2000 Impressions
Center for 4-H and Youth, Family and Adult Development

Images from the trip
Week 1 | Week 3

Week 1

Rich Fleisher hits a piñata at the welcome luncheon.

The Plaza de la Pa - Guanajuato, Mexico.

Greetings from Guanajuato, Mexico! We have completed a very successful first week here in Guanajuato. Our students are enrolled in Spanish grammar and conversation classes at the University of Guanajuato; four students are at the intermediate level and seven are advanced. They attend classes daily from noon to 3:15 p.m.

We spent the weekend visiting the historical city of Queretero, about two and a half hours east of here. We visited a special education school and a nursing home last week. This week and next, our students are volunteering in the morning at both places. Each student is living with a host family here.

Eleven teens from Guanajuato will return to the United States with us on July 1 to spend a month in West Virginia. They will study English at the WVU Intensive English Program and attend CHISPA Tres, the WVU Spanish Immersion Camp conducted at West Virginia Wesleyan College on July 23-28.

I am very impressed with our West Virginia kids. They are bright and motivated and enjoyable to be with.

Hasta luego,
Rich Fleisher

AnnMarie Ellison:
Guanajuato is great. Our days are totally relaxing, but never boring. We all have great houses and really nice families. The friends we've made make our stay here a lot easier. The city itself is beautiful, but I'm afraid the pictures won't do it justice. Everyone seems to enjoy classes. Our teachers are lots of fun and really patient with us. The group has bonded really well, and we're all beginning to learn the ins and outs of the culture. Hi to all at home. We'll be back soon.

Keri McGraw:
My first week in Guanajuato has been exciting and full of surprises. I have met many different people from many parts of the world. The people here are nice and very patient. I am not homesick, and if I could stay here forever I would. Everything is so relaxing and exciting. We traveled to Queretaro, but Guanajuato was much more exciting. Three weeks is just not enough time for me. I am glad that I came here. Most of the families are nice, and I have learned so much from my family. I recommend this place to anyone.

Anjali Dotson:
After just one week of living here in Guanajuato I feel like it's my second home. I thought that when I arrived I would feel out of place, but that wasn't the case at all. My host family welcomed me into their home and helped me to adjust to the cultural differences here in Mexico. My days are so packed with activities that I don't even have time to think about being homesick. Not only are the mountains in and around Guanajuato breathtaking, but the cultural aspects such as the theatres, churches, and museums only add to the beauty of this city.

One big difference between the United States and Mexico is the concept of punctuality. Here in Guanajuato it seems that being late is of no consequence. At first, it confused and frustrated me that my family was still moseying around the house an hour after a formal engagement was supposed to begin. However, before long, I began to enjoy the stress-free attitude of the people here. Now I am certain that this only adds to the relaxing and quaint atmosphere for which Guanajuato is so famous. I can honestly say that I have no regrets about coming, and this is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities I have visited.

Cristy Waugh:
My first week in Guanajuato has been a wonderful experience. I am surprised at how much Spanish I have learned already. Guanajuato is a beautiful city and the people are very helpful.

Rachel Crabtree:
At first I was unsure of my ability to adapt to Guanajuato, Mexico. My host family didn't seem to understand me, and I was having trouble understanding them. I always had to eat food that was very different. I was also lost in the new city. Now, however, I dread having to leave my new home. I have learned so much from my family and have met so many new friends. I have learned to love all the differences, especially the food. I am now thinking about going to college in Mexico or in another foreign country. This experience has made me crave traveling, but it has also made me appreciate home.

Kaitlin Mehle:
Hola. My first week in Mexico was great. Although it took awhile to get adjusted to the culture, I feel comfortable now. Everything is different: the people, the food, and the architecture. The friendliness of the people is what I enjoy most. Everyone has a smile upon their face and greets me with a big "Hola!"

Pamela Lee:
Wow, what can I say about Guanajuato in only a paragraph? Well, it's only been a little more than a week, but I've felt at home here since the third day. It's surprising how quickly this city has molded my life and daily routines to fit its own customs: the relaxed atmosphere, big and late lunches, the occasional dinners (more like an evening snack), and, of course, the Spanish language itself.

