Thursday, July 5, 2012

Final Days

As far as my internship goes, I was able to see a lot of Oaxaca that even the other interns were not able to see. For work, I traveled to Vergell, Xoxohutlan, Etla, Zuetla, Mihuatlan, and many other places. At these places, I was able to see how people at the bottom of the pyramid really work; it is not because they are lazy, or because they don't have resources, or even because it's simply not possible. These people have resources (Fuentes is providing some of them) and they work hard, but the problem is that they don't always know how to use the resources that they have; they do not understand the importance of saving, and they are lacking education. It is so important for a business major, especially an international business major to witness and understand how the bottom of the pyramid functions. This internship changed my thinking on many levels. I think it would be nice to do research to figure out which people at the bottom would do the best with certain types of resources. After this research is conducted, I believe that companies that provide to the bottom would be able to have as much success as possible.

A trip like this can and will change your life. I am 21 years old, a person of more international travel experience than the average college senior, and I came to Oaxaca looking for my next step. I only have 24 credits left, and I know that the end of my college life is rapidly approaching. Therefore, I knew I needed to keep my ears and eyes open for anything that may spark my interest. I had many goals when I first arrived in the Oaxaca airport..from improving my Spanish, to meeting new people, to learning the fine details of microfinance, but most importantly, I wanted to find a reason to return. I more than completed my goal during my last few weeks in this wonderful city. The end of my trip has been, by far, the most exciting weeks of my life. I have been able to experience a Temascal (a spiritual, cultural ritual, common in Mexico), visit Huatulco as well as the surrounding beaches, and Mexico City all because of one person. Coincidentally enough, this person is looking to start a pasta business made with all organic products in downtown Oaxaca. He is attending culinary school and is in the process of receiving a government grant for the restaurant. Also, he plans to grow all of the necessary crops on the land that his father has given him. What does this mean for me? Well, he loves to cook, not handle paperwork and control finances, therefore, he needs someone to handle the business aspect of the restaurant. How perfect. I can help him with that, while he is helping me achieve my life goals. Now, at 21 years old, I have plans to return to Oaxaca in May of 2013 after I graduate, to carry out goals that I have had for many years.
Without this trip, I would not have been able to even think about any of these plans. Thanks to Oaxaca, ProWorld, Fuentes Libres, my host family, and most importantly Victor, I have new plans. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dia: 24

El 24 de junio
This was probably one of my favorite days in Oaxaca because I spent most of it with my friend Victor at the Hierve el Agua which is a waterfall located a little southeast of Mitla. This is not a typical waterfall; the water is originating from a geyser in the mountain at a very slow rate and it is full of calcium. Because the water is full of calcium, it turns the mountain white. Before the actual waterfall, there are two natural pools for people to swim in. Going to the waterfall involved a lot of hiking but it was all worth it because the scenery was surreal. 
Next, we went to the movies to see Madagascar. The tickets were expensive: 150 pesos for IMAX. My experience at the movies was interesting for many reasons: 1. The movies were packed and like I said, they were expensive. How can so many of these people that are living at the poverty level, afford to go to the movies? 2. There is an option to pay to have a better seat and even when you don't want a better seat, you have to choose which seat you want. Therefore, everyone has assigned seats. 3. We had 3D glasses, just like every other 3D movie but at the end, we HAD to return the glasses. Before the movies we went to Chedruai and Blockbuster. After going to a Mexican Blockbuster, I now understand why they haven't gone out of business; so busy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dia: 23

El 23 de junio

Today was Irma's wedding. I hadn't thought much about this except for the present I needed to purchase. Marta (another lady from work) bought her bed sheets. I felt like that was an extremely boring present but after talking with my host mom, I found out that it is most appropriate to buy practical household items for a wedding present. Therefore, I bought Irma a glass set. At 10AM, Marta, her husband, her daughter, and her nice picked me up and we we were off to the wedding, which was a little south of town. We arrived on time but everyone else was rather late, partly because they are running on Mexican time (generally a half hour late) and partly because there was a presidential rally that blocked the street. Once the wedding had started and the music was playing, I put two and two together: I was at a Mexican, Jewish wedding. About 90% of Mexican's are Catholic, so for some reason, I wrongly assumed that I would be attending a Catholic service. I was quiet stunned at this realization but once I thought about it, I determined that this was probably a rarity. There was a group of about 12 people that were usually dancing during the service: 6 girls and 6 boys. They danced according to their hight and wore matching blue outfits. Also, there was a group of four men standing at the alter holding a large blue decorated cover where the bride and groom stood, the entire ceremony. This ceremony was rather intricate and took 3 hours. My co-worker invited 400 people, so I was not shocked to notice that there was not enough room in the church; some people watched from outside. After the ceremony, I decided to go home due to the fact that I have strep throat and probably shouldn't be dancing away (or pretending to dance away for that matter) at the reception. I would have loved to have seen it but when I was at home, laying in my bed, I knew I had made the right decision.

