Post Tagged with "interviews"

Learning as much as Teaching: A Canadian in Mexico.

Let me introduce you to a woman with true itchy feet (a need to travel). While she has previously changed careers to allow living in a new place, she has now found a job that makes travel not just possible, but practically necessary. Maggie is a Canadian with a deep love for her mother’s British heritage. She’s worked for the past few years as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. As of this week, she lives in Pachuca, Mexico. And I, personally, know just how itchy her feet are, for she is my mother and that need to see the world for one’s self was passed down!



Let’s start by finding out where you have lived before.

I lived most of my life in Canada: I grew up in Southwestern Ontario and moved to British Columbia as a young adult. After raising my children, I moved to the Yukon. I have also lived in Russia (4 months) and Mexico (18 months to date).


What made you choose the Yukon? …. Mexico?
My move to the Yukon was, for lack of a better explanation, a whim. I had always wanted to visit the far north but knew that a short visit would not suffice so made the decision to move there for one year to ‘check it out’. That year lead to an eight year residence — with a few absences. I was captivated by the lifestyle, the sense of community, the vast wild expanses, and even the weather.
My move to Mexico was precipitated by my desire to teach English as a Foreign Language. I had done one short stint in Russia and had decided that this was to be my life. Having visited Mexico once in the past, I knew that it was a culture and a country about which I wanted to learn much more.My first teaching position was in San Luis Potosí, SLP – a beautiful, colonial city with plenty of green spaces to spend a relaxing afternoon in. The plazas came alive at night and I was regularly entertained by clowns, an orchestra having its weekly rehearsal, Aztec dancers, break dancers, and the general hustle and bustle of the inhabitants.
I currently work in both Pachuca and Tulancingo in the state of Hidalgo. One of the pleasant surprises for me was the fact that Hidalgo, with its mining history, has adopted the popular fare of the Cornish miners who came here to work in the past. Cornish Pasties have been given a Mexican flavour and are as easy to find as fries and gravy are in Canada.

I have enjoyed exploring the region and still have much to see. The Prismas Basálticos (Basalt Prisms) are a particular favourite of mine and I have been to see them twice.


What drew you to teaching ESL?

I chose ESL as a career fairly late in life. I have always wanted to travel but knew that my dream of doing so would remain just that unless I found a way to earn a living. ESL provides me that living. While I will never get rich doing this work, I am able to settle in a country (or a region of a country) for a given amount of time and be immersed into its culture and language. I learn as much as I teach while I perform my daily tasks of shopping for food, dropping clothes at the local laundry service, renting hotel rooms in towns I visit, ordering meals in restaurants, and arranging travel by bus. I consider the life I lead to be rich, indeed.


Tell me the hardest part about living abroad.

The obvious and easy answer to this is that I miss my family and friends back home.

The answer aside from that is that there is a language and cultural barrier. I am studying and able to understand and to speak more and more of the language here but still feel the frustration of not being able to communicate with most people in a meaningful way. Adapting to the culture of another country can also be trying. It is easy and tempting to say, “In Canada we would just do it this way”, but I have to remember that I am a guest here and that they have their own ways that work for them. If I want to be a member of the community here, I must adopt the ways of the country in which I have chosen to live.


Describe your daily life as a ESL teacher in Mexico.

Because the company for which I work has schools in both Tulancingo and Pachuca, a commute is a big part of my day at present. This week I am scheduled to work in Pachuca each day. I rise at 6 am and am on a combi (local bus) by just after 7. During the trip (one hour) I either work on lesson plans, or – more often – enjoy an episode of The Big Bang Theory on my laptop.

My morning in Pachuca starts with a visit to the near-by Starbucks – one of the very few places here to get a cup of tea. I continue on to the school where my work day begins. My first class is at 9:00, 9:30, or 9:45 – depending on the day - and can be a class of beginners, intermediate or advanced adult students. My co-workers (American and British) and I are rotated amongst the classes to allow our students to hear varied accents, benefit from assorted teaching methods, and learn about different cultures while they learn English.

I have a long break between morning and afternoon classes – often 5-6 hours - during which I develop curriculum, plan lessons, take a long lunch break to catch up on my recreational reading and correspondence, and enjoy the sunshine. I will be moving to Pachuca within the next couple of weeks and will then be able to spend some time at home relaxing between classes – unless I have to commute to Tulancingo!

