Mexico, Tapachula

10th February 2007 – 13th April 2007

Tapachula, a boarder town of 200,000 people, the gateway into Guatemala. A place the travel books describe as “if you don’t have to change bus here on your way to Guatemala, don’t bother getting off, its hot, humid, dirty and nothing to see”. Basically that sums up Tapachula, and it was just what I was looking for. After 2 and half months of backpacking and surfing, I was ready to get away from gringos and have myself a real bed, and not too mention a wash!

The previous chapter I had found out that my Canadian work visa had been refused. So I was stuck in Mexico with no job, no money, no plan and no jandals (flip flops)-I think someone had helped themselves to them as I slept on the beach. So I decided to stay in Mexico and work on my 3 S’s, Salsa, Spanish and Surfing.

Me and the kids The young ones bathing

My two Ozzie friends had been volunteering at an orphanage in Tapachula. I got in contact with the Ozzie couple that ran it, and they were keen for me to come and help out. The orphanage had 30 kids, ranging in age from 3 to 18 years old. The kids backgrounds were pretty sad, lives full of abuse and neglect, with the majority of them having lived on the streets. Some as young as 3 years old found wandering the street naked eating out of rubbish bins.

The dining area - the kids having lunch My cell, hahahaha, no my bed that I appreciated soooo much after months of a tent and beach

The Orphanage provided basic accommodation and lunch with the kids, I needed some pocket money for everyday necessities. I had no choice but to fall back on teaching English. I hung up posters at the local university and put the word out an experienced English teacher was in town.

I ended up teaching an air traffic controller for her upcoming air traffic exam. Hahaha, can’t you just see her after I had finished “yeah mate your sweet as to land, show us a barrel roll”! It was nice to have a rest from the orphanage life for a couple of hours and I enjoyed learning air traffic talk, ie alpha, bravo, charlie etc. Although sometimes I felt more like a councilor hearing about her family and life, than an English teacher. On Saturdays she would pick me up at 6am, we did a 2 hour class in the control tower at the airport, seeing the morning in as the sunrose over the towering volcano drinking coffee.

Hap the hairdresser. Little Sammy and the dog

The previous 2 and half months had seen me backpacking and surfing, so having a bed and a room was great. The living was very basic though. The whole time I was there I still didn’t shower. There was no running water. Showering involved scoping a bucket of cold water out of the well and pouring it over your head (that woke me up for my Saturday 6am English class). I washed my dishes in clothes from buckets from the well. My room had metal bars instead of windows, meaning the masses of mosquito’s attracted to the well paid me plenty of attention, not to mention the little geckos and the cockroaches. My record cockroach spotting in my room at one  time was 5. Obviously there was no air conditioning, sleeping and sweating just went hand in hand

I shared the ‘Casita’ (little house) with the other volunteers, Kate, 60 yr old kiwi/ozzie and Lara a 19 yr old Irish and Andy  a 27 yr old Ozzie surfer. These guys made the time there, sitting down and chatting after a day at the orphanage, venting and laughing. Lara’s cousin also worked at the University, so I was constantly out with her and her friends having a life outside of the orphanage.

dancing in the sunset. The boys, a human tower.

From the time I arrived, it was pretty hectic. Visions of smiling obedient kids were lost in the chaos of dirty toilets, shouting and punching. The reason for the chaos was because the wife had left 3 days previous to my arrival, taking 3 of the older kids to Australia for a 3 month scholarship. The wife was the ‘mother’ of the kids, running the house and enforcing rules. The 3 older kids she took with her also played a big part in the day to day running of the orphanage with organising the younger kids to do their chores. So without those 4 there to keep the order and day to day structure, there was mayhem as the existing younger kids tried to fill the roles left behind.

Off for a hiking adventure, Volacan Tacana Me and Sammy caught napping

Although it was chaotic at times, sometimes spending 12 hours a day at the orphanage with the ridiculous heat, there were always moments that reiterated why you were there.

