Student News

Oaxaca #2: First Impressions

Paulina Baltazar – June 5, 2018

As the group meets their host families and settle into Oaxaca, trip leader Jaime Correa asks student to reflect on the following prompt,”How do your expectations of Oaxaca and your host family compare to your first impressions of them?” 

Molly Fischer ’20 shares her thoughts;

Overall, I would say that the expectations, prejudices, and assumptions that I had about Oaxaca and my host family were all surpassed – except for the weather, that is. I have never visited Mexico before this trip with Deerfield, but I assumed it would be similar to other countries in Latin America that I’d visited before. (Countries I’ve visited in Latin America consist of: Colombia). When I pictured Oaxaca, Mexico, before seeing it for the first time, I pictured a small city in a valley surrounded by mountains and filled with run-down but brightly-colored buildings covered with graffiti. Before meeting Josefina, my host mother, I had an image in my head of a 60-year old woman standing in a literal laboratory and making ice cream – lo siento mucho, Josefina.

One thing I was especially excited about, though, was the weather. I had read on the packing list Deerfield gave me that the weather in Oaxaca in June would be 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, which, even for a person like me who prefers the cold, is tolerable weather. There were some negative stereotypes that came along with the knowledge that I was traveling to Mexico, however. Prior to this trip, several people had reminded me of ‘how dangerous Mexico is’ and not to drink the water or else I would get sick. Luckily, as I sit here writing a blog post to you all on day two of the trip to Oaxaca, I can tell you that there is more to Mexico than what meets the eye. Any prejudices or expectations of Oaxaca that I had in my mind before experiencing it firsthand were all completely blown out of the water.

When all of the Deerfield students first met our host moms, I had spotted them walking down the street towards us. They were all short and had a similar haircut, which I found adorable. They are all incredibly kind and welcoming people, and they are very happy to have guests in their homes. I knew that my host mom owned an ice cream shop – Paletas Popeye – but I didn’t realize how delicious her ice cream is. I tried one of her popsicles yesterday and was astounded by its flavor. Since then, I have tried three other different ice cream flavors, but mamey is my favorite so far. (Mamey is a fruit that has the color of a papaya but the texture of a squash). I do remember when Grace and I first met Josefina, and she said, “No hablo nada ingles,” and I thought, ‘oh no.’ I am happy to say, though, that living with a mom that speaks no English has been a wonderful experience, which of course comes with some challenges.

First of all: yes, parts of Mexico are dangerous and yes, the tap water is not safe to drink. However, once one looks past the negative stereotypes that have been placed on Mexico and its residents, one can see the diverse country it truly is. Fact: there are 8 cultural groups currently living in Oaxaca, and there are 18 dialects of Spanish spoken in Oaxaca today. Those numbers are just scratching the surface of Oaxaca’s culture. Oaxaca is a city filled with cobblestone streets, brightly-colored houses, dried-out aqueducts, and oddly shaped plants that look like they are from a movie. I unfortunately discovered that Oaxaca can also reach temperatures of 90 degrees or higher, which put a slight damper on my mood, but I’m sure I’ll get over it. I love Oaxaca – its people, its languages, its food, its diversity, and I’m so grateful that I am able to live here for a month.