I’m starting to get lost in the time that’s passed since I’ve been here. I arrived exactly four weeks ago, and I can hardly wrap my head around that expanse of time. I still feel very new, but at the same time this new life seems familiar. Looking back it’s becoming more difficult to keep track of days and weeks and what happened when. It’s already the 25th. On the 27th of last month, I was boarding a plane.
Already I’ve missed a close friend’s birthday AND my brother’s birthday. I got to Skype in with my family, but it’s a very strange concept to realize you’ll be missing things. All my teacher friends went back to school yesterday. The memory of that feeling is still very clear to me…so much anticipation for a new school year. A new group of faces to get to know. A new range of challenges and blessings. And you never know what might be heading your way until the roster is set and the year begins.
A very sweet gift I got this past week was a video from my former autistic student saying hello. Apparently, one of my old coworkers (hey Erica!) ran into her by the office, and after being asked about me, she offered to take a picture of the girl to later send to me. My student suggested a video instead. “Hi Ms. Joens. I miss you so much,” were the sweet words she spoke to the camera, and it made my day! One of my intentions after I return (hopefully bilingual!!) is to get in touch with her family and finally be able to freely speak without a translator. I’m sure we have so much to say to each other. That student in my class was truly one of the most impactful experiences to date.
A good thing I’ve realized lately is that I actually have some friends here. I’ve been interacting more with people, hanging out with them, and realizing, hey! I came here by myself and now I have friends! That may seem very silly, but it was not as easy to socialize outside of the hostel where the people were just passing through.
This past Saturday I ended up spending most of the day with a very kind and cheery girl from Australia who teaches at the same institute and, incidentally enough, takes Spanish classes at the same school I do. Having this in common sparked a conversation which turned into – let’s be friends! Tiaan is her name, and we spent the day exploring barrio italia, eating pan de choclo and sipping coffee at a cute café, and hiking up Cerro San Cristóbal for an amazing view of the city.
Next, we’re discussing travel plans for Machu Picchu…can you believe it??
When we were at the top of the hill, we ran into a German guy hanging out with a Chilean girl who offered to take our picture. We talked for a bit about where we were from and what we were doing in Chile, yah-da yah-da, and then, when I mentioned I was from Texas, the guy reached out and ran a finger down my arm, marveling at my skin. I was obviously very confused, and it turns out he was under the impression that I should be tan if I’m from Texas. Actually, buddy, I have a lot of German blood in me, so it feels weird for you to call me white like that… The different impressions or ideas people have of Texas…I’m learning a lot.
I passed this the other day! Wahoo! Go Texas! Maybe I should try it out.
Saturday night I went with my roommate and her boyfriend to her best friend’s birthday party. Or, I should say, a carrete. This is basically where people gather at a house or apartment and stay in for drinks, music, food, socializing, etc. It was a really cool cultural experience, and I got to meet many Chileans. One of the most fascinating aspects of the party to me was the cheek-kiss greeting, yet again. It didn’t matter when new people arrived how many other people were already there or even how many they already knew, you go around and cheek-kiss EVERYONE. I would be talking to someone not fully aware someone new had arrived, and suddenly a stranger is leaning in toward my face.
I was actually discussing this with a British guy at the carrete, and we were both remarking on how nice of a concept it was. It basically breaks the ice for you and anybody in the room. You feel free to talk to anybody because, hey! You already kissed them all!
The only thing I wasn’t able to cope with very well is just how late into the night these things can go. My roommate and her friend kept telling me how Chileans do everything late. They may start their evenings around 11 or midnight! Still, I wasn’t prepared for the wee hours of the morning in which I was expected to still be functioning. This led to me closing my eyes unintentionally in the middle of a story, causing the storyteller to think he was boring me. I wasn’t trying to be rude! I was even asked a couple times if I was ok, and I was desperately trying to convey, “I’m fine, I’m just tired.”
I’ve been practicing my Spanish and my class is going well, but there are still many many moments I’m lost. Like today at the grocery story, the cashier was saying several things to me, and I have no idea what she was trying to get at. I couldn’t tell if she was telling me something, asking me something, or just making comments. So it gets awkward, especially when people just turn to you and assume you know full well everything they’re saying. I hate being in the dark about it. I went to a Spanish church this Sunday, but I’m not sure I’ll go back for a while just because I couldn’t keep up at all. There comes a point where it’s so far over your head it’s not doing you any good. So…I’ve still been listening to Watermark podcasts and I will keep trying to develop my Spanish. I just hope it doesn’t take all year for things to click. I’m very grateful for my roommate and her friends who are slow and patient with me!
To end, I leave you with a beautiful picture of a sunset in the city.
Excited to see more beautiful things ahead!