June 12, 2016.
It’s been exactly four days since I landed in Guatemala.
Antigua is beautiful. It’s cobblestone layout, the small parks, the people smiling and saying hello when we walk past each other on the streets.
“Buenas días,” I whisper.
You want to know one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard? A girl I met told me, “have you noticed in Spanish that when you tell someone you love them, you put the other person first?
“Te amo, literally translates as you, I love.”
Antigua feels like a long lost cousin, welcoming you home with open arms. Like you’ve been away at war, the smell of your mother’s apple pie sits on the counter, your cousin’s arms feel like the centermost part of a beanbag chair. Warm. You sit. You smile. You feel at home. You are at home.
It’s calm unlike the places I’m used to, the places that taught me how to cross the street, with painful lessons of how to run when I am not loved. I’m 24 now and I’ve begun to realize that everyone is going through the same thing in different environments and situations.
I sit in Parque Central, taking in the sights. The women in the bright, colorful skirts and blouses walk by, their colors like a rainbow.
Children play. It always amazes me how childhood looks the same in other countries around the world. A child across the park wears a Spiderman hat and carries two sticks; two medium- sized German Shepherds by his side, ready to take on the world.
My grandmother would have turned 100 years old today and she would be super proud of the way my brother and I. It’s important to teach your children to be kind, genuine, and loving people. We were taught to be free, but you are also entitled to feel any feeling under the sun. I’m at the age where it’s so clear whether someone was raised in a loving, supportive home, or if they are living out the fears of their parents.
The part of life has been strange to me, the post college days. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how amazing it is to have siblings.
I sat with my host family and the six children of the parents, all ranging between 42 and 59 years old. Siblings are important because they remind us of who we are. We have the same experiences, but they always have a different account.
It’s been amazing watching my brother grow and having a close friendship with him. I watch the siblings of my host family interact, pick on each other lovingly, and laugh. I’ve been more reflective here, I’ve been more peaceful, and it’s been a good time to read, write, and think about what’s next.
I recently recounted my story in Spain to someone I met. She told me (while a huge smile across her face, beaming almost), “How great it is that you decided to move on to somewhere that required you to grow and you didn’t stay put!”
I’m here in Guatemala to meet my goals and finally become fluent in Spanish and pass this exam in July. One day, I want to work for a US Embassy overseas. I set this goal when I was 19 and here I am, almost, casi there. Lately, life feels like a victory lap. I made it through college, I lived in the Dominican Republic alone, and I lived in Spain for a year. All of those experiences make me who I am. It feels good.
The funny thing about fluency in another language is that it is a never-ending cycle of life, making mistakes, laughing at yourself, having good days and bad days.
I realized how much my past has prepared me to be sitting right here at this table in Guatemala.
So it is.