Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back to a Little Normalcy

After a three week trip from the tip of Baja California all the way to Tijuana, three weeks in the states visiting family and two weeks showing Miguel the best of Mexico, I'm back in Texcoco ready to pick my classes, start school again, give presentations (one tonight for the Rotarians) and continue my service work!

The past five months here have been amazing and challenging, I've learned so much and have grown professionally as well as personally. After taking a look back at everything that has happened over the past five months, I've been able to make some goals for the last half of my scholarship period here in Mexico.

1. Focus on my service work

-It took me a few months to really find a service project that I was passionate about. The Rotary clubs here are working on a number of projects that are interesting but none of them really fueled my deep passion for grassroots community foods systems and environmental work. After a while, I finally came across an environmental group started by various community members in Texcoco. They welcomed me with open arms into their project and in the past few months of last semester I've been working with them and learning about their community food projects, composting project, recycling and education center and the botanic garden they are planning. Now that I found a group that I'm passionately involved with, I want to put my all in to contributing whatever I can give to their project.

2. Continue with my presentations as an Ambassadorial Scholar

-I have about 1/2 of the required presentations completed for my scholarship and will continue to find opportunities to present at my local clubs, school and community about different topics of interest.

3. Continue to learn from and visit various communities here in Mexico, including my family

Because of great family and friends, I've had the amazing opportunity to take part in getting to know the every day realities being lived here. Out of my nine uncles and aunts living in Mexico, I've only been able to visit two families. This semester I would like to be able to visit the majority of my other family who I have not yet visited and spend time with them. I would also like to visit some of my classmate's families and communities in which they are doing their thesis work to be able to learn more about the rural and agrian lifestyle and challenges first hand. This is a great way for me to compliment what I am learning in class as well as another way I can help break down cross-cultural barriers and contribute to building understating between different groups of people.

4. Don't be so afraid to speak up in class and share my reality and experiences

-Last semester I held myself back many times in class because I was afraid of saying something and having my classmates and teacher not understand me, or of saying something in a way that could sound elitist. I had come to Mexico to listen and learn not to take over discussions. This was my thinking last semester. I was afraid of being a tool of neocolonialism with my words and actions. There were many times when students or teachers had stated their opinion on U.S. politics, daily life and other U.S. realities as facts and many times I wanted to speak up and state my point of view on the topic. Some times I would freeze up and not be able to say anything and other times I would defend myself (ex. when a teacher said all Americans think Obama is a communist or that there are no unemployment benefits in the U.S., among others).

After taking the time to talk to various classmates and share the difficulty I was having between being scared to speak up, worried about being another American spreading anthropocentric and colonial views and wanting to really open up and share my own personal reality and point of view about U.S. politics and life, I was encouraged over and over again to share my ideas in class. My friends and classmates told me that they all know I am not the kind of person trying to spread U.S. colonialism and that sharing my experiences with them in and out of class enriches their lives. That it gives them the opportunity to learn about realities different from their own just as learning from them in class enriches and compliments what I know.

5. Remember that being an Ambassador of Goodwill is 24/7

-This is one of the most important, if not the most important part of my scholarship and time here in Mexico. It's important that I remember my role as an ambassador and that it is a full-time responsibility. Every interaction I have here is an opportunity to break down stereotypes, misunderstanding and fear. Every opportunity is an opportunity to build friendships of peace.

6. Be kind to myself

- I realized that over the past five months, I've been very hard and judgmental of myself. I've compared myself, my language skills and level of understanding to that of my peers. I've let many things get to me and get me down. This time around I am going to do a better job of accepting myself at the level I'm at, not compare myself, accept situations as neither negative or positive while still being sensitive and open to my surrounds and those around me.

Taking a look back at my first months here and looking at what I've done well and what I need to improve, I feel reenergized and passionate to continue my journey of learning and communication. I feel that if I stick to these main goals, I can really make a positive impact in serving others and helping bring cross-cultural understanding.

PICTURES: of Miguel's visit to Mexico-

Ruins of Monte Alban, of the Zapote people, one of Mexico's most vast prehispanic ruins site. Also one of the earliest cities in Mesoamerica, and at Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house in Coyocan standing next to photographs of our twins?;)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Maria - We were at the midwest orientation together. I just received your response to the Rotary email that went around and am really enjoying reading your blog.

    I immediately identified with your comment, "Last semester I held myself back many times in class because I was afraid of saying something and having my classmates and teacher not understand me, or of saying something in a way that could sound elitist. I had come to Mexico to listen and learn not to take over discussions. This was my thinking last semester." In my masters program in human rights and law, I also had a slow start and held my tongue, not wanting to be the gringo spouting platitudes or, as you put it, elitist neocolonialist rhetoric. Gradually, the rest of the class (17 countries represented out of 26 people) pulled me into the discussions. It's now fairly common for me to be looked to for the US perspective, not in a hostile manner, but just to get a different perspective.

    A long comment, but I just wanted to say hi and express a little solidarity (that and avoid studying for the exams I have this week).