Spotlight: Last day in San Mateo

I have avoided writing this blog because I knew it would be hard — to relive the day, to see pictures of the kids, to once again feel all of the love in that little house. It would mean that I am accepting closure, that I am acknowledging the end of my travels. That now, I am sitting around filling out temp agency applications instead of making sand castles in the Caribbean. But having been home for a week, it’s time to embrace the time-honored cliché:  All good things, especially the best things, must come to an end.

My last chicken bus ride was a poor sampling  Hoping to show my parents what I have been talking about, you know — deafening reggaeton, wheels falling off, engine stalling, packed house, pick-pocketers — I was disappointed when the bus was half full and fully functioning. Now that both Chris and my parents have enjoyed calm, safe, comfortable chicken bus rides, my credibility is starting to feel questionable.

The only thing wrong with the bus ride was me.  I rode the entire way in a daze, going over in my head what I wanted to say (in Spanish) and prepping myself for goodbyes. Leaving the kids, Juan and Judith, and my life in San Mateo was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Luckily, Juan and Judith made my last day as upbeat and positive as possible with games, s’mores, and lots of dancing.

Juan and Judith shared kind, eloquent words and then the kids got in a long line and each handed me a note coupled with a big hug.  Then of course, it was my turn to speak.  It is hard to be articulate in Spanish when you’re choking back tears, but I did my best to express to Juan, Judith, the kids, and the other volunteers that they have changed my life, that in three short months I have learned so much—

— to approach every opportunity with an open heart and an open mind —

— to live simply, and to appreciate the beauty in simplicity —
— to always be prepared for tomorrow —
— to live not solely for yourself, but also for those you love —
I don’t know where my future will take me, but one thing is certain: I will be back to San Mateo.  I will once again laugh and cry under that worn tin roof.  And I will be at home.
Del cielo cayó una rosa
Mi madre la recogió
Se la pusó en el cabello
Y que linda se miró

Published by

Kate Springer

Freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong. Contributor at CNN, Forbes Travel Guide, BBC Travel, Fodor's Travel Guide, superfuture, Tatler, and more.

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: Last day in San Mateo”

  1. Last Thursday, I choked back tears while speaking in broken Spanish in San Mateo. I was on the last day of volunteering for Constru Casa for two weeks. I will never forget San Mateo. I got to your blog post through Googling San Mateo – and found your thoughts similar to mine. Thanks for the pictures and eloquent expression.

    1. Dear Jerry: So sorry I didn’t see this comment until now. Just wanted to say thank you for the note. It makes me really happy to know that my thoughts hit home with you. San Mateo is an incredibly special place, and I feel lucky to have been a part of the projects there. I hope you get to visit Guatemala again soon!

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