July 14, 2010
Written by Nikki Seven
Returning to Seattle after two amazing weeks in Guatemala has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Not because I don’t appreciate my family or the luxury life I live here, but because I felt like I was truly leaving my home. After awhile, after I had gotten used to the idea that I lived in Guatemala and I loved it there. The differences between Guatemala and Seattle (and even the U.S in general) were a huge and distasteful shock to me.
In Guatemala, whomever you saw in the street you could smile and them and say, “Hola! Buenos Dias” and you would get the exact same response back with a completely genuine smile. Never in my life have I experienced a place like that, a place were everyone was welcome and everyone was happy to see you. Trying that same concept in the airport back home was a different story, instead of a getting a friendly smile, I got a weird look, an awkward silence, and a scurry away from me as fast as they could. I understand that’s its just not the culture in the U.S, and people are very untrusting, but I wish everyone could come to Guatemala or another similar country and experience this unity that they have down there. I wish that we could find the philosophy of being together as a country and community and be able to smile and wave at everyone we see. I think our country would be much more healthy and people would be happier. The fact is that everyone is so absorbed in their own world, having the nicest things and living this perfect life that they forget about the people around them and create this pompous and rude attitude that is creating a wall in our trust, agreements, and even our future to success. I feel as though people are hiding themselves from amazing opportunities that could be changed by acknowledging one person on the street.
There are many things that have made these past two days back home so hard. After bonding with these incredible people, both from Guatemala and from the group, it was so hard to say goodbye and to end this incredible memory. As soon as I woke up the next day, I was instantly sad and starting crying about how weird it was, and the realization that the memory was over and I wasn’t going to back to my favorite place in the world. I wasn’t going to see my host family, I wasn’t going to get picked up and see all my construction work teams friends, I wasn’t going to see the beautiful landscape or say hello to any strangers, or joke around with my newfound friends. All I wanted to do was to get back on that plane and fly back and pretend like nothing had changed. After speaking with a few friends, they all agreed. Even though it wasn’t a matter of choice, I found myself thinking I had made the biggest mistake coming home and the only thing I wanted was to go back. A friend who took the trip a year ago said, “Hold on to that feeling while you can. As corny as it sounds, you can just feel it throughout your whole body.” Although it was a little corny, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I still have it, this weird feeling that I can’t let go of. It’s a hard feeling to describe. I hope that it’s a feeling of change, a physical feeling that is telling me that I really did change myself because of the experiences I just had. It’s something that I don’t want to let go of.
Today I finally went outside my house instead of staying in my room looking at Guatemala pictures feeling upset. A friend and I ended up at the mall, shopping for new football cleats. Although I’ve been to that mall so many times, it was weird being there. Most importantly, I found myself not wanting to buy anything. Normally I would’ve jumped on the opportunity and gotten a new hoodie or dress. My friend kept saying “Nikki go buy something, c’mon” and I responded with shrug saying, “Nah, I don’t really need anything.” I just had no desire to buy something. It wasn’t that I was specifically thinking of Guatemala at the time, but more like a subconscious or gut feeling that I just really did not want to. Later, we went to my neighborhood park to throw around a football (which I didn’t have much prior knowledge of how to do so.) That, for me, was the best part of the day. I was learning a new skill, enjoying this beautiful park that I had previously taken for granted, my friend’s company, and the simplicity of everything. I didn’t need to go shopping or see a movie, all I really wanted was to be outside and be with someone I appreciate.
Experiencing those two things on my first real day being back was so enlightening to me. I have seen proof now that I have changed. I honestly feel like my life has been flipped upside down, but in a good way. When Global Visionaries said that the trip changes peoples’ lives, I thought, “Well, that’s a little ridiculous but I’m sure I’ll have a great time down there.” It was more than a great time though; it was one big, heartwarming wake-up call. Prior to this trip, I wasn’t the happiest person, many things were going wrong and I just wasn’t satisfied with my life. After these two weeks, and even after this intense culture shock, I am realizing how happy I truly am. How those things really don’t matter and how big the world really is. Although it scares me to be home because I know I’ll never have what I had in Guatemala, I am pleased to know that I do have that memory and the years of my life to go back to. I am also pleased with the changes Guatemala has given me, and I know that even though it will never be the same as it was there, I know that I can make the most of it and enjoy my life and to not take things and people for granted. Never again will I let things become as bad as they were. I have become so much stronger and that’s one of the best things I could ask for.
Another reason the transition is so hard is that there’s a sense that you’re 100% you in Guatemala and then coming home you have to put that wall back up. That was one of the biggest thoughts that scared me. Although after being outside and enjoying the day, my opinion changed. I realized now that I’ve felt this carefree attitude and have been open with others for once, that I didn’t have to just let go of it as soon as things were back to normal. If I was so scared of losing this amazing feeling, why would I purposefully let go and fall back to who I used to be? Even though I never talked at the reflections, I wanted to say that the biggest thing I’ve changed is my ability to open up to people (despite the irony, a big group is still a little overwhelming for me). I’ve let countless relationships suffer because I don’t communicate well or even at all. I knew that the change was something really important to me, and it’s what I wanted to take back. So today, I was myself. I was totally open and wasn’t afraid of what anyone thought of me.
I was talking to a GV friend today. He said, “It was so much easier to be yourself down there. In Seattle everything just sucks.” In Guatemala I was myself, and for once, it was effortless. I felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I was a million times more carefree, and it was the best feeling I’ve ever had. The moments where I have truly been myself have been the most amazing and productive of my life.
Even though I really miss Guatemala, I know that this newfound confidence will keep the memory with me everywhere. I hope for nothing more than to hold on to them as tight as I can and never let go.
Thank you GV for an amazing and unforgettable experience.
-Nikki Seven (Summer 2010)