Not On The Border.

For those of you who this reaches, thank you for reading. I know you may be wondering why we are still writing as we’ve now officially been home from Mexico for two days, but we indeed finished up our “class” today. This morning, joined by family and friends, we were able to present some information on the differences in health care and the hospitals between Mexico and the United States. We all knew what, in general, each other’s presentations covered, but it was interesting to hear more in depth the explanations and points made on the different topics. Blair went first, presenting on the differences between nursing schools in the U.S. versus Mexico. Next, Katie talked about the differences in labor & delivery, the nursery, and the neonatal intensive care unit while I talked about differences in pediatrics. Becky followed, comparing and contrasting private and public hospitals in Mexico, and Brittany finished up with the roles of the different professionals in the health care system between the U.S. and Mexico.

After the presentations, we all went our separate ways. I was able to eat lunch with Katie and her family along Lake Macatawa, at a nice restaurant named Boatwerks. Since coming back from Mexico, I have noticed a few differences, and realized more the things that I missed. I will make a list:

  1. At lunch, we ate out on the patio overlooking the lake. I think I’d always taken for granted sitting outside in peace, without people coming up to beg at your table. In Mexico it was very common to be asked multiple times throughout the course of your meal if you would like to donate money, buy a bracelet, a small doll, or something of the sorts.
  2. The driving in Mexico is crazy. People weave in and out, left and right, and there are quick transitions between laying it down on the gas and slamming on the brakes. It is also uncommon to see much greenery in Mexico, unless traveling across mountainsides to different cities, so today while riding in the passenger seat, I soaked up the smooth sailing and all-encompassing foliage.      FullSizeRender (50) FullSizeRender (51)
  3. I really missed dogs. Especially ones that are wet and shaggy and covered in sand.        FullSizeRender (53)
  4. High up there on the list as well is water. I missed being able to shower with your mouth open, brush my teeth with the tap water, and most importantly, swim in and ingest the beauty of Lake Michigan (and not worry if you swallow a big gulp of water), be this by simply floating around, playing frisbee or catch, or bopping around a volleyball. FullSizeRender (52) FullSizeRender (54) FullSizeRender (55)
  5. Last but not least, I really must miss the Mexican food. I don’t think it really got old for me while I was down south, as I was able to eat a variety of foods. So, of course, I found myself enjoying some nice Enchiladas Suizas with some good company at On The Border for dinner.

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I even found some (fake) succulents!

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It was truly a blessing being able to spend the three weeks we did down in Querétaro. As Katie mentioned, there is so much to take back and incorporate, culturally, into your life at home. It was great to spend some quality time with some people I missed the past month, focusing more on each other that the upcoming obligations we have. I learned a lot, about the culture and the different aspects of traditional medicine or the health care system, but also about myself. I also was so blessed to meet so many wonderful and impactful people in my time in Mexico. My eyes were opened to the workings of God in my surroundings, as well, and in the people I had the privilege of meeting.

It’s been fun fellow readers. Thanks for following along. I’d also like to thank you for bearing with us through all of the puns, long descriptions, laughs, and wonderful pictures, and I hope you enjoyed hearing about our experiences while we were away. May I leave you now with this plaque I encountered while winding down tonight, because it pointed my eyes back to God and emphasized just how beautiful life is.

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May we treasure life’s every moment, and be thankful for every morning God grants us to live and breathe through another day.

So long for now, my friends.

Hasta luego,

-kyrian

 

Honey I’m Home

And we’re back!

Being back in Holland almost makes it seem like these past three weeks never happened. Today I moved in to my summer house in Holland, caught up with lots of friends, and already my time in Mexico seems pretty far removed.

