Cassie Farrugia - Oaxaca, Mexico
Traveling to Mexico really opened my eyes to many things I
had taken for granted. I feel I understand the education system of America much
better now that I’ve seen another way of doing things and have had the opportunity
to compare and contrast. I learned about my own perceptions of Mexican
culture and traveling outside the country in general. What I didn’t expect were
the people we met in Oaxaca to have preconceived notions of what Americans are
like. Looking back I feel very naïve, as I certainly stepped off the plane with
expectations of my own.
I have never thought of myself as rich. Most my friends and
I whine about being broke college students and quiver in fear of the loan debt
awaiting us on the other side of graduation. It’s hard to keep things in perspective
sometimes. When juggling an overfull course load, as well as club commitments
and likely a part time job, it gets easy for us to think we’re owed more.
Surely we deserve more relaxation, more money, more credit for being able to
juggling school and home life? Going to Mexico was a chance to see how much
more I have than many already.
I spoke with a Mexican university student about how I was
lucky enough to afford the trip thanks to a scholarship from Circle K. I went
on to explain that I had worked in a soup kitchen with other club members a few
times. She stopped me, confused as to how the U.S. could have homeless people
at all. “Doesn’t your government pay for all things?” Apparently our stereotype
as a country is that we are rich citizens of a powerful government. I was so
happy to be talking to someone in Mexico without being held back by my own
limited language skills to chatting about the weather or asking for the time.
Coming home I’ve
realized that all the pictures I’ve taken and stories I’ve told don’t convey a
tenth of what this trip was for me. As annoying as it sounds, you simply had to
be there. Even if I had filmed every waking moment, and forced people to
watch while sitting in a sauna, they wouldn’t get the full experience. I
can tell them that an authentic Zapotec marketplace smells like chilies,
goats and peaches. But it’s not the same surreal experience of actually
standing amongst the jumble of unrecognizable languages in countless dialects.
A few friends of mine
are teachers, who believe they can relate to a group of children looking up in
complete adoration, though we were strangers mere hours before. But they don’t
know what it meant to me when Gerardo spoke to me about his brothers, though
I’d never heard him utter a word to his classmates or teacher. I can’t explain
the emotion I felt as I was enclosed into his tight, wordless hug on the last
day. He did not speak his goodbye so much as press it into me. I couldn’t share
that if I tried. Some things are just for me.