A La Cruz

I had already been living in my homestay for about 3 weeks before I met my host-dad. I didn’t exactly know what to expect.

I sat across from him that morning for breakfast engaging in basic conversation when I asked, solely out of curiosity, about the giant cross atop a prominent mountain far off in the distance. He explained that it is a long, intensive hike through the jungle but if you survive, the view from the top is well worth it. He asked me if I wanted to go and I nonchalantly replied yes, assuming he meant in general, at some point in the future. He stood up to clean his plate and told me to be ready in 20 minutes.

Before we embarked on this expedition, we went to drop off my sister at my aunt’s house. As we walked down the street, I hear my sister behind us begin one of her infamous tantrums. While I figured we would just let her do her thing and carry on, my dad turned around and told her to come to us. She ran down the street straight to my dad’s arms and he immediately put her up on his shoulders. And she stayed there the entire way.

For the final stretch of the hike, you have to literally upscale a portion of the mountain with ants biting at your hands and feet every time you get anchored. Yet my sister never budged and my dad never flinched.

When we got to the top I was in complete awe. Not only of the breathtaking view, which overlooked the outskirts of the Andes mountains and the expansive rainforest beyond, with the whole city of Tena nestled amongst it all on the horizon. But even more so, of my parents’ incredible maturity.

Being that both my host parents are only 21 years of age, you would think I would relate to them as close friends or siblings, but since that day I saw them as nothing short of my parents. Although I could consciously acknowledge that we were practically the same age, I could never shake the feeling that they were so much older, so much wiser, so much more capable than I was.

My mom had always gotten good grades in school and did well on her entrance exam. She aspired to be the first person in her family to go to university and planned to study to become an environmental engineer. And then she got pregnant. She sacrificed her dreams so that my dad would have the money to achieve his own and so she could give her baby a better life than she had ever had. Meanwhile, I stood in her house taking a year devoted to myself because I did not feel ready to grow up. And yet she never resented me. She never commented on my privilege and how unfair it was. On my last day, as she cried she told me she hopes I accomplish all my dreams and ambitions, that I get everything I deserve. That I will have everything she never has. Just like her daughter.

The deep appreciation and profound respect I feel for my parents will always be insurmountable.

It had been the first time I met my dad, but the impression it left lasted my entire 8 months.