“Mission CA” was an unforgettable and wonderful experience for me. Since the very beginning of this journey I knew we were privileged to go on this trip. The experience and knowledge I acquired while on the mission are so valuable to me. I loved and enjoyed every single detail; everything was new to me, but I learned to not be afraid of new things. I truly am thankful for this amazing journey we got to travel.
We were eleven students, and each of us was received by a host family. My host family was excellent. I don’t mean to brag about them, but their hospitality towards me was far better than I’d ever imagined. They were Mexican-American, so the environment at home was very Latino, and that helped me not to feel far from home. Since the very first day they were very warm with me; they were kind, friendly and loving. When I left their home, I felt really sad; even though we only spend four days together, I felt a little piece of them stayed with me. Mexico and Honduras have a lot in common, and I was a little bit worried I had nothing new to share; but there was not a single time they didn’t like to listen to me talk about my country. They asked me even the tiniest fact and I loved to see that they were intrigued by the story. The time I spent with them was very special for me; as it was the first time I stayed out of my house. I learned from this experience that you will always find people who accept you and open their arms towards you. I have no complaints about staying with a host family.
We visited Sonoma Academy, which was a private academy in Santa Rosa, California. This school was a whole new level. It was amazing; kids there were able to take really advanced classes. The first class we went to was robotics, and the students were actually building robots. I loved that each classroom was equipped specifically for the corresponding class. One day I went to Oceanology class, and I got a huge surprise when I walked in the classroom; it had marine animals everywhere! The school was big; by the last day I still was able to get lost in it. The most valuable takeaway from Sonoma Academy I would like to share at IBSC is acceptance towards others and equality between the students. During the time I spent at Sonoma Academy, everyone seemed to be themselves. All the students dressed like they wanted, with their own style. I saw different styles; rockers, hipsters, girly, etc, and they all seemed to be comfortable with themselves and around their peers and teachers. The students didn’t seem to be worried about what the rest of the people would say or if their friends wouldn’t accept them. I also noticed that everyone knew everyone. I was able to talk with some students about the student life is at Sonoma Academy, and none of them denigrated other students. While I was at volleyball I saw that they all helped each other. One would give tips to another and if one failed or fell, the others cheered that person up. No one made a rude face, commented or stared at the fallen one. This environment was something so nice; I felt so comfortable playing volleyball even though I know I’m not good at it.
I must confess that before coming on this trip I believed North Americans didn’t have culture; now my mind has changed. I liked walking around San Francisco and feeling the entire world in a single city; every time I looked somewhere I saw people from different places of the world. The thing I liked the most about the North American culture was exercise. I am not a fan of sports, I don’t know anything about sports, but while I was in California I was tempted to try some of them. I really enjoyed bike riding at the park. It was my first time on a bike, so I rode a tandem bike with Ms. DeLeuw; she was one of our amazing guides. While I was riding I questioned myself why I hadn’t learned before. I loved a lot of places around San Francisco, but I have no doubt my favorite place was the park. Ms. DeLeuw told me that on Sunday families and friends gather up to share lunch. I loved to see so many things going on and people enjoying the moment, I loved that everyone seemed to be doing stuff they liked. The park had a lot of small plazas; in one of them people were having jazz classes, in another one people were doing karaoke, and so on. We had lunch there; we sat in the grass, ate sandwiches made by ourselves, and saw the best performance I’ve ever seen. In front of us there were skaters from all ages; little kids, teenagers, and grownups. That moment was so magical and almost perfect I wish cameras could stop moments and keep us trapped there.
I had a lot of fears before this trip, but thanks to God, I came back with none of them. First of all, it was my first time on a plane. People from Honduras can be so exaggerated; everyone told me I was going to feel my stomach drop and that my ears were going to hurt so much I would need to go to a hospital. Well, none of that happened; actually I loved being on the plane, it was so beautiful and satisfying. I loved seeing the clouds, the ocean, and lights of the cities. I was also afraid of not being able to speak fluent English; I was truly terrified that if I had a conversation I would’ve got tongue-tied and I wouldn’t be able to keep talking. I was frightened of being discriminated by my nationality; like for example, me being at a store and someone wanting me outside of it. I am glad none of that happened either. I was even told I had a good accent and people were really curious when I told them I was from Honduras.
San Francisco was so beautiful, now I understand why many movies’ stories take place there. I loved being a tourist in San Francisco. People everywhere were nice, and when I told them I was foreign, they were even nicer to me. I must admit I had a lot of trouble with the coins. I hated when the stores gave me the prices with coins. I know I made a lot of dumb faces when paying, so I had to explain I wasn’t American. This trip was wonderful, and now, not only am I not afraid of traveling, I even love it. I learned so much from this experience. I learned to be more open- minded; in my life I will find people with other beliefs and customs, and I would need to appreciate them the way I was appreciated in San Francisco. This trip taught me something so important I finally learned by myself: life is not what you are wearing; life is the beautiful places, the amazing people and nice moments we have every day. I visited California, I was in many cities and loved every single one of them, but there is no doubt I left my heart in San Francisco.
Ana Maria Aguilar