19 February 2017.
Today marks exactly six months since the beginning of pre-departure training. It’s crazy, and I honestly cannot comprehend how fast time has passed by. I remember the dreaded feeling in my tummy on this exact day as my friends all gathered in my house during the morning. We had agreed that we would all go grab breakfast together as a last hoorah, but little did they know that I still wasn’t convinced that this journey was truly something I wanted. My sister was pregnant and I had just met so many people that my life felt almost perfect. I had the boy that I wanted in my life and the friends that made me the happiest. Summer was perfect, although many days were left with nothing to do I still had lunch dates with friends by the baylands and nights spent watching the sun set in the distance.. Once the clock hit 11 I knew that I had to get out of my house. I worried that if I didn’t leave and make it in time for the second bus that I just wouldn’t go, so I rushed my friends and we headed for the San Francisco airport.
It probably took us approximately 25 minutes to find our way to the terminal that Global Citizen Year had asked us to meet at. Once arriving to the large group of kids waiting to leave for Redwood Alliance my friends and I began to say our farewells. The tears began and no one could keep their composure. For most friends, this would be our last encounter until April, while others promised they would try to make it to the send-off barbeque where I would also be saying goodbye to my parents after avoiding seeing them that same morning. I was scared. Let alone, I was terrified of embarking on a new journey alone. I knew I would meet people along the way through the program but I knew that no one would compare to the friends that I have back home. 10 minutes passed and finally my friends were actually leaving. As music from the movie Titanic played in the background (I have overly dramatic friends) we said our final goodbyes.
I was heart-broken. I dreaded the idea of friendships ending or simply changing. I hated myself for choosing to leave but I knew I had to.
Now, I reflect back on this time in my life and realize how much I have not only changed as a person, but also how much I have grown. Today, I’m not necessarily friends with a lot of the people I was friends with back home. In fact, I decided that I no longer wanted to force myself to keep in contact with people. I realized that I was only hurting myself in trying to keep relationships the same. So I let people distance themselves and I let friendships die. I also no longer have the boy in my life. I guess you could say I lost a lot, but I did also gain a lot.
I have built relationships with people I never imagined and I have grown to understand myself on a deeper level. I have built goals for myself to accomplish in college and out of college as well as learning what truly makes me happy. I’m learning the importance of independence and self-reliance rather than expecting things to be handed to me. Yet one of the biggest changes in my life that affects me every single day would have to be my awareness towards not just myself but more specifically my heritage and what makes me who I am.
Coming to Brazil and first-hand experiencing what it means to be Gringa has been life changing. I see the privilege that I was born with and how my parents suffered so that I wouldn’t. I have also seen poverty through my own eyes. Walking the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Salvador, I have seen the favelas filling up mountains and street corners. How one street can be so beautiful and luxurious while a block away is a favela.. To this day, it continues to amaze me. I have grown greater empathy for people and wonder how it is all possible that neighborhoods can be so obvious with wealth and poverty.
I am a Latina. More specifically, I am Mexican-American. Born and raised in Mountain View and later moved to East Palo Alto where I thought I had experienced culture shock. I was mistaken. Because coming to Brazil, I experienced an entirely new reality. Yes, I am a privileged Latina but that does not mean that before me, my people did not suffer. They did. For that I am proud, because without their suffering, I would not be where I am today or who I am.
So when I think about where I am right now and why I am here, I realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I lost a lot but I gained a lot and that is a far greater reward than living the life I had before. 6 months have passed and I will be home in just a few weeks and my heart feels both joy and fear. I do not want to leave because I do not feel ready but I know that my time here is running out and that I have a purpose to fulfill once I am back home so I will leave Brazil not sad but rather hopeful for a future of greater learnings and adventures.