By Macala Elliott, 2014 Houston Chapter Participant – Madriz, Nicaragua

There is a corner of my mind that is always living in the past. What once was the present unravels in hazy flashes, but one moment, a seemingly insignificant moment, continues to be unmistakably clear. I’m sitting in a beat-up red van, sweltering in my Amigos polo and feeling quite out of place. I have yet to discover the power that this little blue polo shirt will afford me, the pride that encompasses you when you realize you are a part of something bigger than your small and secure life in the United States. As I watch the countryside of Nicaragua pass in a burst of orange flowers and roaming livestock, I couldn’t feel farther from home. But I didn’t know that within six short weeks, this foreign country, would become my home. I didn’t know that the first day I walked into my host mother, Andrea’s, kitchen would be the moment when I let go of my rushed and easy lifestyle in Houston and welcomed in the beautiful slow way of life of San Juan de Somoto. The riveting and genuine conversations over countless cups of coffee, and the hundreds of pastries I received with pride from my family, would come to make up some of my happiest moments. I didn’t know that my routine walking routes throughout community, weighed down by the small hands of children clutching at my arms, would become the echo of giggles and games I hear when I look at my photos alone. I didn’t know that I could be happy anywhere but where I was comfortable and accepted without a glance. I realized how meaningful my relationship with the local youth and the community members was when I was given the responsibility of personally becoming the individual I am meant to be. When it was time to leave my new family and life behind in San Juan de Somoto, I wore my Amigos polo with pride. I came to find that, against all odds, I became the best version of myself in that small community of 400, and that the people I met would change my life for the better. “Hay Más Tiempo Que Vida.”