My first afternoon class is a children’s class. This is followed by an early evening class (or two) of adults. My day ends at 7:00 or 8:30 pm when I start the commute back home. Dinner is often a paste (pastie), eaten on the bus.

There are two mornings per week when I have a Spanish class in Pachuca (delivered by one of my students). I have just started my lessons here and hope to become more able to communicate soon.

Friday and Sunday are my days off. My Saturdays are free after 1pm so I still have lots of time to wind down and/or have a weekend adventure.


What have you learned about yourself, your values, and your priorities while living abroad?

One thing I have learned is how strongly I feel about being Canadian. I love to share my culture, my stories and my photos of my country with my students. I appreciate more, those things we might take for granted in Canada — Universal Healthcare, Employment Insurance, Programs for Seniors, Women’s Programs, and Social Nets for those who might need them.

My family has always been my mainstay and is more so since I have chosen to live in other places. They are my anchor in this great big world and a constant reminder of where I come from and what that means.


What has been the most vastly different thing you have adjusted to? 

In Russia, I was unable to adapt to one particular cultural norm. I am used to walking along the street and smiling at, nodding to, or greeting those I pass. In Russia, smiling and greeting is reserved for friends and family and neither is considered normal behaviour on the street. I am afraid that I could just not help myself and was on the receiving end of many strange looks in Russia.

On the practical front, I am also used to having the right of way as a pedestrian. This is not the case in Mexico – nor was it in Russia. I have had to adjust my thinking and my behaviour when I am out and about on the city streets.


Do you have a different or more defined idea of what it means to be Canadian?

Being Canadian means being a member of a multi-cultural society. Here in Mexico, I see very few people who are not Mexican. While I am enjoying the culture here, it is a little disconcerting to be exposed daily to only one.


And last, as you are a dreamer, where do you want to go next?

There are many places still on my list. I have yet to explore Europe. I would also like to go further south and spend some time in Central & South America.

There is also a lot of the United Kingdom left to visit. The most pressing would be Europe.


Read more

Aisha Ashraf, a British expat in Canada

Secrets of an intercultural supermom

Gabriela: Born in Pakistan, raised Dutch and French, now living in Canada

February 14, 2013 2 comments

Rebecca Caro, a Denver native in love with Argentinean food and culture

I met Rebecca Caro (in cyberspace, not in person yet) when we took part in a group post about Argentinean alfajores organised by a common blogger friend.

I immediately checked out her blog, From Argentina with Love, and was pleasantly surprised. A free-lance food and travel writer, Rebecca is passionate about food and her passion is contagious. Her collection of Argentinean recipes is mouth-watering: short ribs and chimichurri, empanadas, carbonada. You name, she’s got it. I urge our readers to try at least one recipe!



July 21, 2011 4 comments

How to Become A Cultural Insider: Remain a Learner

Ron is an American who has been living abroad for over 25 years, currently in Northern India. Ron’s blog, Culture Happens, focuses on helping people to become “cultural insiders”. In Ron’s many experiences living in different cultures, he has observed that although expats moving to another country start out wanting to connect, they often become disillusioned along the way and wind up as “cultural outsiders”. In this interview with Ron, we explore a bit more what a “cultural insider” is, why this distinction is so important and Ron’s advice for those moving to a new culture.


July 7, 2011 2 comments

How to Overcome your Shyness

Getutza lives in Campulung Moldovenesc, a small, calm town in a mountain region of Romania. She is a timid person who has discovered that blogging can help her overcome her shyness. Here is her story:

Hello Getutza, thank you for accepting to give this interview to Pocket Cultures. What can you tell our readers about you?

I‘m 48 years old. Some time ago I was pensioned for medical reasons, after I had been working as a chemical operator in the lab of a geological prospecting plant. At present, I live alone in Campulung Moldovenesc. My parents passed away and my brother is living in another town.

Getutza in the Ciprian Porumbescu museum


August 12, 2010 11 comments

A slower pace of life

Sash Milne has achieved something which remains a dream for many – her job as a screenwriter allows her to work from anywhere in the world. She currently lives in Batu Karas, a remote village in Indonesia, and her blog Barefoot Ink is all about slowing down to the pace of life over there, with some travel stories as well.

We asked Sash some questions about life in Indonesia.

How did you end up in Indonesia? And why Batu Karas?

I ended up in Indonesia because I was feeling trapped and a bit uninspired living in a big city in Australia. A friend of mine got a job in Batu Karas and asked me if I’d be interested in moving there with her.

