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Monday, 21 June 2010

Final del semestre!

Following on from my last update, i have managed to survive another few weeks without contracting any more food related illnesses. One effect of the last episode is that i have been a lot more conscientious about the food I have been eating and where I have been buying it. Before I got sick I had been eating literally anything from anywhere, everyday since I arrived here. There are some benefits from doing so as you become more accustomed to the food, but at the same time you will eventually suffer from something. As the feeling of possible imminent death from food poisoning is still quite fresh in my mind I have been somewhat more careful in where I have been dining out!

I've been working here for around 4 months now and have really started to settle into living and working in this part of Mexico. One of the biggest factors which really affects how you experience things here is your grasp of understanding and speaking Spanish. There are little to no English speakers in the area which I am living in, apart from the other English teachers working within my department.Therefore I have been able to learn a lot of Spanish very quickly in the four months that I have been here. Its been a really rewarding experience because every month I am here I notice big differences in my understanding and ability to speak. I remember the first day that I arrived at the gates of the university armed with only a few phrases. Even the few basic things that I had learnt before I arrived, I couldn't recognise through the local peoples strong accents.

I met a lot of the people I am friends with now in the first two of weeks of being here, and there is an amazing difference in how much language you can pick up in that time, if you put your mind to it. Back then I couldn't say or understand anything whereas four months later I am able to have good conversations and socialise normally without the constant stress and frustration of not being able to understand anything. Its also really apparent because these past 4 months have flown by and to all my friends here it seems like only yesterday that i was struggling along waving my arms and pointing at everything.

Its also a relief to be at the point where i feel much more comfortable speaking the language. The truth is that the first while that I was here, in a new country learning a new language, it was difficult at times. Going for long periods without being able to express myself properly with people was immensely frustrating. Being in groups of people day after day and struggling to comprehend or say anything was pretty tedious. There were some days in the first two months where i felt i was doing really well and other days it didn't matter who i was talking to or what I was talking about but nothing i said or heard seemed to make any sense! And the times where you are feeling low or just just having a bad day, communication difficulties and misunderstandings are the last thing you need! However you do gain some comfort through all this, as you can feel your vocabulary growing every day. I have made a real effort to study Spanish, by reading and learning the grammar rules as well as speaking all the time. I have really noticed big differences in the past while, and that has made the whole experience really rewarding.

A lot of the difficult moments, or great misunderstandings are horrible at the time, but looking back you can't help but laugh. One of my favourite and most embarassing moments had to be in the cafeteria in the university in the first two weeks. I went to get my breakfast and when I arrived at the counter the lady asked me the most obvious question possible, Would you like breakfast? I didnt quite understand/ hear her properly. In my head I heard her say something like 'cellular'(phone) as opposed to 'desayunar'(breakfast). When I think about it now I can't help but cringe because I don't know how I interpreted it so badly. I think i filled a lot of gaps in my mind! I thought it was strange that she was asking if i had a mobile phone, so I repeated the word cellular, which she procedeed to interpret as me repeating what she had just said, so she nodded and said yes. At this point i was rummaging around looking for my phone while she was looking rather confused.At the point I found it and proudly presented it to her. I thought yes, here is my mobile phone, still wondering why she could possibly want to know if i had one. After motioning towards her that she could look at it if she wanted i slowly realised that she looked quite bewildered . She then repeated her question and it slowly dawned on me that she was in fact offering me breakfast, asking the same question she had been asking for two weeks, but just in a slightly different fashion. I have had many incidents such as this , and as uncomfortable they are at the time, they make quite humorous memories in the end.

Since I first arrived I havent put a lot up about what I actually spend most of my time doing here in Mexico, which is teaching English to the students of Unversidad Del Istmo(UNISTMO).

My job here is working as a research professor in the university language department or as its called here, Centro de Idiomas.

This is my 10 o'clock Level 3 English class.

We are currently in the last week of semester, so at the moment I am giving exams and marking all the final pieces of work before giving out everyone's final grades. It a bit strange sometimes carrying out all these kinds of tasks because it was only in September when I was still at university stressing over exams. I definitely think that having to do the exams is way more stressful than have to administer them!I know which aspect of it I prefer!

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