Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back in the States

A random list of things I've been thinking my second day back home:

1. I feel weird when I throw my toilet paper in the toilet. "Really?" I think. "It won't back up?"
2. I picked up with my friends right where I left on ten months ago. True friends are like that.
3. I woke up today after having slept poorly on a extra-thick, fancy double bed. I'm use to the thin, cheap mattress in Chile. I remember in high school thinking I had this really small room. I longed for more space. I woke up today thinking, wow, my room is huge...and wow, I was super spoiled in high school.
4. I am rich. My parents are rich. Everyone in California is rich. No one has any idea that they are. Ridiculously rich. But I know it doesn't feel like it here. But it's true.
5. I love bagels and donuts and hash browns. I missed them.
6. I miss Pollo and Lua and Kanke.

I have three months to accomplish a few important things. Make sure my cats are healthy and glowing. Get an awesome North American haircut. Say hi to all my friends and family.

And get rid of my stuff that is being stored in the garage. I went through two boxes yesterday. I was so happy to see more of my stuff: pens, my printer, more clothes. I was having trouble letting go of these things when I realized that I haven't needed, wanted, or even thought of any of these things for 10 months (okay, i thought about my printer a little--it's awesome).

But really, I don't need any of it. When I lived in Pleasanton, as a way of trying to save money and resist the urge to buy, buy, buy, I remember thinking, "I don't need to worry. I'll accumulate more stuff the longer I stay here." This was a comforting thought to me.

How things have changed. I am now comforted by the thought that I don't need any of this stuff. I have always liked the feeling of getting rid of things that I haven't been using, of letting go. I understand better now why. In yoga, they teach you to learn to disengage yourself from your things, to recognize the power the material goods have over you, and in recognizing, learning when it's time to let go. And in the letting go, of your spirit being more and more free to fly.

This is my moment to recognize and to let go. It is my time to be free.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adventures Closer to Home

Since it's been pretty yucky outside lately (they predict a torrential downpour today and tomorrow), my activities have been much closer to home. Cine nights at the house with the roomies and Pollo (and San Francisco-brand ice cream Chocolate Mazapan and Pralines and Cream flavors) and blankets. A short walk to Pad Thai from Pollo's new room near the Salvador metro station. Pizza in and watching Sandra Bullock in that movie where she's an alcoholic in rehab. Lunches of pesto pasta with garlic bread, conversation with Kanke and JuanCa. Coming home to the estufa lit and glowing, Lua wrapped up in blankets and magazine photos strewn everywhere since she's midway through a collage. Kanke on the other side, organizing her things before she leaves. A place for me to sit on the carpet too with a book and tea and think warm thoughts.

Recently, Lua, Pollo and I went to see Up, Up and Away in 3D (I had to pronouce it at the ticket counter "oop tres day por favor"). It was dubbed in Spanish and there was a moment when Senor Fredrickson first begins talking. He says in spanish "Beautiful view, eh Elly?" I couldn't understand why he had this strange accent. It took me a second to realize two things: 1) He had an accent because he was SPEAKING IN Spanish and 2) I understood the Spanish in that one sentence without translating from English to Spanish (yay!).

Lua, Pollo and me

Lua said to me today: "Amazing that just as this little seed of Spanish comprehension is sprouting, you're going to uproot it completely by returning home."

I just laughed and said, "Yep."

At this point, I'm happy for all the things I have here and happy for all the things I have there and things are going to be what they will be.

I'm off to eat Peruvian food!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Citizen of the World

When I first arrived in Chile, I stayed at this dumpy hostel near Barrio Bellavista. I met a girl there who was originally from Brazil and moved to the States in high school. She seemed very American to me but could speak Portuguese fluently and managed Spanish easily. She told me that I would be changed forever by living in Chile for even six months (the amount of time I believed I would stay at first). She said that once you live in another country, you are no longer just a citizen of your country, you're a citizen of the world.

Recently, I remembered this comment as I've started to feel the stretch of loving more than one country, many, many miles apart from each other. I'm nervous. The problem with traveling and living abroad is that 1) you want to travel more (which really isn't my problem) and 2) you feel comfortable everywhere (again, not much of a problem) and 3) you will never again be in one spot where you don't miss something somewhere else in the world (this is my problem).

Your favorite restaurant could be in Chile. Your favorite cookie in Los Angeles. Favorite modern dance company in Davis, California. Favorite hip hop class in Santiago. Favorite hostel in Mendoza. Favorite market in Peru. Favorite desert in Ushuaia.

Perhaps it is my motherly instinct rearing up in me, but it's a hard thing to accept that I will never have everything I've ever loved gathered up all in one spot. It is the sacrifice I've made to travel the world. I will see the world. I will love the world. And there will always be a part of me longing to roam and return to the places I love, no matter how many miles away those places are.

