Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Old Friends and New Memories

Last weekend, an old friend of mine came to visit.  We were exchange students together in Argentina when we were sixteen, but hadn’t seen each other in nearly seven years.  Nonetheless, my friend stepped out of the international airport last Friday morning, and the first thing he exclaimed upon seeing me was, “you haven’t changed at all!”

For old friends, reunions can go one of two ways.  They can either feel as though not a day has passed, or they can be abundantly filled with conversations of moments passed, simply because there is nothing else to talk about.  Lucky for me, my weekend was the former.  It was as though we were sixteen again, getting into trouble and having the time of our lives in Argentina, only this time we’re twenty-two and the mischief was in Guatemala.  The weekend was a whirlwind of old stories, new adventures, and a coming together of my past and present.  Sunday night, my friend left, but not before a somber goodbye.  Amidst "nice to meet you"s and "call you when I'm in Houston"s, I felt comforted by the convenience of travel in the United States, that this would not likely be our last encounter.  Yet as I stood in the doorway, I couldn’t help but imagine what it will be like to leave to Guatemala.

Throughout the last nine months, my emotions have changed like the seasons, going from enchanted by the thrill of the journey before me in July, to painfully homesick in September, back to deciding never to leave this country in December.  These changes of heart are implicit challenges that come with committing oneself to living in a dramatically different culture, but in spite of the difficulty, it is precisely these moments that define this experience.  It is during these bittersweet flashes of time that one’s character, strength, and heart become visible.

Lately, I’ve found myself counting the days.  The days ‘til I pack up my room and hop back on the plane to the States to whatever new and exciting city I choose.  The days ‘til I’m reunited with my family, my best friends, and my love.  The days ‘til my life begins.  But as I stood there, departing from one friend and an entire country at the same time, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I stopped and realized that this is life at its peak.

Perhaps it was seeing Guatemala through a fresh pair of eyes, or maybe it was reliving Argentina for a brief moment that made me realize how quickly these experiences slip away.  Before we have even stopped to see the beauty, all that’s left is a photograph.

I don’t know what will happen when I leave Guatemala.  I don’t know if I will be remembered by the families I met; if Carmen, the landlady, will miss waving at us from her courtyard while we wash our dishes; or if ever there will come a day when I can’t recall the man’s name who stood on the street corner and yelled “Buenos días, Katy!” every morning as I passed by.  But this weekend, I was able to see the beauty while it was still in front of me.

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