Yesterday morning when I was leaving the house, I said goodbye to my host-mom, “Mama Fina”, and gave her a kiss on the cheek– the traditional greeting and farewell here in Guatemala– when she stopped me and said, “I already love you a lot.” I, so pleased to hear that, tried to blubber out “Ohmigod, I feel the same way!” but before I could form a very coherent sentence (I managed some happy cooing sounds, funny how you revert to the communication style of a baby when you are met with an unexpected pronouncement in a still unfamiliar language) she continued, “but everyday when you walk out that door I tell myself ‘I don’t love her. I don’t even like her that much.’ because I don’t want to love you!
But then every evening around 5 I always find myself thinking, ‘Laura’s almost home!’ and I’m happy. And it’s only been 2 months. It’s going to be SO hard for me when you leave, after 5 MORE months.”
I was so touched, and I so wanted to explain to her what I realized was true for the first time, that when I leave in 5 more months, I’ll be leaving family. And when you leave family, you don’t let them go, you know? You call, you write, and you visit occasionally. Seven months is an incredibly long time to live with a family, and to live with a family who treats you so well, and gives you love and attention when you need it most, is such a gift. The first month I was here I was a mess of emotional highs and lows– spazzed out excited, confused beyond all measure, floundering in a puddle of utter homesickness– in those first few weeks I never expected that I could find my norm here at the stable and pleasing emotion of “content”. I’m now downright comfortable in what I at first deemed to be “uncomfortable” plastic chairs for watching TV, the shower is now just delectable when 2 months ago I spent much time in honest contemplation of how long I could REALLY go without showering because it was just too stressful an experience (I couldn’t tell you if the water has gotten hotter, or if I just don’t notice the breeze from outside anymore), I’ve found there’s nothing finer for an eating utensil than a freshly made tortilla, and yeah, this is a place that is really making its mark on me. I won’t be able to forget “Mama Fina” or let myself fall out of contact with her because she has already had a part in shaping me for the rest of my life, and in a very positive way.