When coming back from a trip like this, it is easy to act like it never happened and to fall back into normal routines. However, I think it’s important to incorporate what we’ve learned abroad into our everyday lives back at home. To me, one of the coolest parts about getting to know another culture is that you can take the good parts of that culture and incorporate them into your own personal culture. For example, one part of the Latin American culture that I have come to value and appreciate is the emphasis on relationships as opposed to schedules. What I mean by this is that the people in this culture are not so focused on time as people are in the United States. Often this manifests itself by arriving to events late, such as when my host family was a half hour late to our final dinner on Monday night, 🙂 but to me, it is much bigger than this. From what I’ve seen of Latin American culture, the people would rather sit and chat with a friend over a cup of coffee instead of arrive exactly on time. I’ve grown up with the opposite culture, that tells me the clock should rule my life, and that you’re not on time unless you’re at least five minutes early. My first instinct is still to by ruled by time, but having spent time in Latin America has made me often stop and think about what should be my first priority. I now see that a conversation with a friend has more value than always being on time to class, and that in everything, our relationships should be the most important aspects of our life.

This is one of many lesson’s I’ve learned through immersion in another culture. What an amazing opportunity we have as people in this global community to learn from one another, and to become better people because of it. I hope that each person reading this is encouraged to step out of their comfort zones to meet new cultures. And this is way easier than you think! You don’t have to go to Mexico to encounter people different from yourselves; often all it takes is a walk across the street. My challenge to you is to press into the relational life you are called to lead, and to see the blessings that come from meeting new people and new cultures.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

-Katie

Gracias a Dios y Gracias Adios

Studying abroad in Mexico has been one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in my life and I was truly blessed with an amazing host family. One thing I didn’t expect, was to feel  so welcomed by everyone I met, from the faculty members and students at UAQ, the nurses and doctors at the hospitals and my host family. I didn’t want to say goodbye today, I don’t think any of us were ready to leave Querètaro. I fell in love with this beautiful city and the beautiful hearts of the people here. For this, I want to say, “Gracias a Dios,” Thanks be to God for this unforgettable experience, before I say, “Gracias Querètaro, adios,” Thank you Querètaro, goodbye (for now).

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(A bridge near our house that we walked over everyday to get home)

Last night after our dinner, Becky and I came home to find all of our aunts, cousin, and grandma there to say good bye to us.  I can’t put into words the amount of warmth and kindness I feel from my new family. They all made sure that Becky and I new that their house was our house, and that we need to visit again soon. I really felt like I had become part of their family. Last night Gaby, Dani, Becky and I stayed up until 2:30 or 3:00 am goofing around with each other in the kitchen. I think we stayed up so late because we didn’t want our time together to end. It is awesome that I have friends in another part of the world. Even through language barrier, I’ve grown close to my host mom and sisters over time. I have two brothers at home but I think I finally got to experience what it would have been like to grow up with sisters!

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Today our mom cooked us a delicious breakfast of fresh sliced fruit (I’m going to miss the mangos here) which we ate every morning, and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich which was another dish we ate frequently. We said our final goodbyes, which is symbolized by a cheek to cheek kiss and a strong hug to our families and UAQ faculty. I remember thinking this greeting was awkward at first coming to Mexico but I really like it now; it’s warmer than a hand shake and I think it really reflects the friendliness and warmth of the people here. Then we hopped in a van which took us to the airport.

While we were sad to be leaving, we made the most of it and played the Español version of Banana Grams on the airport floor while we waited for our flight to arrive. It was a long day of traveling but we made it to Dallas and finally to Grand Rapids safe and sound.
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Some funny realizations we had as we returned to the States were: that this was the first time we had been cold in three weeks as many people don’t have air-conditioning in Mexico, that there were no trashcans for toilet paper in the bathroom since we could flush it again, and that Coca-Cola is not as sweet here in the United States as it is in Mexico.  When we landed in Michigan,  Kyrian’s family and friend greeted us at the airport with a welcome home sign!

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Tonight after we returned to Hope, we all went for a walk in the pleasantly warm night air which smelled fresh and sweet like summer. While three weeks seems like a long time to be away, I can’t believe how quickly it went. I won’t forget the new friends I have made (both from the US and Mexico), the different foods I tried, or all of my incredible experiences like learning to salsa dance, assisting patients in the various hospitals, hiking Bernal or the Temazcal.

