Another blog post from Carter Newey, a BYU student studying abroad in Mexico
Happy 4th of July everyone! I hope you’re all able to celebrate Independence Day in some way wherever you are, even though no one else around is. Reflecting on our country on its birthday, especially while living in Mexico makes me appreciate the things I often take for granted back home. Life here is so different but at the same time it’s easy to find similarities. It’s quite a contrast living in a rural village with nominal living standards 5 days a week and then coming back into the city of Irapuato on the weekends and find things like ritzy malls and American movies. I noticed some more of this American influence while in Guadalajara for our mid-semester retreat. I find it fascinating the way cultures can blend together in certain ways I never would have thought of before if I hadn’t been doing this field studies experience.
My second month here has good overall in terms of getting some of my coursework done and building relationships with people, but really slow in other ways such as getting my project going. I’ll touch on each of these things briefly.
There have been so many cool cultural experiences I’ve been able to be a part of. I’ve been to several parties (some of which lasted literally all day long!), school graduations, making tortillas, washing clothes for 3-4 hours by the river, playing basketball against very talented middle school kids, and watching the world cup games with fans dressed in their green Mexico soccer jerseys. I’ve also had a chance to teach several people guitar and English on a regular basis and it has been so much fun! I love being able to say and feel that I’m friends with these people as I’m building relationships with them. I just wish there was an easy way to keep in touch after I leave.
As far as the work is concerned, I had to wait a lot longer than I had hoped before getting IRB approval to get my project going. Only being able to use the internet on the weekends made the process even slower, and after getting everything all set up I’ve only just started my interviews, even though I’ve been here 2 months already. I was expecting to get going on interviews by the second week in Mexico so I definitely have had to adjust to that change in expectations. The couple interviews I’ve done so far have been successful and I have already learned so much as far as the health system in Mexico is concerned. From my own observations volunteering in the health center, along with what people have told me, healthcare here in the villages has improved a lot over the years but still has a lot of problems and isn’t where it should be. Until I feel like my results are conclusive I won’t talk much about them until probably next month’s blog, but I’ll just say it’s been interesting being aware of some of these issues and how it affects the lives of the people. I can’t wait to see what more locals have to say about it and what more I can learn the rest of my time here.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of coursework. My favorite things to do are the cultural proof activities (the writing part of it isn’t quite as fun). I’ve done all kinds of things from watching a pig get slaughtered for a little girl’s birthday party to picking up the handicraft of sewing cloths with flowers on them (sirvilletas) to wrap tortillas in. Sewing, cooking, and washing may be a woman’s job but I’ll tell you what. As far as I can tell, nobody challenges gender roles more than I do in the village. I figure it’s ok though since being one of the few white guys within hundreds of miles makes me weird automatically anyway. I find the extra attention and strange looks hilarious. I hope everything is going well for you wherever you’re at and that you will continually seek out cultural experiences. They can be a lot of fun!