I think I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coming Home June 20

By this Sunday, June 21, I will be in the United States. Wow, it's been so long.

Whenever I tell Chileans I've been in Chile for 10 months, they comment that 10 months isn't long at all. I laugh because it sure feels like a long time.

I don't know why I'm complaining. I guess I want a badge like they give in Girl Scout's. A foreign country badge. Proof that I survived. Proof that I'm prepared to take on more.

Because, even though I miss the U.S., I want to return to South America. To the possibility of a life full of adventure and desafios (challenges).

I'm returning to Chile in September for another summer there and maybe another year.

See all of you soon!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things I Can't Wait to Have in the US

  1. Sofas! Really, really comfy sofas
  2. The ability to throw toilet paper in the toilet instead of the trash can
  3. Central heating and air
  4. Excessive extravagance
  5. Efficient thinking
  6. English! English! English!
  7. My friends and family
  8. Wii and video games
  9. Movies I can see when they premiere, not weeks later
  10. My cats, my cousin's dog (Lucy, now owned by my cousin)
  11. My Gerhardt house
  12. Baja Fresh, Casa Orozco, BJs pizzookies, Sophia's Thai food in Davis, Peet's Coffee
  13. Linda's dance class
  14. Cheap books in English
  15. Bookstores and coffeeshops with couches
  16. Bookstores the size of warehouses
And I'm sure more that I won't realize I missed until I get home.

Things I'll Miss in Chile When I'm in the US

  1. The gigantic leaves on the tree that I never saw before I came to Chile
  2. The ability to go everywhere without a car
  3. The people, especially Kanke, Lua and Pollo
  4. The kindness of strangers on the metro
  5. Marcella's house with its funky yoga room, tatoo parlor and general super hippy-ness
  6. Empanadas del horno
  7. The house in La Reina
  8. La Chakra, Emporio de la Rosa, Juan Valdez Cafe
  9. My gym-rat friends and Baile Entretenido
  10. My Pop and Lock class in Bellavista
  11. The lack of efficiency that used to bug me and now I find endearing (sometimes)
  12. The park near our house
  13. Movies dubbed in Spanish
  14. The challenge of buying medicine from the pharmacies
  15. The creative ways people work to earn money
  16. Street vendors
  17. Street performers
  18. Spanish

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Something Has Changed

It's so cold here that I'm wearing my down jacket indoors, gloves with the fingers cut off so I can write, beanie pulled tight and covering my ears, multiple blankets covering my legs and feet.

Recently, I went to Mendoza for a few days. But something had radically changed for me since the last time I was in Mendoza in November. I stood behind two gringos while waiting to board the bus. Now most people have heard my complaints about how Chileans stand in line. They stand to the side of you or practically touching you. Oh how things have changed. I swear to you I wondered whether the gringos in front of me were actually in line because they stood so far back from the others. I wanted to do exactly what used to annoy the crap out of me--crowd them, cut around them, stand beside them. Woh!

Then, I was on the bus, sitting beside a kind viejita. Not only could I speak with her (if she talked slowly), I was more inclined to talk with her than the British travel journalist sitting across the way. I couldn't believe how self-righteous and arrogant the British woman was. I was surprised to hear how she lived in Italy and had been traveling for 10 months around the world writing a book. She acted like she'd never traveled anywhere in her life. So I ignored the Englander and chose to talk with the Chilena about her travels and her family.

At customs in the Andes, the workers only spoke Spanish. Other gringos asked me to translate. I was the only pseudo-bilingual person there.

I went on two tours in Mendoza (I wanted to spell tours "turs"). The first was all in Spanish. I met another sweet Chilena who took me under her wing. She said I reminded her of her daughter. I made no attempt to speak with the other Gringo on the bus. When I went on the wine tour in the afternoon, I was bored talking with the guy from Vancouver. I didn't care that he spoke English, which previously would have been enough to forge a long-term friendship. Instead, I wanted to talk to the woman from Paraguay.

What the heck happened? I've started to identify with the Chileans! I'm becoming Chilean for goodness sakes! When did this happen? Was I sleeping while suddenly my mindset changed from gringo to gringo-chilena?

Now, I'm equal parts sad and excited to be heading home for two and half months to pick up my cats and bring them back to Santiago. My life is how I want it to be, though it's a little inconvient that I was only able to make it happen really far away from the US. I can be a writer here without worrying about how I'm going to eat. I can take dance classes without breaking the bank. I have the gym I like, friends (though don't worry, they don't compare to my best friends and family in the US) and soon, my cats, too. And even better, I've met someone. Normally I don't declare these types of things publically and perhaps it's too early to tell, but what can I say, I've got a good feeling about this one.

And so, I pack my room with a sigh and hope for the best and look forward to all the good things to come.