I’m back in the States now, and I can officially say that I have experienced Yucatan, Mexico.
I got the amazing experience to live in a small (1,100 people), yet very exciting and interesting community called San Antonio Chun (It may be “Chum,” we never actually figured that one out). I lived with a wonderful host family, consisting of my host mom, dad, sister, and brother. They were all very welcoming and made me feel like a part of the family. The accommodations were comfortable, and the food was plentiful and delicious.
I also had a great partner named Joanna who was from the Bay Area in California, and she never failed to make me laugh. Joanna and I played endless games of Uno and Farkle with my host sister and brother that would always end up with someone trying to cheat, or one of us leaving to get food but then never returning because we fell asleep in our hammocks.
Another interesting aspect of my trip was sleeping in a hammock, which may seem kind of odd to you, but in the Yucatan, it is actually quite common to have hammocks instead of beds. So, for 6 weeks I slept in a hammock, and I found it to be quite comfortable. Now I am seriously considering hanging one up in my room; I just need some help convincing my parents.
Now, of course I wasn’t just sleeping in my hammock all day! I was also volunteering with kids two hours or more every day, five days a week. My partner and I would have activities with the kids called campamentos, or day camps, where we would have a theme every week, and we would focus our activities and lessons on that theme. For example, one week our theme was Creative Expression, so we gave all the kids some markers and paper and let them each draw something that inspired them. However, somehow I became the “paper,” and before I knew it, every kid was drawing on my face and I was covered in ink.
I can now say that San Antonio Chun has become a part of me, and I consider it my second home.
I also got the amazing opportunity to help teach a Summer Course called Curso de Verano for the elementary school kids in my community. I helped teach the 7–8 year-old group with a guy named Carlos, who, in the end, became a close friend. I was also part of an activity called Juegos de Juventud, which is a competition between teams from other communities. So, for two weeks I got to participate in Field Day-type games like Limbo, Tug of War, multiple types of relay races, and so many other fun games. It was an exciting way to interact with the youth in my community and even meet kinds from nearby towns.
I also worked on a sustainable project with the local youth and other members of my community. We decided to build a bus stop for the youth in my community, because a majority of the kids must take public transportation to get to their schools. The Yucatan has a very hot and rainy climate, and the kids often have to wait for the bus in harsh weather conditions. However, with the construction of the bus stop, they will now have a more comfortable place to wait.
This experience was beyond incredible, and it is something that will always be a part of me. I made countless new friends and came back with many funny and exciting stories.