Since writing last, my perception of Valpo has done a complete 180-degree turn. Within the past two weeks, I have had some of my most trying moments, followed closely by some of my best.
Classes are in full swing and the pressure is on. The workload in Chile is different; the work here extends far beyond our time in the classroom. I have never used the word timid to describe myself, but it may be the only accurate word for some of my days here. When I’m in class with compañeros who share my same language level, I’m not afraid to try and fail. But during interactions with people outside of school, I was practically mute! I was so frustrated with myself that I started to let it leak into other parts of my experience. When I finally noticed this pattern, I decided (out loud in Spanish) that “En este momento, estoy sin miedo.” In this moment, I am without fear. And from that point on I started speaking.
Last week I was preparing for the arrival of my family. My mom, sister and their two friends came to visit for their spring break. It would seem that this would make me feel more connected to back home, but it turned out to be the opposite. Them being here, without knowing any Spanish or knowing the city, made me realize how far I’ve actually come. It’s hard to recognize the little triumphs that turn into big strides when you are caught up in the little daily challenges. I was able to successfully (and with confidence) teach my family the transportation system, how to make purchases and how to ask for directions in Valparaíso! This may not seem like a lot after a month, but starting from where I did, I was very proud of myself. We also took an incredible tour of the area surrounding the Maipo River, which included beautiful scenery, vineyards with delicious wine and an exhilarating zipline across the width of the water!
When I dropped my family off at the airport and said goodbye, my emotions were vastly different than when the roles were reversed. The upcoming stretch until I see them again is three times the last one, but I felt very different than the last time we said our goodbyes. I have gotten my bearings, have made strides and am determined to make this place my home. I got on the bus and barely looked back, almost with a sense of relief. That’s not to say I won’t miss them because, of course, that’s a given. But as they shared a little of my adventure with me, they were a reminder that home is still waiting for me when I’m ready to return. With my new-found independence and confidence, I turned to face what would be one of my most exciting weekends yet: Lollapalooza in Santiago!
Some of my favorite bands from back in the states were set to play, and I could not be more excited. Not to mention I got to hear some of the Chilean and Latin American bands that I had heard so much about! The whole thing went by so fast, but the feelings that came over me linger still. Festivals in the United States are hectic to say the least, but this was different. Everyone was still having an amazing time and listening to their favorite music, but the aura was of a distinct sort. This audience had the right attitude; they were tranquil at points but knew when to get loud. Being there just made me appreciate the different types of people I’ve encountered and how special this culture truly is.
Then came an interesting bump in my road — my first (and hopefully last) trip to the Chilean emergency room! I had just gotten back to my house in Valparaiso after a weekend away, and as soon as I crashed in my bed, I knew something was wrong. I told my Mamá Chilena, and she insisted that we head to “el médico”. The way I was feeling left me in no position to argue. The whole thing didn’t take more than two and a half hours. The clinic was spotless, the staff was efficient, and the people were very friendly. They gave me medicine for my fever and took a few tests to reveal that it was something that I had eaten that past weekend — in other words food poisoning. I took the time I needed to rest with the wonderful care of my mamá and our tía de España; I couldn’t ask for a better family. Of course, staying home sick from school made me crave my own bed back home and some other silly comforts. But for being in a foreign country, I was very comfortable. The whole thing only made me more secure in where I am and the people I have here with me. Everyday I find something else to love about this wonderful country.