I am overthinking things and so maybe blogging about it will help. I experienced three trips as a kid that were life changing for me: There are so many details of these experiences that are burned into my memory and that have shaped my worldview.
My first trip out of the country was when I went with my Dad to Mexico. My parents were in the process of adopting my sister Maria. We stayed in the home of the Grimaldos, a family who lived in Puebla. Everything was new and exciting to me. Sister Grimaldo gave me my first avocado that she had picked from their own trees with my eggs. They had dogs on their roof. I had never been in a Catholic Church, etc. I like to look at my journal during that trip and see how I was making sense of things.
The second trip was also with my Dad. We went to Barranquilla, Colombia during a different adoption. This time my parents were not adopting a baby, but three children and so it was a very different experience. I connected with all of them, but especially my sister Maura, who was the youngest. The moment I met my sister Maura, I loved her. One of my most vivid memories was going with them to a beach. It was nothing like the beaches I had seen in California. The sand was black, probably from volcanic rock. There were palapas. We ate fish off the bone. It was a good day. It was a better day than when we left for the airport. I can’t imagine how confusing it was for these three kids. At the airport, my brother Carlos threw a tantrum and took off all his clothes. There was so much going on. I wish I had journaled during that trip. I wonder what I would know if I had.
My third trop was when I was sixteen. I saved my money for over a year so that I could go on a five-week trip to Europe. It was part of a group of about 20 people, mostly other adolescents. I am sure my parents assumed it would be a supervised trip, but really there was almost no supervision. It was very fun. We stayed in apartments and youth hostels and some hotels. We went to England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden (and probably others, but I’d have to refer to my journals to be sure). My sixteen-year-old brain did things like run into the Louvre museum to quickly snap a picture of the Mona Lisa and then left because we wanted to meet up with some local people we had just met. I joined a pool hall in Bern, Switzerland, etc. If I could go back there now, I would do it differently, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing.
So now, I have Maura’s son here with me in Mexico for five weeks. I want so intensely for this to be a life changing experience for him. I still love my sister and I could not love her perfect son more. I need to be careful with this desire and not overthink it. I need to remember that a 14 year old coming to stay with his uncle is not a graduate student coming on a cultural immersion program. I do want him to learn though. I do want him to journal and blog because I know my journals helped me remember the things I learned on my trips. I am going to ask my Dad what he hoped for me when he took me on those trips. I am sure he did make an itinerary and give me homework assignments. I was a weird kid and just randomly journaled. I loved that my first trips outside the United States were not tourist trips and we met local people. I loved that we stayed with the Grimaldos. In Denmark I met a girl who became my penpal for years after. I want that for Shareef. He told me the first day that it did not seem that different here from Portland. On the one hand, I think that is an important thing to learn. On the other hand, I think I need to help him see the differences more too. That said, this is me checking myself. I was learning a lot even when it might not have been obvious. I am just going to love my nephew and trust that he is taking it all in and making meaning in ways. Still, I can’t help it. I am going to make him blog.