Monday, July 2, 2012

When you think Mexico, what comes to mind?

Mexico is a big place, and as one of the U.S.'s neighbors, many Americans think they "know" Mexico.  But what Mexico do you think about?  A country of beach resorts like Cancún, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco?  A country to avoid because of the recent narco-violence?  A country connected to "unwanted" illegal immigrants to the U.S.?

I've been to Mexico once before.  In 2008 I traveled to Hermosillo, Sonora (in northern Mexico, only a couple of hours south of Nogales) with people from my youth group on a mission trip.  We partnered with a pastor my youth pastor had known for a while.  Every day we worked on construction for a new church building and assisted the congregation's youth in running an outreach program at different parks around the city.  In between this work we ate delicious food and were showered with hospitality from the families we stayed with. 
2008 Mexico Mission Team - we all look so young!
I stayed in a host family with two other girls.  Staying with a host family was quite an experience.  No on in my family spoke any English, the two girls who stayed with me knew no Spanish, so I ended up translating during the week because I had taken two years of high school Spanish.  Needless to say, there was a lot of smiling and nodding on both sides.  This was my first experience with a host family, and it's going to come full circle with my host family in Cuernavaca!

I loved my first trip to Mexico, and it has helped to shape me.  But I'm trying to go into my year with YAGM without any preconceived notions.  I know the cities aren't going to be the same, I will (hopefully!) be able to communicate much better in Spanish, and the things I will be doing are going to be very different.  But it's hard to not take those romanticized ideals of Mexico with me! 

I sometimes dream about what my life in Cuernavaca is going to be like.  In my perfect world, I will instantly pick up my Spanish, connect well with my host family, feel like I have meaningful work, visit the pyramids, go to soccer games, learn how to salsa dance, etc.  But that's not necessarily going to be my reality.  I don't know what the mountains in Cuernavaca are going to be like or if they're going to make me homesick for the Olympic and Cascade mountains (after all, I had a view of Mt. Rainier from my apartment all last year).  In all likelihood, I will struggle with my Spanish, and will feel awkward around my host family for a while.  I will get homesick (maybe even sick), and probably wonder why I decided to move to Mexico for a year.  That's what makes my preparations for Mexico so difficult at times.  I go in stages; at times I am really excited about everything, and at other times I get terrified at the thought of being in another new city where I am not very comfortable with the language and the culture.  What terrible mistakes will I make?  But I'm confident that this is where I'm supposed to be for a year, and I'm incredibly thankful for all the support I am receiving from all my family and friends!

Sidenote: Mexico elected a new president on Sunday.  Read about their new president here!

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