The Universal Language of Giving

When I decided to go on this humanitarian trip to Pachuca, Mexico, I knew that I would learn many things. However, I was astonished by how much I learned in such a short amount of time. Through the students and staff at the University Campus Hidalgo, the Mexican community, and the children we worked with, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined; and I know that I am not just speaking for myself.

One major lesson we learned on this trip is what giving truly means. Generosity does not just mean sharing things; it’s about sharing love, exhibiting selflessness, and leading by example. Giving is also a loving action which makes us feel happier about ourselves. On our last day, I had the blessing to chat with a group of kids from a primary school. A young girl, Fernanda, sat beside me the entire time, and although she could not speak English, another boy would translate bits and pieces for me. Fernanda and the kids asked me many questions and we taught each other words and phrases in our different languages. However, that was not all we taught each other. Fernanda asked me about Canadian money, what color it is, and what it looks like, so I checked my bag for any loose Canadian change to show her. All I had was a five dollar bill, which I put in her hands and told her to keep. The look of sheer joy on her face was absolutely priceless. She held onto the money as if it was the most beautiful jewel in the world while other kids swarmed to see.

I knew that giving those five dollars to Fernanda made me feel happier than I would have felt spending it on myself. When we help others we get a positive feeling that releases endorphins in the brain, giving what is known as a “helper’s high”, which is exactly how I felt. As I was leaving that school, a little boy who saw me give to Fernanda tapped me on the shoulder with one hand. He had his other arm fully stretched out with his palm open and facing up. On top of his little palm rested ten pesos (about one Canadian dollar). He gave me the ten pesos. I learned firsthand that when you give, you are more likely to get back. For all I know, ten pesos to this boy may be worth much more to him than five dollars is to me. Yet, he saw the action of giving and he wanted to experience that for himself. He made me smile like I made Fernanda smile.

At the same school, one of the teachers, Carlos, shared an old legend with us. The symbol of death is portrayed as a woman in his story, and death wanted to take Francesca away. So death hops on a train to Francesca’s home town and has a certain amount of time to take Francesca before she has to catch the next train. Death knocks on Francesca’s door, but she is not there, as she is off helping a boy with a hurt leg. Throughout the story, death goes to numerous places to find Francesca, but Francesca is always somewhere else helping someone. In the end, death has to catch the train and leaves without taking Francesca’s life because she could never find her. The moral of the story is that if you help others, you avoid death. This story shows that by giving, bad things in life will not burden you. I also learned that giving makes us happier, it is contagious, and that it is love.

Another thing we learned is that we are awful at Spanish; the language barrier was a major obstacle that we all experienced. Each one of us were forced to find creative ways to communicate to people who knew little English, and therefore, it pushed us to stretch our boundaries in order to converse. For example, Anna spent a few hours with a boy who spoke no English. Since Anna and the boy could not understand each other, they were able to find other ways to communicate by running around together, playing games, and using physical gestures. The language barrier was conquered in Anna’s situation as she connected with this boy and she claims that she will never forget what they shared.

A method we used to connect socially was through the amazing game of soccer. No matter who we played with, we felt closer to those people. Soccer is a connecting game no matter where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, or what language you speak. Soccer is the same game everywhere.

We learned that there are many negative perceptions of Mexico which do not represent the positive aspects experienced on this trip. Mexico is a giving, cultural, and downright amazing country. For instance, a group of mothers from one school we visited spent two days preparing a meal for us. The people are full of passion, love, history, and community. I saw an overwhelmingly significant passion for change by the people we spent our time with; they have remarkable drive to enhance Mexico. I recognized a pattern that everyone we worked with has such strong beliefs in enriching knowledge in children to improve each child’s life, which in turn will grow Mexico into a nation filled with more knowledgeable citizens. Our stereotypes of Mexico have been completely erased. Deanna even claimed during the trip, “For every bad person in Mexico, there are way more good people”.

