Far From Home

My head hurts from unshed tears. I’m not sure I understand why my need to cry is so powerful. If I had never connected to internet, nothing would have changed about my day. I would have gone from class to class, teaching verb conjugations and vocabulary for family members. But the knowledge and the weight of this sudden absence packs a wallop I never expected. 

When was the last time I spoke to them? I try and think back. It’s been over a year and a half since I was in the same country as them. What was the last thing I said to them? Was it a simple greeting? Was I annoyed? Was I present to them? Had I even been thinking about them recently? 

I’m crying now, and I feel guilty for crying because I wasn’t even present with them when it was time to say goodbye. Silly, because I probably wouldn’t have been by their bedside anyways but the thought is there, weighing me down, nestled above my brow. 

Losing someone is never easy. That goes for losing someone when a relationship ends or friends grow apart. Death means that there is no chance for something better, no more time to grow close, no possibility of something new. These memories are all I have left. 

A view of the Tacna desert, with a barbed-wire fence, cactus, and a brick wall. In the distance there are dunes.

As I write this, I look up and out the bus window. There’s dirt and garbage and I spot the ever-present sand dunes in the distance. It’s hard to reconcile a change in a world so far away from my current reality. None of my family back in the states has ever set eyes on my new home. My neighbors on the bus are speaking another language. Many times it seems all but impossible to reconcile my foreignness: I will never be part of this place. Now, hearing about the loss of a loved one, I feel even more isolated from the world around me. There is only one person in this vast country who carries the weight of this news. It’s just me, suspended and numb.

As an adolescent, I dreamed of travel. I dreamed of going abroad and meeting new people and seeing exciting new things. I wanted to be out of the boring, predictable routine and embark into the intriguing unknown. But at what price? 

Months have passed since I first wrote these words, but something still remains of that sad time. I made this choice to be far from home and in choosing to be here, knew that I was giving up the chance to be physically present for family and loved ones in trying times. For me, it was a matter of choice. What about those forced to leave home for economic, religious, or safety reasons?

I think of the countless Venezuelan migrants who are currently finding their way in places so far from home. I think of previous generations of my own family who left their country. When we leave our home, we carry within our hearts the traditions of our culture, our memories, and our identities. When we arrive somewhere new, we do our best to adapt, but there is a world we carry within us, a world we may desperately wish to find ourselves in again. When disaster strikes, it can come in the form of a quick message, something so seemingly remote, but it carries with it a change in one’s reality forever. 

To those of us comfortably living within our own borders, who have not been forced to migrate, let’s remember to honor the worlds that foreigners come from. Every day, a part of their heart is somewhere else, whether they would like it to be or not. Give them love, give them the space to honor where they come from, and remember that the balance of two worlds is not an easy task. 

A landscape photo with the dunes of Tacna in the distance. Two Jesuit volunteers walk down a dirt road in the distance. The sun sets to the left casting long shadows.

Originally published at www.jvcwithcamila.blogspot.com

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