I sit here in an upstairs bedroom, in my aunt's house in Santiago, a mixture of feelings. I will spend the night here, awaiting my mom's arrival tomorrow morning. On one hand, I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to see her and to show her around where I've lived the past five months of my life. Then in the other lies this deep sadness. The sadness that comes with goodbyes. During the past week I've had to say goodbye to my classmates, teachers, and friends. And the fact of the matter is that this goodbye, this absolutely crushing goodbye, may be the last time that I will ever see them again. Yes, of course I want to stay, and when back in the US, I will want to return, but money is an object, and the last time I checked, myself, nor my family had $1000 to throw down. I know that one day a return will be made, but for now it's only a dream.
Here are some moments from my last week in school and with my friends, both Chilean and from CIEE.
This first picture is actually not from my last week in school, but rather my first day. The one below it is my last day going to school wearing my normal uniform.
The second picture was from Tuesday, but Monday I went to school for the final time in my buzo (tracksuit).
Yes. For those wondering I am wearing socks and flip flops, and yes, I am rocking the hell out of it.
Wednesday was my actual last day of school. We were given the opportunity to wear ropa de calle, and I took full advantage of it.
We had both a despedida for me as well as a convivencia for the end of the semester on Wednesday. I said my many goodbyes to my classmates, and teachers, my classmates of which I would only see a view of in the following days.
I took one last look at Teresita de Lisieux and that was it. The feeling was so surreal, leaving something that has played such a large role in my life these past months.
Sorry for the lack of pictures in the coming bit; I'm pretty bad at making sure I get some, it was often dark, and sometimes, it's just better to enjoy the moment, especially when it's your last.
Wednesday night I was invited to the Mia's despedida for her Tercero Medio class. We of course, had a barbeque, amongst other Chileanish traditions not to be written about on this blog.
Thursday, CIEE threw us, the students, a goodbye lunch, in the Via-Via Cafe, the place we first ate at. I really don't think I'm doing a great job showing how I felt during this last week but I did write, and horribly deliver, a speech at the lunch that might better convey my feelings. I finished it around noon, scrambled to get it printed and ran to the bus stop to be on time to the one o'clock lunch. That means there could be some errors, forgive me, but I think I'll just leave it in its raw form. Here it is.
Well to be honest I don’t really know where to start. Over the past few months I’ve collected small ideas and lines of what I might want to say in this speech, but no that the moment has arrived I’m very unsure in what direction I should take it. I was never very funny, so that path would be fairly hard to take, but I also didn’t want to stand up here and deliver a something depressing, what I’ve written is somewhere in the middle. Enjoy.
I once read somewhere that the best way to start a speech was with a quote, boom, now that’s checked off. No, but actually it’s this, “the years pass quickly, the days slowly.” I really could not identify with this more. I can remember many of my experiences as though they were just yesterday. It was just yesterday that you guys waved to my dumbfounded ass in the Atlanta Airport. Just yesterday we went to Pucón and bathed in hot springs under the stars and rode horses in volcanic river washouts. Just yesterday that Hernán was teaching us Spanish and just yesterday that I talked to Gloria during our first dinner in the Internado, and realized just how bad my Spanish was, those wouldn’t really stop. But the truth is that no. Those things did not just happen yesterday. Yesterday was my last day at school. The last day I would see my classmates, my teachers, and the god awesome view. It was a time of tears, of gifts, and hasta siempre. That last one still has really yet to hit me. But in this time of sadness, I offer you a second quote to perhaps provide some solace. “Do not be sad because it’s over, be happy because it happened.” Now I know I’m falling a bit towards that depressing side so here’s a joke: ''I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu.''
