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Simply Smiles provides bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create physical and emotional environments where suffering is alleviated and from which local leaders can emerge.

Simply Smiles blog

Follow our blog and read insights from Simply Smiles staff, volunteers and other individuals whose lives are affected by our work!

Choate in Oaxaca: Blog #4

Timothy Nurnberger



Yesterday started with fresh air and a breathtaking view of Coyotepec from the rooftop of the Center of Operations bodega. About half of the volunteers worked in an assembly line to move an endless supply of blocks up a ladder to the edge of the roof. The others straightened rebar to be used to build another floor.

Some of us went with Sam to OfficeMax and Soriana to buy groceries; unfortunately, we had to find another way to make copies of a flier for the village party we’re hosting on Friday. The others stayed behind and continued work. Our team prepared a lunch that was supposed to be simple chicken wraps but turned into a colorful extravaganza of vegetables, fruits, and meats wrapped in tortillas. While improvising a hummus dip, Fouad suggested adding peanut butter in place of tahini, an idea that later won him a Cody Award. The other part of the father-daughter Hotchkiss team, Chloe, won her own Cody Award for not only putting so much heart into her work all week, but also for having the courage to come to Oaxaca with a bunch of crazy Choaties she didn’t know.

Almost everyone got in a refreshing shower before we left for Monte Albán, a famous archeological site. Our van experts Sam and Kristen drove us up some treacherous roads until we finally reached the flat top of the mountain. After getting tickets, we explored the astounding Zapotec ruins and enjoyed the impressive views of Oaxaca. A few of us raced each other up the unexpectedly steep stairs of one of the pyramids. At closing time, we bought some souvenirs, including jewelry, key chains, and little figurines.



We then took a trip to buy even more keepsakes at the original Barro Negro pottery shop, which was founded in the 20th century by Doña Rosa, who was the first to discover how to make the Oaxacan clay shine. Her granddaughter showed us the basics of the technique. By then it was time for dinner, so we traveled to Casa Coyotepec, a local restaurant we visit each time we come to Oaxaca. Amid the live music and chatter, our friendly waiters served us many Mexican delicacies: soup, quesadillas, mole (a traditional Mexican dish), and assortments of fruits and vegetables. When we thought we had finished the meal, the staff surprised us with a birthday cake for Rev. T and Chloe, who tried again and again to blow out the trick candles.



After we each had a slice of cake and a cup of coffee, we waved goodbye and piled into the vans to return to the Center of Operations. Following some more conversation, the last showers, and a few more hands of Setback, we retired for the night to prepare for another early morning.


Team 4 (Kelly, Courtney, Buck, and Noah)