Student recalls working with kids in Mexico

Students give YMCA in Mexico City a friendlier look. From left

I stood, staring at the summit and then slowly followed the long line of steps leading back to the ground. Without any hesitation I began the climb. I glanced up the ascending stairs and then just past the top, where the sun hung high in the midday sky. It stood at a staggering size, towering over everything in its path. The steps seemed to go up forever into the clouds. It remains as an ancient remnant of a civilization that flourished between 100-900 A.D. I caught sight of the top and began climbing faster. Nearly bumping the person in front of me, I scrambled onto the platform top. Breathing deep, and with my hands on my knees, I stood at the center of spiritual energy for the city of Teotihuacan, the Pyramid of the Sun. Even people today come to the Pyramid of the Sun to pray or meditate. People, after all, are not strangers to Central Mexico. They have called it their home for the past 20,000 years.

Saturday, March 9, 2002, I joined a collection of NKU professors and students to spend spring break in Mexico City. Dr. Wilcox and Dr. Conway lead nearly a dozen NKU students south of the U.S./Mexican border. These students ranged anywhere from history and criminal justice, to business and political science majors. They followed, not fully knowing what to expect.

This crew of NKU affiliates chose not to spend their spring breaks lounging on the beach. They gave of their time, energy, and for some their birthday, to extend a helping hand to someone in need.

The mission was to work within the local YMCA, helping out the community surrounding it. For the duration of the break we would each be staying with a host family in the city. The days were spent at the YMCA, most of the time playing, teaching and learning with the kids that attend classes there. We helped to stage the annual fund-raising festival held at the YMCA. The days would be filled with any activity from painting the entrance gate to walking the streets and interacting with the community.

My day, however, would not end at the YMCA. In the evenings, I was guided through Mexico’s culture by my newest sister, Mayra. Mayra was a member of my host family, who did everything in their power to show me every tourist attraction in the city. Mexico City seems to extend for as far as the eye can see, as do the attractions. The Central Plaza was host to the government building on one side, where President Vicente Fox works, and the Metropolitan Cathedral on the other. Templo Mayor was a unique blend of a museum and an archaeological site, right in the middle of the city. A mere walk through the streets offered new experiences with a rich Mexican culture.

Some of the fondest memories I have of Mexico are not of the tourist sites but, with my host family. I was accepted into the family as if I was one of their own. They incorporated me into their daily lives, giving of their time, energy and space. My mother prepared an assortment of authentic and delicious Mexican foods for me. My Mexican family taught me everything from the street names to the popular dances. They helped me to explore, learn and love Mexico’s culture. They showed me a side of Mexico that I never would have seen staying in a hotel or hostel. This spring break was filled with early mornings, late nights and a blend of adventures in between. We painted the cabins, and ourselves, at the Camohmila Camp. We renewed our spiritual energy at the Pyramid of the Sun. We watched as our fellow students and professors tried to dance to salsa in the disco-tech.

The people are what makes Mexico’s culture so colorful and alive. I returned to NKU with many new friends, a second home and a multitude of memories. I would suggest to everyone with an open-mind, desire for adventure and a lot of extra energy to choose an alternative spring break.