ASB2010 in Mexico

Students are traveling to Xalapa, Mexico, as part of Alternative Spring Break 2010 to work at an orphanage, serve food and help at a clinic with the nonprofit organization Caritas.

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Meeting mountains

An update from Sanaz:

Today is Sunday, and our first day of work is tomorrow. We woke up bright and early to attend a Catholic Mass, my first Mass in Mexico and second Mass in my life. The service was entirely in Spanish, but that does not mean that the people’s depth of faith was lost on me. The packed cathedral, long line for confession and ornate decor amid more simple designs throughout the rest of the city are a testament to how important religion is to the people of Xalapa.

And not only is Catholicism important, it seems to be interwoven into all aspects of life; the spheres for God and daily life are not separate as they seem to be in the United States. Children feel completely at home in the church, most people wear crosses around their necks, and Caritas (the organization for which we will be working) is affiliated with the Catholic Church.

ASBMexico2.jpg Later we visited Xalapa’s anthropology museum. I was impressed by the great Olmec stone heads and perhaps even more impressed with the way the history and culture of the indigenous people had been preserved and celebrated. It was a reminder of my own tiny role in our culture, a culture that to us seems ordinary and inevitable but that will one day pass and be gawked at in the same way we marvel at the Olmecs.

But nothing prepared me for the insignificance I was about to feel when we visited the waterfalls and lush, mountainous landscape of Coatepec. After all, it is one thing to identify my small role in the long line of human history. It is quite another to be reminded that the long lines of human history are just shadows on the constant that is the majesty of nature.

I can’t describe with words the beauty I saw quite unexpectedly when we stumbled upon a viewing balcony, but I can try to explain what I felt. Some of the trees are so gigantic that I wonder how many generations they have grown. It does not seem unreasonable to think that they could have been there at the time of the Olmecs. It is even surer that they will continue to live and grow long after I have passed. Like the everlasting sound of the waterfall, they seem inevitable.

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