Viva la Mexico

Isha Patel, a sixth-year student of General Medicine, spent her summer internship in Monterrey, Mexico. She sends an essay and pictures.

Isha Patel. Photographs on this page:
I. P. and her archive.

My month in Monterrey, Mexico was undoubtedly one of the best months of my life, which might be a cliché, but is nonetheless true. I was a bit apprehensive when I discovered I would be going to Mexico, as it is well known that it is perhaps not the safest country in the world, but now that apprehension, although justified, seems unnecessary.

From the moment I landed in Monterrey after an almost 24-hour journey, right up until the moment I left, the people of this beautiful city were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Even the taxi driver insisted on calling the contact persons at the residence to make sure we were in the right place before leaving me in their care.

My first glimpse of my home for the month was at night during the taxi ride, and it literally glittered from all the lights which climb halfway up the mountains which surround this incredible city. I recognised the name of many of the shops and restaurants due to the heavy influence of their American neighbours only 50 miles away. Nonetheless the spirit of the city remains truly Mexican.

I arrived at the residence where the going away party for the July incomings was underway, and, having been introduced quickly to those around me and my new roommates, but pleading tiredness and jetlag, went to bed already anticipating that this would be the only early night I would get for the next month (for all the pechums we would be having). Well anticipated pechums – the word that was created to signify anything good or fun we would be having with our friends – our word which defined the month.

I woke up the next morning and went to our second home, the 7/11 across the road, to pick up a coffee to kick the nerves before introducing myself to the other incomings. I had nothing to be nervous about, and quickly we formed a plan to visit the heart of the city and all it had to offer, which, although it wasn't very much, was still very pretty. Anywhere you go, you always see the giant backdrops of the mountains lending a picturesque quality to any place you go to in the city.

During the month, I was working in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Hospital Universitario Dr. Jose E. Gonzalez, and despite the language barrier, was able to learn a lot from my time there. I was able to see first-hand the differences between our medical systems and the cultures, where it was normal for a 14-year old girl and a 40-year old woman to be in the same room giving birth. They also gave us the opportunity to go to A&E during the weekends if we wished, where some of the others were able to suture and actively play a role in the treatment of gunshot victims and stabbings, something not usually seen so frequently in our home countries. Both these experience opened our eyes to something, that if we had never done this exchange, we would never have seen.

The doctors and residents working at the hospital not only gave their recommendations of places to visit both in Monterrey and in the rest of Mexico, but invited us to dinners and parties making us feel included and welcome. We were also given the opportunity to visit any department, and to spend as much time there as we wanted, emphasising to us that they wanted us to enjoy our time in Mexico and to take the time to know the culture and the country.

We took this chance gladly, and having allowed ourselves to get into the swing of things and to normalise our body clocks, we started planning a trip to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende – two typically Mexican cities. After a ten-hour coach journey, which I have to admit, was extremely comfortable, we arrived well-rested in the colourful city of Guanajuato. It's a big town full of colourful buildings and churches, and significantly colder than the humid 37–38°C weather we experienced back in Monterrey. Only photos can do justice to this city. San Miguel de Allende is similar to Guanajuato but smaller and older. It's a sleepy little village full of churches and old ladies making flower bands for the hair.

During the entire month, we were kept busy with hospitals in the morning, and the social programme in the afternoons. These included trips to museums, bowling, a football game against the university students, visits to waterfalls and caves and three walking trips into the mountains – the most amazing of which was the trip to Matacanes, and which was without a doubt, the highlight, not only for me, but for all of those that went on it.

Matacanes was an adventure like no other. We started the day at 3 a.m. and drove up the mountain to see the sunrise before kitting up and starting our walk. Our first port of call was a relatively easy jump into the river which we would then slowly follow down the mountain for the rest of the day. This was followed by abseiling down the side of a waterfall. It continued in this way with higher jumps – the highest of which was twelve metres which I felt was a bit too crazy, more abseiling, swimming in caves and sliding down naturally formed slides. The experience was incredible and worth the early morning and the price. The guides looked after us and made us feel safe, despite having had to have had specific life insurance for it.

There is still so much I would like to write about my trip, but I would keep going for many more pages. It was an unforgettable month, and I met so many people and made some close friends in my time there. We were a group of forty but you would never have felt we were so many by how well we got on with each other. We hope to meet in the future, but we know it will never be the same as what we experienced in Monterrey. It was a unique experience, I said yes to everything and pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I have no regrets. Viva la pechums.

Published: 31. 10. 2016 / Responsible person: Mgr. Petr Andreas, Ph.D.