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A Reflection on an Alumnus' Journey

Monday, November 27, 2017

This morning, I was awakened by the cool, morning air wafting through the screen door, carrying with it the sounds of crowing roosters, braying burros and the barking and howling of myriad of feral and pet dogs. I arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico yesterday morning after taking the redeye from San Francisco to Mexico City en route to visit a former EBI family (the O’Brien/Howells) and the IB school where our alumnus, Truman, is currently enrolled. As we consider how to continue to internationalize our program, I wanted to visit his school to explore opportunities for partnerships.

Oaxaca is a special place in Mexico where the cultural overlay includes important influences from the indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec peoples. Strong vestiges of the precolumbian predecessors of these modern-day Mexicans are woven intricately into the everyday lives of Oaxacans and expressed in language, art and the traditions of this vibrant community. The depth and complexity of Oaxacan culture would make it an exciting focus for interscholastic collaboration.

Though I was unfamiliar with the IB school where Truman is enrolled, I have been to Oaxaca several times and was aware of the richness of possibilities this context could afford students. What I was unprepared for was the conversations I have had with Truman. First, I should say that my heart sang with joy as we chatted in Spanish sitting on the pesero (a small, local bus) making our way to visit his school (Truman independently navigates three public busses on his way to school everyday). Truman spoke with the fluidity, ease and vocabulary that I would have encountered while talking with any 14-year-old on the streets of this town in southern Mexico.

Second, and what delighted me even more, was the conversations I was having with him about the subtle cultural idiosyncrasies he was noting in his day-to-day experience. As he described it, “there is a whole different set of rules here. It was frustrating at first, but once I understood that, it was kind of fun just to figure them out.”

Seeing Truman’s ability to move in and out of this world, so different from his own, was compelling evidence for me that we are on the right path in our work at EBI. Like any school, we have, and will always have, areas for improvement. That said, this experience has again affirmed for me that our mission and core values, and the International Baccalaureate programmes have us moving down the right path as we prepare students for the world.