Enjoying the sun and the sand
Greetings once again from the beautiful and sunny coast of Oaxaca. Well, we are not exactly on the coast but near and this past weekend we gave in to the requests from some of our students to take a trip to the beach. Although Oaxaca has over six hundred miles on the Pacific Coast most of our students, from inland towns, never go to the beach.
Oaxaca is one of the largest states in Mexico, and one of the most varied in geography, culture, and climate. Oaxaca boasts of over 60 indigenous languages and multiple ethnic groups. The largest being the Zapotec, Mixtec and Mixe peoples. Some villages in the mountains are so remote that it takes 6 to 8 hours to travel just 100 or so miles. This year we have one of the most varied groups of students in our history. Two of our new students are from the Sierra Juarez area of Oaxaca, home of Mexico's first and only indigenous president, Benito Juarez. As the crow flies it is only about 200 miles from our base here in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, but it is a twelve-hour trip for them. We even have a high school student from a town called Chocolate, in, of course, the chocolate producing region of our state.
Our program center is only about fifteen miles from the Pacific Ocean, but this year we have no students from coastal areas. They are from the arid mountains in the north of the state, the cloud forest in the east of the state, the hill region in the northeast, and the valley plains where our program center is located. Our two newest students from the Sierra Juarez are learning to deal with the intense heat of our region. They are used to warm days and cold nights, not constant eighty and ninety-degree weather.
For two and a half months since the students returned to school some have been advocating for a trip to the beach. Most of them have been to the shore once or twice in their life, but not often, we have had students who had never seen the ocean before even though our state has a long coastline.
We took the hour-long drive to the nearest sandy beach, Playa Azul, and enjoyed the surf and sun. Although only an hour from the house, the beach feels like a different world. It is not a big tourist area, most beachgoers are from the three small cities nearby. The bay is wide and the surf strong. The students only played at the edge of the water, the waves were high, and only one ever has learned how to swim.
We could see the fishing boats lined up near the water's edge, but late afternoon and early morning are the times the local fishermen are out. We took the opportunity to talk about the different lifestyles of the people of the coast, and the students could see the similarities in the lives of their farming families and the coastal culture. But mostly it was a time to relax and get to know each other better.
Storytelling is a big part of our program. We tell our stories and heal as well as go to school. Early in the school year is always a big change for us, with four new students who are not familiar with how we work it is always a challenge. First, the stories are light and fun. Vanesa, a new college student who is studying Mechanical Engineering, lived for several years right on the border of the US and Mexico and told us how one of her aunt's chickens had crossed the border, and despite all their calling would not come back. With no one on the other side of the border to chase it back, it wandered off and was lost. She gave a wonderful imitation of her aunt clapping calling and throwing grain to the stubborn chicken to no avail.
Later as the months go by the students begin to tell about harder times in their families, trauma, and pain. This begins a process by which we can help them work through their issues so they are not stumbling blocks for their future.
Vanesa, 21, is in her fourth year of college, but her family no longer had the funds to pay her school fees and housing expenses here in town. She and her cousin heard about CDC from a fellow student and they came to learn about our program. Thanks to donors like you Vanesa did not have to drop out of school and can now finish her degree.
This next Tuesday, December 3, is Giving Tuesday in the US and GlobalGiving is having a bonus day. Please consider giving on this day and your gift will be matched. Thank you again for your support of our program. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season.
Telling our stories