Immersion Experience – Our Travelogue

Hello everyone!   David and I have left the United States and are looking forward to an Mexico1immersion experience.  We love to travel, to Mexico in particular, but our experiences to date have always been at a resort or on a cruise.

We decided several trips ago that we really wanted to “experience” Mexico.  So we’ve booked a trip on our own.  We’re going to do some sightseeing and such.  But what I’m most excited about is connecting with the people.

David has been studying Spanish to achieve more of a fluency to be prepared for our trip.  You’ll also enjoy some of his reviews on the best products available for language learning.    For me, though, I have to admit I’m a procrastinator.  I’ve been looking forward to this experience because I’m a hands on learner.  I learn best from experiencing, and I’m excited to share with you what we experience over these next few days.

Return to this site often as I’ll be keeping a bit of a travel log so you can see up close and personal just what we are seeing.  I’ll share my successes and my frustrations.  We have a found a new way to vacation!

Funny thing.  On our flight from Chicago to Houston –Mexico3 I met a delightful woman sitting next to me named Julia.  She spoke no English, and I really don’t speak any Spanish.  We were a great pair!  I wish I had gotten a picture of her (yes it would have been a selfie), but I thought that might be a little forward to ask.  Suffice it to say that once we started sharing family pictures on our own phones–of our kids, grandchildren, etc., language held no barrier.  The love, pride and devotion we each felt toward our families bonded us forever.  David translated as best he could from the next seat over, but an airplane isn’t the most comfortable place to do this.

As luck would have it, on our flight from Houston to Guadalajara we had the delightful opportunity to sit in front of a German native speaker and a Norwegian native speaker.  The two of them were conversing in English with ease and wonderful grammar, each with their respective accent.  Both individuals were in their twenties, possibly thirties, but to hear them speak English so well was inspiring.  While I was not “immersed” in their culture, they were clearly immersed in mine, and their grasp of the language was wonderful.

It struck a cord in my mind that we in the United StatesMexico4 are missing out on such a great opportunity to connect with the world because we only know our language.  How much more we could accomplish and enjoy if only we could speak another language.

So, without even trying, David and I began our immersion experience even on our flights to Mexico.  We will be spending our first day getting acquainted with our village, our gracious hosts, and eating some delicious food!

We have learned so much on our trip to Mexico this time, spoken so much Spanish, and met some amazing people.   We found early on that Ajijic has a lot of Americans and Canadians living here, some as snowbirds, some full time.  It was much too easy to navigate toward an English speaker and carry on a conversation about “back home”.  So many different stories.

So the challenge became stepping out of our comfort zones.  Because of the great number of ex-pats here, the Mexicans are for the most part bi-lingual.  They very graciously helped me with my floundering Spanish.  I’m very good with gracias, or buenos dias, etc.  David was amazing.  He could understand so much.

The television stations are for the most part all in Spanish.  I even watched the movie Twilight for a bit to see if that would help me pick up some phrasing or such.  The dubbing was done very well, but I wasn’t a fan of the music they put behind it.  I would recognize a scene, and hear words that were going by so fast.  I think that is the hardest part for me – the speed at which Mexicans speak.

We have done so much sightseeing and immersing ourselves.  The streets here are all cobblestone, except for the main highway.  That is quaint and adorable, but I’m glad I left the heels at home.  The streets are very close together, and as we walked up and down them, it was a joy to see some of the following sites:  open markets with the most delectable fruits and vegetables I’ve ever seen, children playing (and not texting on their phones or playing video games like we see so much back in the states), families together, people smiling, and everyone we passed would greet us with welcome.

Decorations are leftover from La Posada
Decorations are leftover from La Posada

One of the expats we met invited us to church with him in San Antonia Tlayacapan.  The service was mostly in English, however some Spanish was blended in.  It was so great to look around and see a blend of people all praising the same God.  I will definitely put memorizing the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish on the top of my list!

We didn’t rent a vehicle, so most of our transportation has been on foot.  There are buses that run very regularly, and we have had occasion to jump on one to get from place to place.  Again, the politeness and friendliness of the locals has been a real blessing.

Last evening we rode to an amazing fish restaurant on Lago de Chapala, close to San Juan Cosala. No English spoken here; we had to function in Spanish all evening, and it was fun. There was a mariachi band playing, and I think a couple had just gotten engaged.  There were young and old alike, and the respect shown to the older people here is so great!

This morning, even before breakfast,Shrine above Ajijic we hiked up the mountain to where a Christian shrine has been erected.  The views were spectacular and my fear of heights nearly turned us around.  There are so many things to do and see here, as I’m sure is true of many Mexican towns and villages.

Today we will spend most of our time in the village of Chapala, a community — we’ve been assured — which is much more Mexican.

Chapala is another lovely community along the shore of Lago de Chapala, and we were definitely in the minority.  It felt good.  Instead of being met with English speaking Mexicans, we found that most of the people we encountered did not speak English.  David was able to converse with them, order our dinner, buy us water bottles, and get directions.  It was delightful!

We again marveled at the beauty of the lake and bustle of the town.  We were on vacation, yet it seemed like everyone was one vacation.  It was a very laid back day, and we enjoyed it immensely.  I still struggled a bit with the dollar to peso ratio, as there were many shops along the lakeshore all wanting our attention.  It would have been very easy to spend a great deal of money I believe.

Chapala2
Dana outside Lake Chapala Inn

So our time in Mexico has come to an end….for this visit at least. Probably our best experience of immersion for the whole trip was our taxi ride back to the airport.  It was so very sad leaving the friends we had made at our hotel, which was really more of a bed and breakfast.

Our cab driver was great!  He certainly knew English, but he and David chatted away in Spanish for most of the ride to the airport 30 minutes away.  I happily sat in the  back seat just in awe of how far David has come with the various Spanish learning tools he has been evaluating and reviewing on this site.  He was quite an inspiration to me.   With my limited knowledge, I was able to pick up on a few things, and I remind myself that that is definitely a victory!

Back state-side, I must say it is more “comfortable.”  But getting out of one’s comfort zone is really a healthy thing, an exhilarating experience to be sure.  We can so often just exist from one meeting to the next, or one task to the next, but to really experience another culture up close and personal is a treasure I hope all of you get the opportunity to experience.  (Our experience in Mexico continues in Part 2, and Part 3 is on our other website.  Just follow the links.)

 

2 thoughts on “Immersion Experience – Our Travelogue

  1. Wow what a wonderful experience! I would love to do something like that – maybe one day. It is amazing how so many people in other countries know more than one language yet in the United States it is not common for someone to be bilingual. Looks like we have a thing or two to learn – and sounds like you are setting a good example to us all. Looking forward to hearing about new adventures!

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