I arrived to Oaxaca, Mexico on yesterday and I already have so much to say! For starters, I became very anxious to go on the trip as my travel date neared. I was so worried about the horror stories I heard from others who had traveled abroad and experienced robbery and violence with natives.
Thus, upon my departure, I wasn’t as excited as I was about the trip a few months ago. The journey to get to Oaxaca included 3 long flights which left me exhausted when I landed. I quickly learned that indoor air conditioning was not a thing in Mexico. This really bothered me when I arrived to the airport because I was so sweaty and irritated from my long day’s journey.
My host mom picked me up from the airport, and she was so sweet! I instantly adored her because she reminded me of my grandma. However, I couldn’t communicate with her well because she spoke complete Spanish. She grabbed us tickets for a taxi so that we could head to her home. On the ride there, I became even more upset about the lack of A/C because it was 10 people in the taxi and the Oaxaca sun was beaming down on us so hard. I tried to calm myself by looking out the window as we passed the buildings. I was completely shell shocked.
While I knew Mexico was a very poor country, I never would have realized how poor it was until I saw it with my own eyes. Buildings were completely run down, trash everywhere, cars flying around without little care for other vehicles, and so many people who walked the streets. I immediately felt immensely grateful for my life in America. While I didn’t have everything I may had wanted growing up, I had more than the people of this country. I realized quickly how much I took for granted in America like access to A/C.
When we arrived to my host mom’s home, I felt even more guilty for complaining about my trip. In Mexico, there is poor plumbing so in order to use the restroom, you can’t throw tissue down the drain. You have to place it in a trash bag and then dispose of the bag outside. While this may seem like a small change, it felt like a huge one. I didn’t realize how grateful I was for flushing tissue down the toilet.
On top of that, water is scarce so long showers are strongly forbidden. At this point, I am extremely uncomfortable being in this country. I didn’t feel safe or comfortable. I was so ready to leave. However, we had an assignment to do with some local teens. We were to practice our Spanish with them while we help them with their English. I was so impressed with the local teens because their English was incredible. From talking to them, I learned that in Mexico, everyone craves to learn English because they have desires to come to America to chase their dreams. Learning English for them was critical to their survival whereas in America, we learned Spanish just because. While I enjoyed my time interacting with the teens, I kept feeling so out of place and guilty. I wanted to leave and return to my comfort zone.
However, my program director had one more activity planned for us. We walked several miles up steep hills until we arrived to an area overlooking the city. The view was spectacular. I immediately felt at peace. It occurred to me that although Mexico is not what I was use too, it was beautiful because the people there strive everyday to make lemonade out of lemons. They appreciate the small things because they know it could easily be taken away from them. Staring at that immaculate view, I decided to stay committed to appreciating the small things while I was here and to make the best out of every experience. I am now ready to truly immerse myself in the culture.