MY NAME IS TOKE Adewale and I am sixteen years old. I was born in Nigeria, lived in Atlanta, GA, and now I reside in Hayward, CA. This past summer I received the biggest, most wonderful, and most life-changing experience of my life. I received the blessing of traveling to the beautiful country of Nicaragua. With a scholarship from the Matador Network and through the hard-working organization named Global Glimpse we were able to expand our minds as travelers and individuals.
The one thing that motivated me to take this trip was my curiosity of what it would be like if I wasn’t living in California and I was in another country. I wanted to leave what I was so accustomed to and face different challenges than the ones I face everyday.
On July 23rd, 2009 at 10pm at the San Francisco International Airport, I waited nervously for the trip I was getting ready to throw myself into. I stood with my uncle, who brought me, and began contemplating whether I wanted to go. I told him to just take me back home and we could escape without anyone seeing us. He then reminded me of the long journey I had already taken just to be standing in that airport and going on this trip. That was enough reassurance to bring me back and to also bring back my excitement. Our good-byes were sad, but also full of hope and expectations of the three week adventure we had gotten ourselves into.
On the plane I sat next to one of my closest friends, LaTasha. We were both speechless because we had never done anything like this before. It was even her very first time on a plane. The plane ride from San Francisco to El Salvador and El Salvador to Nicaragua was a long one, but anticipation made it even longer for all of us.
When we first arrived in the capital, Managua, we were all attacked by a sudden heat we weren’t used to, and to our surprise it started pouring rain as we entered our second home – our very own school bus. This was the bus that we would be riding in for the next three weeks. I sat on the bus looking out the window as we rode through Managua.
I don’t know what it was, but so many emotions ran through my body and mind. Fear, sadness, pain, happiness, joy, and anger all suffocated me at once. As I dazed out the window I was hit by not only the beauty of the city, but also the poverty and the struggle. One minute I would see colorful billboards and then I would see the dirty face a child begging. This is why I had so many emotions.
After spending all day in Managua we took a two-hour drive to our first home in the heart warming city of Matagalpa. This was the city that put smiles on our faces, tears in our eyes, and made a difference in our lives. We went from teaching English to locals to looking into the teary faces of children whose hopes seemed to have been lost.
Nicaragua exposed me to so many things. I will never forget the day that we visited the city dump. The realities of watching people, who aren’t any different from me fight animals for food that others have thrown away. That could have been me and my family fighting only to survive. They weren’t any different from me; they just don’t have the same opportunities I once took for granted. The one thing that made my fiery heart cool was the fact that they still had joy. Watching the smiles on their faces as we played and spent time with them in the filthy horror that they call home, really touched me.
I will never forget the days we taught English two days a week. My student’s name was Mary and she was 20 years old. I would say honestly that she improved so much since the day I first said hello to her. The children in Nicaragua take school so seriously and that made me appreciate school more. This experience even motivated me to taking Spanish 3 this year. Before I traveled I didn’t want to take the class simply because I heard it was hard. Thankfully, my idea changed.
I will definitely not forget all the time I spent with the people I now call my second family. We all got so close and I am so thankful that we crossed paths and I can now say they will all continue to be a part of my life. We were all very much like family because like most families we fought, we laughed, we cried, and we challenged and pushed one another. I couldn’t imagine even being on the trip with another group of people.
Honestly speaking, I would have to say that I had some challenges on the trip and also some accomplishments. Some challenges were missing my family at home, getting used to the different emotions I faced everyday, and the tiring travel and transitions everyday. Even though these things were challenging, they helped me grow as an individual. My main accomplishments were facing new challenges, getting rid of my habit of judging others so easily, and being able to appreciate what I have and the people who are in my life.
This trip mainly taught me about the world and what real life is like. I experienced being in a different place and getting used to it because it was my home. I am now more thankful for my life and I do honestly take it more seriously because it is precious and short. That is why I feel like every human being should have an opportunity like this because it is necessary to be in another environment. It helps you realize who you are and the world you live in. I would recommend this to not only people my age, but anyone and everyone.
Being back at home was more relieving than I thought. At times I did feel out of place, but it’s okay because I now feel like I know my self more and I feel more confident in myself and those around me. This trip was life changing and I will share this experience with anyone and everyone who I come across in my life.
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Learn more about the Matador Youth Scholarship Fund.