The student news publishing site of Rider High School in Wichita Falls, TX.

There’s No Place Like Home

December 18, 2015

While+in+Cartagena+I+visited+an+ourdoor+aquarium+and+swam+with+a+dolphin.+At+night+my+family+went+to+the+historic+part+of+the+city%2C+riding+around+in+a+horse+drawn+carriage.
While in Cartagena I visited an ourdoor aquarium and swam with a dolphin. At night my family went to the historic part of the city, riding around in a horse drawn carriage.

While in Cartagena I visited an ourdoor aquarium and swam with a dolphin. At night my family went to the historic part of the city, riding around in a horse drawn carriage.

Photo contributed by Makayla Schnaufer

Photo contributed by Makayla Schnaufer

While in Cartagena I visited an ourdoor aquarium and swam with a dolphin. At night my family went to the historic part of the city, riding around in a horse drawn carriage.

In English

Two months was all my brother and I were supposed to spend in Colombia. It was supposed to be a simple summer visiting our dad and stepmom and getting to know our baby sister. Two weeks in though, that changed for me. My fear of the unknown dissolved into excitement. Everything was new, and the language barrier made it so that even going to the grocery store felt like an adventure. I tried my hardest to learn the new language, insisting on ordering my own food at restaurants and talking to the housekeeper as much as possible.

Two weeks into the two months I made the best decision of my life. I called my mom and had a tear-filled conversation, telling her that I would not be returning to the United States at the end of the summer with my brother. I would be staying in Colombia to live with my dad permanently.

That August, when my brother left, my vacation came to an end. I was enrolled in a school and had only one thing to do: learn Spanish. My vocabulary had grown over the summer, but I still had no formal Spanish training and sounded like a kid just learning to talk every time I opened my mouth. People laughed and my confidence shriveled. My learning came to an abrupt halt, and I stopped speaking Spanish altogether. For weeks I spoke only to my family, my best friend Antonia and her family. And only in English.

People would try to communicate with me and even though I normally understood what they were saying, I couldn’t bring myself to reply, fearing that I would say the wrong word or use a verb incorrectly and they would erupt in laughter.

Slowly though, I grew comfortable speaking again, but only around certain people. By the time October came, there were five good friends that I would speak to in Spanish. They would listen and help me when I mispronounced something or put a word in the wrong place.

One day in November was especially hard. My Spanish teacher had called on me and refused to move on until I read the paragraph he had asked me to. My friends explained my fear to him, but he said I needed to move past it. After five minutes of silence I began to read. I sounded like a robot, having to stop and sound out every third word. My friends and teacher supported me, helping me through it as the boys of the class laughed. I could feel hot tears in my eyes, and mid sentence I stopped, stood up and left the room, walking to the elementary side of the school and sitting down on the wet grass.

Two friends followed me, and by the time they caught up, my crying was uncontrollable. I had never felt so embarrassed in my life. I was ready to admit defeat and give up. My friends held my hands and hugged me, urging me to keep trying and moving forward. Soon the entire class joined us on the grass. The boys who had laughed hugged me and offered words of comfort, apologizing, saying they hadn’t realized they were the reason I refused to speak.

I had never experienced this before. In all of my life I had never had this kind of support from people my own age. I had never had so many people telling me that they wanted to help me. That was the moment that I realized that I had been overreacting the whole time. I figured out that the laughter had never been meant to degrade me or make me feel bad. I saw that they all wanted to help me become better at Spanish, and would have if I had just calmed down and asked. In that moment I realized why I had decided to stay. It was for the people and the culture and the massive amounts of kindness that I had never experienced while living in the United States. I stayed because Colombia was, and still is, my home. Yo me quedo en Colombia porque era, y todovía es mi hogar.

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    In+Cartagena+we+walked+to+the+top+of+a+fort+that+was+used+to+defend+the+city+against+pirates.+We+took+this+picture+at+the+top.+The+view+of+the+city+was+gorgeous.+
    In Cartagena we walked to the top of a fort that was used to defend the city against pirates. We took this picture at the top. The view of the city was gorgeous.

