It was 4 A.M on January 22nd 2014 when I was at an airport in Saigon not ready to leave Vietnam. My emotion at the time was a concoction of fear, sadness, and little expectation. I was scared because unlike the moment I left for the States, I knew little about the place I was going to, and knew even less its language. I was upset because I had to leave my country, the food, and the people. AGAIN. I got on the plane with no idea of what to expect of Mexico.
Now, after a month in Mexico, I am glad I made the decision to come here. What amazes me the most is the people’s hospitality. The expression “Mi casa es su casa” (My house is your house) is everywhere. We, the students, have the opportunity to experience Mexican culture through living with a Mexican family. I actually have done a homestay twice before. The first one was with my aunt in Maryland for a year. The second one was with an American family for four months in Indiana. However, I was still a bit nervous and excited about my third homestay opportunity because I did not know much about the Mexican way of life. Nevertheless, everything has been quite smooth so far as I manage to maintain my old habit of working out, eating junk food, and staying up late. Initially it started out with some difficulty because there were some miscommunication issues. Sometimes I didn’t understand what my host mom and my host siblings said, I still nodded and they thought I understood. After a while, instead of nodding, I changed tactics. I kept saying “¿perdón?,” which means “excuse me” in English, so that they repeated what they said until I understood them. Thankfully, my family members are quite patient with my Spanish and I am grateful for that.
My host mom, Anamaria, is a doctor and an English teacher at Universal, the language school. When my friends caught news of her being my host mother, they said they were jealous because Anamaria is a very cool person. And indeed she is a great host mom. One night, I came home very late at night and I forgot my key in the room. I felt so terrible but I had to call my host mom to get the door open. The next morning, she said: “So Max, you came home at four in the morning, AND you forgot your key.” I held my breath. She said, “You are now officially my son!” We burst into laughter. Apparently, my host brother, Alejandro, had done that so many times it had become a routine.
Another aspect of homestay I enjoy is the opportunity to get to know the other host families of my friends. Last Sunday, I got to have breakfast with Kayla’s host parents, whose names are Ricardo and Lorena. Ricardo took all of us to a very nice taco place, where they served fantastic taco barbacoa. I ended up having ten of them, two Cokes, and a bowl of soup (Kayla said I had thirteen tacos in total but I think she was exaggerating :P). Ricardo and Lorena were so friendly and welcoming that I felt grateful for their hospitality. Last Saturday, I even got to know more host families when we went on an excursion to the Olmec pyramids of Chalcatzingo, one of the oldest archeological sites in Mesoamerica.
|A pyramid at Chalcatzingo|
|My friend Dustin and I on the hillside at Chalcatzingo|
Even though I was nervous when I first came to Mexico, I have adjusted quite well to the new environment thanks to everyone’s help and hospitality. My Spanish has improved substantially thanks to everyone’s patience. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I bet it will be an unforgettable experience in my life.
-Max Nguyen, Student