Thank you, Hope College, for providing me with this opportunity to spend time in another culture which I realize in some ways not all that different from my own. It was truly special and is definitely something I’ll always remember!

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14. God’s presence was unquestionably present in this marvelous city and the compassion of the wonderful people there.

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Thanks for listening!

-Brittany

A Final Hoorah

It was our last full day in Querétaro today! I can’t believe we are almost on our way home, I feel like I just arrived here yesterday. Looking back, I realized we’ve done a lot in the past three weeks- I’ve made new friends from around the world, spoken a different language, worked in all types of hospitals, and explored an amazing city. I sweat in a mud temazcal hut, climbed a giant rock in Bernal, and tried to eat every different type of helado in Mexico (I still have a long way to go).

I learned a lot about God and how beautiful He has made the world, full of so many different people. I saw Him in the giant fields of cacti in the desert, heard Him in the voices of a church congregation singing in Spanish, and felt  Him in the affection of my host sister Isa. Even on my morning walks to the bus stop every day, I would pass by this building decorated with bold Spanish writing. It translates, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”

 

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While we are sad to be leaving tomorrow, we still made the most of our day off. Starting out in the morning, Katie and I began to pack up our bags. Then meeting up in El Centro, our group could not pass up another 2 for 1 crepe Tuesday!!! The 5 of use scarfed down a total of 9 crepes…and they were all delicious. We walked through the streets once again, doing some last minute shopping and exploring. From antique shops to streets vendors to sunglasses stores, we saw it all. Kyrian and I might have found our new calling as sunglasses models.

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Before dinner tonight, I spent the evening hanging out on a roof, looking at the clouds, and watching TV with my friends. Becky, Brittany, Katie, and Kyrian. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to be by my side through so many adventures, and it was great to just relax together.

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Tonight we went out to dinner with our host sisters as a final hoorah. We went to “Comic X,” a modern restaurant with a superhero theme. It was really cool! There were all sorts of life-size figures of characters like Iron Man, Batman, and even the Hulk. It was not exactly a traditional Mexican restaurant, but it was special just to be together and enjoy food in such a fun place. And of course, as in every restaurant in Mexico, we were served a plate of limes. As you can see, Kyrian and I were pretty happy.

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After our dinner together, we had to prepare ourselves to leave. Since Isa is gone early for school in the morning, Katie and I said goodbye to her tonight. It was definitely hard and full of tears, because we have become so close over this time. Despite our language barrier, we have still laughed and shared quality time together. I now have a new older sister, and I know we will keep in touch.

Next time you hear from us, we will be in the US! Please pray for safe and smooth travels. I’m very sad to leave this wonderful place, but also feel hopeful to be home and see my family and friends. I will definitely have a lot of stories to tell!

Thanks for listening to all of my musings, it’s been a blast. See you soon!

-Blair

 

 

Too sappy to be punny

Today started with sleeping in (my favorite)! Because we had a free day, I woke up around 9am. We had plans to go to a museum, but unfortunately, it is closed on Mondays. So instead we went to eat lunch at a restuarant we visited our first few days here in Mexico. Lunch consisted of baguettes, salads, milkshakes, frappes, and other fruity drinks.

Blair, Brittany, and I decided to walk around, to do some shopping, while Katie and Kyrian stayed back to work on homework. Later, we all met back up and walked around browsing through all the street venders in order to buy the last of  our souvenirs. Kyrian and I decided to celebrate the day with a nice, refreshing icee! After shopping, we all returned to our houses to do various things; I packed :/

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We all met back later that night (around 8pm) for a final dinner. Dinner included us 5 girls, our host families (mothers & sisters), UAQ faculty and their loved ones, and anyone else who we worked closely with while we’ve been here. As you might have been able to gather from this blog’s title, tonight was a very heartwarming night. Mary started with some words of welcome and a prayer, followed by words of welcome and thanks from a UAQ faculty member. Tonight was full of gift giving, happiness, many hugs, and great conversations with even better people. It was a very nice dinner, with wonderful food, and I felt it was such a blessing to be able to spend the night in the company of such outstanding people.

