Fear of the unknown. It was the first feeling that ran through me as I stepped onto the plane that would soon take me to Guatemala back in January. As the plane took off, my heart skipped a beat as I tried to imagine what to expect for the next four months. After that plane ride, I stepped on many more planes, each taking me to someplace new and every time those planes took off, my heart skipped a beat as I tried to imagine what this new place had in store for me. But with each take off, what used to be fear of the unknown turned to excitement for the unknown. One of the most important lessons I learned on my four month endeavor was you can’t waste time being fearful; that every experience, whether it’s good or bad, is an experience you can learn and grow from.
The world, I soon realized, was an open book, just waiting for me to graze its pages. Every setting and every character had a new lesson just waiting to be taught. I was had the privilege of living within two completely different cultures; both extremely beautiful in their own way. Antigua Guatemala, a city filled with jaw-dropping colonial churches and beautifully colored houses is home to the Mayan culture; a culture that is filled with flavor and spice! Antigua provided me with my first look into what immense poverty looks like. I could walk down to the market, and see tables and tables filled with food, and behind those tables stood people starving due to lack of money . It is ironic to see this bounty fruit and vegetables, knowing that many of the people do not have ample money to purchase enough food to feed their families. Large families and lack of proper distribution all contribute to this sad reality. But within this sad reality, there is also flickering lights where numerous amounts of NGO’s are thriving to transform this poverty ridden place. One thing I will never forget was the first walk I took throughout Antigua alone. Without street signs, it is hard to navigate around the city, but I was determined to find my way around. I ended up getting lost within the first fifteen minutes of my walk. After forty-five minutes of walking aimlessly, I found my way back to my host family’s house. While it was an extremely stressful moment, I learned that wandering around aimlessly can be the best way to find what you are looking for. Every experience, even the stressful ones, proves to be rewarding.
I learned so much, saw so much and grew so much as a person while in Brazil. The country mesmerized me; causing me to fall in love within a matter of months. I had heard wonderful things about Brazil from my brother, and had seen sights from pictures, but it wasn’t until I was able to witness everything with my two brown eyes that I realized just how special of a place it is. What I love most about Brazil are the people. It doesn’t matter if they are living in a penthouse or in a slum; the love they have for their country is evident and it’s beautiful. Walking through Rocinha -the biggest slum in Latin America- for the first time, I was surprised to see that people did not appear to be ashamed of living in a slum. I soon realized that to outsiders, Rocinha is a slum. But for the people who live there, it is a community. A home. I had many homes throughout my trip; many families and many friends. It doesn’t take long for Brazilian’s to make you feel at home, and I know it was because of their lively and kindhearted culture that made my experience magical.
This coming fall, instead of attending a university, I’ve been accepted into a gap year program called Global Citizen Year. This program takes recent high school graduates and places them in a foreign country for 9 months. I am going to be heading back to Brazil for my gap year. I have been asked by the program to obtain 50 blog subscribers to follow me on this endeavor. I will be posting on this blog regularly, giving updates on the work I’ll b taking part in. I would love if all of you would follow me on this new adventure! You can subscribe to the blog here: http://globalcitizenyear.org/fellows/meet/; the blog will be up sometime mid-july. If you would like, I can also subscribe you personally.
I can’t thank you all enough for all your support. I truly couldn’t have done it without all of you!