Have you ever met someone that made you feel like the world is so small? It never seems to be just a coincidence. It feels like meeting that person was supposed to happen at that precise time in your life. Amelia was that person for me. During my time at USF, I served as a Resident Assistant for a group of buildings called Cypress. I had walked by Amelia, a housekeeper at USF, multiple times as she was cleaning the office space where my supervisor worked. We exchanged smiles but never spoke because I was either late to class or she was busy working. I remember a specific day when class was cancelled. Not having much to do I hung out in the office for a bit and saw Amelia cleaning outside. I walked up to her and in Tagalog asked “Hi, are you Filipino?!”. Of course, I only asked that because she looked Filipino to me but I don’t know why I assumed she would understand the language I was speaking. She looked at me kind of shocked, maybe scared too. She said yes, a bit apprehensively, and right off the bat I was so excited to meet another Filipino and decided she was going to be a friend of mine.
I think it took a while for Amelia to warm up to me but once she did, she was truly a blessing in my life. Amelia reminded me a lot of my Lola, my grandma in the Philippines. Losing touch with Tagalog was hard on me, especially because I could barely practice now when before, I spoke it daily. Talking to her helped me relearn it. Amelia was the sweetest. She would randomly cook me Filipino food, knowing I barely had the chance to go home and have my mom’s cooking. When I decided to go vegan for a few months, she would bring me fresh fruit and leave it by my mailbox. She would make sure I was not too stressed out in my classes and would impart her wisdom on me in our short conversations before class. During one of our conversations before my first trip to the Philippines in 17 years, I had that “it’s a small world” feeling. I found out her family lived merely 30 minutes from mine in the Philippines! My grandma was also heavily invested in her church, Iglesia ni Christo, and Amelia’s son happened to be a minister of that church. What made everything even more special was that during my trip, I had the opportunity to meet her son and grandkids so I could deliver them something Amelia sent with me. Amelia talks often about her granddaughter Abigail, who hopes to come to the U.S. to study after high school. I really hope that that gets to happen for her.
Amelia has been one of my biggest supporters when it comes to joining Peace Corps. It has taken my family a lot of time to be accepting of my choice, often telling me that I wouldn’t be able to do it, and sometimes making me question if I can really handle leaving the comforts of home. Amelia is a constant source of encouragement and has helped me realize that this decision is the best one for me and the person I want to be. She repeatedly tells me how important it is, in her words, to open your heart. Whether it be new places, people, or lifestyles, accepting all of it wholeheartedly will ultimately lead to growth and happiness.