Batu Karas is a tiny village on the south coast of Java – it’s extremely remote; no supermarkets, no shopping, no movie theatres within 8 hours of the village – it sounded perfect. I made my decision quickly and within a few weeks I had packed up my life and boarded a plane to the island. I’d never been to Indonesia before in my life, and it is the best decision I have EVER made!

What’s the biggest difference compared to life in Australia?

The biggest difference in terms of my lifestyle is the speed at which life travels. Life is slow and relaxed in the village whereas in Melbourne life was fast paced and I was forever rushing to get from one event/job/meeting to another. Now, there is nothing to rush for, life goes at a relaxed pace and every day achieving one thing is a massive event – there is little to do so it took a few months to really slow my brain down, but now, I wouldn’t have it any other day. It’s exhausting doing nothing!

Could you describe a typical day?

My typical day starts with a hot cup of tea on the beach around 6.45am accompanied by good conversation and a cigarette with some local friends. Then, depending on the surf we go in the water or I go home to do some work. Around 10 I meet friends for breakfast of eggs or noodles and then it’s time for the beach. In the heat of the afternoon I work (write) under the fan in my bedroom until low tide, which is when I get my longboard and head out into the surf to cap of the end of the day. The evening involves chess, delicious food and bonfires with good friends.

What language do you use to communicate?

We use a combination of Indonesian and English every day. Some of the locals speak very good English (the younger generation) but are very encouraging when you try to speak their language. The villagers communicate with their local language (Sundanese) on a day to day basis – but it is an extremely complicated language and I just can’t seem to get a grasp on it!

Is it difficult to blog from there? Do you have any problems with internet access, electricity…?

It’s not too hard to blog from Batu Karas, I have an internet connection at my home which is very slow, so uploading photos takes some time. It’s all about patience, the electricity goes off often and the internet often struggles – but when you’ve slowed down to a snails pace that’s never much of a worry!

What about the culture and religion?

I love that the village where I live has such a different culture and religion to where I come from. It is something to be celebrated and I feel extremely lucky to have been welcomed so whole heartedly by friends who are very willing to answer any of my questions about their religion, culture and customs so that I can grow to understand what they believe and what it is that is the foundation for their lives.

Intrigued about life in Batu Karas? Check out Sash’s day in pictures, explorations of the surrounding villages or this post on a rare newspaper and a Javanese theatre artist.

All photos in this post courtesy of Sash Milne.

Read more:
Photo tour of West Sumatra, Indonesia
More blogs from Indonesia on Blogs of the World
An Indonesian wedding with a difference

May 27, 2010 2 comments

Interview with Boimah JV Boimah

This is the third in our series of interviews with Liberian bloggers from Ceasefire Liberia blog. Read the full set of interviews here.

Today we are talking to Boimah J.V. Boimah, a Liberian journalist.

Where do you live and what do you do when you aren’t blogging?

I am Boimah J.V. Boimah, a Journalist working with the New Democrat Newspaper as a Reporter and the CeaseFireLiberia as a Chief Blogger. I live in Monrovia, Liberia. I go out in search of stories that are of interest to our listening, reading and viewing public.

Could you tell us something about daily life in Liberia?

Daily life in Liberia, I mean Africa’s oldest republic, is difficult as most families here hardly afford a full meal per day. Reportage about corruption in government is high while many rely on hard labor to make a living as unemployment in the formal sector remains high also.

Our staple food here is rice but most families eat other food like cassava, potatoes etc to complement their food desire.

What do locals think about Charles Taylor and other members of the former government? (this question came from one of our readers on Twitter)

Locals here look at Charles Taylor as a tyrant and the man who orchestrated the destruction of this country and many others in the sub-region. To be just enough only those still loyal to former president Taylor talk good of him.

Do you ever feel personally threatened in Liberia these days? Where do the threats come from?

Yes I have receives a series of threats in recent times from government officials who take displeasure in my journalism works. Recently, I was severely beaten by some group of court officials including jurors for taking a photograph while on duty.

What do you like to do when you have some free time?

All I like doing when I am less busy is to read, eat and rest. Sincerely speaking doing things like too much of socialising here as journalist may be a risk.

What’s important to you?

All that is important to me is my Journalism work.

Read more:
Liberian government promotes investment in Liberia
The full series of interviews with Liberian bloggers

April 9, 2010 Comments disabled