Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Meeting with Anna Penido

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Final Reflections

January 28, 2009

Oh, what a trip it's been! The weeks just seemed to have whizzed on by, and yet I still feel like I've been here forever. Probably because every day was just so full and busy, I feel like I've absorbed a lot over this past month.

This trip to Mexico has been a fascinating learning experience to say the least. Just the other day, Taylor and I were talking about how here in Mexico, it seems like anything we do, no matter how mundane or ordinary, there's always a chance for an interesting story to arise. For example, once during lunch, we were waiting for our tortas, when suddenly, we look out the window and right out in the streets was these two giant camels passing through on a truck. We went out side and realized that this truck of camels was but one vehicle in a long caravan of circus animals: more camels, ponies, and even a tiger. It was amazing sight and completely unexpected. Fun little stories like these have popped up so often that I decided to start a list of them on my laptop. The circus caravan story is entry #21.

Taxi rides, drinks with ice, and what we've grown to call the Mexico "si…": this trip has been a great and often funny opportunity to learn about Mexican culture through experience. Haggling's been an exciting and ever present part of our Mexico experience. It seems like any time we hail a taxi, we've had to haggle the price down ten pesos or more and when buying souvenirs, it's become quite commonplace to see Lauren buying something for less than half of the projected original price. And although I could never pull the kind of haggling charm Lauren can, but I'd like to think I've improved a little through this trip.

One thing that I'm always pleased to find here in Mexico is how friendly everyone is. Time and again we'll be looking for a place to eat and we'll approach a stranger on the street and ask for a good restaurant to eat at--they always had a suggestion, and what's more, it was always a good one. We've also had very good experiences with waiters, who were always friendly and helpful--although sometimes they seemed to have trouble understanding our requests for drink without ice. Although our requests would be answered with a distinct "si…si" they would inevitably return with ice floating in our drink anyways. (YeSeul told us since our bodies aren't used to the water in Mexico, ice can sometimes get us sick so it's better to order drink without it, but luckily none of us have gotten terribly sick yet.)

The people we've met and gotten to known at Casa Telmex are as friendly as anyone I've ever met. They've been a great help with the program and we've become good friends with a lot of the facilitators--several have already offered to house us if any of us ever returned to Tuxtla. Casa Telmex itself has been an inspiration to me--it's a great program for the youth in Tuxtla, not only as an after school program but also to introduce them to computers and technology that they would normally not have the chance to use. Not to mention the cultural experience Casa Telmex provided this January with its "grino" and "chino" volunteers. Casa Telmex is really something I think any city could benefit from, including all those in the States.

Drawing out the potential of the youth--I see this as the common goal between the Leadership Training Institute and Casa Telmex. And man do these kids have potential--the students in our program have, on several occasions, completely blew me away. I remember being very nervous about leading the activity, "El bueno y el malo," a discussion about leadership and the difference between good and bad leaders, and while I was initially worried about how Kyle and I were going to lead a successful discussion in Spanish, during the discussion the students completely surprised me and eventually Kyle and I could propose a topic or a question and then the students would just take the discussion and run with it. Another activity the student really excelled at was "Human Knot," which we did again on the final day of the program. And while the facilitator group did succeed this time, the students were able to untangle two smaller groups and then formed one large and untangled that all in the time it took the facilitators to untangle themselves once. This was definitely a group of young people that learned quickly and could communicate with each other well--which was especially impressive since many of the students didn't join the program until part way through the program. Some great friendships have been form through the program. I still remember leading "Walk About, Talk About," and seeing Rocio and Angelica meeting each other for the first time and laughing together---since then, they've been practically inseparable.

There was a lot of things I wanted to do during IAP and going to Mexico meant I couldn't do all the things I wanted on campus, after this whole experience, I have to say it was definitely worth it. I want to thank all the people who made this trip possible. Thank you to all of our sponsors for believing in our cause and for helping raise the money for this trip. Thanks to all of the members of LTI past and present for making LTI what it is. Thanks to YeSeul, our fearless leader and founder for your vision and your faith in us. Thanks, Kyle, Lauren, and Taylor for a great month--you guys are awesome--I'd lend you guys a shiny piece of cambio any day. And finally, thank you to all the facilitators and students for working with us and for such a successful session. It's been great and I'll miss you all. Thank you everyone.


Thursday, February 5, 2009


We do this activity in every LTI program. You’re asked to list some number of turning points in your life; decisions you made that changed the course of your life afterward. Choosing to go on this trip was without a doubt one of those decisions.

I didn’t know what to expect from Mexican culture. I learned a bit of Mayan history in my high school Spanish classes, but we certainly never made it into the present day. I quickly adjusted, however, to friendly kisses on the cheek to greet in the morning, to strangers prepared to help with excellent restaurant suggestions, and to the adventures that stemmed from no one needing to ask why anything was happening, just content that it would all settle out.

