Tyrel Nelson, Xperitas team leader since 2014, led a team of students from Carroll University to Cuetzalan, Mexico in January 2019. After they returned, he wrote the following message to the Carroll students to frame their experience and illustrate the profound affect it has, even on an experienced team leader.
A week has passed since I saw you last.
Struggling to get out of bed this morning reminds me of how I struggled to get out of bed on those cool Cuetzalan mornings. I am so warm and comfortable under the covers. I need coffee nonetheless. I hesitantly swing my legs over the edge. I slowly proceed to the kitchen. It’s weird not to see Doña Viky clanging away by the sink. I reach for Mr. Coffee and fill my Puebla cup.
Taking a seat, emptiness fills the room. It’s strange not to see your groggy mugs at the table with me. Part of me still expects you to drowsily file in. The silence is deafening. There are no laughs, no ridiculous stories from the night before, and no Misael or Efraín offering to take my plate every couple minutes. There’s no sweet bread to halve, fresh fruit to pass, or tortillas to take from you. Chino will not be pulling up in his pickup, and we will not be strategizing on how to keep Chivo from scoring more goals on us. I really relish that routine.
As I continue to chew on our day-to-day, I stare out the window. The smoke coming from my neighbor’s chimney conjures up the incense enveloping the ceremony to honor Viky’s mother. It also transports me to the steamy confines of the Temazcal. A sweat lodge would feel great right now.
Looking around my office, I am instantly reminded of our days together. A heart-shaped “Nelson” keychain dangles in front of me. A Nahautl textbook rests beside a pile of pesos atop my desk.
I pace from pillar to post across my study. I mull over what to write you. Walking back and forth does jog my memory though; It actually stirs up the labor you performed over and over again in Xilo. I recall your relentless rebar carrying and cutting on Tuesday morning. I recollect the endless shoveling as well as the many pails you lugged between the school kitchen and the cement mixer. You guys undoubtedly worked hard. And you most definitely played hard. Your enthusiasm was second to none and I am still impressed by the teamwork you displayed.
Enthusiastic would, in fact, be the word I’d use to describe this team. You arrived with open minds, took advantage of opportunities, and lived in the moment. Nothing demonstrated this quality more than when the majority of you rushed into the polar pool at Cascada Las Brisas. I have taken all of my January groups to this waterfall and I can honestly say that most, if not all, of my former participants have chosen dry land due to the frigidness of the lagoon. You leaned into this adventure, attacking every occasion like you did the freezing water.
Guiding programs like yours is truly rewarding for me. The chance to make more progress on projects is invariably appealing, the scenery is amazing and the food always fantastic. But, for me, the greatest benefit comes from the relationships I build with people—host community and team members alike. Not only do I get to take people to places they have never seen before (or may never see again), but I also get to share possibly once-in-a-lifetime experiences with individuals who I’d probably never meet outside of these circumstances.
Xperitas Team Leader
January 5-15, 2019
*Tyrel will be leading another Carroll University program to Mexico in January 2020. For more information on how to join an Xperitas Community Partnership Program visit our website here.