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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

An Ode to My Homestay Family

Our Mid-Course Yak assignment is to write something about our homestay experience. When I first found out that was our prompt, I was relieved. It´s so simple. There aren´t any hard hitting questions to ask myself or deep thinking to do. All I need is a funny or sweet story about an experience with my homestay family. I´ve been here for three weeks. What could be easier?

Yet as I sit here, I can´t think of anything to write. Well, rather, I can think of everything to write. The problem is there isn´t one definitive anecdote that can sum up the entirety of my homestay experience. I live with an immediate family of 4 very different individuals, and an extended family of 9 more people, 3 dogs, 4 cats and 2 kittens. Every day we follow the same routine, more or less, yet at the same time every day is incredibly different. I could pick a comedic story of miscommunication that might make you chuckle, or a sincere story of incredible generosity and openness that could warm your heart. Or maybe I could tell you about my various new experiences, my daily activities or my favorite telenovelas. Or about how much I’d rather be with my host family right now than sitting in an internet cafe writing this Yak, and how I´m carefully watching the clock because I don´t want to be late to my host brother´s soccer game.

So, instead of an anecdote that will feel unsatisfying, I present you with something a little different.

¨An Ode to my Homestay Family¨

¨Four weeks. Oh my god.¨ I think in the car.
I´m driving with my new family, I don´t know how far.
With each mile we travel my heart fills with fear,
knowing that my friends are nowhere near.
We arrive at the house, I´m shown to my room.
It´s all very nice, but my anxieties still loom.
I´m awkward, I´m hesitant, I´m out of place.
From the language I speak to the color of my face.
I´m a gringa, a foreigner, I don´t belong.
It´s like trying to learn the rhythmn of a new song.

At first it´s a struggle and I feel on edge.
It´s like walking on a cliff, too near to the ledge.
But with a welcome so warm and hearts so kind,
my family accepts my awkwardness, they don´t even mind.
I struggle with the Spanish, but I try my best-
when words fail me, hand gestures do the rest.
But day by day, my confidences grows,
And I think my Spanish is better, but who knows?
With every plate I wash and potato I eat
I realize that this experience can´t be beat.

I dance with my sister, play soccer with my brother,
watch TV with my dad and cook with my mother.
A day at the river washing clothes in the sun
was something I´d never catorgorize as ¨fun¨.
But splishing and splashing and joking around,
there was a sense of contentment to be found.
There are special moments, ones that shine bright,
like making cookies in the dark or going to the field at night.
But even the moments that are the most mundane,
like getting ready in the morning or listening to the rain,
still have a special radiance, a soft kind of glow,
that will stay with me forever- this I know.

But the days pass quickly, time flies by,
and I can´t slow it down, no matter how hard I try.
I want to treasure each moment and value each smile,
but our departure is approaching all the while.
I think about leaving and can´t help but feel sad,
but mainly I feel gratitude for what I´ve had.
A family so sweet to take me in.
I need to say thank you, but how to begin?
Danitza, Eduardo, Arnold and Natalie,
you will always be so dear to me.
Gracias por las sonrias, las memorias, el amor.
For giving me food, a bed and more.
For teaching me the words I need to know,
for giving me this opportunity to grow.
I´ve been so lucky to have these days,
and I will remember them for always.

Gracias a la familia Morales Roselio