Kate, Outbound to Mexico

May 31, 2018

Welcome back to another journal! I know it has been a long time since I wrote, but I have 24 days of exchange and 4 days of school left, and I am trying to live it to the fullest.

In these last two months, I have been very involved in Rotary activities. I have had the opportunity to speak at three local Rotary Clubs, including my host club and my host grandfather’s Rotary Club. I was very grateful for the opportunity to share with these Rotarians the impact Rotary Youth Exchange has had on my life. For México’s Day of the Child on April 30, many Rotary Clubs in Puebla joined forces to give 650 children from low-income families a fun day watching a movie, playing in the park, and riding the ferris wheel. From playing soccer to hand-clapping games while waiting in line at the ferris wheel, I loved volunteering alongside my friends from Interact, other exchange students, and many dedicated Rotarians to spend time connecting with the kids.

From May 17-19, my host Rotary district had their fourth district conference. As part of the event, all exchange students in the district had to learn traditional Mexican and Latina dances. So for a month, all 40+ exchange students in my city had group dance rehearsals for over eight hours a week. I have a wide variety of interests, but dancing definitely wasn’t one of them, so I hated going to the first practices. I felt so lost and confused; the dance teacher moved so quickly, and I felt like I couldn’t catch on. Little by little, I found myself smiling and enjoying the classes more and more as we all learned the basic dances and later the more complicated choreography. It was also so much fun to regularly hang out with the other exchange students (especially dancing with my Indonesian soul sister, even though it meant I had to learn both the guy and the girl dance parts!). It was also so rewarding to see how far we came from our first day to our final rehearsal (video link: https://youtu.be/6yopsiHkvEs) in which we perform two cumbias, two bachatas, salsa, and meringue. Even though I only performed in three dances at the Rotary event, I am so proud that me, the girl with two very uncoordinated left feet and no hips, learned how to dance four different Latin styles, how to move to a rhythm, and more importantly, how to have fun while doing it.

For the district conference, all of my district’s exchange students (more than 100 of us) along with many Rotarians, gathered together in my city, Puebla. My friend from New York came a few days early to spend time with me and our friend from Michigan, and we all stayed with my second host family. I treasured every moment with them, staying up ridiculously late to talk about literally everything, hanging out at my host dad’s amazing work project, going to explore the Center, and everything in between. It was electric being with my exchange friends again, but also bittersweet because we knew it would be the last time we would see each other.

On the first night of the conference, we attended an opening reception with the Rotarians in Cholula (the city right next to Puebla) on the roof of the city’s theater. The next day, we attended the conference sessions, staged a flag parade, and also rehearsed and performed our various dances, and after that day, we were exhausted. On Saturday, the Rotarians took us all to tour the Great Pyramid of Cholula, but the important part were the jokes and conversations and moments that we shared together, on the bus and in the hotel and everywhere in between. Saturday night was also the black-and-white dinner gala where we danced the night away alongside the Rotarians. We arrived back at the hotel at 2:30 AM and stayed up even later to enjoy our last night together before collapsing from exhaustion.

Sunday was a day of tears because we had to say goodbye. I think I have cried only four times on exchange, and I was a complete mess that morning. We were all crying our eyes out; we are not all best friends, but there is a special bond that we all share from being exchange students together. What do I do when my heart is broken in so many pieces, and each one leaves for a different corner of the world? To India, to Japan, to Brazil, to Poland, to the Czech Republic, and to Indonesia? Part of being an exchange student is to form these amazing relationships and also have to say goodbye, which is made so much harder because I don’t know if I will ever see them again. But I know I would say goodbye and shed buckets of tears and feel my heart be broken again and again and again if that means that I have the chance to meet my soul sisters from around the world. Because the relationships and the moments and the memories are worth every bit of heartache, and I will carry them with me forever, on my blazer and in my heart.

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