Submitted by Debby Schriver
Girl Scouts visit Cuernavaca, Mexico
We were gone just nine days. Seven Girl Scouts and four adult leaders (including my 27-year old daughter) — we carried bags filled with uniforms, swaps, and journals. As we waved goodbye to our families, we felt excitement and a little uneasiness about what lay ahead. We really didn’t even know each other very well. We were from rural areas, small towns, and larger cities. A few of us had travelled to other parts of the world. Three of us had never been on an airplane. None of us is extremely fluent in Spanish. But off we went to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to visit Nuestra Cabaña, one of four WAGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) world centers.
If you are a parent, you know the thrill of experiencing “firsts” through the eyes of your child. If you are a teenaged Girl Scout, you know how it feels to take your first real step into independence and to feel confident, self-assured, and be propelled forward. Growing up doesn’t follow a straight path. The side trips, stops, and even backtracking can be the most memorable and enlightening parts of the journey. Our trip to Mexico included all this and more.
Stepping for the first time into a foreign country grabs all our senses, and Mexico City filled us with sights, sounds, and new rhythms. Streets were narrow, traffic was fast, and we strained to recognize Spanish words rapidly flowing in the conversations around us. As our bus travelled through the city, into the countryside, and past little towns, we each fell silent, absorbing the reality of the moment – miles away from our homes and all that is familiar. We saw bright colored clothes on lines waving with the wind, roadside markets, churches, people young and old, dogs, horses, and fields of haystacks – each offering glimpses of everyday life that seemed at once different but recognizable. Upon our arrival at Cuernavaca, the great Chief’s door of Nuestra Cabaña swung open, smiles and greetings closed the language gap, and we were at the place we would call “home” for the rest of our trip.
The following days held us in a kind of insulated time capsule where we learned that what really matters is in every present moment of awareness, action, and reaction. Living for the first time in close quarters with other girls, we discovered that the balance between our own needs and those of others requires direct communication, patience, trust, and understanding. Daily responsibilities for chores, opening ceremonies, and activities taught us self-reliance and teamwork. We explored villages, markets, and saw the wondrous gifts from the earth when we picked lemons for lemonade each evening. We became self- conscious of the resources we take for granted — the value of clean water and plentiful food. We explored violence against women, and in a very real sense began to understand the enormity of our power as girls and young women throughout the world. Community service activities taught us that human beings find powerful connections simply in laughter and fun.
We made crafts, danced, and broke the piñata. From Sweden, Mexico, Bolivia, Columbia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the USA, we greeted the New Year with awe, and as the fireworks blazed in the skies above us, we felt united. On the final night we sat under the stars and sang as the flames of our bonfire reached to the sky. I looked at my daughter and saw her flash from Daisy Girl Scout to an adult mentor. We were changed. I saw girls who learned that they can reach goals that seem insurmountable. I saw girls who learned ways to be with others whose personalities did not appear to be compatible. I saw girls learn how to solve problems and to express themselves honestly with respect for one another. Atop a high Aztec pyramid I saw girls marveling at the people of our past and understanding their connections with the future.
On the final morning when we met at the great Chief’s door, we cried as we said our goodbyes. Our bags were packed with new swaps, mementos, and gifts for our families, but the real souvenirs are more lasting than silver, photographs, or sombreros. Seven Girl Scouts and four adult leaders know that they can make a significant difference in our world. And all this they learned in just nine days.