Volunteer stories : Natasha Evans - Conservation & Spanish in Mexico High School Special
When looking for something with just that little bit extra to do this summer Projects Abroad looked like the perfect organisation to arrange this! There were plenty of options and the two week special suited me perfectly.
Why I chose Mexico
Mexico was the best choice for me when looking at the different two week projects that were available. It had everything I could ever and would ever want in a two week volunteer project – an exotic destination, a new and different culture I could immerse myself in, a different language that I would be looking at and learning, and the most important thing for me, incredible wildlife! It was the fact that I was going to be working with turtles that really sold the whole project for me.
On my way to the airport all I could think about was, is everyone going to be nice? What if they don’t like me? What happens if I get lost? But I didn’t need to at all! Once meeting some of the people on the same course just before we got on the plane I was completely at ease – everyone was just as excited as me and we all seemed to get along really well which was a complete relief.
The plane journey was, well, long. And after stopping off in Dallas airport I’m sure we were all relieved to have arrived in Guadalajara and be shown to the hotel where we could go to sleep. Lucky for me jet lag didn’t seem to be too much of a problem and after a great night’s sleep I was ready to go and see where I would be staying for the next 2 weeks.
The Conservation Project
After a long and slightly tight journey in the minibus it we had arrived. The camp was amazing! It was right on the beach with an incredible view of the sea – I really couldn’t believe I was there. I was staying in a dorm with some of the other girls on the course and as we all set up our mosquito nets and sleeping mats we made ourselves at home. Something that I hadn’t really expected was the saltwater showers but I found that the salt water was really refreshing after the hot sun. It also made me really appreciate the showers back home!
On my first morning at the camp I woke up and was asked to bury the turtle eggs from the night before on patrol. The nests had to be very specific and it took me a while to dig my first one but soon I was counting the eggs in and burying them up. The eggs are definitely not what I had expected, they have a shell but are soft and can move which I found really strange especially when I was told that I had to make sure that the sand on top of the nest was punched down!
I was sure that the eggs would break, or that the baby turtles would never reach the surface. But sure enough they did, and over the next couple of days I saw my first baby turtle. It was the cutest thing I think I have ever seen! They are tiny and look so out of place as they make a break towards the sea when they are released that I just wanted to take them away with me and protect them. Seeing them as they go out to sea is something that will stay with me forever, the most incredible time was when, on my last day, we were able to release them – it was the perfect send off!
Learning Spanish in Mexico
I had the opportunity to learn Spanish, and in the beginner group, and made great progress over the two weeks, from not being able to understand anyone, to being able to nearly hold up a basic conversation by the end of the two weeks. The Spanish lessons were a great way to space out the day, with lessons in the morning and then activities in the afternoon.
There was so much to do at the camp with all of the different activities including painting and construction back at camp (don’t worry it wasn’t like anything major just bits and pieces), work in the mangroves, a beach clean, helping at the crocodile centre, being part of a bird survey on the lagoon, moving camera trap or one of the other activities that made up the two weeks in Mexico. And with all of this to do I was kept very busy.
Working at Night
Going out on patrol at night is amazing. You sit there on the back of the quad bike in the dark and search for the turtles. It is really something else, as I was riding along the beach on my first patrol and I suddenly saw a turtle, she was so incredible as she laid her eggs and then did the ‘dance’ to make sure the sand was tightly packed over them. It is something that I will never forget.
The people at camp with me were great and completely immersing myself in the camp made it feel like home after only a few short days!
The two weeks away were two of the best ever and it went way too quickly. I met so many amazing people who I will hope to keep in touch with, people from all over the world. I had so much to tell everyone back home – the crocodiles, the turtles, which I still cannot get over almost two months later, the camp and the amazing people.
My favourite part had to be either going out on patrol at night or releasing the baby turtles. It almost seemed a dream and once I was home all I had to remind me that I actually was in Mexico was the sand in my suitcase, the pictures, the tan and the amazing memories. I would do another project like that in a heartbeat!
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