The community’s drive for change in Mexico is amazing and I am so proud that we flew all the way to Mexico to be involved in these projects. Helping another nation has been such a great experience, do not get me wrong, but I recognize that what I did there, I can just as easily do here. In Regina, there problems and poverty as well, and there is always a need for people who want to gernerate change. I want to improve my involvement within Regina’s community and help others to make the city in which I live a better place. This is a test for all of us who went on this trip. We agree that it has been a life changing experience and that we learned so much, but the test for us is whether we bring that home with us. I believe it is something we can all do.

On the day before we left Pachuca to return home, we had a meeting with the University staff to share our thoughts and feelings regarding our experience in Pachuca and in our social projects.  Everyone came up with phenomenal answers which blew me away at how mature and wise my own team mates are. One of the main ideas included how a small action, such as love, patience, and generosity can make a difference, even if it seems small.

Although you would think that our egos would boost from all the autographs we signed, we have actually become more humble. I learned a great deal about myself, my team mates, and Mexican culture. I learned what it means to give and what it means to love where you are from. The friendships made on this trip, from the people who helped us along the way, the women’s soccer team, and other people on campus, will never be forgotten. Photos will never capture the richness of the memories we experienced and we will hold them in our hearts forever. The lessons learned will challenge us to bring them back to Regina and share with our community. We will bring these lessons into our everyday lives which have shaped us to be different people than we were when we first arrived. Visiting Pachuca, Mexico has been an unbelievably moving experience which we shared together, as a team, as one.

Carly Dueck, #9

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Day 14 – May 14th: The Last Day

Sadly, today was our last day on our humanitarian trip in Pachuca. We were scheduled to do a Telethon activity or in other words “laughter therapy” for children with mental or physical disabilities. Unfortunately, due to logistical issues, we were unable to do that activity. Instead we ended up going back to ALFA San Bartolo, the primary school where we renovated the gardens. It was here where we donated soccer balls from an Organization called “One World Futbal”. This organization created a soccer ball, which is “virtually indestructible” (OneWorldFutball, 2013) being able to withstand all terrains and is not destroyed through being punctured. If you want to know more about this check out their website!

http://www.oneworldfutbol.com

When we arrived the bell rang and we were immersed in a crowd of 500 cute smiling faces. We were quickly rushed onto their stage and watched as the teachers frantically attempted to arrange their 30+ students per class to quiet down and listen to the principal who was on stage with the microphone.

The rowdy boys!

The kids were excited to see us!

The principal then thanked us for the hard work, donations, and leadership skills we had portrayed during our time spent at the school. Although we couldn’t understand what he was saying since everything was in Spanish, we were able to understand his appreciation through universal body language; smiling… Oh and our translator Claudia. At the end of the day, Carly Dueck thanked the Principal for allowing us to be a part of the school and contribute to its growth as a whole. The Principal responded: “Don’t thank us, we thank you. We are grateful and can see the leadership and teamwork that this team has portrayed through the volunteering and experiences spent at this school. The teamwork that this team has shown is something that we want to pass on to the kids at our school as well as their parents to not only better the school, but also our community.”

After the principals ‘Thank You,’ Carlos our favourite, most caring man who helped us with the gardening project, sang us a lovely song in appreciation for our time spent at the school.

Carlos singing  a song for us.

Carlos singing a song for us.

After the heartfelt song, Carly Dueck, Deanna Dartige, Sarah Novak, Kelsey Abstreiter, and Adrianna McCullough picked five lucky students to receive the five soccer balls on behalf of the school, which were donated by ‘One World Futbal.’

The kids were very appreciative; they shook all of our hands after they received the balls.

The kids were very appreciative; they shook all of our hands after they received the balls.

We then had only 15 minutes to play soccer and hang out with the students. Due to the kids excitement we were able to stretch that 15 minutes into 45 minutes which STILL wasn’t nearly as much time as we wanted to spend with those little munchkins! During this time we were swarmed with children wanting to take pictures, play soccer, and get to know our names and a little bit about us. Although playing soccer with these kids just seems like a fun past time, it was so much more than that. Although we couldn’t understand the majority of them with the exception of picking up a few words here and there, we could just tell how much they were enjoying themselves through their smiles. We can only imagine the impact these soccer balls will have on these children. The playing conditions the kids would typically have to play soccer on are either dirt fields or cement ball courts with a $1.00 plastic ball to kick around. Overall, we were simply happy we could make a difference in these well-deserving children’s lives.

