Carter is a BYU student doing field studies in Mexico
For those of you who don’t know much about where our Field Studies group is at and what the area is like, let me paint you a brief picture. We’re in central Mexico in the state of Guanajuato about an hour away from Irapuato, which is the closest big city to the ranchos of Santa Rosa, El Encino, La Estancia, Comederito, and others. Matt and I are living with Martin and Martina and their large, extended family while Natalie and Adrianne are living with a host family in El Encino (25 min. walk from Santa Rosa). It is hot, dry, and dusty most of the day with cactuses, hills, and dirt roads. Goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, chickens, and dogs are all over the place and fill the clear night sky with their cries every day and often during the night. People here are very friendly, open to long conversations, and often willing to feed you what they have. They are happy, humble people, even though they have different standards of living than what we are used to. Also, pretty much everyone here is Catholic, which is often manifested in their fiestas and Virgin Mary pictures everywhere.
I can’t believe it’s been a month since coming here when I think about all the experiences I’ve already had and the realization that I’m 1/3rd of the way done and these next 2 months will fly by quick. The initial transition was definitely the most difficult to handle but this was something I anticipated from the first time I learned what field studies was all about and what life would be like here in Santa Rosa. I had this mental image of the village I would always look at in my head while trying to think of how my project would carry out here and what kinds of people or lifestyle changes I would be experiencing.
Now that I’m here I can say that my mental schema of Santa Rosa is actually pretty similar to what I imagined it would be like. I figured I would be living in a cement house without A/C, a water system based on buckets, barrels, and drinking water from a filter or bottle. I knew tortillas would become the new staple food in my diet and that life here would be pretty simple, unstructured, and friendly. Interestingly, even though these were things I expected, each one was something I had to get used to as my new life was adapting to life in rural Mexico.
I’m learning things about myself and others, including the fact that I’m more tolerant of hygienic, bug, or cleanliness issues that come naturally with the new environment. I’m learning the importance of building relationships with people and how they are formed in comparison to what I have been used to my whole life. Here, relationships are often built over a longer period of time than I’m used to. Reciprocity is shown through food and time spent with the family rather than just money. Peoples’ perception of time here is different as well. P-time seems to dominate everything, from a person’s daily life to government-run institutions like the health center or the school system. This is definitely hard for me to get used to, as I look at almost everything having a schedule and that I constantly need to be productive in what I’m doing. I’m learning to change my perspective to correlate better with theirs every day I’m living here, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
As far as my project is going, I’m still waiting for approval from IRB and am in the process of making the necessary changes. Still, I’m moving forward with what I can, building rapport with people as well as working on my other coursework. Since my project is looking into choices and barriers people face in regards to their healthcare, I have established a relationship with the health center and am observing how healthcare is run in Mexico on a localized, rural level. I’m hoping to be able to start interviewing people soon to be able to get to the meat of my project and find out what their perceptions on healthcare are. I imagine carrying out my project will be an interesting yet challenging experience as time goes on.
Overall, I am enjoying my time here in Santa Rosa. Life here is so different and I’m getting used to it the more I’m here. I have found things I like about the culture and also things I don’t like as much, but am trying to adapt the best I can and learn as much as possible with the short time I have left. I hope you are all having great experiences wherever you may be and are soaking in every moment of your time in your respective field. Take care everyone!