Is this like traditional education?

  • No, not at all. It is participatory, experiential and transformative.
  • Each day is structured so there will be a 15 minute 'focus' session, outlining the general directions of the day, and any particular preparation instructions.
  • This is followed by an experience of some sort, usually away from the Centre. It will be a direct encounter with people who live in difficult situations, and they will have a chance to tell their story and answer any of your questions.
  • We return to the Centre and have a chance to critically reflect on the experience as a group.
  • There may be another speaker who joins us to answer any lingering questions.
  • Later in the day, you will have time to journal, write for our daily blog, or chat about the experience even more.

How many days should we spend? Is there a better day to start and end?

  • We recommend at least 8 days. 14 is optimal, and allows for a flexible 'options' day in the middle of the program. Note that airlines often charge more for travel on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

What do we pack?

  • We have created a packing list for you (attached).

Is it safe? How about drinking water? Scorpions and other nasty animals? Crime?

  • Given sensible actions for any large metropolitan city, Cuernavaca is a safe place. The drinking water we provide is tested frequently, and food is prepared carefully. Scorpions are a menace, but are not common, and can be avoided if precautions are taken. Dogs and other street animals often have parasites and fleas, and should not be touched. This is not a malaria zone.

Should we bring presents or supplies for people?

  • If the group wants to bring medical supplies like gauze, vitamins, latex gloves, etc, we will make arrangements to distribute them. Do not bring prescription medicines to leave here. Have the participants distribute the material throughout their suitcases. You can e-mail the facilitator assigned to your group to inquire if any other supplies are appropriate.

Is it true that Mexican men harass women?

  • As the participants will discover, Latin America is a very machismo society. This is part of the discovery of a different culture. Participants can lessen the impact by dressing conservatively (no tank tops or shorts in town or when visiting). What about medical services? Should participants buy travel or supplemental health insurance? Are additional medical precautions needed?
  • Cuernavaca has a wide range of doctors and hospitals. We have arrangements with an English speaking doctor if needed. Supplemental insurance is advised unless the participant clearly has adequate insurance coverage in a foreign country.
  • Unless pre-arranged with our staff as an 'advanced trip' to Chiapas, we do not go into areas of malaria or other diseases. No additional vaccinations are necessary other than Tetanus (which you should have anyway).
  • There may be some intestinal upsets due to different diet (and fresh fruit), so participants may want to bring pepto-bismal or eat acidophulus before the trip (either by capsule from a health food store or through yoghourt). We do not recommend either immodium or gravol. Washing your hands frequently is advised.
  • Dehydration may be an issue especially in the dry season (November - April), so be prepared to drink lots of water.

How can participants stay in touch with their families and friends?

  • There is a phone where we stay to receive calls. It is much cheaper to have families phone here at a specific time, rather than phoning home. Participants will have draft schedules before they leave home, so families will know when to call.
  • You might bring a laptop that can be connected at an Internet cafe. There is one about a ten minute walk from the Centre. Or you can use one of theirs for about 75 cents per hour for high speed connection.
  • Phone cards can be purchased at almost any small store. Participants usually buy a card when in the Mexico City Airport, and call home upon arrival in Cuernavaca to let people know they are safe.

What is the place like? How far from town?

  • In Cuernavaca we stay at a number of places, usually Benedictine monasteries. It is charming, quiet, clean and very comfortable. There are several acres of gardens, quiet areas for reflection, a dining hall, comfortable lounges, and dedicated meeting rooms. It is simple and uncomplicated. Most participants will have individual rooms with attached full bathrooms. Others will either share with one person, or have a private area in a Dormitory. Outside of central Cuernavaca, there is frequent public bus and taxi service a short walk away. There are restaurants, small variety stores, and a Laundromat a 10 minute walk away.

How much money should participants bring? Should they bring cash or Traveler's Cheques?

  • Participants only need "souvenir and social" money. American currency ($50) can be brought to change at the airport upon arrival. There are many ATM machines in Cuernavaca that accept bank cards and credit cards. Make sure the bank cards have "Interac, Cirrus, or Maestro" on the back. Do not bring Traveler's Cheques.
  • If your commitment involves leaving a donation to assist people in need, or any of the organizations and groups we meet, we will ensure it gets delivered to them. Letters of thanks will be issued to confirm the receipt of donations, but QUEST is not a registered charity so no income tax receipt will be issued.

Will there be time to relax, shop, visit friends in Mexico?

  • You will have a very full schedule, which includes time for reflection and relaxation.
  • We will arrange for people who create crafts, clothes, sell coffee, etc to come to QUEST to meet with you on one afternoon to sell their goods. In this way you can pay a fair price directly to the people. Other shopping opportunities will also occur, but participants should be discouraged from 'consumerism'.
  • Depending on the length of the program, there may be one 'options' day that can be used to travel to nearby cities such as Taxco or Mexico City. Caution must be taken if a trip to Mexico City is planned due to areas of high crime.
  • No beach resort can be reached in the time available, but there are several water parks for the options day.