The staff of Casa Telmex was no exception. They were some of the nicest, most welcoming and encouraging people I’ve ever met. Each of them had a different personality, a different teaching style, but each of them shared a common passion for helping those around them and bettering themselves as well. Working there was the best experience I could have asked for and I would love to go back in the future.

LTI also took on a different hue at Casa Telmex. It was unlike the spring program, of course, because we had ages ranging from 13-41 and ability levels just as broadly distributed, because we didn’t see the participants every session, but also because of the different culture. In the US, the most common problem in a group is that no one wants the responsibility of the leader; everyone is reticent to share their ideas lest they be the “wrong” answers. Here, however, almost everyone wanted to share and lead vocally. It led to some fantastic discussions and is certainly indicative of the natural leadership inclinations of those participating in the program. But, it is also something that can impede effective teamwork. So, it was really interesting to see how the activities worked with different participants. They suddenly taught different lessons than they did at home, many of which I hadn’t seen or realized before myself. It also makes me realize how much different LTI must be to serve a diverse range of communities, certainly a challenge, but one I believe now more than ever is one worth taking on. I think this program fills an even more unique niche in other parts of the world.

While I certainly grew as a leader and a member of a team during the month, I think I grew more personally than in these other capacities. I had never left the country before and had a wide range of trepidations, many of implausible events like being stuck somewhere with no available bottled water or loosing a shoe on a combi. I also feared sticking out because of my appearance, not something I’ve ever experienced growing up as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Midwesterner. It was something I began to no longer notice by the end of the trip, but certainly not something I’ll take for granted in the US again.

I feared not being able to communicate effectively with those around me. This fear was realized many a time, whether it was in discussion with students (my worst fear) or just hanging out with the facilitators outside of work. I came up with many creative ways to express myself other than words, realizing the importance of body language, asking the right questions and preparing in advance what I wanted to say. Now that I’m back in a country full of English-speakers, I’ve been much more confident in talking with others, whether it is in front of an audience or scheduling the ever-difficult doctor’s appointment by phone.

I feared not knowing what was going to happen at each moment which I was certainly forced to face. I gave up trying to have mental control over situations and just let things happen as they were going to happen. The luggage isn’t going to arrive for how long? This combi is going where? Why exactly are we in this vehicle? Why is the bus stopping by the side of the road and luggage is being extracted from the under-seat storage? All questions that I would have sought the answers to in the US, but all questions that don’t seem to need answers in Mexico. I learned to just be calm and let those in charge of the things take care of them as they need to, hopefully a lesson I can carry through life with me as well.

Of course, my stomach also learned its fair share of lessons. Over the course of the 3 and a half weeks it learned to deal with ice, lettuce, grease, more spice than I knew existed and a wide variety of unknown, but delicious, foods. This was perhaps the hardest learned lesson on the trip, but it now certainly misses all those things it once was quite uneasy about.

And I was so blessed to share this experience with 3.25 (since YeSeul left about a week into the trip) other MIT students. It was really interesting to get to know these remarkable people better and share with them some of the most memorable experiences of my college career. So thank you to each of you for this amazing trip.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thoughts on Mexico

I am so incredibly happy to have had the opportunity to spend IAP 2009 in Tuxtla working at Casa Telmex. I had always been excited to go to Mexico but I never imagined I would have fallen in love so much with everything there. Growing up in Texas, the culture of Mexico was always a huge part of my life. This was the first time I had been to Mexico and I think I identified so much with the culture and the people I met there. It was really nice to be surrounded by a similar version of my home, except everything was in Spanish this time. I really loved all the food and the trips that we were able to take. Everything was amazing. I feel like I really immursed myself in the culture and that it was the perfect way to truly experience Mexico.

As for the program at Casa Telmex, I feel that exceeded my expectations. I had hoped that we could give these people a greater understanding of leadership and how they were leaders, which I feel that we did do. However, we also got to really know the people we met at Casa Telmex which I think really enriched the program. I was worried that our spanish would not be sufficient and that we would have trouble communicating, but everything ended up working out. I am very proud of our team from MIT because I feel like we all worked really hard on improving our spanish and that we all have gained a greater understanding of communication. Personally, I think my spanish has improved much more that it did over my time in Spain this summer. I feel like I was able to immerse myself in the language more on this trip and that it has really paid off. I am also very thankful that the people at Casa Telmex were all so warm and friendly because I felt comfortable speaking with everyone and practicing the language. They were also all very helpful when we had language questions, thanks everyone!

