I remember back in september when I looked at my calendar and our Oaxaca trip literally seemed like FOREVER away... Ya, well I just got back and now it's november. CRAZINESS!
Last friday night we had a halloween party at our directors house where we all dressed up using whatever we could put together from our closets here. Everyone got SUPER creative! We had an elasti-girl, jehova's wittness/mormon (he wore a white shirt and tie and black pants, therefore it really could have gone either way), Mrs. Peacock from Clue, Aladin and a few more less notable creations. We feasted on fruit, which we bought at the mercado close to our house. Interesting fact, in Mexico you have to disinfect all of your fresh produce before eating it, so we found a gigantic bowl and soaked away. We had a pumpkin piñata, carrot cake made by our director (obviously I thought of you both David and Wesley), chips, and delicious punch! It was incredibly fun to just be together and be silly, especially because we all anxiously awaited our trip that was quickly to come!
So saturday morning we took off for Oaxaca, a state about 9 hours south of Queretaro. Honestly the days all kid of blur together for me because we were gone for so long, so hang in there as I try to recount the adventuring that took place over that past 6 days. It took us a rather long time to get to the actual city of Oaxaca, so we watched two movies on the way (Water for Elephants and Mulan) and we ate at this random restaurant on the side of the freeway. Then we finally arrived at our hotel and went out to the centro for some food. It was so crazy and filled with tourists it kind of freaked us all out a little bit, because we've become so used to being the only white people we see here haha.
Sunday we went to Monte Alban, the ruins of the Zapotec indians. And let me tell you something, it was the craziest thing I've ever seen! We have studied and learned ALL about the indigenous culture and it was absolutely an unreal experience to see it in real life. It didn't really hit me just how old that place was. Then we went to this MASSIVE museum inside of an ex-convent called Santo Domingo. After that adventure of artness we ate the best pizza of all time. It tasted absolutely amazing because it is kind of easy to get sick of eating out at Mexican restaurants here (we all realized how thankful we are for our host mom's cooking!). Then, we went to this cholocate factory where we proceeded to eat half of the sample bowl and hover over watching the men make the chocolate!! It was a super interesting and delicious experience :) Later that night we visited a workshop where they make this super cool black pottery. Browsed and found fun christmas presents :) When we got back to the hotel we all were hungry, so naturally we went on an adventure to find ice cream! On the way to the centro we were all in the strangest/most hilarious moods and walked down the street singing "New York, New York" and dancing our best broadway. It made me realize how much I love these people. We are so incredibly silly together and God has taught me so much through my relationships with each of them! They are such a blessing to me and it is going to be super weird not seeing them for five weeks in december.
Monday we went to this petrified waterfall/hot springs place. When we pulled up in the bus I looked out the window and what do I see?? A yellow little rickshaw driving towards me!!!!!! It made me SO incredibly excited for India! Anyways, the view from the waterfall was breathtaking!!! We didn't bring our bathingsuits but we laid down by the water for a solid hour and talked/napped. It was much needed relaxation time. After that we went to this artesan market and shopped for a good two hours. Let's just say, I'm estatic to give christmas presents this year :) There are few things in this world that bring me more joy than buying presents for people that I know they will LOVE! On our way back we stopped at this factory where they make a certain type of tequila thing called Mezcal. Upon returning to the hotel after this extensive day of journeying we FEASTED on Tlayudas, which are kind of a mix between quesadillas and tostadas? It's a HUGE flour tortilla toasted so it's crunchy filled with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and whatever else your little heart could possibly desire. DIVINE! Then all 10 of us girls watched "Mean Girls" together and cuddled on the two double beds in the room. It was some serious girl bonding time :)
Tuesday we went back to Mitla, the artesan market by the petrified waterfall to visit the ruins, because they were closed the day before. I had never seen such intricate designs as I saw that day! They were very greek looking in their geometric form, and yet still remained completely indigenous because they were on the side of a pyramid. We shopped somemore afterwards and went to the house of a family who is in the business of weaving. The sweet man showed us the looms and how they work, and I don't think there was one set of eyes that was NOT hooked on the process. Basically, we all gained a WHOLE new respect for blankets. On our way home we stopped by this little city that is home of the hugest tree in Mexico. It's trunk was absolutely MASSIVE! Seeing that today was Dia de los Muertos, we had a little bit of time to rest in between Mitla and our departure at 9:30 to the cemetary. After YEARS of learning about this famous Mexican holiday, I finally had the opportunity to see it all in action. We arrived at the cemetary and I immediately felt uncomfortable. As Americans we have such a strange way of handling death. This cemetary was filled with flowers orange and fuscia, candles EVERYWHERE, families and best of all... Mariachis. There were families gathered around the graves of their loved ones drinking tequila, laughing and celebrating the life of their relative now passed on. Carly and I spent pretty much the whole time talking about why I feel so weird about cemetaries and how to go about handling my feelings. I was and continue to feel incredibly inspired by the Mexican view of death, well particularly the Indigenous view. Death is not a taboo topic here. For this holiday, people write poems in which they make up a story of how a loved one died/overcame death, and the whole point is that it's supposed to be a funny joke. I don't feel that that would go over very well in the states! So It was a super interesting time to reflect and think about what I believe about death and celebrating life. In the Indigenous point of view, you can't have one life without death, and I think it was an excellent reminder for me that as much as it is definitely an incredibly difficult thing to experience, there is a way to approach it with joy and celebration of life as well.
