Mike Hong – Conservation & Environment in Mexico
Hey! I am Mike Do Hong and I studied Marketing at Bergen Community College. I am passionate about many different things such as personal development, servant leadership, helping people, YouTube, videography, photography, social media, network marketing and much more.
I happily ended up in Mexico through an opportunity offered by DCP&P, a Foster Care and Adoption agency. Since I am a Foster Youth, I was asked by the supervisor of the supervisor of the caseworkers if I would be interested in this opportunity to volunteer abroad (greatest job title ever). I said “yes” excitedly and we did some research on some of the best international volunteer organizations in the world and Projects Abroad came up. So we looked into different volunteer opportunities and originally I was planning on going to Fiji or even Cambodia; this was costly, so I decided with the help of the supervisor to go to Mexico.
My arrival in Mexico
So, it was time, it was early in the morning and I was extremely exhausted yet excited. I was prepared for this daring adventure! Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I got to the airport and was ready to travel. It was my first time, in a long time, being at an airport so I was a bit nervous. But my supervisor was there for a little to help me out.
I finally got on the plane to Houston from Newark. I landed in Houston and waited for a long time and got on the last plane to Guadalajara. As we were landing, a rush of excitement and a little bit of fear for the unknown started to rumble within me. We landed and got out of the plane. Immediately, I sensed something different, the smell, the atmosphere…
After I got out, I was greeted by amazing people, but since it was a bit late at night (or early in the morning), people were rushing a bit. After I went through the security and everything, I was greeted by a charismatic staff member. He was so funny and I loved his personality; he was enthusiastic and didn’t take life too seriously. We drove out of the airport and rode through the highways of Mexico. It was beautiful, especially at night; it had a dark and unknown feeling yet you knew somehow you were safe and you were somewhere beautiful. We finally arrived at my host’s house and she was simply amazing. Her hosting skills are great! She showed me where all the rooms were and she shared stories about other volunteers staying at her place. She made me a delicious Mexican dish and I went to sleep full and ready for the next day.
My placement – patrolling the beaches
The next day, I got picked up by one of the staff members and a supervisor. We had a blast in the car - we talked about Mexico, the US and what they thought about the US. It’s really interesting to learn how people from different parts of the world see your country. I got dropped off at the bus station towards Tecoman and the staff member bought me some lunch because I didn’t have pesos with me at the time. It was so nice of him! Sooner or later the bus came and I rode the bus for approximately five hours to Tecoman. I was greeted by two other staff members and we drove in a white van to Cuyutlan. I knew I arrived in Cuyutlan when I saw the beautiful black sandy beach and before that, seeing A LOT of coconut trees!
As I got to the placement, I quickly noticed that the place wasn’t in the best condition but I was grateful and realized that some of us have it good back at home. This new place was to be my new home for the next two weeks, and I had a hate/love relationship with it!
After I organized myself and unpacked everything, one of the staff members showed me around and told me what we were going to do. I knew what I signed up for but I wasn’t sure what we were going to do, so I listened. The staff member told me many stories about the placement and the people who came before and I was shocked about how many amazing people came to volunteer for the Conservation Project.
The next day I woke up and quickly got ready. We went on this red quadbike which was absolutely amazing. Out of the whole experience, some of my favorite times were when I was riding the quad and patrolling the black sandy beaches of Cuyutlan. In the morning we went over to the placement and one of the staff members showed me around. I saw the sea turtles and everything, it was eye opening and they were big!
I was assigned and scheduled to go out at night, patrolling the beach; of course I picked that time since I am used to staying up late. As the evening arrived, one of the staff members called me and I responded excitedly saying “READY!” as we got on the red quad. The first time I went on it, it rained and in all honesty, riding on the beach on the quad at night is like a cinematic movie scene shot for Hollywood, YouTube or some other social media like Instagram. It was absolutely gorgeous and I remember raising my hands and moving it around, just playing like you would outside the window of your car while riding on a beautiful road. We patrolled for a while and collected eggs from the turtle nests. It was a fun experience, I learned about the project and fun facts about the sea turtles.
My placement – my activities
As for the morning, we went to the conservation area and cleaned the turtle tanks, fed the iguanas and dodged mosquitos! We did this for the next two weeks, patrolling at night and cleaning and feeding in the morning. It felt good, even though it is something small compared to what we think are the big causes in the world, we were contributing to society, the world and to the community. After the morning we would all feel tired and hungry and when we ate, it was one of the most satisfying feelings.
During the first week or so, I was alone and then a few volunteers came from around the world to help at the placement. The staff support here was great. Whatever we needed, one of the staff members was always available to help. I felt very comfortable here and I was slowly getting used to living in Cuyutlan.
My overall experience
Overall, there are so many things you can do in Cuyutlan. I walked along the beach, swam in it with supervision, hung out with some volunteers, released baby sea turtles, cleaned tanks, fed iguanas, ran away from a million plus mosquitos, ate amazing foods such as octopus and I spoke to the villagers. I was in deep solitude and I learned the value of traveling with a purpose. I definitely recommend the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in Mexico, because not only do you give your time, effort and overall contributing to the world, but also you are going through some serious solitude moments, learning more about yourself and others and how in the end we are all essentially the same. My support and encouragement goes out to anyone who will be willing to do something great; it may be tough in the beginning, but you will get the hang of it and become an expert!