Post 8: Mi Familia Chilena and Chilean Families in general
Finally, I’m getting around to writing about the people I have been living with for the past 5 months. My IFSA-Butler program sets each of its students up with a host family, and for me it has been a wonderful way to practice spanish, get a local perspective on life, and live like a spoiled baby all at once.
I lucked out and got a large and welcoming family to live with. The people who live in my house are my two host parents, Juli and Pato, and my youngest host sister Javi. Carol, my middle host sister, recently moved out when she got married at the beginning of December. My third and oldest host sister, Paty, lives close by with her husband and two daughters, and they all come over several times a week. Since I grew up with two brothers, having three sisters (and two amazing nieces) has a new experience. But what has been especially fascinating has been learning about Chilean families, and how they function.
Simply put, Chilean families are intense. Children don’t leave the house until they are married, and even then parents remain quite involved in their lives. My Chilean mother is one of the most caring women I have ever met, and nothing makes her happier than looking after her daughters and granddaughters. When my niece got sick, she took soup and food and love over to there house every single day until she got better.
Partly because of who my host mother is specifically, and partly because of Chilean culture, I am treated to the life of luxury while I am here. My bed is made for me, my laundry is washed and folded, and all of my food is cooked and in some cases delivered to me in my room. It is not unusual for my host mother to bring me a piece of chocolate just because she was thinking of me. Chileans even have a word for this: I am the “regalona” of the house, or the spoiled one. This word has been used at times to describe me, our chilean puppy, or my two host nieces. Everyone is “el/la regalona” when it comes to my host mom.
And looking around at the chubby, happy Chilean babies and their adoring families, my family is clearly is not the only one around here who spoils their children.
Not everything about the host family system is perfect. Living with parents or older people means that there are times when they go to bed early and I have to be quiet. Friends have reported less independence when it comes to going out at night. And although I like what my host mom cooks most of the time, I don’t have the ability to choose what and when I eat. (Speaking of food, now that summer has arrived the fruits have shifted again: pineapples, blueberries, and melon have all been appearing in my fruit salads lately)
But I wouldn’t trade living with a host family for anything. When I went back and read this post, I had to add the word “host” in so as not to be confusing. To me, it feels natural to refer to these people as just my parents, sisters, nieces, etc. The experience of being welcomed not as a friend or a visitor but as a daughter and a family member has been unique and has helped me feel comfortable and confident here. The advice, casual chats, the singing and laughing with my nieces, and so much more have made my semester here even better.
I will miss my Chilean host family so much when I return, which to my dismay is in just a couple of weeks. As my Chilean mother often says, “el tiempo pasa volando.” Or in English, time is flying!