P.S. Pictures to come!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Día: 16

El 16 de junio

Today Lindsey met Claire, Mari, and Brittany at Chedraui so we could go to the market at Tloclutaln. The bus ride was interesting. The market is about 45 minutes away by bus and it seems as though there are only a few buses a day that make the trip. The bus we got on was rather janky, small, and completely packed. I sat in the front overlooking the whole bus, on top of the engine. This bus not only had a driver but it also had another guy that handled the marketing side (this might be too big of a word to use, but it fits, nonetheless.) of the bus route. He collected the money and tried to get more people on the bus. I was quiet intrigued by this because he did not collect our money right away, instead, he asked where we were going and collected it right before we got off. He did this with everyone and I have no clue how he kept track, considering everyone was getting on and off at different stops. I think that takes talent to remember all of that, especially because there was about 60 people on that bus. He was also very attentive. I am sure he knew we were not Mexican's and he made sure to let us know when to get off; he even updated me every little bit to let me know how much longer. After we got there, we walked around for about 2 hours. This is an interesting market; it is only open on Sunday's (which is typical for markets, they normally are only open one day during the week.) and there are over 1000 vendors. When I say venders, I mean everything from pant, shirt, and undergarment vendors to rooster venders, to Mescal vendors. I ended up buying some agave nectar that is apparently really good for your stomach like fiber supplements, a backpack, and coffee liquor derived from agave for my mom. After seeing most of the market, we were all pretty tired and decided to get some food in the Zocalo. We decided on a pizza place called Alfredo's that was recommended to us by a bed and breakfast owner.  This was a great choice.
Lychee fruit at the market!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dia: 14

El 14 de junio:


Today I had an appointment with la jefe (the boss) to discuss my project idea. Now would be a good time to describe what I would like to do with the rest of my time at Fuentes Libres: I have decided to collect data from some of the groups that Fuentes lends to in order to find out which variables lead to success and which lead to failure, I believe that they have about 32 groups and 6 ladies that take care of them, therefore, I would like to collect data from each Fuentes employee; one of their groups that they find to be successful and one that they believe is not. I would like them to define successful by how much savings each has. For example, their group with the largest amount of savings will be their more successful group and the one with the least amount of savings is their least successful group. The variables that I plan on evaluating them on are as follows: 1. How many people are in the group, 2. Are there family members in the group, 3. What kind of business does that person have, 4. How much is their loan for, 5. How much do they have in savings, 6. Can they read and write, 7. Are they home owners or renters and 8. How many children do they have. After I have collected and compiled this data in an Excel spreadsheet, I will evaluate it to determine which variables have the largest effect on the successfulness of the micro entrepreneurs. At the end of this, Fuentes will know what to really look for when considering new clients. Then, if the most deviating variable is the fact that they are literate or not, Fuentes Libres will have that information and can decide what to do with it. My hopes would be that they could set up a program to help the ladies become literate (for a cost), therefore insuring more success for not only that client and their family, but also for the company and the community. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

