Now that I’m at the end of my time in Chile, I’ve tried my best to reflect. What I’ve written here is pretty much just word vomit, me writing things as they came to mind. The reality is, I don’t feel like I’ve changed all that much after being here, in comparison to my time in Cuba. Those two months last year seemed much longer and eye-opening. I’ve unfortunately never been able to avoid making comparisons between the two countries, despite them being practically incomparable. That said, I’ve enjoyed my time in Chile tremendously and have learned so much about its culture and history.
The confidence I gained not only in my Spanish speaking ability but myself in Cuba has served me well. I have no fear of making mistakes in Spanish; I have no trouble going up to Spanish speakers and asking questions. In fact, I feel empowered, emboldened doing so. It’s made me realize that I simply can’t stop working on this language. If economically feasible, I plan to visit a Spanish-speaking country every year of the rest of my life. I mean it.
I feel wistful leaving Chile, knowing I saw such a small part of it. I did take advantage of my free time to explore; I saw many places in Santiago, in addition to Pomaire, San Pedro de Atacama, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, and Cajón de Maipo. I even saw a city in Argentina! But there is so, so much more to visit, particularly south of Santiago. I will certainly come back, though I have no idea when.
I sometimes wonder if I came to Chile simply to escape my constant restlessness, my constant fretting over routine and how robotic life at CC can make me feel. But I know deep down it was more than that. I made the determination to come to Chile while I was in Cuba last year, in fact. I was having the time of my life getting to know a culture so different than mine and making the most incredible connections with its people. Chile was definitely not just a distraction or an escape – it was a chance to make further connections and embrace an entirely new culture.
There were many times that I questioned going abroad this year when I did – Germany during 4th block and Chile during 7th and 8th blocks. Those three blocks are arguably the most fun of the year at CC. Yet after having learned so much about Bach in Germany, and now knowing all that I do about Chile, I have no reason to question it. Moreover, scrolling through my social media feeds, I can say – haughtily, I admit – that I passed my time in a much more productive way this 8th block than most of my peers at CC. 8th block at school is non-stop partying, which is of course attractive. Nevertheless, I felt like here in Chile, I was growing brain cells, whereas at CC I would’ve been destroying them.
When I left Cuba, I didn’t want to be cursed by “rosy retrospection” – looking back with rose-colored glasses, only seeing the good in my time there. So I made a list of all the things I would miss, as well as all the things I wouldn’t miss at all. I’ve done the same for my time in Chile. The lists aren’t exhaustive by any means, but for some idea:
- seeing Clarita every morning and evening, frantic and excited to see me; playing fetch with her in the kitchen and backyard
- Paula and Roberto’s interactions, particularly their comical squabbling; the love and fascinating conversations I shared with them; seeing them eating breakfast in bed with Dani every day
- Being “mom-ed” by Paula – not having to cook or do my laundry for myself (this one’s selfish, I know); Paula is also a solid vegetarian cook
- Paula’s constant roasts
- Eating ice cream with Roberto after dinner; our shared love of condiments, mayo for him and ketchup for me
- Seeing Paula curl up in bed playing Candy Crush, TV on, only to fall asleep
- Hearing Dani singing or playing piano in her room, so beautifully
- Walking to school every morning, listening to all sorts of music and seeing the same faces over and over
- The delicious street food; the abundance of muffins and empanadas
- Running and hiking all over Parque Metropolitano
- Running on the highway on Sunday mornings
- Having no responsibilities – no meetings or work-study or drum lessons – and exploring freely
- Having deep, mentally-exhausting class discussions this 8th block
- The smog in Santiago – constant congestion
- The utter lack of real coffee. I will not miss the Nescafé.
- Dealing with transport in a big city; having to take buses and metros and Ubers to get around
- The IFSA office – freezing cold and the worst desks imaginable
As anyone can see, the good overwhelmingly outweighs the bad, and the bad consists of inconveniences, no more. I’m certainly excited to go back to the states, but only for the people there. I could stay in Santiago for a while, if I weren’t so far away from my loved ones.
So my time in Santiago comes to a close, at least for now. I have no doubt that I’ll be back. Thank you to all who followed this blog (even if it was just mom and dad) – it means the world to me. I’ll write of more adventures as they come, but I’m thrilled by the prospect of just staying in one place for a bit.