Passport and other ID
You must have a current passport to board a plane for Mexico. This was not always the case, but it is now. Make sure your passport is not about to expire, because sometimes if it is expiring within the next six months, you could have trouble leaving the U.S. Please bring a photocopy of your passport and give it to the NEH Summer Institute Director or to a peer in your cohort, so that you will have some recourse if you lose your passport.
It is also important to carry secondary photo ID such as a driver’s license — this is very helpful when using a debit or credit card in making a purchase at a supermarket, Office Depot, etc.
ATM and Credit Cards
Highly recommended: an ATM card to access funds in Oaxaca as well as a credit card to guarantee, at least, your hotel room. ATM cards will give you cash at the up-t0-the-moment exchange rate (plus an ATM fee and sometimes an exchange fee — inquire with your own bank about what fees to expect). Don’t forget to NOTIFY YOUR BANK that you will be traveling in Mexico and using your card there, so that your account won’t be frozen due to suspicions regarding activity/purchases abroad.
It’s good to have two credit and/or ATM cards, so that you have a back-up in case one gets stolen, swallowed by a machine, or frozen by your bank by mistake. It’s also good to have an ID (besides your passport) to carry with you in case a merchant asks to see it. In recent years, fewer venues are accepting credit cards for small purchases. Do not be surprised if you are asked to pay for many things in cash. Even some hotels prefer cash.
Don’t forget to bring your prescriptions and bring them in their original containers (with your name on them). For more information about health issues, please see our health page.
Multimedia and Technology
What to bring:
Laptop computer – This can be great for taking notes and for working on your curricular unit. Some of your lodging facilities will have wi-fi, as will some cafés. We will have connectivity in our classroom at the BIJC/CACSP.
Digital camera or iPad – Remember to bring the cables and accessories you will need to recharge your camera battery or batteries and to download photos from the camera to your laptop. The iPad will be a bit more conspicuous, and therefore could be a liability for tempting thieves.
Video camera – Bring the cables and accessories you will need to recharge and download videos to your laptop. You might also want to be sure you have video editing software on your laptop.
Thumb Drive – A 4 or 8-GB thumb drive (also known as a jump drive, memory stick, etc.) is recommended for backing up stills and video, downloading media assets from the Internet, and for sharing your final presentation.
Surge Protector – If you can bring a compact surge protector, it might not be a bad idea, although there is an Office Depot in Oaxaca where you can get all kinds of office supplies.
Plugs — Voltage is about the same as in the U.S. Grounded sockets are not always available but the regular outlets conform to our own. A small gray plug that converts a three-prong to a two-prong plug is a small, inexpensive, lightweight, and handy item you might bring with you.
Tourists are allowed to bring in their personal effects duty-free. According to customs regulations, in addition to clothing, personal effects may include one camera, one video cassette player, one personal computer, one CD player, 5 DVDs, 20 music CDs or audiocassettes, 12 rolls of unused film, and one cellular phone. Travelers should be prepared to pay any assessed duty on items in excess of these allowances. Failure to declare personal effects may result in the seizure of the items as contraband.
Clothing and Shoes
Remember that July is the rainy season in Mexico, but it is not like winter. The climate is quite comfortable most of the time. Evenings can be cool. Mornings tend to be really lovely. Late afternoons are usually when it rains. It has been hot enough in the afternoons (high 70s and low 80s) before it rains to catch a dip in a pool, but you won’t find it super hot, as a rule. The women on our team often wear sandals with skirts or cropped pants (never shorts — those are okay at the coast, however). Full length jeans, shoes and socks are also acceptable much of the time, especially in the evenings. Comfortable, broken-in walking shoes or well-built sandals are an imperative. We will be walking a lot, both in town and on our excursions. Most streets in the historic center of Oaxaca are cobbled. When it rains, it can almost feel cold, making a water-resistant light jacket a welcome addition to your wardrobe. A Summer Scholar from 2010 recommends bringing a rain poncho.
One year we had a birthday party for all July birthdays in the group — we got dressed up a bit and went to a nice restaurant, where we split the costs of the meal. So, perhaps one dressy outfit might be desirable. But such an event won’t be required for those who are not so inclined. Also, we won’t have to have a lot of different outfits over the four weeks; we can keep our clothing simple and comfortable. Remember that there are laundromats and you can hand wash clothing, too, of course.
Ten-day weather forecast for Oaxaca:
We also recommended to pack or to purchase in Oaxaca: a hat, a collapsable umbrella, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Repellent is especially good for your ankles if you are wearing sandals without socks, as mosquitos often go for that tender, uncovered skin around the ankles and wrists. Lisa also suggests packing some lightweight window screen material and some duct tape so that you can make your own window screens for keeping mosquitos to a minimum in your room. These things can be purchased in Oaxaca, but you might want them from the first night of your arrival if your lodging space does not offer screens.
Few hotels have air conditioning, but most have fans. If you wish to buy a fan, you can also do that in Oaxaca. Fortunately, the nights are not usually terribly hot. The altitude of Oaxaca city is just over 5,000 feet, which means night-time temperatures do drop (into the high 50s and low 60s).
Beware that some foods you try to bring with you might be confiscated from you as you go through Customs. Stephanie had dried fruits taken away once, but they let granola mix pass. A homemade cake was let through once, although there were many questions about it. Really, most foods you might need or want can be found in Oaxaca, anyway.
Donations You Might Bring
There will be a number of opportunities to make donations of books, notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, memory sticks, etc., on a small scale (to avoid Customs duties) to students and teachers in Oaxaca — if you have room in your suitcases to bring a few things. A representative from the Casa de la Mujer (which helps indigenous girls, in particular, get through school) will give us a short presentation, and we could give her some school supplies for the girls. We also hope to organize a formal or an informal meeting between our group and a class at a bicultural school in Teotitlan del Valle, and you should be able to give them some things. Follow this link to learn about Richard Hanson, who will probably be the one setting up a meeting with that school: http://blogs.uoregon.edu/ceid/about/. Some of you mentioned wanting to create a “sister school” relationship with a school in Oaxaca, and donating some scholastic materials could be a good will gesture that would help pave the way for a good relationship. A Summer Scholar from 2010 suggested we bring books to the charitable organization, Libros Para Pueblos, http://www.librosparapueblos.org.