Feliz Navidad

That week alone, I had read 3 novels. I don’t think I’ve ever read and completed 3 whole novels in even a year. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but, honestly, not by much. Point being, I’m far from an avid reader. But I felt like I had no other option. It‰Ûªs amazing how true it is that even between Fellows within your same country cohort, or even your regional cohort, can have such vastly different experiences. Some Fellows felt they had the best Christmas they‰Ûªd ever had. I, on the other hand, did not. During Re-entry Training, they talk a lot about the destructive powers of FOMO aka the ‰ÛÏFear of Missing Out.‰Û However, I do not believe I ever actually succumbed to this. I wasn‰Ûªt in super close contact with other Fellows so I wasn’t really in the position to compare, and, to be honest, I paid even less attention to what people were doing back home. I had no desire to be home or in someone else‰Ûªs situation, I knew I wanted to be where I was. I just wished things were a little different. I didn’t necessarily miss the traditions and ways I celebrated back home, not that things were ever that elaborate, but I did miss some of the values that Christmas represented that I expected were universal, specifically family. What I didn’t consider is that although these values may be the same, there are different ways of showing them. Because my main apprenticeship was as a teacher, I got the same 2 weeks of vacation that the kids had. Independent travel had just been permitted, so many Fellows decided to use this time to explore the rest of the country, but I felt I would rather spend this time solely with my family. I suppose I had the misconception that because we shared such an important holiday, we would bond over similar traditions. I assumed we would spend all day chatting in the living room or watching a classic Christmas movie and later bake cookies together and fight over who got to lick the bowl. I should have known. But instead I spent at least 3 consecutive days locked in my room, and when I did come out to bake cookies, my mom was too busy snuggling with my dad in their room. I now realize that I had foolishly let my expectations cloud my rationality. I assumed my family just didn’t care as much as I did and didn’t want to get to know me. And if they weren’t going to put in the effort, why should I. But that was unfair. Up until this point, my dad worked on contract putting up electrical lines all over the Ecuadorian Amazon, so he would be gone for 2 to 3 weeks at a time and only have a couple days at home in between. I could see in my mom’s eyes how incredibly difficult this was, and although she now had me to keep her a little more company, it obviously isn’t the same. So it’s more than understandable that now my dad was home, she would want to spend the majority of her time with him. I also didn’t really consider the fact that although they kept themselves secluded from me, that also meant they weren’t particularly interested in spending that time with the rest of the family either. They didn’t feel that I was an exception, that I was still a guest that needed special privileges. They treated me like any other member of the family. I should have instead felt grateful that they had truly accepted me. But I didn’t think about any of that. I let myself get stuck in a dark place and I couldn’t see the light. And I was too oblivious that I had to convince myself to snap out of it. So I trapped myself in my room and I didn’t want to come out. One evening, as I was engrossed in yet another book, my aunt burst in and told me they needed another player to make the teams even for a game of soccer. I told her I had a headache. She rebutted that exercise and fresh air was good for headaches as she started putting my shoes on for me.There was no getting out of it. I went outside and reluctantly stood in the goal. But that didn’t last long. My whole family was playing, even my grandpa. My aunt is super competitive and was taking the game very seriously, whereas another aunt kept kicking the ball out of bounds into the river, and they happened to be on the same team, which just made for hilarious banter. Everyone was laughing and having having a really good time. Even when it started raining, and I mean pouring, no one wanted to stop playing. I don’t know how many times I slipped and fell in the mud, or the ball was pelted and only went half a foot before being trapped in a puddle, but it was all part of the fun. When it finally grew too dark to play and we sat at the edge of the house drinking Fioravanti, covered in mud and still laughing, I literally felt a wave of pure gratitude flow through my entire body to my very core. I couldn’t be happier than where I was. I wouldn’t change a by thing about it. How could I have tried to miss out on this? I realized I was overwhelming grateful for this moment, for this life I had been given, but perhaps most of all, for the connection I had made with my aunt. Despite language and despite time, she understood me better than anyone. She knew that something was wrong with me before I even really knew it myself. And she cared so much that she took it upon herself to step in and help. I knew that no matter how hard it ever got, I always had someone that had my back and would catch me when I fall. And it was my aspiration to always do the same for her. To this very day, my friendship with my aunt remains to be my most cherished impression from my Global Citizen Year.