Thanks again to Kat Stackel, WVU-Amizade Course Facilitator, for contributing from the road:
Here goes my last e-mail from Mexico, and hopefully I can try to encompass our entire experience so far. I think that I should preface this e-mail by saying that Mexico is HUGE and every place is so different that it is difficult to give an explanation of "how it is," and better to remind you that our experience has been limited to two parts of a very diverse country. In the words of a student I'm traveling with, "my stay in Guanajuato has made me question my previous classification of Mexico as a poor, developing country lacking the infrastructure necessary to maintain safe and healthy conditions." For the last week I've been questioning my assumptions of Latin America in a new way. I know that my experiences in the Peace Corps and otherwise are the backdrop of my knowledge and this is something different.
To start, we finished our volunteer projects in Puerto Morelos on 6/14. The kids at the pre-k center were an absolute delight. I think that my students would say they learned more from the kids than they actually taught them. Their Spanish went from zero to about 2.0 pretty fast.. with them having a great, big vocabulary for directing students to learn and play, and a working knowledge of enough Spanish to ensure their survival.
Our favorite project was completing a video translation for the visitors' center in that town. It was an 8-minute video about the reef national park and the history of the settlement. At first we were confused on how we would go about this project since I am the only one who could understand the video. Well, my English-translation skills are mas o menos when it comes to sentence construction, and with a grammar expert in the group, it turned out to be a very inclusive project for all. We translated all of the text, timed the video perfectly, and re-recorded all of the audio in English. It was fun, frustrating, hilarious and completely satisfying.
We were sad to say goodbye to the Puerto, but we think we'll be back. Actually, all 5 of us ended up taking a parasitic souvenir from the place, which wrecked the beginning of our stay in Guanajuato, but left a special memory in our hearts for forever. Dignity was lost, but things could only go uphill at this point!!
We arrived in Guanajuato at the level of "fist" on a scale of fist, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (think hands). Two got sick first, then two more, and then our "MVP" who lasted until the 3rd day. We were out of commission for about 4 days total and the Mexican mothers were having a field day with suggestions for our improvement. With my help, the students learned some new and very important vocabulary:
No, no quiero bañarme con agua frio... No, I don't want to bathe with cold water
No, no quiero tomar bicarbonato con limón...No, I don't want to drink baking soda with lime
No, no quiero sopa de verduras... No, I don't want vegetable soup
Last one- very important.
Since we've recovered, we are discovering how different Guanajuato is from the Puerto. We are up at 6,700 feet and north of Mexico City, and our homestays were arranged with some pretty wealthy people in the area. In contrast, we are volunteering with some extremely disadvantaged groups. Most of the beginning of work was filled with heartbreak and guilty feelings. We are moving past that somewhat and getting down to what needs to be done.
Our project here is to work with an NGO called Arco Iris, and a convent, battered women's shelter, and girls' orphanage. Arco Iris is a group of Mexican, American and Canadian women that work with the latter 3 groups. The latter 3 are all inter-connected yet separate at the same time. At the convent, we've been doing some serious spring cleaning for a group of nuns that are elderly and need a lot of help. I am always hesitant to use this word when talking about volunteering, because it has a lot of implications and the power structure is skewed, but, they need helping hands.
We are also working with the children of the women's shelter. Pretty much, these children were taken out of their homes because of death threats against their mothers, and they are currently at risk of being kidnapped by other family members. They were taken out of school, relocated, and are not able to re-register until the next full year begins. They do not have their friends, other family members, many of their possessions, etc. We are playing with them, working with them to express certain values (given by their group leader), and for those that care to learn- teaching English.
In the girls' orphanage, we are simply spending time with a group of 30 girls that is otherwise only attended to by the two very busy people that run the orphanage. The girls range in age from 4-17 and it is clear that they all have very different needs. We are happy to take a few hours to just play with them. Simple things like coloring books, sidewalk chalk and jump ropes can really change a child's day and so that's how we went armed. I love watching my Amizade group remember all of their games from camp, and the girls are loving learning them.
This is how we will continue our last week in Mexico, with slight interruptions for certain (ahem), World cup games, never to be missed (the hum of those horns can be heard at any time from any place here in GTO). Also, we are going to be attending a special ceremony for some of the girls and will hopefully get to visit another much bigger orphanage before we depart. It's been a great learning experience.
Thanks for reading about our adventure. The rest of the pictures (so far) have been added to this album:
- By Katherine Stackel
Rounding the Corner
2 years ago