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Saving turtles in Mexico and much more

I think most of those who have volunteered on an Outreach project in Mexico will agree that there is no way to describe the experience.  It has now been over 3 months since I returned from my turtle project, and I still wake up every morning wishing that I was back there once again.  Over the 3 months, you really adapt to the Mexican life, and in many ways become a new person: I now feel like I lead a double life, as my experiences were so vivid that I am not able to classify my time there simply as 'an experience' - it was, and now is, a part of me.

Andy Watts worked with fellow volunteers and a Mexican team to help save turtles on a project arranged with Outreach InternationalWorking at night searching for turtle nests took some adjusting to - it seemed such a shame to have to sleep during the beautiful daytime hours.  But as soon as you see your first turtle, or catch a glimpse of a poacher running to hide from you, you realise just how beneficial your work is to the environment.  Before long you can't imagine life without dodging the huge crabs scuttling across the san;, or hearing the familiar ring of the walkie-talkie whilst on patrol or the heavy thudding noise of the turtles patting the sand as they lay their eggs; or seeing poachers' torch signals trying to confuse you; or swimming in the sea at sunrise and having breakfast at 7am before then collapsing into your bed.  It was hard work, but definitely worthwhile and enjoyable.  I went to Mexico having never really been near horses, as I hated them.  However, on my second day on the project I was riding bareback, and now cannot wait to be able to ride one of Gilberto's three horses once again.  This just proves that everyone can gain something, often extremely unexpected, from finding themselves in a new way of life.  It's good to push yourself to try new things.

I have also learnt a great deal about Mexico - it will take me a long time to forget the sight of two of my fellow volunteers (more competent horse riders, I might add!) inside the ring with the bull at the village Rodeo!  Or going to a bongo drum party on the beach.  Or catching a 1.5metre long Marlin during the Puerto Vallarta Fishing Tournament, and eating raw fish we had just caught whilst on the 36 hour fishing boat marathon!  I also now feel fairly confident about getting by without speaking English - this is one of the advantages of being on a project with Mexicans who speak very little English.  Then there are the experiences with my fellow OutrAndy had to learn to ride Mexican style on his voluntary work program with Outreach Internationaleach volunteers: I can still picture Sonia eating a whole clove of garlic on its own in an attempt to fend off the mosquitoes; or Dan collapsed at the bottom of a hill having fallen of the back of the beach buggy without me realising; or all four of us pulling together as a group when I got stung by a scorpion during our first week!  The people you are with become like a second family, and I know that I have made friends that I will be in touch with for the rest of my life.

Everyone you meet whilst in Mexico is unbelievably friendly and helpful - right from Suzanne down to the local taxi driver.  We knew that whatever problems we came across, Suzanne would always be there to help us in her fantastic way.  We invaded her house numerous times, stopping over with other volunteers when we met up, and she always made us extremely welcome.  It's nice to see people on other projects as you get a taste of other issues in the area (and it's also nice to hear a bit of English from time to time!).

Mexico and culture shock etc.  The 'unusual' music and meditation techniques(!) also  customised us to things being different to life in England! Greta, the Outreach International coordination in Mexico was absolutely fantastic - from our impressions Mexico and culture shock etc.  The 'unusual' music and meditation techniques(!) also  customised us to things being different to life in England! Greta, the Outreach International coordination in Mexico was absolutely fantastic - from our impressions she really holds all the projects and company as a whole together.  We could not have wished for anything better, and Outreach would be at a great loss without her.  Vicente was also brilliant at bringing all the volunteers together (the trip to one of the islands out from Punta de Mita was amazing), but also cared for our well being.  When we went off travelling for a couple of weeks at the end, he emailed us regularly to make sure we were ok - this was reassuring for us (as well as our parents!).

I would like to say a very big thank you to everyone who contributed to our fantastic time in Mexico - as a person I have developed and in many ways changed, but my memories of an extraordinary three months will never fade.  Thank you.  I have already decided to return in August to visit all of my new friends there.

Andy Watts's placement in Mexico was arranged with Outreach International