I was really happy to hear at the end of the course that the students and facilitators felt that the course was useful and that they enjoyed it. We received e-mails from a few of our students saying thank you for the course. I think that this shows that this program actually does work and that it can only improve in the future. LTI is a great way show young adults how they can be leaders and I feel that it is very important that these young adults have the opportunity to equip themselves with essentials skills for their futures. I truly hope that LTI can become a permanant part of the future of Casa Telmex because I think it has touched the lives of many of the students and given them a greater understanding of what it means to be a leader. I also think that the program opened the eyes of the facilitators and showed them that there are many things they can work on as well to improve el "Equipo Azul" at Casa Telmex. I hope that they will continue to build the team of facilitators and that the activities we left with them will be useful and helpful.

I think that LTI chose a great team of students from MIT to represent the orgranization in Tuxtla. It great working with Taylor, Dave, and Kyle. We all listened to each other and worked together to make the best program possible for the people who participated in our sessions. I think we each learned so much about ourselves, how we work, and how we are capable of being successful in another language. We all really care about the program and how it would affect the participants. Although we didn't always see eye-to-eye on everything, I think we worked well together to present the best program we could during our time at Casa Telmex. I would love to see this program continue in Casa Telmexes all over Mexico. It would be great to have the opportunity to return and work at Casa Telmex with this program.

Finally, I would like to send a special thanks to the people of Casa Telmex, MISTI Mexico, and LTI. This trip would not have been possible withour your contributions and support. Thank you so much for this opportunity!

A Goodbye to Everyone!

Today is our last day here at Casa Telmex Tuxtla. We began with the elephant game that we played earlier this week. It seems to us that everyone enjoyed it a lot because it is a mix between two games that they like: Splat and Zoologico. After that activity, we did an activity about the different types of leadership. We had four groups and each group had more or less four people. In groups, everyone did short theatrical pieces that showed the different types of leadership. The presentations seemed to go well and we hope that everyone enjoyed them a lot. After the presentations, we had a discussion about the program in general and which things that had learned from the program. Many of the participants told us that they had learned more about communication and how they can work in a team with others. We are very happy that we had the opportunity to get to know the participants of the program and that we could help them to learn more about leadership and how they can be leaders in the lives of others. At the end of the session, we played two games that were difficult when we played them the first time. We began with "Human Knot" and it was really interesting because we had more students than facilitators but, the students solved three knots! The facilitators were successful too and we are very happy because the first time, the facilitators couldn't do it. Congratulations facilitators! We ended the session after this activity but many people stayed to exchange their contact information with the other. After this, we began our final game of Zoologico and everyone enjoyed it a lot.

We hope that everyone has learned a lot from our course about themselves and others too. We think that the skills that were developed in the program are very important to be a leader and we hope that everyone considers themselves a leader today. Many thanks to everyone for coming. Good luck in all of the challenges that come your way!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

¡Una despedida a Todos!

Hoy es nuestro último día aquí en la Casa Telmex Tuxtla. Empezamos con el juego del elefante que jugamos más temprano esta semana. Nos parece que todos divirtieron mucho porque es una mezcla entre dos juegos que ellos le gustan: Splat y Zoológico. Después de esta actividad, hicimos una actividad sobre los varios tipos del liderazgo. Tuvimos cuatros grupos y cada grupo tuvo más o menos cuatro personas. En grupos, todos hicieron brevas obras teatrales que mostraron los tipos del liderazgo. Nos parecen que las presentaciones fueron bien y esperamos que todos divirtieran mucho. Después de las presentaciones, tuvimos un discusión sobre el programa en general y cuales cosas todos habían aprendido del programa. Muchos de los participantes nos dijeron que habían aprendido más sobre la comunicación y como pueden trabajar en equipo. Estamos muy felices que tuvimos la oportunidad para conocer los integrantes del programa y que pudimos ayudarlos para aprender más sobre el liderazgo y como puedan ser líderes en las vidas de los demás. Al final de la sesión, jugamos dos juegos que eran difíciles cuando jugamos por la primera vez. Empezamos con “El Nudo de las Personas” y fue muy interesante porque tuvimos más jóvenes que facilitadores, pero ¡los jóvenes encontraron las soluciones para tres nudos! Los facilitadores tuvieron éxito con esta actividad también y estamos muy felices porque la primera vez, los facilitadores no pudieron hacerlo. ¡Felicitaciones facilitadores! Terminamos la sesión después de esa actividad pero muchas personas se quedaron para compartir sus informaciones del contacto con los demás. Después de eso, empezamos el último juego de Zoológico y todos divirtieron mucho.

Esperamos que todos hayan aprendido mucho en nuestro curso sobre sus mismos y sobre los dem también. Pensamos que las habilidades que eran desarrollados en el programa son muy importantes para ser un líder y esperamos que todos consideren que son líderes hoy. Muchas gracias a todo por venir. ¡Buena suerte en todos los desafíos que vienen a ti!