June 29, 2013. Before I left for Paraguay everyone said the trip would be a life changing experience. No one said exactly how it would be life changing because naturally it’s different for everyone. I wasn’t sure if the change would be major or minor, obvious or something that shows over time. Yet after just one week I have noticed changes in myself and the way I view things. These changes were not obvious at first but after having time to think about what I have seen and learned in the past week they’re neon thoughts in my mind.
Living in Dacak with my host family taught me how kind people can be despite major differences that would seem to prevent relationships from forming. My Spanish is not very good at all and I automatically thought it would be hard to connect with my family. However, by the end of my stay with my host family I had removed host from the title and called them my family. I had become a part of their daily routine. We drank mate con leche in the morning and at night while listening to music, looking at pictures, and telling each other stories. I found that language didn’t create a barrier at all and we could communicate really well. The last two days we exchanged so many gifts it felt like we wouldn’t ever stop. The night before I left my mom told me that she thinks of me as family and that I’m her daughter now and always will be. The next morning our goodbyes included “I love you and I’ll miss you” and it was really true. I never could have imagined a family opening up their home to a total stranger, who doesn’t even speak their language well, and being so loving.
Life in College Park, Maryland, is totally different from any place in Paraguay. I love Paraguay, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been, but I’m still always hit with how grateful I am for what I have back home in the states. I also have more motivation to do real service work in my community and the communities around me. Almost all of the people we have met in Paraguay are really trying to make a difference in their communities and other people’s lives. These individuals are not always the most privileged yet they still reach out to help others less fortunate than them. Such people are the young girls who dedicate their time in the Comedor. They have genuine hope and faith in their cause and are determined to make a change no matter how big or small it may be. It really gives me a desire to do the same back home.
In this past week I have learned a lot more about myself and other people than I would have imagined. I’m looking forward to learning from a new family and people working in a different community. I’m also looking forward to see if I learn anything else about myself and how I am growing. I now know that what everyone told me before I left is true and I’ll come home a different and better Fay.
Fay R., Parkdale High School