After dinner, my host family and Brittany and I, walked around el centro and enjoyed a nice night out. I think tonight was one of my favorite nights because I feel I’d reached a level of Spanish where I can joke around with others rather than just talk the basics. Tonight, I was able to joke around with my sisters, like I would with someone in English. I feel I bonded even more with my host sisters and mom.

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As this is my last blog post, I would like to express how grateful I am for this opportuinty to have spent 3 weeks in Querétaro. It has gone so much better than expected, which I didn’t think was possible and I know the reason for such an unforgettable experience is primarily because of my host family. Their continuous compassion, understanding, and friendliness is overwhelming at all times; not to mention how much fun they are to simply spend time and joke around with!

There have also been so many other people that we’ve had the pleasure of building relationships with – UAQ staff, nurses, students, and more. Also, all the faculty at the university are beyond welcoming, which helped make staying here so much more wonderful. Of course, the other 4 girls I traveled here with are another reason as to why this trip is so amazing. We all were able to bring something different to our group and have all been able to bond so well with eachother. It’s been a real pleasure to get to know each of them more and I would not have wanted to spend my time in Mexico with anyone else!

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It makes me sad to have to leave Querétaro but I know this will not be my last time in this city. I know I will see my family again – as I already have been planning to return to Querétaro and to stay with them, again. I truly feel like I have a home here, thanks to all the wonderful people I’ve met over the past 3 weeks. 🙂

And thank you, to all the readers, for following along with our blog posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about all our great adventures in Mexico. It’s been more than fun!

-Becky

LOL.

LOL: (n.) lots of love


Today was a free day, perfectly timed to allow us some rest after a long day at the Temezcal yesterday.

I started out the morning with a delicious breakfast at a local breakfast joint here in Querétaro called Nico’s. I had a casserole type soupy dish made with eggs, beef, and a spicy sauce. We went with another nursing student from the Universidad Autónomo de Querétaro, Valeria, who had previously spent a semester at Hope. She and her family picked Mary, Mark, and I up and we spent the morning talking about travel, nursing, and getting to know each other better over some delicious, traditional Mexican breakfast dishes.

After breakfast, they dropped us off back at home and we did a little relaxing. We sat around the table and chatted, and I was able to catch up on some journaling and read some of my Bible before venturing out on the town. When we all felt rested and ready for some walking, we headed out in the direction of El Centro.

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We continued past El Centro and headed to a local market, where we encountered birds, clothes, food, and anything you could imagine. The market was about as far as you could imagine from a traditional farmer’s market in Michigan, but it was bustling with people, young and old. Upon entering, we walked past numerous cages full of birds of all types, ready to be adopted.

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After the birds, we ventured through racks and racks of clothes, shoes, and little trinkets. Moving onto the food, we walked past shop after shop full of various meats, rice, vegetables, and fruits, which looked so delicious. My favorite part may have been at the end, as we walked past several boxes full of mini cacti.

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As we headed back to El Centro, we stopped in a few dainty shops full of wooden ladles, intricately woven bags, hand painted ceramics, and wonderfully scented lotions. One thing I’ve found interesting and quite disheartening here in Querétaro is the number of children that are out begging for their older siblings or parents.

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This young boy stole my heart as he held out his hand and gave mark a “fist bump” after receiving a few pesos from Mark. A few verses from Colossians have made themselves apparent over the past few days, and one of these, in particular, comes to mind as I think of this situation.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”     -Colossians 3:12-14

God does not call us to judge others or pick and choose who to love, but to be gentle and patient with all people, no matter your differences. Mark did not hold a grudge against these young boys begging for spare change, but instead put on love to unite under God’s love for us.

