Ruth Palacios


EVS  Volunteer in México



September 2017

Change of plans, new situations…

What I can tell about this last month in Mexico, the truth that has been a lot of feelings, contradictory thoughts, positive and negative emotions … time passes and less and less to end this adventure.

As for the project there are positive developments, we have managed to have a person lend us a huge place to develop our plan to create a social youth area. He wants to set up his local cafe-market and we have offered to collaborate in exchange for giving us space. We as a team will assemble all the furniture and decoration of the local with reused materials: pallets, rejas (wooden boxes), plastics, cartons, non-reusable cups and plates, tires, old clothes, bamboo … In this way the lord will have his local set up and we will have a space for the young people, where they will be able to carry out (after the construction of the space) all types of workshops and also have a place in Motozintla to meet and share ideas, initiatives … Here there is nothing like it and if the plan works out it will be a very important achievement for them. On the personal side, I love being able to participate in all this, it is costing a little to achieve materials, people still have a hard time giving us things, even if they are the ones that are going to throw, but I will trust that little by little, ahead. We have also done a lot of diffusion of the space and the project talking with the people of the town, attending Facebook programs and posting in the networks part of our activities to achieve more participation. We have recovered some young people who had forgotten about our project and also managed to attract the attention and participation of new people.

There are still issues in the air regarding the project, we must finish closing the contract of collaboration with man, because we don’t want the effort of young people to create the space ends up becoming a gift for the business of the Lord, and for this we must close and fine-tune the conditions of space. This is taking some time, but let’s hope it closes soon.

And I already happened to tell you how I am on a personal level, as I told you at the beginning, are being moments of everything, exciting days and days where you rethink again if all the effort will be something or if with our march will end everything …

The news reaches everywhere, and surely you already have knowledge of the great event that we have had to face here, nature has made its own, and the earth has decided to move too much in this last month. I had already experienced a quake or of almost seven points within two weeks of arriving here, but the one on September 7th undoubtedly takes the prize for the quake of the year (at least for me). It was an ordinary night, after dinner I was talking to the father of the family where we live here, just when I said goodbye and wish him good night to retire to my room, began to thunder the structure of the house … don’t ask me how neither Why, but I knew it was an earthquake. The floor began to move, we all left the house, the alarm began to ring (it is terrifying, really, could raise another sound because it scares the alarm more than the rest of things that are happening). As I had already lived one thought, calm down, in a few seconds he will stop and go. But nothing further from the reality, I wouldn’t know how many minutes or seconds it lasted, but that didn’t stop, the floor moved, the blocks of the house were shaking from side to side, and that was, it was eternal, for a I thought that something else was happening … I was not afraid for my life, it was clear that we were not going to fall anything in the head or anything, we were safe, but the ground was still shaking, the small house was terrified, the family partly quiet and partly saying that it was a great quake … At last it stopped, but the legs followed you trembling. We recovered some tranquility (to say something), but they expected replicas so at midnight and sleepless after the fright was only waiting for another quake to arrive … but it didn’t arrive, or at least did not arrive perceptibly for me . I warned my friends and family, I still did not know the magnitude of the earthquake, but in case the news began to arrive in Spain that they would not be frightened ;).

Luckily nothing happened here, there were no personal injuries and only material damages. But even today, almost three weeks later, there are still aftershocks, the seismic alarm continues to ring from time to time and makes you jump out of bed with a sense of alertness that then prevents you from sleeping placidly. Many days I feel that the ground moves jejeje but already one doesn’t know if it’s paranoia or is real, in the end turned off the alarm because the children were having bad after the fright. But it has certainly been an unforgettable experience, I just hope it doesn’t repeat itself, although to say this here is like asking in rainy season not to rain, after all here is normal for the earth to tremble. But if you can ask for something I only ask that they be of lower magnitude and that does not cause so much damage, because after the lived here in Chiapas of 8.4, has passed the one of 7. 1 with epicenter in Puebla and with many damages in DF.

Living this experience here has also given me the opportunity to offer psychological support to the most affected areas of the coast, if everything goes well next week I will move to Tonalá, Arriaga and Pijijiapan to be able to help all the people who, after the earthquake, suffer panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.

August 2017

Struggling to create, achieve…

The second month has been an adventure of obstacles ;), and there is nothing that I like more than the challenges. With the group of young people we continue with the dynamics and tried to build day by day with them something more solid, our intention is that they are created and feel part of a group of equals in spite of the differences of each one.

