Some Final Words for My Beloved City

It was about 2 weeks before I left and I was already ready to leave my second home in Santiago de Chile.  I was anxious to see my family and friends and to be able to wake up under my own roof again.  As much as I loved living with a host family for my 5 months abroad, I really missed my family.  Quite honestly, it was the very first time I had felt truly homesick.  Maybe I had felt this way because the idea of returning was becoming so real to me or because I had been too busy to think much about returning home that I never felt the urge to go back.  At this point, I felt satisfied.  So much so that I was ready to say goodbye to a city that had given me so many wonderful memories.

So, on my second to last day of my stay in Santiago, I went for a hike on the city’s second highest mountain, Cerro Manquehue, and it was truly the most emotional hike I’ve had.  No tears, I promise, but it was just a reflective memory walk.  I remember the day that I moved in a day earlier than everyone else and I remembered the emotions I was feeling so rawly that it felt that I was feeling them for the first time again.  I remembered how overwhelmed I was moving from the airport to my hotel on my own speaking purely in Spanish without any help.  I remembered how alone I felt that evening as well.  The most alone I had felt in my life, but at the same time I remember feeling a sense of excitement and thrill for what I would be experiencing my following 5 months, and every moment of it was beyond what I expected.  So, as an ode to my beautiful city, here is what I wrote for her.

A note for my beloved city:

Chao, Santiago de Chile. No puedo decir lo suficiente cuánto te voy a extrañar. Gracias por todas las experiencias que me has dado. Desde las horas pico horribles en el Metro, temblores y días lluviosos hasta los cerros hermosos que abrazan tu alrededor y tu hermoso paisaje que me bendice cada mañana con tu cordillera y amanecer. Te quiero y ya te echo de menos.  La única cosa que te pido es que tus ciudadanos ayuden a limpiar todo el smog para que todos puedan ver tu belleza. Yo sé que ha sido una experiencia difícil a veces pero me ha enseñado mucho a travez de mis desafíos. Gracias también por haberme dado amistades fuertes en mis últimos meses en mi estadía. Aunque los meses al principio fueron muy arduos, a través de esa temporada me has enseñado a sentirme contento estando solo. Ahora, veo que hay algo hermoso en eso. Que nunca he estado solo, que siempre he tenido un compañero. Y ese compañero soy yo. 

Goodbye, Santiago. I can’t say enough how much I will miss you. Thank you for all of the experiences that you have given me. From horrible rush hours in the Metro, tremors, and rainy days to your beautiful hills that embrace you along with your beautiful landscape that blesses me every morning with your mountain range and sunrise. I love you and I already miss you. The only thing I ask of you is that your citizens help to clear your smog so that everyone can see your beauty.  I know that it has been a difficult experience at times but you have taught me a lot through my challenges. Thank you also for giving me strong friendships in the last months of my stay. Although the first months were tough, through this season you have taught me how to be content with being alone. Now, I see that there is something beautiful in this. That I have never been alone. That I have always had a companion and that companion is me. And for once, I got to know him really well.

Un Paraguay en Chile | A Paraguay in Chile

 

Photo at our “Despedida Paraguaya” or Paraguayan goodbye party. In the back, we decorated the wall with a Paraguayan flag with Paraguayan jerseys against the wall on every chair.
Araceli, who always went by Ara, loved psychology, reading, and watching old movies. Fascinated with old film, she would always invite Vero and I to vintage film showings and we even had movie marathons. We always enjoyed talking about books, window shopped, had deep conversations about feminism and world justice and vented about our struggles studying abroad and our unreasonable amounts of homework.

As I blogged in one of my first blogs, “It’s Hard to Immerse And Why It’s Okay” I talked about my difficulty finding friends of my age that I could relate to other than my IES classmates. Though I was taking classes at a local university, I only really made acquaintances which was fine and to be expected. I was always told that making friends among local students can be sometimes difficult as friend groups are pretty much set while Chileans are known to be somewhat timid when talking with new people. Though I heard this many times, I didn’t think it would really be a problem and still to this day I still think the problem was with me. I was a little scared to be honest. I have always put unrealistic expectations on myself to speak very good Spanish and I was nervous about being teased because of my American accent. Silly, right? But luckily, regardless of this fear I ended up meeting a great group of friends that I stay in touch with even after my program ended. I met two of them, Araceli and Verónica, in a volunteering meeting at the local university where I took my Religion course and they were super friendly and asked everyone around them for their names introducing themselves saying they were from Paraguay.  Right before I left this meeting, we ended up exchanging numbers to stay in touch about campus events that were coming up. At the moment, I didn’t think much of it since I had met many students from class and ended up forgetting their names or never hearing from them, but it was within weeks that I began to spend a lot of time with them, and eventually I began feeling like I was a part of something. They would often invite me and some of my friends to school functions and places around the city to explore.  I would always thank them profusely for extending their invitations because it really meant a lot to me and even more so when they began teaching me about their culture.

