Ozarks alum explores Mexico through art and culture.

Release Date: 1/4/2006

Art graduate teaches English and paints in her own studio.


CLARKSVILLE, ARK.(January 4, 2006) -- Amanda Alders set off on an adventure after college, heading deep into Mexico to experience another culture firsthand.

“This is my time to think and reflect,” said Alders by phone from Cuernavaca, Mexico, about an hour and a half drive from Mexico City, where she has been teaching English at Cuauhnahuac Language Institute, a private language school, since July, less than two months after graduating from Ozarks with a degree in art.

Alders flew to Cuernavaca on spring break of her senior year at Ozarks after researching several language schools online. She met with the institute’s director and soon after was offered a teaching job. She moved to Cuernavaca, plunged into an intensive training program, and now teaches at the institute four days a week.

Teaching has brought new challenges to the 22-year-old from Memphis. “If (my students) don’t know what an English word means I have to demonstrate it theatrically,” said Alders. “Sometimes I’m jumping around the classroom!” Her students include engineers, physicists and biologists, with some traveling up to two hours to attend her classes. She also gives private lessons, and studies Spanish.

Alders lives in a colonia, a neighborhood about a five-minute walk from the institute. It is unlike any place she has lived before. “People convert half their home into a business,’ said Alders. “They’ll step away from their dining room table to sell me tortillas!”

“I feel like my day-to-day life is a lot healthier,” added Alders. I walk everywhere, and I’m learning something new every day.” She has embraced the local culture, participating in the rituals that surround Mexico’s Dia De Los Muertos, or day of the dead, held November 1.

“It’s very family-oriented,” said Alders. “People’s remembrance of their dead is very public.” Altars lined the streets outside her home, and she journeyed to the local cemetery for an all-night ceremony to remember departed relatives

Alders has her own bungalow, with a pool and garden nearby. She relishes the slower pace of life, which gives her the opportunity to concentrate on her art. “I’ve been painting on a daily basis,” said Alders, who uses one bedroom in her bungalow as an art studio. She has completed several paintings, and is showing her paintings in local galleries.

Cuernavaca is a crowded city of close to half a million, an adjustment from Alders’ college days in Clarksville, a quiet town of 7,500 at the foot of the Ozark Mountains. She has been looking to get even deeper into the Mexican countryside, and is considering relocating to Tepoztlan, a village “About the size of Clarksville,” that lies about 30 minutes from Cuernavaca.

The smaller setting would give her the opportunity to paint outdoor murals, an art form she pursued while an Ozarks student, including decorating the walls of a Clarksville coffeehouse.

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