I was living with a family of five, in a three bedroom, one bathroom house. The walls were made of cement, and fruit flies chased any smell of fruit, which was an everyday snack in the household. The bathroom had wires tied to the shower head encircled with black electrical tape, that even when adjusting it you could be shocked. Not to mention, a never-empty bucket of spare water sitting in the shower for the days the water goes out.
However, within those seemingly empty cement walls there was a power that by just being around it could transform anyone into a better human being and I knew I had to share it.
This isn’t just a house; it is a home, a home worthy of any feature story. I thought to myself, ‘this house could never be featured in a magazine by the way it looks…but what if I could show what is really inside this home?’ I thought we could all afford to learn and inherit another kind of behavior to fill our big fancy houses, which seem so empty in reality.
Within this small-packaged home were stories filled with laughter, and continual happiness portrayed by the lack of frowns anywhere near any of them. Every person inside the home was loved and they knew it. Losing hope was not an option because they had each other, and family was all that mattered to them.
The Mom, Dad, and daughters all had a part in preparing the meals every day, which were all done while smiling and dancing to the lyrics Sofi would sing to them. Every family member sat down at the kitchen table together for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and at dinner is where I learned the most. Only after the last person had finished eating, would anyone wrap up his or her conversations and stories. No one was bored, or unhappy during dinner, they only felt loved and appreciated for the hard work they put into the world that day.
I was surprised by my sister Sofi, a 4-foot-5-inch fifteen-year-old girl. The lessons she could teach someone by just being around her was inconceivable. She was an undercover genius. Every night she would sit down at the dinner table and study her notes for the exam she had the next morning, which seemed to me she had an exam every school day for the entire three weeks I was there. The family all praised her for the grades she brought home proving she was well capable of making it in this world on her own.
My Mother and Father would come home from work and smile, with no complaints about the day or what they had to do. Only I noticed their physical limitations. My host Mom had a little bit of a limp, and she had problems with her right knee, which made sense, when I learned that she had to walk around all day for work. Her job was to survey houses for the 2012 census that sometimes she said she would come across a house of 15 people. One week I was there she told me she had to meet her 70 houses a week demand. The last week I was there she even apologized for missing breakfast because she was helping her friends finish their quota for the job, even though she had already finished hers.
Manuel only rubbed his back, which I collected, comes from the long hours of driving their family van every day. This family van also serves as a school bus during the week. Waking up at five every morning to miss breakfast with his family, which in itself proves dedication, Manuel drives his tiny bus with inadequate seatbelts to pick up kids for school. Most of these kids he picks up don’t have any other means of getting to school, and if it weren’t for the van he luckily owns, Manuel and some children’s lives could be put on hold. On the weekends Manuel serves the family van as a tour bus, which looks identical to the other million tourism vans you would see driving down the streets of San Jose. Manuel never complained when he got home, he just felt lucky enough to pick up that one tourist, to earn maybe an extra ten dollars that day for his family.
Their jobs obviously take a toll on them both physically and mentally, and not withholding, the emotional payment their titles bring. We can learn a lot from Vanessa (my Host mom) who takes care of hundreds of children as an elementary teacher and still finds time to walk miles working for the Census on the side. The dedication of Manuel bringing kids back and forth to school who don’t have other means of getting there, deserves a standing ovation. These people, even after all their hard, and sometimes excruciating days at work, still looked forward to dinner because they knew their family would all be together and they would have each other’s back. Nothing but stories and laughter packed the room to fill ones thoughts with pleasant and hopeful dreams before bed.
I was living in the present, and I was noticing the details. Every morning that I woke up I would notice something different. My favorite was having our front and back door always left open leading to the beautiful nature outside. The ant infestation that used to bother me when I moved in was no longer an issue as I focused on the butterflies posing as the natural home décor instead. I didn’t care about the lack of air conditioning either; I could now appreciate the smell of the banana tree outside my window. Most importantly though, I forgot why I had ever been anxious in the first place. I could now hear the birds chirping, the squirrels dancing, and the sounds of salsa music playing from the neighbor’s house. Everything here had made me aware, and I only felt one feeling when I entered the front door, a never-ending supply of love.