In case you were wondering, I’m back in the States! I have been for nearly a month now. I was going to write on the plane, but then I got on a LAN flight and I got my own personal TV screen, which allowed me to entertain myself with Crazy Stupid Love and TV shows and The Sound of Music until I got sick with about three hours left on my flight. Then my flight landed just late enough that I couldn’t check my luggage onto my connecting flight, so I was rebooked on a later flight. I sat in the middle seat. I wasn’t gonna be that girl who pulls her laptop out and has her elbows everywhere. I was already the girl with the huge backpack. Then I arrived to cool and damp weather in Chicago. Which was essentially the same weather I left behind in Chile.
(Okay, obviously I haven’t outlined this post. I’m sorry.)
I had two marvelous and relaxing weeks at home. I got to run around my city a bit, enjoy some sunny but not too warm weather, see a few friends, bake a little, and of course hang out with my family. That last part is especially important when you realize that you’ve spent more time with your host family than your real family over the course of the past year.
So I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on this past trip and what I’ve learned from being abroad not once, but twice. Here is another short list of additions I’m adding to the Things I’ve Learned About Chile/Chileans:
1) Chileans spend time with people differently than Americans. They spend a lot of it, slowly and appreciatively.
2) A significant number of guys are into the dreadlock rattail. Like a mullet, but the back of your head ends in a dreadlocked rattail. My immediate reactions are to be disgusted, and then to cut the thing off. What’s hilarious though is when these guys work the dreadlock rattail with a suit on. It’s quite the dichotomy, let me tell you. (Guys my age also enjoy regular mullets. I tell you, there are certain aspects of Chilean fashion that remain stuck in the 80’s and 90’s.)
3) Chileans love their gossip. Oh, can they be gossipy. I make no judgments about this. I’m just saying. They love a juicy story.
4) From what I can tell, they appreciate really cheesy Bon Jovi songs. No, like the bad songs. Like this one.
5) They are always talking about the weather. Bad weather, mostly. Like how cold it is. Or how hot it is, come summer. We enjoyed comparing how cold our homes were in my office this winter. Most days started with, “pero hace un frío…) I’ve been there for long enough that now I, too, talk about it all. the. time.
6) Chilean guys do not know how to handle a girl who is just goofing off and having a good time on the dance floor. You know the girl. You’re not sure if you can really call what she’s doing dancing, but she’s certainly moving and enjoying the music and having a blast. But if you’re not gyrating and looking sultry, if you’re just messing around with your girlfriends, it is a rare Chilean chico who will approach you to take part in such dancing. (Bummer for los chilenos. It happens to be a lot more fun and takes less effort.) (American guys: you get a bad rap for your lack of dancing skills compared to the Latin Americans. But you are much better at goofing off on the dance floor. Score one for all of you!)
7) I remain amazed by the ability of Chilean women to carry their babies around without car carriers, without strollers, without even those strap-on carriers. Many women just cradle their babies wrapped up in several layers of blankets, all day long, all over public transportation. I deeply admire this skill and closeness.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself in this collective eight months of travel. I am really good at respecting my limits, almost to a fault, if that’s possible. I don’t like pushing them in the States, much less in a foreign country. When it’s time for me to go home for the night, it’s time. I value my sleep. When I get comfortable in certain parts of a city, I don’t like to leave them very often. I put safety first. I’ll pay for a cab alone without hesitating rather than take the bus by myself.
Once in a while, I need to be alone, even just for a couple of hours. I remember that right around Father’s Day, my family had to go to the colegio for some event. So that morning, I got on the bus and went by myself to the mall for a couple of hours. It was exactly what I needed. I love people, and I love to share stories more than anything else in the world. But I need time to myself to process it all and recharge. This is an excellent thing to know about myself now, because I can sense when I need to pull back and keep to myself for a little bit.
I appreciate hugs and physical affection. Verbal affirmations, physical proximity, and hugs or even brief shoulder pats make me feel safe and liked. (Needy, I know. I’m working on it.)
A big thing I learned over the summer was about how I work. I work best in short, focused bursts. This is when I am the most effective. Give me a list of things that need to be done with a deadline. The deadline is key. The closer, the better for most assignments. If I only have a few things to do in a day, and they’re all low priority with distant deadlines, you can bet that that will be a slow and unproductive day for me. I thrive with pressure. Not overwhelming amounts of it, of course, but it’s just the push that I need.
Having two families is awesome. It’s an immense and unexpected blessing to have two sets of really funny, genuine, loving people to lean on and who lean back on you. It’s also quite challenging when they live on two different continents thousands of dollars worth of plane rides apart. Saying goodbye gets a little bit easier every time. The uncertainty of the return to Chile is always difficult (side note: I’m listening to Francisca Valenzuela as I write this, and I almost just typed in difícil. #bilingualproblems), but then I remember this amazing thing called the Internet which allows me to use about four or five different tools to keep in touch with everyone all the way down there.
Life moves on. It moves forward. I left my Chilean house with another great student from my school there for the semester. I came back here to my real family and now I’m back on campus, starting off my senior year as an RA in my dorm. You won’t be able to hear that much about those experiences in the interests of privacy, of course. But I can tell you that the training experience was great and that I’m so excited to start this adventure with the team that I have at my back. These girls are rock stars. I couldn’t have asked for better. All of the emotions about missing Chile and missing Milwaukee and loving school somehow balance out. Or they all surge up all at once and I just throw my hands up and soldier through it.
So chew on that for a while folks. I hope I’ll have another post about who knows what to you soon.