Originally written the day before my flight from Chile to the United States on August 6th, 2012
“Leaving is a strange experience. I left Michigan to come to Chile 6 months ago, I left Chile a month ago to travel to Peru and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and tomorrow I leave Chile yet again to return to Michigan. It is the repeated abandoning of familiarity that I think is interesting, and in some regards very strange. It somewhat resembles a cycle–leaving your comfort space and arriving in an unknown place, only for that unknown place to later become your new comfort space—your reality for the last six months, and leaving again for a place that is now somewhat unknown. Six months may not always appear to be a lot of time, and surely does not always feel like a lot of time, especially as you are on your way to reboard your plane home after a semester abroad, but a lot can happen in six months—a lot of challenges, a lot of experiences, a lot of growth, a lot of change, and a lot of fun.
So as I sit here and look back on this experience it is overwhelming to even try to understand where I should start debriefing. Should I start with my Chilean family, who opened the doors to their home, welcomed me with open arms, but more than that, opened their hearts and family to me and genuinely made me feel as though I was another hija, hermana, or prima? Or should I start with all the trips I went on, in an attempt to discover the “real” Chile and experience its surrounding countries? Should I reveal the breath taking heights of the Andes, the incredible views from the trails of Torres del Paine, the culture of Chiloe, or the stunning reflections in the lagunas of the driest desert in the north of Chile? Should I detail the mind blowing knowledge of the Incas within the 16th century in Peru or talk about the obvious Italian influence in Buenos Aires? Should I talk about the challenges I experienced speaking a second language from dusk til dawn and the accomplishment I finally felt by the end of it all when I could hold a conversation fairly well in castellano? or should I try to even start to explain the slang of the region of Chile I live in? Cachai weon? como estai? donde vai? sip, ya p’oh, fue la raja, piola, puta la wea, no me wei, BAKAN. Should I talk about the delicious food I ate and new culinary adventures I experienced? Maybe I should talk about the friendships I made, from Chile, Peru, Argentina, the States, Australia, New Zealand, France, Brazil, England, Ireland…people who impacted my life in my travels and probably have no idea they did so? Perhaps I should mention what I learned about the culture within Chile? or the incredible culture of Peru? Should I try to explain how I deeply I miss my family in the States but not necessarily a lot else about the States?
But maybe, maybe I shouldn’t try to explain anything. Maybe I’ve explained enough already, and the rest can only be explained by first-hand experience or through my memories. However, even though my strongest of memories I could never fully convey the experiences I have had. I could never shove everything I’ve lived in the past six months in a quick summary, there’s too much to it.
For me, leaving Chile and South America will be an incredibly bittersweet thing. I am leaving behind my Chilean family and many treasured friendships only to return to the states where I also have my family and many treasured friendships that I have missed, awaiting my return. I am unbelievably thankful for all that Chile is and all I have experienced here, but I am also unbelievably excited to see my family yet again. I know I am young with a lot of time left to explore other parts of the world, and I also know that leaving Chile behind is only an “hasta luego” [until later] or as my group took to saying “hasta siempre” [until always]. I have more time to meet different people, experience new cultures, and many more new things. My heart with always be filled with these memories, and I will never forget these six months of my life.”
I have now been home for a week. Unlike the majority of my group, I traveled an additional 5 weeks after our program ended, so I didn’t arrive at home in the States until last week. I was home one day, then thrust into the full swing weekend party my family was hosting for my grandpa’s 90th birthday. In someways, I feel it was better to be thrust into the love of family back in the States, after leaving the love of a family in Chile, rather then being thrust immediately back into school and homework. Tomorrow I am starting up working again, and in a week from tomorrow, fall classes will start. My adjustment thus far, has not been as brutal as expected but I have had a few sad, “missing Chile” days–and that’s allowed. I know I will always have my memories, and many friends in Chile to communicate with and remind me of all my time spent there. So until I can return, my dear Chile,
cuídate mucho, no me olvides, y espérame,
porque sin duda voy a volver y verte algún día.
Besito y chau chau pa’ ahora <3