All Roads lead to Oaxaca

^^Well, that’s not exactly true. Probably more accurate would be to say that there was one road that led to Oaxaca and it was filled with a mass of immobile vehicles (read: #roadblock). So, we did what any hardy college students would do and gathered our luggage (which I began regretting having packed very shortly) and disembarked along with the rest of the passengers.

“We’ll walk,” said the bus driver. “There’s another bus past the blockage that we’ll take instead.” ”“How many minutes would you estimate?” I asked. “Oh…20, nada más,” (nothing more) he said with confidence.

I like walking, I figured, let’s go.

4.5 miles later, this is how the situation looked:

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But don’t be fooled by the smiles. Mostly I was like this:

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They say that traveling should open your eyes to the world—to the possibility of meeting new places, cultures, people. I completely agree, all true. But then…where exactly does this trek fit into the experience? My eyes were practically shut because of the sweat dripping mercilessly down my forehead, the only new place I had seen was this highway and admittedly that was getting old rather fast, and the always friendly people were mostly taking this opportunity to hide from the relentless sun and take a nap within their stalled cars.

In any case, the desperation (and fear of heat stroke) were running high.

But finally, finally we made it—to the next bus that is. At least 1 hour later, I was standing on a new bus with a crowd of people waving papers, blankets, anything that might give them a bit of air. Meanwhile my face was boasting a broad smile (whether of happiness, deliriousness, or sheer gratitude I’ll never be completely sure). I was leaning forward as far as I could to allow the sweat from my face to drip onto the floor instead of down my shirt (I know, a lovely image) and all I could keep thinking was that we really had no idea what we were in for when we first boarded a night bus to Oaxaca (a state of Mexico that is as famous for its unique culture as it is for its rich cuisine) a whole 8 hours ago. I write this now from the bus—which we’re still on—but thankfully, I can also say that I’m in a much more comfortable place now. I also know that far worse could have happened and being thankful is a feeling that is possible at any temperature.

Though we haven’t arrived quite yet, Oaxaca has already gifted me with a valuable realization (and even more priceless memories). Very hot–and unexpected–circumstances can either bring out the worst in people, or the best. That is something that is always under your control. And so, at a time when we could control none of the conditions of our external environment, we chose to be happy. It may not be groundbreaking, but sometimes you need experiences like these to make what everyone has been telling you for years really resonate.

I came here many weeks ago as a student of global health, and in doing work “in the field,” I’ve quickly realized that there are a great many things that I cannot predict–from weather, to travel, to the availability of resources that I might have considered basic in any other context. But therein lies both the challenge and the thrill–such that one cannot really be “shocked” at circumstances that are out of the norm. As my professor always says:

“That’s global health, my dear.

She couldn’t be more right.

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