Desert Adventures

For the last two and half months we have adventured to many different places that are reflective of the Mexican culture. A few of my favourites were a volcano hike, Lucha Libre, Globos market, and the Baja 1000 off-road race. All of these excursions were terrific outings where we met many kind people and experienced Mexican culture. The volcano hike was an interesting and smart way to view a new part of Mexico. We traveled to a lovely beach and, from there, hiked an hour up a beautiful volcano. The volcano has not been active for many, many years. Hiking up was a leg killer because it was all up hill, but reaching the top made it all worth it. The views were spectacular and breathtaking. There is something so mindful and peaceful about being on the top of a mountain and soaking in the beauty that Mexico has.

Lucha Libre is a form of entertainment wrestling widely enjoyed throughout Mexico. Mexican wrestling is characterized by colourful masks. The wearing of masks has developed special significance and matches are sometimes challenged where the loser must permanently remove his mask, which is a done with a high degree of weight attached. I am aware that this type of entertainment is a huge part of the Mexican tradition, which we haven’t seen a lot of.  The wresting event that we watched was held at Globos, a market that is held every weekend in a nearby town, San Quintin. Many items are sold at the market including clothing, food, and toys. The owners of the market were celebrating their 10 year anniversary in business and to celebrate they hosted a Lucha Libre event.  Many people gathered for this experience because it is a very popular tradition in Mexico.

The Baja 1000 is an off-road desert race that takes place on Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula the third week of November every year. It draws in thousands of spectators, sponsors and media. We were able to participate in the Baja 1000 festivities by travelling to Ensenada for the pre-race fan fair and spending the next day watching the race on the track near our home. The Baja 1000 allows various types of vehicles to compete on the same course, from dirt bikes, atv’s, dune buggies, trucks, and custom fabricated race vehicles. The name of the event can be misleading as the mileage varies each year because the track changes, but essentially it is about 1300-1500km’s! You can imagine how long it must take! The racers who are able to complete the race usually finish in an average of 18-22 hrs.

All of these outings have been so much fun and have made the LDA experience so much more enhanced by participating locally with Mexican culture. With only three weeks left, I hope to attend more fun filled excursions in order to soak up more culture and knowledge about Mexico.

– Grace, Academy Student 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 27th, 2015

What Life is about People means to me

Today was our fortieth presentation. We woke up, say goodbye to our incredible billets, drove to the school, and set up. The crowd of 160 students were filled with excitement for what was to come in the next hour. The preshow lights panned over the audience illuminating the gymnasium and the Live Different banners. I looked across the gym to see the banners that read, “Life is About People”. The motto of LiveDifferent is not only true to our tour, but also our lives.
There have been many great moments while on tour. One that stands out the most was when Tayler and I had the opportunity to talk to a young woman about her anxiety. I saw how our presentation could make an impact on people’s lives since she felt comfortable enough to open up to us. She spoke of times when she would get so anxious that she would not be able to continue what she was doing. By the end of the conversation, it was evident that the presentation had impacted her and that we had made a difference.
Within each one hour presentation, we hope to make this sort of connection with even just one person. For that one person to realize they have the opportunity to own their story and move past the negativity that has been weighing them down for so long is extremely rewarding. When people are struggling they often believe that they are alone, but as we share our stories they begin to understand that they are not alone. There will always be someone there to listen. We have the opportunity to go into schools every day and encourage students to have hope, and that they can make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
Life is about people. From my time with LiveDifferent, I have learned the importance of making connections. Knowing that I helped make a difference in the lives of students, even if they just reflected on their life for a minute, is what has made this opportunity such a great experience. I have been thankful to spend forty presentations with so many amazing people. Although the tour
may only last a year, the friends that I have made will last a lifetime!
 – Maryssa, Road Team Intern, Fall 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 23rd, 2015

