A Travellerspoint blog

Day 31- Computer Tutoring


One of our June-July volunteers has been keeping a blog about his experience in our computer tutoring program at Casa HOY. He reminds us that even if you plan out activities (or don't) ;) that [b]things don't usually goes as planned in Mexico

"31 days, that’s a full month. More than a month now as I write this on Thursday. It’s going by so fast, I still have so much to do and see and eat.

Monday, from what I can remember, started with me waking up and eating breakfast, as usual. Then I took my morning shower, sat around for a little bit, then left for work. Not too much happened at work in the morning, I helped Aaron do his English translations(he’s the boy that when he speaks slowly for me he sounds like he’s in the Mafia). So that was fun working with him. Then I watched kids play video games, and played some myself because they wanted to see me beat this one game that nobody could beat. I beat it.

After work, I came back to CCIDD, ate lunch, then Indi and I had to go to Salvation Army for afternoon placement. I was a bad volunteer and didn’t make a lesson plan before hand, so on the walk there we discussed what we would do. Of course, none of it really mattered cause when we got there the internet was out, the older kids were doing laundry, and half of the little kids were just missing. So Indi gave a fun English lesson for the kids, which went amazingly well considering how they were all bummed they couldn’t be on the computers. Then We got them on the computers to draw the alphabet on Microsoft paint, then do calculations on the virtual calculator to learn English numbers. Then the older girls came and the kids started losing focus, so we took them outside to play some soccer and then Bibi, the tendiente, got a baseball game going. All in all it was one of the better days at the Salvation Army.

Upon arrival back at CCIDD we made it just in time for dinner, and Hannah was back again. So we went to the chocolate banana place because that’s what we do every night Hannah is around. There were no chocolate bananas though. We then walked around the center a bit, I got everyone lost in the market again, and tried to order a smoothie but instead got a cup of yogurt with pineapple and mango in it. Nothing new. Flo and I bought toys from a child in the Zocalo, and tried to figure out how they worked back at CCIDD. The light on Flo’s didn’t work, and I lost my rubber band after the first attempt at launching it. The cat enjoyed them very much though, so they weren’t a complete waste."

Read more of his blog here: Volunteer Blog

Posted by UnMejorHOY 09:49 Archived in Mexico Tagged children mexico language international computer community alternative cuernavaca casa_hoy participatory ivhq intercambio alternative_travel participatory_travel english_teaching hoy computer_turoing Comments (0)

What is an "intercambio" at Casa HOY?


For many people in the Spanish speaking study abroad world, “intercambio” means a semester abroad in another country. Literally, the word means “exchange or swap.” For us here at Casa HOY, we use the term “intercambio” as a cultural exchange- a chance to meet and spent quality time with someone from another country or culture.

Part of HOY philosophy lies in the belief that travel opens your eyes to new possibilities, experiences and ideas. We believe that travel is a force that can, in very little time, inspire you, challenge you and change you. Our job at Casa HOY is to link you to the community- to involve you in aspects of the community that you cannot usually experience as a tourist. Our “intercambio” program goes hand in hand with the volunteer work you do, giving you a chance to interact with people closer to your own age over a coffee, smoothie or drinks.

Your “intercambio” can have a language focus, spending half an hour in English, half an hour in Spanish, or a cultural focus, speaking in whatever language you feel comfortable in. Be prepared with some conversational topics for your “intercambio.” Although we have our Mexican participants listed with their English language ability, that doesn’t cover shyness, accent differences or first time jitters. Good topics include: education, food, music, places to visit, holidays, family, hobbies, sports, movies, technology, language, etc. Remember that communication is a two way street. Don’t be shy!

Places to go for your “intercambio.” The best place for a first time meeting is one of four popular cafes downtown: La Punta del Cielo, my favorite, for coffee, next to the Farmacia del Ahorro, across from the Plazuela bars and on the same street as the Cathedral; Café Alondra, in front of the cathedral, exotic smoothies and traditional Mexican food; Café El Gringo, on a street perpendicular to the Cathedral, one street down from Morelos, same offerings as Alondra; Bon’s Café, on Comonfort, perpendicular to the Cathedral, yummy salads and sandwiches.

