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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Xalapa: Day one

An update from Katrina:

I went to bed this morning at 2 a.m. after packing for my first trip to Mexico. I viewed the whole “sleeping thing” as a nap, since I was going to have to get up at 3:30, only an hour and a half later. I woke up at 3:37 (pressed snooze once) and hurried to the flagpole to meet the rest of the people I’m traveling with.
People I’m with: Jessica, Jenna, Sarah, Dr. Tunks, Bernardo, Sanaz, D. Shide, Saira, and Jose.

ASB1.png We arrived in Mexico City at 9, 30 minutes earlier than expected. Upon our landing, we discovered that, oh my, there is a LOT of pollution in the air there. It was a beautiful city to look at from above, as all the buildings are different colors and the roofs are all red, but the pollution made it smell like a giant sewer pipe. We had a five-hour wait there in the airport, so we got used to the smell eventually. But, my oh my, that was weird. (All the snooty passengers onboard headed to Cabo and Cancun were very displeased, hahaha!)

Jose, one of the students on our trip, has family in Mexico City. His grandfather’s brother (I think that was the relation) and sister met us in the airport. We had lunch at Wings (Ihop: America:: Wings: Mexico). I ordered tres enchiladas con queso y salsa verde, and it was SO GOOD! I had way too much salsa and therefore had tons of gas for literally the rest of the day until I fell asleep, but hey. It was delicious nonetheless.

At this point, because I was running off only an hour and a half of sleep during the night and a sporadic two hours of sleep on the plane, I fell asleep in the booth a couple of times. When we decided we were done at the restaurant, we rode the tram around the airport and looked around at the city. It was quite pleasant.

After that, we crashed in the airport hotel lobby and most of us fell asleep. I’m not quite sure how long we were there because time started to turn into kind a of circle – that’s what exhaustion will do to ya! – and eventually Tunks, Saira, Aurora (Jose’s uncle’s mom) and I made our way to the place where we were to wait for our bus. The rest of the group went out to get food and got back to the bus two minutes before we had to leave.

ASB2.png The bus ride was awesome! Almost everyone took the opportunity to sleep, which I had originally planned on doing as well, but I didn’t for two reasons: the scenery was absolutely beautiful everywhere I looked, and Tom Tunks and I were sharing iPods. He had headphone splitters, so for the entire five-hour length of the journey, we listened to jazz and various other types of music. (I’ll have to look up the artists later, but he showed me this one woman whose voice was as smooth as melting brown sugar. No lie. It was FABULOUS.)

On the bus ride I saw taller mountains than I’ve ever seen before, including one that is pronounced Mount Po-po-tip-ee-tl. It’s REALLY hard to pronounce, and it was hilarious to try. Anyway, there were rolling hills and valleys, and the sunset was probably the most gorgeous one I’ve ever seen. The sun set, red and fiery, behind a triangular-shaped mountain that could have easily been a volcano if we lived in a cartoon, and it was just glorious.

The combination of great music and great scenery gave me a sense of optimism that I haven’t felt in a long time, and made me feel really great about what we’re here to do. I really can’t wait to meet the people we are going to work with!!

One epic moment on the bus ride was when we were on the top of a freeway in Mexico City. It was the first time I was able to actually grasp how HUGE the city is. There are people living in Mexico City, so many in poverty, so many in these tiny little houses that we just passed by, so many working literally on the streets selling ice cream to passing cars, so many children following their parents to work, so much culture and tradition.

It was unbelievable to realize how many people there are in the world that I haven’t seen and will never see and who live such a different life from me. It really puts things in perspective. And I haven’t even gotten to MEET the people here yet. I wonder that will be like … ?

Something else that I saw for the first time were a lot of “homeless” dogs. That was really sad. They were in ditches on the side of the road, picking for food. It was really sad.

We arrived in Xalapa just as scheduled, five hours after our bus left, at 8:30 pm. (At one point we passed a sign that said “Xalapa 10″ and then ten minutes later passed a sign that read “Xalapa 12.” That was funny.) Jose’s uncle, Rodrigo, met us at the bus station. We took two cabs and one car (Rodrigo’s) to the house. On the way (I was in the car with Rodrigo) we learned a word for “little rain,” which I’ve already forgotten.

Upon our arrival at the house, we got a grand tour! The house has three stories. At the entrance is a room where we put our shoes, Rodrigo’s studio (he is a percussionist and his studio is filled with all instruments percussion and five(?) marimbas) and the entrance onto the next two levels. There are various percussive instruments hanging from the railings on the stairways, which is just .. cool.

On the third level is Rodrigo’s room, the room where three of us girls are staying (Jenna, Sarah, and myself), and a bathroom that – not surprisingly – is filled with percussive instruments.

On the bottom level is where everyone else except for Tomas is staying, and the rooms there are the a big common area and the kitchen. Connected to the house are two additional bedrooms and another bathroom and a courtyard. The house looks like a castle on the outside.

After exploring the house and unpacking we had dinner – empanadas and something else I can’t remember the name of. There were cheese, beans, and chicken empanadas. We ate dinner, then sat downstairs and talked and reflected for a while on the day. It was a relaxing night, and when we went to bed everyone was exhausted but happy.

One thing to note is the extreme hospitality of the people here. Aurora and Rodrigo are so kind to us, as was Aurora’s brother whom we spent so much time with in the airport in Mexico City. They are related to Jose, but they don’t know the rest of us and don’t have any direct ties to us. They are SO NICE!!!! Everyone makes sure that we feel comfortable, and they are just so sweet. It’s that way with everyone here; even though the driving is CRAZY, it’s respectful. Nobody is rude to anyone else, everyone is polite and … I don’t know. It’s a culture shock but a GREAT one.

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