Our days in Oaxaca have been so rich and full that it’s hard to believe there have only been two of them. I looked around on a short bus ride we took this afternoon, and everyone was so happy, I actually felt a little lump in my throat. Mexico es fabuloso, Caleb told Señora Christina. And this morning: It’s all going by too fast.
Our morning check-ins confirm that everyone is doing well. Students are appreciating the home-cooked meals they’re having in their families; Dallas and Julian are especially excited, because their familia owns a restaurant! One student pointed out that all of the food is fresh; nothing is processed. And while breakfasts are different from what we’re used to at home, the beans, tortillas, eggs, cheese and fresh fruit – especially mangoes – are much appreciated. Because lunches are late at around 2:00, the hearty breakfasts really make a difference.
Ancona students are acute observers. Several boys noticed how much lower prices are in Mexico and wondered how do the shopkeepers make a profit? Or perhaps we should be asking why are prices so much higher at home? Caleb was surprised that a man could get on a bus, sing and people would give him money – something he couldn’t imagine happening in the U.S. And Aiesha, like many other students we’ve taken to Mexico, commented on how friendly people are.
Our days begin with Spanish classes at ICO; students are grouped according to their degree of Spanish
proficiency. We’re not the only students at the Instituto; there are students from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan and New Zealand. Nemo met one of the Maori high school students who are here for six months – he speaks English, Spanish, French and Japanese in addition to Maori. Really makes you think about our American educational system’s limited attention to world languages. The director of their school, himself part-Maori, explained to Señora Christina and I that he chose Spanish as a world language in his school, because it is not a language associated with a race; it is a language spoken by people of many races and nationalities all over the world. We teach the same idea at Ancona. Interesante, ¿no?
Everyone returns to his/her familia for the main meal of the day in the afternoon and then a siesta. At 4:00, we return to ICO for intercambio, which is a wonderful opportunity for Ancona students to get to know Oaxacan students who are learning English. They talk about whatever they like, helping each other with the two languages.
After intercambio, it’s time for cultural activities. Monday we had a salsa lesson outside in the spacious courtyard. ICO is in the large, gracious hacienda-style home of Lucero’s grandmother — not quite Downton Abbey, but still reminiscent of a very different era. There were a few reluctant dancers, but everyone was a good sport. It seemed to be great fun for most and maybe a little awkward for some. I am truly impressed with this group’s willingness to cooperate and try even when they might not be totally comfortable. They are confident risk-takers!
Following the Tuesday morning classes, students toured the Cultural Museum of Oaxaca, but I can’t tell you anything about it, because Gilad and I were on a money-changing odyssey, waiting in line in four banks and two currency exchanges until we were finally able to change everyone’s dollars into pesos at a reasonable rate. Because of the very long, slow immigration line in Mexico City, we didn’t have time exchange in the airport, and dealing with currency limits and getting enough small bills to distribute back to the students was no small feat! Gilad was in desperate need of a gelato when our ordeal was done. Fortunately, in this beautiful city of outdoor living, that was easily accomplished.
p.s. Parents, we read your comments on the first post to the students, and they loved them. Keep them coming!