Adventure. New friends. Grateful.
A couple highlights of this trip was that one time I went ziplining as well as meeting new friends through IESO (the university we teamed up with to conduct a project). The topic for our project was community health and traditional medicine. One of my teammates organized a whole day for us to explore the pueblos. I felt very fortunate because we had the opportunity to meet with people from the pueblos and see first hand how they use the natural resources around them to cook their meals and stay health. I was amazed to see all the fresh foods (fish, mushrooms, herbs, etc.) that we were able to obtain in the pueblo and use it to make a meal in an instant. These communities rely on these natural resources and biodiversity that contributes to their health and nutrition. One of the stops we made was near these large water tanks that had fish. A family from the pueblo caught some of the fish and cooked it for us. It was beyond delicious!! I couldn’t believe that in a matter for 30 minutes this woman had prepared an amazing meal with natural and fresh ingredients for us. As I was taking in this meal, I could imagine all of the love, preparation and time she put toward making it. I felt very appreciative in that moment. When we were leaving I went to give her a hug and thanked her for the wonderful meal. These individuals take advantage of what they have even if its not much, they work with what they have and create so much. The friends I met at IESO treated us as like family. Being a Latina this is something I was taught from my parents. That we should treat others as if they were family. The hospitality and respect that I received from my classmates was something that I will always remember and carry with me. I already miss them! I will continue to keep in close contact with them. After exploring the pueblos and conducting our interviews for our project we decided to have some fun. We all went ziplinig in a pueblo called Cuajimoloyas. This was probably one of the most exhilarating moments in my life. I couldn’t believe I was ziplining. I am not much of a risk taker, but for some reason I wanted to do this and prove to myself that I have what it takes to do whatever I set my mind to do. This was my opportunity to overcome my fears. In all honesty, I was freaking out the entire way when climbing up the mountain. When I got to the top I started to panic and debated whether I should even go through with it. My classmates were all doing it and I could see how courageous everyone was! This instilled motivation in me and I thought “hey why not!” I ended up going through with it. The view was stunning. I could still picture this exact moment- the fresh air blowing in my face and screaming my lungs out. LOL. I felt very blessed to have been able to experience this. It was an amazing experience that I will definitely do again!
My last week with my students was the hardest. I mean saying goodbye is always hard. I couldn’t believe I was going to leave without saying goodbye to them. When everything was happening in Oaxaca they had cancelled the English classes but I was told that some of the students had still shown up. This was crazy to me! Through all the chaos, they still wanted to learn! The trip to the pueblos is not an easy one, from a 45-minute bus ride you then take a mototaxi to reach our final destination. In addition, the roads were blocked so we would have to take alternate routes to get there. Even though we had to go through all this I still had the biggest smile once we arrived. Seeing them made me happy. Throughout my time with them I always felt fortunate to be there with them. They always showed up at least 5 min early and were ready to learn. I can remember a time when I was in grade school and at times I didn’t want to go to school or complete my homework assignments. This made me reflect on how privilege I was to even have an education were I had my regular classes and also had the opportunity to learn any language I wanted (Spanish, French, etc.). The classes I taught were part of an after school program, thus these children were there because they wanted to be there not because it was mandatory. On the last day, we decided to treat the kids to some treats and to have fun by playing some games. Its funny because we told them that the last day was going to be a fun day, and they said “but we are still going to learn English today right?” They are so amazing and adorable. I wanted to cry because I had become so attached to them and they kept asking me when I was going to return which was hard for me to hear. I told them the best gift they could give me is to continue with their English and stay in school. I hope one day I will be able to see them again.
When arriving to Oaxaca, I wasn’t sure what was happening between the teachers. Even back in the states I wasn’t aware of the ongoing battle that was happening around la “reforma educativa”. The first couple of weeks I witnessed massive protest on the streets that went on for miles. I was shocked to see this because I had never seen something like this before. One day I was walking to class and all of a sudden I see hundreds of people walking towards me- women, men, children, and the elderly were all protesting in the hot sun. I never believed I was ever in danger when walking through these protest to get to where I had to go, but it was heavy on me emotionally to see this happening every single day. It wasn’t until I was 4 weeks into the program that I thought my trip to Oaxaca would be coming to an end. It was the finale of the Warriors game and the group wanted to head to the centro to grab some drinks and eat. Earlier that day we had received some messages for our directors telling us to be careful because the authorities were going to remove the teachers who were in the Zocalo camping out. But for some reason my roommate and I thought we would be okay since everyday we were told to just be cautious of our surroundings. We end up taking a taxi to this place, upon our arrival we see that the restaurant is closed and soon noticed everything around us was closed as well (stores, shops, restaurants, etc.). Since no one had cell phone service we decided to start walking home. As we are walking, we see that the fires have started. I started panicking because I didn’t know what was going to happen. The streets were starting to become empty and places were starting to close up. We finally found the rest of the group at a pizza place and outside were so many cops suited up with their firearms. At this point, I am ready to go home I don’t even want to watch the game anymore. I was really scared and I started scaring everyone else. I mean, I see the fires, and then all these cops ready to attack, and now they were shutting the restaurants doors as a precaution. I mean…I think I was allowed to be a little freaked out. By the time I get home, I am receiving all these calls from my parents. They heard about the protest and how people died during a confrontation with the authorities and wanted me to get on the next flight home. The next day we had a debrief with our group and other staff at Becari. We were told that we had the option to go home. At this point I am thinking yes I will. So many thoughts were going through my head. Everything I was seeing first hand and then on the media was just escalating things for me. That night I was tossing and turning. One of my friend who lives in Oaxaca was texting me telling me that I shouldn’t go outside at all. By her house they were throwing gas and burning cars. The whole night I couldn’t sleep because I was scared that something was going to happen. Anyway, the next day regardless of what everyone (mostly my parents) were telling me I decided to stay and finish the program. I didn’t know what to expect, the situation in Oaxaca could have escalated and been worse but I chose to trust myself and stay. I didn’t want to leave my students or my classmates behind. I felt proud for the decision that I made for myself. I’m glad that I was able to support my classmates and those that I had grown close to in Oaxaca. I will never forget my experience in Oaxaca, for I have learned many valuable lessons that I will hold close to my heart.