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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Monopoly with another brother

the homestay is a key part of my semester here in South America, but it was always the part that made me the most nervous. the way I looked at it, I could just keep walking on treks and be ok. in a homestay I had to sit in awkward silence as I realized I didn’t know as much spanish as I expected.

the first night of my homestay went a little like this. I ended up eating with two other girls on my trip who were staying with relatives of my host mom yangtze, pronounce yonce, like beyonce. we were served bread and hot chocolate and it took me about an hour to realize that that was my dinner. that was not the appetizer. I sat watching the family interact with one another, and it made me wish I could be with my family at home, even though we were much less affectionate than the uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins that surrounded me.

the game of monopoly was brought out one afternoon when I was sitting watching television with my host brother amadu. I had never had a little brother before, much less a brother that didn’t speak my language. most of our interactions were spent thinking about what had happened to his cat Toffe, who has now at this moment been missing for 8 days. we have come to the conclusion that Toffe has a novio and is on a romantic vacation with her.

at the opposite side of the room I spotted the edge of the monopoly box and asked amadu if he wanted to play. his eyes lit up, making me realize he had just been waiting for me to ask him to do something, anything. I ended up learning that monopoly was his favorite game to play, and he had a lot of luck with it.

amadu continued to land on the best properties, and land on the fortune and free parking boxes over and over. although he is nine and I should’ve been excited for him, I was getting annoyed because he wasn’t buying any properties. the properties that he would buy were based on his feelings, not the value. I kicked myself thinking this, as I saw I was using coleman’s strategy of buying everything I landed on, and finding joy in collected money from amadu. even still, amadu was winning. when he rolled the dice, he would pray for a certain number, and by some act of god, he would get that very number. every time. I am not lying. I began to think I could start stealing his money because since he was nine, he did not understand how to pay for anything. for example, he thought 2.2 million meant 2 plus 2 million, and would try to pay 4 million for a place on the board.

amadu was just having fun and winning. the game of monopoly was just a game, but I still had the competitive spirit of my family ingrained in me. amadu liked to see my reactions of sadness and annoyance though, and we slowly began to bond.

that night at dinner, yangtze told me that amadu never warms up to any of the people that stay in their house, except for me. he is incredibly introverted, and doesn’t have many friends at school.

this simple game of monopoly had unlocked something in our relationship. each day, amadu sadly told everyone how many days we had left together. it was incredibly bittersweet to see how much a simple game and my ability to reach out had impacted him. now every time I returned to the house, I would get an extremely warm hug from amadu, and we would go play with his nerf guns and then play monopoly.

this homestay began as something I was counting down the days to finish. I never expected that in such a short amount of time I would receive so much love and affection from the parents, and from a new younger brother.

next time, I’ll be sure to pack more tissues because when I leave this family tomorrow I think I might bawl crying seeing little amadu wave goodbye to me. although I of course could come back to urubamba in my life, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to recreate my week filled with telenovelas, pan y chocolate, y monopoly.