Tag Archives: growing up

Goodbye, Texas. Hello, Chicago!

This has been a long time coming.

When I got hired and learned that I’d be heading to Amarillo for my first project, I knew that moving to Texas- even temporarily- would be a big shift. It’s not easy to get back and forth between Amarillo and Milwaukee. It’s at least two expensive flights, with limited departure and arrival times to choose from. It was clear that, except for a few well-selected trips, I’d be settling into Texas for a little while.

My first glimpse of the Panhandle.

My first glimpse of the Panhandle.

I’ve already written about how it was different adjusting to life after college. There weren’t many people my age around. I mostly just saw the people I worked with. I lived in a hotel room- which had a kitchen, but eventually I got lazy and stopped working on how to cook interesting things for one person. When I finished work for the week, I tried to disconnect and just veg out.

So, maybe life wasn’t as interesting or exciting as I thought it was going to be. But I still learned a few things along the way- about Texans, about traveling, and about being by myself.

I drove this beautiful white Ford F-150 for four glorious weeks. I still miss it.

I drove this beautiful white Ford F-150 for four glorious weeks. I still miss it.

About Texans:

Texans are incredibly friendly and hospitable. I would argue that at least in the Panhandle, they rank with Upper Midwesterners in politeness, smiles, and courtesy. Strangers say hello to each other, which is always my benchmark for openness and hospitality. I had lots of offers from coworkers at the client and volunteers who invited me to eat with them, go to Mass with them, spend time at their homes, and so on. They do a lot to make you feel welcome!

Texans also have a powerful sense of identity and independence. There’s a reason they say Don’t Mess with Texas, and I can totally see how this state was once its own country. Amarillo is real Texas. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are big, American metropolises. Austin is a funky liberal hippie enclave. Amarillo is cattle ranches, and farms, and oil fields. These Texans love a good steak…or a chicken-fried steak…or a Tex-Mex plate of enchiladas with beans and rice. Forget the traffic and the hustle and bustle of the other cities. This is the heart of Big Sky Texas, the Yellow Rose of Texas. And they don’t want anybody changing that.

This is what I mean by Big Sky.

This is what I mean by Big Sky.

About traveling and living on the road:

When you don’t have the luxury of an apartment to make your own space, do whatever else you can to make your living arrangements your own. In a hotel room, maybe that means buying a cheap vase and filling it with flowers every week. Maybe you bring or buy one of your own blankets. There’s nothing wrong with getting some kind of air freshener to make the room smell less like a hotel and more like a real home. Candles would be ideal…but I’m pretty sure that would set off the smoke alarms, so I never tried it.

These flowers lasted the longest of any I bought.

These flowers lasted the longest of any I bought.

This looks like a crisp fall day, but it was actually 85 when I took this.

This looks like a crisp fall day, but it was actually 85 when I took this.

Get into a routine, and make sure that routine includes ways to work your body and your mind outside of your job. I started exercising almost every day, either in the fitness room, or by walking in a nearby park or the neighboring bike path. I also recently began studying Portuguese with Duolingo. Find ways to unwind that don’t just involve sitting in the room watching TV.

But there's nothing wrong with a donut and a good book, either.

But there’s nothing wrong with a donut and a good book, either.

About being by yourself:

All of that said, maybe you’ve spent so much time around people that all you really want to do is watch TV and read and veg out. I get that. I did plenty of that. The most important thing is to do what you need to do to be happy. If that means you’re going to travel every other weekend, and you can afford it, go do it! If that means you go see a new movie each week, or try a new restaurant, there you go! If that means you just need to be by yourself, or you need to be around a whole bunch of people to recharge, then there’s your ticket.

You have to learn how to listen to yourself and be content with making your own decisions just for you, not based on what other people think you should be doing. Your experiences are entirely your own. Ultimately, only you can decide what you want to get out of your travels and your time in a place that is not your home. Do you want to make it your home? Is it just where you are during the week, but you jet out on the weekend? Or is it something in between, a way station of sorts?

