And So Begins My Story…
Today, I broke my resistance to writing. I don’t know if it’s the date or the fact that thanks to the Political Party of Chile I’m alone, all alone, for the first time in weeks—
My plan is to write mini-entries about my experiences as a volunteer for America Solidaria, a description as enjoyable and real as possible of an experience that I know will both break and re-create me.
I want to share with and read this to myself in a few years, when this will only feel like a dream.
The Road Far from Costa Rica
A brief summary: I am one of 100 people from an initial group of 15000 professionals that applied to become an International Service Fellow for América Solidaria. That’s how lucky I am, how well life has treated me, that at 28 years old I became the woman who went away to volunteer. Do you want to know something? I’ve always wanted to be that woman.
Honestly, I fell in reason of that I would go when my mom picked me up to go to the airport, it was the early hours of the morning and I told her: “Don’t hug me too tightly because I don’t want to cry and look like a clown for hours”. Which was so me and so her– that’s why I love her so much. She understood my need to maintain serenity, and I understood her when I found her letter in my suitcase. I cried, as if I was listening to her voice right by my side.
Saying goodbye is always complicated. My beautiful Costa Rica isn’t only a natural paradise with perfect weather. Costa Rica is my family, my friends, my activism, my patients. The roots seem so deep when you think of moving. Making the decision to flow is to accept with responsibility that you’re following your free soul, which can take you far.
The last month quickly turned into the last few hours in Costa Rica. I lived through everything as though it was the last time, which feels intense. Things that don’t make you emotional before suddenly start to. Like the time I cried in my niece’s room, surrounded by the smell of her clothing, realizing I wouldn’t see it for a while. Or the last hug my Grandmother gave me before I left, one that would last for years. We both cried; it was both magical and sad.
Every detail, every sunrise, every message from my friends and family, the enjoyment of things I wouldn’t see in a year, made me realize something important: to value life and be present.
On March 4th, I left Costa Rica with a suitcase full of emotions (clothes for a year), a couple of months of goodbyes, contained tears and ticos chocolates—which aren’t the best in the world but remind me of home.
I have never felt so much love, not have I been filled with such beautiful energy, thanks to all my ticos and ticas.
I love you all.
Anxious 24 Hour Flight
Hours later, I was walking aimlessly in the Bogota airport waiting for the 6 hour flight that would take me to Santiago. It was 11:30pm and there were a lot of people. I was anxious about the journey (typical me). Several hours over, tiredness, scales, suitcases, my nervous colitis, and unknown, ——everything was happening to me. I felt fear, loneliness, limbo. The only peace I had came from the calls from my mom and boyfriend when I had wifi.
Positive news about my luggage made me slowly find my balance and I calmed down with Columbian coffee and a doughnut in hand. My time alone had ended. Everything changed when America Solidaria contacted me—there were other volunteers at the airport! I wasn’t alone. We saw each other and hugged—and they already knew the tranquility they were bringing me. I was eternally grateful.
And so we left.
Empanadas, Laughter and Stories
A beautiful Tica once told me, “Don’t waste your time missing what you had, we will still be here. Live to the max.”
I’ll never forget her words.
We arrived in Santiago, with its wide streets and green parks. It was spring and the sun felt like the beach. We stayed in a beautiful hostel located in the neighborhood Bellas Artes (one of the prettiest in the city). Light lamps that seemed as if they were floating in mid-air welcomed us. The rooms were gradually filled with people and stories, and I suddenly found myself in between suitcases, bathroom schedules, collective cooking and constant admiration. We all got to know each other very well.
We were 42 people from different places: Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Guatemala, Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Perú and España. Many accents, faces, laughs, incomprehensible words, mockery about how I say my R’s and chaos. Everything was a sea of sounds where the brain is put on alert 24/7 to try and process everything new, everything intense.
“Maeee!” I heard from far away—Meli, the other Tica that had already arrived to Costa Rica days before, received me for training and greeted me with a big hug. How lucky I was to be Tica! Wherever we are, we are pure joy (side note: this was the first time America Solidaria had brought volunteers from Costa Rica).
The days were full of technical learning, talks, processes, an imposing sun, Chilean empanadas, austerity, looking for wifi, cigarette butts, eternal walks, the Women’s March, visiting my boyfriend, evenings with friends and nights out dancing (special thanks to Colombia). I could not have asked for a more complete experience and better company.
And that’s how training went by, how we got to know one another. 42 people with a dream to change the world and adventured, just like me, were willing to leave everything behind–comfort, love, people and money—to go where they were needed. Dreamers who act. I wish I could somehow send you a bit of the energy that we felt in the room; it moved me to the bone.
Two weeks later, we began forced goodbyes to each of the volunteers. Our time in Santiago had come to a close, but since everyone had missions in Colombia, Chile, Haiti, Bolivia and Guatemala, I kept having to say goodbye, which was very hard. The intensity of emotions the past 15 days had strengthened our bonds.
I said goodbye with tears in my eyes, confident that we would meet again.
Since my life is a novel, I was the last to leave. I will be living with my psycho-social team partner Pablo (from Spain). We boarded a bus to begin our 12 hour trip to our mission for Quilacahuín in Osorno, Chile.
Here’s to a good trip south!