Arhea Wang - Animal Care in Mexico
Doing volunteering work abroad is a whole new experience from what I have done in the past. Foreign atmosphere, different faces, unfamiliar language, strange environment… it was the first time that I’ve gone to a country where people speak a completely unknown language to me. Nonetheless it didn’t stop Mexicans from being incredibly warm-hearted and enthusiastic. I had never been to any South American countries before and everything was so new to me.
My host family
At first I thought it was very unfortunate that only one person in my whole host family spoke English and not fluently. I was brought to my room by the mom in the family, who kindly said that she would teach me a little bit of Spanish. The ground floor of their house was for the host family themselves and the first floor was for volunteers from Projects Abroad. I was able to get a double room and was joined by my roommate the next day.
As soon as I got there I met one of the other volunteers who happened to work at the same place as me. Later I met his roommate, who also worked at the same place. During the length of my short stay I was happily stuck with them and my roommate. The mom is a very sweet lady and cooks good food, and once in a while we would order pizzas. About the second week of my staying, the son of the family had his birthday and we were all invited to celebrate it with them. Although I do not understand a word of what they are staying, I could still feel their warmth and passion.
My placement in Mexico
I worked at a government funded animal rehab centre which was just about 20 minutes or so away on foot. I and my two co-workers would walk there in the morning and come back by bus for lunch and sometimes go back to work in the afternoon. Because it was state funded, the animal centre wasn’t too big. But they definitely do have a lot of animals in there – parrots, all kinds of birds, possums, coatis, chickens, lizards, tortoises, crocodiles, hawks, falcons, snakes and even a tiger.
I was so shocked at the beginning when everybody just petted the tigers like he was a dog, but quite soon I became one of them. I went to work with a chest of expectations every day and it never failed me. I am a passionate animal lover, and being with them is fun for me.
My daily routine consisted of cleaning up all the bird cages, which involved changing newspapers used in the small bird cages and sweeping away all the leftovers and rubbish in the big cages; then we would feed the animals with water and food. It sounds like nothing but with the amount of animals, it took us until noon to finish all the work.
Apart from taking care of the animals, I also had a really fun time with the local volunteers. They were funny, outgoing and easy. Even without language we were able to have lots of fun and banter together.
Travelling around the city
I didn’t do that much sightseeing due to the short length of my stay, but I did have a good time at the places that I went to. On the induction day, we were introduced to the city by a member of staff from Projects Abroad, had lunch and went to the cathedral. I was so happy to have the two staff here to explain the history and the culture of the city.
One thing I really liked was the ceiling painting by José Clemente Orozco in the Government Palace, a painting of war and suffering for remembrance of the Mexican history. There were also lots of museums that really interested me, but unfortunately I did not have time to go. About a week later on the weekend, one of my co-workers, my roommate and I decided to go to Teuchitlán, the Mexican pyramids. I cannot say that it was an amazing view, but nevertheless it was a fun experience to travel by ourselves for three hours and get away from the city.
If you are thinking about doing a volunteering project abroad, do it. It is definitely worth it and lots of fun. I could only regret that I wasn’t able to stay long enough in the wonderful country.