There is so much to say about my time in Chile; what I learned, what I did, the people I met, the experiences I had. I wish I had the words to express all of my emotions. Yet, when I try and explain what exactly Chile means, I get stuck, the words just won’t come; it is hard to explain what being away from home has meant, what living in a foreign country is like, how can you explain something that you have to live? I want to tell everyone that it was the best time of my life, that is was easy and that I loved every minute of it, but if I said that I would be lying.
• Going on a mission trip with the high school I worked for and seeing Chiloe (a small island in the south). We ate curanto (a mix of shellfish, potatoes, chicken, sausage and white wine cooked in a hole in the ground) and went to a bingo. I was able to go to the same small town twice and not only see how the kids there have grown, but how I had grown in a year.
• Working at a summer camp, burning ourselves to a crisp in the hot hot sun, dealing with kids who would rather flip you off than play games.
• Living in the shack on Ictinos and then moving to the sweet apartment on Maria Celeste. By the way, that shack is now repainted, cleaned out and a rat’s nest was found in the floorboards, and to think I lived with that!
• Going to the feria and buying fresh fruits and vegetables for CHEAP. In comparison to the states, I will never again buy market fresh produce for the prices I paid in Chile.
• Working at the pool in the summer, not only did I get to work on my tan, but on my commands in Spanish. Even though the kids sometimes flipped me off or cursed me out, I love each and every one of them. I especially loved teaching the smallest ones how to swim and watching their progress each week, by the end of the summer they were swimming in the deep end!
• Meals-on-wheels and learning new vocabulary each and every day. I especially loved the day I asked Brother Donald what porotos verdes were only to find out that there were green beans, exactly what the words in Spanish mean. Working at the soup kitchen meant serving food four days a week to those in the community who had nothing, who enjoyed the gourmet meal prepared each day. Being there was my favorite job, both humbling and rewarding, I will always remember my time in the heat of the kitchen as both a challenge and a gift.
• Watching Spanish TV and loving every minute of it, not only for the “quality” programming, but for the chance to practice listening skills in Spanish. Papi Ricky, Don Amor, Amor Ciego and of course Ultimo Pasajero are just some of my favorite shows in Santiago. Ranging from a bachelorette type program to a high school game show, each show offered something different and unique.
• Learning to make beans from scratch. This might come as a shock to you, but beans don’t always come in cans, you can actually buy them dry and cook them yourselves, saving money, but not time. You first have to soak the beans overnight, or for at least 8 hours, then put them in a pressure cooker and cook for about an hour. It was a process and not only that, but you had to think ahead, which who has time for that?
• Finding a cat on the street and actually deciding to take him home! When Michelle and I spotted Nacho on the street, cold, dirty and wet, how could we resist? Upon bringing him home, we found he was full of fleas, but even with all the bugs, we fell in love with him, especially me. It was hard to leave him behind because he became my cuddle buddy, but I know he’s in good hands.
• Meeting families who have been friends of associates for over twenty years! Sara and her family, Margarita and her sons, the Toledos, Marta and her sister Cecilia, Michelle and Jenny, Ramon and Miriam, Isabel, each person holds a dear place in my heart and I am forever grateful for the friendship they offered me, for the unconditional love given, for teaching me what it meant to be an associate and for being there for me when I needed friends the most.
• Setting up a homework club between the orphanage kids and St. George kids. Tony, a friend of mine who was a teacher at St. George, and I set up a homework club for his 9th grade students and the orphanage kids I worked with. Every Friday we went to the orphanage with around twenty 9th graders and played computer games, practiced addition and subtraction and had a blast with the orphanage kids.
• Going on small trips, like to Mendoza and Valdivia. Traveling with my community was highlight, being able to explore other countries, other cities and to do it with my community members and friends. Plus, we were able to see the snow in the Andes Mountains and the sea lions beg for fish at the market.
• Having my mom visit me. In February of 2007 my mom flew down to Chile and stayed with me week. It was awesome to share Chile with my mom and to show her where I lived, that I was happy and it was lots of fun to travel with her to the beach!
• Playing soccer with the seminarians. Every Monday, Roy and I would go and play soccer with all of the guys, I was the only girl and sometimes got roughed up a bit, but I had a great time, even if they gave me a hard time.
• Finally learning a second language. For almost ten years I have studied Spanish and finally I can say that I am bilingual! Hopefully being back in the states, I won’t lose all of the skills acquired.
I have much to be thankful for and I’m sure the list of things that I did in Chile could go on and on, but there are the ones that stick out in my mind. Being back in Boise for a few days, I have had time to reflect and think about what I have been through. I walked into Target (yeah, I went the same day I got back, I couldn’t help it) and was overwhelmed with all of the choices. I sit in the TV room in my house, over-stimulated by the millions of channels on the new wide screen high def TV. I sit in my bed, playing on my brand new laptop, talking on my new cell phone and think to myself, I lived without all of this for almost two years, and I survived; I found that all of these things, albeit nice, are unnecessary. Sure I need a cell phone to travel and communicate and sure, having a laptop for graduate school will be a big help, but I know that they are just things and what matters most are the people you meet, the person you are and the fact that once again, I can flush the toilet paper.
Thank you Chile and thank you to every person that supported me on this crazy journey, I am back a changed person, but for the better.