I started this post MONTHS ago but never got around to posting it for some reason. I've always wanted to share more of my past travels over here but am nervous about making that jump. And I don't know why. The fact that I HAVE traveled like I have is something that I'm incredibly proud of and is something that has truly helped form who I am today. So today, I'm taking the jump and am beginning the process of sharing these transforming experiences. I hope you enjoy.
I reluctantly went to college. I really (really, really, really) wanted to take a few years off but due to some parental insistence, I went to college right after high school. I had a few scholarships from my past affiliation with the Methodist Church and spent my undergraduate years at Oklahoma City University. I had a idealized idea of what college was - go to class when you wanted, wear your pjs to class and party your tail off! Well, I never wore my pjs to class but I sure partied hard and rarely went to class. I was that 18 year old. I lost my scholarships and was moments away from moving back home to reevaluate things. Luckily, I was given one last chance and got my act together. I learned to learn. I learned to enroll in classes that actually interested me. I learned the importance of time management. I learned how to get the best out of schooling. I truly believe my collegiate hiccups are life lessons that allow me to be a good teacher...but that's another post.
Once I shifted my view on school, I found myself enrolling in language classes left and right. I had always been fascinated by communication between people. I had learned some Spanish as a small child, taught my sister what little Spanish I knew when we were children, went on to take Spanish electives in high school and in college I finally realized how important that language was to me. I just *got* Spanish. After a few years in college, I finally declared that beloved language as my major. I later grabbed a minor in French and intended to work in the Travel & Tourism industry but ended up graduating right after 9/11 when finding work in that field was close to impossible. Again, that's ANOTHER post.
During the summer of 2000, after my Sophomore year of college, I was given the opportunity to study abroad. I had spent a week in Mexico once before for a mission trip to Juarez when I was younger but nothing quite like this. I traveled south with Nika, a teacher and friend, and another student who would be my housemate for the next month. I was terrified and thrilled all at the same time.
My house parents were both teachers at our small language school and their two daughters taught me daily the importance of patience when learning a language. I walked nearly six miles a day to and from school, ate (and fell in love with) cactus constantly, got used to frequent power outages, experienced my first earthquake (on the third floor of a salsa club, at that!), and stuck out like a sore, throbbing thumb in our little village nestled in the mountains -Tepoztlan. I experienced my first bout of culture shock, learned what it feels like to look completely different than those around you, learned firsthand the difference of time values in other countries and discovered how frustrating it can be to struggle with communication; all factors that I believe have allowed me sympathize with what my students encounter upon arrival into the United States.
We took side trips to Acapulco, Cuerna Vaca, Las Estacas, Taxco (my heart!), and, of course, Mexico City. Right as I was feeling more comfortable with my communication capabilities and feeling at home in this town, it was time to go home. I was crushed. This experience changed me. I was hooked on experiencing other cultures for myself.
There are so many things that I could say about that time, that experience, the change that occurred inside of me but honestly, words fail me. Mexico will always be a part of me and I will forever consider myself lucky that it shared itself with me. I can't wait for the day that I am able to share my love of the country with my mister and daughter. Algun dia!