“Cultural exchange”, what does it mean? Trying new foods? Speaking a different language? Bowing instead of bear hugs? Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to take five of our youth to Lago de Yajoa to meet up with students from the Learn, a school in Lydonville, Vermont who had come down to build a playground for a school in the area.
Yahoa is the largest lake in all of Honduras and truly one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we had the joy of spending two days together at the property of one of the Learn teachers. While the weekend was filled with tremendous food, camp fires, tents, and a strange singing parrot named Sofia, more than all of that was the chance to interact and share our different cultures.
Time and time again I am reminded (forcefully more often than not,) that we are all…. humans. We all possess the same emotions, the same hopes, the same fears, the same struggles. Watching the youth interact gave me hope that we could understand that on a greater level. Many times we fear or mistrust a culture or people that we don’t understand or are not accustomed to, and out of that mistrust, that misunderstanding, out of that fear comes confusion and conflict where there needn’t be. The youth from here in Copán spoke very little English and those from Learn spoke very little Spanish, yet all were still able to interact, were able to communicate, they were able to share themselves with each other. We have bonds, everyone of us: everyone eats, music is always music, kicking a ball around is the always same whether it’s called fútbol or soccer, and a smile… is always a smile (unless it’s a grin.)
As always with the life lessons, this made me think of God and how frustratingly sneaky he is. For at the beginning of this trip I did not by any stretch of the imagination have these thoughts, to be honest I thought that the whole thing was a bit of a fiasco. But God moves, God teaches, and now I know that this trip could not have been anything else than what it was, and that was perfection. What will happen in life is a glorious mystery that we have been graced with. It is the beautiful knowledge that there is invariably an unexpected sorrow, unexpected joy, and unexpected understanding around ever corner. Without it, that smile given at the dinner table, that passed soccer ball, that hug between new friends at the end of a weekend away, they would mean little. What perfect mystery.
“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen” Paulo Coelho.