Leaving home for the first time is not easy. The feeling you get when you do, is one that is indescribable. Thoughts ranging from having the freedom and independence to many mixed emotions such as joy and nostalgia rushing through your body. However, the thought of being homesick did not cross my mind. Perhaps, because I had not figured out what its true meaning was. However, during my first experience in a Guatemalan internet cafe, I believe I discovered its humane and beautiful meaning.
We first spent an amazing week at Lake Atitlan in the midst of volcanoes near San Lucas Toliman for orientation. A twenty-minute boat ride took us across this magnificent lake to the pictoresque town of San Antonio. Upon arrival, we were each given 25 Q to spend. Little did I know I would spend every cent of it on contacting home.
After 6 days of no contact to home or the outside world, I was in a desperate search to fill this void, this part of me that I had left behind, in order to allow myself to flourish. 12 gringos, all asking locals the same, but simple yet powerful question. “¿Donde esta el internet cafe?”I ask in broken spanish, only to receive puzzled looks. At last we approached a woman weaving in her store. Her silhouette glowed in the small opening of the door. “Aji!” She said, letting one hand go of her weaving set in order to point us to the right direction. And finally, there it was. Some wooden stairs led us to the attic of a house. As we take each step on the creaking stairs, none of us knew what to expect. But my face glowed upon seeing the 5 computers, each separated by a wooden divider. I hastily sat myself down on one of the plastic chairs, squiggling the mouse, frantically attempting to turn on the computer. All of us were so eager to see what our friends and family had sent us.
The moment of seeing the first email from my parents is a moment I will never forget.
For a while, I anxiously stare at the clockwise movements of the circle that loads my email page. Finally I am in, I glare at the subject of my parents email: “Babyyyy!” Ironically I am somewhat afraid to open it, but my curiosity took over. I open the mail and read. Emotions that I had never felt before rush through me. As water started to fill my eyes, the email became somewhat blurry. I blink and the tears begin to rush down my face. I was not exactly sure why I was crying. Perhaps I felt joy, after receiving the email? Gratitude for finally being able to have contact with home? Sadness, because I was not able to be there for what they were going to experience come three months? I did not know at the time.
As I was writing an email back the tears kept making their way to the bottom of my face. I reply: “Yes, I am doing great. It is amazing here.” But not to forget “I miss you all so much, this is hard.” SEND.
I look at the clock and it is time for lunch. While wiping my tears away I look around, and wonder how this experience was for the others. As I slide the mouse over to the button that says LOG OUT, I hesitate. Eventually, I click. It breaks my heart, as if I was saying goodbye all over again. A deja-vu.
The walk to lunch was one filled with sadness and confusion, I ask myself, will it ever get better? Will the tears the dry? And will this feeling of emptiness be filled?
Fast forward a week to San Juan La Laguna, I discover that the answer is yes.
When going through the same routine with an internet cafe in San Juan some days later, I no longer felt this emptiness. When I logged in to my email, I only felt excitement. And when I read the emails I only felt happiness. Even when writing the response, it felt amazing and strong letting everyone at home know about my unique experience here in Guatemala.
For it is true that the feeling you get when you leave home for the first time is indescribable. I now understand that overcoming this difficulty and the realization of what beautiful things I will eventually come back to is ever more powerful.