It is Friday, June 23rd, 2023. Chicago. Almost 10 pm.

Last night after the students were picked up and I got to speak with a few parents, my friend Carmen picked me up at O’Hare and we had an awesome drive back to Kenwood where my car was parked, catching up with each other after the two weeks. I got to tell her all about the crazy trip, and we spent the whole ride laughing. Then I got home and walked into air-conditioning, poured myself a Diet Pepsi with tons of ice, and crashed from exhaustion before I could even finish drinking it. A pretty nice night, but something was missing.

Today I slept in for the first time in months. The first night in my own bed after 2 weeks in an unfamiliar bed (or beds, plural, since they kept switching my room) was most welcome, as was a toilet where I could safely put toilet paper! After a lazy morning drinking coffee on my back deck – not the Dominican coffee I bought, because I haven’t unpacked yet – I mowed my lawn, pruned the rose bushes,  then watered the garden. I then took a ridiculously long shower, using shampoo and conditioner! A really good morning, but something was missing.

Then I went to one of my favorite southside spots for a burger, having been craving one since that amazing bacon cheeseburger at La EsQuina. I started reading a new book – another mystery, Katia, but this one is incredible! After lunch, I went to the Hyde Park Art Center to buy a painting. Quite a pleasant afternoon, but something was missing.

Now I’m about to catch up on a show or two, having been without television for a couple of weeks. I still haven’t checked my email, though. In solidarity with the students, I tried to use my cell phone as little as possible while in the DR, only texting once and using my Kindle when my books ran out. I enjoyed being disconnected so much that I am going to spend a couple more days that way before I have to re-engage with the world. I’m looking forward to a really enjoyable evening, and yet… something is missing.

As most of my mosquito bites fade – except for the ones I must have gotten on the last day in Costanza, by mosquitoes that knew I was leaving – and I sit in the cool air of my own home, hours away from a second night in my own bed, I know what’s missing. For almost a full 24 hours I haven’t heard the sound of playing cards slapping onto the tables around us, or the repeated chants and the constant counting – veintitres! – or even the strange sounds of whatever bird or animal that was that kept me up some nights. I haven’t heard the sound of laughter on the stairs as I read my book in my room, and that most nights I fell asleep to. And while enjoying my time with my coffee and book on my deck, what was missing was Alyssa, Kayla, Taylor, Xitlaly, Angela, Reina, and B-Money sitting with me. Or Anthony, Stephanie, Yoanna, Alondra, Jayla, Andres, my birthday twin, and the rest where I often sat for breakfast. (We never finished that card game, guys!) And as good as that burger was today, it was missing RICE!

As someone who values time alone more than anyone else I know, I find myself missing the sights and sounds of members of my chosen family, and the life we created – was it real? – during two weeks in Constanza. Maybe I should play some Taylor Swift! Already, only a day behind us, the past two weeks seem like a strange, wonderful, sometimes painful dream. I was ready to leave Constanza and happy to be home, but I’ll tell you something completely true: I would go back with all of you tomorrow if I could.

As you each move forward toward the next things filling your summer days – internships, classes, programs, creating art, seeing concerts, eating good pizza, etc. – my wish for each of you is that you are able to hold onto the dream of those two weeks. Hold on to all the lessons learned and the memories, from sore muscles after a day on the ‘bucket line’ or digging dirt and rocks to a day at the beach; from road trip soundtracks to how it felt to stand in front of your peers and lead the nightly meetings; from the pure joy of seeing pancakes on that table to all the struggles that travel can bring; from the confusion on JC’s face as we spoke with British accents to discussing our favorite Marvel movies and shows.

Parents, thank you once again for entrusting us with the great responsibility of looking after your most prized possessions – your children. It was an honor and a privilege. Students, thank you for teaching me more than I could possibly have taught you, and for bravely uprooting yourselves from the comforts of home to share in this adventure. I still haven’t read the comments on my personal big love sheet because I started to get emotional as I was reading them, but thanks in advance for those comments as well. Whether you go to Kenwood or not, I consider you all my students. So if you need an extra pair of eyes to read an essay for English class, want an extra letter of recommendation, or just feel like reaching out to reminisce, you have my email address. I will plan something down the road as an opportunity for a little reunion for all of us. I know some of you have already made plans to see each other, which speaks to the power of the friendships you formed. Very proud of your work and dedication, and wish you all the best!

Los extrano a todos,

The burger at La EsQuina

The view from our home away from home

Not quite Chicago Pizza, but they tried!

The variety of bonds formed in the DR


Remember the taste of those STRAWBERRIES?!?!

KNOCKED OUT after a hard day of working on the Community Action Project

Visiting the Fire Department

Memories of Constanza from my iPhone 5…