On the eve of our site assignments I sat in the kitchen with Rosa over a dinner of eggs, tomato, and tortilla. I was antsy and excited to know where the next two years of my life would be set. Rosa looked up and said, "Grace, I am much more nervous than you are."
Then her eyes began to fill with tears and she began a lengthy and beautiful admission of her gratitude for all the volunteers she has received. She pointed out that she had never had the opportunity nor even the notion of leaving her home and her family to visit another country and be a volunteer, and that she really admired us doing this. She said that all the girls that have lived with her have been so kind, and have been a short-term replacement for the daughter she lost years ago.
"Have you noticed that my son's don't eat with me?" she asked. "Since they're father passed away (10 or more years ago) they take their meals in their rooms and I sit here in the kitchen and eat all alone. But when I have a volunteer here, I have someone to eat with, to laugh with, to talk to, and it makes me so happy."
At this moment I again was reminded of how strong a simple gesture can be. Just having the company of a volunteer brings Rosa so much joy, and to us it feels like we are doing nothing at all. I have not built her a new stove, nor a water purifying system, but I have sat with her nearly every day and chatted with her over her home-cooked meals. That's all. And it meant everything to her. I feel like it is I, who has gained so much from her. I have eaten her delicious Guatemalan food, slept under her roof, and learned so much from her and I am so grateful. But she too is grateful, and was overflowing with so much gratitude that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. She told me that she hoped I would be placed in a site that was close by and that we could visit each other often.
"I imagine you going on to have a beautiful life and to do wonderful things. I imagine that one day you will call me and say, 'Guess what Rosa, I'm getting married!' and that someday you will bring your children here to Guatemala and I will meet them" she said.
It was lovely what she was saying, although the thought of marriage and children sort of strikes fear into my heart at this age... But it is quite profound the connection we have developed in only 3 months. I thought about this, and how I have known Rosa just about as long as I have known all the friends I have made in Peace Corps and while our bond is different, it is still very special. One of the most difficult parts of these two years will be the absence of my wonder family and friends back home, but at least I am given hope that I have a Guatemalan family here to make things easier.