The last few days of my journey have not gone as expected. But looking back, I can see how my choices have made all the difference. I woke up on Tuesday, planning to meet with my group and then present on our experiences in the Atlantic Forest. Instead, as soon as I got up, I could tell something was wrong. When I got sick to my stomach a few minutes later, it would have been easy to panic. With Allie bringing me tissues, a glass of water, and my host mom and sister standing by ready to help, I tried not to let fear get the best of me. That was easier said than done, but when Julie and Kirsten arrived later and talked me through it, I mostly succeeded. A few days later, feeling much better and sitting in my hotel room after exploring Foz do Iguaçu, I am starting to see the silver linings.
One thing that traveling without my family and with a large group has forced me to focus on is choices. For me, making choices has never been easy. Whenever I’m with someone else and there’s a decision to be made, I’ll almost always say “whatever you want!” I mean this wholeheartedly. On the rare occasion that I do have an opinion and voice it, at the slightest hint of disagreemen,t I’ll quickly and easily concede. For the most part, it doesn’t bother me. Of course, when I’m alone with my family, it is much easier to ask for something or share my opinion.
Which brings us back to being in Brazil without my family, but with lots of people, and being sick on top of it all. I had a day at home to recover with my host family before we left at 5:45 am to fly to Foz do Iguaçu the next morning. Traveling when healthy can be tiring and stressful, so it wasn’t fun to do it with an upset stomach. When we arrived at the hotel around noon, I chose to spend the day in bed rather than go out to see more of the city. That night, I felt well enough to suggest to my roommates that we walk to find a grocery store. We ended up on an expedition with eleven people determined to shop at a supermarket, and had to use our rudimentary Portuguese to ask for directions to the closest one. Thank you to Lourdes for being the appointed Mom and making sure we didn’t leave anyone behind!
By asking for what I needed, I was able to get food for my recovering stomach and we all had a fun adventure to remember. Being sick forced me to pay attention to my body to know what I could handle and what I truly wanted. It was because I made choices for myself that I was able to have an indescribably wonderful experience at Foz do Iguaçu the next day. Feeling the power of the falls as we sat at the bottom on a motorboat is a moment I am so grateful for- and for every moment and choice that lead me there. I am just starting to learn that maybe it’s okay to make choices based on what I need or want, rather than what others around me do.