Viviendo el Sueño

Santiago Atitlan to San Cristobal de las Casas, San Cris to Oaxaca, Oaxaca to Mazunte, Mazunte to Tapachula to Ciudad Hidalgo to Tecun Unam to Cocales to Santiago Atitlan. I’ve been on a beautiful whirlwind of a trip that included astonishing surprises every day. I couldn’t possibly capture it all in words or images, but here are some highlights.

The trip included many, many bus rides, which actually provided some of my favorite memories. My traveling companion, Neal and I, had a rule that we could only speak Spanish until 6pm every day. We were fairly good about abiding by this rule. The first leg of the trip, some of our other Santiago friends were with us, including Siara from Spain, and for the rest of the trip, we got a lot of good Spanish practice in by watching at least 6 terrible movies (dubbed in Spanish) played on Mexico’s highly luxurious (and I truly mean that, compared to Guatemala) second-class tourist bus system. We also did a lot of sleeping and messily eating our pre-prepared bus meals.

In San Cristobal, I met with my inspiringly creative boss (Natik’s executive director) and her partner and we visited the indigenous village of Zinacantan for Dia de los Muertos. At the top of the cemetery adorned in flowers and fruit offerings, we chatted with some of the locals (one of them invited my friend Neal to try on his beautiful traje), then went down to the pueblo to drink some hot atol and eat some freshly made blue corn tortillas with one of the families we work with.

The next day, we walked over an hour across the city, seeing the stark contrast the further we got from the tourist center, to arrive at a little piece of utopia – La Universidad de la Tierra, a stunning 200 hectare campus located on the outskirts of San Cris. We were invited into the director’s office – a magical space, immacuately decorated and full of color, kind of like Frida Kahlo’s aesthetic imported into a Tim Burton film. There, we talked for a bit with Dr. Raymundo Sanchez Barraza and then one of the students gave us a tour of the campus and answered our questions as we wandered around. What this autonomous indigenous-led project is doing is astoundingly remarkable – they provide free courses, usually about 2 years in length, to the surrounding indigenous communities, allowing them to live and eat on campus during their studies and giving them opportunity to learn a valuable skill they can take back to their communities. Courses include auto-mechanics, carpentry/construction, sewing, baking/cooking, art, communication systems and repair, farming, music, and probably many more I’m forgetting. One of the things I loved most is the inclusion of music and the arts, with state of the art tools, supplies, and instruments, placing just as high a value on these skills and talents as on more traditional trades.

Onward to Oaxaca, a city full of visual stimulation. It was a beautiful blend of big city atmosphere, with a Latin American pace, a colonial charm, and a tangible feeling of resistance, rebellion, revolution. I was eager to explore as soon as we arrived and climbed up the Escaleras de Fortín for an amazing view of the city beneath. We ate delicious street food – tlayunas are especially tasty – enjoyed Oaxacan craft beers and locally made Mezcal, Oaxacan nieves (ice cream) and coffee, and meandered through the city streets. Our time in Oaxaca included a two-hour interview with Gustavo Esteva – an amazingly profound, insightful, articulate, and inspiring man, and I had the privilege of recording the whole thing! Much more on that to come. Neal posed some excellent and critical questions and Gustavo’s responses did not disappoint. I asked a few questions of my own at the end, on a more personal note, and Gustavo’s answers are a true source of inspiration for me – things that I needed to hear, that reassured me of my path in life and assuaged my doubts and fears.

We also had the chance to visit the Arbol del Tule – one of the oldest and largest trees in the world, and a sight I’ve always wanted to see. The girth of this tree was truly incredible, and its history and its own story of resistance and survival amaze me. What a beautiful part of nature that in its 2,000 – 6,000 years has seen and experienced so much and shared with so many. There was a gorgeous almost full moon that night over the church in Santa Maria del Tule, and all of it was such a sight to behold.

We went on to a lazy beach town on the Oaxacan coast called Mazunte where we slept in hanging beds with mosquito nets that, in their simplicity seemed like they’d be bare and uncomfortable, but were actually like sleeping in a cloud. We went for frequent swims, soaked in the bright, bright sun, walked through the hot sand, napped, read, relaxed, and went to a full moon party. We hiked up to an ancient Mayan look out point called Punto Cometa and saw the most breathtaking sunset I’ve ever in my life witnessed (the photos don’t do it justice). We visited a tiny completed uninhabited and closed off stretch of beach where we were the only people in sight and swam in the crashing waves and climbed on the rocks and watched blue crabs scatter as the waves crashed up and the ocean stretched before us and the fregata birds circled overhead and the sun shone down on us like a divine light.


