Most of my students know I’ll be leaving next year, and that I’ll be going to Guatemala. Sometimes they ask me, “But don’t you like Puerto Rico?” I answer, “I LOVE Puerto Rico!” And then they ask, “But won’t you miss us?” I tell them, “Of course I will.” And then their next question, inevitably, is, “So why are you leaving, then?” I tell them I want to see more of the world, experience a different culture. It’s true, of course, but it always feels a little bit like the prescribed answer of what I’m “supposed to” say. In reality, I’m leaving in order to better myself professionally at a school where I’ll have more opportunities to grow as a teacher—and I’ve very excited about that. But the prospect of leaving Puerto Rico really does weigh on me some nights.
I lay in bed sometimes, listening to the sounds through my window—the coquís singing, the steady flow of cars on the freeway (with the occasional burst of loud music coming from one of them), cows baying across the street, that bird that sort of sounds like an owl—and I think about the fact that next year I’ll be living in the middle of an urban metropolis. The chances of hearing birds and cows will probably be remote, and the chance of coquís nonexistent.
Sometimes I step outside at night in Guayama and look up at the stars. And I take a moment to take them all in, because I know that the sight of them too will probably be gone from my daily life next year.
I take special pleasure, these days, in going on a walk or a run and seeing the Caribbean Sea’s blue hue in the distance, in rounding the corner and glancing up at the mountains. When I decide, on a Sunday afternoon, that a few hours at the beach sounds nice, and I hop in my car and am sitting on the sand fifteen minutes later, I think about how different life will be next year.
And as I drive through the mountains, or hike through the forests, or, like a few weeks ago, stand at the top of an observation tour and look out over the island, glimpsing the blue of the coastline both to the north and to the south, I relish in that. I appreciate it fully.
I’ve spent the last two years of my life in Puerto Rico. I’ve done a lot of maturing here. I became an adult here, in my opinion. (Maybe on some days I’m still not the most responsible of adults, but that’s what makes life interesting. I am an adult nonetheless). This has become home. Sometimes the notion that I will move off of the island and never return to permanently live here just seems absurd.
I guess perhaps my greatest hope is that after two or three years, I have the same feelings for Guatemala.