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Me llamo Benjamin

Benjamin Washer ‘17 — To be able to write about one thing that happened on our trip to Ecuador is close to impossible.  There are so many things that have stood out to me on this trip.  I’m sure many other people in this situation would write about the delicious and exotic food, or the fantastic views that were presented before their eyes, or the incredible fiesta thrown by the denizens of San Clemente and the generosity and friendliness exhibited by their host families.

It is true that these experiences were all wonderful and worthy of writing about, but I wish to tell a different story.  During our stay in San Clemente I found that my host family consisted of Señora Rosita, her husband, their fifteen-year-old son and their nine-year-old daughter Kalina (which I did not know at the time).

Benjamin Washer '17

Benjamin Washer ’17

My host family was very generous and friendly and treated us as their own.  That is, everyone except Kalina.  She almost never smiled and almost never spoke (but when she did it was in the tiniest voice ever; if you didn’t strain your ear you would’ve have missed what she said).  Based on the pictures that hung about the house, I could tell she was not the smiling type.

Despite my best efforts at child friendly goofiness, I could not get her to smile (and barely even to speak).  Most of the evening remained this way.  After dinner she quietly led us to the village center hall for our evening fiesta and even politely gestured for me to dance though she maintained her introverted nature.

After the fiesta, our group headed back to the house.  On the way back, I noticed that little Kalina had fallen back a short ways as the others moved ahead, so I stayed back with her.  In the quietness of the evening. I asked her in my limited Spanish:
“Como estas? ”
She replied in a very small voice:
“Bien.”
I then introduced myself:
“Me llamo Benjamin.”
“Kalina.”

We continued walking.  I noticed that for the past few minutes little Kalina had her arms folded close to her body and so I asked her:
“Tu frio?”
“Si.”

At that moment I took my sweatshirt (which I was not using because my host family gave me a very warm poncho to wear) and placed it around her shoulders.  At first she gave no response, but I made a gesture indicating that she put her arms through the sleeves.  It was then that she covered herself with my sweatshirt and cracked the first smile I had ever seen from her.  We then walked the rest of the way back to the house in silence.

When we got back she handed me my sweatshirt, thanked me and then went to bed.  The next morning she said goodbye to me as she went off to school and that was the last I ever saw of her.
It’s funny how we get attached to certain people.  We were told that we were adopted by our host families, but I adopted Kalina as my new little sister.  To be able to keep her warm as the family did me and to be able to make her smile gave me great joy.  Even though I will probably never see her again just having had the chance to meet her was more than enough for me and gave me something worth writing about.