Soon after this encounter, the skies opened up and it started to rain as we were making our way back home. It did not let up, and in fact began to rain harder and harder. We decided to take shelter and grab some dinner in Hank’s New Orleans Oyster Bar. There was some nice Frank Sinatra playing overhead, but this was soon overpowered by a four-man Mariachi band singing just across the patio.

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The rain let up just as we finished eating, and we quickly made a break for it to get home before the storms started again. It has been raining quite a bit over the past few days, and this is starting to become quite apparent:

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Today was a nice day to rest and relax after a long final week at the hospital, and to prepare for the last few days here in Querétaro. To further expand on the passage I mentioned above in Colossians, I found this wooden decor hanging in the kitchen here at Mary and Mark’s, so I will leave you with this:


“Look at the past with understanding…

The future with faith…

and the present with LOVE.”


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-kyrian

Temazcal Me Maybe

My what a day!!! I think I am more exhausted at the end of this day than I have been any other day this trip, and let me tell you why…

Our day started by meeting at 7am at the university. Once there, we piled into a van and headed off to the Mexican hillside, to the home of a wonderful woman named Lupita. On Lupita’s property, there is a small clay hut (kind of like an igloo), that was the purpose of our excursion. This hut is called a temazcal, which is a type of sweat lodge that the prehispanic people of Mexico used for traditional healing ceremonies, as well as for it’s general health benefits. Indigenous cultures all throughout Central America still utilize temazcals to this day, and we had the awesome privilege to experience for ourselves just what a temazcal is all about.

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Julio, our leader for the temazcal experience, explained what to expect and the proper, reverent way to enter the temazcal. Everything is done with thankfulness and respect to the earth and what it has provided for us. One by one, we crawled through the small opening into the dome, and took our seat on benches all around the edges of the hut. The temazcal experience was split into four sessions, overall lasting about two and a half hours total. The four parts were focused on (1) earth, (2) water, (3) wind, and (4) fire. The cool hut didn’t stay cool for long, as one by one, red hot volcanic rocks were added to the pit in the middle of the temazcal. We started the first session with nine of these rocks, and nine more were added for each following one, making it progressively hotter!

A large bucket of water was also used in each session, as little by little it was poured over the rocks, along with various essential oils. At first it was hard to breath in such a steam-filled environment, but as my lungs adjusted, it felt pretty good to feel the first drops of sweat start to roll from my body.  But we were just getting started! During each of the four parts of the temazcal, we would sing/chant a traditional song in Spanish, as well as use the maraca-like instruments we had brought with us into the temazcal. After this was a time of silence for introspection. All the while the heat and steam would build, and it didn’t take long until we were all completely drenched! During the last session, each person was given a bundle of herbs we had collected earlier, and these were used to apply heat to specific parts of the body that needed healing.

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At last, we made it to the end of the fourth part of the temazcal, feeling totally exhausted, but also extremely relaxed. It was quite a shock to crawl back out into the open, cool air! After drying off and changing our soaked clothes, we were rewarded with an amazing home-cooked meal made by our hostess Lupita. It felt good to have made it to that point, because it wasn’t easy! This traditional practice we got to take part in was an experience unlike any I’ve ever had, and although I wouldn’t be too eager to do it again, I’m grateful for the unique, awesome experience!

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Experiencing the temazcal reminded me of how people groups from all times and all places have acknowledged a Being that is greater than themselves. Even some of the phrases we sang or chanted reminded me of passages from the Bible, like when we sang “we fly like eagles, we fly very high, with wings of light.” This made me think of Isaiah 40:31, which says “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Seeing how people from another culture express their spirituality in a temazcal made me think about the ways God reveals himself to all of us every day, whether we realize it or not. The indigenous people of Mexico knew there is a God from the evidence of the earth and the healing properties that can be found from various plants. I look back on my life up to this point and know that I have a Creator, a Redeemer, and a Guide with me each moment of each day. Our God is powerful and is worthy of the praise and love of all people! 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1

-Katie