Our latest “intercambio” matches have formed immediate friendships, and created the opportunity for traveling around other places besides Morelos. Through “intercambio” you might make a friend that will invite you to their house for dinner, to a party with close friends, or even to a wedding!

Posted by UnMejorHOY 18:21 Archived in Mexico Tagged parties food travel mexico spanish volunteering de reyes international traditions community cultural volunteer teaching typical casa alternative voluntourism casa_hoy participatory ivhq rosca convivio travel_in_morelos alternative_travel participatory_travel english_teaching Comments (0)

Salsa Dancing with Casa HOY


In college, my fellow Spanish majors and I would get dressed up-ish and step on toes in Latin clubs around the Triad area, just excited to practice our Spanish. I would shake my hips 100 miles an hour, thinking that I was on my way to being the next Shakira, not realizing that I really did look like an idiot. Oh blissful ignorance.

Now I know better, but I still can’t dance. Luckily most other foreigners can’t either, so at Casa HOY we decided to do a salsa class for our new group of July volunteers and other HOY staff. Seasoned salsa dance instructor, Edgar, helped organized us into three lines and got us started on the basic steps to survive a night of salsa dancing. Apparently there are 8 steps to the salsa rhythm, not 4 as I originally thought. Like a patient drill instructor, Edgar got our feet moving- 1, 2, 3 (pause for 4), 5, 6, 7 (pause for 8).

Each line of people had to switch from front to back every few moves so that no one could hide out in the back. Very good technique. Dancing in a group of other two-left-footed foreigners makes you feel a lot better about your (lack of) abilities. We learned the basic steps, front and back, left and right, as well as the basic turn to the left and right. Some volunteers had already taken salsa lessons, so they were able to catch on faster. And as always, girls outnumbered the guys, which always left a few of us standing around trying to learn the girls’ part with our air partners.

But in the end we were able to pull off a full song, with sexy spins and minimal toe stomping. Everyone enjoyed the chance to learn something new; and they promptly went out later that week to Los Arcos, the bar downtown, to show off their moves.

Check out this Coldplay favorite gone salsa to practice your own moves: Coldplay Clocks

Posted by UnMejorHOY 12:01 Archived in Mexico Tagged travel music volunteering salsa latin casa alternative hoy rhythms Comments (0)

Teaching English at CAM

CAM is a project that Casa HOY has been visiting for more than 5 years now. We’ve seen the change of directors, locations, Mommies and of course, tons and tons of adolescents and tweens. The situation at CAM is usually intense, with lots of big personalities and power relationships. Hormones and adrenaline run high, and as a volunteer it’s the most rewarding roller coaster ride.

On Tuesday I took two volunteers, from England and Canada, to meet the kids at CAM. They’ll be working there for two weeks, eating with them, teaching English and playing games. As I reminded the volunteers, Mexico never runs on time and CAM is all of the disorganization of Mexico times 10. Just an hour before we arrived, the schedule was changed and plans were made for the kids to participate in another activity. So we were left waiting while teens pushed around and cut in line to brush their teeth and go to the bathroom, and lots of Mommies and supervisors had heated discussions about what was on the agenda for the day. It gave me time to explain the living situation at CAM, do’s and don’ts and what to plan for their English classes.

Someone finally located a key to our classroom, where we found ourselves notebook and pencil-less, with 6 semi-eager, semi-reluctant girls. Ice-breakers are key to making connections, and we played several name games, two truths and a lie and the human knot game. Once I had asked everyone to repeat their name 100x (literally- I’m horrible with names), we started a casual conversation about where the volunteers were from, holidays and introductions. Most of the class was spent in Spanish, although towards the end we tried to do it only in English.

