Posted by: Emily Schmutz Garcia | January 20, 2010


At the end of my stay at Brigham Young University, I went on a short study abroad to Northern Mexico. Our small group was heading to the Chihuahua area for three weeks. Our final week in Mexico was to be spent in a Native Indian village. We were going to help build rain gutters on the two buildings in the village-the school and the church.

I had no idea what was actually going to happen. We took a ride in the GMC Yukons up a mountain. The village was only 20 miles up the mountain-however, there were no roads, so it took us three hours to get there. It felt like an extended version of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Despite the thrill ride, we got there safely and set up camp.

Wow! Who knew that hauling rocks around could be so much work. We woke up at sunrise and had breakfast. Next we went to either the buildings or the walls to move rocks and help build the drainage systems. We took a break half way through the day for lunch and also at the end of the day. We fixed dinner at night and then slept soundly in our tents. We were building the drainage systems to help them preserve more water. There was no running water in the village. They had two sources of water, a natural spring in the village center, and down the mountain about 5 miles, a river with some natural hot springs.

On our 4th day, we had the treat of going down to the natural hot springs and the river-hooray-a shower/bathing experience! For someone who had never felt so dirty, I was excited to get clean. We started early in the morning. I should have realized that there might be a difficulty one the way down. My legs were already starting to shake from the steepness of the decline-and that was just going down. But, I would worry about that later, at the time, I just wanted to enjoy the hot springs.

We got down and all jumped in with our bathing suits. It was divine. So relaxing and lovely. Eventually we got out and went to the river to wash ourselves and then it was time to head back up to the village. This time, I paused to consider what I had actually gotten myself into. Tragically it was a little late to back out, but I had paused long enough to be too far behind the group. I was lost.

Excellent news though, I was not alone. One of the village native’s stayed behind with me. I didn’t speak his language and he didn’t speak mine-but that is an amazing thing about a guide, you just follow them, no questions needed. The mountain was huge and there were at least a thousand switchbacks. I should know, I had to stop at the end of each half-switchback and try to find my heart and my breath. (A side note to future self-to avoid embarrassment about being out of shape on a hike, get in shape before the hike.)

I can safely say that if it weren’t for my old Indian guide, I would still be lost on that mountain today. The villagers were amazing with direction. I can’t find where I’m going or where I am at with a GPS and an Eagle Scout. The villagers would ask where to and would get there. No maps, no directions, nothing. Theories about spending one’s time barefoot and being more one with the earth to follow in later blogposts-maybe. I was very impressed.

The people at the top of this mountain in northern Mexico lived incredibly simple lives. Again, with the no running water, no electricity, no Internet, no TV (I envy them on at least that last one). They seemed quite happy to me. I’m not saying going fully granola is the only way to be happy; I believe my life with running water and electricity is quite comfortable and enjoyable. I’m just saying that all of that is not necessary for happiness. At least, it wasn’t in northern Mexico.



  1. Is that Sweet Baby James–Oh Mexico!

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