James is someone who does nothing by halves. Having spent 4 months on a wildlife project in Mexico, (where he had an aromatic encounter with a tiger on day one), he now moves on to a remote Mexican village to be an English teacher, seemingly well armed with his own enhanced Spanish to help keep him in control. Overall, a great example of how you can combine projects to make your time volunteering abroad the most productive.
I’ve just finished four months of volunteering for this project, where I was working in the Mazatlán aquarium. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, and I want to share some thoughts on why this project is such a great opportunity.
A little about me: I did this project as part of my year abroad for my Spanish degree, so I came with the intention of using and absorbing as much Spanish as possible. From the beginning Outreach were very helpful and mindful of my goals in this regard. Greta, the Outreach Rep. in Mexico, was brilliant and set me up with a Spanish tutor, Laura, whose lessons I enjoyed so much that I continued with her even after the allotted hours included in the project were completed.
The work itself is principally based in the clinic, and involves helping in the preparation of food for the various non-aquatic animals, as well as cleaning enclosures. This is the daily stuff, but there is also the opportunity to take part in the care of creatures such as the sea lions and other animals in the wider aquarium/zoo. If you’re someone who is interested in veterinary medicine or such then you will also have the chance to observe, and to some extent assist in, a number of procedures, as well as witness the day to day running of an animal clinic. You’ll find various levels of English spoken among your co-workers, but in general the level will be low, which allows for an excellent opportunity to use and improve your Spanish. The simple nature of the work also means that there’s no need to fear any serious miscommunication, nothing related to the work at least!
The short work day of just five hours allows plenty of time to enjoy the city of Mazatlán, where the project is based. It has beautiful beaches and weather to match, as well as food offerings that I’ll miss greatly! The people are friendly and if you’re someone who enjoys the night life (responsibly of course) Mazatlán will more than happily show you a good time.
If you’re as fortunate as I was to be hosted by Dora then you’ll be made to feel totally at home from the moment you arrive. Her place is in an excellent part of the city, meaning most points of interest are within walking distance, although if you’re feeling particularly lazy the public transport is very cheap and easy.
It’s with a heavy heart that I leave Mazatlán, but I know that I’ll always treasure my memories of this “place of deer”. Thanks Outreach!