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Getting comfortable being uncomfortable

Hello from Pachaj!

We are currently at the end of our first day here and I now feel very welcomed.  Driving in on Friday, I remember suddenly becoming very nervous. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect with my host family and that I’d make a bad first impression.

When I was told that I would be alone with my host family, I became excited. This would be a test of my Spanish and I was sure that I could rise to the challenge.

The first ten minutes were filled with the normal introductory conversation: name, age, family introduction and house tour. I helped my host mom make my bed. I was introduced to the two kids: Emylee, age 8, and Yoshi, age 4. I love being with little kids and therefore did not think I would have a problem.

Unfortunately, after the first half hour, the room fell silent. I couldn’t think of anything else to say and my host mom seemingly didn’t have anything else to say to me either. Had I done something wrong? Would the time that I spent with my family always be filled with this silence? I felt very uncomfortable and desperately tried to look for ways to remedy the situation.

I decided to present my housewarming gift: a game of Uno and a Yankees hat. Thankfully, Emylee was very eager to play with me and Yoshi became our happy audience of one. Even though much of our discussion was centered around the game, I sensed that they were becoming more comfortable around me, a stranger in their home. I realized that I too was becoming more comfortable despite the original silence.

I have now become very comfortable with everyone in my family and feel that, although I have not spent very much time here, I have formed a connection with them and I hope they will remember me as I will remember them.

During orientation in Tecpan, our instructors gave us the prompt for our magic statement: “This month in Guatemala was the best experience of my life because…” and told us to fill in the blank detailing what would make this experience a memorable one for each of us. I remember thinking the answer to this would be easy. “This month in Guatemala was the best experience of my life because I improved my Spanish fluency,” I wrote. However, as I began to reflect and look around the room at my groupmates, I began to realize that the answer is actually much more complex. I am definitely excited to improve my Spanish but I also now know that I am looking to get more out of this experience. I also hope to bond with my peers and to learn more about Guatemalan culture–