Article Posted in Wander.Media on Cultural Differences in Mexico

Hi everyone! Here is an article I posted some time back on Wander.Media. It talks about some new things you might see when visiting Mexico. For most people, it will be a culture shock. They don’t always have flush-able toilets, the police move around with guns ready to shoot, and there are still class systems. The article is great for giving you a heads up before you head over for a wonderful vacation!

9 Cultural Differences You’ll Notice When Visiting Mexico

Dancing the Ceilidh

When in Scotland you have to try dancing the Ceilidh. It’s a traditional Scottish folk dance where you swing your partners around and dance up and down the hall. There’s hardly a moment you’re still.

Many of the guys dress in Scottish kilts with a baggy t-shirt or go all out with a fancy thick long sleeve. People will find all sorts of people at these dance halls. There’s always a band at the front. They are lively and play some of the more popular tunes of the early 2000’s and earlier with a twist.

Ceilidh Definition from dictionary.com: “a party, gathering, or the like, at which dancing, singing, and storytelling are the usual forms of entertainment.”

History

The Ceilidh has been around since at least 1917 when Donald Mackenzie wrote about the dance as a social gathering for people. There was music, dancing, story telling, and poetry. It was a great way for people in small villages to get together and socialize on a cold night or warm summer’s evening. Most of the time, this was where people met new people, friendships grew, and sometimes even relationships lead to marriages.

The dancing itself is performed either with partners or as a group. They are fast paced and take you all around the dance floor. Most of the music is traditional Scottish tunes, but today they take modern music and put a Scottish twist on it.

Each dance is full of excitement and energy vibrates through the room. New comers often need frequent breaks from the dances to cool down and get a good drink. This is the perfect time to spark up a conversation with new people who will most likely surprise you with the stories they have to tell.

Dance Halls

There are two great places in Edinburgh to check out some Ceilidh dancing: Summer Hall and Assembly Roxy. These places understand there are a lot of new comers and take the time to teach each new dance before swinging fully into the next tune.

I haven’t been to Assembly Roxy, but Summer Hall was great. The dance hall is like entering into a grand-Medieval dance hall. The band is situated on one side and the bar on the other. All the tables are pushed back behind the columns to allow for seating and open up the dance floor. Something to note is that since the building is so old there is no air conditioning, so make sure you wear something breathable and light.

Experience

Stepping into the dance hall was like going back in time. Music blared. Footsteps shook the floor. People laughed. The air was full of energy!

There were people of all ages from 18 to 70. Unlike America, people will ask you to dance left and right. They are very courteous and bold to say the least. Maybe that’s why so many women love Scottish men. One thing to keep in mind is when you are asked to dance say yes most of the time. It’s seen as rude if you say no.

When you get on the dance floor be ready to be tossed into the crowd. You might have a hand or an elbow to the face. Who knows? People are moving around so quickly and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. They don’t care if you get in the way. They’ll keep going no matter what.

If you’re a woman, you will feel like a light gazelle compared to the men. I always thought of myself as a bit bigger but that didn’t matter to them. They were able to lift me off the floor when we spun around. I honestly can’t tell you how long my feet were actually on the ground.

By the end of the night, you will be sweating like crazy. Make sure you wear something light and have a good fan! It’s one of the best workouts. The finale dance is one you can’t miss. It keeps you on your toes and there is continual spinning until you’re dizzy and can’t distinguish your left from right.

 

Dancing the Ceilidh is an experience every traveler should try at least once. It brings you into the Scottish culture. It’s old fashioned, gay (in the sense it’s happy), and will keep you on your toes. The best part is that you can either go with a group of friends or on your own. No matter what, you will be on that dance floor by the end of the night!

Check out this video!

 

 

 

Make the Leap: My First Solo Trip to Europe

I was stuck in a dead end job where I wasn’t going to get switched from temp to permanent employee. The company I was working for continually worked under the table, were lazy with FDA regulations, and many of the people were terrible. How can you honestly make us wear skimpy dresses with high heels to wash medical sets?

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When it seemed there was no end in sight, I decided to start looking for other jobs. I found a website where I could go intern in Scotland and create a travel guide with a group of people. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get into travel writing.

I sent over my information and applied. I got in!

The trip would be 3 weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland. I would fly over, meet one of the employees, and live with people I didn’t know while working on the project.

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The idea of traveling alone didn’t scare me. The thought of living with people I didn’t know worried me. I was nervous about how we would all work together since I had terrible experiences living with others in college.

