Mexico is a beautiful country with great diversity. Here in the state of Baja California you can find volcanoes, mountains, desert, ocean and possibly the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Though all of this is fantastic and certainly desirable, they are far from my favourite part of Mexico. For me, the true beauty lies within the hearts of the people; their stories, their smiles, their laughter and their happiness.
This is what makes the Academy experience so special and important. In my time here I have come to know many members of the community, some better than others. I could already speak Spanish prior to arriving here, which has helped me make connections with the local people, and I have been doing my best to take full advantage of it.
There is a woman named Ilda who sometimes comes to help out with the cooking at the house. She has the most welcoming and warm smile to greet everyone with. Whenever she’s here I lean over the counter and chit-chat while she cooks. She tells me stories about her son, and her husband who lives in the States, and just the day to day things. I tell her about my day and we gossip and laugh. It seems so normal and simple. Some days our easy chatter and laughter leads into more serious talks; she tells me about how hard it is to be twenty-three while still trying to finish high school and take care of her 4 year old son and work as well. She faces challenges every day and yet always greets me with that same smile. She is filled with joy and is always interested to hear about my life. It’s so staggering and humbling to think about the normal conversations we have, the similarities between us, and yet how far apart the worlds we come from are.
On Thursday mornings I load into a van with two other LDA’s and we head to a senior’s care home in nearby Vicente Guerrero. The first few times I felt anxious, but now I have found a part about it that I love. One of the ladies that works there has such interesting stories about her life. She has faced so many tragedies and yet holds so much hope for her future and that of her kids as well. She’s very open with us and offers up her tales and answers all of our questions. She inspires me to believe that no matter what happens in my life I should always have hope for tomorrow. She’s one of those people who inadvertently makes you stop and think about your actions, your beliefs, and your life.
Now this next one might sound a little silly…but this week I found out that the kids I teach English to actually know my name. That was huge for me, even though it’s so small. My teaching partner was sick and the kids asked after him by name. They worried about if he was okay and asked if I was sick too. They seemed genuinely concerned. I worry about them and love spending time with them but it had never occurred to me that they might worry about me and enjoy spending time with me just as much. That day in class has been one of my favorites so far. When I took the kids outside to play a game the girls clung to me and were sad to see me go at the end. It’s nice to know that me being there might be touching their lives in a way more than just teaching them a bit of English.
As part of a new part of Academy this year we go to a “host family” every Thursday afternoon and evening. Our host family has us cook and eat with them, they take us to Zumba class, and really just hang out with us. It’s generally the highlight of my week. Our host family is incredibly sweet and welcoming. They show a lot of concern for us and are always asking us things about our lives and trying to makes us feel included. They let us sit in on their family life, which on its own an incredible thing, but then they also do their best to make us feel a part of it. This Thursday our host mom and I sat and talked for a while about how hard it is to get a visa into the United States and Canada for a Mexican. The injustice of it all tears at my heart strings. I wish the governments could see the heart and joy of the people I know here and reconsider their opinions for them.
Our days in Mexico are numbered now and I plan on making each one of them count. I don’t know exactly what I came here for or if I’ve found it yet, but I know that things for me have irrevocably changed. I have a new outlook on this beautiful country and I know that when I leave a little part of me will stay here, with the people I have met and shared with and befriended.
– Carrington, LiveDifferent Academy Student, Fall 2014