Raquel and I with some of the kids.

Raquel and I with some of the kids.

We ended our time at the school signing many autographs, giving many hugs, and saying our bittersweet goodbyes. We will never forget the kids and teachers we met at this school, and we hope to one day see them again.

After we left ALFA San Bartolo Primary School, we went back to the University to do our wrap up with all of the people who were involved in making our successful humanitarian project possible. During this time, we expressed what we had learned over the past two weeks about Mexico, the people within it, and how the experience will forever have changed our lives. After a few tears were shed knowing that our humanitarian experience was really coming to an end and how much we will miss the people in this beautiful city, we thanked all of the amazing people involved in making our experience on this trip an unforgettable one.

Big group picture: the team and the staff at TEC who helped us out with our two weeks here in Pachuca!

Big group picture: the team and the staff at TEC who helped us out with our two weeks here in Pachuca!

After the wrap up we went for lunch and had some down time until supper, where we said our final goodbyes to the people who were involved in helping us during our time spent in Pachuca.

The team before supper.

The team before supper.

 

Last supper. Last team photo.

Last supper. Last team photo.

After having mixed feelings of leaving our newfound friends behind, we have to prepare for our early start to catch our plane ride home.

Keep watching in the next couple of days for a reflection of our thoughts on what we have taken away from this incredible journey in Pachuca, Mexico.

– Molly #14

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Day 13 – May 13th

We learned a lot today about historical buildings and monuments in Mexico City. We started the day off with breakfast at the TEC cafeteria at 8am. We proceeded to Mexico City by bus and arrived around 10am. After the bus ride most of us had to go to the washroom. The closest bathroom to where we got off the bus was in a nearby market, which was a price of 4 pesos each, but was for two people. When I say it was for two people, I mean there were two toilets in a little stall, not much bigger than an outhouse, with a wall the size of a door in between the toilets. When we squatted down on the toilets, our faces were pretty much touching. Needles to say, we took our friendships to the next level today! After that episode was over, we hopped on a double-decker tour bus and enjoyed a tour of Mexico City.

Ready to explore the history of Mexico!

Ready to explore the history of Mexico!

We learned about approximately 20 buildings, statues, and monuments throughout the day. A couple that stood out are the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral at the Zocalo. The Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) is an important cultural centre in Mexico and was finished being built in 1934. It is best known for its murals, and many exhibitions and theatrical performances it hosts.

Palace of Fine Art

Palacio de Bellas Artes

The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral is the oldest and largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the Americas, located at the Zocalo, which is a huge plaza in the middle of Mexico City.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral at the Zocalo.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral at the Zocalo.

We got the opportunity to go inside the Cathedral and learn a bit about the history of it: the Spaniards didn’t only colonize the Mexicans through language; they also used religion. They built the cathedral directly over top of pyramids that used to stand there and used Catholicism as a way of colonizing the people. Outside the cathedral, parts of the ground are made out of glass to show parts of the pyramids underneath it. The cathedral was beautiful inside, with most of the interior having very fine detail. These pictures don’t do justice for how it looks in real life!

The first alter when you walk into the cathedral.

The first alter when you walk into the cathedral.

Another alter at the back of the cathedral.

Another alter at the back of the cathedral.

Incredible details!

Incredible details!

The glass outside of the cathedral to show the underground pyramids (hard to see).

The glass outside of the cathedral to show the underground pyramids (hard to see).

We had lunch at a restaurant called “La Terraza” which was located on the 7th floor of a building overlooking the Zocalo. The food was delicious and the view was amazing. The restaurant also contained the nicest bathrooms we have used so far this trip – bonus!

Restaurante "La Terreza" with the cathedral in the background.

Restaurante “La Terreza” with the cathedral in the background.

Our view of the Zocalo from the restaurant.

