Beginning a new chapter in a new home

Beginning a new chapter in a new home

Liesl Driver
It’s been a little more than three weeks since I left Juchitan, and I feel it’s always good to reflect back on a new experience - the good and the bad. First, I’ll do a little overview of what I did in my last two weeks there. Like I previously mentioned, we continued to work on verb tenses and focused on irregularities, which there seem to be a lot of!

As far as celebrations are concerned, we went to our teacher’s mother’s birthday party (in her 90’s). Since she and the older generations there barely speak any Spanish, going to these celebrations is a great way to test how much Zapotec you really know. At the party, they hired a mobile taco stand to come and serve everyone pork tacos and, as usual, all the men had to bring their case of “Coronitas” (little bottles of Corona).

To wrap up the course, we had to write a final essay in Zapotec. It could be about any topic we wanted, but the other students and I mainly talked about our experience in Juchitan and our future plans. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I had managed to write four pages in Zapotec by the end of the course (two in an earlier essay). On our last day in Juchitan, we went to “Ojo de agua,” a fresh-water swimming hole, in order to celebrate a successful completion of the course.

The easiest way to sum up my time in Juchitan is a list of things I will miss and things I could live without!

I will miss ...

  • Zapotec language - hearing it daily and my attempts to speak it
  • People - the people I connected with during my time there including my teacher, other students and those who openly accepted me into their town and life
  • Food - Anytime I’m not in Mexico I will miss the flavorful, SPICY Mexican food
  • Transportation - another nice thing about Mexico is the cheap public transportation; whether it be by bus or taxi
  • Cheap Corona - and the way Juchitecos found an excuse to frequently drink it; it did not matter time of day or day of week

I could live without ...

  • Cold Showers - which were not so bad when it was over 100 degrees, but the rainy season began in the second week
  • Cockroaches, Lizards, Mosquitoes - pretty self explanatory, having to share my living space with them :/
  • Exotic Food – yes, it was fun to say I tried all those weird foods, but all the other students and I were sick at least a few days each from the food we ate there
  • Some customs - the one I’m thinking of in particular is how it is not acceptable for women to enter bars/cantinas
  • Constant construction - if you think construction is bad in the U.S., this town had constant construction in the main plaza and blocking off many main streets

Fortunately, based on past experiences, I have learned the bad is quickly forgotten and I’m left remembering the good times. This has already been the case with Juchitan. I view it as a completely positive experience that has only helped me grow more into the person I would like to be. I have already found that any negative experience I had while I was there, I’m able to tell about with a smile on my face and laugh about it.

Most importantly, I have a better idea of what I would like to do with my future … or at least a step in the right direction. While I was enjoying the AC in the café, I was also sending my resume to various programs and schools looking for a job in Latin America for the next year. I had some possibilities, but nothing set by the end of my time in Juchitan. After my program ended, I took another 22-hour bus ride and met my old roommate from Bloomsburg in Cancun to do some backpacking through the Yucatan. Our intentions were to stay in each location one day, but we ended up only going to Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Playa del Carmen, because we fell in love with each new place we were.

My first day in Cancun, I received an offer from a bilingual school in Sahuayo, Michoacan, Mexico as an English teacher to students in second grade. After consulting with my parents on skype from my hostel, I decided to sign the one-year contract! This meant only one week back in the U.S. to get together all necessary documents so I could get a working visa.

Make a long story short, I managed to get everything together on time and still have time to relax and spend time with family and friends. I’m currently in the Dallas airport waiting for my flight to Guadalajara, gotta love six-hour layovers! Teachers from the school will be picking me up at the airport and taking me to the apartment I’m sharing with two other English teachers, whom I do not know yet. School starts on Monday (Aug. 23), so I have a few days to get settled and learn about my new town and job. I’m really looking forward to getting to know a new part of Mexico and find out whether teaching/education could be a future career!

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