Yeah, anyways, almost five months ago we arrived, in Santiago on a hot summer day, having met each other less than 24 hours beforehand. It was I learned I was not the best Spanish speaker, I can now confidently say that I sure as hell did not steal that title from you Mia. Now that’s not to say I didn’t learn a lot, not only about Spanish, but also Chile and it’s people, it’s often very late people. I learned to tie a tie and how to ride la micro. I learned to sing the national anthem and to force myself out of bed into to that goddamn unheated air. But most importantly I learned much about myself. I hope I speak for all of us when I say we have undergone changes. These changes, not so much physical, but rather mental, and perhaps theological have taken time. During this time, we have watched Valparaíso change. The leaves have fallen from my apricot tree, and storms have battered the coast. It has rained more often, and I would really like to thank Jesus for that one because it has provided me many days off.
These four and a half months have been the greatest experience of my life and I have you guys to thank for that. While I’m very thankful for each and every one of you I would really like to highlight two people. I don’t mean to offend anyone by doing this but we’re in 2017 and sometimes that is hard to control. First I would like to thank Kathleen. Thank you for being the constant source of inspiration. Whether it be your blog or your get out there and do it attitude, you made me, well, get out there and do things. Thank you for being my exploration and running buddy, and partner in crime, or at least defending ourselves from it. But in all seriousness, I do hope your nose is doing alright. Second, and sorry Kathleen, but with a larger thank you, I would like to acknowledge and thank Mia. God knows I would not have made it through this experience without you. I said it has been the greatest experience of my life, but that’s not to say it has not been easy. Mia, you have been the greatest help in the world, sorry CIEE staff. I will never be able to repay you for the hug you gave me during lunch one day about a month into school when I just couldn’t stop crying. I will never be able to repay you for introducing me to your friends, whom now I can call my own. The list could go on but I know you got to go surfing so I leave it at those two. As much as I’ll try I really can’t thank you enough, but maybe this (insert bought gift) will do.
If I didn’t name you, like I said before, please don’t be offended, I still very much appreciate all that you have done. I also would like to thank the staff, Maria Paz, Gloria, and Patricio. If any of you, student’s or staff find yourself in Washington hit me up, however I strongly suggest the Western side of the state, the east is full of flat nothingness. But I do know we’ve got some Texans here today, so maybe that’s what you're looking for. If you ever find yourself in Seattle, please do call. My door will always be open to any of you.
I got one last quote, this one from Patagonia Ambassador, Timmy O'Neill, before I wrap this up: “If you're not falling, you're stalling. When you try hard enough to fail and even flail, you're not simply outside the comfort zone, you're inside the flow state.” I think I speak for all of us, maybe minus Mia, when I say we failed, and perhaps even flailed, but we also persevered and here we are. Four and a half months later, better Spanish speakers and better people.
And now to my fellow compañeras, mis amigas: It has been a great honor and privilege to to meet and know you and I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavours. But above all, I wish to see you somewhere again down the road. I’ll miss you all. Thank you so much.
Mia had to leave before we took this picture, but her horse-riding spirit made it back just in time. Gotta to hand photo credits to Emma on this one.
That night we all, once again minus Mia, spent the night at Kathleen's.
Friday morning I woke up and by the time it was 10:30 I had said a final goodbye to Rachel, Emma, and Kelsey. The trip has been such a journey and they have played an integral part in it. To hug them goodbye is one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Also before 10:30 we had made somewhat of a time capsule and I was tasked with burying it.
I know one day one or more of us will return and be flooded back with memories.
Friday night I meet up with some friends and we enjoyed our last night together.
On Saturday at around noon I left to Santiago with my host parents, and here I sit. In a little more than seven hours I will see my mom. It's been more than five months since I last saw her in person. I know that I will cry, and I know that the coming week will be a great time. But at the moment I am saddened by the fact that I might not ever get to see so many people who have made my time here in Valparaíso.
I'll leave this post with a quote, it goes like this: "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same." I can only hope that I have made enough of an impact in the lives of the people I have met and known here that I will be remembered. If not, I think I really have to question what in the hell I'm doing.
Until next time...NRH