This was a great way for me to start this job. I worked on a team, so I was never really completely alone. But, I wasn’t close to home, so there were some things that I just had to learn by myself. I had to learn just how to be by myself, for long periods of time. There is a lot of value in that. Especially in a world where we have put such a premium on constant connectedness, it’s becoming more and more rare that we have to be by ourselves and fill our time on our own. In that sense, I was very glad for this experience.

Wild sky on one of my last nights in Texas.

Wild sky on one of my last nights in Texas.

That said, I’m in Chicago and already loving it. If Texas taught me anything besides the lessons above, it’s that I am a city girl through and through. I felt instantly reenergized just by walking down the street and being surrounded by all the people and buildings and lights. This is my kind of environment- everything within reach, within walking distance, within a train ride.

On top of that, I’m much closer to home- heck, I could commute here for a short time if I had to. I’m also close to various friends living in and around the Windy City. Almost everything I felt like I was missing before, I think I’m getting it back again.

I have an apartment. I have a gas stove and a granite island and ample cabinet space for all kinds of baking goodies. I have an incredible balcony which is going to provide endless sparkly pictures. And I’m surrounded by a giant city, a city of fantastically diverse neighborhoods.

Let’s keep exploring, shall we?

With love,

Gaby

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Ready for Fall, and College vs. Employment: A Pro and Con List

Has anyone else started to freak out that it’s already the middle of September and the season of all pumpkin everything and leggings and boots is upon us? I mean, the stores are already filled with fall and Halloween decor. And you know what that means.

The second that Halloween is over, they’ll start playing Christmas music. So it’s practically the holidays already. I mean, it sure seemed like it at Kohl’s yesterday.

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I LOVE this time of the year. I love it when the weather gets cooler and I can bundle up a little more. It means I get to wear jeans and sweaters, which means I don’t have to shave as often (ladies, don’t deny it! That’s a HUGE perk of this season!). I can drink hot tea or coffee in the middle of the day and not sweat. I’m already really excited to start adding fall/winter colors to my wardrobe. I’m thinking I’m going to build a palette of dark grey, camel, aubergine/eggplant, and burgundy/wine. Maybe some forest green and cream if I can find the right pieces.

The (maybe) two men reading this post just totally checked out. Moving on.

As excited I am for the change in seasons, however, this fall is also a really big life moment. It’s the first fall in 18 or 19 years that I haven’t gone to school. This has brought up a lot of conversations between me and my friends about what we miss and don’t miss about college- even for the friends who are in grad school.

This week, I made a pros and cons list for College vs. Employment. School vs. “Real Life.” Pre-Adulthood vs. Trying to be an Adult-hood.

Let’s get started, shall we?

COLLEGE/KAWLEDGE

Pro: being able to spell “college” like that and people might maybe think it’s funny or witty. This does not happen after college.

Con: Being surrounded by people who spell words like that all the time in an effort to be funny. We need more creative wordplay.

Pro: dining halls and meal plans. Access to nearly unlimited amounts of food, two or three times a day. Then, on top of that, you have a magical ID card which allows you to purchase more food outside of meal times- and, more importantly, gives you access to significant quantities of Starbucks.

Con: eventually, the food gets boring. Also, the ID card is not actually magic and all of that Starbucks makes the magic run out more quickly than you thought.

Pro: Dorms! All of your friends, all people your age, all of the time. In many cases, you never want for company.

Con: Sometimes, it’s nice for it to be quiet and solitary. Also, totally done with the whole sharing a bathroom thing. I’ve taken more than my fair share of other people’s hair out of the shower drain.

Pro: Sleeping in late, or, as late as possible, because you don’t really need to dress up for your 8 AM class.

Con: You’re sleeping in so late because you didn’t go to sleep until 2 AM, for no reason other than homework.

Pro: Free workout areas and cheap fitness classes.

Pro: It’s still acceptable for your parents to take care of your finances.

Con: Even if you’re working, you’re probably not earning very much money. And much of that goes to cover your regular spending- partying, shopping, and so on.

Con: HOMEWORK. Because it was just a blast coming home from evening activities after 10 o’ clock, having to start reading 40 pages of political theory, due at 11 AM the next morning.

