A slice of paradise & final reflections

For week six, the last week of our time here in Mexico, we went to Cuetzalan in the small state of Puebla. Our last week in Cuetzalan was incredible, from the people and communities to the beautiful nature.


The journey to Cuetzalan started at 7 am. We left Colmena, our accommodation, whilst the sun was waking up from its slumber, shining its rays across the mountains. We arrived at our first destination around noon and partook in a waist loom workshop. The lovely host, Pedro, is an expert at waist looming. He taught us how he makes the thread and dye he uses for the waist looms located across from a couple of cotton trees. The waist loom was challenging at first. After a (long) while, I finally got the hang of it. After we were finished, we sat upstairs with him for a delicious cup of coffee.

After we had said our goodbyes, we headed to our home for the next week, Tosepan Kali. Tosepan Kali is an echo hotel run by the local indigenous community. The people here are so friendly, and I felt so at home. Tosepan means ‘our house’ in their native indigenous language called Náhuatl. The accommodation is made of bamboo, how neat! The structural integrity of the bamboo is incredible. Today we learnt that the shorter the space between the lines in the bamboo wood, the stronger it is. Our guide showed us around the eco-hotel grounds, the various projects they were working on, and the local school! One project that stood out, in particular, was the massive dome-shaped meeting hall. They will construct it out of bamboo and clay, which all community members were helping out with.

Oh, I should probably say happy valentines! To celebrate, I bought a purple candy kebab with gummy lollies for 15 pesos outside of the school, with parents selling them next from here.

We went to Jardín Botánico Xoxoctic in a truck/Ute. We all sat in the back on seats facing each other and tarpaulin covering the rooftop. There are so many somewhat peculiar plants. Some I recognise and some I didn’t know are believed to have medicinal properties. However, my favourite plant here definitely has to be the climbing cactus.

The coffee plantation was another fantastic highlight, where they showed us the organic way of growing and harvesting coffee. The organic way takes 3 to 4 years! Later we were given a how-to behind the scenes of the coffee-making process.

We were lucky to be welcomed into a local indigenous family home who were very eager to show us their garden and beehives on Tuesday. These bees are very special because they don’t have stingers, and these bees date back to the Aztecs, who studied them carefully. The bees produce honey that has a citrusy flavour. This is because they take the pollen from the citrus fruits in the surrounding area. One belief that they have is that when the bees stop working and the pots get clogged up, it means that someone has passed away. I found this extremely fascinating.

Some additional photos from Cuetzalan

We also visited the city of Puebla for a few hours on the way back!

In transit: Mexico city -> Houston -> Auckland

We arrived in Houston on an Aeromexico flight departing from Mexico City airport. The turbulence on the plane was a bit spicy. It made me remember the turbulence on my first-ever flight. I find it hilarious that Mexico City’s biggest theme park, with its colossal roller coasters, didn’t affect me much, but flying in turbulence did.

When we touched down on the tarmac and went to collect our bags from the bag carousel, a lady dressed in airport uniform came up to us and asked us where we were going and then proceeded to put airport baggage stickers on our bags. We all thought this was odd that we were singled out, but little did we know it was about to get a bit weirder. The lady told us to drop off our bags, so we took our bags there, ready to be loaded onto the next plane. Here comes the strange part, you’d think that before we could drop off our bags, we’d first check into our long-haul flight, right? Nope, this was not the case. When our bags were getting ready to be put through, the guy at the baggage place scanned our tags, which oddly came up as San Francisco. He said nothing about it despite us saying we weren’t going to San Francisco but Auckland city instead. At that point in time, we all had our fingers crossed that our bags didn’t get flown to San Francisco because of that strange lady at the bag carousel!

We boarded the flight around 8pm CST onto the air NZ aircraft, where we’d sit for the next 15 hours. Luckily we could check in via the New Zealand desk at the departure gate. That was still pretty weird though. On the flight, I actually managed to sleep! This a stark difference from the first flight to LA airport, where I was sitting in the aisle seat and unable to sleep. I find it strange that we boarded the plane on a Monday evening, arrived early on Wednesday at 6:45 am, and completely skipped Tuesday!. Thankfully, our bags weren’t flown to San Fransico, and everything remained intact. We made it through customs without any mishaps this time and said goodbye as we crossed into the airport’s main area.


I would be lying if I said the trip was all sunshine and rainbows. One of the unsaid things about travelling is the extent to which you’ll feel out of your comfort zone.

Thinking back to our pre-departure session before we left our program, we were shown a diagram of the learning zone theory which shows what you’ll encounter in the learning process: the panic, learning, and comfort zones. This diagram gave me a new perspective on learning, especially since I have encountered all of these before, during and after the trip. Before the trip, I was in my comfort zone. The abrupt start to the trip and being in a new, unfamiliar environment put me in the panic zone. However, I later adapted to living in Mexico and weaselled my way into the learning zone through trial and error. Since returning to Auckland, I am still in the learning zone; however, this time, I’m prepared with many new skills and experiences to tackle study material that requires more than just critical thinking at uni and activities I’m involved in the wider community.

I knew this trip was going to be challenging at the beginning, having to readjust to a new routine and being catapulted entirely out of my comfort zone. When it came to culture shock, I thought I would experience minimal culture shock and be able to readjust in a matter of a few days. I thought that because I did so much preparation leading up to the trip, I would have minimised that possibility. One of the key lessons I learnt is that no matter how much preparation you do, you may still be exposed to the unexpected that can throw you into chaos for a little while. In my case, I persevered through airport troubles and errors, altitude sickness and adjusting to a new culture, but still managed to come out in one piece. These lessons that I have learnt I will take back with me, and if I ever get stuck in LAX airport again, I won’t be as stressed and nervous 😉

These 6 weeks and a half has been so surreal that I have questioned whether this trip was real or just a well-crafted figment of my imagination. Was all of the trip highlights too good to be true? No, this was real; the life lessons, people, and social realities in Mexico I have learnt about have influenced and shaped the Mei, who in January was so nervous about going to Mexico and now, heading back to New Zealand, is unrecognisable and ready to tackle changes and challenges ahead.

Well, I guess this is me signing out. Thank you for following along on my study and lived experiences in Mexico:)

¡Hasta luego!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *