By Jakeline Arango, Guatemala
I used to encourage everybody to embrace new things, but I did not realize that I was not the most honest preacher of that philosophy. If a couple of months ago I had told my friends I was going to spend a few weeks in a place where I would run into a rattle snake during an afternoon walking under a 100 degrees’ sun, they would had laughed of me.
During my fellowship as part of the Professional Fellows Program, I was assigned to Tucson, Arizona, and I have to be honest to say that when I realized about the temperature over there during those days I was not the most thrilled. In my defense, I came from a place in the western highlands of Guatemala, where we call summer to a couple of days of 71 degrees.
Nevertheless, the enriching experience in Tucson went beyond what I thought. I really don’t know if it was because of the beautiful landscapes, the amazing natural diversity this place hosts, or the kindness of Tucsonians, but heat was the last thing I had in mind during my time in this city. Tucson easily grew on me. A simple hike to the Tumamoc hill showed me one of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen, and if that was not enough, a couple of hours later of that same day I was lucky enough to contemplate a gigantic ‘harvest moon’, as the Tohono O’odham, native people of those lands, call the full moon. I have learned about the historical mixture of all the cultures in this city, though it was inevitable to focus on Latin heritage while I was spending September there, a month full of celebration for Mexicans and Central American people. You easily forget about borders while you smell familiar spices during lunch, or hear a couple of Spanish words in a Spanglish conversation during a work meeting.
As a professional I gained a lot having the incredible team at the Office of Economic Initiatives of the City of Tucson invested in sharing with me their experience, contacts and making me part of every activity they had as if I were one of them. It was inspiring seeing three women at front of an important rising effort for small business owners. I felt a lot of familiarity with the work they do, which gave me the opportunity to put into perspective what I am doing back in my country and brainstorm a lot of ideas I hope I could share with my colleagues once I return. However, one of the warmest memories I am going to hold in my heart is the everyday small gestures of them procuring hospitality to me, smiling passers-by at the street saying good morning, ready to help me, and all those humble people thanking the bus driver in every stop.
I found out that changes are easy when you choose them and they are smooth when you are the one who paces those changes, but when life surprises you with some things that were not part of your comfort zone, you are being awarded with a unique opportunity of discovering a whole new world, and those are the most meaningful experiences you might get in life.
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.