World’s-Eye View: Life in the Ranchos

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    At first glance, the dusty terrain and empty rivers of my new home-to-be filled me with a sense of desolation. How was I expected to live here for three months? I couldn’t believe I was already having these thoughts because, typically, I am always up for new traveling to new places and trying new things, but culture shock hit me like a brick the first week.

    In El Comederito, Mexico, where I currently reside, there are about 150 people and a variety of animals such as goats, pigs, donkeys and chickens. There are also about three stores and one main street, with houses branching off of each side. Needless to say, it is no thriving metropolis. But I love it – despite all of the differences, the inconveniences and the changes – I love it here.

    We have officially lived here for one month and time continues to fly. Typically my day consists of running in the morning, volunteering for two hours at the school, doing homework and teaching our students during the evening. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what the Mexico Literacy Program entails, allow me to elaborate.

    We are here as volunteers through a government program that provides education for adults who never completed their elementary, junior or high school education and who would like to receive their degree, as well as adults who are currently illiterate and are working on learning how to read and write in Spanish. Alongside working in the government program, we are also completing research projects of our choice and taking classes through BYU, a surefire way to keep us busy.

    Why do I love it here then? I love getting to know the Mexican people where we live, learning about their customs, their hopes and their way of life. I love working with my students and being able to see their progress, and as I study the furthering of education here, I love meeting teenagers and discussing the importance of completing school and hearing their points of view.

    I love the cool desert nights when you can see every star in the sky and hear the serenade of crickets and a chorus of tree frogs outside your window. I love walking from village to village and seeing the beautiful countryside transform from dusty terrain to a lush, green hillside complete with river below.

    Above all, I love being a part of the life here, if only for a short while. We’ve chased plenty of buses, killed a scorpion and even run into barbed wire, but all of these experiences enhance the character of life here in the ranchos. We quite possibly ride some of the most decked-out buses you’ll ever see – they come complete with flashing lights, blaring reggaeton music and Christian relics – all the while carrying us to destinations by means of dirt roads with plenty of bumps, hills and turns. The people here are impeccably nice, and you can never visit someone without them offering you food.

    Speaking of the food … it’s amazing! Hand-made corn tortillas, tamales, flautas, molletes, beans, rice, strawberries, nopales (a type of cactus) – they have it all. And although I worked at Costa Vida and the food there is very near and dear to my heart, the food here is more authentic, varied and, needless to say, truly Mexican. There have been few things here I haven’t liked.

    And while I am well aware that my experience here in Mexico is only a small part of what one might encounter in all of Mexico, I still feel like I am coming to understand who the people are in El Comederito. And I think they’re starting to understand me as well – definitely one of the best parts of this experience – that we’re starting to understand where one another comes from. As Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

    Katie NeVille is a senior from Elk, Wash., majoring in Spanish Teaching, studying socioeconomic factors and how they affect the furthering of education in rural Mexico.

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