I couldn’t be luckier, and I know it. All the people I have met throughout my life have touched me somehow. They have all helped me grow and become a better person. But there are some that understand me better than others and as I mentioned before, they are the Rotary Inbounds I met in Minnesota on September 12th, 2009.
Being stranded somewhere, out of your comfort zone, forces you to expand your horizon, look beyond what you normally would, and that was when I found these people. We were all different from one another, definitely coming from different places, backgrounds, we even believed in different things. But that day we were all the same, we were all vulnerable, and we were all open to the new year that was about to start, especially to all the experiences that it would bring.
We had an incredible year, and most importantly, unforgettable. The experiences we shared every time we met and particularly during the East Coast Trip towards the end of our year were the best we could have hoped for.
I can still remember the last time I saw each one of them. It’s true that I have not talked to all of them since, but the fact is that not a day goes by that I don’t think of that year and them. Just the other day I caught myself wondering:
“Is it still worth spending so much time and energy trying to keep these relationships going?”
“Yes, of course it is, you idiot!”
Some of them have made such an impact in my life that I just had to see them again, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunities to do so. Spending a year with them was priceless, intense. Seeing them again one, two years later was in fact, surprising. I realized that even though some of us were in different stages of our lives, all the chemistry we had back in our exchange was still there, just as exciting as our first day together in that middle school auditorium. Some of the people I reencountered, I hadn’t talked to since we had left the United States, while others I have talked to every day that I am able to.
Luisa Teixeira de Paula: Minneapolis, USA 2009 / Sete Lagoas, Brazil 2011
Luisa was the first one I had the chance to see again, and it happened right after our exchange. Once I finished my year I went back to Brazil for two weeks, to get a new student visa and start at Normandale Community College. I didn’t have too much time back home, but it was enough to see Luisa again, and I am happy to say that I have seen her about 4 times since then. It just happens, every time I go to Brazil to visit my family, I must visit her as well. She was my little black sister while in the USA, by “little” I mean younger, because she was definitely the responsible one in this relationship. She is the one I would call when I didn’t know what to do.
Preta, every time I think about going to Brazil I get even more excited because I know I will get the chance to not only see you again but to PARTY, Brazilian style.
Marina Simoni: St Croix Falls, USA 2009 / Londrina, Brazil 2011
Just like it happened with Luisa, Marina and I had a great time in the USA since the start of our Exchange. She lived far away in Albert Lea, so every time we got to see each other was special. We went to her Albert Lea prom together, needless to say that we were the best looking Brazilian couple there. I had the chance to see Marina again after busing for 24 hours from Luisa’s place. June 29th was when I arrived in Londrina, I stayed with Marina’s family for a week. She sure had grown and gotten a boyfriend, but hadn’t settled down. We danced, went out and enjoyed ourselves to the maximum. I can’t wait to see her again, but I know it won’t take long.
Sofia Silva: Atlanta, USA 2010 / Arica, Chile 2011
Sofia and I never had the chance to talk much during our exchange. When she arrived in the USA, she didn’t know English, and my Spanish wasn’t what it is now, so we just never talked much. But once we started the East Coast Trip, at the end of our Exchange Year, we had a chance to get to know each other. And I am glad we did, Sofia is a smart, strong and independent woman, and I got the chance to see that when I visited her in Arica, Chile.
Wuashi perri, I realize that we didn’t spend much time together, but the little that we did was very important for me.
Dámariz Romero: Orono, USA 2010 / Quito, Ecuador 2011
Dama was the fourth of the Inbounds I got to see again. I made it to Ecuador at the end of July, 2010, more than a month after I had left home backpacking. I stayed with Dama and her family for most of the time and I had a great time seeing her again. While in the USA we went to a Sadies Dance together in Orono, and we had fun in our own way, not only there but at the Rotary events, at the MOA and just about every time we saw each other. With her I learned to be proud of my Latin blood, I learned to love it. I realized it was a part of us, that made us not only unique, but also spicier, if you know what I mean.
Nicole Olmedo: St Croix Falls, USA 2009 / Quito, Ecuador 2011
Nikki and I always have always had this connection. We had a great time together throughout our year, we had a fantastic time during the East Coast Trip, and I just couldn’t wait to see her again. So I got my backpack and left for Ecuador. I couldn’t believe how much she had grown. Between going to college and driving around she was the same Nikki I had met, still responsible but genuinely crazy. Someone I can talk to anytime I need, and that will try to understand my side and rationalize with me.
Bonbon, thank you for being there for me, for never giving up in our friendship and for being the princess that you are. Te amo.
Philipp Roehl: New York, USA 2010 / Bordeaux, France 2012
If it wasn’t fate, then I don’t know what could have been. For an entire year I was oblivious of Philipp, but somehow we got placed as roommates for the East Coast Trip. The differences between us were colossal, or so it seemed like. Independent of that we became friends right away. He didn’t always understand why I did things or my reasoning, but he always trusted me, he was never judgmental, and in less than 4 weeks we had as much fun as we possibly could have had. I got to see Philipp again when he came to visit me in Bordeaux, France. It had been two years since we had seen each other, we were clearly in different stages of our lives, and it was rough at first, but the chemistry was still there, it was just a matter of reconnecting.
Yes, all of us still had our differences, but the bond we’ve created overcomes that. Nothing made me happier than seeing each one of them again and realizing that just like during our exchange year, we will be there for each other for the rest of our lives, or as long as we both want it. It is not easy to keep a long distance friendship going, it is even harder when the larger part of your relationships are like that. But at the end of the day, it is absolutely worth the effort.
And for the others, just wait for me, I’m coming.