The prospect of a pre-four-o’clock wake-up keeps me up at night. I am relieved when the alarm finally goes off, toss my toothbrush into my carefully planned backpack, and head to Mexico City International Airport.
Everyone is sleepy on the flight to Chetumal, but as we step off the plane, the tropical morning air brings smiles to our tired faces.
We are on a field trip for a project that for Aalto’s SGT team started back in January. Our Mexican counterparts from UNAM and Tec de Monterrey joined in only a few weeks before the field trip. A lot of work has gone into getting here to El Ejido 20 de Noviembre, a Mayan community located in the heart of the rainforest. When we arrive, the streets are quiet in the suffocating midday sun. Our host Ofelia and her family receive us with big smiles on their faces.
We spend our first day eating, talking, getting to know each other and our surroundings. We manage to fight off sleep deprivation, open the doors of La Casita, a community housed constructed in the first years of the project, and put together a presentation for the Ejidatarios, the community’s administrative committee that has a representative from each original family of the village. Only a few of them are able to attend the meeting, but that ends up working to our advantage. The various plans presented by our versatile group are received with interest, approval, and active conversation. Our group of 14 labbers plans to map the community and explore the tourism in the village, survey the people for a planned community health emergency fund, study the business opportunities of village’s honey producers, and organize a recycling workshop. We are expecting a full week.