I remember when I went home last. It was a little over a month ago. I spent the last week in the country I now call home preparing for all the usual questions and comments: “Do you live in the jungle?” “How do you deal with all the spiders and snakes?” “Cold showers?! I could not LIVE!” “I bet the food is super spicy! Do you like it?” “Honestly Erin, I don’t know how you do it.”
I always answer smiling through my teeth with the most patience I can possibly muster. “No, I actually live in a city”. “There are of course spiders – there are spiders everywhere all over the world. I’ve only ever seen one snake – I’ve seen more here in Wooster, Ohio.” “I’m pretty sure we are super privileged to have hot showers in the United States anyway, most of the world takes cold showers. Plus, it’s not that bad because it’s really hot at times. You get used to it.” “There is of course some spicy foods but it’s not a huge thing here. You’re thinking of Mexico”. At the end of each answer, I usually trail off into some uncomfortable laughter to maintain the lighthearted vibe that my family member was trying to create with the question.
There are never any questions about my students, my classroom, the school, or just anything positive about the community I live in in general. Everything is focused on “Those poor kids. Bless their hearts”. Just a small comment to prove their “sympathy” to my students’ real-life hardships and makes themselves feel better about being so damn privileged. And when I feel like I’m really being listened to for once, and I try to dive in deeper, someone cuts me off and starts on another subject. My life and what I’m doing is not important because I’m far away. I’m an outcast of sorts. I am a 25-year-old unmarried, non-religious, not settled-down liberal. I’m the literal complete opposite of the majority of my family.
I was inspired to write this because my sister just got engaged. She is the last one in the family of the kids, aside from me, to move onto that journey. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly happy for her. She deserves this. But now, when I go home, I’ll be the outcast again. I’ll be completely ignored while everyone talks about wedding plans and their “normal” jobs. I’ll be the only “single” one in the family celebrations. I’ll be asked the same questions by the same people just like the year prior, and I’ll answer the same questions through my fake smile while I think about how much I want to return to Honduras to escape the awkward shallow conversations and general disinterest in my life.
I don’t expect people to understand what I’m really doing here – I just wish they would at least try to.