My internship experience

By Luke Tannenbaum, Summer Entrepreneurship & Development Intern 2018

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As my internship with Human Connections started to wrap up, I began reflecting on my experience and wondered to myself what the most important memories and parts of it were to me. As I went through memories, people I met, places I loved, I found a similar pattern through all of them that I believe exemplifies the mission and importance of a social non-profit like Human Connections.

While people tend to ask me about the beach, the weather and the food in Mexico, I don’t immediately imagine any of these when I think on the special moments. Rather, the majority of my special times or “moments of peace”, as I like to call them, have come from unexpected connections or relationships that I made during my time in Bucerías. The following stories below are some of those moments of peace, and how they came to be through relationships that I never anticipated on making upon my arrival in Mexico.

A common theme of my internship experience in Mexico was that Thursdays were often my favorite day of the week. The work wasn’t necessarily special on Thursdays, nor the quesadillas any more delicious. However, on Thursdays, the interns were invited by Maya (HC’s wonderful tour director) to play ultimate frisbee with her and her friends after work. While I have never really played ultimate frisbee much in life, I knew how to throw a frisbee well and decided to play. This decision led me to meet some of the coolest people in all of Bucerías, and, as someone who loves sports, I was thrilled to be able to play a game competitively every week. Even though some of the interns didn’t speak Spanish and some of Maya’s friends didn’t speak English, the beauty of sports is that they have no language or cultural barrier and we were all able to have fun competing with one another on the peaceful Bucerías beach. Many Thursdays we would play until it got dark, which allowed us to swim together and watch the incredible sunset over the mountains. Every Thursday I played I remember walking back to my homestay, exhausted, yet grateful I had decided to play rather than simply going home to rest after the work day (which was a pretty tempting choice).

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Through these ultimate Thursdays, I met someone named Naim who happened to be one of the owners of a local restaurant my friends and I loved to go to: La Postal. Through conversations we had during Ultimate Thursdays or at the restaurant, I learned a lot about him such as how he loved to surf. When I heard this, I told him how I’ve been wanting to learn how to surf for years and he immediately responded with, “How about this weekend? I’ll teach you.” While I wasn’t able to go that weekend, I eventually organized a lesson with him and some of my fellow interns and by the end of the Summer I had two lessons under my belt, was introduced to my favorite beach in Mexico and could consistently ride any small wave the ocean threw at me. I had many special moments on La Lancha beach and it was all thanks to an unanticipated, yet quite appreciated friendship with Naim.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have lived with Lucrecia during my time in Bucerías. Electing to live in a homestay instead of an air conditioned apartment was certainly a choice I questioned early on in my experience. However, by the end of my time in Mexico I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Lucrecia is a kind-hearted grandmother who owns her own restaurant named Tuc, a popular destination for locals, tourists and her numerous grandchildren. While I was hesitant to eat there at first since I felt bad at how Lucrecia wouldn’t let me pay, I eventually started going several times a week as I would continuously crave mole enchiladas and the best chips and salsa in all of Bucerías. Since Lucrecia was extremely busy and I rarely got to see her, these dinners were often special to me as I would talk with Lucrecia for an hour or two while I ate when the restaurant wasn’t busy. Besides the incredible food, living with Lucrecia allowed my roomate Taimur and I to meet and get close to her family, including her daughters, sons and her grandchildren. In particular, Taimur and I got close with two of her granddaughters named Elly (around 9 years old) and Sofie (around 14 years old).

One weekend, Lucrecia, her daughter and son in law took us, Elly and Sofie to the boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta to walk around for an afternoon. While I had already been to the Malecon, going with Lucrecia and her family is one of my fondest memories in Mexico. Even though I had only been there for little over a month, I couldn’t help but feel a part of the family as Taimur and I would laugh and talk with them, sharing the sights of the beautiful boardwalk. I remember Lucrecia and her daughter stopping all of sudden, asking me if I had ever tried a drink called Tuba and when they saw my confused face, they brought me over to a man with a massive jug. They bought Taimur and I a cup of Tuba, this delicious, all natural combination of juices and it was incredibly tasty. Among other experiences like this, the walk along the Malecon was special because I was not only learning more intricacies of the Mexican culture than I would on my own, but I also felt more comfortable as I felt like I had a family in Mexico. By the end of my time in Bucerías, Taimur and I thought of Sofie and Elly as our little sisters and we were both so grateful for Lucrecia and her family’s warmth towards us. When I ate breakfast with Lucrecia for the last time before my flight home, it certainly wasn’t easy saying goodbye. Lucrecia reminded me for the twentieth time that I needed to visit soon to eat more mole enchiladas and that I will always have a family waiting for me in Bucerías. While we both had tears in our eyes as I walked away, I knew with certainty that I would have a caring family in Mexico for the rest of my life. And for that, I was so grateful.

My experience working with Human Connections allowed me to form relationships with incredible local people that made my time in Bucerías special. While I knew that I would be meeting the partners associated with Human Connections prior to my trip, I could not have anticipated the level of closeness and impact that they would have on me in the short time that I spent with them. Each and every one of their stories and motivations behind their work were inspiring, and many times I found myself wanting to stay longer during our meetings in order to learn more or simply spend more time with them. Whether it was Segis’ ranch, Leonarda’s stand or Francisco’s ceramic workshop, I can recall several moments of peace granted to me through these individuals that I became friends with. I not only carry the stories and lessons I learned from them through my memories, but I am also reminded of them through the items I brought home with me. I wear a bracelet that I made with the guidance of the kind Teresa, traditional Huichol jewelry that I have given to friends and family that carries the traditions and importance of Leonarda’s message wherever they go, and even a new song on my playlist that Chema would play at open mic night that brought me peace. Through these connections I found myself in situations I had never anticipated before such as attempting to make my own clay pot or laughing while we made and broke our own piñata at Belen and Juve’s. In many ways, this was not your ordinary internship and I am thankful for the educational and relational side of the internship experience that Human Connections has developed.

Yadira, Segis, and Xochitl, are local entrepreneurs that we worked with on one of our projects

Yadira, Segis, and Xochitl, are local entrepreneurs that we worked with on one of our projects

While the beach, food and weather were wonderful in Mexico, the most special moments for me were often due to unanticipated relationships and connections I made while in Bucerías. Everyone has the choice to simply drink on the beach everyday or have surface level conversations with the partners. However, Human Connections encouraged an environment of open hearts, open minds and open communication, making it easy and exciting to connect with the partners and locals throughout the town. Through all of my experiences in Mexico, Human Connections showed me time and time again the importance of going past the surface in every interaction, and the beautiful surprises life will bring you when you genuinely dive in. I learned how these “human connections” are equally important in both professional and personal life and I plan on continuing to seek these relationships as I go abroad and develop my professional career. I hope you will consider doing the same. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

To read more about my Summer in Bucerias, check out my personal blog here: