I went to Oaxaca, Mexico with 32 of my closest friends and a couple of adult chaperones. Well actually I wasn’t really close friends with all 32 before we left, but during the trip I got to know most everyone well. We lived together in a dorm and hanging out with friends was a blast. This was a travel experience that goes beyond sightseeing and being entertained.
When I first thought of Mexico I thought it was a dessert, but when we flew in, there were mountains that were covered with lots of trees and bushes. It was verdant and beautiful. The scenery was incredible. During the afternoon, you could watch the storms approaching through the mountain passes.
I thoroughly enjoyed my surroundings, but it was my job and my interaction with people that made the trip such a fabulous experience. I had a chance to interact with my peers while we were digging a well for a Mexican family. In the morning we would load up our truck and drive about 30 minutes to this family’s empty lot. In order to build their house, they needed water to mix the concrete. So we were there to put in a well. We used metal rods with a drill bit at one end and a t-bar at the other so that we could spin it.
There were 7 of us so the going was easy at first and we dug 9 meters down the first day. After day one we were all tired and 9 meters of metal rod starts to get a little heavy. We would lower the auger with the rod into the well and spend the next twenty minutes with two people on each end of the t-bar pushing it around in a circle. We spent 7 days doing the same thing. On day 3 we ran into a big rock that the drill couldn’t go through so we had to hammer the rock with another metal spiked staff. Now this doesn’t sound like a lot of fun does it? In order to break up the monotony we played practical jokes on each other. I recommend that if you have a really hard job, invite your friends to join you. Every day during our lunch break, which in Mexican culture can last up to 2 hours, we would play soccer with the owner of the lot for whom we were drilling the well. The family we were drilling for did not have a lot of money so they couldn’t pay us, but they fed us. The food was outstanding and not anything like the Mexican food we get in restaurants in Florida.
The city we stayed in was a market town. All of the people in the surrounding villages would make their way to the city. Some would walk up to five hours. The result was that the city’s population quadrupled from 5,000 to 20,000 people every Saturday. It was fascinating to watch the interactions and to participate in the bartering for goods.
Although I went to Oaxaca to work I loved being involved with the family. I think it gave me a better experience and understanding for the culture and the people. An added bonus was going to market day and living in such a lush and vibrant environment. I intend to go back next summer as an intern so I can stay for more than 2 weeks. That way I can see a project through from beginning to end. I can interact with people in a more indepth way and I won’t feel like a tourist.
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