As the trip has come to a close, it is time for us to reflect on the things we learned and experienced and how it affects us going forward. Final reflection was bittersweet for everyone, because at the same time we were itching to go home, we also found it hard to say goodbye. The day was filled with activities that allowed us to think about what we learned on the trip, and the things we want to stop, start, and continue doing. There were so many things I did on this trip that I probably would not have done if I was in the United States. I hope I can keep them going when I get home. Every time Jochy was driving us somewhere, we looked out of the window and waved at every person we passed. We would do it on the streets too; dropping a quick Hola or Buenos to anyone we walked by. Any time there was music playing, we would get up and dance without a care in the world. The smallest things like these helped make the trip what it was.
At the beginning of the trip, San Juan de la Maguana seemed like such a vast city that was hard to navigate, but by the end we could get ourselves anywhere. We walked around the city in search of candy and snacks to bring home to our families, only to find that most things were closed. Even still, as we walked around shot out of luck, we were laughing and having a good time hanging out as a whole group. We had our Despedida dinner at Rosaura’s with all of the ambassadors, and we worked up an appetite dancing the Merengue to various Latin songs. It’s the times like these I think I am going to miss most; just dancing and having fun with a group of people I have experienced all of these things with. We have all bonded over these shared experiences even if we may have different perspectives on them.
The most important thing I learned was the value of being uncomfortable. The whole trip was about stepping up and out of our comfort zones, and I think that’s the reason we got so much out of the trip. When we visited Suarez for the first time and did our homestay, we all had to go off with a family and live their lives without the comfort of someone we knew there with us. And, as a result, we built such strong relationships with those in the community, and it was one of the hardest goodbyes. On Working like a Local day I had to be a translator for our speaker, and although it was rough at first, I think I did a pretty good job overall. After that, I noticed myself volunteering more to be an interpreter or translator for other activities, like those in Suarez. It was also after that day that I taught myself how to roll my R’s, because “I just can’t do it” wasn’t good enough anymore. Now, at the end of the trip, I can do it, because I stuck with it until I could do it perfectly every time. This whole trip was a period of learning and personal growth for everyone. Stepping out of our comfort zones applied to even the smallest things, like volunteering to do something we had never done before. I hope that when we go home we will remember these moments and continue to take risks and be uncomfortable, because that is when we learned the most.
Now, as we embark on the journey home, we leave ready to go home, but still sad to leave. I got choked up saying goodbye to the ambassadors and Jelly. I’m sad to go home, because over the last 16 days I have done so much and had so much fun, and I won’t likely be in the same place with the same group ever again. I am ready to share my experiences with the people at home, and look back on all the things we did. As Mr. Klakovich put it, this is really the beginning of the trip. Sure we actually finished all of the activities and learning experiences, but we still have to go home and tell people about it, and continue with the energy and enthusiasm we’ve developed here. Hasta luego, San Juan!