Back to

A reflection on my first homestay

The following post was written by Rose on Saturday while we were on our trek from Pachaj to Lago Atitlan. Sorry for the postdating as we have not had WiFi for the last few days. Enjoy!


Hola Todos!

When we first started our homestays in Pachaj, I was initially nervous about living within a family so different from my own.

Although our instructor Nicte was so excited for us to be living with the people of her community, her close friends and relatives, I couldn’t help but worry.

What if we couldn’t communicate with our host families? What if the families didn’t like us? What if my traditional host family didn’t approve of my two mothers, my short hair and androgynous looks and liberal Jewish heritage?

But now, at the tail end of our Pachaj homestays, I can’t believe I was ever so nervous. From the moment my partner and I walked up the drive and through the front gate, we were greeted with tamales and the open arms of Doña Flor, our temporary mom. With her 11 year old son Evan we played Uno and Manotazo and drank sweet corn tea and laughed and laughed. I braided her younger daughter’s hair and washed my clothes in the family Pila, rubbling the fabric against a built-in washboard to clean them. We shared delicious meals and casual small talk and acted like the best of friends after only days.

I remember one night in particular. I had stepped outside to brush my teeth and I glanced up through layers of drying clothes and saw the stars. They were so clear, in Pachaj, so bright and alive without the pollution of a million New York lights. I remember my host siblings joining me outside and me trying my best to point out constellations and explain the mythology behind each one- Cassiopeia, Draco, the Big and Little Dippers, Sirius, the North star.

It seems like such a strange and difficult topic, what with a language barrier between us, but the night is universal.

I had a notebook with a map of the stars and together we matched it to the sky.

I was sad to leave our first homestay behind, to move from a welcoming family into new and uncertain territory. And our trek to lake Atitlan has, so far, been one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever had to do. But at the same time, it’s been one of the most fulfilling. After a long, long day, I can sit down on my sleeping bag and bandage my blisters and look back at the miles and miles we hiked and think ‘I did that.’ I dragged my exhausted and unwilling body up and down mountains until I felt like breaking down and sobbing. But I can safely say that I would’ve turned back and quit if I had done this alone. I only made it because of my group- they constantly asked if I was okay, if i needed water or a break; they carried my stuff when the weight became too much; they encouraged me and chatted with me and kept me going. I can’t thank them enough. Only one more day of trekking-