After nearly 24 hours of non-stop travel (which, of course, included an intriguing border-crossing experience and many, many bus transfers), I arrived back home to Santiago Atitlan, full of inspiration and joy, but glad to be home and back to work. I slept quite heavily the first night back, a peaceful night in my own bed. And now I’ve resumed some semblance of daily routine.

First thing Monday morning was a meeting/brainstorming/planning session over breakfast with Neal about a project we plan to collaborate on…keeping it mostly under wraps for now until things are a bit more solidified, but it is something I’m very, very excited about and will throw myself into whole-heartedly.

Then, a long walk to the Hospitalito to buy a water refill, where, while waiting, I chatted with a friendly older man. After getting his water refills, he left in his car, but circled back around 5 minutes later to offer me a ride home with my heavy garrafone. These small acts of kindness touch me daily here, constantly reminding me of the goodness in everyone.

Following that, a skype conversation with one of my bosses, Donna (founder and creator of Unlocking Silent Histories, which I still need to write an update about eventually, I’m just so excited about it, it is hard to find the words), which sent me into a flurry of work for our upcoming fundraiser video and other future projects, some conversations with the youth leaders I work with, and a plan for the week.

After a quick lunch, off to my co-worker Dolores’ house, where we knocked out our accounting for the month of October, planned out our activities for the next month, and generally just chatted and got caught up on each other’s lives.

Back home to send off a few work emails and then out for a long bike ride (oh yes, I have a bike!) Glorious bike ride around the lake as the sun went down. On my return journey, I ran into three of my friends going for a run, cycled alongside them and chatted for an hour or so, since it had been a while since we’d last seen each other. Exciting things are going on in the lives of everyone I know and I’m so, so happy for them.

After the cycling, a quick yoga session with two friends at my neighbor’s house – a much needed stretch and time to focus on my breathing and my inner world. More catching up, taking advantage of the time I have with these beautiful people.

And finally, home to make dinner, some time to just be alone and enjoy that feeling, a bit of tidying up, a cup of tea while I stayed up audio-correcting and editing the Gustavo Esteva videos until midnight, some church marimba music blasting down the street, a late-night conversation with my best friends in New York that provided a lot of laughs. And then sleep, which came quickly and heavily – as (supposedly) one might say in Ireland, I slept like a donkey.

Today is mostly a work from home day – wrapping up administrative tasks, doing some online research and preparation, probably more editing if I ever finish this post, and also a shower if my water decides to come back on. I woke up, ate a delicious bowl of pineapple, papaya, and banana with lime juice, read some world news in La Jornada while drinking coffee from Chiapas. I will mostly likely take the opportunity to spend as much time as possible in my little apartment today being productive from behind the scenes.

Tomorrow, I meet with the director of the school we support, La Puerta Abierta, to work on grant writing, fund raising, and donor relations. Then I jet across the lake to Panajachel to collect the video equipment for Unlocking Silent Histories, meet with the director of our partner there, Maya Traditions Foundation, and then get together with two of our youth leaders to do a little filming and assign/explain their next project. From there, I’ll go to my co-worker Jim’s beautiful lakeside house in Tzununa for the night, have a Skype chat with a client interested in working with Just Apparel, and do some weekend planning with Jim. He and I will head to Guatemala City on Thursday for the Icaro Film festival –  a showcase of Central American cinema, where we hope to be discover what’s going on in the Guatemalan film industry and make connections to be more involved.

Not your average routine, but for me, this is living the dream.





Currently traveling in Mexico, updates to come! After a few days in San Cristobal de las Casas, which included a visit to the Universidad de la Tierra there and a chat with Dr. Raymundo Sánchez Barraza, I am now enjoying the great city of Oaxaca, my first time ever visiting. Yesterday included a lot of walking around and taking it all in, taking advantage of locally made craft beers and street food, local live music, revolutionary book stores, taking in the sun on a beautiful day, and the general sights and sounds of this lively place that seems to combine everything I love about Latin American cities. I will definitely have to come back.
Today, my dear friend and fellow indigenous rights and autonomy enthusiast and I will walk across the city to Unitierra here for a conversation with Gustavo Esteva, whose books and articles we’ve been reading and/or re-reading this week and have led to meaningful discussion.


