Oh What A Day Is Today...
Trip Start Jun 10, 2012
17Trip End Jul 11, 2012
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Well, I made it! The past 24 hours have been a complete whirlwind, but I am finally settling into my homestay, where I will primarily live for the next 8 weeks.
The flights yesterday seemed to go relatively smooth – that is, until I reached the airport in Oaxaca. Upon my arrival, I found that only 1 of my 2 check-in bags had arrived to the airport.
After a long conversation with the baggage staff, I left the airport without my suitcase. At the very least, they provided me with contact information and instructions to call the next day.
Once I managed to get through customs and immigration with the luggage I did have, I met Carla, who was holding a sign with my name on it. She works for the non-profit that is coordinating this program, and sought to take us to the hotel where we would stay for the night. There were two other students in the program that came in on the same flight, but since they did not share my luggage issues, they had been standing there waiting.
Before we knew it, we were in the car zooming through the city. It was
dark, and late. I was exhausted from the trip, but even in my daze I managed to absorb some of the culture around me - the non-stop honking, the terrifyingly crazy driving, the brightly painted alls and poorly lit streets. Even the smell brought me back to Ecuador. I missed it; and I forgot just how much until the smell overwhelmed me. It's not a particularly pleasant smell, but it’s not unpleasant either. I think it’s probably just car exhaust or something, but it’s unique to my experience in Quito, and upon smelling it I immediately became nostalgic.
Yet Oaxaca is not Quito, and I’m determined to not to compare the two cities… at least, not too much.
So we buzzed through the Oaxacan streets, too quickly to absorb much of anything, and soon arrived at our hotel for the evening. We unpacked our luggage, and entered the quaint hotel to be greeted by some of the other American students sharing in our homestay.
There were sitting out chatting and swapping stories
Once we set our luggage down, Carla told to the señora working at the hotel that the rest of us were here. Almost immediately, the señora seemed overwhelmed, as though she was not prepared where to put us. Of the last 3 to arrive, two of us were female,one was male. She sent our male colleague (named Chris) to bunk with one of the guys in the group, but she wasn’t
sure what to do with the two of us. Ultimately, she looked at us and simply said "Ustedes pueden compartir una cama matrimonial?" It took me a second to respond, and one of the other Americans translated it into English – “She’s asking if you’d be willing to share a queen-sized bed”. It wasn’t that either of us needed translation… we just didn’t know what to say. We had known each other for all of the 10 minutes we shared in the car ride, and now this woman was asking us to share a queen-sized bed for the night. At this point, I was completely exhausted from the day’s events, a bit overwhelmed at not having my luggage, and now this lady expected me to share a bed with a stranger. This trip did not seem to be off to a good start.
However, I reached a point in which I had to say, “que será, será”. Basically, I had to roll with the punches. I told the señora I was willing to share, and before I knew it, we were off to
our room for the night.
It may have been a little awkward, but it certainly wasn’t horrible
This morning, we were picked up at 9:00, after enjoying a relaxing breakfast in the hotel with the other students on the trip. There are 12 of us in total, coming from AU, University of Kentucky and Arizona State. Our fields of study vary, as do our age and experiences, but I think it’s going to be a great group to work with. Everyone seems very passionate, but also pretty laid back. I have my fingers crossed that this experience will be “drama free” (and completely unlike anything
from Jersey Shore or Real World, I hope).
Once we were picked up, we were taken to the place where we are taking classes. While it isn’t exactly a university, it’s technically an NGO, I will call it the university, because it’s just easier that way.
As soon as we set down our luggage, we were given a written exam. This was followed by an oral exam. Our skills range from no Spanish language background whatsoever to extremely advanced. These assessments helped them divide us into 3 groups (basic, intermediate and advanced), so that our classes can be tailored to our abilities. We were given a short period of time to meet with our groups (I’m in the advanced class), and then took a quick break. Each day, we will have 2 hours of Spanish lessons, which I am absolutely thrilled about!! I haven’t taken a
language class in over 4 years, and to be honest, I miss it
The next two hours will be our content course, which should also be interesting. Today was simply orientation (safety, health, etc.). It took the full two hours, and before we knew it, our host families were arriving.
My host mother was the first one to arrive, and she seems absolutely wonderful. She is warm and outgoing, and determined to make this a positive experience. Of course, before I could leave, I needed to check in again on my luggage. No success. I ended up calling the airline in the U.S. to see exactly what the situation was. Even they weren’t sure. Not exactly reassuring.
Fortunately, nothing too important is in that suitcase – all of my clothing, toiletries, etc. are in the suitcase I did receive. The other suitcase has a sleeping bag, gifts for my host family, and rain boots. Again, nothing too important, but still things that I would like/need for later on.
As I’m writing this, the situation still hasn’t been resolved. I was instructed to call tonight at 9:30 pm to see if it arrived. I hope it does, but I’m not holding my breath
Once I got to my new casa, I immediately fell in love. It’s huge and open, and there are people coming in and out all the time. The matriarch of the family seems like a very wonderful woman – she reminds me so much of Martha (my host mom in Quito), that I almost got teary-eyed.
She has four children – 2 of which actually live with her, the other 2 live nearby. They are all grown, most of them have young children, and they are constantly in and out of the house.
Further, there are 4 other gringos who stay here. None of them are in my program. It appears they are doing service-based projects in their time here, working at orphanages, teaching English, and one is a civil engineer working on improving the water supply system. Again, a very mellow (but motivated) crowd.
We sat at the kitchen table for the comida, which is the main meal of the day. I can’t believe how much I missed Latin American cooking. Rice and chicken and mole and agua de guanabana (exotic fruit juice that tastes like heavan). So fresh and filling and delicious. We talked and
talked and talked. All in Spanish. About random things, like people normally do when they get to know one another.
It wasn’t until we sat for maybe 2 hours that they showed me to my room. It’s a bit difficult to explain the layout (and honestly, I don’t have the energy for it now… sometime soon, I promise I will)
Once they took me up to my room, I was able to get settled, and thrilled to learn that they have wireless internet! This was more than I could have asked for, as it’s my connection to the rest of the world. I have spent the rest of the evening unpacking and catching up with family (and Mark, of course!). I also had a little homework to start on for tomorrow. As you can imagine, I’m
absolutely exhausted from such a long day, but dinner will be ready soon, and I’m
not about to miss out on another fabulous Mexican meal!
There is so much more to share than what I have time/energy to do right now, but I at least wanted to let you know that I’m here safely, and to give you a taste of how things are playing
out so far. Tomorrow, I promise to share more :-)