Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflections: Month 1--ish

Well estimado amigos, I have passed one month mark of my fantastic trip here in Santiago. All I can say is that it's be cussin' amazing and fun, and I am excited for the next 3 months! I was thinking today, while waiting for my Mapuche professor to show up, about the last few weeks, and how I felt at the beginning versus how I feel now. I think part of what made me so reflective was our poetry reading in my other class today. During the first week of classes, we had to write a poem that reflected, represented, summed up, etc. our feelings upon first arriving in Santiago. Listening to everyone's poems, I realized a lot of us had similar experiences and it got me thinking. My favorite poem was written by a guy from UCSB and it was about the Chilean phrases, asking people for directions, getting lost, etc. and I really identified with how he expressed the confusion of being in a new place. Even though his poem was obviously meant to be funny, I felt like it was genuine and played on the emotions of us all during the first weeks here.

I think the most present memories from the first week here were trying to figure out how to use the bus/metro system and trying to find where I was going. There was a lot of waiting, wrong directions, getting lost, and pulling out my map in the middle of a street to figure out where we were. It was scary, confusing, embarrassing, and fun. I spent a lot of time with the people on my program, getting to know them, figuring out who I might be able to connect with, and who I might want to party with. We definitely partied a lot, trying to get our bearings in this huge city and realizing that we are going to be in this place for the next four months of our lives. While four months is essentially a moment in a person's lifetime, I was constantly told in the year leading up to my study abroad experience that it would be the most amazing one of my life, the one I would never forget, the one that would change me, the one where I would figure out who I am, the one that would shape my perspective, etc. etc. I don't know if it will be as grandiose as all that, but it's certainly been pretty amazing so far. My friends and I constantly talk about this experience as unreal, like we aren't in the real world, like we are all going to wake up at any moment and face reality. The beautiful thing is that this IS reality.

My favorite moments in Chile are the spontaneous and momentary vistas of nature I manage to capture to hold my memory.  Sometimes it happens when I'm walking down the street after class. I'm absorbed in my own thoughts and then the Andes hit me like a blast of cold air. The sun setting on the snowy peaks takes my breath away every single time. I stop, just for a moment, to realize how amazing something like mountains can be. That something so huge can be made by this earth, and that I get to see them. Sometimes it's so beautiful that I can hardly stand it, and maybe even a tear or two try to sneak out of my eyes. Maybe it's because I grew up on the flat (but beautiful!) plains of the midwest, and that mountains aren't present, but there is just something about them that gets me. I remember as a child going to Wyoming and seeing the Grand Teton's for the first time. I would wake up before everyone in the house (can you believe it?) and just sit on the floor marveling at that mountain range through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's so humbling, and I love that feeling here in Chile.

Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm here living this new life, with all these new people, and I am doing great! I don't feel too homesick, although I have my moments. Every now and then I just really want a bowl of my mom's soup, a plate of my dad's clam fettucini, or a cup of Gong Fu tea or Zanzibar's coffee,  but I'm willing to forego these comforts for an amazing trip in Santiago.

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