English class

Broken noses, the “Xpujil effect” and more

Calakmul ruins.

It’s incredible how much can your perception of the place you’re living at change in a relatively short time. As described before, Xpujil is one of these places where you need to work your way towards liking it. It doesn’t come automatically. Part of the young people working there either in some of the environmental organizations or at the university actually consider it only a “half-home” as they live between Xpujil and other places. Also, after staying for a while you notice what we call “The Xpujil Effect”, which means feeling overly excited when visiting other places, that are somehow different, beautiful or interesting. Xpujil brings you towards appreciation. That’s where my inflection point began. First you appreciate, that you re-learn to appreciate. Then people get used to you and you get used to them. Nobody dares to scream “guerita” anymore. You learn to say “hi” anytime you walk into a store, taquería or to the people on the street, when your looks accidentally cross. You can’t behave as if you were anonymous anymore.

The adults class.

One of the hyperactive moments.

When it comes to the progress of the volunteering, many ups and downs happened over the past weeks. Even though volunteers are commonly motivated by good ideas such as to help, to share, to learn, it’s dangerous to have expectations, that are more big, than realistic. My expectations were big and my motivations maybe way too noble. That was a perfect combination, that shortly led to a disappointment and feeling of impotence. Even though I was trying to do my best, go to schools, talk with people on the street, and let everyone know about the possibility of receiving English classes, almost nobody new showed up. In that point I started asking myself what meaning does this all have. As if there was this magic formula to understand how things work and I still wasn’t getting it. When sharing this experience with others, the response, that I would be getting was: time and patience. Little bit frustrating. Somehow I realized, that the volunteering is probably just a part of the experience and maybe I can try to learn some other new things, when surrounded by so many beautiful communities and initiatives.

Learning how to do candles out of orange peel in Mancolona.

Ironically, just in the moment when I decided to participate in other projects, new students started appearing. Then we had the “problem” of finding an appropriate group for everyone. Nevertheless, even though it’s nice to have more students now in my classes, I definitely learned that it’s not about the quantity. Even though it sounds like such a cliché, it’s so truth. If you manage to get at least few students excited for learning the language and widening their horizons it’s worth it. So it’s definitely about the little things.

What you can see when passing by Germina.

Teaching isn’t easy. There’s no right way of doing it. I believe more in a unique dynamics that happen in every class and in understanding the vibe of each group of students. Personally I realized, that it’s more about me adapting to the students, than them adapting to what I want. It’s not about imposing what should be done, but more about dialogue about what we can do together. And as my hands are not tied by any educational system (and that’s actually quite a luxury!), it’s possible to do it this way. This would be the theory and the lessons I’ve learned. Nevertheless, the practice can be pretty frustrating sometimes. Especially in the “blackout” moments, when it looks like after weeks of learning, all the knowledge has just evaporated. Then we have to understand and practice all over again. But when one leaves the pressure of “idyllic progress” aside and opens the door for patience and little steps, everything flows better.

Running into toucans is quite normal in the Calakmul jungle.

Now I am traveling through the Central America as it’s Christmas/vacation time and I must say that even though I obviously enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people, at the same time, I am really missing Germina, Xpujil and all my students and new friends I’ve made. It took just month and half and I am already in love with the place and it’s people. It’s quite a paradox, the more difficult it felt in the beginning, more affinity I feel to Xpujil now.

Katerina Pavelova

January 12th, 2017 View Profile

Calakmul, Campeche, autumn, winter 2016/2017