Stacy Barr - Animal Care in Mexico
People often ask me why I continually choose to return to Mexico, and to be honest, the answer is I don’t know. In fact I’m not even sure what drew me to choose Mexico the first time in 2010. I remember sitting down with my dad, and deciding that I would head off on an adventure to a Spanish speaking country, and for some reason the dart landed on Guadalajara. Looking back, it’s safe to say that it was the best decision I have ever made.
I have since returned to Mexico 3 times, and I spent the past two summers working in the animal care centre in Guadalajara. After a rocky start (I got lost looking for the bus stop and ended up in the middle of nowhere so the staff had to come find me – good job for the 24 hour support!) I fell in love with the centre, the staff and volunteers there and the animals, some quirkier than others. A personal favourite of mine is a dirty looking dog called “Pulgas” which means fleas in Spanish. On a side note Pulgas did not actually have fleas, I would know since I gave him the injection.
A Typical Day Volunteering
I would wake up around 8am and have breakfast with my host family, and then catch the bus to the centre. I would set about cleaning the birdcages and feeding the different types of birds. After this we moved to the outside cages, interacting with some of the more random animals. On my first day I helped the staff feed a pelican that was scared of water, and take a wild pig for a walk!
When everything was clean we would take a walk to the shop or get some street food for lunch and discuss what our “task” for the day was. Some days we would help with maintenance, and on others we would help train the falcons. At 2-3pm we would head home to have lunch with the family, and decide on something to do in the evening and plan our weekend trips.
Releasing the animals
Whilst I was there I helped the staff release some animals, ranging from iguanas to squirrels and coatis. We visited a canyon just outside the city that was filled with monkeys, waterfalls and some quite treacherous roads. La Barranca, the canyon, was an amazing place to go as the city was so close, but in the depths of the canyon it felt as if the city was hundreds of miles away.
It was amazing to see how the animals arrived, and progressed to the moment of release. We also released a skunk, and I feel quite lucky that it wasn’t my job, as when it was released everyone had to run for cover in case it got angry and sprayed us.
My Mexican host family
During my stays in Guadalajara I was extremely lucky to stay with an amazing host family. They welcomed me into their home and into their family, and for that I will always be extremely grateful. I became very close with them, and we are still in regular contact. I think my Mexican parents and sisters were one of the main reasons that I fell in love with Mexico.
They introduced me to so many new things, such as Tejuino (an Aztec drink) and pozole (a traditional dish made with pork). My host mother’s cooking is unrivalled, and I know I am a struggle to feed since I am lactose intolerant and extremely fussy, but somehow Carmen managed to create the most beautiful dishes, and rather unfortunately introduced me to tacos. I now have a love hate relationship with tacos and tortas ahogadas, they are so delicious but really not good for my waistline!
My Mexican host family
Through my journeys with Projects Abroad, I have made friends from all over the world. I have promised to visit many people all over the world, from Denmark to Canada, and I have shared with them my most cherished memories. With the other volunteers I experienced a different culture, with an extensive history (who knew that there are mummies in Guanajuato?) and also moments where only a trip around Wal-Mart to find some oreos can cure a little case of homesickness.
The volunteers that I have met have educated me and inspired me, and they have helped to make the past three summers more incredible than I ever could have imagined. Thanks to the three summers I have spent in Mexico, I know that it is the place I have always wanted to be.
Projects Abroad has definitely changed my life, as now I am looking forward into completing my 3rd year of university as a student in Guadalajara, and crating some more precious memories in my favourite city in the world.