People say that when you are uncomfortable you are in a good spot for personal growth. However, what they don´t tell you is that the uncomfortable part can be very, very uncomfortable.
My first day of homestays turned out to be an extremely eventful one. That morning my feelings weren’t that of anxiety, rather of anticipation. We gathered at the program house to be picked up by our homestay mothers and to my surprised I was picked up by my 9 year old brother, and we walked home with my grandmother and her homestay daughter, Andrea.
It was a little uncomfortable, not having my homestay mother get me, as most everyone else did, but when the instructors said what family I was with my brother jumped up to give me a hug.That enlisted a feeling of calmness and excitement to become part of this family.
For the first few hours it was just me and my brother at the house. It was slightly challenging at first, because he was so excited, which caused him to talk super fast. He also has some sort of lisp which made it even more difficult to understand him. While we were trying to talk to each other we figured out that we both like soccer. Perfect! I went to my room and got the soccer ball I brought and that was that. No more trouble communicating, because we were communicating through play.
It has always fascinated me that you can take kids from completely differing backgrounds, even different languages and they are able to communicate through the universal language of play. I think that is something we should all think about – our differing backgrounds only intervene in our lives when we get older and have had time to create preconceptions regarding different people.
Finally, I met the parents. They were super nice, talked to me, and showed me around the house. Then they wanted to take me to a bee farm – Cool, right? Well, I happen to be allergic to bees – never has been anaphylaxis bad, but still. Anyway, they assured me that the bees don’t sting, which I was unsure about but I figured I would go. I did grab my epipen just as a precaution. SPOILER – I did not get stung.
The bee farm was actually really cool and I learned tons of info from what I was able to understand. At this point we still weren’t totally comfortable, but we were getting there.
Our breakthrough moment with communication and bonding was later that day.
One thing that you should know about me is that I thrive off being in the know, and uncertainty is not my friend. That being said, this specific adventure was definitely far outside my comfort zone.
This encounter occurred during my first afternoon with my homestay family. The first bit of time with them wasn’t bad, because they are incredibly nice. I wasn’t yet confident with my spanish speaking ability, and they hadn’t realized I needed things said in many ways to allow me to understand. Well, the language barrier definitely was an issue in this instance… Imagine you are standing there, in a new house with complete strangers and you are not taking in everything that is being said. Now, think about what your reaction might be if as they are trying different ways of explaining the activity to you, and all you got is that at 4 you will be going to take a hot bath together.
Confused… Uncertain… Slightly freaked out… Wanting to run… Stunned…. All of the above? Check all of the above for me! And then there was the thought in the back of my head of will there be nudity involved? Uh oh. Then I thought back to what the instructors had said about embracing the culture and experiencing everything, a main point of the program.
Anyway, I decided to embrace the uncertainty of stepping into the unknown, took me a bit to convince myself, but soon enough I was walking into the mountains with my homestay family.
As we were walking through the town and then slightly into the mountains, my anticipation increased. However, once I saw what we were doing I had a huge sigh of relief – it was a Mayan sauna. The Mayan sauna is similar to those you might have already experienced with a few differences. The sauna that we were in was made out of adobe and had a fire place inside, making it way hotter than any sauna I have ever experienced. So much so that there was a bucket of cold water from the hose to dump over yourself to cool down. Another difference was that during the sauna you burn plants such as oregano and eucalyptus. The thought there is that the burning of these plants allows your body to absorb the natural healing properties of said plants, while detoxing through the heat.
It turned out to be an amazing experience and a great way to get to know each other, because we were trapped in a room together with nothing to do but get to know each other for over an hour. Throughout that hour I learned about their lives, families, jobs, everything while I gained more and more confidence with my spanish ability. And while I still had trouble understanding everything and speaking in the correct tenses, it became a little easier. While I still prefer to be in the know this specific experience proved to me that the uncertainty can be a little more bearable.
It’s okay to not be in the know at all times in your life, and sometimes embracing the uncertainty and being uncomfortable can be good and even facilitate personal growth.