When it was time to get ready to head to Scotland, my work suddenly came to the epiphany to hire me on full time. I was fortunate to have a boss that loved me and I loved her. She’s been the most inspiring person I’ve met in ages. She worked out a deal with the owner which allowed me to leave for the 3 weeks in Scotland and come back to a job.

I was so relieved. Before, I was going to make my trip my going out tribute.

September came and I boarded the flight to Scotland. Yes, I over packed. I always do, because I like to be over prepared. I was ready for the cold weather and lots of sweaters!

Now a lot of people would be scared to go alone, but I was ready. It was an adrenaline rush for me. It’s one of the few times I felt truly like myself. I was happy.

Arrival in Edinburgh, Scotland

When I landed it took a bit to find the employee that was supposed to guide me to my apartments. I had no cellphone (I refused to pay the international fees), the payphone wasn’t working, and I couldn’t connect to the internet to send an email.

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Eventually, he found me and we boarded the bus and headed into Edinburgh. I still remember signs along the streets saying how wonderful Hillary Clinton was. It’s funny what kind of information they got, because she was anything but wonderful.

The apartment wasn’t ready, so I had to go over to a coffee shop and wait a few hours. I felt like a red dot in the middle of the city. I stood out with my large suitcase, backpack, and roaming around the streets.

I stopped in at a place called Cafe Noir. I got some mocha coffee and a blueberry scone! Oh my gosh, the scone was amazing! I got to working on some travel writing (which I still haven’t published from that time). People stared at me like I was weird. I tried not to pay attention, but it got a bit under my skin.

When I was finally able to get in to the apartment I remember being hit with the smell of Ramen noodles. There must have been some young people living in the place before us. The cleaning crew was supposed to have gone through the apartment, but the beds were still unmade, the floor hadn’t been swept, and it was in slight disarray.

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I set my bags up in the kitchen since I didn’t know the room assignments and got ready to head out. As I was leaving, one of my roommates showed up. She was a young woman from Mexico.

We decided to go out and hit up the town. There was no way we were staying in. I knew if I did I would fall asleep and not wake up. It would be harder to to overcome the jet lag.

 

Exploring New Places

Exploring Edinburgh was amazing. We went up to the castle, tasted whisky, and roamed the streets of the Old Town. It was a sight for sore eyes. I felt calm and adventurous.

Over the next three weeks, there was a lot of work, research, writing, and exploring. A lot of time was spent with the group, but we were also able to go out on our own for our individual projects.

Other people wanted to stay in groups the entire time, but I wanted to go out on my own. Fortunately, a lot of my other roommates were the same. I was thankful, because they understood! It wasn’t them I was staying away from; I just wanted to do my own thing.

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I got to go explore the closes, dark streets, and interesting parts of the city. There was so much to see! Not everyone goes off the beaten path, and they miss the beauty of the city for what it truly is. I wasn’t restricted to what other people wanted to do. I could take my time and do what I wanted. There was no waiting around and wasting time figuring out what to do next. I just went!

There were times I got stuck in the rain and times I sat on a bench in a quiet courtyard writing. It felt like the whole world was at my feet. I remember walking across the North Bridge on my way back from the Old Town. It started to mist and then the rain came pouring. The umbrella was useless. Rain came in sideways, and I was tired of having to lift my umbrella up so as not to hit everyone.

Finally, I just put up the umbrella and went without. I slowly got soaked, but I was happy. I looked out over Princes Street Gardens and Calton Hill and felt as if I could take my sweet time. Except my stomach was growling. I had to get some food.

New Foods

Crepe Stand 1I stopped at a crepe stand in Princes Street Gardens and completely devoured a chocolate banana crepe. I had missed them so much since my visit to Paris years before. It was freshly cooked and warm in my stomach. A cold was eminent in the weather, but I didn’t care. I felt cozy and comfortable.

The crepes weren’t the only thing I became addicted to. I devoured all sorts of good treats and new foods. There were cupcakes, macaroons, haggis, and baguettes.

 

Haggis isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. It’s like a bland version of boudin (great Louisiana dish). If you tie it with some mashed potatoes you’re golden. If you want to eat at home for the night and still try it just pick some up at the grocery store. I did that a couple of times.IMG_1855 (2)

Two things I always picked up from the store were baguettes and custard. In Texas, we have crappy “custard” and it’s nothing like what you get in Scotland. My roommates thought I was crazy for eating them all the time, but they didn’t care. That’s what was so wonderful about traveling on my own. They didn’t care about me trying new things, and I was able to be a fatty! I was walking everywhere so the calories were being burned at least somewhat.

