Pilar Pacheco (I) interviewing CSUCI student Heather Martin (H) about her trip down to La Manzanilla, Mexico.

Download MP3 of the interview [5.8MB, running time 8:16]

I: Ok. So we are here today with Heather Martin and Heather spent her spring break down in La Manzanilla Mexico. She was there with the University 392 course Service Learning in La Manzanilla. So Heather tell us a little bit why don’t you start off by telling us what year you are here at CSUCI and then give us some background on the project where you went and why you went down there?

H: So I, I’m a junior at and I’m an Environmental Science major and Research Management emphasis and we went down to La Manzanilla in Jalisco Mexico and we were there from Saturday to Thursday and then on Thursday of the week we went to La Gloria which is three hours north till Sunday, we came back on Sunday, and in both places we just did environmental research we did water quality testing and vegetation testing and we just kinda wanted to get the community more, more educated on how they are effecting the mangroves there that are in their backyard basically.

I: Why was this so important? Why was it so important to go down there and provide this community with an environmental education?

H: The community down there especially in La Manzanilla is being very bombarded with a lot of tourism and they’re developing in the mangroves and a lot of Americans are going down there and just, just putting up million dollar mansions on the coast and its just they, people don’t really understand like the effect that they have on the mangroves and then on their water supply and different things and so it was just really good for us to kinda go down and kinda partner with the organizations that were down there already trying doing something with preserving the mangroves and trying to rehabilitate them so it was good just to get them some more information and provide uh the opportunity we have with our technology and our equipment to help them with that.

I: Were you able to work with other students from other universities while you were down there?

H: We weren’t. It was just our school down at that point, but where we stayed in La Manzanilla they had different universities going down there I think every month so it’s pretty often that they had different Americans down there.

I: Why did you choose to engage in this type of project? What attracted you to it?

H: I being an environmental science major, I just wanted more experience in the field just for my resume and I’ve never been out of the country before and so it was the first time that I could really kind of go out on my own and kinda stand up and see like how like what it is like being in a different country and it was so important to kind of um see we’ve learned so much in the classroom about the different issues that you know third, third world countries face with especially with just environmental stuff so it was really important just to kinda go down there and see it first hand and see the actual challenges that the real challenge that it is trying to, trying to protect mangroves when the economy is hurting so bad that it’s good to develop and get more money but the negative effects are so much greater, so.

I: So did you feel as though by taking a Service Learning course that you were able to apply what you have learned in some of your other courses even the University 392 course to your service?

H: Yea, it was really cool because a lot of classes that you take here at Channel Islands we learn different like ways especially in the environmental program of how to kind of test things and um the different theories and stuff. And so to be there first hand and kind of see like the response of the community to, to kind of like how do you, how do you pick environment over money it’s, it’s it was very interesting so it was very easy to apply. It actually helped me understand the concepts a lot more then I learned in the classroom because being hands on like learning and being in it you kind of understand it a lot more then just reading about it.

I: So you spoke about the community, how did you navigate some of the challenges of the community, such as the language barrier? Are you fluent in Spanish?

H: I, I am defiantly not fluent in Spanish, I know a little bit from taking a few semesters, but there was um about three or four members that in the class were fluent in Spanish and so it was kinda cool to have them divided up amongst all of us and so they kind of helped a lot and then um the leaders uh that were down there living in Mexico they were fluent as well. And so every group that we went out doing our work in, there was at least one person that knew Spanish and could help kind of get through everything.

I: So could you tell me a little bit about what you learned about yourself being down there?

H: Um, It was, it was really great because it was the first time I was able to get out of the country and so I just learned like really like how I kind of I learned like what I want to do after I graduate, what I wanna do with um in the fieldwork, it was just great experience kind of like maybe realize that I did wanna be out in the field and I did wanna travel and be in different communities and different areas of the world and just kind of learned about that. And I was just able to kind of grow my personality a lot and like being in the challenges of camping for nine days straight and not having to shower and kind of like testing just like my personality a little bit and being with people for ten days and not having a break from them it was, it was interesting. (Laughs)

I: Where did you camp?

H: We camped in La Manzanilla. We camped like on the beach like on the sand in our tents in both places actually in La Gloria and La Manzanilla so yea we didn’t have any, well in La Manzanilla we had showers but they were over the toilet showers and then in La Gloria we just had bucket showers were you fill up a bucket and just … so it was, it was interesting to kind of be like that for ten days.

I: Do you feel that what you did, the service that you did that it impacted the population or the community that you served?

H: I think it did. What we did was on such a small scale because we were only there for a couple days in each location but since different especially in La Manzanilla since at least once a month I think different universities go down there and do the same work that it’s, it’s repetitive and so I think the community of kind of sees that there is a need to help and um when I was in La Manzanilla in my team, there were four of us, we went and did mangrove restoration where we helped, we worked with um there was these gentlemen there, I worked with two guys. One of them was seventy five and one of them was eighty and one of my friends we helped put dirt bags to prepare um these little areas for mangrove planting basically and I was trying to talk to them with little Spanish that I had and um it was just very interesting just to kind of see like there’s these seventy five year old and eighty year old men who they told me they loved their job, like they loved going and just sitting on egg crates and filling bags with dirt and it was, it was very interesting and so I think that, that we helped a lot and then by having different groups go down there every year on that time like I think it’s, it like on the larger scale it really impacts them and kind of are understanding more of the, of the urgency of protecting the mangroves.

I: Before you went, were you able to reflect on any of your perceptions or assumptions or did you have sort of ideas of what this trip would be or the community would be?

H: I had no idea of what to expect. I heard stories from the previous years people that went and I was, I was just so excited and um since I’ve never been to Mexico I kind of had a little bit of an idea of like what the culture was from just being um from being around Mexicans here but it was, it was so different view point of the people living here from Mexico and it really just opened my eyes to such a greater perspective of the nation.

I: That was my next question, did you have a different perceptive of the community or population that you served?

H: Yea, definitely.

I: Sounds like it. Well it sounds like it was a great experience for you is there anything else that you want to share with us?

H: It was just; it was just the best trip I’ve ever been on. I’ve learned so much about myself, I’ve learned so much about the program and it was really great to be involved and see how different countries kind of get on with things especially ones that aren’t as privileged if you will say as, as the U.S. So, it was very interesting and I, I recommend that anyone that has the opportunity to go, should go. It’s great, it’s a great time.

I: Well thank you for your time today I appreciate it …

H: Thank you. Thank you.