No Hombres? No Problem

This week I attended our different volunteer positions and visited my host family one evening. I really enjoy going to Buen Samaritano, because I like the work I get the opportunity to do there. I enjoy the reactions I get when I ask for the “man’s” job.  Another female student, Danica, and I showed up one day, ready to mix concrete to set up some posts for a clothes line.  We received a confused look and a ‘No hombres?’ (No men?) from the women in charge.  “No, muy fuerte!” we assured her as we flexed our arms jokingly.  She then led us to the lines and we worked for three hours mixing and laying concrete into meter deep holes. We finished 3 out of the 7 holes.  Many people here have such a strong idea of what women and men’s roles are.  In Canada, I have worked as a carpenter, a landscaper, and a construction worker, all of which are traditionally deemed jobs for men. A number of times I have gotten weird reactions, but I like to prove that women are just as capable of doing labour work as men are.


Mareena is another reason I like working at Buen Samaritano.  She works there and it feels awesome to be able to connect with someone from the area.  She speaks enough English that we can have conversations and she helps me with my Spanish.  Mareena likes it when we tell her about Canada. Her questions are filled with wonder as we tell her about the weather and how different it is from Mexico.  Getting to know her has definitely made this volunteering experience better.

I have never been the socialite but I have really enjoy being with my host family. We visit them one evening a week, in order learn more about Mexican culture, practice our Spanish, and get to know other people in the community. I love preparing dinner together, joking around, and laughing about our miscommunications. Dinner is great and the food is amazing, so I always compliment Hilda on her cooking. She is so funny; she will point to my stomach and say “nada!” (nothing) and then grab her own and say “manteca!” (fat) – she thinks I’m too skinny.  We laugh about this exchange because it happens every time.

LiveDifferent’s motto is, “Life is about people”, and I’m beginning to see what this really means by taking in people’s stories and getting to know their personalities. It’s such a powerful feeling to really get to be a part of a person’s life, and to impact them in a way that you could not have if you hadn’t taken the time to build these relationships.  Sharing moments and memories with others is something I’ve learned is so important. Life really is about that special connection you share with everyone who enters and exits your life.

– Alexandria, LiveDifferent Academy Student 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 16th, 2015

Time – An Undervalued Luxury

This week was very challenging, but also very rewarding. I was able to learn so much about poverty and about those experiencing poverty that I’ve never thought about before. One of the hardest things I learned this week is how little free time people have to spend with family and friends. There is always something to do. What do you do after you are done work for the day?  Typically, one would go home, make dinner, do a couple chores, and then relax until bedtime. What if simple things like cooking becomes a chore or a challenge?  The reality for some people is that they have to continue working hard as soon as they get home. They need to cook, some over an open fire, to make repairs to their homes, do yard work, laundry, and so much more. It’s crazy to think that after people work a 9 hour day in the sun in the fields, or rock picking, they have to come home and do more hard work. Back home, when I finish a day of work I come home and watch TV or sit and hangout with my family. Understanding this is also a reality for many working people back in Canada too, it made me realize just how lucky we are to have some of the luxuries at home that make those daily chores less stressful and time consuming.

No task is simple when living in these conditions. For example cooking is much simpler when we have a stove, countertop, and numerous cooking utensils at our reach, but for many people, and for us this past week, we were cooking over an open fire. It is hard to imagine that food can be an uncertainty in people’s lives. If it is raining, then the fire won’t start, which means you’re unable to make dinner for your family. Living in this uncertainty this week was a new concept for me. It made it very stressful and made me anxious every time we were about to cook. Throughout the week our timing with cooking food improved, as we always tried to get most of the cooking done before dark. It is amazing how much you can’t do once it starts to get dark. Again, it is a totally new concept as I have always lived with electricity.

