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Que Le Vaya Bien, Chile; You Will Be Missed

The time has come to say goodbye to the great nation that has hosted me for the past semester. I can honestly say that because of my experiences in (and around) Chile I will be returning to the U.S. a slightly different person. And I think that slightly different person is an improvement upon the former Anjie who existed before.

Let’s review.

The old Anjie would not have had the courage to jump out of a plane after receiving safety instructions in Spanish. She was too chicken for that kind of thing.

The old Anjie would not have danced in clubs until four in the morning. She was too shy for that kind of thing.

The old Anjie would not have hiked just short of 30 beautiful miles (48 gorgeous kilometers) in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in a day and a half. She was too lazy and out of shape for that kind of thing.

The old Anjie would not have left home base to go to Peru, Argentina, the Atacama desert, southern Patagonia, Santiago (IFSA trip and individual trip), Isla Negra (IFSA trip), La Serena (IFSA trip), Maitencillo, Casablanca… The old Anjie was too cautious to spend travel money on, well, actually traveling. The old Anjie had backwards financial logic. The old Anjie was also a home body with little interest in sitting on buses, trains, and planes in order to go somewhere new. The new Anjie, though, gets pumped up about travel opportunities and will continue to travel within the US whenever possible.

The old Anjie would not have let that boy kiss her goodnight. She was too involved with herself to even try to be involved with someone else.

The old Anjie would not have liked the Chilean accent. She would have found it too difficult to understand and overflowing with too many Chile-exclusive words. I mean, really, when am I going to be able to tell someone “bacan” in the United States? Only when I encounter one of the few Chileans we have! Oh, but the new Anjie illogically loves Chilean Spanish. Maybe because so many good memories were created while listening to and speaking it.

The old Anjie would have been pissed at the machismo of Chilean society. But the new Anjie understands to put everything into a cultural context, thus allowing her to enjoy her time in Chile without wanting to strangle the piroperos and shout at wives who don’t talk back to their husbands as they comfortably wait for food to be served to them at their dining tables every night. The new Anjie has learned to see the feminism in a woman being the master of the house.

The old Anjie wouldn’t have watched soccer games. She was too obsessed with baseball to bother with soccer. Now the new Anjie cares about baseball AND soccer.

The old Anjie would have relished in the opportunity to return home for her older sister’s wedding, glad to be back in her English-speaking comfort zone. Although she was, in fact, happy to go home for a bit, the new Anjie was also sad to have to leave Chile for an entire week!

The old Anjie would have stayed quiet at meals with her host family, afraid to say something incorrectly. The new Anjie butts into the conversation as often as possible.

The old Anjie would have wondered why she was in Chile at all if she is an English major. The new Anjie understands that her Chilean narrative and poetry classes, and her experiences living abroad, have taught her much more about literature and language and culture and life than any single Shakespeare class in the U.S. ever could.

The new Anjie, however, wants to have been able to do so much more during her time in Chile. Maybe that is always the case with being abroad for a limited amount of time: there is always more one could have done but was never able to do.

I never got to see northern Patagonia (Puerto Montt, Pucon, Chiloe). I never got to hike an active volcano. I never got to spend time at an asado in the campo. But you know what? These are all things that will be going into my “When I Return to Chile” list. Not “if,” but “when.” I just have to figure out how first.

And it’s not like I didn’t do enough with my five months in South America. I was so busy traveling and enjoying my time that I couldn’t even write in the blog as much as I otherwise would have. I had plans for blog posts about the gringa-chileno love phenomenon (because it is, in fact, a phenomenon!), visiting host grandparents (the chatty host grandfather returns!), the IFSA trip to La Serena (telescopes and Gabriela Mistral quotes), and–of course–the big trip to southern Patagonia (giants and guanacos and pumas, oh my!). Alas, the blog is not as overflowing with stories as I would have hoped.

I fly home on Tuesday. While I will be happy to be home, I am dreading it, too. Not just the person studying abroad undergoes change, you know. Some things back home will be different from the way they were before I left. I am going to have to re-adjust.

In a way, my new comfort zone is Chile. An example of this: from my week back in San Francisco for my sister’s wedding last month I now know that, once again when I return later this week, it is going to be really, really weird to NOT have to translate everything in my head from English to Spanish before interacting with people in public. No more “permiso” on the metro–I must remember that I can just go ahead and say “excuse me.” No more “tiene sencillo?” to the grocery store worker; it should be “do you have change?” instead. No more “que les vaya bien” to friends and acquaintances at the end of time spent hanging out with them. Wait…”Que les vaya bien” doesn’t even have an exact translation! What am I going to say to my English-speaking friends after hanging out with them, then? “Goodbye” doesn’t do “que les vaya bien” the slightest bit of justice!

Asi es la vida: some things just cannot be translated. But they can be imported. Therefore, I promise to import everything good about Chile, the intangible and the tangible alike. Including a jar of manjar and a recipe for empanadas.

From Chile to the US, with love. And thank you for a wonderful semester, Chile.

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