Con: Ruuuuuuules. Parietals? Alcohol? But we’re all 18 or older. Which makes us legally adults. Which means we totally don’t need those rules to keep us from making poor decisions…right?

Pro: Football weekends! Two solid days of school spirit and zero expectation of getting any work done.

Con: It’d be nice to be able to go into the bookstore after 12 PM on a Friday without having to weave through packs of alumni. I just need some folders…not a $50 sweatshirt.

Pro: you get to do a million things and have a bunch of different identities. You can be an actress and a researcher and an educator. You don’t have to choose!

Who else misses this? *sob*

Who else misses this? *sob*

EMPLOYMENT

Pro: FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. Nothing feels better than buying something for yourself and knowing that you yourself earned it.

Con: Life is expensive. I mean, have you actually looked at what a box of cereal costs?? What happened to my free Cracklin’ Oat Bran?! Oh, and you actually do have to pay that credit card bill. That’s NOT a magical ID card. (See above, though. Paying it off feels GOOD.)

Pro: NO RULES! You can drink whatever you want every single night and have friends (or more than friends) (or even strangers) of the opposite sex over past 2 AM- heck, as late as you want!

Con: If you took that pro to the extreme, you may make some poor decisions and they will have consequences. Just saying. You do you…but maybe think about it first?

Pro: NO HOMEWORK!!! Well, this isn’t true for everybody. Some people do have to bring work home with them. Including commuting, I work until 8:30 or 9 PM most nights Monday through Thursday, but when I get home, I don’t check my email, I don’t open up Excel, and I veg out. It’s the greatest thing to know that you’re done for the day.

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

Con: What happened to all of my friends? Where are all the people my age? I can’t order and eat an entire pizza by myself…and I don’t have any place to just leave it out where I know it will get eaten.

Con: No more monthlong vacations.

Pro: PAID vacation.

Con: You might not be walking everywhere all the time (to class, running errands, etc.) so you’re getting less exercise. Also, gym memberships are expensive.

Con: If you got a job (that you like) straight out of college, a) congratulations! This is an awesome club to be in, right?, and b) you’re probably still really young in most people’s eyes. I’m finding that the years between 21 and 27 are a total vacuum. It’s before the time that people start talking to you about your biological clock and getting married, which is a plus. But it’s also before the time that people will trust that your age equals some level of experience. I get a lot of comments that I look 18. Glad to know that I’m not aging prematurely…but it requires a lot of work to gain professional credibility.

Con: Dressing the right way as a young professional woman. Too frumpy, dowdy, and matronly, and people think you don’t care about your appearance. Appearances do matter, friends. However, if you dress too young, skimpily, or fashionably, you may not be taken seriously. There’s a very fine line. For me, it means a lot of plain blouses and finding the correct length pencil skirt.

Pro: Proving that you can do something with your education that earns actual money and does not require more school (for the time being, anyway). All of those classes and papers and discussions and exams really and truly resulted in skills that I use every day, and I’m getting a salary and benefits for it!

Pro: You’re not alone in this. Everybody is just figuring it out as they go along. That goes for grads who are working, grads who went back to school, grads who are looking for work, and grads who are doing service. Unless your whole group of friends has magically stayed together in the same area, doing the same things, everyone has to learn how to make new friends as an adult and how to maintain the relationships we worked so hard to cultivate in college.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

Now, all of the choices are yours. Not your parents’, not your professors’ or advisors’, not your college’s. They’re yours.

And that’s probably the biggest pro of them all.

With love,

Gaby

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These Ten Years

(In my last post, I mentioned that I’d be blogging biweekly. Although I just posted a week ago, I decided I’d get a jumpstart and write this week too.)

(Should you start a post with parentheses?)

So the other day, I took this quiz on BuzzFeed which, through a series of questions about my social life and lifestyle, determined that my actual age is 35. (For anybody who doesn’t know…that number isn’t even close to the real one.) And you know what? It made a lot of sense. I’ve always felt older than I actually am. 35 sounds like a nice, solid age to me: your career has been established, you’re probably married and have kids if that’s what you want, and maybe life is a little more certain than in it is in your twenties.

Our power went out while I was at home. Of course it came back just as I was learning to like it.

