The place, the people, the nature around me all help tell a story of how people live here. People here truly love their home. There is a lot of good vibes to be found here.
● The Beach – Playa Blanca, meaning white beach is the name given to the stretch of Beach by Barra. A big empty hill covered in heavy foliage makes the waves a little softer than more dangerous waves further down the beach. Ideal for kids and tourists looking for a dip in the hot weather. People can rent a boogie board or even a kayak and enjoy the nice cool feeling of the Pacific Ocean.
● The Laguna – About 50 metres separates the beach from the laguna and I’m told sometimes they meet. The Laguna is shallow water but surrounding it are thick forests and mountains. Filled with fish and in the morning you can see over 50 different species of birds. Some places you can see some Mango trees and even some spots for crocodiles. It’s great to swim in, nice and cool but not at all cold. The still laguna can be nice change when there might be heavy waves, one can just stand near the middle of the laguna, observe the trees and beautiful surroundings of mountains and trees.
● Weather – Hot, hot hot. A very humid heat up to 35 Degrees Celsius some days. Guaranteed over 30 degrees here. Although is rainy season, I’ve seen very little of it. An occasional thunderstorm lights up the sky around the mountains. A fan is needed at night to sleep without sweating bucket loads. The heat can affect my energy levels sometimes feeling weighed down, but the water is pleasantly warm and cool at the same time, which helps to quickly refresh
● Earthquakes – There was a small earthquake on my 3rd week here, barely felt it, but someone mentioned how there water moved and rippled because of it. Earthquakes can be frequent and intense here. I learned in 1985 there was a big earthquake causing a tsunami wiping out most of the village. They’ve been cautious ever since, even evacuating the village in previous years, most recently in 2014, luckily no tsunami struck that time.
● City – Zihuatanejo or Zihua is what locals call it is the nearest city. A place heavily reliant on tourism, with long streets of markets all selling the same souvenirs: jewellery, keychains, t-shirts, woven bags, pens and mini sculptures of animals and skulls. The beaches are beautiful there too, and the markets are plenty full of fresh fruit and food. There are supermarkets and restaurants as well as every activity for tourists from scuba to boat tours. Volunteers run a vegan market on Saturday morning where many people raise funds for their chosen charitable cause. I bought Mezcal vegan ice-cream and had purple tortillas there. I also bought a hat from the turtle sanctuary people. A nice city, near to everything you’d need, but does not have the same homely and whole hearted feeling as the people living in my small village.
● Jobs and Economy Here – Some beach side restaurants open during the day, selling a wide range of seafood. People stroll the restaurants trying to sell various goods. There are 3 shops and 3 or 4 restaurants open in the village itself instead the homes of the people who run them, they open late for people to get their tacos, enchiladas and any other needs. Other services like kayaking, scuba diving, hotels and b&bs can be found in surrounding areas. There are many people selling tortillas, breads and even meats in the street by shouting out the name of their goods. They usually ride bikes or motorcycles, and if you want what they have, all you do is shout back. Fishing is big here, many of the men would spend the day fishing, the fish is usually sold to restaurants or in markets in neighbouring cities Zihuatanejo or Alcapulco. The men are usually sat outside repairing fishing nets on their porch, knitting any holes.
● Language – Barra de Potosí lacks the English skills you find in more populated locations and cities of Mexico. The kids have next to none, some are very reluctant to learn any, others are interested in learning new things. English is handy to have for American tourists who come in winter to escape the cold. The Spanish they speak In Barra can be full of slang and be quite fast. Some are easier to understand than others. Some kids help out and speak slowly, especially when they need something. I’m learning lots. Talking the language is much easier than listening and reading it as I can form sentences with the few words I do know.
● Travel – Public Transport is via a Combi. Which is either a car with 5 people or a mini-bus like vehicle. They act like buses but pick up whoever hails them on the street. They’re really cheap and easy. People In Barra get around like everyone else, cars, motorbikes and bicycles. Planes and buses are available for long journeys. Most roads are quite good, paved with tarmac with some soft dirt roads. Mountains of Mexico can make long distance travel difficult and tiring, but going through the mountains can be beautiful.
● Shops – An awful lot of junk food. Mexico has a massive obesity problem and its evident in the amount of junk food each shop sells. Everything also comes with a hefty amount of plastic packaging.
● Electricity – normal like everywhere except with occasional 3 second blackouts.
● Water – they rely on using a well and pump to get water but they don’t have any shortages or problems
● Bare feet – Dirt Roads and paths, hot temperatures and sandy beach mean many people walk around barefoot or simply in flip-flops. My feet aren’t resilient enough I found to walk on hot ground and stoney paths, having many cuts to prove it. I require flip-flops to walk around.
● Mexican Time – Scorching temperatures and Mexican culture dictates that it’s okay to be late. For nearly all people I’ve met saying a time and being somewhere within that hour is perfectly acceptable. I’ve come to joke with some Mexicans that it’s called Mexican Time.
● Mosquitos, Sand Flies and things that bite – Although mosquitos don’t like or bite me I still get bitten and eaten by everything else. Sand Flies, fire ants, wasps and some other little bugs I don’t know the name for have had their way with my skin. My foot became a feast for their tiny mouths.
● Crabs – Weird to have crabs crawling into your room at night and so many wandering the streets. Once discovered they do there best to hide. I was shocked when trying to get rid of one from my house when it grabbed my flip-flop. When I went to shake it off its pincher just came off as it scurried away, I didn’t know they grew them back at the time.