I can already feel an improvement in my Spanish. It's now a lot easier to just think in Spanish. In fact, I can hardly remember my Chinese sometimes.

I also feel at home because everyone here is extremely nice, especially now that I can understand them. Furthermore, the weather here is perfect. Not too hot. Not humid at all.

Karla Smith:
The city of Guanajuato is a maze of narrow, curving streets. Around every corner is an interesting-colored house, a beautiful balcony with gorgeous bougainvillea vines, political graffiti on old stone walls, or a little shop that sells tortillas, snacks, pottery or clothing. It's easy to get lost or at least turned around here - which has its own rewards.

Mike (Miguelito) Hagley befriends a resident at the nursing home. Pamela Lee and Anjali Dotson chat with a Guanajuato senior at the nursing home.

Week 3

University of Guanajuato, main entrance. Monument to Cristo Rey. Located on the Cubilete mountain.

Hola Mis Amigos,

We have returned safely from Guanajuato after an enlightening and enjoyable three-week study abroad program. Our delegation members shared some of their thoughts below during our trip back to West Virginia. We have returned with 11 Guanajuato students and their chaperone, all of whom will be based in Morgantown until July 29. They plan to share some reactions about their visit later this month, after they have some of their English classes under their belts.

I am very proud of our West Virginia teen travelers. They completed their final exams in Spanish conversation and grammar with very high marks. Almost all of their grades were "A," and the lowest grade was "B." Very impressive!

We have asked our students to keep their Mexico experience alive by giving presentations to school and civic groups this summer and fall. They will also be working on a final edition of the Los Escaladores Web site, which will focus on discoveries they want to share with families, friends, and peers.

I know that the historic Mexican elections and the remarkable victory by the PAN Party is something we will never forget. Below are sites for two articles about the election that you might want to read and share with others. More than 70% of eligible voters turned out for Mexico's fairest national elections ever.

Historic Mexican election sweeps long-ruling PRI party from power

Mexico: Now, the Hard Part

Hasta luego,
Rich Fleisher

AnnMarie Ellison:
Well, it's over now, and time has sped by. I wish I could have more time here, but the reality of life has come into play. I hope to return next summer. The time I spent in Guanajuato will never be erased. I have so many memories and a great group of friends that I've shared an incomparable experience with. To prospective Los Escaladores....do it, don't turn back, you'll never get a better chance in your high school career. My family was amazing. The city is amazing. The weather was amazing, and the people were unreal. I can't say enough about it. I wish the trip were longer. I can't lie -- there were glitches, but they were worked out and the experience was an overall blast. I've blabbered enough, but to all you thinkers out there....GO ALREADY!!!!

Keri McGraw:
I am sad to be going home. I am already missing everyone. I miss the language and the mountains and the cheap shopping. My family in Guanajuato asked me to come back next summer, and I just might. The world is full of wonderful people, and it doesn't matter what color anyone is or what language they speak or how expensive their house is... We all laugh, cry, and show emotions the same. I have learned that discrimination is horrible. Don't waste time on discrimination. Live your life to the fullest. Make mistakes and learn from other people and cultures. I am sad to be going home. I am already missing everyone. I miss the language and the mountains and the cheap shopping. My family in Guanajuato asked me to come back next summer and I just might. The world is full of wonderful people and it doesn't matter what color anyone is or what language they speak or how expensive their house is. We all laugh, cry, and show emotions the same. I have learned that discrimination is horrible. Don't waste time on discrimination. Live your life to the fullest. Make mistakes and learn from other people and cultures.

Cristy Waugh:
I felt like the trip has been a great success for me. I made new friends and got to practice my Spanish. It was very hard to leave Guanajuato because I fell in (love) with the city. I am glad to be coming home to my family!

Rachel Crabtree:
I really hated to have to leave Mexico. The experience was one that I will never forget, but I hope to enjoy a similar experience again soon. I plan to keep in touch with all the participants and my host family. I had an incredible time and even learned a little Spanish.

