While in Oaxaca, I stayed with the most amazing host family ever. They were called Manuel and Emma (always making jokes about the name “Emmanuel” because it included both their names), both happily pensioned off and surrounded by their family. I can’t really put into words the kindness these two people have shown to me and how quickly they made me feel like at home. Two days into my stay and I was calling them mama y papa because that is what they have been to me, another set of parents.
What I loved most about them and their family was the sense of unity which they were radiating whenever they were together.

Manuel and Emma worked very hard throughout their lives and at some point they were so wealthy that they owned most of the houses surrounding their quarter. As their children grew older, they gave these houses to them so they can always be close to each other. That is the reason why every single night was filled with visits from grandchildren and cousins and aunts and many others.
During weekends, the grandchildren would come to the house and cook crepes and hamburgers which were sold or given to friends and neighbours. Their house was the centre of the quarter, always animated, always filled up with family and friends watching a baseball match or discussing the latest achievements of their grandchildren.

Every morning, Emma would be waiting for me in the kitchen with a plateful of fresh fruits, tea, breakfast and she would always be keen to have a chat. Even with my broken Spanish, we were able to discuss pressing matters such as the teacher’s protests in Oaxaca or past times we both enjoy to do. She was helping me whenever I didn’t know a word or guessed my game of mime when things were really getting hard. Emma also allowed me to cook 3 or 4 dishes from my own cuisine and once the family discovered I could cook, the requests for sweets were incessant.
Manuel was a great storyteller and my favourite thing to do after a long day in school was to sit down with a cup of tea and listen to him telling me about the times he met Emma, about Mexico, politics… and probably the best thing of all was that he always had the patience to go over the things which were unclear to me and my limited Spanish.
Manuel and Emma were my parents for two weeks and they made their home, mine. For that, I thank you and I promise that I will never ever forget you.

In Oaxaca I met some of the most inspirational people in my life. I got the chance to hear stories from long time travellers about their experiences in war thorn countries or detailed accounts of historical protests in Mexico. I made lifelong friendships with people who opened my mind a little bit more with every story they shared with me. I created some memories with these people, memories which will always stay with me. One for example was the day when our maestra, Zuly, invited my classmates and I to her house to cook something from our own cuisines because we were such a multicultural diverse group. We had so much fun cooking dishes like pizza and crepes to café Americano and peanut butter jelly sandwiches ( Hi DEBBIE!).
Another beautiful memory was the time when I convinced two of my friends to wake up at 5AM to go hiking (because I love hiking so much) and we all enjoyed the sunrise over the sleepy town of Oaxaca, surrounded by noisy roosters (traditional alarms) and the Sierra Madre chain of mountains. We were also late to school because of it but it was so worth it.

Looking back on these things I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to have been chosen for this opportunity. Every day helps me grow as a person and shapes my personality, “poco a poco”, as they say. Everything is a lesson and an opportunity to learn something new.

For all of this, I thank you !