During my exchange experience in Mexico, I had the opportunity to attend a private school regarded as one of the best in the region: Colegio Guasave. In many ways, "preparatoria" in Mexico is the same as high school in the United States. Most of the same human dynamics for that age group play out in similar ways. As always, some kids are more popular, others more reserved, though I would have to say that I don't recall any bullying during my entire year at Colegio Guasave. It may have happened, but I didn't see it.
Almost universally, people at my school treated me with respect. Sometimes they teased in a friendly way, but that was just part of their character. Teasing among friends is a sign of belonging and affection.
In the beginning, I felt like something of a celebrity. Even before I arrived, almost everyone had heard of the new kid from the United States who was both Indian and Mormon. Most people had known very few people from either background, so my arrival created a great amount of curiosity. For the first two weeks, a constant flow of kids from my school approached me during breaks and even arrived at my house to meet me. One after another, they arrived and asked me questions and smiled politely when I failed to understand their Spanish. They seemed to have all the patience in the world to repeat everything and speak more slowly.
I loved those first days in Guasave.
Sadly for me, I soon discovered that celebrity fades quickly. By the end of the first month, the novelty of my arrival had worn away and people grew weary of talking in short, belabored sentences. As I said, no one ever treated me with disrespect, but I noticed that people made fewer efforts to speak with me or to include me in conversations. On some level I understood; it was a lot of work talking to me. It required a much higher level of patience and concentration.
If I wanted to speak to anyone, I had to take the initiative, which was excruciating for a painfully shy kid like me. In the beginning, I fell into a depression that left me paralyzed.
However, in time, my anxiety began to decrease and I began to learn the language. Little by little, I was also able to expand my social network and gain new experiences. It required a great amount of effort, but in the end, it changed my perspective on just about everything.
During this current trip, we visited Colegio Guasave and had the good fortune to meet a caretaker who allowed us to see the inside of my old classroom. Unlike high schools in the US, the students stayed together in one class the entire time while the teachers rotated. These core groups stayed the same from year to year and became very close. In this picture, my kids are standing on an outdoor stage where we used to perform dances and other cultural programs.
Outside my old class.
My kids sitting in my old classroom.
This was where often I used to sit. That was high school, but the chairs sure feel a lot smaller than I remember.
The entrance to the school.