Little Trips

One day, I decided to head out and go to Rolsin to see the famous Rosslyn Chapel. It was featured in the movie The Da Vinci Code. I had no idea it was in Scotland until I was looking for places to go check out.

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It was a bit daunting at first getting there. Coming from Texas, I wasn’t used to taking the bus. We all get around via cars. The bus was cheaper though.

I remember one of my stops being in the middle of the country. There was the lone highway and a little place to sit. People watched me as I waited for the next bus. Not gonna lie, it was awkward yet peacefully quiet. I was still a bit nervous that the bus which was supposed to come wouldn’t show up.

It took some time, but finally it did and I made my way to the next stop, Roslin.

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Roslin is something out of a picturesque retirement book. The town is situated out in the countryside with soft rolling hills and it’s quiet everywhere you go. There are flowers arranged here and there. The houses are quaint. I loved it.

I walked down the small roadway towards the chapel. I paid the fee, and went inside to see what it was really like. I wasn’t let down; though, I will admit it was significantly smaller than I imagined.

Since I didn’t have to take care of anyone else while seeing it I got to take my time. After looking around, I decided to check out the cemetery.

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Okay, call me weird, but cemeteries are extremely peaceful! This one had unique tombstones and the grass was luscious green. I wanted to touch it and roll all around…. I did. It was completely worth it!

I laid there and looked up at the bright blue sky with a few scattered clouds. I was alone with my thoughts. Everything inside my head slowed down and I was able to take a full breath. I wanted to stay there for the rest of the day.

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There was a trail beside the cemetery which I decided to investigate. It led me down to a small bridge and cottage. It was something out of a fairy tale. The cottage was on private property, so I made sure to stay off of it. But I later found out that people can rent the cottage for a small fee. Sign me up!

If I had other people with me, I wouldn’t be able to do all of that. I would have had to sit and wait for them to figure out what they wanted and didn’t want to do. Wait for them to catch up to me, and so much more that I didn’t want to deal with.

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I got away from technology. I was unreachable! There was no cellphone service, no internet access, and no one calling me.

More people need to get away from technology and take in what’s around them. I was finally able to ground myself again.

I can’t tell you the last time I felt more like myself. I knew who I was, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go.

Taking the break away from the hectic work life, technology, and people enables you to re-gather yourself. Everyone needs to do it once in awhile.

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Meeting New People

When roaming around a new country alone, people are more willing to come up and talk to you. They can spot you’re a foreigner from a mile away. These people can either be good or bad so use your intuition. But the good ones make your trip worthwhile.

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I met several people besides my roommates over in Scotland that I still remember to this day. There was an old man who stopped to talk to me as I was admiring a statue of the Polish bear. He told me the story behind it and why it was important to the people of Scotland.

There was also a lady I met at the bus stop. She was old and her skin was covered in blotches. I let her take my seat, and she started to tell me about her children and her life. She had been all over the world with her family. Now her kids are scattered as well. One is a lawyer and another a doctor. She told me about her time in South Africa and her times in other places. She was absolutely fascinating.

Oddly enough, there was a man I met who had visited Austin a couple times. If there’s one thing about traveling, it’s you never know who you’ll meet. There are other explorers out there, and they have a story to tell along with yours.

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Over the course of the three weeks, I learned more about different cultures, things to do and see in the area, made some great friends, and found myself again.

Traveling alone is not something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace!

 

 

 

 

Scotland Travel Memoirs: The Scotch Whisky Experience

Early Sunday, I flew into Edinburgh for the beginning of my travel writing internship back in September. It took some time for the apartment to be ready, but when I got in there one of my three roommates showed up. M- and I decided to head out and explore the city. We both knew that if we didn’t keep moving we’d sleep the day away and the jet lag would win.

As a lover of American whisky, I immediately had to take on the Scotch Whisky Experience. Poor M-, she wasn’t a fan of it but found the history of the process fascinating. She decided to get the Silver Tour while I went with the Gold.

Tours

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Most tours provided by the company take you through the history of distilling whisky. Visitors sit inside a whisky barrel and are provided the intriguing history from a ghost of long ago. Processes from malting and mashing to fermentation and distillation are described in detail.

