The experiences continue with each week that passes. The beginning of this month brought with it a couple of different group excursions, one of which reminded me of home. The first group excursion was to San Juan Guelavia to visit a middle school and a community museum. Our first stop was to the middle school, where we had the opportunity to meet with the middle school principal to learn about how the school works. At this school, the teachers teach all of the different subjects to their students, as opposed to some schools of Oaxaca that have a teacher for each subject. The principal also explained how they are trying to maintain the culture of the community by offering cultural workshops to the students. He had seen that the students were lacking an interest in their ancestors' culture and language and the community did not want it to vanish. With the help of parents, they are continuing the passing down of the culture. When we were there they played traditional songs for us and two students performed a traditional dance. We were also presented with handmade baskets. Like we did at the previous school visit, we also spent some time going to different classrooms to facilitate icebreaker games. After visiting the school we visited the city building, where we had the opportunity to converse with a few of the city officials to learn more about the school system in the community in general. We then traveled to the community museum and enjoyed a homemade lunch.
Our next trip took us to the Sierra Norte, a different region of Oaxaca than where Oaxaca City is located. The climate is a little colder, and the land is greener, with trees that are similar to ones in Oregon, such as pine and fir trees. We went to a community called Llano Grande where we had the chance to spend the night in cabins. We went on a hike around the area with a guide who took us to a few incredible view spots and informed us about some of the different purposes (some medical) of plants that we encountered. There was a section of the forest that we encountered on the hike that felt almost like home to me. There were many fir trees, which I normally find on the hikes I go on back home. The views were incredible, and the general beauty of the woods brought me much joy. In the evening, we enjoyed roasted marshmallows and playing games near the fireplaces located in our cabins. The following day we took another hike through the woods to a different community in the Sierra Norte called Cuajimoloyas. There we listened to a presentation on mushrooms, which is an important part of business for the people there.
As time passes, I have realized that I have become more comfortable here than I was at the beginning. I can get on a bus and travel to a store or the movie theater with friends, as well as walk to a variety of places near the middle of Oaxaca City. Things are becoming more familiar and I keep discovering more, yet still there are more adventures to come. Until next time! -Shelby Reece