Our power went out while I was at home. Of course it came back just as I was learning to like it.

Then I went out to a club with my friends, to celebrate the start of the semester, and oof. While I love to dance and dress up and enjoy a big party as much as anyone else…drinking excessively and being pressed against strange bodies is just not my thing. Never has been. As I was battling the crush of people claiming their coats at the end of the night, I heard a fellow senior say, “I’m too old for this (crap).” And I was inclined to agree.

For a second I thought, well that’s lame. I’m in my twenties! I’m a college senior! I should be enjoying this. Right? Isn’t that what twentysomethings do??

So then that got me thinking, as I often have lately, about this thing that we call our “twenties,” or being a “twentysomething.” It used to be that you finished up whatever schooling you were lucky enough to achieve, usually right around the age of 20, give or take a few years. Then you got your job, you got married, you started having kids, and ta-da! Life progressed. People went more or less from adolescence straight into adulthood, and nobody (as far as I know) made a big deal of it.

In typical Gaby fashion, I had to bake just one more thing before I went back to school. These are from the Joy the Baker cookbook and they were delicious.

Practicing my domestic skills. These are from the Joy the Baker cookbook and they were delicious.

Now it’s become a kind of cultural phenomenon to be in your twenties. Just look at websites like BuzzFeed and Thought Catalog. We roll our eyes at teenagers, up until the age of 21, thinking that we know so much more than them. Because you know, you accumulate so much wisdom once you cross over into a new decade, and even more so once you can legally purchase and consume alcohol. (Sarcasm, friends.) But then pop culture- in my eyes anyways- has started to tell us that it’s normal and typical to kind of flounder about cluelessly, fluctuating between being a kid and being a grown-up, until suddenly somebody flips a magic switch when we turn 30 or get married and have a baby, whichever comes first.

So what gives? What happened? Since when did we get an extra ten years to figure things out? Was it because of college? And then the bigger and bigger need for a master’s degree? Was it when people started getting married later? When the job market started changing and the US became a services-based rather than manufacturing economy?

I started training for a half-marathon this week. My body is surprisingly happy...for now.

I started training for a half-marathon this week. My body is surprisingly happy…for now.

On the one hand, I’m not complaining about the fact that I don’t need to have everything ready to go, right this second. I mean, there’s a few things I need to get together in the next four months. But it’s nice that I don’t need to be worrying about homemaking and childbearing at this point, or be staring down the possibility of being an old maid. It’s nice to have some time.

On the other hand, I don’t like being in limbo. I haven’t started watching it yet, but from what I gather, I don’t think I’d like to be any of the characters in HBO’s GIRLS. The freedom and the sense of possibility are pretty cool, but there are also moments where I’d just like to jump from one step to the next and bypass the in between. I’ve written several times before about how transition and I are not the best of friends. In that sense, it’d be nice if someone did flip a switch one day and bam- you’re an adult! Or if one day you wake up and look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Yes. I am grown up.”

This is a grown-up thing I LOVE- coffee in a real mug and brand new planners with lots of space for to-do lists!

This is a grown-up thing I LOVE- coffee in a real mug and brand new planners with lots of space for to-do lists!

That’s just not what growing up is like, though. I think it’s more like Katniss coming up the tunnel in the Hunger Games- more like Catching Fire, actually, where she’s freaking out and suddenly she surfaces and has ten seconds and then she’s racing through the water and trying to reach the supplies without getting killed. Yeah. It’s like that, but without the killing.

Maybe I’m buying into the twentysomething thing just by blogging about it. Or maybe I should stop writing about it, and learn to enjoy it. Because, you know, once you turn 30, you have responsibilities and life is suddenly a lot less fun.

If it weren't for my beautiful campus, we'd all lose our minds in the gray.

If it weren’t for my beautiful campus, we’d all lose our minds in the gray.

With love,

Gaby

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Home for the holidays

Merry Christmas! / ¡Feliz Navidad! I hope that you are all enjoying some kind of a slowdown or a break right now, and that you have plenty of time to spend with your loved ones, wherever you are.

