Kate, Outbound to Mexico

Welcome back to another English journal! The first partial (one of three school grading periods) of the semester is wrapping up for me, and I finally have had a chance to sleep again like a normal person after all the projects, presentations, exams, and activities. Even though technically I am an exchange student, I love that I am not treated as one at school, but just like the rest of my classmates. I do everything in Spanish (except for English class, where I do everything in English), and I am held to the same grading standards. I improvise in all my presentations in Spanish (without notes now!). I even have the same time limit on exams which are not multiple-choice, but free response. And although I have already graduated high school and so I cannot receive credit for the work that I am doing, I am still proud of the results, especially given that Spanish is my second language.

Some interesting assignments from this partial include:

Designing an equation, building a model, and applying calculus to a roller coaster for math

Watching the TV series Black Mirror and exploring the consequences of technology for English

Planning a presentation that will explore the impact of language on a culture’s prejudices and stereotypes for Theory of Knowledge

Designing and performing an experiment about the effect of a routine of balance exercises on balance for Human Physiology

Analyzing real-life case studies for Business Management

On February 2, we had a school wide rally with a variety of academic and physical challenges, similar to a combination of field day and oral exams. We all dressed up like zombies or survivors of the zombie apocalypse (even the profes) while we competed for bragging rights and bonus points in our classes. There were eighteen different stations where we were asked questions from all of our past subjects as well as about the school and Catholicism. Physical challenges included a wheelbarrow race, water balloon volleyball, a human pyramid, and making a little clay snowman. Although I struggled through the physical challenges (I was still sore from maybe falling out of a tree…), I was glad I could contribute by answering a lot of the academic questions for my team (and not just at the English station!). It was a fun afternoon of teamwork, camaraderie, and good-spirited competition with my classmates, and out of the eighteen teams of the school, my team won second place (¡Vamos Caifas!)

Outside of classes, I have also been very busy with the Model United Nations for my school (UPAMUN), that will be part of an inter-school competition called interprepas in mid-March. Interprepas is a week of sports tournaments and academic competitions between my high school and other local high schools that also includes basketball, soccer, volleyball, and public speaking. I am the moderator for the Emergency Security Council in UPAMUN, and since the end of January, we have had meetings multiple times a week at the university campus. It is definitely a lot of work from all the research to having to learn all the official protocol (I am sure my friends are tired of hearing, “Delegations!! The floor is now open. Are there any motions on it?”). The sessions can be quite entertaining as we debate whether quesadillas need to have cheese, doughnuts as cultural heritage, and the global extermination of cats. I have really enjoyed meeting and spending time with other students passionate about debating and Model United Nations, and I have found our progress exciting. I will also be competing in the Business Simulator as part of my school team, which is another activity that I have never tried before.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day for the first time since kindergarten this year on exchange, and my grade at school was responsible for organizing the schoolwide celebration. As subjefa (a class officer), I was responsible for helping organize my salón’s (class’s) station. We sold potato chips and sodas, but not your standard pre-bagged chips, but papas locas, or potato chips Mexican-style. Like many other foods that we eat in México, we put lemon juice and a variety of salsas to give the chips some (more) flavor. So, I spent the celebration hawking our made-to-order papas locas (“Papas, papas, 15 pesos! Rebajadas especialmente para usted!”), squeezing lemons, and dumping salsas on the chips (and accidently on myself). Other salons sold pizza, chanclas (a Puebla dish that has bread and some chicken covered in salsa and topped with avocado and onion), roses, and chocolates and also organized karaoke, a photo booth, and a valentine delivery service. It was fun but tiring, (and me still being me) after school, I took a nap and then studied for my upcoming exams.

On February 15, I went with my classmates to México City to visit the Museum of Memory and Tolerance. We arrived at school really early in the morning because it was a three hour drive. Before touring the museum, we listened to this lecture about tolerance, stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. The first part of the museum was about remembering the Holocaust and the atrocities the Nazis committed. Next, the museum discussed other genocides in world history such as Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Cambodia, and Sudan. The museum concluded with sections about human rights violations, prejudice, and discrimination in México and the world of today as well as about how we as normal, ordinary people can make a difference. It was a very somber, but powerful, experience. I would highly recommend this museum if you are going to México City, but just as a heads up, everything is in Spanish. After touring the museum, we walked over to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, an art museum. We did not actually go inside because of time constraints, but the building is absolutely gorgeous. We then ate lunch in a nearby park and enjoyed each other’s company before the three hour ride back to the school.

The museum defines tolerance as “the harmonic relationship between our differences.” This doesn’t mean we have to agree with someone’s choice, opinion, or viewpoint in order to respect them as a person. We as a community, country, and world are so beautifully diverse, in age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliations, strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives. And all too often, we allow these differences to divide us, for “us-versus-them” mentalities to develop. We allow hate, spite, and revenge to fester instead of respecting, celebrating, and learning from our differences. In spite of all of our differences, we all have so much in common. We are all human beings that walk on this earth, living, breathing the same air. We all are equals who deserve respect. We all need people we love, who love us back, and who accept us for who we are. We all have a story and are on a journey. We all have scars from the past, a present reality, and hopes and dreams for the future. And this is far more powerful than our racial, ethnic, religious, and political differences.

Click HERE to read more about Kate and all her blogs