I never studied or lived away from home really(for the past 22 years of my life!!). Being the younger one of two sisters in an INDIAN family, my mom found it hard to let go of me. Always jealous of my older sister for having been to college and even having worked in a different city(4+2; that's 6 years of being away from home!!) I was longing to break free. Now don't get me wrong...I LOVE my family and my mom is probably the coolest ever! They did every thing for me, from buying cheap military liquor for my 21st birthday till hosting dinner parties for 40 friends which went on till 4 in the morning. But often I longed to experience the independence of using your time as yours and it not revolving around walking the dog/s three times a day or with difficult questions like where to leave the spare keys of the house. But then of course, I didn't know the meaning of the word DIFFICULT back then.
Stereotypes are true!! A Software engineer by profession (and a good one at it too; with the best grades in class) I chose to take a less beaten path of going the non-corporate, non-profit/for-profit, Social enterprise, Education, Community Development way; rather than taking the usual route of working in the corporate and quitting your job that you absolutely hated in the first place after working for two years. I've seen enough creative people doing so; my sister being the best example and also the biggest inspiration in my life.
After a year of experiencing the Indian Social Enterprise and Education space, I decided to test the foreign waters to understand the education scenario outside of India and man did it add perspective!
People always warned me about the big mean world out there full of dangers, people who cheat and kept telling me I was too gullible for the real world! When finally I took on this journey, I felt exactly like Rapunzel or Ariel just waiting to discover the world and till now the story has been pretty much happy(hopefully not close to the end because I am loving this too much).
I came across a series of people on my trip who made me believe the opposite, who showered me with warmth, love and acts of unselfish kindness. Not just once but every time! Would you believe me if i told you that there was absolutely no person I met who had not showed such an attitude towards me?
The Villamizar Family:
I have heard some bad host family experiences and some Good ones. It would be safe to say that mine falls in the 'excellent' category. So much so that I can't imagine my Big Fat Indian wedding(5 years from now) without shipping my host family from Colombia to India.
My host mother was like my mother in a parallel universe who drank and swore like a sailor. A strong independent working women full of life, bringing up two boys; she had a very liberal attitude towards everything from gay marriage to well, everything. I never had in-times or any sort of restrictions. I could come back at 5 in the morning and she wouldn't say a word. At the same time she had all the qualities my mother has; which now I have come to realize are Universal mother like qualities. She always seemed to be doing never ending cleaning when ever I saw her, was religious(I spent all 9 days of nuvena going to church with her) and her hug when I cried was the most comforting thing in the world; Just like my mom's!
My older host brother was my best friend. We matched at so many different wave lengths; from playing X-box together to talking about all lame pervert things. I could go to him with any problem of mine. We shared special daily wrap up dinner sessions almost every night. He made the biggest sacrifice a boy his age could make for me, that is, he let an Indian girl take over his room for 4 months and slept with his mother for that duration.
My younger host bother though younger than me in age was far more mature than I was. He was like my conscience, so much so that I was scared of him. An amazing cook, we shared a lot of moments exchanging cultural delicacies and how to make them.
Not just the family it self but even my extended host family has shown more acts of kindness towards me than I can count.
The coolest grandma ever, was 94 and drank like a fish(its like a family theme) accepted me as a part of the family for every family function.
The relatives; not only received me when I went to Bogota but also accompanied me to all the offices I had work at, invited me to scrumptious home made dinners, lent me their daughter's warm clothes(to keep forever!), translated more official documents from English to Spanish for me and finally even took on the responsibility to leave me safely in another country by making me cross the border by land in a 36 hour journey only to take a flight back the next day. Who in the world would do that for someone else in this day and age? All this just made me realize how lucky I have been in life and sure am grateful to god.
My Ultimate Frisbee Family:
It was more than just a Frisbee team to me. It was indeed my family. Training with the team every single day for 3 hours for a month just made connect with them like a team. I wish I could have spent more time with them than my work permitted me to.
My other friends:
There was a point in time when I faced a lot of problems. That's when everyone I knew just did every thing in their ability to help me out. Everyone went till great extents often out of their way to help me out. Made me wonder if its just a Colombian thing or was I just lucky to have all amazing people as my friends.
Here is to reestablishing my belief in humanity and selfless acts of kindness.