Since my last blog entry, my travels have been beyond amazing! After a full day of enjoyment at the host family’s spa, my brother Greg and I hopped on a Thursday night bus to Huaráz, a region of Peru about eight hours away and definitely not a big city like Lima. We met up on Friday morning with two girl friends from Greg’s program, Michelle and Kelsey, for two days of exploring the mountainsides, lagunas, and small towns close to Huaráz. I would compare the experience to my trip to Jujuy because of all the dust and bare landscape that we saw that weekend, but it was also similar to Bariloche in the snow-capped mountains in the background and beautiful, turquoise-colored lagunas that we hiked around.
We came home — well, back to his host parents’ house — on Sunday, just in time for his host dad’s birthday! The party started at 2:0o in the afternoon and didn’t finish for at least six hours. For me, it was a uniquely comforting experience. I was welcomed in by the spa staff and members of the family that I’d never met before, and then, as we toasted to Eduar’s health with some of the best wine I’d ever tasted, Eduar stopped to announce the arrival of a new member of the family: me, their linda hijita (beautiful little daughter). I hadn’t expected to be put on the spot, and I had hoped to share my appreciation for the family in a more private moment, but as everyone applauded and the ladies on either side of me wrapped me in side-arm hugs, I felt the tears well up and the urge to say something. In more broken Spanish than I’d like to admit, I thanked them for opening their home to me and loving me so freely in such a short space of time. Eduar gestured me forward, and we hugged to everyone’s cheers.
The party was much less sentimental after that. Luz, the woman who painted my nails, starting teaching me to dance “real” salsa (which is much more sensual than what I had learned in class!), and before I knew it, I was pulled into dance after dance with girl friends, family members, and of course Eduar. I had the time of my life and spent the rest of the night thinking to myself, why was I leaving for Chile the next day, right when I was starting to feel like part of the family?
That’s when the trip stopped resembling the image I had in my head.
I arrived in Santiago without fanfare or trouble, calmly caught an airport van to the nearest bus terminal, bought a ticket to Viña del Mar, and retraced a familiar 20 blocks on foot to my first host family’s home. The doorman of the apartment even recognized me as he let me in and reminded me which apartment belonged to my family. I rang the bell, and there they were: my host brothers Felipe and Raimundo! We hugged and eagerly caught up in the living room with my host dad, Pato, for about the next three hours (I barely noticed the time passing). It was so beautiful to see them again that I could barely react when Jeannie, my host mom, came home and told me that there must’ve been a miscommunication and I couldn’t stay with them this week. I was completely in shock.
I handled things well, considering my lack of preparation. My family graciously let me stay the night, and as soon as I awoke the next morning, I packed my things and headed for a hostel that Jeannie had found online. It was a great location and a great price, so I tucked in for what I expected to be a five-day stint in Viña del Mar, with my last day being a short excursion to a botanical garden with my host family and their new host student.
That’s when the next ball dropped: due to family circumstances that I won’t discuss here, I needed to return to Córdoba as soon as possible.
That was almost more shocking than my living situation. I had only just arrived, spent a beautiful day on the beaches of Viña del Mar and Reñaca, and I was already going home to Argentina? Apparently so, because I write this entry from the airport in Buenos Aires, waiting for my connecting flight to Córdoba later this evening.
I wasn’t sure how to react at first. I had spent a lot of time and money planning this trip to Chile to have to leave so soon. I didn’t have the opportunity to say good-bye to my host family again because the boys were at school and my host parents were in Santiago for a surgery. There were more places I wanted to see and explore, had been looking forward to since my first trip to Chile two years ago, and I would have to postpone them yet again. Where was the good in all of this?
Regardless of how I felt, I realized quickly that I had only one day left in Chile and needed to make the most of it, not sit around moping in my hostel. So the next morning, just like the morning before, I woke up early and caught a micro (public bus) to Valparaíso for a walking tour.
Tours 4 Tips is exactly what it sounds like: I showed up at 10:00 in the morning, found my tour guide Fernanda, or “Wally”, dressed in a red and white striped shirt, and took essentially a free, three-hour tour through Valparaíso with her and a couple from New Zealand. I had seen Valparaíso before, but what we saw on this tour was chaotically excellent. The ascensores (elevators), the port, the main square, the once-richest street in Latin America during the Gold Rush, the first Protestant church, artisan alfajores (Argentina’s are better), Pablo Neruda’s house La Sebastiana, bus “O” that took us through the winding streets above the city to the port below, cheap and delicious sushi, street art…it was all so stunning! I bought a painting to add to my collection and captured the other images of the city in my memory (since I still don’t have a camera). Fernanda also received an excellent tip from me, because she did a fantastic job!
The rest of the night was low-key, as was my first flight today. But you know what? It’s okay. Tonight, I’ll be back in Córdoba again, and in the morning, I’ll see my wonderful friend Ally and celebrate her birthday a couple of days late in some delicious café in the city. It’s not how I would’ve planned this particular adventure, but it’s how it happened, and when it isn’t what you expect, you just have to turn it into something spectacular.