After almost a week of irregular sleep, classes, work and post-Mexico nostalgia, it is time to reflect on our learnings and plan for the coming weeks. (Disclaimer: as this is my reflection and as I am currently dwelling in post-Mexico nostalgia, it will be long and might become a bit personal. For more objective information, please also talk to other labbers.)
To reflect properly on the trip, I must start with the period that has not been covered yet by this blog: the few days following the trip to El 20. This time mostly consisted of hard work, two days in a row from 10AM till 10PM at Tec (Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Ciudad de México). To be honest, we would have continued our work even at 10PM, but the campus closed and we were kicked out… During these days, all teams worked separately and together to create a beautiful final presentation. As our Aalto University team consists of students from engineering, ecology and business, we were super thankful for the help of CEDIM students (Centro de Estudios Superiores de Diseño de Monterrey). Especially Ximena, who has worked more than an entire day on our slides (our input was actually quite good, but she just made it infinitely more beautiful) and Jorge for the final touches: thank you so much!
The last working day in Mexico City started at 5AM: getting dressed, applying make-up and glossing our shoes once more for the final presentation in the Embassy of Finland in Mexico. Taking the bus from Tec at 7.30AM, we were nervous, sleepy and excited: finally we were presenting our work to someone outside of the project. We already knew that all labbers are excited, but how would the rest of the audience respond? After the long bus-ride, we arrived in the embassy (definitely Finnish: Iittala birds and Arabia tableware everywhere and after we asked, it appears that there is even a sauna in the basement) and were welcomed warmly and with a buffet of coffee, tea and snacks. Just a small side note for everyone hosting students: this is always a good idea, especially in the morning.
This last Friday sure was an emotional day. After the introduction of ALM by Claudia and Alan, and after the wonderful presentations by all teams, the emotions started when we saw the incredibly well-made video by Antti Seppänen, which gave a good overview of (the first few days of) the trip. For me, the realisation started kicking in that our time in Mexico is quickly coming to an end. With tears welling up, I decided that I did not want to cry today, I wanted to celebrate this moment with gratitude and smiles. Crying from happiness and gratitude was not professional (and would ruin my make-up). I tried, but oh boy, I failed miserably. An emotional speech by the representative of Universidad Tecnológica de Calakmul and the response by Nayeli were so beautiful and straight from the heart that many of us were left with tears in our eyes. In the end of this session, I realised how passionate everyone is about Aalto LAB Mexico and that we are actually making a difference. I believe that this feeling of shared passion will form an inspiration for me, now and in the future.
(About this photo: this is the Aalto University student team with mentors Alan and Anni and SGT coordinator Matleena, after the presentation in the Embassy of Finland. Soon, we will have the picture of all teams and publish that one.)
Throughout the two weeks in Mexico and especially during our time in El 20 de Noviembre, we have worked with a so-called “mood meter”. On this piece of paper, we have written our feelings, ranging from angry to grateful and from nervous to hopeful. On this piece of paper, you can see how much our emotions have fluctuated. One of the phrases that was used most often to describe our feelings during the trip was “an emotional rollercoaster”. I believe this was only possible because we are so passionate about ALM, because we really want to make a difference and because we were so involved in the entire process. As described by Philipp and Roy in one of the previous blogs, we’ve had some setbacks, but in the end we are proud of what we have done and are doing. I personally am happy and grateful to be part of Aalto LAB Mexico 2016 and am super excited to have met all these wonderful people.
To end my reflection on our time in Mexico, I want to give you a few examples of good quotes and insights that we have heard in El 20. Of course, there were many more (what do you expect, after being with the same people 24/7 for a whole week), but to me, these just give a good overview of our flow during the project.
“We were surprised how warmly we were welcomed by the community and how supportive they are” (Christine)
“Why didn’t the distilled water arrive? Because the airline thinks water is toxic!” (Philipp)
“I know my shit!” (Ville)
“Failure is one step towards stronger foundations” (Mikael)
“Water for me is life, it is for plants and animals to live” (Daniella, 8-y/o in El 20)
Back in Finland
Now that we are back in the cold but surprisingly sunny Helsinki, we are making plans to finalise ALM 2016 as well as we possibly can. In the coming months, we will be creating final reports, presentations, a water testing manual and other recommendations. After a week of catching up with other courses and not doing too much work for ALM, we are excited to get back together and delve into past experiences and future opportunities. You will be hearing from us soon again!
Finally, I want to say thanks to our fellow labbers, our mentors, our experts and other people involved one more time. Without you, this would not have been possible. We would not have been able to have activities with the kids in El 20 in Spanish, we would not have understood the village so well and so quickly and we would not have been able to navigate through Mexico City. But most of all, this experience would not have been as much fun and as memorable without you. I miss you already and you will stay in our hearts. Always.
Love and all the best from Helsinki,