I know I’ve been MIA over the last couple weeks and this time I don’t have an excuse like I was off frolicking through the ancient ruins of Peru or had a life crisis that I needed to fix before I could sit down and write. The truth is is that I have had plenty of time to write and tell you all about what has been happening in my life here in Santiago; but over the last couple of weeks I felt like nothing was really worth writing about. Now that my semester has ended here and I have found a job in a lab, it seems like living in Santiago has become a normal life. Which I love. With this extra month here, living by myself, without my host family and without my study abroad program to go to if I have a problem, I feel like I have really become one with this city.
Don’t get me wrong, I felt at home here before. I absolutely adored my host family and as I said in an earlier post it was really hard to leave them, but now that I have to do my own grocery shopping, my own cooking, my own cleaning, I feel like I’m more in charge of my schedule and a little more independent. It’s not that I felt like my host family or my study abroad program was holding me back in the slightest during the semester, but now that I have stepped outside their boundaries, I’ve found that I have so much more freedom and feel more independent in this city. I know though that I could not have done this without them when I first arrived. I needed the support of a study abroad program and a host family to help me navigate this city and life in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. But now that I have removed myself from all of that, I see that my study abroad program was keeping me connected to the States in a way and now that I’m not constantly at the center or with those students, I feel more integrated into Chilean society and social circles.
I’m extremely happy here and there’s a part of me that wishes I could just stay down here, enroll in the university, take another semester, even do med school here. But I know that is unrealistic. I don’t have the financial means to live in this city longer than I’m going to and I want to finish up my undergrad degree at Puget Sound with the rest of my classmates. But I would be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it a few times.
That being said, I’ve been having a lot of emotions in the last few days as my time in Santiago begins to wind down and the day of my flight back to the States gets closer and closer. I will be leaving this beautiful country and city that I have called home for the last 6 months in 6 days. I can’t believe my time here is coming to a close. It feels like I have lived here for much longer than 6 months and it also feels like no time at all. When my program officially ended a month ago, I was not ready to leave at all and felt like I wouldn’t be ready to leave in another month either. While I can’t say I’m completely ready to leave, or even really want to leave, I have had feelings of wanting to be home. I’m not sure if its my way of accepting that I have to leave and trying to get myself excited to return—see my family, go back to school—or if I really am ready to go back. In a single day I will go through so many thoughts and emotions that I’m really not quite sure what I want at this point. In the morning, as I ride the bus to work I can’t imagine myself leaving this country, this city, this routine, for another life that will surely seem dull after this grand adventure. But by about noon when I’m sitting at my desk waiting for an experiment to run and I have nothing else to do, I just want the days to go as fast as possible so I can get home already. But then I quickly think, “You have no idea when you will return to Chile, if ever. You’re going to get home and all you’re going to want to do is come back. Enjoy the last few days you’re here.” So I push those thoughts of yearning for home out of my head. But there are moments when my excitement to see my family and return to Puget Sound outweigh the thoughts of not coming back to Chile. I feel as if I am in limbo, trying to enjoy the last moments I have in this wonderful city that I can’t imagine leaving, and the excitement I have for returning home.
The emotions I’m having are so hard to describe. Because even when I feel an excitement to see my family and get back to the States, I think how I really don’t miss any of the things that I’m returning to. While I miss my family and would love to see them, I’m used to being away from them as I don’t see them during the year when I’m at school. And even though this has been the longest time since I have seen them, I don’t have a pull or a heartache that I usually do as the semester winds down at Puget Sound. I feel as if I could go another full semester without seeing them and I would be okay. I’m not especially pleased with myself to say this. I absolutely love my family. They are my best friends and I talk to them almost everyday while I’m at Puget Sound. I think my absence of homesickness though is a testament to how much I feel at home in this city and also how much independence I have gained through this experience.
The same absence of homesickness goes for Puget Sound and my friends there. At the beginning of the semester I couldn’t wait to return to Tacoma and see all my friends again, but now as the time comes closer and closer, I feel like I could go another full semester without returning and be happy. Once I get home, I know this sentiment will change but right now I feel like I am a completely different person than when I left and I feel as if I have moved on from this part of my life—my life at Puget Sound. This being said, I am very interested to see how this change will translate to my life back in the States. Although I feel like I have grown and learned a lot here, I think I’ll really see the difference when I return home and am in the same environment and situations I was before I left.
When talking with friends about this change I’ve described it as a before and after moment. There are experiences in your life that affect you so much that you begin to think of yourself as “before” and “after”. You divide your life suddenly, your life before that experience and your life after, because you feel as if you are two totally different people in these moments. This trip is one of those experiences. I have already begun to think of my life as before and after Chile and I haven’t even left. I know that this division will only be greater when I get back to the States.
This will most likely be my last blog post. I want to thank all of you who kept reading throughout this crazy adventure of mine. I know this wasn’t the most traditional blog of funny stories while traveling or a chronicle of my everyday life here. I chose to write more about the things that I felt I grew from and marked my semester in a deeper sense than simply a comical story. Thank you to all that stuck it out with me. It’s been a wild and crazy ride and I hate to see it end. But another life awaits me back home and I will embrace it with open arms.
I want to sign off by saying, “Nos vemos.” It’s an expression in Spanish to say, “We’ll see each other soon.” To Chile, it’s not a goodbye, but a nos vemos. And to all of you reading at home, my friends and family, “Nos vemos.”