It may seem hard to believe, but I’ve lived in Guatemala for more than a month now! And while I think from previous posts you all have gotten a fairly decent impression of what it is I’m doing here, I certainly haven’t had the time (or patience!) to blog about everything I’ve experienced since my July 1st arrival. And I think many of my experiences have been noteworthy and/or atypical.

So, in honor of my one month anniversary, and to paint a better picture of adjusting to life in a rural Guatemalan pueblo, I present you with 31 things I’ve experienced, learned, appreciated, or become accustomed to in my first month! I’m doing this in list form because who doesn’t love a list these days?

  1. I’ve swam in the lake! – I live on a huge lake surrounded by three volcanoes (a phenomenon called a caldera, i.e. a lake that is formed when land collapses after a volcanic eruption. But don’t worry, the volcanoes are dormant now!) I also love to swim. Thus, this seems like an inevitable occurrence. For me, it certainly was. There is no way I could resist swimming in that lake! But surprisingly, many people from here have never done it, and many visitors who come to the lake don’t dare to swim in it. Some of the reasons I’ve heard cited for this include: not knowing how to swim, irrational fear of water snakes, concerns about water quality, panic attacks, giardia, laziness. Well, to all that I say – the heck with it! This lake is gorgeous and I’m going to keep swimming in it! Sure, I can’t see much more than my hand in front of my face even with goggles on, but nothing beats that moment when you’ve swam about fifteen minutes and you stop to orient yourself and see three beautiful green volcanoes, their peaks topped in fog, the deep blue-green water surrounding you in every direction, the moon still visible in the bright blue sky, the sun rising above the mountain tops as you start your morning. I look forward to much more than coffee to start my day.
  2. I’ve become accustomed to the altitude. – It’s high up here. Like, noticeably high. As in, you feel really out of shape for the first week because you’ll walk up a small hill and feel winded. Well, now I can run up that hill and feel great!
  3. I’ve climbed something (he subido algo). – Mountain/hill/volcano climbing is a pretty popular activity here, and difficulty level varies greatly. I plan to conquer all three of the volcanoes around the lake during my year here, but I wanted to start with something small. So, my new friend Katie and I climbed a smaller mountain (or very large hill?) called Cerro de Oro (Hill of Gold) yesterday – and this was my true test of altitude adjustment! Cerro de Oro is only about a third of the height of the three nearby volcanoes (San Pedro, Atitlan, and Toliman), so it was a good place for a beginner like me to start. There were challenging moments, but it was so worth it (vale la pena!) to get to the top and see the view – that will be its own post eventually, when I get around to it. But, my climbing adventures have begun!
  4. I’ve made some friends! – Atitecos (as the locals are called) are really, really nice people. And while many of the locals my age lead very different lives (because they’re married and have kids and are very religious and don’t really go out at night and certainly would never drink), I’ve been able to meet some pretty great people who I can hang out with from time to time….many of them are Gringos like me, but I’m meeting some locals too! Yesterday, for example, a group of us went to a chalet (basically, someone’s giant vacation home) to celebrate the birthday of one of the Gringos who lives here. It was me, 3 other Gringos, two girls from another part of Guatemala, a woman who lives here in Santiago, two Italians who live in Santiago, and 6 or 7 Atiteco guys – an interesting mix of people and a LOT of fun.
  5. I’ve made a TON of new Facebook friends, even if we’re not all the way to being actual friends! – ALL of the Atitecos have facebook (they call it Face, which is funny to me when they ask “Do you have face?”)
  6. I’ve witnessed great wealth disparity. – Sorry this one is a downer, but it is just so true. In my work, I go out to a government subsidized housing area called ChukMuk. It consists of hundreds of one or two room cement block houses, built by the government for those who lost their homes (and ancestral lands) during the 2005 hurricane/mudslide. There are no paved roads, the houses lack electricity, they’re located in the middle of nowhere with limited transportation. Then I visit this chalet for my friend’s birthday party or walk along the lakefront in the pueblo of Cerro de Oro and see ginormous vacation homes with landscaped gardens, multiple bedrooms, modern kitchens, pools, hot tubs, helicopter landing pads, for crying out loud! And they’re all empty – owned by someone from the capital or from another country who only comes every now and again, and in the meantime, pays a local person a measly salary to live in a squalor next door to this unbelievably nice property and care for it while they’re away. I have so many feelings about this.
