In an office full of life, colorful art decoration and random knick-knacks sporadically placed throughout the walls, Cosumnes River College English Writing Professor Heather Hutcheson eagerly awaits her journey back to her second home in Oaxaca, Mexico where she will continue her sabbatical.
“It takes awhile for the Spanish to kick back in whenever I go to Oaxaca,” Hutcheson said. “My brain has been thinking in English for so long, but tomorrow at 10 a.m. everything must switch.”
It will be Hutcheson’s fourth time being back to Oaxaca, a place she’s grown quite fond of over her past visits. She must say goodbye to commercialized restaurants and convenient grocery stores, for soon she’ll be in a rural town known for their garlic and green beans.
“With volunteering, the difficult things are completely diminished by rewards,” Hutcheson said.
During her stay in Oaxaca, she teaches English to a group of villagers in building no bigger than a conference room with a couple swings for a playground.
“I love having the opportunity to try new things and meet new people,” Hutcheson said.
However, between her imperfect Spanish and golden blonde hair, she can’t help but stand out in a place like Oaxaca, Mexico.
“It’s funny because I teach English, but my Spanish makes me sound like a child,” Hutcheson said.
In addition to the language barrier the laws are completely different, Hutcheson said. “Especially when it comes to driving.”
It’s a painstaking six to seven people to a cab and occasionally bus drivers will spontaneously race one another with a load of passengers, Hutcheson said.
“It’s really difficult at times, but I’m attracted to figuring it out,” Hutcheson said.
These challenges and cultural differences are what excite her the most.
“There’s something about being foreign that’s so fascinating,” Hutcheson said.
Perhaps her happy go-lucky-childhood fueled her curiosity to explore other cultures.
“Some of the more wilder experiences I have now, I think, ‘well it’s nothing my parents wouldn’t have done’,” laughed Hutcheson.
From horse racing to gold mining, her parent’s unique entrepreneurism made her childhood anything but average.
Hutcheson described her adolescence as “carefree” growing up around horses, cats and chickens in a rural town just outside of Palm Springs.
“I was always running around crazy outside,” Hutcheson said enthusiastically.
She hasn’t lost a bit of the spunk she had as a young girl.
“She’s always had boundless energy,” said Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Virginia McReynolds as she described the various projects Hutcheson spearheads, such as the Literary Magazine, the Writers Conference and the SHAREfare.
“She’s one of those rare people in the world that have so much going for them,” McReynolds said. “She has a huge heart.”
Whether it’s instructing English to a group of Oaxaca villagers, or a class of CRC students “I realized this is something that makes me feel really good,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson’s eager spirit and selfless actions have touched the hearts of many, especially her former students.
“I love her like family,” said 22-year-old sociology and social services major Ayana Hudson who was inspired by Hutcheson to continue writing poetry.
Hutcheson also spends a great deal of time writing about her journeys and experiences.
“Whenever I would tell stories about my past my mom would say, ‘you have to remember she’s a creative writing teacher, she embellishes things’,” chuckled Hutcheson.
However, there’s no sugar coating her extraordinary memories she continues to document.
“I have a life full of hilarious people and adventures,” Hutcheson said.
But this is merely the first chapter to her story.
“I need to figure out what’s next.”