People have the choice of two major tour experiences:

The Silver Tour – Educational tour through the world of whisky distilling plus a sample tasting of your choice from one of the four major regions; Duration: 50 minutes

The Gold Tour – The Silver Tour + tasting of 4 extra malts in the McIntyre Gallery; Duration: 70 – 90 minutes

Other tours are also available such as Educational Tours for large groups or The Taste of Scotland which combines food tasting from the Amber restaurant. The Scotch Whisky Experience is so profound that it offers a special training course in its’ Scotch Whisky Training School. The training school immerses people into the world of whisky with activities for enthusiasts or professionals. At the end of the course individuals obtain the “Certificate of Expertise.”

Types of Scotch

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There are four main scotches available to taste from the four main regions in Scotland: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, and Islay. Should you want to venture and try the fifth option, be ready to have your taste buds shocked.

  • Lowland – the flavor is lighter and tends to have grassy and flowery tastes
  • Highland – there’s a wide range of flavors for this one and it depends on which area you’re tasting the whisky from
  • Islay – this has a potent smoky flavor (Note: if you’re tasting more later you might want to hold off on this one since the taste lingers awhile)
  • Speyside – whiskies from this region are lighter and have fruity flavors, such as banana

The Tour & Tasting Experience

M- and I were excited to start the tour. The barrel ride was a neat experience. We sat in the large seat and went around with a “ghost” taking us through the history and process. After we were done with the ride, we headed into another room where we got to see the process more in-depth. The smell of whisky floated through the air making our mouths water.

While the history portion was interesting, what I found fascinating were the floor to ceiling glass cases of whisky from all sorts of places and ages. A table was situated in the middle of the room with some whiskey, empty glasses, and a pitcher of water. The lady talked about the whiskey and invited us to all take a sample of it.

Holding the glass I could already smell its’ potency. The lady held her glass to her nose and said, “The trick is to breath it in through your nose and out your mouth. Taste all of the flavors.”

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Excuse the crazy hair. We were tired after long flights.

I got the glass up to my nose and started to breath the aroma. Not a second more and I was coughing, and my eyes started to water. Earlier I had told M- of my love for whisky, but never had I smelled anything this strong. She laughed as her eyes began to water. What I couldn’t understand was how everyone was taking it so well. This stuff was strong! The aroma alone burned my throat, and I could taste it without taking a sip.

The next step was to taste the whisky. The lady offered us the choice of diluting our drink with some water or taking it straight. I immediately went for the water and so did everyone else. The lady said there’s no wrong way to take your whisky, it’s all dependent on what you prefer. The whisky connoisseurs had other sentiments on the subject.

Once we finished our glasses we went into a slightly larger room where we took a seat at several tables shaped in a U. For each spot, there was a glass and five circles. Each color represented a different region in Scotland, and the fifth one was the extra whisky from the Campbell Islands which they had in stock.

Each of us moved our glass over the whisky we wanted to try. I decided to go with the fifth one since they said it had a cinnamon flavor. My first thought was Fireball from back home. I knew it wasn’t going to taste exactly like that, but the thought of cinnamon was appealing. Let’s just say it did not taste like cinnamon, but it was still quite good.

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The tour ended in the small bar overlooking the Royal Mile, McIntyre Gallery. I showed my card to the bartender, and he brought the line of whisky samples to taste. M- and I went to sit near the windows with a gorgeous view of the city. There was little in the glasses, but I already knew I wouldn’t be able to handle tasting all of them.

After experiencing the last couple of tastings, I watered down the glasses a bit. We shared the drinks and started from one end and worked to the other. We ended with the heavy smoky flavor which we knew would linger for hours ruining anything else we tasted.

The lighter whiskies were great, better with some water and would have been perfect with some ice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep drinking the whisky. This was the first time I had called it quits and left alcohol on the table. It wasn’t from drinking so much, it’s from tasting to many different flavors at once.

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Overall, the experience was great. It kept us awake and got us relaxed from all the flying, searching for the apartment, and unloading our bags. After all the tasting you’ll most likely want something to eat the Old Town has some of the best places to eat! An added bonus is that you get to keep your sampling glass from the tour.

Becoming an ESL Teacher Abroad: 1st Weekend of Classes

I’m still new to this whole blog thing. It’s going to take a bit so please bare with me and I think we’ll all get through this together. This is hopefully a way to block the walls I’ve built in my mind inhibiting me from writing these days.

