Happy July 1st everyone!
Today is a very bittersweet day as it marks the end of my stay in the wonderful city of Santiago, capital of the beautiful nation known as Chile. While I’m excited to head home to share my experiences here with my family, friends, and whoever is willing to listen, I am also sad to be leaving my newly formed home. I’ve found a new family away from home while also making many friends here. Nonetheless, I am forced to recognize the reality that is leaving this new home and returning to what I’ve always known.
I spent all of today packing and with each article of clothing or souvenir that I placed in my suitcase went along a memory of my time here in Santiago. First to enter the scene of the interior of my baggage were the shirts I wore to class and when volunteering at Hogar de Cristo. These were nice reminders of what I learned about Chile in the classroom, but even more so what I learned about this nation as a result of my many excursions, both formal and unplanned. My memories of hiking up Cerro San Cristobal, seeing Pedro de Valdivia’s statue, exploring the National Library, and visiting Valparaiso were among the first to resurface. I fell in love not only with the history behind these places, but also with the reality that students and citizens of all ages in Chile continue to work so very hard to maintain a collective consciousness of this history. While not everyone sees things the same here, it’s clear that this desire to remember has only positively served the nation’s ability to unite and celebrate a very colorful and storied culture.
After packing my shirts, I moved on to my toiletries. Now, this might sound weird off the bat, but hear me out. The reason this part of the packing process hit me so significantly was because I realized, after looking at how much toothpaste I used and how little shampoo I had left, that I really did spend a month here. In May, following graduation, I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to leave home again, especially not to study in a foreign country in which I could not communicate effectively, but after this experience I’ve come to appreciate another culture, language, and the value of taking risks. I can now say I’ve lived outside of the US for a somewhat extended period of time, and I can do this in Spanish! There were definitely times when being away from home became a very challenging idea to face, but at the end of the day I could never have forgone this experience knowing what I know now.
Finally, after everything I came with was settled into my bag, I loaded the souvenirs that I brought for my friends and family. I won’t write what I got them in this post because I want them to be surprised when I get home on Sunday, but each item represents a different point of cultural significance in the Chilean culture. Some focus on places, while others are the results of the labor and talent of Chilean people. They will be a taste of what it is like to live in Chile, simply a bite of the appetizer in a six-course meal, but a delicious bite nonetheless.
As I return to the States, I will be thinking about the best ways to explain the countless ideas and experiences I encountered during my time away. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to record at least a few of my experiences online for everyone through this blog as well because only God knows how difficult it is for me to commit to journaling. In the end, all I can say is Hasta la próxima vez Chile ! Ahora tiene una parte de mi corazón y un nuevo ciudadano.