Week 2 of 5 for this study abroad experience is over.
For the past two weekends, my study abroad program, Medical Spanish and Public Health in the Yucatan from IFSA-Butler University, has given me the opportunity to go on different rural excursions on a Saturday mornings and return Sunday evenings. These are amazing experiences because I am able to meet so many native people, see how they normally live, sleep how they sleep, eat what they eat, and overall just learn from them. The past 2 weekend excursions have really opened my eyes to the different ways people live.
In American, I had experienced living in the cities Harlingen, Texas and San Antonio, Texas. Before this trip, I thought those two cities were what it meant to go from rural to urban. Now I know better. Living in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico during the week and then visiting cities like Santa Elena, Yaxcaba, and Yaxuna, in the Yucatan really has given me a unique opportunity.
I have been able to communicate with 4 herbologists (3 older men and 1 woman in her 20s like me), 2 midwives, 1 wood carver, 5 seamstresses, 1 of the best professors I have ever met, 1 incredibly knowledgeable chauffeur, 1 little girl who brought joy and laughter to everyone in my program, 1 scrawny cat, 1 injured bird, 1 feisty chihuahua, and countless other native men and woman who prepared all of my delicious meals, helped me set up my hammock, and made me feel so welcomed during my stay.
Mostly everyone I interacted with on these excursions identified as Mayan or of Mayan decent and the Mayan language was always being used. There was always a genuine smile on everyone’s face and great conversation to be had and, though I felt like I was on a different side of the world from my home in Texas, I also felt a sense of being in a familiar location. Every single meal I have had on this trip has been so delicious that I don’t think I have left a plate without it being empty. Also, I am seriously considering switching out all of the beds in my house for hammocks as soon as I return.
That’s not to say that I have some things to get used to. The constant use of bug spray still won’t save anyone from every bite, and lack of AC means I am sweating… a lot… constantly. The lack of any cell phone service is also an adjustment to be made and countless stray dogs constantly remind me of all of the sad dog shelter commercials I used to see on TV. I still hit my head on the low hanging materials making up the thatched roof when entering and exiting a hut, and yes, I still need to reminder myself to throw the toilet paper into the trash cans instead of the toilets… and to bring my own toilet paper wherever I go.
With all of these things to consider, I still think the experience I am receiving through my study abroad program is so tremendously unique and rewarding. I feel grateful to have been given this opportunity to be so immersed into a culture that I didn’t know I was missing.