Whenever holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving come around people always talk about being thankful. I have never really taken that idea very seriously. Usually I just think of the holiday as a good excuse to eat a lot of food, and hang out in the house with family all day. This year has been different for me. I have had so many life changing things happen to me that it has made me realize how fortunate I’ve been. There are so many things in my life that I am thankful for that they deserve to be expressed.
First and foremost I am thankful for the opportunity to come on exchange to the beautiful country of Bolivia. I am thankful for the all the people who helped me to get here. From John Templeton who first got me involved with Rotary Youth Exchange, to the Bellingham Bay Rotary club who put down the money and effort to get me here, to my mom who filled out page after page of paperwork for Visas and applications, to my dad who supported me in the most stressful times, to the rest of my family who was just there for me. On the other end I am thankful for everyone in Bolivia. I can’t express how welcoming my host family has been, accepting me into their home and always making sure I am comfortable and having a good time, and to Rotary club Amboro, who facilitated my coming to Santa Cruz, and checks up on me to make sure I am doing well.
In addition to Rotary I want to thank the friends I have made here. I have become friends with people from all across the world to the point where they feel like my family. I truly feel cared about and I know that they will be there for me if I need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to tell my embarrassing stories and laugh with. Especially in this past month I’ve come to know people who make me happier than I have ever felt. I’m thankful for these people because they make me look forward to every day. I wake up every morning knowing it will be a great, and there is no better way to live than that.
I am also thankful for the person who I have become through this opportunity. I feel so much more forthcoming and confident when talking to new people. Just yesterday I met two people from Iran, and in no time we were having a conversation. Before I would have stayed silent in the background and let my friends do the talking, but instead I decided to see if they could understand the few words in Farsi that I was taught years ago. I’ve also become much more independent. When I have a problem I either need to solve it myself, or ask for help, which is another thing I am thankful for learning. Asking for help has always been difficult for me but now I know it is not the worst thing to do by any means. Without exchange I don’t think I would be the person I am today, and I am eternally grateful for that.
I really have had a lucky life up to this point, and it’s times like this that make me realize it. I think it is too easy to focus on the bad things that happen which is what makes these holidays so important. Of course there have been rough times, but I have so much to be thankful for that I would rather embrace and remember that. Happy holidays everyone!