When I was 16 years old in 2000, I took part in an exchange program with Canadian Educational Exchange Foundation for three months to Monterrey, Mexico. This was my first real authentic travel experience that captured my heart and made me want to explore the world! I highly recommend any person thinking of going on an exchange program to go! Parents, this is one the best things your child can experience!
Ever since I can remember, I felt I had some sort of connection to Latin America and the Spanish language. People used to ask my mother if I was from South America when we lived in Australia as I have the dark eyes, hair and skin. Nope, she’s a Greek-Canadian!!
When I was 12 years old, I can recall going to sleep every night listening to Gloria Estefan’s cd “Mi Terria.” Something about the language and beat made my heart full with so much energy and love. Maybe I should mention in grade 7, I was in love with this boy named Maximos from Nicaragua!! LOL Could it have had something to do with it? Maybe a little, but still it was within me.
In grade 10 in high school, I decided to study a semester of beginners Spanish. It was my favourite class now that I think of it! I used to be so excited to go home and do my homework for the next day. If only I could have felt the same excitement for math and science!! lol On the announcements one day they called on all students interested in taking part in cultural exchange programs abroad to meet after school in a class room.
I was the only one who ended up taking part in it from high school. Destination= Monterrey, Mexico! My exchange partner Cristina first came to my house from August – November in Toronto and then I went to her home from February – May. I remember when I first landed in Mexico, Cristina’s brother came to pick me up in his beatle car. We were driving home on the highway with Ricky Martin blasting really loud. ( Year 2000, living la vida loca!!!) All I could notice from the car was palm trees everywhere and huge mountains. It was so new and exciting for me!
Cristina’s mother would make us mango smoothies every morning for breakfast before we went to school. From the kitchen window I could see the mountains. Monterrey is know as “la ciudad de las montanas”, meaning the city of the mountains. Her dad would drive us to school wearing a cowboy hat with his pick up truck. One of us would be in the back of the truck for the ride. I remember I loved it so much being my first time in the back of the truck and having the wind blow through my hair. When we left the house it would still be dark and as we arrived there would be sunlight.
My Mexican experience to be continued…..