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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Home Away from Home

I wake up early to the sun shining though the window and the sound of my home stay mom hustling her kids to school. Remembering that I am in a whole new country living with people I just met, yet I already felt like they knew me. Walking out into the kitchen was an experience with small kids running around crying, begging not to go to school, Grandma cooking up breakfast, and everyone trying to talk to me in spanish. All the while, I am brushing the 6:30am crusties out of my eyes. From day one I felt more welcomed than ever. I was sick when I first met them and my mom said the doctor never works better than soup and tea. I trusted her with her convincing tone. Never once did anyone make me feel like I was a burden. As time went on, I developed new and fun relationships with each and every one of the family members. Whether it was Andrea (my mom), Carmen (my older sister), or even Kia (my younger sister), I had interesting interactions and conversations with them throughout my time there. Having breakfast, lunch and, dinner with my home stay family gave me the opportunity to learn about the way people live in the area. Every meal was similar to a celebration because they are so thankful to have the food in front of them. They showed me how to appreciate things I usually do not have to think about. For example, food, water, and having significant time with family are just some of many. I was lucky enough to have the chance to make cookies and bread for Todos Santos in the oven outside. I felt so included and welcomed by my extroverted family that I forgot I was even away from my real home. I became extremely comfortable with them and my daily schedule in the city. Having a new way of life introduced to me in this way is very impactful in that I found myself being happy outside of my regular life. Thanks to my family, they made this experience happen within the first week. Living with my home stay family was my home away from home.