The 4th week in Mexico City was odd. We were leaving our homestays and embarking on a road trip to Michoacan in a huge bus for a week. Again, such close proximity with the group. Fuimos en Uruapan, Patzcuaro, y Morelia. we drove through many towns and each town we drove through was so different from the previous. The way the people look, in terms of facial structure, color of skin, style of hair, style of clothing, to the architecture… it was like passing through different countries. Myra and Jason did a hell of a job planning this trip for us so that we would be able to experience the different parts and people of Mexico.
In Uruapan, we stayed at Hotel Tarasco. There was a pool with a slide and an upstairs bar that played live music every night. So as you can imagine, we drank and swam. One thing Eddie pointed out to me when we were walking around Uruapan is that people kept staring at me. I mean, in D.F. Ann and I were the only Asians for a 10 mile radius, or so it seemed, so it’s not like I’m not used to being known as the China. But the big city of D.F. was less blatant in their curiosity. In Uruapan, people stared. I mean I could feel their eyeballs on me. And rarely were they looking anywhere else but my eyes. Most people didn’t smile so I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. Like Eddie and Luis Vargas later explained to me, the staring was more of curiosity than anything else. Luis and I proceeded to have a conversation about cultural mannerisms. For instance, our bus driver said that in Uruapan, when accompanied by a male, women are never supposed to walk on the side of the sidewalk close to the streets/cars, because only prostitutes do so. So at times, you would see the effort males made to switch sides so that they protected the females. I love that! And Luis talked to me about the power of the eyes in Latino culture. He said, someone can tell you they love you with their eyes and they can tell you if they hate you. He told me a story about an experience he had on the metro where he watched two guys stare each other down. He felt like at any moment, he should move out of the way because they may kill each other. It’s interesting to experience another culture’s views on eye contact, especially since in Asian cultures, prolonged eye contact with another is considered rude or excessively bold.
In Uruapan, we had the opportunity to spend a day with a Mexican family in a rural setting in pairs. I was paired with Gabby and Erin and we spent the day with a family spread out between two homes adjacent to each other. Shantal, Bob, and Jasmine were in the other home. We sat and talked with the grandmother of the family todo en espanol. So Gabby did most of the talking. Go Gabby. We ate fresh oranges from their garden, and sipped on coke. We met the whole family and helped them make our lunch: sopa friya, bistec, tortillas, arroz, y mi favorito, agua fresca tamarindo. They used tamarindo from the tree in their yard. I got to help in the process of peeling the tamarindo and smashing them. The homes do not have running water, so we washed our hands by dipping a bowl in a sort of tub and pouring water on ourselves… definitely experimenting with different forms of cleanliness… which I found fun. Erin and Gabby played hide and seek with the kids and I just helped the family with preparing the food. At lunch, Myra, Jason, and Luis came to join us, and of course, Jason did a few magic tricks for the family. Des pues, fuimos uno lugar donde trabaja one of the sons. It was a beautiful old building with a beautiful view of the volcanoes and just lush land. We entered the building and saw bats flying around. The family thought it would be fun to throw rocks at the bats and make them fly past our heads. I was freaked out even though it was exciting.
When the day was coming to an end, we walked through the village to pick up the other students and met all the other families. It’s a small town of 300 people so everyone knows each other. An interesting tidbit is that many of the townspeople immigrate to Colorado (I believe it was CO) to find work and come back after saving some money. They sort of follow each other and go wherever there is work. Anyhow, after we picked up the last family, all the homestay families and students stood in front of someone’s house in a circle and said good-byes. Even though we only spent hours with them, the bond we formed made the departure difficult and emotional for some (me) and when they told us to come back to visit them, they genuinely meant it. The people are amazing to welcome complete strangers into their home and treat them as good friends. We need more of that type of humane love.