Our view of the Zocalo from the restaurant.

After learning a lot of Mexican history we took a team picture in front of the enormous Mexican flag. Today was a pretty slow paced touring day, but we definitely saw some amazing buildings and learned interesting facts about the Mexican history and its culture.

We will never forget this amazing trip to Mexico!

We will never forget this amazing trip to Mexico!

When we got home tonight most people were tired and just wanted to relax. Adriana M. and Raquel B. joined me in a lower body cardio workout in the terrace outside our building. It was a cooler evening so it was the perfect time to do an outdoor workout! We made supper at our dorms and relaxed for the rest of the night. Tomorrow will be a bitter sweet day as it is our last day in Pachuca. We have an exciting visit to make at one of the elementary schools…stay tuned to hear all about it!

– Sarah

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Day 12 – May 12th

After a long and exciting day in Mexico City yesterday, we were all very happy to hear that we would have the opportunity to sleep in until 8AM. The only item on our agenda was to do a bit of touring a little ways outside of Pachuca. Most of us woke up feeling refreshed and after a shower and bowl of Cheerios, we were on the bus ready to see the Pyramids (actually spelled Piramides here in Mexico)!

About 45 minutes later we had arrived at the Piramides in the town of Teotihuacán. We were immediately greeted by many local vendors with numerous items for sale; most of these items represented the unique and ancient Aztec culture. We opted out of a guided tour and decided to split off into a few groups and explore on our own. Once we entered the actual site of the Piramides, we were able to see 2 different structures, the larger of the two being the Piramide of the Sun and the other being the Piramide of the Moon. These were divided by a stretch of ancient road that is known as the “Avenue of Death” because this was where the Aztecs performed their sacrificial ceremonies. We climbed to the top of the Piramide of the Sun, which proved to be a pretty good workout due to the large amount of extremely steep stairs.  All in all, we had a lot of fun exploring and the scenery was breathtaking!

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Moon

Pyramid of the Moon

After a long climb, some of the girls on the Pyramid of the Sun.

After a long climb, some of the girls on the Pyramid of the Sun.

Bob posing on the pyramid!

Bob taking a break!

Of course we had worked up an appetite after all of that exploring, so we went to a restaurant tucked into a cave just behind the Piramides called La Gruta. This may have been the coolest place I have ever eaten at! We entered through an opening in the cave and were led down a stone staircase into the rest of the dining area – completely surrounded by rock! I’m not sure the pictures will do it justice, so all you have to know is that it was amazing. We were seated just in front of a stage where performers entertained us with traditional Mexican folk dance. They even invited three of our women to join them on stage; Raquel, Carly, and Sarah made us proud! The food and drinks were delicious and overall, it was a unique dining experience to not be forgotten anytime soon.

La Gruta restaurant

La Gruta restaurant from the outside.

La Gruta from the inside.

La Gruta from the inside.

The team inside of La Gruta.

The team inside of La Gruta.

Something that all of us missed today was not being able to be at home for Mother’s Day.  I know that a few girls were able to get a hold of their moms today to send them their best, however, I feel like I should still pass this message on. Happy Mother’s day to all of our moms back home – we love you guys and can’t wait to see you! It is only through your hard work, patience, and love that we are the women that we are today!

– Anna

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Day 10 & 11 – May 10th & 11th

Day 10 was Mother’s Day here in Pachuca, and a bunch of the families of the students in the ALFA San Bartolo school helped us finish renovating the gardens.

The second garden we completed at the school

The second garden we completed at the school

Just taking a quick break.

Just taking a quick break.

Carlos, one of the teachers at the school, and his family, served us home made ice cream after we were finished the gardens. While we were enjoying our ice cream, he told us a story about a lady named Francesca. Francesca was a women who was always helping others. In the story, a man was searching for Francesca but he could never find her because once he got to the place where she was supposed to be, she was already off helping someone else. Carlos told us that today, Francesca was here. He was implying that the time we spent at the school the past 2 days was our way of being “Francesca” because we were helping others. He was incredibly grateful and thanked us many times for coming to his school. He also told us to always remember the story of Francesca so that we continue helping others, being selfless, and making a difference in other people’s lives. Finally, Carlos gave us each a picture of something representing Mexico so that we would forever remember our experience.