Since I can remember I’ve had a passion for traveling. I never quite knew how to travel and make money. I did the whole college thing and slightly screwed it up by getting a creative writing major. Yes… it’s an Mrs. Degree, but I don’t fall into the same category as the other women.

In order to make the most of my degree and pursue something I’ve contemplated over the years, I decided to jump into teaching abroad. Not wanting to head over there without a certification, I went online and did some research. Oxford Seminars seemed to be the right choice. At the time it enabled me to work and attend classes on the weekends.

Oxford Seminars

Oxford Seminars offers a TEFL/TESL/TESOL certification program which combines in-class and online courses. Students are required to attend three weekends during a month of 9 – 6 pm classes. The classes cover a range of teaching material and help you learn different lesson methods to use overseas. After completion of the in-class portion, students are then required to complete the online portion which starts the day they “graduate.”

With the completion of both sections, students are able to begin applying for jobs over seas. The customer service helps you find available schools with good standing. This is a major plus. There have been horror stories where people go over and don’t get paid for months.

Day 1 

With only three hours of sleep and several cups of coffee, I headed all the way down to St. Edward’s University for class. I was ready to go. It was something to get me out of the house and one step closer to my goal.

All of the people seemed friendly. We broke the ice with a game of inside/outside circle. Each of us had one minute to talk about the three images that represented us and introduce ourselves. It was a bit harder since we’re such a large class but it worked well.

When we got inside our instructor went over the technique and let us discuss what we thought about it. She continued to teach us how to teach by going through the various methods we would be implementing with our students.

When I went to school most of our classes were lectures and we did homework. They were very verbal and sometimes visual. There were times we did group work, but we didn’t place emphasis on that. The teacher provided a positive and open atmosphere. We were able to relax enough to say what we truly thought about the lesson. It’s something I’m not used to. I’m used to the people laughing at others making a mistake or the teacher telling the student, “no, that’s a dumb idea.” There was none of that.

Using groups seemed to be successful. She didn’t get on to us about talking to our peers when we asked them for help or ideas. She supported it. It’s a great way to keep up with the class.

We had some homework at the end of the day, but it wasn’t much. We read and completed a couple work sheets about learning styles. The worksheets helped insight you as to your learning style and modes. For the most part they seemed to be on point. Knowing this helps us know how we learn and how others will learn.

Day 2

The next day, we delved into the learning styles and modes. We learned how to integrate them into a lesson and what activities matched the style. The teacher continued to expand our knowledge of activities. We discussed T-Charts, personal white boards, and webbed graphs.

The methods and activities we’re using to learn have been successful for the most part. Things such as sentence stems are something I could see using. Sentence stems are where you provide the beginning portion of a sentence and have them fill in one word or the rest of it. For example, “Hi, I’m Samantha and I like to____.” This helps people with repetition, flow, a jump off point, and eases the pressure since they don’t have to think of the entire sentence. Had my French teacher used this, I might have learned the language a lot more.

Another key point I learned is not to translate. Think in the other language. Don’t try to think of the word in your language and translate it. This will only inhibit you from learning the language. Then, when it comes to the grammar you’ll really be screwed.

While the second day was good for the most part, it was harder to keep engaged. I haven’t slept well the past few days with only a few hours of sleep each night. With that being said, people got on my nerves quite easily. They weren’t intentional… at least I don’t think. But I will say this… I will not have fidget spinners in my class room. It might help some but it will annoy and distract the others from learning.

End of 1st Weekend

So far, this seems to be a good program choice. The faculty is optimistic and helpful. They’re ready to help teach you and get you to where you want to go. There may be some obstacles, but they will help you the best they can.

For the first time in awhile, I’m finally feeling optimistic about the job opportunities in this field. Yes, it may not always be Europe exactly, but it gets me out there to experience new cultures. It’s a way to help others learn English. I get to delve into different aspects of writing, books, and incite their minds to learn more. There’s so many things available for them.

There will be a culture shock depending on where I go. Believe me, it was a culture shock heading to Mexico. But it will be worth it. Who knows what I might learn or see? Experiencing the culture first hand is not something everyone gets to do these days. Hopefully, I’ll be able to inspire others to travel and learn about other cultures. Too many people get focused on their culture and forget how beautiful others cultures are. If you don’t fit in one, you might find you fit perfectly in another.

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