On Sunday my family and I journeyed to a cousin’s house about an hour and a half away. On the ride I learned dozens of games in Spanish from my two host sisters. I was so focused on the games that I hardly noticed the rapid changes in the flora around me. Mountains went from bare and dust covered to reminiscent of the rainforest in thirty minutes. We lunched on fish, yuca, and rice at the cousin’s farm, before going to a nearby river to swim. At the river I met relatives that I had not known before and could barely communicate with. Yet we explored the rocks and currents of the river together, laughed, and exchanged knowing looks as we traversed the same challenges. Finally we made it to a large rock in the middle of the river. One after another they dived in. I have know idea how to dive. Yet, filled with community spirt, I launched myself into the water in such a way as to resemble a small panicked monkey attempting to do a belly flop. My host family laughed with me at my struggles once I got back to shore.
Every night after dinner my host family and I sit at the table and “talk”. At this point my limited Spanish abilities necessitate quotations. All I can do is hope that, whether it be through disconnected strands of broken Spanish, physically miming, or pure luck, my new family will understand me. Instead of words, actions have become necessary to express feelings of affection for the people surrounding me. Helping on the family farm, washing dishing, unloading the truck, smiling, and laughing, are my main means of communication.
It can be exhausting at times to live in this new environment. Almost everything is foreign and exciting. At times this is unbelievably exhausting. A familiar billboard or advertisement, for me anything having to do with Disney, brings back comforting memories of home that contrast with the current strangeness of everything. It is hard not to want to crawl back into yourself. In these times I need to remember my experiences at the river. Simply trying and looking ridiculous allowed me to connect with the people around me in ways I would not have thought possible.