Updated: Jan 10, 2021
The summer after my freshman year at THE Howard University, I boarded what was my very first international flight headed to a place that my friends and family could not even pronounce. The most beautiful, culturally intact, colonial city called Oaxaca
(pronounced: WA-HA-CA), became the birthplace of my passion for travel and the awakening of my worldliness.
The five week trip was founded, organized, and directed by another Howard alum named Walter Housey. He frequently visited Spanish classes at Howard to promote the program and pique young black students’ interest in traveling outside of their comfort zone to a Spanish- speaking place outside the US where “they love black people” as he had said. I was a quiet young freshman at the time wide-eyed and listening intently to every word coming from Walter’s mouth. It felt like the skies had opened and this message was sent just for me.
Many people’s intrigue in the program was immediately coupled with concern with whether or not they could realistically gather the funds to pay for it. I was excited and said a silent “I’m gonna go” in my head. I think I was blessed with an audacious courage and determination that surprises even me sometimes. There I was, a small town southern girl not even two months into my new life 500 miles away from my mom and already considering leaving the country by myself for over a month!
I took the flyer he had given us and excitedly began the application process. Along with the excitement I felt, I too had a silent worry in the back of my mind of whether or not I could find the money needed to make it to Mexico. Either way, determined little ole me was typing away filling in the application and comparing flight prices as soon as I got back to Truth Hall. After years of growing up with a single mom who did not have it all, but somehow found a way for me to fulfill every one of my wild dreams, I had developed an “it’ll work out somehow” mindset.
The flight was pretty straightforward save for a two-hour layover in Mexico City. I’ll tell you on a later post about my horrifying experience trapped in the Mexico City airport on the way back to the States. Anyway, my flight out of Atlanta’s huge, intimidating, fast-paced airport was a stark contrast to Oaxaca’s tiny welcoming airport where I boarded and deboarded the plane on the actual runway as opposed to the jet bridge that connects directly to the gate.
Mountains in the distance filled up every inch of the horizon as far as my eyes could see as the plane slowly descended into gorgeous Oaxaca. It was my first time ever seeing mountains. When I deplaned, I was met outside the airport by Walter who was waiting on me with a thoughtful welcome gift to Oaxaca. It was a small basket that appeared to be handmade and filled to the rim with local treats.
We both hopped on the tourist van that he had chartered to transport myself and the group of other Howard students who were able to make the journey to Oaxaca. We drove through Oaxaca City with Walter giving me a mini tour of what would be my new home for the next five weeks.
The van pulled up to a gated community in what is considered the bougie area of Oaxaca city known as Colonia Reforma. When the security guard lifted the gate for us to enter, we drove to the end of the street to a beautiful two story Mexican style home with a white iron gate wrapped around it in front. Heart pumping with excitement, lips whispering a silent prayer of gratitude to God for blessing me with this experience, I stepped out of the van with joy in my spirit to begin my five-week journey in Oaxaca.