Wednesday we woke up and after breakfast left for Puebla. We first stopped in Cholula to visit this archeological site. It was a pyramid with a Spanish church ontop. If you had to describe/explain the Spanish conquest of mesoamerica, showing a picture of this anomoly would do the trick. It was the most bizarre thing I have ever seen! We climbed up to the top, which was actually an incredibly difficult and steep journey. The view was absolutely magical. After this visit we went to another cemetary, because it was the second day/part of the festival. Again, I was amazed by the atmosphere surrounding the place. There was music and families were together to honor their lost. After this we drove into the city of Puebla, which is absolutely ginormous. Our hotel was super gorgeous and we were all extremely excited for another night together! We each got 100 pesos to go get dinner/snack with, so we set off in small groups to explore the centro. There was a crazy art/dance show thing going on and a mountain of people walking around, so we decided we'd find ice cream and a place to sit and then just enjoy the surroundings. When we were eating our ice cream these two precious little girls came up to our table, dressed up for Halloween and started reciting a poem. Now we've seen/experienced a TON of kids begging and seen a fair amount of poverty since we've been here. But for some reason it hit me especially hard last night. I gave each of the girls 10 pesos, which is literally nothing, and they ran joyfully to their mom and showed her. Then right after this, we saw this man talking to this little girl, but kind of pretending that he wasn't with her (both were dressed up) and he was giving her signals of where to go/who to beg from. Then he crossed the street and motioned for her to follow, without guiding her carefully across. It was in this moment that it hit me how HUGE of a problem trafficking is. Watching these little kids dressed up running around the plaza SO desperate for money practically tore my heart out. And then to see the man treat the little girl with complete and total disrespect ripped it into tiny pieces. I felt last night more than ever a massive passion for this problem that is so widespread in our world. I then thought of how intense the problem is in India, and how I am going to experience it in a month and a half. Emily, my dear friend on this trip has an uncle who started a ministry/organization called Not For Sale, that works to fight against the terrors of trafficking among both women and children. So, we had a super interesting conversation about it, and both felt super passionately that God was tugging on our heart strings last night. How neat that he gave us each other to process with and dream big with! I'm not at ALL sure what this looks like from here on our, or how God is going to use my passion for women and the trafficking problem, but I do know that I am willing to go wherever he takes me with it. I am SO excited to see what God does with my passion :)
Thursday, our last day. We visted the Iglesia de Los Angeles (Church of the angels), which was by far the most massive church that I have ever seen. I probably did 5 laps around the thing in an hour, looking at all of the art and standing in awe of the detail and splendor that surrounded me. The most interesting part was the stations of the cross, depicted vividly in the Borroc style. I had never felt more thankful for my Catholic high school education, because if it wasn't for that, I probably would have had no idea what those meant or that they had any special significance at all! A few of the girls and I had a super interesting conversation about how we found it interesting that Jesus' ressurrection wasn't included and other aspects of the stations that we found intriguing. Then we walked around another market and I spend every last peso in my purse. I had been anticipating this trip for so long because everyone said that it was the best place to shop for gifts. I can now affirm that their suggestion was indeed correct, and that I found amazing gifts that are super fun/unique.
SO, as you can see from this massive entry, this trip was extremely eventful! As I look back on it, I think the realizations that I had about death and trafficking will stick out to me more than the ruins will, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I am so excited about the archeological sites that we visited, and the opportunity for history to come to life. But even more so, I feel so excited about the things that God stirred in my heart over these past few days. Please be praying that I would be present in these next 32 days. Clearly God still has things he desires to teach me, and I want to be open to hearing from him while I have another 4 weeks to be still. Thank you for your support in prayer. Know that it is indeed impacting me and that God is at work in my heart. I love you all!