Upon returning, everyone asked me the same question: “How was Mexico?” Even after being asked that question multiple times, I couldn’t figure out how to answer it. I was at a loss for words because the trip was so inexplicably amazing and life-changing, and to convey that in a sentence was impossible. I had done so much, had very unique food (such as shark; chaya, a Mayan drink made from spinach and lime; and marquesitas, a combination of fried pancake batter, chocolate, and Parmesan cheese), flown for the first time, and met so many wonderful people that are truly a blessing to humanity.
Throughout the week, the same thought kept coming to my mind: There is something so wrong with American culture. We’re missing something very important, but these people have life figured out.
When you walk down the city sidewalks or village streets in the Yucatan, people smile and say “Hola” or “Buenos tardes.” When you greet people or say good-bye, you give them a hug and a kiss on the cheek. People sincerely care about your happiness and well-being. Even when you go to stores, there is a sense that people value you for more than just your money and business. Yucatecans make such a personal connection with others immediately. How many Americans would drive to an airport at 6 a.m. to bid good-bye to a group of people they had only known for a week? Probably not very many. But Silvia, a Yucatecan who has worked at the Mission for many years, did just that.
The Yucatecans were very welcoming toward their American guests. Everyone we came in contact with was thrilled to have us there. No matter how small their house was, or how little they had, they invited us to be a part of their community. Their Christian faith is integrated into their daily life, and they reminded me a lot of the parable in Mark 12:41—44. Though they are very poor and live simple lives, they gave what they had with all their heart, and ultimately, they are richer than most Americans.
Father Wilberth, the priest in Sotuta (I mentioned him in our blog post “The Seven Wonders of Tuesday & Wednesday”), made a point to speak to us privately after Mass. He reiterated that the parish in Sotuta was our home. I was so touched by his gracious statement, and it also helped me see the universality of the Christian church. It doesn’t matter what country you live in, how big your church is, or anything – we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. As a united group of people worldwide, we all celebrate together, mourn together, struggle together, and triumph together.
The girls at Nueva Vida touched my heart as soon as I saw them. These girls come from an extremely impoverished neighborhood, and they could easily lose hope, faith, and self-value. However, they are the exact opposite. Smiles and laughter are as common as the sunshine. They do their chores without being reminded, and they go to classes without complaining. Nueva Vida is such a blessing to their community, as it is truly working wonders with these girls and molding them into mature, intelligent, and loving Christian young women.
The concept of “Yucatecan time” was such a great change from the hectic schedule that is a 17-credit college semester. When you live on Yucatecan time, it’s okay to be a few minutes (or an hour) late. You can actually sit down and enjoy a meal. You realize that life isn’t about rushing around to simply cross off tasks on a to-do list, checking e-mail, or updating Facebook; instead, it’s about making memories with people and appreciating the simple things. You recognize that not getting an A on a paper won’t end your life or your career and that worrying isn’t going to get you anywhere.
I still don’t know exactly what it is about the Yucatan that struck me so much, but I can say that coming back to the States and getting back in the college routine was a reverse cultural shock that I did not like. (Needless to say, coming back to snow and ice-cold winds wasn’t great, either!) I am trying to use the lessons I learned in the Yucatan in daily life: worry less, make personal connections with people, be more optimistic, and live a simpler life. In realizing the idea of a universal church, I’ve become inspired to serve people even more than before. If you want to hear more about my experience or learn more about how to work with the Mission, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org! God Bless! ~ Katie Kapp