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.