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I Had Been Looking Forward To Summer

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I had looked forward to the sun, to sitting at the park eating strawberries and drinking some wine. Even more than this, I had been looking forward to going home. Very few people understand the absence of a home when you live in a foreign country. Everything around you reminds you of how different everything is from what you are used to. I have lived in many places, I have had to leave many lives behind, and I learned to create my own home, but nothing can replace where you grew up, and nothing and no one can replace your parents, your brother or your family.

I was born in Bolivia and from very early on, my family and I moved from city to city. When I was 12, we moved to Peru where I lived for three years. Afterwards, we moved quite some kilometres north, to Nicaragua. When I graduated from high school I moved to St. Augustine Florida, to study and start my dream-seeking journey. After I graduated in 2007, economy was bad and finding a job as a journalist in the U.S. was difficult, especially for someone who wasn’t American. The recession had hit, and I threw myself into three different waitressing jobs to save money and later move to the Netherlands to continue studying, hoping that life in this European country would be better.

Each month that has gone by since I moved to Amsterdam has made me feel more nostalgic and impatient. Earlier this year, experiencing the horrible weather and dealing with long working hours, studying and writing my thesis made me feel ever more lonely and further away from home. It had been more than two years since the last time I had been in Bolivia. This waiting time was filled with sadness and anxiousness, because my dad has been very ill for a really long time. He had surgery last year, and since then has been struggling to get better. Two weeks before my departure I learned he had been in the hospital. He had fallen, and had had internal bleeding. He needed blood transfusions. Hearing bad news over the phone is nerve-racking, and knowing that you are so far away makes matters worse. I was not there to help, to do something. There was only so much I actually knew.

I couldn’t wait to be home. I couldn’t wait to be where I belong, where I feel loved and welcomed. Mostly, I couldn’t wait to be by my father’s side. When the plane arrived in my city, Sucre, I felt overwhelmed and scared. My father managed to get to the airport to welcome me. My heart stopped when I saw him. It seemed as if he had aged 20 years in my absence. He was pale, wrinkled and white haired. I had never seen him look so fragile. He could barely walk. I could see he was in pain. He had made that effort to see me, and I made the effort not to cry, not to break.

When I was little, it seemed like my dad knew everything and could do anything. He was strong, smart and brave. He would lift me up, scared my monsters away, read for me at night. He has given me some of the most important lessons and prepared me to stand on my own and never settle for less than I deserve. He taught me to pursue perfection, and to be the best at everything I do. The older I got, the more I got to know him, and the more I respected him. He is the kind of person who was always active. He went for runs, and took his bike to work (sure for Dutch people this seems normal, but not in Bolivia). He played football on the weekends. When we lived in Peru he learned how to play a new instrument, and dance. He even defeated one of his deepest fears and learned how to swim at age 42.

It was a big shock to see what the past couple of years have done to his health, and sadly to his spirit. Some days it seemed like the father I knew had ceased to exist. I talked to a man full of disappointment and frustration. He wishes he was better, but his body has betrayed him. He can’t sport, work or do what he used to.

Spending time with my dad, made me take a look at my own life. I will be 27 later this year, and I feel that I have failed to be the person that I thought I could be. I thought I would be successful, that I would be making films, documentaries, having my photos exhibited at museums. I have given up so much to be so far away from the people I love, that I have to wonder whether being a server at a hotel is really worth it (this was certainly not my dream, but one has to make a living and so far this has been my only option). We think we have all the time in the world, but we don’t. We are unaware of how long we can rely on our bodies. I’m no longer going to sit at home waiting for things to happen the way I want them to happen. I need to seize the day.

However, I have also realized how easily everything can be over and I have made it a rule to enjoy something each day, because I should not dwell on the past for ever, and I can’t worry about the future all the time. From eating a piece of chocolate to stepping outside to take some photos, to having friends over for a movie, I have to learn to enjoy every little good thing life has to offer. Even when home is not Amsterdam, I need to use the opportunities available to me, because if not, I will have failed.

The weeks spent at home, with my loved ones, put things in perspective. Family is important, friends are important. We need to use our time wisely, because we don’t know how much time we have. What happened yesterday can’t be fixed or changed. All we have is the now, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. We should not take our lives for granted.

Photo © Andrea Huls

 

Andrea

AndreaAndrea loves photography, filmmaking and writing. She dreams about travelling the world and learning new things. Inspired by strong driven people, she aims to be one too.

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