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  • "Call me Anna,” asks me the young Chinese woman,” You cannot pronounce my Chinese name.”

    “I am an exchange student from Hongkong," she continues, " Eight months ago I came for four months to Monterey. I worked with handicapped children there. But after the 4 months were over, I was just discovering Mexico, I could not return. Mexico is so big and multifacetted! I called my university and told them that I had decided to stay another semester. Huge shock there! I am the first student of the university’s whole history that breaks the rules! Also big shock at home: my mother just cried into the telephone. She used to live illegally in Hong Kong for 14 years. To never be caught and sent back to China, she absolutely never left the house. Even though she is legal now, she still stays home most of the time. She cannot fathom that I want to stay so far away for so much longer. She is heartbroken! ”

    Then Anna says, "Now I want you to tell me about Chamula. I want to live for a while in Chamula. What do you think? “

    Her Spanish has become quite fluent in these months in Mexico and we are sipping cappuccinos in a café in San Cristóbal.

    "As far as I know there are no hotels or pensions in Chamula, “I say, “You need to find a Mayan family that takes you in for a while. “

    "How do I get there? “

    “It is just 6 Kilometers from here”, I answer,” I call you a taxi after you finish the cappuccino and you go!”

    And that is what Anna does.

    One month later we meet again in the same café.

    Once she had left that taxi in Chamula that day Anna had gone straight to the little Tourist Office at the market in Chamula and had asked, where she could stay for a month and the attendant had immediately hooked her up with his uncle’s family.

    “Wow, that was a hard life! “, she laughs and tastes the cappuccino with an eager tongue. “I slept on a petate (a straw mat) on the earthen floor. Every morning at two o’clock I would get up with the rest of the family to cook tamales, at 3 o’clock a car came to pick the tamale pot up and bring it to the market. We went with that car, because we had to sell the tamales there.
    There were four children in the family. The youngest boy was eight years old. One day he got sick. He was boiling with fever, but his parents and older siblings just did not care at all. His older brothers just beat him, so that his nose started bleeding. When I went to clean the blood the boy just shook me off and went to clean his nose by himself. After a few days he fortunately recovered.

    Then there was another fiesta in Chamula, their traditional year has fiestas nearly every week. This time the Chamula had invited a quite famous Rock Band to play. You know that there just men are allowed to dance. I liked the music, I also wanted to dance. I was dressed like a Chamula: the blue embroidered blouse, the thick woolen skirt, who did not know me probably thought I was just another Chamula Mayan girl. I asked other women to join me in the dancing. But none followed me. They just all sat or stood watching their men dancing wildly with other men and me in between. I looked at all the shocked faces around me: my mother’s face all over! Then I knew that my time in Chamula was over!”

    Beside Anna stands a huge backpack, she will take another taxi to the San Cristóbal bus station now:

    "I will return to the handicapped children in Monterey,” she says,” They have changed my outlook on life. How hard life is with a handicap! How hard the life of the Mayans in their traditional communities is! It makes me appreciate my own life. I will return to pacify my mother and my university, then I want to find my roots in the village of my grandmother, but I will not stay in China, I want to see the whole world!”

    Art by Kiki

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