A job well done!

Team picture with Carlos.

After the gardens, we headed to the Mundo Del Futbol Museum. This is a hall of fame museum shaped like a giant soccer ball. It is the coolest museum I have ever been too! There are over 100 famous soccer players that have been inducted into the hall of fame including legends such as Pele, Maradona, and Zidane. Mia Hamm is also going to be the first female ever inducted into it as well! Every time they add someone, they have a huge ceremony, it sounds like it would be a real honour to see.

Mundol Futbol - Hall of Fame Museum

Mundol Futbol – Hall of Fame Museum

The team on the balcony of the museum.

The team on the balcony of the museum.

There were may different simulating experiences at the museum for us to try such as human sized foosball, measuring the speed of your kick and sprints, skill testing games, and even creating our own talk show.  Friday night the team went out for a few drinks to celebrate Racquel and Kelsey’s Birthdays! 🙂

Human foosball, brain activity soccer, colouring jersey's for paper dolls, and hosting a talk show.

Human foosball, brain activity soccer, colouring jersey’s for paper dolls, and hosting a talk show.

The team before we went out for Kelsey and Racquel's birthdays!

The team before we went out for Kelsey and Racquel’s birthdays!

Today, day 11, we had an early morning as we had to be up at around 6 am. We worked on a project called Estela in San Agustin Tlaxiaca Acayuca. It is a very small village on top of some mountains, where we visited the elementary school there.  They had arranged for us to participate in many different activities separated into different groups. The different stations included, water balloon handball, a wet sponge relay race, potato sack relay races, trivia, pulling a table cloth while keeping the cups on top, and catching people with a lasso.   After the games were over, we were fortunate enough to have been provided a homemade lunch from a lady who organized many things for the town. She cooked us a delicious mexican meal that was so good!

Adriana being lassoed by a little boy, eating lunch cooked by the parent association, and  Raquel and Veronica with their team doing the sponge races!

Adriana being lassoed by a little boy, eating lunch cooked by the parent association, and Raquel and Veronica with their team doing the sponge races!

Giving the donated clothing to the kids.

Explaining to the kids where the donated clothing came from and what it means for us to be here.

Giving the donated clothing to the kids.

Giving the donated clothing to the kids.

Group picture at the school.

Group picture at the school.

Last but not least, we went into Mexico City today to watch a professional soccer match between Club America and the Pumas, who are rivals. This game was held at Azteca Stadium which holds roughly 120,000 people. We have never experienced anything like this. They warned us that because the two teams playing are rivals, the fans might get crazy and sometimes even throw pee at each other. We were also told to dress in neutral colours to avoid conflict with the fans. However, every spectator was wearing a jersey of either of the teams, so our grey/black/white Cougar gear ended up standing out! At the same time, I think we would have stood out no matter what we wore; a group of 21 young Canadian girls isn’t exactly discrete! We were seated in the Club America section so we were cheering for them. It was so exciting, and Club America ended up winning 2-1, woo! There were some Puma fans sitting behind us so they threw beer at us at the end of the game. Luckily I was wearing a rain jacket with a hood, but some of the other girls had it worse and their hair was even dripping with beer! I guess it was better than pee! The crowd was fantastic, and the soccer was excellent, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

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The Club America fans, Celia, Sarah and Kacey at the game, and getting beer spilled on us!

Buenos Noches!

– Meagan

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Day 9 – May 9th

Today was a regular morning: up around 7 and ready to go by 7:40 for the walk to TEC for breakfast.  Unfortunately, Bob wasn’t feeling good this morning so he came to tell us he would stay behind for the day and rest up.  After breakfast, we got on a big bus and headed to ALFA San Bartolo, a primary school where we are renovating gardens.

