MEANINGFUL, JOYFUL MOMENTS IN MISSOULA, MONTANA

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Life can be seen through different lenses framing specific moments. There are moments which stop you on your tracks, there are others which fill you with uncertainty and there are many which simply take your breath away. Most of these moments can be “simple”, many can take you through complex, intertwined journeys, others are undecipherable; yet they all lead to reflection. It is precisely some of those meaningful, joyful moments that fill your heart and inadvertently steal a tear, a gasp or a sigh; this is what I experienced in Missoula on the weekend of June 13.

It all started with the usual “Hello, how are you?” “Are you ready?” ” I have many adventures planned for you!” Expectation, curiosity and a bit of anxiety were some of the feelings experienced, especially since this was the first time for me with a host family. Little by little anxiety dissolved and a sense of comfort appeared as we arrived at my host family’s home, let’s be clear, a home and not a house. I was shown my beautifully organized bedroom, the place where I would learn so much.

I will definitely not bore you with all the details and all the wonderful conversations had, as this is a treasure for my heart only; however there are specific learnings I need to share. First, the joys of learning about what happens during the weekend of a US family be it at a skating ring watching families have fun, at a pizza place waiting in line to be seated, during a home cooked meal watching it appear from scratch, at the market talking to different people, at a barbecue understanding social culture, at a community garden tending to plants and understanding the marvels a teacher does for her students, doodling on a piece of paper, on a road trip absorbing the views, camping for the first time at Glacier park, at Long Pass observing the majestic mountains with mountain goats and ground squirrels, the lake, the creek and the snow. Second, the learnings on how diverse people in the United States are and how it is embraced unconsciously, subtly even when history might state it differently. Third, the value of mutual understanding and visualizing similarities and differences among two cultures and concluding that it is not about a country, it is not about the people who live in that country; it is about humanity and how we strive every day to understand the role we need to play to achieve higher goals for everybody.

This has been a weekend of privilege and I feel humbled to see how much family values are appreciated in this country and how all families go to any extent to have important moments together but in addition to make a foreigner feel comfortable and at home. How protection of their resources plays a role in the enjoyment as they work together to maintain spaces that grant comfort and entertainment. I have seen this once more as an example of what we should also value at home, not only our families, but our countries.

After this let’s all feel encouraged to learn and transfer this experience to our homes, our jobs, our countries. Let us be humbled by the amazing views and destinations but above all by the wonderful people we have met this weekend. Let us create a new beginning for those around us and be ambassadors not only of our countries, but also of a new age of caring and compassion for all humanity no matter the country, no matter the race, no matter the culture; let’s embrace our differences and become strong together in our similarities.

Thank you for a great weekend Kim, Lucia and Sloane!

Grazzia Maria Mendoza Chirinos

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