Cake Fights and Teaching Accomplishments

By Matt Austin

June 25, 2012

Everything is still going well here in Trancas!  Last night, we returned from a 1 ½ day trip to San Miguel.  Alejandro, a college student from Mexico City who is teaching math in Trancas, was kind enough to let us stay in his condo in San Miguel.

It was awesome to see the city, and on Sunday, we got to meet up with the El Gusano group.  We also went to a market and bought gifts for friends and family.  Since we had been deprived from greasy, American fast food for so long, one of the highlights of the trip for Tim and I was getting a McDonalds Big Mac, French fries, Coke, and a McFlurry.  It was delicious, but I don’t think McDonalds is quite as good as the tortas that my housemother makes.  Tortas are definitely one of my favorite foods now.

At the beginning of last week, Tim and I were invited to go to his housemother’s cousin’s birthday party.  The party was at a restaurant that is about thirty minutes away between Trancas and Guanajuato.  It is located off the side of a mountain road, and the restaurant owner told us that you can see the lights of Trancas from the back porch of the restaurant at night.  We got to meet Luis (the cousin who had just turned 20), and all of his friends who attend the university in Guanajuato.  It was great to hang out with all of them and they were extremely welcoming to Tim and I.  After, eating a delicious meal, they brought out a cake.  Everyone kept telling Luis to put his face in the cake and take a bite (I am pretty sure this is a Mexican tradition for birthdays).  He did it once, but I guess they didn’t think his face was covered enough with icing, so his girlfriend smashed cake in his face.  Everyone in the restaurant was cracking up and then a cake fight began with 4 or 5 people.  After the fight was over, everyone sat down to talk more, and then we headed back to Trancas.

Teaching is still going really well!  Michelle and I are still teaching the “intermediate” group in the Secundaria.  Many of the students in this group knew less than half of the answers on the initial English evaluations that we gave.  However, last week we tested our students, and no one scored less than a 7 out of 10.  A lot of the material on the test was the same as the material that was on the evaluation, so we were very happy to see improvement.  I have loved seeing the kids’ excitement about learning and all the improvements they have made.  For example, Daniel, one of my house brother’s friends, comes to take care of the sheep with us everyday.  There have been a few days that he has brought his Spanish/English dictionary and notebook with him to study.  I hope that we can encourage him and others to continue studying on their own even after we have returned to the United States.

One of my favorite classes to teach is the 1st and 2nd grade class.  They are always really excited to have us there, but sometimes it’s very hard to keep their attention.  We usually use the first half of the class to teach new material, and then the second part of the class for an activity to keep them interested.  For example, the day we taught colors, we played a game outside where we would say a color, and they had to run to something that was that color.  When we said blue, they all jumped on Michelle because she was wearing a blue shirt, which was hilarious.

I am still having a great experience here in Mexico.  I feel like my Spanish has improved greatly and I am much more confident with my speaking.  The other night, my house brother, Juan, and I were laughing about the first day I spent in Trancas and how I could hardly understand anything he said.  Now, he and I can converse with a few misunderstandings here and there.  I am looking forward to the last two weeks we have in Trancas, but I am already dreading saying goodbye to all the awesome people I have met here!

About the author:

Matt Austin is a senior Economics and Global Studies major at UNC Chapel Hill from Charlotte, NC. This summer he is working with Project Guanajuato, an internship program of the Latino Migration Project and the Fundacion Comunitaria del Bajio in Guanajuato, Mexico. This is his first time in Guanajuato and he is looking forward to sharpening his Spanish skills, teaching English classes in local schools, and building relationships with the people of Trancas, a rural community near the city of Dolores Hidalgo.



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