Adjusting in Chile didn’t come without its challenges.
In fact, nearly everything was hard.
I fumbled through the language, stumbling from one embarrassing moment to the next.
Finding a job that paid enough to live proved almost impossible for over a year.
I’d meet friends, then they’d move away. Again. And again.
A seemingly simple trip to the grocery store could be so frustrating, it’d reduce me to tears. Don’t even mention the bank.
And I missed my family, friends and comforts of home more than I thought possible.
But after more than two years of all that,
by far the hardest thing about living in Chile is leaving.
In so many ways, Chile is where I grew up,
where I really found my footing in adulthood.
I had set out to discover the world and instead discovered myself.
It was here, on this narrow stretch of land, where I developed a new outlook on life,
where I saw the world and knew I needed to make a difference.
It’s the place where I became a teacher,
where I shared my love for language and education
and helped others achieve their goals.
Chile is the country I visited from top to bottom;
and was my hub for international travel,
my jumping off point to seven other nations.
Chile’s where I first fell in love,
where I got my heart broken
and where I healed.
It’s where I became proficient in a second language
and where I started learning a third.
As hard as it can all be at times,
I’ll miss the challenges that come with each passing day,
and the way my mind works over time
to meet every little milestone.
I’ll surely also miss watching the sun rise over the Andes every morning
and the even more breathtaking view of the cordillera
after rain clears the smog-stained skyline.
I’ll miss the friendly street dogs
and the friendlier locals who give them sweaters, water and dog food.
I’ll miss the gardeners who greet me every morning in the park where I run:
Buenos dias, mi hijita. My little daughter.
And the candy man on the corner who chides me when I don’t pass by in my sneakers:
Chocolate, senorita? Pero no corriste hoy dia! But you didn’t run today.
I’ll miss the toothless smiles of my sweet, sweet students:
Miss Jessi, Miss Jessi, que bonita! Te quiero, teacher. How pretty. I love you.
And my adult students who not only opened their minds but their hearts,
including me at their weddings, backyard barbecues and Christmas dinners.
I’ll miss the spotaneity of Santiago,
and never knowing whether I’ll find myself in the middle of a student protest
or listening to a talented violinist atop the metro steps.
And I’ll miss the special season of September’s
Dieciocho and the traditions it brings:
The cueca, terremotos and of course, the asados of choripan and anticucho.
I’ll miss the palta topped on everything,
especially the fresh cream cheese-stuffed sushi.
I’ll miss the culture of guilt-free ice cream
no matter your age
the season, or time of day.
I’ll even miss the slang-cluttered Spanish
of cachais and sipos,
the uneven cobblestone sidewalks
and the way the ground rumbles in an earthquake.
I’ll miss the cheap taxis,
and the Chilean way of dancing until the sun comes up.
I’ll miss being the life of the party
just because I’m a “gringa”
and the wonderful unexpected friendships that title brings.
Being so far from “home,”
my students became my friends
and my roommates and friends, my family.
They supported me through each step,
good and bad, in this crazy life-changing adventure.
It’s because of these wonderful connections I made
with people from all different nations
that Chile is so special.
No matter where I am in the world,
Chile will always be the place where I met a myriad of incredible people
who inspired me to be a better version of myself and
whose friendship will span far beyond these borders.