When we begin to tell our stories, do we always know how they will end? Over the course of the past two weeks, the conversations and experiences that I have shared with those around me have transformed both my attitude and perspective surrounding the complex nature of struggle and perseverance. As I listened to my host mom and others talk about their pasts, I noticed a thread that connected their stories. This thread is the resilience that they displayed in the face of seemingly impossible situations like lost dreams, lost family and abandonment. After having the opportunity to listen to their stories and share my own, I recognized that while the people I have met don’t know where their stories will end or even how to continue them, they don’t stop fighting everyday to better their own lives and the lives of their family.
When we first arrived in pachaj, I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous about entering another persons home and feeling lonely, but even more than that, I worried about what type of relationship (if any) I would be able to create with my host parent. When Leticia first came to pick us up, it was awkward. I found myself forgetting the past 3 years of Spanish I had learned while trying to string together a bunch of incoherent sentences in hopes of starting a conversation. However, after spending a couple of hours together, running through small talk and asking about each other’s families, a wave of comfortable silence washed over us. Eventually I worked up the courage to ask when her children and husband would return home. A small smile brushed across her lips as she talked about her son and daughter, but soon enough her smile faded when she began to talk about her husband. In this moment, Leticia shared a super personal glimpse into her life with us and for that I will be forever grateful. From what I was able to translate, I learned that she married when she was 24 and after a couple of years her husband left her without any money to support herself or her 3 children. She relied on the kindness of others and her strong will to secure three jobs in order to put her kids through school and serve them three meals a day. She also opens her home to students and travelers to support her family and does it all with a smile. At the end of her story it surprised me to hear her thank god for her blessings and say, “asi es la vida.” (that’s life).
I went to bed that night so confused as to how one person who had survived so much and had so little (at least by most LA standards), could be as vibrant, loving and hopeful as leticia. Little did I know, this would not be the last of these stories that I would hear. I met a boxer named Giovanni who rebuilt his life from the ground up after being deported to Guatemala from the states. He stepped off the plane without a penny to his name or a person to call upon arrival. He lost his dream of pro fighting and was forced to leave his daughter who was only a couple of months old at the time. Despite all of this, you can still see a smile and the pride on his face when he tells you that he now makes his own hours and is releasing his music album soon. While in Todos Santos, I had the pleasure of meeting Santiaga. Santiaga has been working every day since she was about 10 or 12 and never had the means to learn how to read or write. Today she told us the history of her town and it was so inspiring to see her eyes light up when she was sharing her years of wisdom with us. All of these storytellers and heroes in their own rights continue to fight off hardship every day and have started from basically nothing. What inspires me the most is that they all seem to have made a pact to live not with grief and regret, but with hope, love, resilience and a smile. And so, among the many invaluable lessons I’ve learned thus far, one of the most important has been to look around me and appreciate what I have because in my surroundings and in myself lies the strength to not only survive anything, but also to thrive and live with hope, love, resilience and a smile.
Favorite quote this past week:
“Failure and crisis give you the opportunity to change your path”
Next yak idea:
Being creole belonging, what does it mean to adapt and how does it relate to people.