An update from Anne, a graduate student in history with a focus on the U.S. Southwest and Mexico who is doing research on Indian history:
The day before had prepared us to identify various birds among the lagoon and helped make us more sensitive to their surroundings. Also, like the previous day, we saw locals fishing to earn a living.
What distinguished this day from the other, however, is that we traveled to a small village where descendants of African slaves currently live. The Afro-Mexican community was a humbling experience. Although they had electricity, the living conditions are difficult to convey in words.
Here we also visited a crocodile farm. Although the living conditions appear to be dreadful, we came to understand that all of the crocs are released back into the lagoon to counter their depleting population at the hands of hunters, which put some of our minds at ease.
The lunch portion of the day was an ideal way to end a study abroad trip. We took in the sun, freely indulged in the consumption of local fish and lobster, shared stories about our lives and reflected over this amazing study abroad experience.
By dinnertime, we were exhausted – an aftereffect of taking in so many sights and sounds. But although our eyes sagged and our muscles ached, we did not want this adventure to end. Just to think how much an individual can learn in a living classroom is telling, and perhaps why so many us are drawn to these types of classes.
After a mere three weeks in another country, we had learned so much about Oaxacan traditions, arts and crafts, economy, cooperatives, ecology, and a little about who we are and how we fit into this larger connecting environment and world. Although part of the purpose of this trip and class was to give us a sense of place in Oaxaca, I am confident that it also made us aware of our own sense of place back at home.
Time will tell, but I can only hope that we came to value cultural diversity and how such differences can be rewarding, eye-opening and humbling.