Mojdeh, Journey Coordinator for Mexico City:
I have been living and working in Mexico for 23 years now. Although I am not from here, Mexico has become my home and my roots, my beloved everyday reality.
My vocation as a bridge has been formed and informed by a lifetime of being in two or more cultures, becoming a part of both sides without losing contact with either.
I have been straddled between two cultures from the beginning: born in the US, to Iranian parents. Moved to Iran when I was 4 and lived there until age 16, but always in close contact with non-Iranian cultures. As a girl in a very small, international, mixed-sex school (very uncommon in Iran), and with an English education, I was Iranian and yet also foreign. When my parents sent me to the US in 1978 (due to the eruption of the Iranian Islamic Revolution), I found myself first in a large public high school in South Carolina and later, alone in a huge American university. In these places, I was an American (citizen) and yet also foreign. Upon completing my university education in 1988, I arrived in Mexico for a one-year internship with a colleague of one of my professors.
Despite immediately falling in love with Mexico City, I was also completely overwhelmed, partly because I spoke no Spanish. One year later, I was starting to feel completely comfortable and to participate actively in the work here. I stayed another year, and another, and ended up realizing that this is where I most prefer to live. I began collaborating with Mexican non-profit organizations and civil society groups in conceiving, planning and implementing specific activities or projects. I also became useful as a bridge between these groups and outsiders (students, researchers, activists from other countries) who wanted to get to know them.
Here in Mexico, I continue to live straddled between cultures — I continue to be an Iranian and an American, but at the same time I have immersed myself in this city and country. I have created roots and family — my beautiful 17 year-old son and a loving tribe– here. Over the past 23 years, my collaboration with Mexican civil society organizations has continued and expanded. For 12 years, I worked as a consultant for corporate foundations such as the Levi Strauss Foundation and the Kellogg Foundations, facilitating their social grantmaking efforts throughout Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In addition, I have been organizing educational trips and accompanying university student groups in Mexico for over 10 years, mainly for the now-defunct International Honors Program on Rethinking Globalization , and the School for International Training (SIT) but also for groups from European and Canadian universities. And since 2006, through Journeys Beyond the Surface we have accompanied individuals, couples and groups of friends from the US, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, India, Iran, Hong Kong…
Journeys Beyond the Surface, Oaxaca is literally a sister organization of the Mexico City branch, since Mahsa and Mojdeh are sisters! Mahsa started visiting Mexico since 1988, moved to México in 1997 living mainly in Cuernavaca but traveling through environmental work to Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Chihuahua, Michoacan and Veracruz before moving to the state of Oaxaca in 2001. She lived for four years with her husband in a small village in the Southern Sierra of Oaxaca, after which they lived in the Oaxaca city center for a few years before moving to their home in the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec. Living in a traditional autonomous village, her explanations of different aspects of local culture come from personal experience (whether regarding fiestas, music, dance, gastronomy, or traditional community organization). Mahsa also worked for many years as an ecologist, working on water conservation projects in many different villages, thus deepening her understanding of the autonomous traditional villages and Oaxacan culture in general. With her you can visit homes of exceptional out of the ordinary craftsmen and women who are also her friends. Please note that we have a zero commission policy from the craftspeople we visit. It is a very common practice in Oaxaca for guides and drivers to receive a commission from craftspeople, but Journeys Beyond the Service finds this practice unethical. Since JBS guides and drivers do not ask for or accept commission from the craftspeople we take clients to, this results in demonstrations given with much more time, care and enthusiasm.
Please write to Mahsa at journeysoax@to program a Oaxaca tour shaped to your interests.
MEXICO CITY GUIDES: Mojdeh works with a small number of very select guides, all of whom are freelancers. Our trademark is that our guides are warm hosts and excellent professionals who are fluent in English, very knowledgeable about Mexico’s history, art, anthropology and also contemporary society, flexible and interested in sharing as much as possible with you about their country.