  7. I’ve been charged different prices (almost everywhere!) because I’m white/extranjera. – So, I almost can’t be mad about this because it helps to correct the disparity just a little bit. But it is standard practice here to charge people who are obviously not Atitecos higher prices. On everything. The boat that takes you across the lake to the larger town, and is basically your only option for doing so: 25Q for foreigners, 15Q for locals. The taxis, which have a standard rate of 3Q but foreigners don’t know that, will try to get 10Q out of you. Some of the restaurants have two separate menus with different prices, one for foreigners, one for locals. In the market, if you don’t speak Tzu’tujil, you’re definitely being charged more (sometimes, my Atiteca friend Yanil goes with me and gets me the good prices!) Even the hospital has different fees for foreigners and locals, which I totally understand. In the end, I can afford it and I’m helping the local economy, so I’ve accepted this as a fact of life in Santiago.
  8. I’ve haggled. – that boat that goes to Panajachel? I got them to let me on for 15Q. Once. But the guy said he would remember my face and I would have to pay him an extra 10Q the next time, so I’m not sure how successful this really was.
  9. I’ve received a really uncalled-for amount of male attention, and I know it’s just because I stick out. – I just smile, look them in the eye, and say buenas tardes, or whatever. My favorite is when they just say, in English, “I love you!” They also make this weird “chhh chhh chhh!” noise, which is a new one for me.
  10. I’ve felt two earthquakes! – yep, there was a strong one my first week, and then another one about a week ago. I was in a restaurant when it happened, and we just kind of noticed things moving.
  11. I haven’t gotten sick! – This might be a miracle! Or it could be that I have a strong immune system from my mostly vegan diet and natural remedies. But let’s go with miracle! No sickness, and I even brush my teeth with sink water and eat fruit off the street. There have been a few times when my stomach felt slightly not normal, but I haven’t had the usual sick and can’t eat for days thing that most people go through during their first month. My Atiteco friends were impressed.
  12. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in speaking Spanish. – Unfortunately, none of them have been funny. (For example, a friend of mine asked our host parents if they wanted her baking powder (polvo de hornear) but what came out of her mouth was polvo de orinar(urinating powder!)
  13. I’ve said goodbye to some great people.Despidadas (going away parties) are fairly common here in summer months because there are volunteers who come and go. I’ve already had to say goodbye to quite a few people, and though I only got to know them over the course of a couple of weeks, I’ll miss having them around.
  14. I’ve traveled to another city! – It just so happens that a dear friend of mine from Chicago is living in the nearby town of Quetzaltenango (also called Xela). It’s the second largest city in Guatemala, and only about a 3 hour bus ride from where I live. So, I went and visited for a weekend, got to experience a new place, felt like the small town girl in the big city as I marveled at its grocery stores, paved roads, addresses, grid system! But mostly, it was just nice to spend time with someone I know and love.
  15. I’ve traveled to another country! – This same friend from Chicago needed to renew his 90-day visa, so we went for a long weekend in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. It was wonderful! And I’ll be doing that a couple more times as my visa runs out.
  16. I’ve mastered the chicken buses. – This is how I got to Xela. On school buses from the U.S. converted to public transport. They are painted bright colors, chromed out most of the time, packed with way too many people (sitting three to a seat on a school bus when you’re 7 is okay, when you’re 27, not so much!), and they usually have music blaring and drive at crazy speeds down twisting mountain highways. It’s not the safest mode of transportation, because robberies and extortion happen (and are overlooked) here. But, if you don’t bring anything really valuable with you, it’s fine, and super cheap! The tricky part is all the transfers. Direct routes aren’t too common, so you’re usually hopping off somewhere and running to catch the next one. Oh, and they’re called chicken buses because people transport all manner of things on these buses, either on the bus itself or strapped to its top, including chickens! Though there weren’t any chickens on the buses I took.
  17. I experienced the feria. – This is the once a year city festival with rides and contests and games and shows. The city is packed and people are actually out at night and fireworks go off at all hours of the day and night. So, feria was many, many experiences, some of which included: riding a (probably never tested for safety) ferris wheel that goes really fast, seeing a Guatemalan muscle building competition for men and women, watching a competition where men climb a buttered pole to get to a bag of money at the top, seeing two Guatemalan beauty pageants, playing a few casino/carnival games, and being a part of a parade! Feria was a lot of fun. But I’m also kind of glad it’s over.
