This post is a part of looking back at my 2014 Oaxaca trip.
My second week in Oaxaca tends to be what I remember when I think about my time there. This was the week that I felt most comfortable, that I finally was getting the hang interacting with locals in Spanish, and that I spent the most time exploring.
One evening that I really appreciated was when my roommate and I took a walk around the city. We found a gorgeous fountain with some statues of Oaxacan figures, including the large circular male headdress that I saw in almost every informational blurb about their culture.
Many evenings we walked the streets and talked to vendors, in between getting caught in rain storms of course. One of my favorite was this woman.
She spoke no English, but her work is amazing. She made all of these bugs from colored wire and other crafty bits. At first I didn’t want to buy one because I thought, “This will never survive the flight to the US.” Then, she offered me a container that she had made from the bottom of a soda bottle to protect it. I love dragonflies, so I bought one. She seemed very excited when I asked if I could take her picture.
The third and most significant thing that I remember about that week was a visit to a woman’s home that my professor arranged. We brought our own food and she cooked a traditional meal for us. She didn’t have much. Chickens roamed the yard and her kitchen was outdoors. She had built her own kiln in her yard, which she used to make pottery to support her family.
Oh, and her grandson. That was what hit me the hardest: seeing her grandson, a young boy the same age as my host mom’s grandson. My host family lives in a large house, with cool stone floors, all the modern conveniences that Americans have, and even a maid. That boy certainly never wants for anything.
But this boy… This boy had none of these luxuries. His clothes didn’t fit right. I’m not sure what kind of education he received, but I’m guessing he goes to a disadvantaged school, as this wasn’t the city center. I don’t think his family had a lot of food. These boys lived not even an hour away from each other, but they seemed to be worlds apart. I think that these boys will never leave my mind.
I wanted to go into policy before this, but this is one experience that will always be a driving force for why I want to work on policy and help change the systems that make these boys’ lives, and that of their families, so different.
That’ll make you think about your developed-nation privilege for a while.