We have also had the visit of Alberto Tortolero, and it has helped us a lot to define part of our ideas and has supported us with the host association so that we receive more support and facilities to carry out all that we intend. His visit has been encouraging, because here things are not always easy, people seem to be excited about our proposals and our work, but only that and only appearance, then it is difficult to see results. And in the end you think if all the effort is in vain or if it makes sense to continue fighting, and that is where Alberto has encouraged us to go forward, thanks, sometimes it’s necessary that external support, that push, because from the inside not always it is easy to see all the possibilities.

I also took advantage of this month to go out and get to know the wonderful surroundings of Chiapas, here we are in a valley, but getting out and knowing has its rewards, hours and hours of car (“colectivos” call here the antique minivans that take you from a side to other) approach you to breathtaking place. Waterfalls, lakes, pure nature, peaceful … has been a respite that has given me strength to return and continue with more desire everything, sometimes you have to go away to return with more desire.

Chiflon Cascade, Sumidero Canyon, Chiapa de Corzo, Montebello Lakes, San Cristobal de las Casas, San Juan Chamula, Zinacantan, Tonala, Boca del Cielo … pure nature, breathe air, sleep in tent (it is idyllic but in rainy season is not recommended, lol so I ended up sleeping on a puddle of water, things that happen), make fire on the lake, wake up in the middle of nowhere … I can’t help it, I’m passionate about nature, well which I have enjoyed very much, Chiapas has some impressive places, in addition its people, pure kindness, disposition … Food of stalls, to know part of the culture, to see rituals, typical celebrations … It is a very authentic place, although in some parts the tourism and the human being has already made his own and has altered all that to turn it into a business.

Back to reality, to my day to day, it comes to face the challenges ;). We continue advancing with the space of the house of culture to achieve a place for young people, but it’s complicated, we need structure and electricity, and for now no one offers to help us for free. “ By interest I love you Andres” say in my town. Classes have started, some of the young people leave us and are much less willing to attend the sessions. In addition it also announces to the director of the school that we are not going to give English classes to the 180 children who wanted (obviously it’s not possible, we have gone crazy?), It’s the school where we make the dynamics with the youth group and children, so we are interested to continue with the good relations, so we propose to do classes in the afternoon and with a smaller group of children. The answer was negative, they did not want to understand that it was not possible what they wanted and they did not accept our proposal, so that we were without room for classes, but don’t panic!! … we will survive.

June/July 2017

Knowing the environment and its possibilities

My first month and a half in Motozintla has been full of ups and downs … The first two weeks I was talking to the Younic project manager here, and with some of the people who participated in his association. Furthermore, I counted on the company and great help of Jesus (the person who was in charge of the Job Shadowing), who helped me to focus some of the options that the locality offered. I visited some of the projects that are carried out: the copalera, agromujeres …

Until the arrival of the rest of volunteers, my role here was more knowledge of the territory and the opportunities, as well as some of the people who are part of the GAL (Grupo de Acción Local, host association in Mexico). Once my three companions arrived, we spent the first few days to visit the locality, we met and decided the two teams that would be formed for each of the localities participating in the project, El Porvenir and Motozintla.

I decided to stay in Motozintla, the two weeks that I shared with the family weighed heavily on that decision, I felt at home. I have my private room on the second floor of the house, is large and comfortable and with what is necessary to spend the next few months: double bed, “mosquitera” (very necessary to avoid mosquitoes at night,  “zancudos” it is said, do not disturb my Sleep and do not suck the blood), a small desk and an office cupboard that acts as a closet. As for the food, traditional Mexican, homemade, and lovingly prepared, I can´t ask for more. My breakfasts in Spain are much lighter, there with a coffee with milk and a small sandwich, step all morning, here I had to get used to having breakfast in large, breakfast example: coffee (American type but more watery), beans, eggs and cabbage with carrot, all accompanied by “tortillas de maíz”. My stomach has had to get used to it, and the first few weeks suffered, but now it’s like new. The bathroom, something that seems simple when the water comes out hot or cold by a faucet or shower, but that is complicated when the house hasn´t the water common system and no water heater. The water I have to take it from a tank they have in the house (collect the rainwater, and also every 15 days, give them water, so they fill the tanks), both wash my hands, teeth, use the toilet or shower I have to do it using cold water buckets. I’m not going to deny it, I’m a lover of cold water in summer, but it’s not the same thing to go under the shower and bathe with cool water than throwing buckets of cold water over you jejej. But, well, the mornings begin more active when the ritual becomes a challenge.

As for the project, what I can say, my expectations in the face of reality were very distant. I hoped to find a project that already worked and where I could contribute my bit and encourage the creation of other complementary activities. But the reality is that there is nothing structured or organized that works with young people, they have only told us what our tasks would be, and they weren´t what I expected or what we were supposed to do here. It’s true, the predisposition and the will of the association is good, but neither the structure of the municipality nor the association itself has support to perform functions such as we understand in Europe. In Motozintla there isn´t a youth center, nor does the association work directly with young people, despite being the target that they proposed in their project and who obviously see the need to do something with them, so we will start from scratch something and expected to have minimal impact on society.

