by Christian Okiring, Bolton House, Grade 10
A service trip is an opportunity to discover something about the world and about yourself. My service trip to San Jose Del Cabo over Spring Break was undoubtedly educational. Furthermore, my experience was nothing short of life-changing; truly extraordinary. Over the course of 10 days we immersed ourselves in the vibrant culture of this small town, helped and taught at a rural boarding school, and created friendships that will last a lifetime. The easiest part about embarking on a great adventure like this is what happens before the actual trip; the exhilarating excitement as nerves begin to kick in without knowing what to expect upon arrival.
The moment we set foot outside the airport in Mexico was when we had our first cultural experience: a very welcoming atmosphere filled with people dancing and singing to loud music as the guests arrived. To our left was a bar and Spanish dancers, and to our right was a lounge with waiting families, but the most welcoming thing was right in front of us. The view of a warm beating sun in the distance over mountains covered with cacti and green pastures alongside; this was the best welcome gift.
The boarding school we visited was nothing like SMUS. They didn’t have a garden, the paint on the walls was peeling and the classrooms were small and could barely fit all of the students.
We spent the first few days exploring the beaches, restaurants and the many heritage sights of Cabo. We practiced our Spanish bargaining skills, as we negotiated prices with native speakers in the city central or “Zocalo”. Also, we ate authentic local dishes for every meal, and we got to try dishes such as fish tacos, fresh mangoes and everything spicy. We concluded our fun adventures of Los Cabos by going on a breathtaking boat ride around the famous Arc of Cabo San Lucas. After exploring the town and immersing ourselves in the culture we looked forward to the main purpose of the trip: connecting with the local children and dedicating our time to their school.
As we got onto the bus our minds were filled with many thoughts. What will they wear? What if we can’t communicate? What if they don’t like us? One of the most memorable things about the long, daily bus rides to the school were the changing sights. The rides would begin with the beautiful views of the bright blue ocean, followed by the colourful town, and moving towards the desert, the sights of an opulent landscape. Our journey continued and we began to notice the torn-down buildings and empty ranches. But the moment we set our sights on the school we noticed how different their lives were compared to ours.
The boarding school we visited was nothing like SMUS. They didn’t have a garden, the paint on the walls was peeling, and the classrooms were small and could barely fit all of the students.
Our main tasks while we were there were to paint a mural on a blank wall, create a beautiful garden on their arid landscape and get to know the children. The kids gathered in a group and welcomed us with open arms to their home. Most of the students lived on ranches hours away from the school. They didn’t have much, and to them, this school was what they took pride in. We fell in love the moment we saw their smiling faces and the unconditional love they had towards each other.
The first two days were spent plowing the ground and planting the seeds in the new soil. The seeds we were sowing were more than just beans and lentils, they were seeds of lasting friendship. Some students painted a beautiful scene of the beach on the white wall. During a game of soccer I met another 15-year-old boy named Joshua. Joshua and I did not speak the same language but we found that laughter was the best form of communication.
In between painting and gardening we also taught classes. Most of our lessons began with songs we had previously learned, and continued with English games and activities like Pictionary. The kids enjoyed every moment as much as we did, and they continued to sing the songs we taught them while they were doing other activities.
After all the time and affection we had put into the school and children, none of us could believe our last day came so quickly. Instead of a mellow goodbye, we decided to end our time with a party. We got decorations, toys, cakes, pizzas and even a piñata! Every day was emotional, but the last day was the hardest to bear. When it came time to say our goodbyes there wasn’t a dry eye on the premise – teachers, students, parents, and even the bus driver were in tears.
Nothing could compare to all of time spent with the kids, all of the hard work everybody put into making improvements to the school, and all of the memories we made in Mexico.