The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Study abroad diaries: Merida, Mexico (part four)

One of the hardest parts about studying abroad is leaving the comfort and security of all you’ve grown to know and appreciate back home, while also trying to recognize and value all of the things that make you feel comfortable.

I write this particular article with a very heavy heart as my friends and family back in my hometown of Lake Zurich, Ill., have endured a very serious tragedy this past week with the passing of a student from the graduating class of 2010. Being far away from home puts everything into perspective and makes me realize that things are never as bad as they appear, and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how far that end may seem.

Aside from dealing with the weight of what’s been going on at home, my most recent week here in Merida was one for the books. This past weekend the group and I had the chance to travel to Uxmal, one of Merida’s highlights and also what is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in Mayan culture. To try and put what we were able to witness into words would be nothing short of an injustice to the Mayan culture and all that is has to offer. All I can say for sure is that I highly recommend anybody with the opportunity to visit these ruins to do so immediately. The sheer ability and talent of the Mayans was on display as the entire group ventured through Uxmal with the guidance of our reliable tour guide, Luis. In all honesty, Luis does a wonderful job at bridging the gap between the historical contexts of what we are seeing with the experiences that we are undergoing each week. Without him, the experiences we have had would be just that, with no understanding of the history behind them.

After a long day at Uxmal, we had the opportunity to venture to the house of a true Mayan, Don Felix, who is a traditional medicine man and utilizes the capabilities of herbs to cure patients with different ailments. Don Felix introduced the entire group into a traditional way of living for the Mayans, as we gathered in his house made out of thatch and wood. What was most impressive was the fact that Don Felix had built the house with his own hands and the help of his father and grandfather, and it had withstood the force of two hurricanes in the area and countless severe storms. Being able to experience and walk through a living environment as unique as this one resulted in my own reflection of what I perceived to be necessary in my life. Getting by with what many may think to be very little, Don Felix reinforced that an individual only needs food and hard work to live a fulfilling and healthy life.

Uxmal was one of the more impressive sights that I had seen while studying abroad thus far, but luckily for me, my weekend was just beginning. I had the opportunity to accompany my fellow student and friend, Ana, to a family reunion in the town of Izamal, about an hour east of Merida. Upon arriving, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with anxiety due to the enormity of the event I was about to partake in. The Lopez family name was in full force, as over a hundred family members gathered around to celebrate each other and the continuation of the family name. Coming from a fairly small family, seeing a family of this size was a very admirable experience for myself. I initially expected to be ostracized as a result of my nationality, but I was quickly disproven as I was swarmed with hellos and kisses from people I had never met before that made me feel like I was part of the family. Family tradition in Mexico is a very unique thing, and something that I’ve slowly grown to adore.

As the weekend wrapped up with feelings of exhaustion, the school week ahead had the makings of being a long one. Fortunately, the workload of our classes was canceled out with the satisfaction that comes with being able to venture out to the Emiliano Zapata Sur community and work with the children. It’s truly remarkable how much an abundance of hugs from smiling eight year olds can completely change the dynamic of a week that was expected to be a dreadful one.

Life is far too short to be caught up in the little things like classes, homework and exams. Particularly after being exposed to such misfortune with the loss of a friend, the important things in life, relationships, human interaction and an appreciation for living life have especially come full circle this week. I can’t begin to explain how lucky I am to be able to experience these events while studying abroad. So, be sure to hug the ones you love extra tight this evening, cherish the memories and the ones still to be made, because life is unpredictable and you never know when the end of this roller coaster will arrive. Love the life you live and live the life you love; without love, this life will never amount to anything.

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