Instead of heading straight to work, we were given bowls of nachos, drinks, and ushered into a Mother’s Day Ceremony.  Their Mother’s Day is actually tomorrow, but they were celebrating it today.  We were led into a big open area with a stage at the front and chairs set up for all the mothers and their children.  So many cuties!  Some  school kids ran to get us chairs, so we could sit down and enjoy the presentation.

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Deanna, Anna, and Corms dancing on stage.

It started with a speech about Mother’s Day and also introducing our team and explaining how we are helping out at the school.  Then they called a few of us (Deanna, Anna, and Corms) up on stage to do a quick dance with some of the dancers there for the presentation.  Very entertaining!

Then we got the pleasure of watching the Ballet Folklorico dance group “Hidalguense de Mexico del Profesor Ennio Serrano Torres” perform traditional dances from Hidalgo, Chiapas, Guerrero, Yucatan, and Veracruz.  The costumes were amazing and the dances were very fun.  In one famous dance, the ladies even danced while balancing cups on their heads!

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Traditional dance of Hidalgo.

After the ceremony was over, we got a chance to talk with some of the girls.  Claudia translated for us so the kids could ask questions and we could answer them.  The kids we talked to all love soccer!  They were very excited to meet us and they all asked for pictures.  Later, they were eager to help with our gardening tasks.

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A few of the girls we met.

Then we got to work.  Most of us were expecting gardening as in planting flowers or vegetables, but it turns out we are laying down rock into the garden, because the school doesn’t have the means to maintain a planted garden.  There were two huge piles: one of large white rocks and one of finer red rocks.  We used buckets and wheelbarrows to move the stones from where they were to where the garden is.  We laid red rock all over the bottom and used white stones to go down the side and to circle around the trees and plants that were already there.

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We switched off jobs, from shovelling rocks into buckets, hauling rocks to the garden, raking the rock to spread and smooth it out, and placing the white stones.

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We got finished one whole side today and it looks awesome!  It really brightens the place up and seems to make it more welcoming.

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We had about 15 minutes to spare before the bus came to pick us up, so some of the girls started a soccer game with the kids who had hung around to help.  The director was very pleased with the work we did today and said he expects big things for when we go back tomorrow.

We loaded back on the bus to go to TEC for lunch, and then we walked back to the dorms, stopping for ice cream treats on the way (as usual).  We all showered up, got ready, and went out for supper and a few drinks. We heard some great stories and had a lot of laughs.

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Hungry girls!

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Great times with great friends!

We are looking forward to what tomorrow and the last 6 days of our trip hold for us!

-Raquel Bellefleur #23

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Day 8 – May 8th

After a few days of consistent pancakes for breakfast, some of our girls took a walk on the wild side – that’s right, some toast, eggs, and beans graced the plates of the Cougar squad.

All breakfast excitement aside, the fuel we ingested was put to good use in the form of a rally which took place in downtown Pachuca. Our main slogan being “We believe that everything can change”, we had tasks set in place for us. The tasks required us to stretch out of our comfort zones and attempt to speak Spanish to the locals. We asked for things like smiles, hugs, phrases in Spanish, handprints on a mural and why Mexico is a great place to live. Despite some broken hearts resulting from some people not wanting to hug us, we emerged from the experience, as awkward as it was at times, feeling as though we were touching the lives of others.

The Cougars before the rally.

The Cougars before the rally.

The clock in downtown Pachuca, given to Pachuca by the same manufacturer in England who designed Big Ben.

The clock in downtown Pachuca, given to Pachuca by the same manufacturer in England who designed Big Ben.

Upon our return to campus, a few players got to participate in a flash mob for some Michael Jackson songs. Personally, I’m glad I wasn’t involved because the Mexican students are just so darn good at dancing and it puts me to shame. On a different note, we also got to welcome our teammate Molly with open arms to our Mexican adventures in Pachuca! Hurray!

After a hearty lunch quite enjoyed by yours truly, our next mission took the form of an inter-squad match with the Pachuca women’s team. Having had some prior training in the climate, it appeared like the members of the Cougars seemed sharper and faster. The final outcome of the match was 5-3, the number being insignificant in comparison to the heartfelt goodbyes and excitable passion of the Pachuca team. There were some playful water fights as well, with a few of our players involuntarily letting their eyes gape at the drinkable water lost.