  18. I’ve learned about and experienced some local religion. – So, there are these things here, called Cofradias. It is a religious order of sorts, with each Cofradia chapter being dedicated to a specific Saint. However, their religion and worship practices are a blend of indigenous Mayan religions and Catholicism. For example, one of them has a Saint that is actually the Mayan God of Thunder and must be kept in a box because he is so powerful that if the box is ever opened, the world might end, or something. Anyway, they have these Cofradia parties (I’ve been to two now) where people bring alcohol or money as offerings to the saint/god, and then get really drunk and dance and light candles and chant and all kinds of stuff. The gender relations at these parties are particularly interesting to me, because they are mostly attended by men, and men are free to dance with other men (something they would definitely not do in public here). There are also usually cross-dressers in attendance, and out gay men (another uncommon thing in conservative Santiago). Most interestingly, though, I went to one of these parties with a male friend, and was sorted of treated like his property, but in this very respectful deference sort of way – they would ask him for permission to dance with me – and one of the men who asked for permission to dance with me referred to me as a man (puedo bailar con él?) My male friend and I were rather confused, and I declined his offer. But I did dance with some of the dignitaries.
  19. I have been bitten by literally every type of bug there is. – I used to live with two street dogs and I’m pretty sure I now have fleas. Or possibly it was bed bugs. Or both. I’ve also been bitten by sand fleas. And mosquitos. Maybe a spider. Ants. And had  a weird rash. Basically, I’m itchy. All the time.
  20. I’ve marveled at the stars. – There are SO MANY! I’ve been to a few other places where I could see a lot of stars (rural Texas, small town Minnesota) but it just doesn’t compare. Last night, I stayed up pretty late at this chalet on the lake, and it is outside of the city, away from any light, and the stars were just breathtaking! I could’ve stared at them for hours! And I probably would have, except when I laid back in the grass to admire them, my arm ended up in the middle of an ant bed and I immediately got bitten about 30 times and my fingers went numb. But the stars! Beautiful.
  21. I’ve learned to roll with the punches. – Sometimes, you don’t have internet when you really need it. Or the electricity in the entire city goes out. Or you have to wait 30 minutes for a boat to leave, or an hour and a half for a meeting to start. And it’s fine! I’ve really embraced the fact that there is nothing I can do to change these occurrences, and sometimes, it is best to just go lay out at the lake and drink a limonata and read a book until your refrigerator turns on again.
  22. I discovered the “Gringo” store. – We don’t really have grocery stores. We have an open air market with fruits and veggies and other random crap, and we have tons of small tiendas that mostly just have little bags of chips and things, but nothing big, no aisles of frozen or refrigerated foods. BUT, there is one tienda that is a little bigger than the others and stocks things I could not believe I’d be able to find here – chief among them is almond milk! Now I can make smoothies for breakfast! They also have peanut butter, large bags of chips, wraps, actual sliced bread, standard brands of toiletries. It is a definite game-changer. I can now be mostly vegan while here (though I am eating eggs – they’re local and very cage free).
  23. I’ve taken a lot of siestas. – I totally get why this is a thing. A necessary thing. You wake up to roosters and dogs at like 6:30 every morning and the hustle and bustle of life starts happening early, and you get some stuff done before 1pm, and then you have to go the market and buy stuff for lunch, and go home and make that lunch from scratch, and wash the dishes immediately so the flies don’t come, and then it’s really hot and there’s no air conditioning, and you lie down on your bed for just a minute, and well – an hour later, you wake up feeling so much better! And you can do a bunch more stuff! Siestas are great.
  24. I’ve gotten a ton of scrapes, cuts, and bruises, many of them mysteries! – I cut my finger while washing out a can of beans (it was actually quite deep, but don’t worry, I got a tetanus shot). I scraped the top of my foot while attempting to climb a pole. I have a huge bruise on my right thigh and its origins are unbeknownst to me. Between this and the bug bites, I’m kind of a disaster! But no one cares, including me.
  25. I’ve danced outdoors, a LOT! – This is like my number one “What do you do in your spare time?” activity. I dance outside. During the feria, there were bands at an outdoor stage and we would start dancing circles outside in the plaza. Last night, we danced outside at the chalet. Pretty much all I want to do is dance outside. And I’m going to keep doing it!
  26. I’ve been frightened by at least one street dog. – Street dogs are everywhere here. Some of them are really cute, others are very sad to look at. They usually travel in packs and leave people alone. But one time, a street dog tried to follow me and my two housemates into the house and it was pretty scary.