I came home from school on the night of the 21st, in the middle of a big snowstorm that ended up dumping about 8 inches of the white stuff in our neighborhood. The next day involved lots of shoveling. On the 23rd, I went shopping (I swore I’d be done by then), baked three kinds of cookies, and wrapped all of my gifts. In my head, I was going to be finished with all of those tasks by about 5 o’ clock. I finished at 12:30 AM.

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Cookie baking started at 8 AM...

Cookie baking started at 8 AM…

...picked up again around 5 PM...

…picked up again around 5 PM…

...and finally ended around 11 PM.

…and finally ended around 11 PM.

The next morning, I did a little cleaning, prepped a breakfast casserole, and baked a coffee cake for Christmas morning. After all of that, the huge payoff was a slow and lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We like to draw things out in my house- wake up, make the coffee, maybe open the stockings, then eat breakfast, then open a few presents, then take a break to talk to family, then a few more gifts, then a break…and so on until it’s all done. We may have established a new record for longest Christmas gift-opening this year- not because we have hundreds of gifts, but because we take our sweet time. I will be doing the same with my own children and they will probably lose their minds.

No words.

No words.

Just about sums it up.

Just about sums it up.

In other news: I got the grant! And…I’m not going to Chile this time around. For one thing, flight prices went up and would exceed the entire award. For another (and more important) thing, it would just have been too much stress to organize a trip right at the end of finals week, and then be traveling for almost the entirety of my shorter-than-normal break. Conversations with no less than two advisors, my boss, my parents, and four friends confirmed my instinct that all of the craziness would not be worth it. So I’m taking a break and spending more time at home than I have since last winter break.

I knew barely a day into it that this was the right decision. I haven’t been this relaxed and relatively unoccupied in months. My life would be so incredibly hectic right now were I to be heading to Chile next week. This is not to say that I don’t miss everyone and everything in that skinny little country and that hot, bustling city I’ve called home, but sometimes you just need to stick around in one place for a little while longer. And for me right now, that place is here. I know that I’ll be back in Santiago one day. The links are too strong now for it to be any other way. But this was not the time. If I were supposed to be going, I would just know, and I would not have agonized over the decision, and it would not have caused me so much stress. Being an ambitious person makes it really difficult to say no to an opportunity like a paid international trip. But I also needed to realize that the bigger opportunity may have been this very vacation that I’ve got right now. Everything happens for a reason- and so far, it’s turning out very, very well.

Life is good, friends. I hope that you can celebrate the holidays a little while longer, even beyond New Year’s. If you’re Catholic like me, remember that Christmas doesn’t technically end for us until Epiphany- so don’t stop until then! Appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and let them know that you’re happy to be there with them. Put away your phone and shut your laptop down for a while (…says the girl writing this on the Internet). Just sit. And smile. Think about how good this year was- and how much more awesome next year will be.

Wishing you peace, joy, and above all, love,

Gaby

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The Presents of Presence

See what I did there? Huh? Huh?

I don’t remember where I first learned about how presents and presence sound alike. It was probably a Christmas Eve Mass- how the best present we can receive each year is the presence of Christ. And then of course I had plenty of theology lessons about service and how oftentimes the most we can do, the most we’ll be able to do, is to be present to others.

Presence is on my mind lately. I realized how much of a habit I’ve made of scrolling through apps on my phone when I eat by myself, instead of picking up the school newspaper or even the local paper. Sometimes while I’m waiting for friends to get their food, or even when the conversation lulls, I’ll just check my Instagram or email for a minute. There’s really no quicker way to shut yourself off from someone else than to stick your face in a screen, even that of a phone.

So lately I’ve been trying to pick up something to read during solo meals, and to keep my phone put away in a pocket or in my jacket when I eat with others. If it’s put away, unless I really need it, I rarely feel the need to check it. Just having it out of sight helps keep it out of mind, and keeps my mind focused on the other person.