Cougars and Borregos.

Cougars and Borregos.

Friends!

Friends!

While the event may seem insignificant, I feel as though it must be shared; it actually rained this evening! Indulging my inner child, the cooling relief of the rain was an absolute pleasantry on top of the roof of our residence. I’d wager that the other women feel the same but for myself, I feel as though I’m starting to notice and appreciate the little things on this trip as it progresses – the refreshing taste of a fruit popsicle, lying on my back in the shade and looking up at the dancing leaves of exotic trees, the warm hospitality of the locals and even the quirky smiles of teammates when we get honked at or whistled at on our walks to and from the TEC de Monterrey.

Our view from the roof. The beginning of the rain.

Our view from the roof. The beginning of the rain.

One week has passed and there is exactly one more to go!

– Stephanie Possberg #1

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Day 7 – May 7th

Today was similar to yesterday; we started with breakfast at 8am at the TEC cafeteria and continued on to Benito Juarez Elementary School in Zapotlan. It was an exciting day because we got to finish the murals that we have been working on for 3 days!

Some of us working on the Benito Juarez mural with the head artist, Herman.

Some of us working on the Benito Juarez mural with the head artist, Herman.

Mural #1 (Benito Juarez) complete.

Mural #1 complete

We made a lasting impression by painting our hands and putting our hand prints on the mural. We also painted words, representing values we find important for the kids.

We made a lasting impression by painting our hands and putting our hand prints on the mural. We also painted words, representing values we find important for the kids.

After adding our hand prints to the mural.

After adding our hand prints to the mural.

Our hard working brush cleaners!

Our hard working brush cleaners!

The half of the team who worked on this mural.

The half of the team who worked on this mural.

The whole team with the first mural.

The whole team with the first mural.

Some of the girls working on Mural #2.

Some of the girls working on Mural #2.

Mural #2 (wind and nature) complete.

Mural #2 (wind and nature) complete.

The half of the team who painted this mural.

The half of the team who painted this mural.

The whole team along with the head artist and his assistant, who helped up more with this mural.

The whole team along with the head artist and his assistant, who helped out more with this mural.

Since today was our last day at that school, we also gave the small donated clothing that we collected to the children at the school. You could see their faces light up when they received the clothes and soccer equipment.

A few of the girls with one of the boys soccer teams we donated uniforms to.

A few of the girls with one of the boys soccer teams we donated uniforms to.

The director of the school was pleased with the work we have done at the school in our three days there and it was definitely a pleasure for us to work with the kids and other volunteers! It was evident in the children’s smiles and hugs that we made an impact on them. Additionally, a grade 3 boy, Marco, who I tutored on Saturday, tapped me on the shoulder today while I was painting and said, “Hola Sarah” and gave me a hug before he went home for the day. It was cute that he remembered who I was and found me before he left. They were also lined up behind us while we were painting when school was over to get more autographs and just observe us painting.

The kids surrounding us while we finish up the mural.

The kids surrounding us while we finish up the mural.

When we finished our murals, we headed back to the TEC cafeteria for lunch, where most of us had enchiladas. Afterwards we hung out at the university until our soccer practice at 4pm. We practiced with the TEC women’s team today. Although we were exhausted from working and being in the sun all day, it ended up being a pretty good practice. After practice we walked home, and along the way some of us were looking for gatorade and happened to find a store that sold some delicious real fruit popsicles. It made the rest of the walk home less painful!

The fruit popsicles!

The fruit popsicles!

Part of the team went to the mall for supper, and Bob had a heart touching moment. While at the mall, Bob noticed a young boy wearing one of the jerseys we distributed at the school today. The boy’s father approached Bob and shook his hand. The boy stood there smiling proudly. This shows that despite language barriers, we were still able to impact someone and receive their gratitude through a simple handshake and smile. It’s an amazing feeling.

We are taking it easy tonight after a tiring day, and to get ready for a rally in downtown Pachuca tomorrow, followed by our last soccer game. I have already taken away so much from this experience and can’t wait to learn more during our activities throughout the rest of the week!

