Living like a local. What comes to mind when you think about this phrase? Is it your family? Is it your city or community and how they affect you? Is it the lifestyle you choose as opposed to the infinite variety of others? Well for me, Edgar Anaya, nothing quite came to mind initially but as the day progressed, I started to develop a deep understanding of what it meant for me and my place in the world.

The day started off at the exhausting and alarming time of 6 a.m., which meant I had to wake up at 5:45 to wake all the other glimpsers. How great. After having limited sleep time and a long day ahead of us, we all walked sleepily to breakfast. The morning, however, was much worse for people because the night before I informed everyone that since we’re going to be “living like a local,” we had to take bucket showers, eat only rice and beans for breakfast and dinner and use no electricity, which meant no fans. You can all guess how that makes us teenagers feel. After a harsh morning and quick breakfast we all set off to Llano Grande, where we glimpsers would spend the majority of our day with a family from the community.

During the bumpy bus ride to Llano Grande many of us were eager to meet our families but we also we prepared ourselves emotionally for the worst. The bus ride was something out of the ordinary. The scenic route and distant mountains created an environment unlike any other. As we approached our final location, voices faded to a rather quiet level due to the fact that we were expecting some pretty bad conditions, and we had already visited the city dump. As the bus came to a halt we all scrambled out and into a dirt and mud street where two families who were also eager for our presence waited patiently. As more and more names were called, my name, along with Erika’s, was eventually  called.

We walked into a shack which they called home and it looked pretty unsafe due to its lack of stability. It wasn’t a traditional house with tile floors, a sink, a bathtub etc. It was a wooden, one room shack with no electricity, no running water, no air ventilation and no stove top to cook on. Our family consisted of a mother, a daughter, a newborn daughter and a husband. Though I do not remember the name of our host mother (I’m terrible with names) I do remember the name of her daughters. Angie is a 6 year old girl filled with curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and also a little bit of aggressiveness when it came to sports.  The newborn, Algeria, stayed in her mothers arms most of our stay but she had these jaw-dropping light green eyes that added to her adorableness. We helped around their home and swept but that was about all the cleaning Erika and I did because our host mother had already completed all the house chores before we got there. Angie and her cousin, Henesi, asked Erika and I about 50 different times to draw them pictures which they would then color in. After we all spoke and shared memories and stories, we went outside and started to play a little street soccer thus leading to a full on game between glimpsers and locals.

After a quick match, we glimpsers ran down to the bus to pick up lunch for ourselves and our families. As we came back, Angie and Henesi’s faces lit up with joy and excitement, something that shocked me because it was over a simple meal; something I always take for granted. We all ate together, minus the husband because he was working and we spoke, laughed and had the times of our lives. One thing I will never forget for as long as I live will be what our host mother said to us in response to a question. I asked her, “Why aren’t you eating your food? Come eat with us.” as I saw her feed Alerika. She responded with, “No it’s okay thank you, I’m going to save it for when my children get hungry again.” My heart dropped and I didn’t have any words. It needed time to settle in.

As time passed and we learned so much from our family, we eventually all had another community match of soccer which ended in disaster when I, the leader of the day, hit an elderly woman in the face with a soccer ball. I felt extremely bad and repeatedly said ‘sorry.’ I asked if she needed anything but she said she was okay. As everyone was distracted with soccer, I went and got a piñata for the local children. Although it was knocked down due to poor tying (thanks Denis) it was very satisfying to see all the children run happily and freely towards the candy and stuff handfuls into their tiny pockets.

As our time neared its end we said our goodbyes and took pictures with everyone from the community. It was especially hard to say bye to Angie because she asked when she would see us again. I replied with “I don’t know” and said that I would come back, promise. As I held back tears we said our final goodbyes and departed back to the hostel.

As we had our nightly meeting, followed with a group self reflection, so many things were racing through my mind. Most importantly that these people didn’t deserve to live the way they do. But as my group spoke and as I gathered my thoughts I came to an enlightening and uplifting conclusion-though the conditions the families were in were bad, they were some of the most happy and joyful people I have ever met. In the little community of Llano Grande I saw more unity and more connectedness than I do in my own community, which is 50 times bigger. I learned that you don’t need to be rich in money but rather rich in character to be happy. These people were living off dollars a day and expressed more happiness than I knew possible. This day was truly a life changing one and I took so many things away from it. I hope to embody the same values and traits so that one day I and the rest of the Glimpsers can be as happy as the people of Llano Grande.

Pictures soon to come due to technical difficulties!