● Dogs – The dogs here are all neutered, checked and vetted by a lovely American couple at the top of the street. Beautiful and well taken care of animals wander near houses being playful and happy. Nearly 1000 cats and dogs have been treated and nuetured. A joy to see in the small village.
● Birds – 100s of species sit by the laguna, some have tried to make the location a nature conservation site but was discouraged by locals. Colorful and beautiful birds sit in the surrounding jungles and their chirping, tweeting and squeaking sounds can all be heard first thing in the morning. Some Birds are incredibly big and some would surf the barrel waves that can be found at the beach. ● Hammocks – never have I known such comfort. Swinging side to side with a coconut and the sounds of waves and sometimes music from nearby restaurants can truly put you in a state of zen. I’ve bought one to bring home with me.
Common little traits
● Tortillas: Breakfast, Lunch Dinner, even with a soup. Every meal with my host family and people in Barra came with Tortillas, and wow are they addictive. Cooked very quickly, traditionally on a stone slab over a fire or can be done on a pan too. Faster than fast food but without so much processed food, delicious no matter what your eating.
● Phone Services – In Barra your lucky to get one bar in a lot of places. Certain spots by the beach have the best signal. This can help disconnect with the outside world and connect with the people here.
● Big Fans – With the heat comes the need for big fans. Indoors and at night most people have a fan next to their bed. You should be wary of ceiling fans though, I’ve come so close a few times to getting fingers cut off either yawning or stretching without thinking I’ve grazed those fans. Same precautions should be taken during an earthquake as they could easily fly off the roof if on at full speed.
● Scorpions, Snakes and Lizards – Some of the cooler animals I’ve never seen before lay here in Bara. When cleaning out the library garden I came across both snakes and scorpions as it had been vastly overgrown with weeds. They apparently love to hide in piles of leaves. Although interested I kept my distance when I came across them. Lizards on the other hand crawl all over the place at lightning speeds. They fly around my room and the garden regularly. Colourful and wonderful I’d stare at these little creatures all day.
● Palm Trees – Everywhere you go and most of what you see in Mexican coastline. I’ve fallen in love with coconuts they produce. The leaves and stalks can be used to make fences, light roofs and gates which give a beautiful tropical and natural look to building and restaurants here.
● Hand wash clothes – They don’t have a washing machine where I live so its a must to hand wash all my clothes. Having always had the comfort of a washing machine I started to dread the thought, but it’s become quite satisfying to so. My clothes smell fantastic and its well needed with all the sweat and dirt one produces and picks up here.
● Fumigation Truck – This place is plagued by a significant amount of mosquitos particularly because the people here live next to a big lagoon. A truck regularly passes through the streets spraying this incredibly stinky gas that settles on the whole village in an attempt to repel mosquitoes. They still don’t bite me but I certainly understand people’s pain and annoyance as the scratch and slap their legs to get rid of the tiny bugs sucking their blood.
The library update
Maths games, spelling games, matching games and lots of other fun. Playing games like hangman, dominoes, lotteria (bingo) and even hurling games. The past week myself and a local working in the area have been teaching Imagine by John Lennon to the kids for English and learn a famous song about peace . I’ve been lucky to have a local helping me, he’s passionate about helping the kids and we’re able to split kids into different groups for different activities. They’ve taken a real liking to hurling, some are learning a little bit each day, others love the thrill of hitting a ball with a big stick. I’ve developed a lot of language skills from the kids and feel a great rapport with most.
Taking the kids to the Circus
The continental circus came to Barra for 4 days. I decided to go with some of the kids there where we seen some spectacular and rather funny performances. Circuses with animals are illegal in Mexico which was good to know. It had everything from the motorcycle circle of death to clowns and even expensive popcorn.
The Turtle Sanctuary
Another organisation that is run by many volunteers and about a 10 min combi (bus) to get to. For 2 weeks they ran a turtle summer camp about ecological conservation. The kids get sponsored by outside help to attend the camp, where they get workshops and activities for 6 hours each day for the 2 weeks. Each morning I helped load the kids in Barra into the combi and champorone them there and back. I helped run activities in the morning as a volunteer in the turtle camp and return in the afternoon to open the library. The sanctuary only begun finding turtle eggs and incubating them in their enclosure when I arrived. I had the privilege of going out patrol for the nests at 4 in the morning on one occasion. We do this to protect them from poachers and harm. Going down the beach in a quadbike with just the sound of waves and looking for turtle tracks is an amazing experience. I found 3 nests, 1 golfina turtle and one dead turtle that seemed to die of natural causes. Here’s the live one we tagged and got her eggs to keep safe.
The Animal Refuge Centre
Another little field trip for the kids was taking them to the animal refugee centre where rare and endangered animals are kept in a big safe enclosure. Along with kids from the turtle camp and a van owned by other volunteer there we packed up and brought the, around to see all the different animals. They learned lots about local animals and we got to see the skeleton of a sperm whale.
There is a lot of treasures and beauty to be seen in this place. Appreciating the nature, the kids, the people and how they live paints a beautiful picture. I feel change and growth inside me. I feel more compassionate to other people’s livelihood and the lives of people I’ve come to appreciate. No place is black and white, not everyone here is the same, but they are all beautiful people from a wonderful place.