That Yucatán Girl

by Alex Melnick

by Alex Melnick
Arts & Life Editor

10421586_3681962329511_8797182205354080291_nThe first time I met Allie Jordan in 2013, I was in the Bowl, and she came up to me and thrust a bunch of Yucatán information into my hands after immediately introducing herself. Despite not even being sure of her last name, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this woman would somehow be a big player in my life. It was something about her presence and the way she makes everyone she meets feel instantly at home with her. Fast forward to a year and a half later, and you can find us giggling outside of the Apothecary on Saturday nights or running around the English House annoying our favorite faculty member Curtis Coats.  It’s been quite the experience getting to know Ms. Jordan. She’s got a heart the size of an ocean (and probably enough salty Spanish swear words to fill up an ocean as well) and the most energy of anyone I’ve ever met. Allie Jordan has a really interesting job that takes her all over the Yucatán, all in the name of helping Millsaps communicate and make the study abroad programs there the best they can be.

Without further ado, here’s my chat with Allie:

The Purple & White: So… you do everything.  What is exactly your job on paper?

Allie Jordan:  Officially, my title is the Millsaps International Communications Liaison, but I also respond to Yucatán Girl. It’s my job to show the Millsaps community and beyond just how spectacular Yucatán really is. I help professors to promote their study abroad classes and work on larger projects with the Millsaps Marketing and Communications team. I create content for and manage the Millsaps Yucatán social media line (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blog).

When students are studying abroad in my neck of the woods, I get to go on their adventures 10830577_3581214810886_6150569065715968026_otoo. A lot of people ask me what my daily schedule is like, and I always quickly respond that I don’t have one. I try to make every day an adventure. That means I get to find new cenotes and take underwater videos and I get to go to cultural festivals and write about Maya heritage. You get the idea.  Best of all, when I’m adventuring, I meet some pretty amazing people along the way, and I get to tell them about my mad Millsaps love. In short, I do fun uniquely Yucatán things. I take photos and videos of those things. I put those things on the internet and write about how fun it was. I talk to Yucatecos about Millsaps, and I talk to Millsapsians about Yucatán.

P&W: I believe you actually created your job position… what led you to want to live in the Yucatán?

AJ: After a two-week-long class on tourism (Sun, Sand and Cults of Death with Dr. Curtis Coats) the summer before my senior year, I was hooked. I spent my senior year dreaming of ways I could go back and stay for as long as possible. It was a strange feeling really, I’ve always loved to travel, but I’d never felt homesick for a place where I had never lived before. All that to say, I didn’t just want this job; I really reeeeaaalllllllllyyyyy wanted it. So with lots of guidance, I formulated a plan and job description, pitched it to Millsaps and the summer after I graduated, I moved to Mérida!

P&W:  What do you hope to accomplish on campus and in Mexico while at this job?

AJ: I hope to recruit more students to come hang out with me (and learn things) in Yucatán, and I hope to bring a bit of Yucatán to Millsaps— hammock hangout on campus? There’s so 10868236_3474282777652_3490390791190222520_nmuch to love about my new home; it’s a story I could tell forever. Personally, I’d like to get picked up by Nat Geo Mexico and take photos and travel the country (a girl can dream).

P&W: What are your plans for the future?

AJ: I plan on staying here in Yucatán for as long as possible. Eventually I’ll go to graduate school for media studies. I’d like to be a professor one day, perhaps. I’d like to publish a book of photos someday. I don’t really like to talk about long-term future plans because I think it’s limiting.

P&W: Fair enough. So, I’ve been lucky enough to visit your house in Merida, Yucatán. Could you tell me more about the city?

AJ: Mérida is the capital city of the Yucatán state, the largest city in the Yucatán Peninsula,and home to around 970,000 humanos— and that’s not even counting the gobs of young, European tourists that tour the city all year long. I live right in the middle of the action downtown. My house is about three blocks from the largest plaza/park on the historic square. I can walk to the best restaurants, cantinas, museums, shops, the market and, well, you name it really. Mérida is like New Orleans in so many ways, but sans the nasty Bourbon Street. It has colonial-style buildings and houses painted every color of the rainbow. It’s tropical dream because the beach is just 20 minute cruise to the north. It’s very metropolitan and has attracted a lot of people from around the world to immigrate there. And there’s always something to do—whether it’s a free concert in the downtown plaza or an arts and culture festival that lasts for weeks.

P&W: You also have lived in the bioreserve/archeological Kaxil Kiuic, and in the neighboring small village Yaxhachen in the Yucatán. What were your favorite parts of each place?

AJ:  In Merida, it’s the people and being in a modern city with interesting culture and history. 220px-Anthropologisches_Museum,_MeridaI also love the food, the local adventures, and having the same luxuries I’m used to having in the U.S. For Yaxhachen & Kiuic… Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet, but I love escaping all lines of modern communication to be with the most humble, giving and beautiful people I’ve ever known in Yaxha. I love playing soccer with the high school girls’ team, creating with the kids, and cooking and eating with the adults.

P&W: Speaking of Yaxha, can you tell me more about the non-profit you founded that aids Yaxhachen? What’s your dream for that?

19710_3662513683307_5401007402192479602_nAJ: Ko’ox Boon (pronounced co-osch bone) is a Misssissippi non-profit that focuses on empowering children and adults from underserved Maya communities to create their own identity through artistic expression in the public sphere in Yucatán. We paint murals. We provide materials and host art classes. We’re always learning. I have the best job really, I get to watch already creative and talented communities make their art come alive after receiving the supplies they need to do so. My friends (and Millsaps alums) Mandi, Phillip and I started Ko’ox Boon about a year ago, and I can’t even believe how many people are involved now. It’s incredible. My dreams for Ko’ox Boon are already coming true.

PW: Lightening round. What song do you cover when its karaoke time?

AJ: I’ve karaoked one time in my life pretty much, ever, and I sang Sweet Home [Mississippi] with another Yucatán fanatic, Mandi, at a bar in Mérida. Bonus points: it wasn’t even a karaoke bar. Bonus points deducted: we only knew the words to the chorus.
PW: Favorite Mexican movie?

AJ: “Hecho en México” is a great music and culture documentary and probably my favorite, buttttt I also enjoyed “El Infierno,” “Y Tu Mamá También” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

Full Disclosure: Alex Melnick is an intern at Ko’ox Boon

Find out more about the Yucatan’s many study abroad programs by emailing Dr. Bey at beyjg@millsaps.edu or Dr. Eric Griffin at griffej2@millsaps.edu. Interested in helping with Ko’ox Boon or want to find out more? Shoot me a line: melnias@millsaps.edu

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