she totally digs me.)

But nope, just out of a can. I was, and remain, amazed.

And that, my friends, is the entire reason for this post. I was feeling sad so I drank a beer (I know, even more sad), it was really tasty, and then I spent half an hour writing a blog post about it. I could be on Quinta Avenida watching interesting tourists walk by, I could be out meeting the other residents, shit, I could even be at church right now! (The local parish church is literally next door and mass starts at 8:00.) But nope. Instead, I took one for the team. I bought beer for less than a dollar a can, drank it, and then wrote a long post with Salma Hayek in it about how delicious it was. Just for you.

You’re welcome.

ciao – Mathieu

Today I decided to set out exploring in the morning, thinking perhaps it would be a bit cooler for a long walk. I learned two things this morning: first, its hot here all the damn time, morning or not; and second, this city is full of really interesting stuff.

I stayed in and around the touristy areas near the beach this morning (mostly ’cause I ain’t tryin’ ta get lost) and was not disappointed. This city thrives on tourism and there seems to be an almost seamless transition between stuff geared towards locals and stuff geared toward tourists. The locals’ shops have slightly more Spanish in their signs and their owners don’t shout “Hey, amigo!” at you, but otherwise, not much difference. Quinta Avenida is almost nothing but tourists, but near the end of the avenue is the ferry dock with service to Cozumel island.

ferry from playa to cozumel

The place was packed and I didn’t get any closer shots because there were some kind of scary-looking policías standing around near the entrance to the dock itself. (I’ll try again another time; right now I’m writing this from my room because its nap time.) The interesting thing about the ferry dock was the number of people using it to commute! I’ve been to Cozumel (thanks again, aunt Teri!) and it struck me as odd/awesome that one would ride a ferry to get to work everyday. Especially a great big pretty yellow one on a tropical ocean. Shit. So awesome.

Anyway. To get to the ferry pier I walked down the beach from 12th street to 2nd (where the ferry is). Along the way I saw some interesting stuff but didn’t take pictures because the interesting stuff was mostly (conscious) people on vacation, and that would be weird. There were some seriously photogenic people laying around, but I didn’t really feel like I had a fight with a burly Mexican dude over his señorita’s honor in me today. Also, I’m not a creeper. I did, however, see this:

drunk dude asleep on beach (i hope)

My imagination wants desperately for this guy to be sleeping off an enormous bottle of mezcal. Mostly because why the hell else would you be sleeping on the beach, fully clothed, in the sun, at 9:30 in the morning? I mean, people around here sleep in just about any old place, but really? (Its true. Its like, 9:00AM? MORE LIKE NAP TIME AM. ON A PARK BENCH.) At least he had a bottle of water next to him. I only hope he isn’t actually playing ball with the Hero Twins in the underworld right now. That might make me feel a little bad. (Maya mythology. Look it up.)

My walk also took me quite a ways away from the beach, further into the city center. Along the way, I saw my very first mail-motorcycle:

A Quintana Roo-ense mail motorcycle

(Its just adorable!)

As well as this dog:

ITS A DOG, STUPID

Less adorable, but I thought this picture was cool.

There were other little sights as well: laundromats, shrimp-cocktail restaurants, tour guide kiosks, car-washes (don’t ever drive a car here, by the way. You’ll die.), all kinds of stuff.

But more later. Right now its nap time, then time for a burrito!

ciao,

Mathieu

a view from a pier near my dormWell, this is it. I’m here in Playa del Carmen, on the Eastern Coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (pronounced “roh”). Next Monday I will begin a program of study leading to a CELTA, or Certificate in English-Language Teaching to Adults. Until then, however, I’m exploring the town, getting my stuff unpacked and sorted out, reviewing my grammar, and just generally chillin’, as they say in the parlance of our times.

The flights here were pretty uneventful. I did cut the connection in Atlanta pretty close, but for my first solo voyage abroad I think I did alright. The digs here at International House are pretty sweet: A/C, a mini-fridge in my room, pretty fast wi-fi. A little kitchen at the end of the hall and a shelf full of books left behind by previous residents. It feels good to be living out of a suitcase again, as strange as that may sound. It takes me back to summers at Constantin. Except, unlike Constantin, in Playa there’s a crystal blue ocean and beautiful brown women. There were brown things at Constantin, but rarely were they women. Or beautiful. The lake was beautiful, though. I’ll give it that.

So far, today has been interesting. I’m getting my bearings a bit — ok, so I actually just mean I’m not totally lost — and getting a feel for what life here is going to be like. Its hot, but not in the same way that Dallas is hot. The ocean breezes definitely help to keep the streets perpendicular to the beach substantially cooler. Plus, since A/C isn’t ubiquitous around here, everyone understands that its hot, you’re sweaty, and it isn’t a big deal. Refreshing, really.

By far the most interesting part of Playa so far has been the tourists. There are Americans aplenty: pale northerners melting in the sun; large, vivacious Texans wearing Señor Frog’s t-shirts and taking pictures of each other holding some Mexican guy’s iguana; summer-time Spring Breakers with tattoos in bad Chinese discussing how many days in a row they’ve been totally shit-faced. Credits to the Motherland, all. But there is also a substantial amount of Mexican tourists from the northern and inland parts of the country, as well as tourists from England (both the cool kind and the class-less, gross kind), France, Italy, and even Denmark! Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), the main pedestrians-only tourist stretch, is lined with shops selling silver jewelry, t-shirts, henna tattoos, cigars. (“Real Cubans!,” the signs say. One can only hope they mean the cigars.) Just about anything a souvenir-inclined person might imagine would look classy on their mantle-piece, get a laugh from their middle-school-aged cousin,  or that they could sneak through customs back home, someone sells it. Over the next couple days I’m going to explore the less touristy parts of town to see what kind of difference there is.

So far, on the whole its a nice place. The nearest public library is 60 km away in Cancún, which makes me a bit sad, but otherwise, A-Okay. We’ll just have to see what the next few weeks bring!

I’ll try yo update this blog daily – even if just to blurb that I remain un-kidnapped and with my organs intact – but, you know, I forget stuff sometimes. Just sayin’.