Do we have to be able to speak Spanish?

  • No, but it helps if you know a few words. There is a link on this site with a list of simple phrases. You will be accompanied by skilled interpreters when presentations are made.
  • For longer visits we can arrange language instruction.

Who decides the activities?

  • Although we have a recommended list and sequence, we are open to discussion if your group wishes to explore any particular area in depth. Possibilities include alternative health procedures, labour organizations, indigenous issues, HIV-Aids, the environment, American or Canadian foreign policy, terrorism, education, etc.

Who are the facilitators, staff, and supporters?

  • QUEST uses several facilitators who are fluent in Spanish, and are well connected to people in the region. They also have a background in facilitating experiential education, and social justice issues.
  • Gary Warren has been a professor at Loyalist College in Canada for over 28 years, has conducted numerous Mexican group experiences, was the Interim Director at CCIDD, and is the current Coordinator of the International Support Worker Program at Loyalist College.
  • QUEST is guided by a Canadian Non-Profit Board, all of whom are volunteers. They ensure fiscal accountability, ease of communications, and community input. Other than the paid facilitators, everyone else is a volunteer.

What should I do to prepare the participants?

  • We recommend covering the material contained in this list, and give them an opportunity to develop relationships with each other. Contact us if you would like some structured exercises that you can do with the participants.

What if some participants have health or physical limitations?

  • Cuernavaca is very hilly, roads are often rough cobblestone, sidewalks are often in disrepair, and wheelchair access is almost nonexistent.
  • The elevation is around 5200 feet (1500 metres), and between November and April (the dry season) dust and asthma may be a problem.
  • If participants need prescription drugs, make sure they have adequate supplies, and are in original containers clearly marked with their name and medication name.

Is there a minimum or maximum number that can be in a group?

  • 10 is the minimum. Most group leaders find 15-20 to be the best size for group dynamics.

How much does it cost, and where does our money go?

  • In addition to your travel costs from your location to and from Mexico City, we charge $55US per day per person, which includes any part days at the start and end of the trip. All the money goes to pay staff salaries, food, utilities, rent, vehicles, honoraria for speakers, etc. No individual or organization makes a profit.

Is there a deposit required?

  • We ask that you send us a non refundable post-dated cheque in the amount of $US500 to guarantee your reservation.
  • Cheques should be made payable to "Quest Internacional" and sent to our Canadian office.

What is the weather going to be like?

  • Cuernavaca is called the "City of Eternal Spring" and has a very comfortable temperature range. It will get pleasantly warm (28-31 C) during the day, and cool (10-15 C) enough in the evening to need a sweater or light jacket. If you come in the rainy season (June to October), bring an umbrella!

What kind of food will be available? Is it really spicy? Can we eat elsewhere?

  • We try to eat "low on the food chain" and serve mostly Mexican dishes with chili 'on the side' for those who want the extra spice. Vegetarian meals are available every day upon special request. We do not recommend eating anything from sidewalk vendors.

What refreshments are available?

  • There is a lounge with purified water, coffee/tea and other beverages available. Soft drinks are available from the tienda (small shop) nearby.

What will the people be like? What can I expect to have happen?

  • Mexicans are generous, vocal, family oriented and sociable. They love to celebrate, and during your stay, there will likely be a festival, protest, or celebration of some sort. They will likely invite you into their lives, and we hope you accept the invitation.

Will I get some form of credit from a college or university? Are there assignments?

  • That is totally up to the college or university. For some it is an entire graduate course, for others, it is purely experiential. In either case we recommend keeping a personal journal as a way of collecting and focusing your thoughts, and to keep the experience alive.

What are the electrical outlets like? Can I bring a laptop, hairdryer, etc?

  • Although the voltage is similar to North America, outlets are often ungrounded (two prongs). Adaptors are available in the Cuernavaca market. Current fluctuations are common, and a spike protector for a laptop is recommended.

Do you supply towels, sheets, soap, etc?

  • We provide all of the above, but if you want to bring your own and leave them with us, the donation would be appreciated.

What is the risk of natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes?

  • You can see an active volcano (Popocatepetyl) on the horizon on clear days, but we are well away from any danger zone. Earth tremors are rare and minor.

What if some members of the group are underage?

  • Minors (under 18) must have notarized permission of any parent not accompanying them in order to have permission to travel to Mexico. The permission must name an accompanying adult (e.g. college faculty).

What travel documentation is required?

  • For citizens of Canada and the United States, a Passport is required for entrance into Mexico. It must not expire within 4 months of your visit.
  • Your Passport must match your airline ticket. If you have changed your name due to marriage, you must bring a valid marriage certificate.
  • You will receive a Tourist Card on the plane to be completed and then stamped by authorities at the airport. It must be returned to them upon leaving the country. Do not lose it!
  • You will be traveling here legally as tourists, not on business or as students - both of which require visas.
  • Citizens of other countries should consult http://www.mexonline.com/consulate.htm to see what requirements they must meet.

How can we communicate with you?

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Margaret Meade.