From One Tourist Town to the Next

Adjusting to Isla Living

~ By Maggie

It seems unbelievable that a whole month of lesson planning, meeting new friends, getting to know the school children, sunburns, beach days, eating tacos, sunsets and everything else has already flown by! I feel like I have already had the experience of a lifetime and it warms my heart to think that I still have five more months here to make the most out of this experience. We finished our three week summer camp program for primary school children, and it was incredibly inspiring to see how excited the kids were to learn English. I taught the largest group, third grade, with another teacher and we had a blast. Lesson planning definitely tests your creativity and pushes you to come up with ways to keep English fun and exciting for the kids, so that was a fun new challenge for me. There have been many new things to get used to…life on Isla is very different from any place I have lived before, which is saying something since I lived in a beachy tourist town back in the states!

Before coming to Isla Mujeres, I had been living in Charleston, SC for a year after graduating from a small liberal arts university in central Virginia. Charleston is very similar to Isla in many ways…both are relatively small towns that have a booming tourism industry with amazing food, endless things to do, pretty beaches, and a fun nightlife. I feel connected to locals working in the tourism industry (which is practically everyone since tourism is the largest sector of the economy here) because I worked as a server at a busy and popular restaurant in downtown Charleston before coming here. One thing I have noticed is how accommodating the town and workers are to tourists…most restaurants/bars/hotels/etc. have staff that know Spanish and at least some English, and everyone is willing to help you. I have been blown away by the kindness and sense of community here. On our final day of summer camp, the kids were invited to bring their parents and food/drinks to share with the class for an end of camp fiesta. All of the kids’ parents came and brought food to feed an army! They served out all the food and would barely let us help, telling us to sit and enjoy and thanking us for teaching their kids. On a similar but funnier note, when I took my class on a field trip to the beach, all the kids kept running up to me saying, “blanquita, blanquita, necesita bloqueador de sol!!!” (which pretty much means, “really pale lady…you need lots of sunscreen!!”). They were very concerned about me getting burned because people really care about other’s well-being here. The kids, the parents, and everyone on Isla have already made me feel welcome and content…which is good news since this place is my home for the next five months!