This week has taught me so many things and I am beyond thankful to have gotten to experience it all. One of the largest lessons I learned is to never underestimate one person’s ability and strength. Working alongside locals this week and getting a taste of what their everyday lives showed me how strong people can be. While we were working alongside them we needed to take breaks, to drink water, and give our bodies a chance to stretch, but they do not take these breaks and continue working for long periods of time. They know what they need to do to provide for their families and they are willing to do it. One of my favourite moments this week was when we were rock picking on Friday. After we worked for about 5 hours in the sun, we were done picking but now needed to bring up all the bags of rocks. At this point the workers became less serious about getting as many rocks as they could and starting joking around with each other and talking more with us. It was nice to see that even after a long workday they were able to joke with each other and try to make their days more enjoyable.

I have found a greater respect for those experiencing poverty, especially those we were able to work alongside.  I am very grateful we had this opportunity to try and understand some of the daily challenges they face. We learned so much this week about our group, poverty, and ourselves in general.

– Danica, LiveDifferent Academy Student 2015

Author: LiveDifferent


The Most Empowering Week of My Life

Being empowered doesn’t come from things that come easy to us. It comes from the tougher times where we push ourselves to the limits and survive to tell the story. That’s how I feel about this experience.

Everyone else was so excited for ‘Week In The Life.’ I, on the other hand, was terrified. I didn’t sleep at all the night before we moved in or the first night outside of our normal bunkhouse either. I was living without walls and I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I have.

With a few changes, I’ve still been able to live this experience with everyone else. Though I helped with the building of the house, I don’t sleep there. I sleep in a room, on a concrete floor, with all the windows open. I have a mattress and a plastic chair, which are the only things that the others don’t have. No electricity. No running water. We all cook meals over the fire. It’s not an easy life to get used to.

We were all talking around the fire last night about the things we missed the most. The item I said I wish I had was a lamp. Just to be able to read at night is a luxury I definitely take for granted. The food item I wanted more than anything was peanut butter. Seems simple enough, right? Well, you’d be surprised how expensive it is for a family of 5 who are living on the income of one field worker! I’ll never look at it the same way again.

Showering is very different also. Though I find bathing with just a bucket challenging, it does raise a startling point about water usage. We as Canadians use far too much. To know that I can wash my hair and my entire body with just one bucket of water is shocking because I know I use far more in a shower with running water whether I mean to or not.

But the best thing that has come from this experience is that I feel it has made everyone better friends. In order to be successful in an environment like this, you have to be able to work together and function as one unit. I think we have done pretty well at doing just that. Personally, I have had to become better at acknowledging what I can and cannot do and ask for help. I am not usually good at that, but during this time I’ve had no choice. I’ve also had to do different types of work than the others would do. There are times I wish I could be in the fields working with them, but at the same time I like doing different work because I enjoy when we share our stories about our day once we’re all together in the evening again. It makes the experience all the more interesting.

Is this a way I would want to live for an extended period of time? No. But I have realized that the people who do live in these circumstances are extremely courageous and strong. After walking a mile in their shoes, no better words could be said. My frame of mind has been forever changed by this experience.

– Melissa, Academy Student 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 9th, 2015

Four Thousand Zucchinis

We returned to the fields again and this time was more interesting for me because I was actually able to go. I was sick the day before and had to stay behind.  I have some previous farming experience from my work back in Canada. We harvested zucchini, cutting them off the plant and then throwing them in the dirt to be collected later. This surprised us all. In Mexico, only the small little zucchini’s are able to be sold, apparently no one wants to eat the larger ones. The concept still confuses me, the fact that so much food goes to waste simply because of its shape and size, because the market prefers them a certain way. Ever wonder why all the vegetables and fruit on the shelf are the exact same? Where did the rest go that didn’t fit the criteria? This farmer figured many of the unwanted zucchini’s would be used for pig food.

We must have picked thousands of zucchini – and I kept count so I do mean thousands, 4,125 to be exact! The labour was hard and our backs are sore from all the bending. It’s hard for me to imagine doing that back breaking work every day for years, only making enough to just get by. I just cannot imagine it. I’ve tried comparing my previous farm work to this but it’s not really comparable. The workload was higher than I have ever experienced.