  • Around every corner there was a kid waiting to hug you, to be tickled, to be loved.
  • Driving to the park in the van with 25 kids packed into the 12 seater van singing a pop song on the radio.
  • Toilet training Sammy, and being soooo excited like a gold miner striking gold when he actually drops couple of nuggets in the toilet and not in his pants!
  • The kids dancing in the dining room without a worry in the world.
  • Teaching Angela to swim after you save her from nearly drowning.
  • Coming back from a Sunday at the beach with a wet little kid snuggled up in your arms asleep.
  • Taking the older boys on an overnight hike up a 4000 metre volcano, where they experience cold for the first time, seeing their breath, the joy of hiking and the comradery involved. They make you proud.
  • Falling asleep on a kids bed because your so tired from the heat, humidity and chaos. Then a couple of the young kids come join you, using you as a pillow.

Its these special moments that you remember when you look back on the months spent there. It was with these special memories and an emotional good bye I got on the bus and left for my next chapter that saw me chasing love.

PS If you would like further information on the Mision Mexico orphanage please go to their website or









18 Responses to “Mexico, Tapachula”

  1. fchavira2 at 9:32 am #

    I would like to volunteer here.

  2. fchavira2 at 9:34 am #

    Have a degree and tons of experience teaching EsL and working with children. Please email me …Thank you, Frances smith

  3. fchavira2 at 9:34 am #

    my e-mail is thanks again and ahave a great day.

  4. Hap at 2:06 am #

    Hey bro, check your email.
    nuthin but love hap

  5. Vivian at 6:58 am #

    You’re awesome! Your time with the kids will mean something to them, and you, I’m sure, for a lifetime.

    • Hap at 11:45 am #

      Learnt heaps from them. Great memories. Some special kids.

  6. cris at 5:52 am #

    hey man, awesome how you helped those kids!!! i”m going over to tapachula soon. it would be cool to get the contact details of the orphanage to help them a bit. my email is

    • Hap at 8:15 pm #

      sweet bro, will email it to you, they always keen for helpig hands.

  7. F at 12:39 am #

    Hi hap. Just got back from a short stint in Vietnam 2 weeks. Next is ESL on mexico or teaching in honduras. be happy and continue tospread the peace. See ya soo (hopefully, fchavira2

  8. Frances at 2:32 am #

    Hi hap. Just got back from a short stint in Vietnam 2 weeks. Next is ESL on mexico or teaching in honduras. be happy and continue tospread the peace. See ya soo (hopefully

  9. Nichlas Tougaard at 2:36 pm #

    Hi Hap! Love your website, and was wondering if you could help me out?!
    I going travelling for about a month soon, and I’m dreaming about going to Tapachula and work at the orphanage.
    I was Recently in Sout Africa, and got in contact with the Red Cross down there, so I had the opportunity to go and help some of the people in Jo’burg. On the same trip I learned how to surf, and have been doing it a couple of times a week since then, and I hear you spend some of your time at the orphanage surfing with the kids?!

    Im writing you to hear if you have any contact information to the orphanage in Tapachula?
    Hope you can help me out! Thanks!

    • Hap at 5:57 am #

      G’day Nichlas,
      Thanks for the kind words.

      I’m all about helping you out, here’s the contact details for the orphanage

      I wish you the best of luck.


  10. Gidget at 9:46 am #

    Hey Hap,
    Love your website! I’m looking into volunteering at Tapachula and finding it hard to get information from people who’ve done it in the past. Would love to know more about your adventures there! I’m also studying Journalism/Communication in Brisbane, Australia and would love to interview you for a uni assignment. Shoot me an email if you’re keen to answer a few questions.
    Hope to hear from you soon!

    • Hap at 1:37 pm #

      Glad you stumbled across the blog. yep no worries on the questions, send them through, or we can orgainise a time on skype. I will be in Melbourne in a week or two to live for a bit, so will be on the time zone then. As for the info on the orphanage, i don’t have it on hand at present, buth they have a website, something along the lines of, infact that could be it. they also just put out a documentary that is showing in OZ which looks awesome.

      OK, gotta fly as back in NZ on holiday.

      Talk soon, Hap

  11. Courtney at 1:41 am #

    I am going to live in Tapachula, Chiapas with my boyfriend next year … He is from there. I would like to talk to you.

    I want to be an ESL Teacher in one of the schools … I speak almost perfect Spanish. (:

    • Hap at 10:38 am #

      Hey Courtney,

      No worries, i will drop you an email and you can bounce some questions off me.



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