Kaitlin Mehle:
I had a great time in Mexico! It's hard to leave such an amazing city. I'm going to miss the relaxed atmosphere. I hope I can return soon.

Michael Hagley:
I was asked to write a few last words upon leaving Guanajuato, and I find this to be a somewhat hard task because Guanajuato was an experience unlike any other experience I've had.

I don't believe that I experienced culture shock in Mexico; rather I feel the shock of returning to a U.S. city. In Mexico there was something there which made me feel more at home, in some ways, than here in the States. Subtle differences: people in Guanajuato are not in a push-and-rush mind set as they are here in the U.S. Time and money seemed less important than feelings. I'm definitely going to miss that about Mexico. In Guanajuato, the laid back frame of mind makes one feel as if there is never a reason to hurry. There is always a friend nearby, and whatever you are worried about can wait or easily be taken care of with a friend's help. You don't get that kind of feeling everywhere. Without sounding melodramatic: There is no place like Guanajuato -- to visit, to learn, to live. I will never forget the experience or the fantastic or miraculous things that happened along the way.

Michael Lustig:
After a short three weeks in Guanajuato, no few words could possibly sum up the experience. Guanajuato is a place where pictures and words cannot do it justice; you need to be there and feel it. I had a good experience this year and will definitely be eager to return. Experiences like this change a person forever, and I feel that it has changed me in a positive way.

Holly Murphy:
My final reaction to the experience of being in Guanajuato, Mexico, has been more than words can explain. I've met so many nice people who will stay in my life and heart forever. To try to explain the past three weeks in words is something that I couldn't do, for being with these people has been the best thing in my life. I love Guanajuato and everybody there in that awesome city.

Brooks Ambrose:
Now that I'm back in the United States of America, my trip to Mexico seems like romantic fiction. Not because of sex, mind you; Mexico is simply a country in which romantic things happen daily. A mariachi strummin' the guitar on a public bus filled to the brim with people, half of whom are singing along to the tune. A mass of pilgrims worshipping a King Kong-size statue of Jesus, built on top of an extinct volcano that overlooks the entire countryside. The customary greeting of kissing a girl's cheek. Even the exaggerated weather is romantic. It's a far cry from our hyper-efficient lifestyle that prizes business over aesthetic pleasure.

With that said, I'm glad to have gone but I'm glad to be back. I've grown accustomed to the type of security that our society promises, which is a result of our paranoid mind set. Imagine this scene: a group of forlorn citizens are waiting in the mouth of a tunnel for the typhoon outside to simmer down. Five giggling youths rush into the tunnel and shake themselves off like wet dogs. As they proceed down the tunnel, they pass over an open municipal utility box in the sidewalk. At that instant, a gigantic spark erupts from the box with a sound like a thunderclap. After seeing that no one was hurt, the police officer standing nearby chortles to himself at the spectacle while the others exchange surprised glances. Doesn't that sound like fiction? I would have thought so, too, had I not been there. In America, somebody would be sued and the mishap wouldn't occur again. It just gave me the uncomfortable feeling that, if something bad were to happen to me in Mexico, there wouldn't be a whole lot I could do about it.

My conclusion about all this is that, first, my trip to Mexico was an invaluable and entertaining experience that helped me to grow as a person; and second, I have a lot more traveling to do before I understand how other societies as well as my own operate.

Muchas gracias a Richard y Karla. El viaje fue grrrrriquizimo.

Karla Smith:
I had a wonderfrul time in Guanajuato. Although my experiences and perception were quite different than the students', I felt very accepted by the people of Mexico and experienced wonderful hospitality. Guanajuato is the kind of magic city in which you can amble and linger in the parks, eat in any number of good little restaurants and shop to your heart's content. Although I'm anxious to get home to my family, I will truly miss Guanajuato, our "second home."


A panoramic view of Guanajuato by night. The Pipila Monument, which honors Juan José de los Reyes Martínez; hero of Mexico's Independence.

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Last modified July 10, 2000
Comments to:rfleishe@wvu.edu

International Programs Center for 4-H and Youth, Family and Adult Development WVU Extension Service West Virginia University