Night before leaving for community training, we [volunteers] gathered together at the local colmado for one last night of dancing and fun before the two groups (Education and Youth Development) separated for community based training. The night was full of music and dancing, laughs, dominoes, hugs, and well wishes.
Arriving to Peralvillo per private guagua with my 14 other Education volunteers, the nerves really set in. We were brought to the community center in this pueblito hauling our months worth of stuff each of us packed, to find the community center full of Donas waiting for our arrival. 14 Donas ranging in everything from height, to age, to size, to color… As I was scanning my potential Donas-to-be, I saw this really young woman sitting there quietly, holding a baby that was asleep on her shoulder and I knew… this is my Dona. Then we were called to meet our new Dona’s in reverse alphabetical order, and sure enough I was right.
Let me just say, after a month of living with this family, I couldn’t imagine living with any other family in Peralvillo. They were amazing, loving, young, accommodating, and so nice. My Dona, Denny, was 21 and lived with her 9 month baby, my host brother Freiklyn and her husband Freilyn who worked at the local politics level. He was the treasurer, from what I gathered from our conversations. They both identify as Evangelical’s, but are more modern than most. At first I was a tad nervous living with not only a young Dona, but also a 9 month old baby… but boy was it fun!
First of all, he is adorable (Dios lo bendiga) and has so much personality. He was in love with my light colored eyes and always tried to either poke them out with his fingers or put his mouth on them and eat them. He was a crawling machine and pulled himself up on everything. He loved to stand on the plastic chairs and shake them back and forth, as if he were causing an earthquake. Many times when I would carry him, people who think he was my child because “él es rubio como tú” (he’s blonde/lighter like you). Towards the end of my month there, I was accustomed to know that a burp meant throw up quickly followed, that if you say “applauso al nino” he’ll clap his hands, all of his tickle spots, how to comfort him when he’s upset, and to know that he loves being rocked to sleep in the rocking chair.
My relationship with my Don and Dona was so open and amazing. While they didn’t personally go to dance, the brothers of my Dona took me dancing and around the town of Peralvillo. We had open discussions about religion versus believing, about people who are gay, and politics… things I never dreamed I would be able to talk about or contribute to a conversation. My Dona helped me practice my Spanish and learn new words – she would correct me if I didn’t use the right form of the verb or couldn’t find the word. My Dona had become one of my very best friends, and still is to this day. I love her and her family with all of my heart and I am so grateful they were/are my family. All in all I couldn’t imagine a better family that looked after me so extensively, and always treated me like their own daughter.
On departure day my Dona, Don, now 10-month-old host brother, and neighbor Chila walked me to the community center and we said our tearful goodbyes. I was surprised by how strongly I felt for these people and how much they could mean to me after only living there for a month. We had a small gathering the night before we all left with the entire group of Dons and Doñas and afterwards, there was another party at my house full of people I had come to call and consider family: host uncles and their families, neighbors, friends, great uncles, cousins.