día: 13

el 13 de junio


Again, I spent my morning at the office. Today marks the end to my second week, therefore, I think this would be a good time to break down what I do on a daily basis as far as work goes. Usually, I leave my house in the Colonia Reforma around 8:30AM. I stop for a pastry and catch the Primera Etapa bus. After an intense 15 minute bus ride, I get off when I see an elementary school, or an "escuela primera." I then find myself at the door of Fuentes Libres (Free Fountains in English), where I usually wait for 5 minutes because all of my co-workers (or compeñeros de trabajo in Spanish) are on Mexican time, generally 5 or ten minutes late for work. Next, workers great each other with very friendly good mornings, hello's, and kisses (or besitos) on the cheek. After a few minutes of this, everyone gets settled at their desk, including me. Not everyone goes to the office every day at the same time but, so far, I have been here with Irma every day. I normally start my day by documenting what I did the day before at work and asking Irma questions to clarify anything that I did not understand. Lately, Irma has been giving me important, informational insight into the company and how it functions. For example, yesterday, she showed me the observations she has compiled for one of the groups in Etla. Apparently, this Etla Group is primarily hers, therefore, she does all of the work for it. The observations consists of one large write-up for each member and then a summary for the whole group that containsbiblical scriptures and quotes. The personalized write-ups have 6 categories: 1. the general, positive qualities (or qualidades) of that person, 2. the general negative qualities, 3. how that member works in the group, 4. how that member is with their business, 5. how that member is as a wife, and 6. how that member is as a mother. From what I understand, these observations are recorded throughout the 16 week course of the loan and then presented to the members at week 8 and at week 16. After Irma is done discussing topics such as this, we discuss the project idea that I have, and if anything needs to  be changed before I present it to the boss (la jefe). Tomorrow, I will finally be able to speak with her about my idea, after which, I will spend my mornings working on the project. I usually leave the office around 1 and then in the afternoon, around 3PM, I have been meeting either Laura or Irma to collect a loan. This is usually quiet a trip, but they have all been very educational and I have been able to see many places in Oaxaca. So far, I have been to San Andres, Vergell, Zuetla, Xoxocotlán, Etla, and Bugambilias. For the first week, I observed these meetings and spoke with the ladies about what they are using the loans for and how that is going for them. However, this week, I was able to take a larger role with the meetings by participating in the activities that they have (some of the advanced groups have a cooking class and pray more than the others) and by actually collecting the loan and doing the paperwork. When this has been completed, I am able to head home. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dia: 12

el 12 de junio

I need to do a little back-tracking. On Saturday we went sightseeing with Beatriz ( The summer program director) from ProWorld. First, we saw El Tule, which is the widest tree in the world. This tree is over 2000 years old, so it's not the oldest, or the tallest, but it is the widest. El Tule is actually the weeds that are found in swamps and ditches, they're green with a weird brown thing at the top. The tree is called El Tule because it needs a lot of water, makes sense, right? Next, we went to an artisan place to understand how the Mexican rugs are made. We learned that the rugs are dyed from natural sources. For example, Mexicans use the interesting white stuff that grows off of cactuses. This white stuff looks like mold or something but its actually an insect. The white things can be smashed and then it turns into a dark purple paste. They put this paste on a cement block and use a rolling pin-like object over it. In the end, the paste is a dust. They have about 20 different colors that are made this way. Next, we went to Mitla. Mitla means place of the dead or underworld. We saw a lot of ruins and we even went in one of the tombs. The tomb that we went in was shaped like a cross and hot as heck. The whole thing was very interesting..being in a place that used to be filled with dead people. Another fact that was intriguing about Mitla is that half of the site was not discovered until the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. This 8.0 magnitude shifted some of the pyramids and churches in Mitla, revealing tombs. Mitla was the home of religion for the Zapotec culture. The most interesting part about Mitla is the architecture and detail of the buildings and pyramids. They are designed with mosaics that were made with small, polished stone pieces, and they are unlike any other architectural site in Mexico . After Mitla, we embarked on the last part of our journey, which was to a Mescal factor. Mescal is a very popular drink in Oaxaca that is tied to their culture. We were able to see how this drink (which is similar to tequila because it comes from blue agave as well, but is made using a different processes) is made. Then, at the factory, we enjoyed a typical Oaxacan lunch (or "comida" as they call it). This lunch consisted of 4 courses and was delicious: we had cucumber water, vegetable soup, a Oaxacan cheese quesadilla, mole with beef, fresh frijoles, and platanos. The crazy part is, this is a normal size lunch in Mexico, Scary, I know. 

All of the yarn colors, and what they're made from.

Today I spent my morning at the office, from 9AM-1PM. I enjoyed being at the office with Irma and two of the other guys (Angel and ??), they make me feel at home and welcomed. They helped me plan my beach trip for the weekend and I got invited to Irma's wedding, which is on June 23rd. I am really excited about being invited to Irma's wedding because I am missing Marta's, my host sister, on July 6th. This will be an awesome cultural even to experience. Anyway, I had to meet Irma at 4:20pm in the Zocalo so we could go to a group a little south of the city. Previously, when I went to the other meetings, I observed. This time was different because Irma let me collect the loans and do the paperwork. This group had 12 members and all of them but two had loans of $2000 pesos. The other two had $3000 loans. The payments to Fuentes were of $140 (for the $2000 peso loans) and then they each were adding $20 pesos to their savings or "ahorra." From collecting the payments and doing the paperwork, I learned that the loans are to be paid back in 16 weeks, Fuentes charges 14% over that period, and when a member does not attend a meeting, they are fined $5 pesos.