Being sick and missing a day of work at the fields, I realized that if I was actually living in this situation, staying home sick isn’t really an option. Let’s pretend I’m the only one in my family earning money.  I can’t take a sick day if I’m only earning enough to get by each day. I would not have the same luxury I do back home when I am sick, to take a day, sometimes with pay, to rest and recover. This is something that I had not really thought about before this trip, and something that I am happy to have recognized. This week is full of new and thought provoking experiences, and I am learning quite a lot.

– Written by George, Academy Student 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 5th, 2015

A Positive Look at Challenges

Planning for Week in the Life, learning what it was about, and trying to think of ways to prepare for it, was all very exciting. However, now that we are actually a part of the experience, we have a totally new mindset. So far this week we have learned new cooking skills and how to work in the orchard and in the fields.  The first day we had it pretty easy, moving into our house, cooking and setting up around home. Monday was harder, adding work at the orchard to chores and cooking was rough. Our work included cleaning up debris and leaves, and watering the trees. A seven hour day, working in the hot sun was exhausting, and then when we got home we had to do maintenance on our house, grocery shopping, and cooking. It made us realize the work people have to do every day to make little money and keep up their living spaces.

Monday night was a tough one.  It rained a little bit, getting many of our things wet, including our firewood and matches. So on Tuesday morning it took us a long time to get the fire started to refry our beans for lunch. With no time to walk to the bus, we had to pay for a ride. It was not the best morning, but it is all part of the experience and learning about daily challenges that arise when you don’t have access to electricity, a stove, or a secure shelter. 

Our work on Tuesday was at a local farm picking strawberries. Because the bushes were not mature, there were not a lot of berries to pick. Thankfully, when it’s like this the farmer pays each worker by the day, not by the case of strawberries. 

Within these first few days we have learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and life. It is the people around you that help you out when times are tough. We recognize that we all need to stay positive and determined and we can learn a lot through this experience. With this in mind, I came to the realization that every outhouse is going to be gross so I might as well get over it. I also understand now that when I am at home and my mom comes home from work and I say “What’s for dinner?” that I’m not being fair to her because she’s been working all day. It’s very tiring to go to work and then come home and continue working around the house. I commend the people here who wake up before the sun and labour in the fields all day. I also admire the people at home, in Mexico, and elsewhere in the world that put in a full day of hard work, return home and find the energy to raise a family and maintain a household.

– Grace, LiveDifferent Academy Student 2015

Author: LiveDifferent


The Littlest Things can Mean a Lot

When I made plans to come here to the LiveDifferent Academy, I didn’t have any idea what it would be like. So far, it has been one surprise after another. The things I know that have proven useful are not what I expected to use. At Oasis, an after-school program for kids, I have been able to embrace my love of art and share it with the children. One of the teachers there invited me to do art lessons with the kids and I jumped at the chance. Art is something I love so much because it is a great way to express yourself and it can never be wrong. Art is an interpretation of who the artist is. Above all else, my hope is that the children will take that lesson with them.

Oasis was also looking for someone to do some artwork for the walls. Again, I readily volunteered. The sketches are in progress and I am determined to get them painted and up on the walls before my time here comes to a close.

Then, there is New Beginnings. This is a place I knew I wanted to be a part of the first time we visited. It was described as a women’s shelter to us, but it’s easy to see Dorothy really goes above and beyond to make it a home for the women who live there. Dorothy’s created such a welcoming environment. I have been lucky enough to be able to teach some of the women how to knit, which I enjoy very much. To me, it was just a hobby I was taught when I was eight years old because I was bored. To these women, however, it could be a life skill, a new way to make clothing and other necessities for them and their children. It is very cool to be able to pass that on. 

To be past the half-way point of this trip is unbelievable. I cannot even begin to imagine what will come next, but I know I am looking forward to it!


–Written by Melissa Cunning

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 3rd, 2015