For one week, I live with Raul and Lucila in Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. It’s a progressive small town of close to 40,000 about an hour bus ride south of Mexico City. My day begins by waking up to the ‘gallos’ – roosters – that live across the street. Depending on what’s going on, the dogs might also be barking or fighting. Most people have dogs as ‘mascotas’ or pets, but a few have them as guard dogs. There are many that are strays. The family, Gabe (another of the volunteers and I) take turns taking showers in the morning. Quickly because water shouldn’t be wasted. If the cistern on the roof runs out, we’ll have to turn the pump on to refill it.
After getting ready, we go down to breakfast which is a family affair. It’s always a hot breakfast and usually quite substantial as well as it often must last until ‘la comida’ at 2 or 3 in the afternoon which is the biggest meal of the day. Then it’s off to Spanish class for the rest of the morning. We walk down the narrow cobblestone street flowing with dirty water from last night’s rain, car and truck exhaust everywhere. Our family stays home – Lucila is a housewife and Raul used to work but doesn’t after his stroke. Luz Maria, their daughter is a dentist who has an office attached to the house as well as in Cuernavaca.
After class, we have been visiting one anothers’ sites in and around Tepotzlan. Sometimes we can walk there but other times we take the bus. It’s nice to be around each other and have a break from speaking Spanish.
When we return at the end of the day, we spend time with the family, conversing in broken Spanish the best we can. We talk about Mexico, the culture, the food, Tepotzlan, what each other did that day. Lucila will want to know if everything went well, it we have homework, and if she needs to make us a packed lunch the next day. When ‘la cena’ is over at 8 or 9 the day is mostly over. Food is cleaned up and the TV comes on. We watch the news, a sitcom, or a ‘telenovela’ – a soap opera. Occasionally we’ll watch a U.S. show that has been dubbed – Ace of Cakes is on frequently.
Around 10 or so, we head to bed. You can brush your teeth with the tap water if you choose or use bottled water to be extra safe. There’s a bug repeller plugged in to the wall in our room but just to be sure, it’s a good idea to check your bed before crawling in for spiders, cockroaches, or ‘un alacran’ – a scorpion. None of those will kill you but it’s not an encounter you look forward to having either. Don’t forget to check your shoes in the morning either. Falling asleep is the same as getting up – dogs, crickets, cars driving by. But the bed is comfortable and soon enough you fall asleep.