Fortunately, we have succeeded in creating a group of young people who through the group dynamics that we generate and the desire they put to improve their municipality are already today very motivated and cohesive to undertake any type of activity related to the environment. They are young people with initiatives, with desire and with eagerness to learn, only that the society and the structure that surrounds them does not support them too much.

After several sessions with them explaining our intentions, after talking with the responsible and exposing our ideas so that he could see that many more things could be done than English and much more useful … we have managed to form a group of young people with sessions in the afternoons, a group of children between six and twelve years two hours per week, and in the cultural house we have changed the English plan for an intensive morning of 10 to 13 with children to develop social skills. The August approach is yet to be defined.

One of our ideas (I speak in the plural because it’s a decision with Alexandra, my EVS partner) is to create a space for the young people on the terrace of the house of culture, space that they themselves create with the constructions and objects that we work in The different workshops of recycling and that can be like a cafeteria / space of exchange. In this way we hope that they feel part of that space and that they use it to meet, to create events of local products, expositions, evenings of cinema or reading … The idea seems to them attractive, now we must make it real and possible.

Here everything has another rhythm (al ratito todo), and they have very different ways of working to which I’m accustomed, but that is part of the challenge and on a personal level is making me develop some of my skills and abilities even more. Furthermore, I’m knowing amazing corners of nature, local products and fruits that I didn’t know, magnificent people, popular music, walks in the back and discovered of the rancheras (a fantastic way to get around) and stories that make you rethink many things in your life . And as is typical here, “agradecemos la oportunidad que nos han dado y que Dios les bendiga”.



Calentando motores…

Siempre había soñado con pasar algunos meses de mi vida en otro país que no fuera el mío (y no es un decir, es un sueño de verdad, de los que te persiguen a cada rato, cuando menos te lo esperas, y que como no eres capaz de perseguirlos tú, pues te siguen ellos a ti)  , cuando era más pequeña soñaba con pasarlo en algún lugar de África, y no me preguntéis por qué… pero supongo que mi falta de madurez y conocimiento me llevaban a pensar que sería el sitio con más contraste cultural que podía encontrarme. A día de hoy, sigo pensando que el contraste y la experiencia allí sería lo más, pero amplié mis horizontes y decidí que cualquier país podría aportarme esa experiencia y ese choque cultural y vivencial que tanto anhelaba.

En el último año la vida no ha dejado de sorprenderme, bueno…  o tal vez he sido yo, que me he sorprendido a mí misma no poniéndome límites y decidiendo aprovechar el momento y las oportunidades que el día a día me brindaba… anyway, sea cual fuere el motivo, la cosa es que hace unos meses se presentó ante mí la oportunidad de viajar durante seis meses a México, y emprender así una experiencia de EVS en la población de Motozintla (Chiapas). Y ni corta ni perezosa, acepté, no podía negarme a ese reto.

En cuanto supe que la plaza era para mí no podía creerlo, pero tampoco me hacía a la idea de la realidad que se aproximaba. Empecé a ser un poco más consciente de todo el día que recibí mis billetes, pero aún y así seguía con mi vida rutinaria (trabajo, amigos, familia, salidas, entradas…); decidí dejar mi trabajo una semana antes del vuelo para tener algo de tiempo y organizarme, y ahí empecé a sentir esas mariposillas en el estómago, ajetreo de papeles combinado con un sinfín de emociones confusas…. Me voy en un momento estupendo de mi vida, dejando muchas cosas que me hacen feliz, pero quién no arriesga no gana (o eso dicen). Felicidad, expectativa, emoción, miedo, nervios, tristeza, melancolía… la lista es larga e incierta, pero así me siento, a unos días de volar hacia mi nuevo rumbo, rumbo que espero que sea hogar en muchas cosas, … porque seis meses pasan rápido, pero hay que pasarlos…

