Homemade happiness

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As we marched from our food filled, warm bed holding, hot water pumping, electricity surging home to our new barren yard and wooden structure, I was thinking that Shack Week was going to be fun. I have been camping many times before: you set up your tent, stoke up a fire and await nature’s great amazements. This experience was more like surviving than camping, and by the end of it all, although I hate to admit it, I would come to miss those luxuries that our past dwelling possessed. Many Mexican families endure the long laborious days of the fields and come home to a great lack of those luxuries. Last week my fellow classmates and I were one of those families.

The physical and mental fatigue after the first few work days was coming down hard on all of us. This week was a lot harder than we first thought. I recall in the midst of vigorously ridding the tomato fields of weeds, speaking to a number of Mexican workers who toiled next to me. Although they slave day after day for minimal wages under the hot sun, they found rest and joy in sharing their stories and thoughts with us. I too found joy in enlightening them in response to their questions about why a bunch of ‘Gringos’ from up north would put themselves through an experience like Shack Week. As we were looking to go home at the end of a day, they were hoping to stay longer and earn a few more pesos. In the opinion of a labourer from North America, they do not earn a just amount for their labours. The field workers earn up to $14 US a day.

As the week progressed, the array of menial tasks and lack of nutrition drained me. Some jobs were harder on the back, and others harder on the brain, but throughout the week our team stayed strong and united, maintaining high spirits. At the end of the long days we would each take part in the necessary tasks that kept the shack running smoothly. We were very frugal with our spending for food and supplies and very thankful for the little food we did get. The week was a success because of the group’s bond and the rules we set to maintain peace. My biggest concern during Shack Week was the insufficient amount of food that I knew there was bound to be. Long work days are made more dreadful with a meager lunch. Most of the daily jobs like Rock Picking (rounding up a desired type of rock to sell for landscaping) and Clamming (collecting clams from the ocean floor) indicated that our daily pay would be dictated by the amount of product we brought in, which meant supper was directly affected by our collective work ethic. This taught me patience and acceptance in a big way. Any chance of sleeping soundly after work was removed by either a flash rain storm (enduring 5-10 minutes inflicted on us by our landlord) or the pounding of loud mariachi music played on our neighbours loudspeaker well into the night.

To sum it up, Shack Week is a magnified version of the daily struggle that surrounds us while living in Mexico. We get a more vivid glimpse into the world of the people among us who are just trying to make a living to support a family. In essence, the experience made me reflect on what it would be like to live like that for an entire lifetime. It has made me more thankful for the life I was given, and more passionate about using it to make struggles like this stop.


Kevin ~ LiveDifferent Academy student 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 28th, 2012