An integral part of my experience in Chile has undoubtedly been my Chilean family. Similar to most other students in my program, I live with a señora/dueña de la casa. Additionally, I have a hermana mayor and her daughter as well.
Needless to say with three other people in the house, the life I’m accustomed to at home as an only child has been challenged. From my first days in Santiago, they have gone above and beyond in taking care of me and making sure I knew how to get to various places (even if their directions are wanky- I often resorted to Google Maps anyway). While I know that each Chilean family is distinct in its own way, mine was a big part of my daily schedule and helping me understand Chilean culture on a personal level.
I spent lots of time with my host Mom in the kitchen discussing Chilean municipal elections, Chilean customs, recipes and on one occasion the country’s dark past during the dictatorship. Through this, I learned to understand how much the dueña de la casa runs the family and sets the schedule. When she was gone, I found myself aimlessly wandering around the house wondering what to eat and what to do and who to talk to but when she was there I felt as if there was more of an organized presence.
Additionally when the dueña de la casa left, the house felt different when she was gone. Dishes in the sink piled up, I forgot to make my bed and there was overall chaos from not having someone keep behind everyone. Even when my host sister and the baby were gone, the house felt quieter and slow, way too quiet and empty. And I’m sure when I left the house they felt similar feelings of the gringa not yelling as much and not laughing at everything. Being with my Chilean family was literally having a second family with their own rhythm which I integrated into.