    In Cartagena we walked to the top of a fort that was used to defend the city against pirates. We took this picture at the top. The view of the city was gorgeous.

    Photo contributed by Makayla Schnaufer.

    Photo contributed by Makayla Schnaufer.

    In Cartagena we walked to the top of a fort that was used to defend the city against pirates. We took this picture at the top. The view of the city was gorgeous.

    En Español

    Mi hermano y yo solo íbamos pasar dos meses en Colombia. Iba ser un verano simple visitando nuestro papá y madrastra y conociendo nuestra nueva hermanita. Pero después de dos semanas, todo cambió para mi. Mi miedo de las cosas que no conocía cambio por emoción. Todo era nuevo, y la barrera del lenguaje lo hizo todo como una aventura, incluyendo ir al mercado. Traté durísimo de aprender el idioma, insistiendo en ordenar mi propia comida en los restaurantes, y hablando con la ama de casa cada vez que pudiera.

    Dos semanas de los dos meses, yo hice el mejor decisión de mi vida. Llamé a mi mamá y tuve una conversación llena de lágrimas, y dijo que yo no iba a volver a Estados Unidos al fin del verano con mi hermano. Iba a quedarme en Colombia a vivir con mi papá, permanentemente.

    En Agosto, cuando mi hermano se fue, mis vacaciones se acabaron. Mi papá me inscribió en un colegio y solo tenía una cosa que hacer: aprender español. Mi vocabulario habría crecido durante el verano pero todavia no tenia entrenamiento formal en español y sonaba como un niño chiquito, aprendiendo a hablar, cada vez que abría mi boca. La gente se reía y mi confianza desapareció. Mi aprendizaje paro y me deje de hablar en español totalmente. Por semanas yo hablo solo con mi familia, mi mejor amiga Antonia, y su familia, y solo en inglés.

    La gente trataba de hablar conmigo, y muchas veces yo entendía lo que estaban diciendo, pero nunca respondía porque tenía miedo de decir una palabra mal or usar un verbo incorrecto y los otros estudiantes se reían.

    Lentamente, comencé a hablar otra vez, pero solo con un grupo específico de gente. Cuando llegó octubre, tenía un grupo de cinco amigas con los que pudiera hablar español. Ellas mi escucharon, y me ayudaron cuando pronunciaba algo mal.

    Un dia en Noviembre fue especialmente malo. Mi profesor de español me eligió a mi y rehusó seguir con la clase hasta que yo leyera el párrafo. Mis amigas le explicaron mi aprensión, pero el dijo que yo tenía que confrontarla. Después de cinco minutos de silencio, comencé a leer. Soní como un robot, y tenía que parar cada tres palabras para pronunciarlas. Mis amigas y mi profesor me ayudaron, mientras los niños de la clase reían. Podía sentir los lágrimas calientes en mis ojos. En la mitad de una oración, me pare, me levanté, y salí de la clase. Camine hasta en lado primaria del colegio, y me senté en el pasto mojado.

    Dos de mis amigas me siguieron. Cuando me alcanzaron, yo estaba llorando.  Yo me nunca he sentido tan avergonzada. Yo estaba listo para rendirme, y dejar de tratar de aprender. Mis amigas me consintieron, y me regalaron abrazos. Ellas me dijeron que necesitaba seguir tratando. De pronto, todo la clase estaba en el pasto conmigo. Los niños que reían me abrazaron y dijeron que no sabían que ellos eran por que yo no hablaba.

    Yo nunca había experimentado esto. En toda mi vida yo nunca habia tenido este tipo de apoyo de gente de mi edad. Yo nunca habia tenido tanta gente diciendome que me querian ayudar. En este momento me di cuenta que yo estaba exagerando la situación. Aprendí que las risas nunca eran para lastimarme. Vi que todos querían ayudarme a aprender español. Y si yo estuve mas calmada, e hizo preguntas, ellos pudieron ayudarme. En ese momento me di cuenta por que yo tomé la decisión de quedarme. Era por la gente, la cultura, y la amabilidad que yo nunca había experimentado en Estados Unidos. Yo me quede porque Colombia era, y todavía es mi hogar.

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