Before I sat down to write this, I was brainstorming all the things I could include: how I’m practically fluent in Spanish, how I had the opportunity to travel to Easter Island, how much I love my Chilean family and friends… Really what it all boils down to, though, is what an amazing time I’m having here.
Though it is sometimes frustrating, I’m glad I chose to come to South America. While I wish that my house could have heat or the road be paved, it along with the tin roofs, numerous horses, and stray dogs, is just part of the bright Chilean character.
Every day is a new adventure. Of course, it’s not without bumps in the road. In religion class, I mixed up the words for “drunk” and “Hebrew”, for example, but it’s just part of the territory. Chilean Spanish is not what I learned in school. Consonants are optional, and sometimes they seem to make up the grammar as they go along. They still tell me I have a weird accent, like a Mexican or Cuban, but I guess that’s better than sounding like a gringo!
While I have yet to really be homesick, there are definitely moments that I miss home. I would give everything just to be able to sit at home on my couch with my parents, sister, and cat, watching the Gators with Publix chicken in hand. However, I just remind myself how fortunate I am to be watching La Roja, the Chilean soccer team, eating empanadas alongside my host family, through the window the snow-capped Andes Mountains in the distance. Of course, my effort to incorporate myself into the culture doesn’t stop there.
September 18th was the Chilean national holiday, when I danced La Cueca, the Chilean national dance, in front of the whole school, sombrero, poncho, and all. Later, they had me dance the YMCA, and were completely shocked when I already knew the choreography, not understanding that it is common knowledge for every American.
That same week was a very strong earthquake. While very common in Chile, the most seismically active country in the world, the reactions of my friends and family alerted me that this one was different. All of a sudden, I heard this sound, like a tap-tap-tap. My first thought was that it was the dog coming up the wooden stairs, but then the door began to move in its hinges, and I realized that the sound was coming from the side of the desk hitting the wall.
Everything began to shake: the bed, the lamp, the chair. The dogs barked. The walls creaked.
When I stood up, the floor moved below me like the deck of a boat gently rocking from side to side. I had never experienced anything like it, and I hope I never have to again. In a split second I grabbed my coat (winter, remember?) and phone and carefully went down stairs and out into the driveway, Gari the dog still barking at my heels. Fortunately, I was far enough from the epicenter that everything was fine, but I was still pretty shaken up—pun intended.
Since then, at least 3 earthquakes have passed, so I’m now a seasoned earthquake veteran.
As the school year draws to a close, I can’t wait for summer vacation. I have trips planned to both Patagonia and Argentina, and I hope to spend my long summer days exploring my city with my friends. I am so thankful for everything Rotary has done, and I can’t wait to share more.
Que estén bien,
(That’s how they spelled Maxwell on my wristband at the doctor’s office)
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