Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Mexico

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What a Trip it Was!!!

Dr. Rick Warner - We are back on U.S. soil, recovering from various gastrointestinal and other travel maladies. Over the next few days we will be reflecting individually and as a class about what we have learned – about the ancient and modern Maya, about Mexico, and about ourselves. Sometime later in the semester we will report out to the Wabash community over some tacos at lunchtime. By all reports this was a powerful, academically enriching, and emotive experience for students and staff alike. We are thankful to Robert our Blogmeister and Macie our video and computer whiz for their parts in helping us remember and reflect upon the venture. We are especially thankful to the college and our alumni for their generous financial support.

For my own part I would like to say that I am very proud of our students, who cheerfully negotiated difficult travel conditions (bugs, early risings and a broken bus among others). After several trips to Chiapas with Wabash students, there are residents there who actually think of us as another Harvard, since years ago representatives from that institution were active in ethnographic work there. Our students have impressed numerous scholars and experts on the ground there, some of whom you have read about in these blogs. The anthropologists we met in Chiapas were uniformly impressed by the preparation and sturdiness of our students. I know that because they have told me so on numerous occasions. Our students are learning to read Mayan glyphs, and to understand Mayan thought and history in a way that surpasses the other undergraduates they have worked with.

There is so much that has happened on this trip that it would be difficult to point to one travel segment, one archaeological site, or one native ceremony that impressed me more than any other. But there was indeed one experience that impressed me more than the others: our morning service project at the kindergarten site. I was unfortunately sitting with my knee injury on the sidelines of this operation, as I watched Professors Roger and Brown help Sergio Castro keep our guys on task. 

On the plus side, that gave me time to reflect. Wabash men were digging trenches, sinking posts, and painting this newly completed school. They were following in the footsteps of the awesome Sergio Castro, who has built no fewer than 25 schools and continues to serve the Mayan communities of Chiapas as a healer. (Go to YouTube and search “Sergio Castro” for more on this amazing man.) Our students have been much more than tourists on this trip; they have engaged ancient and modern Mayan cultures in a respectful manner. But that morning as I sat on a rock and watched them work, I felt a higher sense of satisfaction. Wabash students were giving back to the world, and they were learning something as they labored. I remembered this feeling from the Panama football trip a couple of summers ago.

I have been thanked by many people for my role in the organization of this immersion trip. While I appreciate the praise, please know that I too have benefited by learning from my students as they “lived humanely” that morning, in the company of a bundle of Mayan 5-year-olds. This sort of community effort has deep roots in Mayan and Mexican history, and is rapidly becoming a Wabash tradition. We left something of ourselves in Chiapas. We will go back.

Above Left; Two Wabash students scale the steps at Bonampak.  Above Right; Wabash students talk with Kindergarten students in San Cristobal, Mexico.  Middle; Wabash's Tyler Dougherty '09 interacts with a student.  Below; from left to right, first row; Trent Bash '10, Yousuf Bahrami '10, Rabin Paudel '10, Michael Washburn '09, Zafer Ahmed '08, Tyler Dougherty '09; Second Row; (2) Local workers, Anthony Benitez '09, Sergio Castro, Josh Lopez '10, Adam Fritsch '09, Robert Campbell '10, Justin Gardiner '08; Third Row; Nathan Rutz '09, Chris Beard '10, Andy Chelton '09, Steve Zajac '10