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Latin America Jamila Dispatch

Jamila Says Goodbye

I waited anxiously at the airport, hoping that there would be no room left on my standby flight back to Los Angeles. Then, they called my name over the crackling loudspeaker. "Senorita Banks, hay lugar en este vuelo, pase." It was real. I was going back to Cali. This was the part of the trek I was dreading the most - saying goodbye. Next week, I have to go back to my "real job" - teaching. My first and second grade students will be returning from their vacations.

I got on the plane, packed with Americans, and culture shock slowly began to settle in. After speaking and hearing Spanish for the past two months, hearing the chatter of English for five hours was not music to my ears. Watching the cheesy in-flight movie (I won't mention any names) brought back memories of long bus rides in Mexico(where I got to see plenty of cheesy movies). As we descended from the sky, I could see the brown haze of my lovely city - this was when I knew I was home.

Jamila in San Francisco just before beginning of the Trek

I was excited to see my family. (When I arrived at the front door, I got a great, big "mama hug.") As the afternoon continued, my day became very depressing. All I could think of was how much I was going to miss sharing such a wonderful experience with the team and visiting such interesting communities. I remembered the first day in San Francisco when I met Monica, Abeja, Kavitha, and Shawn for the first time. It seemed like it was years ago. It is amazing how close you can become to people whom you barely know in such a short period of time. Family is one of the most important aspects of my life, and after having traveled with the team for nearly two months, I felt like they had become a part of my family.

I have so many wonderful memories of the team that I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. I recall shaking in my boots as I walked down a dark highway at two a.m. with Monica. I think of about the time Kavitha and I racked our brains for the Janet Jackson songs we used to listen to in college. I remember complaining with Shawn about how difficult it was to sleep in contortionist positions on buses designed for people under 5' 5" - for forty-four hours. I envision Abeja and I striking poses in front of statues on Guatemala's busiest street, Reforma, while people drove by, stared and laughed.

Jamila and a friend she made in Mexico

On a more serious note, what I will cherish most are the relationships that were built between the team and the communities of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Learning the history and present challenges of the indigenous people who live in these regions and sharing their stories with you reaffirmed for me the importance of being an advocate for change. Taking time to listen to the personal stories that people carry in their hearts has been a powerful experience.

This trek has taught me that when people share a common vision, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic background, that vision can become reality. Each member of our team is unique and what makes it so beautiful is that we are all working for the same goal--peace and justice for the world. We appreciate all of you for sharing this vision with us.

This is a poem I would like to dedicate to the students who are following the team. My mother gave me this poem for my birthday and it has had a positive impact on my life. I hope it does the same for you.

Do more than exist--live
Do more than touch--feel
Do more than look--observe
Do more than read--absorb
Do more than hear--listen
Do more than think--ponder
Do more than talk--say something

John H. Rhoades

Although I will be away from the team for a while, I will be with them in spirit. Kevin is our newest team member and will be my replacement while I'm gone. He's a great guy who's full of life and positive energy! Watch out world, here he comes!

Try one thing for me. Make a new friend today while you're at school. Say hello to someone you've never said hi to before. It can be a student, custodian, teacher, cafeteria worker, or anyone you like (Make sure you smile, J). This is what life is about, building peaceful relationships. It is amazing what we can learn from one another when we take time out to speak and listen. Now I will join the ranks of teachers who are following The Odyssey World Trek with their classrooms. Watch out team, my kids are going to be sending in lots of questions! Feel free to continue keeping in touch, Jamila Banks.


P.S. Shhh, don't tell them, I'm going to try to surprise them in Peru!

Jamila - Jamila Plays with Barbies!
Jamila - Jamila Plays With Barbies! (kids' version)
Abeja - Historical Headway: Let the Tragic Truth Be Told
Team - CIA Uncovered
Monica - Making a Difference
Abeja - Carrying Jesus
Kavitha - Deep in the Rainforest

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