They say this experience is a roller coaster and honestly right now I can’t even tell you where I am on it. Today marks my third to last day in Chile, my home for the past 4 months. Time has flown and I can’t imagine that I’ve been here for so long. We have our farewell dinner tomorrow night and our final debriefing.
There is a part of me that is ecstatic to leave, to have all my comfort back. I am so excited to sleep in my own bed and play with my dog. I can’t wait to eat all the food I’ve been craving for the past few months, the apples and apple cider and Olive Garden, all of the comforts I have known my entire life. I AM READY TO BE NORMAL AGAIN! I’m sick of people staring at me in the streets, gawking at my blonde braids. I am sick of people whistling at me in the street. I am sick of cars blowing their horns at me. I am sick of people telling me “hello” in English and then turning around and talking about me in Spanish. I just want to scream at them that I understand. I want people to not treat me like I am incompetent, like I don’t speak their language. I want to be in a place where they just assume I speak their language. I want to walk down the street and not have cars literally stop. I want to walk in peace knowing that men won’t stick their entire head out of the window to look at mean, like a dog to steak. I want to be more than that weird gringa walking around. I never realized how lucky we are to live in the United States where people don’t think anything of seeing someone of another skin color. They don’t stop to take pictures of them. We live in such a diverse world, that diversity is normal. That’s a blessing.
But there is that other part of me, that part that I’ve been procrastinating acknowledging. Leaving is something so tangible, so physical, so obvious, that I think you don’t realize how much it is going to affect you until you’re in it. I’ve made my home here for the past 4 months; I’ve developed relationship with my host family. These friends I’ve made have been my entire life. I have talked to them all day, face to face or texting, for what feels like forever. I can’t imagine not having them close so that when I get mad we can go buy boxes of strawberries off the street and eat them all in a park playing soccer. I can’t imagine what it will be like to not have practice or rehearsal with the band for youth group or Sunday morning at church. All the practices I have made normal for me, will all change Friday night. These friends have been my life line when I was homesick or crying, my support when I almost flooded my host family’s department, and my go to dancers when I want to go out. They are the ones I have cooked with, had food fights with, played soccer with, worshiped with, cried with, and to think that after Friday I don’t know if I’ll see them again in person. Of course, we’ll keep in contact but being separated by half the world is different than two metro stops. This weekend my youth group gave me a notebook with letters from each of them written in it. I cried.
That seems to be a common theme lately in my life. I don’t know to cry or to laugh. I am so excited to go back and everything about it; I just don’t want to leave all my friends. They also say re-immersion is the worst part of all of this process. For that, I am slightly scared to go home. The moral of the story is that I have no idea what I’m feeling. I don’t understand why leaving a home I’ve known for 4 months is so much harder than leaving a home I’ve known all my life ever was.
P.S. Also, low key not ready to leave springtime and the abundance of fresh fruit.