For the most part, my life participating in the IFSA Butler study in Mexico program is a lot like life in the United States. I go to school, I come home to a family and I go out with friends. It’s not like those pictures of Latin America where everyone has babies tied to them with bright-colored fabrics and the dust in the street doesn’t settle for ten minutes after the village Jeep passes through. I’m in a city. There are Burger Kings and Wal Marts and Movie theatres.
But, though my life here has a skeleton similar to that of my life in the United States, I am reminded frequently that the muscle is all Mexico. For instance, on the way home from school today, the bus driver stopped the bus and left it, still running, in the middle of the road. All other passengers seemed to accept this as normal, so I chose not to panic. About five minutes later, he returned with a hot dog and a soda.
The houses, the fruit and the people all seem more colorful here. And there’s a hammock in every room of my house.
There are other signs that I am studying abroad in Mexico. For instance, this past weekend I found myself sitting in a hammock on a tropical island making plans for celebrating Mexican Independence day. This has never happened to me in the United States. Isla Mujeres, said island, is the paradise I have so often conjured in my mind during long walks to class during Chicago winters. My three friends and I stayed in a bungalow with a thatched roof that had only a few hammocks hanging from palm trees to separate it from the ocean. And we got an even closer look at the rolling turquoise waves when we paid a boat to take us snorkeling near a reef. I tried to imagine which of the colorful fish I saw was what was served to me—tail, head, bones and all—for lunch on the shore that day.
As far as the Mexican Independence day plans, we went to Playa del Carmen and found the park where the “Grito” would be read. Every city reads the “Grito,” a famous speech that declared independence, at midnight on Independence Day. You might be familiar with it: “Viva la Mexico!” We were really excited about being there, in the packed square under the red, white and green lights. We waited for about a half an hour before asking someone when it was going to start. The answer, sadly, “it just finished [but imagine that answer in Spanish].” Big crowd, no speakers.
Yep, Mexico this is. And I’m loving it.