Wow, the last two weeks have been filled with so many amazing experiences! From getting to speak on a panel with former Fulbright Scholars to the new cohort of Fulbright Scholars in Mexico, to work trips to one of Mexico’s most important natural landmarks and an artisan community in rural Mexico, to attending a wedding of one of my good friends from college! And that’s not even mentioning all the things that happened in between! September is the beginning of independence celebrations in Mexico, and it kicks off all the holidays that follow!
Let’s start with the Fulbright panel. Seeing the new cohort of Fulbright Scholars reminded me of how excited and nervous I was when I arrived in Mexico in August 2021. Due to the pandemic, my cohort year did not get to have an in-person orientation. The room had so much positive energy. In a few short days, each grantee would depart to their placement in different parts of Mexico. Ten months of adapting, contributing, and learning from a new community await them. The reality is they are going to face challenging moments where they will feel low, highs of immense joy, and at some point, adapt to their new lives and routines. On the panel with me were good friends from my cohort year, and we tried to answer the new cohort’s questions as honestly as possible.
One main difference between this year’s cohort and the previous year’s is that the new grantees were mostly directly out of graduating college. In my year, most of us received the grant in 2020, and deferred to 2021 due to the pandemic. Looking back, that year gap between graduating college and coming to Mexico helped me so much to mature as a person and learn about myself. I couldn’t help but think that even though only two years separated me and most of the new grantees, they seemed so much more youthful, green, and bright-eyed than my year, who had been put through a whirlwind of ups and downs due to the pandemic making us doubt if we would ever get to go to Mexico on the Fulbright grant.
Later that night, I attended a reception at a beautiful museum with speakers from the U.S. embassy and representatives from Mexico’s secretary of education. When they surprised us with a mariachi band, the music, environment, and excitement I felt for the new grantees made me reflective and emotional. I thought about how much Mexico has given me: a place to grow, form new friendships, experience beautiful landscapes, and learn from an ancient and rich culture.
The very next day, I had a 6 AM wake up call to go with Someone Somewhere to Iztaccíhuatl–Popocatépetl National Park, one of the most important national parks in Mexico and home to two of the country’s most important volcanoes. I was stunned by the natural beauty, and how relatively close the park is to one of the largest, most sprawling cities in the world. We chose this area for a photoshoot of a new line of products Someone Somewhere is launching. My work flattered me by choosing me to be one of the models for the new product line. We had an amazing time getting to know the landscapes, taking photos and videos, and of course, trying the amazing food that the region is known for.
As most people who know me know, I have a deep love and appreciation for food. I am not picky, and eat almost anything. But, it’s not every day I have a meal that triggers a strong emotional response. On the way back from the national park, we stopped at this small, open-air restaurant in the middle of the mountains. There are probably many reasons it triggered a strong emotional response in me. For one, we were all very hungry, having left the city early without a proper breakfast, and spending the whole day walking around the national park. Second, sitting at this long table with the whole team made it feel like a family meal. And last, the food and friendliness of the family cooking made it so much more special. Everything I ordered tasted so amazing. I had a cecina taco (cecina is a sort of dried and salted beef), mushroom soup, and a quesadilla with chicken.
After finishing the meal, I spoke with the family that runs the restaurant. They showed me the immense variety of mushrooms they have (I had never seen mushrooms that size before!) There is much biodiversity in Mexico, which is later reflected in the food. I don’t think I will ever be able to truly try everything this country has to offer, but the process of learning more and more each day has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my time here.
I hope to talk about the rest of this week’s experiences in a blog post later this week! Attaching some film photos I got developed below 🙂