– Sarah (Novo) #11

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Day 6 – May 6th

Today we started off the day by walking to the university cafeteria for breakfast which has come to be our daily routine.  Once again we all ordered pancakes.  After breakfast we headed back to the elementary school in Zapotlan to continue working on the murals we started. Today was a lot quieter and we were able to get a lot more done than Friday when we visited Zapotlan. This is because the elementary children did not have school today due to Cinco De Mayo (their Labour Day).  We finished the main outline of one of the murals last time we were at the school so half of us were able to start painting right away while the other half started to draw the outline on the other wall for the second mural.  They also got started on painting the second mural.  We got quite a bit done for the few hours we were there and we are pretty impressed with them so far since most of us do not consider ourselves artists by any means! It was another nice day today and we all seemed to get some nice colour instead of burning after learning that sunscreen is a must here.

The first mural.

The first mural.

 

The second mural.

The second mural.

Women of many talents!

Women of many talents!

After our busy morning of painting we headed back to the University cafeteria for lunch.  An hour after lunch we went back to the university to go to the fitness centre.  It was our first time going to the gym since being here and it was a good change of pace.  We were able to do a cardio as well as a weight lifting workout.  We also spent some time playing volleyball and basketball in the university’s gym.

The gym where we played volleyball and basketball.

The gym where we played volleyball and basketball.

On our walk home from the university, we realized that we had already completed approximately 10km in walking (to and from the university twice) today alone. The university is about a 15 minute walk from where we are staying so we will be doing a lot more of it as the trip continues! We are also discovering that Pachuca is not really getting used to the fact that we are in their city. Every time we walk somewhere we get honked and whistled at and today someone even blew us a kiss as they were driving by! We are quite the spectacle  that’s for sure.

For supper today, for the first time since being here, we made our own meals in the kitchen area. Each floor has its own kitchen and since our team is divided among two different floors, we were able to cook meals for 10, rather than 20 people. It was fun to have a family dinner together! Tomorrow we go back to Benito Juarez Elementary School to finish our murals and give them our donated clothing. I am looking forward to it!

– Tayler #17

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Day 5 – May 5th

After an eventful night last night and three busy days, today was a much needed leisurely day spent shopping and touring.  We were all pretty excited because we finally got to catch up on some sleep and sleep in!  We woke up around 8:15 am and were on the bus ready to go by 9:00.  To start off the day we travelled to Real de Monte, which is also known as the Magical Town because it is a beautiful, quaint little town located on top of a mountain.  We had a delicious breakfast at a restaurant in Real de Monte.  The restaurant served pastes, which is a famous Mexican food that is like a stuffed pastry that can be filled with many different flavours.  After breakfast we were led into the back of the restaurant, and given a first hand look into how the pastes are made by the store owner.  When breakfast was finished it was time to shop!  We were given about an hour to explore the beautiful town, and check out all of the neat shops along the streets.

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Real de Monte, where we had pastes for breakfast.

A few girls at Real de Monte

A few girls at Real de Monte

Around 12pm we were off to our next destination, the prismas basaltics!  This was another gorgeous sight to see.  The prisims are rock structures that stand about 100ft high.  They have perfect geometric structure, as they were carved by water over millions of years.  This tour was very scenic and allowed for many photo opportunities.  Some of the girls even ventured into the water that fell over the rocks, while others did some rock climbing on the structures!

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The team on the bridge at the basalt prisms.

Some of the girls at the basalt prisms.

Some of the girls at the basalt prisms.

Viewing the prisms from up top!

Viewing the prisms from up top!

After touring the prisms we hopped back on the bus and travelled to the Mexican town of Huasca.  In Huasca we had lunch and then did some more shopping at the market there.  We spent way too much money of course, but purchased a lot of cool things for our families and friends back home!

That pretty much sums up the events of today, and now we are looking forward to a relaxing evening before we head off to work at an elementary school tomorrow!  Can’t wait 🙂

– Jayde #16

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