El momento maleta fue sin duda una anécdota… en los últimos años he viajado bastante y la maleta (bueno mochila, que es mucho más cómoda) la tengo por la mano… pero una cosa es viajar un mes y otra muy diferente viajar por seis meses (o tal vez no… ). Ahí estaba yo, con la mesa del comedor de casa de mis padres con todas las cosas necesarias (que no imprescindibles) para empezar con la tarea en cuestión, y mi madre y mi abuela de espectadoras… un show todo junto. ¿En México hace calor en estas fechas verdad? Pues me llevo todo de verano y un jersey y una sudaderita por si refresca por las noches. Zapatos, pues unos para montaña, unas chanclas y unas zapatillas de esparto (a última hora meto también unas bambas porque aún tenía espacio). Mi saco sabana, linterna, mosquitera, bañador, toalla, neceser, portátil, cargadores, ropa interior, cremita del sol, botiquín etc etc etc. Empiezo a seleccionar la ropa, mi premisa es sencilla… ropa como para dos semanas, alguna camiseta más porque no sé cada cuanto voy a poder lavar, así que un par de pantalones cortos, un par de vestidos, unos tejanos y bastantes camisetas, junto con el pijamita. Ahí empiezan a escandalizarse las espectadoras, mi madre doblando la ropa con un “nuevo método que ha visto en internet que ocupa menos” (lo que viene resumiéndose en enrollar la ropa jajaj lo que yo hago normalmente para que me entren más cosas), y ahí estaba yo.. dejándola hacer, le hacía ilusión participar de la maleta, como cuando una se iba de colonias en la escuela. ¿Sólo esto te llevas de ropa? Métete un par de pantalones más y alguna camiseta… ¡Que no ocupan nada! Después de seis o siete veces con la misma frase de “que no ocupa nada” empecé a reírme… ¿Os habéis dado cuenta de cuantos “no ocupa nada” lleváis? Pues eso ya es media maleta y unos cuantos kg que no estoy dispuesta a cargar en mis espaldas. Se empezaron a reír y prometieron no repetirlo, pero evidentemente alguno que otro se les escapó. En definitiva, fue un momento muy cómico que me gustó compartir con ellas antes del viaje, al fin y al cabo iba a pasarme muchos meses sin su presencia.

El día llegó, mi vuelo despegó (una hora después de lo programado), y lo único que separaba mi realidad de mi futura experiencia eran unas horitas de vuelo de nada (hay que mirarlo con optimismo… al fin y al cabo que son casi 24h cuando lo que te espera es lo soñado?¿). El itinerario a seguir era aparentemente sencillo, pero cuando hablamos de vuelos y escalas todo puede ser una aventura al más puro estilo room-scape. Tenía tiempo suficiente de escala en Ámsterdam y Ciudad de México como para no preocuparme, pero salir una hora tarde de Barcelona empezó a inquietarme… una tontería sin duda, puesto que llegué a tiempo para pillar el segundo vuelo, el de destino a México. Salí de Ámsterdam sobre las 22h, y me esperaban doce horas de vuelo, mi plan era dormir, pero a veces resulta imposible e incómodo hacerlo en un avión con el constante ajetreo de los pasajeros inquietos junto con el ir y venir de las azafatas con cenas, bebidas y más comida… Además súmale la incertidumbre de no saber si mi equipaje  debía recogerlo en Ciudad de México y volver a facturarlo o qué debía hacer una vez allí. Al final todo resultó de lo más sencillo, y si encima contamos con el factor sorpresa de que el vuelo iba casi vacío y que me tocaron tres asientos para mi… brutal… pude dormir prácticamente todo el vuelo estiradita y todo. Al llegar al aeropuerto (dos horas antes de lo previsto) me tocó retirar mi equipaje de la cinta y pasarlo a otra de equipajes en conexión, así de fácil, y ya me olvidé de él hasta que aterricé en Tapachula.

Las puertas del avión se abrieron en Tapachula, y ya el calor bochornoso me dio mi primera dosis de realidad, un aeropuerto chiquitito, donde todo fue extremadamente rápido, maletas y salida, en un suspiro… ya estaba allí, con mi mochila y mis ganas de empezar esta nueva aventura. Me recogió en el aeropuerto un amigo del responsable del proyecto en México, Roberto, me lo esperaba con un cartelito al más puro estilo peliculero (siempre me ha hecho ilusión que me esperen a la salida de un avión con mi nombre escrito en un papel jejej), pero no, solo me identificó por una foto que les mandé. Eran las diez de la mañana, yo llevaba horas y horas de vuelo y de esperas en aeropuertos, pero muy amablemente me llevaron a desayunar a un hotel, desayuno para resucitar a un alma agotada e ilusionada como la mía. La carta era extensa, y en su mayoría con nombres que no sabía identificar (y mira que hablamos el mismo idioma), así que empecé a preguntar por cada plato y me acabaron recomendando los “huevos motuleños”. Ver llegar ese plato, abarrotado de comida: tortillas (tortitas para nosotros) con huevo, tomate, guisantes, jamón, queso, frijoles… y acompañado de un café (el café aquí no es el típico expreso que una se toma por la mañana, aquí más bien parecen infusiones de café, un café americano pero hiperaguado). Ahí empecé a ver que si algo iba a hacer en este país era comer y comer bien, y eso siempre es buena señal.