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My Parents Visit Me on My Gap Year

As of yet, I'm the only person in the WorldStamp Gap Year cohort who's had her parents visit us during our volunteer service, and it's been AMAZING! My dad came to visit in India, and my mom just left Guatemala yesterday. I'm really thankful that I chose a Gap Year program which allows my parents to come see the amazing work that we're doing, as well as letting them travel around with us!

In Jaipur, India, I got to take my dad back to all my favorite spots and also explore some new ones! Above is a photo of him at the Birla Temple, which is like a miniature Taj Mahal just 20 minutes away from where we were living! We also went back to the City Palace, rode elephants at the Amber Fort, and ate at some of my favorite authentic Indian restaurants.

When I brought him to meet the Young Dreamers that we worked with, the center's director gave him a little surprise welcome party with traditional treats and a marigold lei. He came with us while we worked on our current volunteer project, which was cleaning up a local park. He jumped right into the work and helped us pick up trash and repaint the walls. He says that he really enjoyed the afternoon of community service, and had fun connected with the Young Dreamers.

My dad came to school with me on his first weekday in India, but he loved it so much that we went back again one more time at the end of his stay. My father said that the experience of seeing me in a completely new role – as a teacher of my own class – was an unforgettable experience and really showed him how much I've grown. In his own words; "She led the class with simple confidence, no gesticulations or bluster, and the girls all were rapt in their attention to her. She spoke to the class in English ... and they responded to her questions in unison. I was amazed! She skillfully transitioned from direct questions - "what color is this?" - "blue!" - to call-and-response, to reading, to showing them pictures on her laptop, to writing out their names in Hindi on the white board, to reciting common English greetings, to (the girls' favorite!) coloring pictures she had outlined for them, each picture pertaining to some aspect of that day's lessons. It was clear that the girls were so eager to learn everything and that Ann was tailoring each next assignment to reinforce that eagerness. I have never been a good teacher myself, so to watch Ann so naturally fall into the roll was a delightful surprise. Parental pride is of course never completely objective, but having been a student for so many years myself, I can tell a natural gift when I see one! The girls all seemed to want to do their best for their teacher, and that experience of loving the learning process is more valuable than any specific lesson. I was sorry to have to leave India after that. I really wanted to stay and see what other surprising things my daughter might do, after seeing how much she had blossomed just two months into the program."

His last night, my dad went out to dinner with our WorldStamp group to an amazing restaurant. We ate authentic Rajasthani food while sitting on floor cushions and watching traditional dances. I'm really grateful that I got to share these amazing experiences with him during my Gap Year!

My mom just finished her visit with me in Guatemala, and it was just as incredible as my visit with my dad. She was only here in Antigua for five days, so I ended up staying in her hotel with her, rather than with my host family 20 minutes away. We had a blast exploring the quaint and beautiful town of Antigua, going to all my favorite restaurants (and some new ones!), exploring the market, finding a hammock for our deck at home, and just relaxing and enjoying a little mother-daughter time.

On Wednesday, my mom and I decided to climb Volcán de Agua. It was an arduous 9-hour hike, but we had incredible views of Guatemala City, Antigua, Pastores, and even the Pacific Ocean! We do a lot of excursions in the WorldStamp Gap Year program, but sometimes there's something one might want to do that the rest of the group doesn't. For me, this was climbing Volcán de Agua, and my mom's visit gave me the opportunity to these sorts of things that I might not have done otherwise.

My mom came to the school that we volunteer tutor at for one of the mornings that she was here, and she really enjoyed meeting all of the adorable kids that we work with, as well as practicing her Spanish with them! She got to practice her Spanish even more when she joined my Spanish class for the afternoon, and my Spanish teacher and I had a blast teaching her new Guatemalan expressions – as well as telling her which words she should not use in Guatemala (every country has its own unique lingo, and Guatemala is no exception!) After Spanish class that day, my host family invited my mom over for a traditional Guatemalan meal. My host family was so excited to meet my mom, and it was really fun for me to see these two different parts of my life come together in the same room!

My mom's visit in Guatemala coincided with our WorldStamp group's weekend excursion to Tikal, so she got to come along too! The trip was incredible; wandering through the jungle, exploring ancient ruins, and learning about the Mayan culture. The most magical moment was when we climbed an incredibly tall ruin, and at the top, suddenly found ourselves above the trees with a staggering view of the jungle stretching untouched to the horizon. I was so grateful that I got to share such an amazing experience with my mom!

I'm incredibly thankful that I chose a Gap Year program which allows my parents to come visit me. I love how their presence helped me look at where we were and the work we were doing with a fresh perspective. I love that their visits shook up my routine and got me to visit new places and to revisit old favorites. Most of all, though, I loved sharing with them both the ordinary and the extraordinary of our daily lives on this Gap Year, and involving them in a new chapter of my life that means so much to me.