Volunteers come with varying levels of Spanish, and as an English teacher, in my opinion, it’s best to follow the idea of immersion: all English. The kids at CAM know some words and phrases, but it’ll make things easier for you as a volunteer to just speak and write in English. You can do some translating, but using your hands, writing things down and lots of repetition are the best ways to get kids into English mode. What the teens at CAM want most is to learn how to speak. (One girl even said she didn’t want to learn verbs, just how to talk…haha. I want to see how that’s going to happen). Check out this post on tips for English teaching: Teaching English Tips

Although Casa HOY volunteers are just getting into the rhythm of things, they’ve gathered supplies and gotten together more worksheets on “my favorite things,” countries and geography. They’re eager to teach through games, dance, song and hands-on activities. I’m calling these two volunteers my “poster children” because they are perfectly dressed- professional looking, and well prepared. You don’t want to stare down a group of 20 teenagers empty handed, and these two are definitely starting off on the right foot.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 11:31 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico english volunteering teaching alternative_travel teenagers participatory_travel english_teaching tips_for_teaching_english Comments (0)

All Hail the Chief

A noble statue for Mexico's last tlatoani, Cuauhtemoc

One thing about coming to Mexico as a voluntourist at Casa HOY is you never know what you’ll discover about Cuernavaca itself or Mexico, for that matter. The towns and cities are all a study in contrasts. In Cuernavaca, the first thing you see as you enter the city by bus is a long avenue with a center island of plantings, grass (very green it is, too), walkways and interesting arrangements of volcanic rock and small fountains all along its length. The landscaping makes an appropriate introduction of the HOY volunteer to Cuernavaca, the city of eternal spring—and your temporary headquarters while experiencing life up close and personal through your volunteer work in Mexico. After all, that’s the purpose of voluntourism.

You might even notice various statues you pass along your way through the city. But one you will not see as you come into Cuernavaca is a statue that pays homage to the last emperor of the Aztecs, Cuauhtémoc. Like the last of many things, his story is not a happy one. In the face of Cortes’s forces, he was abandoned by allies, captured and tortured by the Spanish. Initially offered amnesty by the European invaders, he turned it aside in the belief that there could be no peace between his people and the Spanish. Cortes persisted in his offers of amnesty to Cuauhtémoc but was as persistently rebuffed. In one of his attempts to lure Cuauhtémoc into submission, Cortes had laid out an elaborate banquet for the Aztec emperor in the central plaza of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). Instead, the emperor sent an emissary to inform Cortes that he and his warriors had irrevocably determined to fight to the end. Cortes unloosed his men and their formidable indigenous allies, the Tlaxcalans, on the remnants of the Aztec warriors with terrible results to both civilians and warriors, many of whom drowned in Lake Texcoco while trying to flee along the causeways leading from Tenochtitlan and away from the attacking Spanish, that is, if they hadn’t already died from starvation and European diseases. Cuauhtémoc was eventually captured in a canoe on the lake and tortured but could not be forced to submit. Cuauhtémoc was executed by Cortes in Honduras on a trumped-up charge of plotting a rebellion against the Spanish.


As was true of his life, even the great tlatoani’s statue has not had a settled existence. It stood at an old entrance to Cuernavaca near the now-abandoned railroad station, in front of a large, curved stone wall that perhaps was meant to set off the statue, yet both were made of similarly colored stone and Cuauhtémoc tended to blend into his background. Then he suddenly disappeared from that site, finally reappearing in a greener setting at an intersection on Avenida Teopanzolco.

Cuauhtémoc is memorialized in other statues scattered about Mexico, most of which make him look a bit like a Roman senator or general with a determined set to his face. Cuernavaca’s Cuauhtémoc looks equally determined but more indigenous. From his present location he looks down the avenue toward the remains of the temple Teopanzolco, at the foot of the long hill. If you happen to see Cuauhtémoc, take a good look. Part of the story of Mexico and its people is sculpted into his face. Another impression of Mexico to carry home along with some Spanish and memories of finding new friends of all ages as a volunteer at Casa HOY.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 08:43 Archived in Mexico Tagged statues mexico indigenous voluntourism cuernavaca casa_hoy alternative_travel cuauhtemoc tenochtitlan Comments (0)

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