By Hannah Matthews
I told myself I wasn’t nervous as the days to my departure crept closer. I have done this before. Moved away for a long period of time. Somewhere that does not speak my first language. Where the temperatures soar. But being at home with my family and friends before I left made me hesitate. There is no doubt that my experiences working abroad have brought incredible opportunities, skills, and stories to my life. I am continuously grateful for how much the people I have met and the experiences I have gained have changed my life and how I perceive the world. However, as I get older, I have started to realize how much I miss out on while I am gone. Six months does not appear to be a long time, however, within those six months could be a million moments and memories I will not have made with the people closest to me.
A big example from my last trip to El Salvador was missing my baby cousin, beautiful Maisie, come home as newborn. Her father, my cousin, has always been in mine and my sisters’ lives; telling crazy stories, playing at the park for hours, our constant entertainer. So when his little girl arrived I knew that’s exactly the person I wanted to be in her life. Six months does not seem like a long time until you see a newborn grow. By the time I was home in August (when she was 3 months) she had grown so much since the initial pictures I received at her birth. A visit with Maisie and her mom was the first stop we made after I arrived from being gone for four months. I got to hold her and watch her gurgle, moments I will never forget (Maisie has a magic hold on all of my family, turning us into the biggest saps around). And I am so excited to be able to watch her continue to grow and start to talk, walk, read (although she’s already a voracious reader for being 1 year old). There is no doubt technology has changed how much we can share moments such as Maisie’s first few steps. But there is also no doubt that being physically in those moments are what make our world go round.
Although writing about these missed moments make me homesick, I want to share how my anxiety of being so far away has been cured by some tremendous acts of friendship.
After a very long day travelling from Canada to Colima, Mexico, having friendly faces greeting me after the final leg of my journey was really terrific. Cody, my fellow Canadian intern here in Colima, and my boss of the organization where I would be interning, Jesús (also known as El Ingeniero), made sure I felt very welcome in this small but beautiful city. I think we laughed and smiled the whole way to my new house with Jesús intermittently pointing out different features of the city. The man is practically a living encyclopedia of information on the city and region which I am so excited to soak up over the next few months. El ingeniero’s kindness and wisdom filters into the office at Institución de Planeación del Municipio de Colima (IPCO) as the environment and attitude of everybody in the office are indications of his leadership. Great bosses should never be understated or undervalued.
Cody and I have also been hanging out with other people from the office and their friends. I can’t believe how welcomed I have felt in these different social circles, like I was a member of the club all along. My first night out in Colima, our coworker, Marcella otherwise known as Mache, took me out for my first Mexican meal – pizza (to be fair, it was some darn good pizza!). We spent the evening talking and we even got our first inside joke as friends (you have no idea how hard it is to make inside jokes in your second language – enjoy that licuadora, Cody). They took us on a night drive of the city and ever since Mache has been a constant companion helping both of us orient and settle ourselves in this city whether it be sorting out cell phones, planning potential future trips (Mexico city here we come!), and just being a really solid friend. We’ve only been friends for two weeks and she has already shown me so much friendship. That is a truly selfless act. Especially considering I will only be here for six months.
There are many moments I am going to miss these next few months while I’m in Colima: birthdays, beach trips, girls nights out, patio drinks with my mom, Toronto festivals… However, I am reassured that there are so many people here that are willing to share their moments with me. And that is what makes me so humbled by the friendship I have been imparted with.