Moments of presence have paid off. I ran The Color Run in South Bend with a few good friends and fellow RAs. (Side note: I just typed Santiago instead of South Bend. Because Santiago is hosting a Color Run on November 10th and my host family is doing it and TENGO CELOS, NO LO PUEDO AGUANTAR PO.) Proof that I can indeed run a 5K if I’m running on less than 4 hours of sleep and I wake up at the moment we’re actually supposed to be leaving. I ran without my iPod, which is usually torturous for me, because the second that I am aware of how hard I’m actually working and breathing, I give up. Music distracts me. But I had friends, we got coated in colored cornstarch, and it really didn’t feel like we ran 3.1 miles. (No, really. We have serious doubts.)

It was early. Really early.

It was early. Really early.

Proof! Also, the whole rest of that arm was orange. And I had my dorm's colors (purple and green) splattered all over my face.

Proof! Also, the whole rest of that arm was orange. And I had my dorm’s colors (purple and green) splattered all over my face.

Another great moment was when my dorm hosted a gamewatch in our basement for our school’s most recent away football game. Since I wasn’t that interested in the game, I baked chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen instead, sans computer except for music playing. I was standing there spooning dough onto the pan, it was halftime, and there was a big group of girls chatting around the TV, wandering through the basement, and playing Twister and ping pong. I felt like it was just any night in my own house with a bunch of kids running around having a fun time. Maybe it was the baking or the laughter or the calm of a Saturday night in, but it felt so good. It felt right, being there, making something to share with others, conversing with whoever was nearby, watching girls be silly and forget about homework for a while. It was like being with a family. And there’s nothing I love more than that.

Alas, I do not have photos of the cookies. Lesson learned: never leave baked goods out unattended in a room full of college girls. I went on rounds of the building, and not even twenty minutes later, my friend texts me asking if I had intended on saving any of the cookies- because all four dozen of them were quickly disappearing. By the time I got back downstairs, there were two little cookies left. And two more people were coming for them. Well, at least that means they were good!

You know what else presence is important for? Taking advantage of everything. Since I’m on fall break now, which means that I’m halfway through my second to last semester of college, it’s started to hit me that there are all kinds of “lasts” coming up. We had our last dorm theme dance a couple weekends. Our last home football game is just about a month away. This is probably the last time I’ll just have a random week off in October for a long time. And so on.

But the key to enjoying it all, and not getting crushed under the weight of the anxiety and the pre-emptive nostalgia, is to be present and not think about the future so much. The awareness of the limits of time provide a nice push, but beyond that, I’m learning that you just have to let it go. Live it up to the fullest- but live it up like it’s any other good day.

In other news, it suddenly got cold and apparently we’re under a freeze warning. I plan on getting used to cold weather runs soon. I also plan on baking a few things this break, including empanadas. Real Chilean empanadas. Since my memories of empanadas include massive trays of pino (the filling) and a huge mound of flour for the masa (dough), recreating this in my own kitchen should be an interesting experience.

Wishing you bright, cold, sunny mornings full of fall colors. Like this one!

Wishing you bright, cold, sunny mornings full of fall colors. Like this one!

With love,

Gaby

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Overdue

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.

On the way home.

On the way home.

Peach cobbler scones. Great decision. Pretty easy!

Peach cobbler scones. Great decision. Pretty easy!

Summer sunset.

Summer sunset.

Milwaukee, I love you.

Milwaukee, I love you.

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.

With love,

Gaby

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Settled/Unsettled

Last night we went to the airport and dropped off my American host sister, another student from my university who was living with my family this semester. It was emotional. Leaving- whether it’s the States or Chile- is definitely my least favorite part of traveling. That and all the hours in the plane. Someone really needs to work on a more efficient and cheaper way of travel. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just pop back and forth between continents? Then you could just go down for a long weekend. I could have come back to the States for the Fourth of July. I could come down for Chilean Independence Day. Are we agreed that someone needs to work on that? Okay, aerospace engineers. Get to it.

I’ve become more settled here the second time around. I live in a house with my family. I could actually manage giving someone directions in my neighborhood. I have places that I like to shop, and I know where to go to buy certain things. I know that fifteen minutes can make all the difference between a 50 minute and a 90 minute commute. I have a routine (and anyone who knows me knows that I love a routine).

