I began this reflection on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 as I flew back from Puebla, but have edited it to share with you now…
I woke up at 4am today to catch my flight back to Minneapolis. I’m reeling with thoughts, questions, and ideas after this return to Puebla. Tears come to my eyes. It was, again, such a humbling and beautiful experience…
It was my first time presenting at a major conference. I worked very hard to reduce my project into a 40 minute presentation and to hopefully make it clear and thought-provoking. The process of editing it down and highlighting my themes was extremely helpful and now I’ll head back to the editing room to do it again for the next presentation in a couple of weeks here in Minnestoa.
12 people attended my presentation, which was about 8 more than I expected. 🙂 I figured it would be a small crowd because my material is not a “here’s a bunch of activities you can include in your teaching” kind of presentation, which is what many people look for, and it also wasn’t particularly relevant to Mexican teachers. However, 2 Mexican teachers came up to me afterwards to say thank you, and job well done. Also, my Fulbright liaison was there and would like to find a way for me to present my work to his young Fulbrighters in Mexico this year (all recent college grads).
Even more important to me than the presentation was the fact that I was able to return to Nepopualco and share my ethnographic portrait with them. I was able to make the long trek out there with some help from great friends and educators (Alex, Lupita, and Eliud). This experience of returning to see the kids, and seeing their welcome sign and smiling faces made the trip complete for me. It was such an honor and privilege to be able to come back and show them what we did together. At the end, my friend, and the current supervisor of schools in the region, stood up and said a few words. He told the students how proud they should be of their traditions and who they are because I (me) came all this way to learn about THEM. Smiles and nods came and Alex even got a little choked up. (He was one of the founders of this school.) Then the kids came up to hug me, take a picture, and present me with a box of cookies and a two liter of coke! One girl hugged me and whispered in my ear that they missed me very much. I said, “igualmente”! I was very touched by the smiles on their faces, and the enjoyment of seeing themselves portrayed in my small film. They were proud of it, of themselves, and that is what matters most to me.
I believe this experience turned out to be about human exchange for me and those I came across. We all have been altered in some way, small or big- affected by the fact that our lives crossed unexpectedly. We bonded through stories, laughter and the realities of a border that divides us. Hopefully the distance and the border won’t cause that to be our last exchange. But if it was, it has helped me to understand a bit more about living in the present. I had one shot at connecting, a few months to make it happen, and I think I did a pretty good job. I knew that I may never see them again and that was a great motivator to feel life and love in exchanges with them. I’m not trying to sound like the cliche (live like it’s your last day), but truly, there is something to be said for attempting that in the most honest way one can. I can strike up a quick memory of the smells, the sounds, and the directness of the sunlight in Nepopualco even now on my couch in Minneapolis. And honestly, I long for another adventure like this one. I should have been a cultural anthropologist. Maybe there’s still time?
One other mission on this trip was trying to eat as much comida poblana as possible while I was there. I had a checklist and tried really hard to eat my way through Puebla those four days. I even tried a new food called huitlacoche, which is a mushroom or fungus that grows at the base of a corn stalk. Above you’ll see pictures of some of my favorites in this post. And thanks to my friend Veronica, who let me sleep a couple nights at her place, I also got to experience the Saturday family “asada” or BBQ at her house, and it was delicious! Prior to that we went to the mercado, which is truly one of my all time favorite things to do in Mexico. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of a Mexican mercado will certainly entertain you and wake you up to a different version of how things occur in this world.
Finally, I have to mention the surprise I had when seeing a woman from Nepopualco at the airport on Sunday morning. One of the 12 people at my presentation happened to strike up a conversation with her and then realized she was from the town I talked about in my presentation. Then, as she saw me in the airport, she came over and said, “Are you Amy?” I was like, um, yes… Then she said, “this woman is from the town where you did your project.” I was about to say no way when one of the women from the parent committee at the school came bounding towards me with a big hug, “Maestra Amy!!” It was such a cool moment. We sat down together and I showed her as much of the video as I could before we had to board the plane. What a cool ending to the trip!
Thank you for taking this journey with me. It hasn’t ended, but this last trip allowed me the chance to bring some closure to the project and to share it with the community that helped make it happen. What joy, vida, and gratitude I feel!