  27. I’ve rediscovered my inner morning person. – I used to be a morning person when I was a kid. Then these last few years, I wasn’t able to wake up that late because I had to go to work and whatnot, but I would try to fit in every last possible second of sleep, and on weekends, I could sleep pretty late. Here, it’s just impossible to sleep late because I’m such a light sleeper. And I love my mornings! Even when I don’t have to wake up early, I enjoy it. I go for a run or swim or both, make coffee, shower, make breakfast, listen to music, sit on my balcony. This morning, I was the first to wake up at the chalet, and while everyone else slept for another 2 or 3 hours, I went on this great walk by the lake and saw so much nature – birds and huge lizards, a giant bullfrog, so many gorgeous flowers, fish jumping out of the lake, the mountain view. I’m definitely a morning person again.
  28. I’ve seen La Sonora Dinamita. – They’re a Colombian musical group that is apparently pretty famous. It was fantastic. I danced outside.
  29. I’ve participated in a Saint procession. – This is part of feria, I guess, and also part of the Cofradia too, but not manyextranjeros experience this. I was a part of this procession that started at 4am and ended at 5:30am, and it was pretty cool! There were women with candles and palm leaves, a band, a choir, and men carrying the saint (Santiago Apostol) through the streets, making him dance around and whatnot. I shot some video that I will hopefully have time to edit soon.
  30. I’ve learned to embrace solitude. – This isn’t always easy. I’m far away from all of the people I love and the people who love me. I’m living alone for the first time ever (okay, aside from those 6 days I had my own apartment before Hurricane Katrina hit). I’m also in a foreign country with immense cultural differences and a language barrier that can be further isolating. And I’m the only person from my organization here. So yea, I get lonely pretty often. But, I’m embracing my solitude and maintaining a good balance, and really enjoying some things about this time I have to myself. I think it allows me to focus on creativity, art, dreams, desires. And those are the things that really drive me. And I’ve also found that whenever I’m feeling particularly down or alone, the universe sends something my way to turn that around – a text from my sister, an email from my dad, an invitation to go do something here in town, a really great song, a beautiful moon in the night sky to sit and enjoy. There are moments when I can’t help but think “I wish ____ was here to share this experience with me,” but, at the same time, I’m so full of gratitude that I get to experience it for myself.
  31. I’ve made a list of things I want people to bring me from the states! – Take note, everyone. I packed pretty well, but there are some things I miss or wish I had! And I recently found out that getting mail here is basically impossible, so if you’re thinking about coming to visit me, here are some things you could bring!
  • Running shorts – yea, I run now, and I only have pants to run in, and sometimes it is hot.
  • A light robe – this will help me not to walk across my apartment naked, forgetting that my balcony doors are open to let in air and light and that they look straight down onto a fairly busy street. Not that this has happened.
  • Coconut oil – it has so many uses! There is one store across the lake that has it but only in small and very expensive bottles.
  • A hoodie – I get cold. Hoods help with that.
  • Almond butter and chia seeds and probably other food items like that – I don’t need them, I just miss them.
  • A USB DVD player for my computer – this will help to entertain me.
  • Various clothing items including another pair of jeans and simple dresses – I’m already getting sick of wearing the same stuff all the time.
  • Hiking boots – I think I might need these for the volcanoes.
  • A backpack – like a regular sized one. I have a hiking backpack but it is big for day hikes.

So, after reading all of this, who wants to come to Santiago?!



This weekend was inolvidable (unforgettable)! Accompanied by my dear friend Bryce (from Chicago), I traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, Mexico – the city where I lived for a summer while completing my first-level internship for the Loyola MSW program. This was my first time back, and it was everything I remembered! The city is enchanting and resonates with such powerfully positive memories for me. The weekend away was quite a luxury. Not only did I get to spend day after day in great company, I got to renew my love affair with this beautiful place and its wonderful food, culture, sights, and sounds. We ate amazing chocolates, walked all around the colorful artisan markets, drank a lot of mezcal, and even got to see some fantastic live jazz. In addition to the vacation aspect of this trip, I spent a morning getting to know Natik’s programs in Chiapas. Currently, Natik has 2 Loyola MSW interns working with them for the summer. I had the opportunity to meet them and go with them to their work site one morning – the home of two sisters in the indigenous village of Zinacantan where they run a Saturday educational program for students. These little ones were so much fun, and really engaged in their own learning. The experience was a great example of how Natik operates collaboratively with community leaders.