And yet, other things have happened that have been unsettling. There’s been a spat of robberies affecting my friends and coworkers lately- nothing particularly serious, but unfortunate all the same. I work in a part of town that’s quite different from where I live. I’ve seen what it’s like to be young and alone in a foreign country, and how hard it can be when you only have yourself to rely on. I’ve been exposed to more poverty, which is always uncomfortable. And it should be. I’m not saying you should avoid the glance of the homeless man begging for coins on the bus. Not at all. You shouldn’t. But you shouldn’t ever feel comfortable or nonchalant when you can tell that he hasn’t showered in several days, and that his hands are so cracked and dry that they’re bleeding. It’s unsettling. It’s unsettling when the bus driver doesn’t pay attention to the elderly woman getting off of the bus and closes the doors before she’s out- resulting in her falling out when he barely stops and opens the doors again (Note: everyone got off the bus and about half of the passengers stayed back to help. Buena onda. Clueless bus driver.). It’s unsettling when we have to go home early from work on protest days because the protests can get out of control enough that for those who live in the center of the city (not me. Not even close. I completely bypass all protests.), it can be dangerous to get home.

Does that make me cuica? Cuico/cuica is the chilenismo for snob, except it’s a little more derogatory. Is it cuica to avoid certain areas of town because it’s far away from home, I don’t want to go there on the bus, and I don’t want to pay for a taxi there? Is it cuica to always pay for a taxi if I’m going home alone? Is it cuica not to venture past Bellavista/Lastarria or outside of Ñuñoa when I go out? Does being unsettled by all of the things in the paragraph above make me cuica?

I can’t apologize for my limits. I know where I’m comfortable and where I’m not. If I’m uncomfortable- as in, I feel like something is wrong- I will not enjoy myself. I’m not a risk-taker. I’m settled. For as young as I am, I really like being settled. And I think the more settled I get, the easier it is for me to be unsettled.

Friends and family: I would like to re-emphasize that all of the crime and safety things mentioned above affected other people, not me. And that this is crime you will find in any big city in the United States. And that I take plenty of safety precautions, and overall, everything is good! Everything is very good. It’s all flying by, and I won’t get into it now because I’m a broken record on that subject.

Maybe I’ll bake something today. Or take a walk. Or read. Or all of the above.

I got off at the wrong metro station the other week. So I took a picture of it. Of course.

I got off at the wrong metro station the other week. So I took a picture of it. Of course.

I love how naturally perfect eggs are.

I love how naturally perfect eggs are.

Queque is sweet bread. Like banana bread, or orange bread. Queque means cake, which acknowledges the fact that these "breads" really are closer to cake. But Chileans just accept that and make it breakfast food.

Queque is sweet bread. Like banana bread, or orange bread. Queque means cake, which acknowledges the fact that these “breads” really are closer to cake. But Chileans just accept that and make it breakfast food.

Even when it's gray. Look at all that snow!

Even when it’s gray. Look at all that snow!

Las Condes, late Saturday afternoon.

Las Condes, late Saturday afternoon.

Ñuñoa on a Saturday night.

Ñuñoa on a Saturday night.

This is vino navegado. It smells and tastes like Christmas. It's basically a hot spiced wine (mulled wine?), with cinnamon, cloves, and orange. It is an excellent way to warm up.

This is vino navegado. It smells and tastes like Christmas. It’s basically a hot spiced wine (mulled wine?), with cinnamon, cloves, and orange. It is an excellent way to warm up.

I danced until 5 with my friends who were leaving the next day. Dancing until 2 is one thing. Dancing until 5 is another thing entirely. And the Chileans do it all. the. time.

I danced until 5 with my friends who were leaving the next day. Dancing until 2 is one thing. Dancing until 5 is another thing entirely. And the Chileans do it all. the. time.

When you go out until 5, the best thing for the next day is to watch a movie and eat popcorn. The translated title of Bridesmaids is Damas en Guerra- Ladies at War. ¿Cómo?

When you go out until 5, the best thing for the next day is to watch a movie and eat popcorn. The translated title of Bridesmaids is Damas en Guerra- Ladies at War. ¿Cómo?

Should I do a food post soon? Yeah. I think that’d be good. Chilean food, round 2!

Cuídense! With love,

Gaby

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