“Eventually I began feeling like I was a part of something”.

One of the first Paraguayan friends I met in Santiago: Verónica or Vero, we would always call her. She was always super energetic and loved ballet and was always down to go dancing salsa. Before I left to return to the United States, she gave me a keychain from Paraguay and mentioned that she had her own from Panama (where many of family is from) so that we remember that we have a home to stay at when we visit our family’s countries.

I learned a lot about their country’s second language, Guarani, which is just as official as Spanish and originates from its indigenous population. In Paraguay, these cultures are not separate but are one, as its blood flows mixed with the two. My friends Ara and Vero, who are Psychology majors, would often tell me that Guarani is important to connect with their patients. Sometimes when addressing a patient in Spanish, he or she can be closed and not as open to communicate; but as one speaks in Guarani, one can communicate more emotion and raw sentiment. It really allows for a deeper interaction. I also found Guarani to even be part of my communication with them as they taught me many words like purrete which means cool or maena which means triste or sad, or my favorite one, mopio, which we would always say after someone said something unbelievable or that was a lie. I still will never forget the first time I used it. One day I was invited to their apartment that they rented out along with other Paraguayan exchange students and they burst out laughing. At first I felt that my fear of being teased of language had been realized but they were actually laughing with me, so excited that I had been learning Guarani. At this moment, one of my friends, Sayra had clapped in glee saying that I had already become Paraguayan.

A parting gift given to me about a few weeks before I left for the United States to remind me that I will always have a home or many in Paraguay.

If I ever felt like I had found friends before, I felt like I had found something greater, like a second family. I truly felt home. It was where we would all vent to each other, share our dreams, bake our own pizzas, dance and watch movies until we were always reminded of the homework that was due the next day or the test we had to study for. Like all my family reunions that scheduled for a time, we would always gather at least an hour late and leave hours after we say it’s time to go. We loved food, we loved to dance, we loved to eat, and we loved to talk. To be honest, their apartment was something that of a symbol for me: that whenever I felt I needed a friend, it would be there on Calle Paraguay. To this day, I think it so ironic that the very street they lived on is named after their country, but it made it easy to find and I never had to look hard to find it. It was truly a home a way from home. It was my Paraguay in Chile.

 

 

 

Los primeros días

Hi, everyone! I am thrilled to announce that I have arrived safe and sound in Seville, Spain! It was my first time traveling alone internationally, so I was pretty scared about checking in bags, going through passport security, and finding the right gates. Unfortunately, I had a rough start in the Chicago O’Hare airport; I ended up riding the transit to three different terminals before finally finding the Iberia flights check-in. It’s terminal 3 in case you were wondering. I then successfully made it to my gate where I met some other students who were also traveling to Seville for the CIEE liberal arts program. We were all so excited to begin our adventures!

When I arrived in the Seville airport, I was greeted by the CIEE orientation guides who are students at the University of Seville. They gave me the orientation folder which contained the orientation schedule, the address of my host family, my CIEE student ID, and a map of Seville. They also helped me and 20 other anxious students fill out the missing luggage form. (Thankfully, my suitcase arrived 2 days later.) I now understand why people pack extra outfits in their carry on.

From the airport, the CIEE bus took me to my alojamiento (homestay) where I met my señora, Maria. I am known as Alison to Maria because Alli is difficult to pronounce. Maria lives alone, next door to her older sister, and has one married daughter who has kids. Because Maria’s daughter lives nearby, she enjoys walking there to play dolls and soccer with the grandchildren.

When I met Maria, we greeted each other with dos besos (two kisses) and she welcomed me to Seville and to her home. In Spain, it is culturally appropriate for women to greet men and other women with dos besos and for men to greet other men with a handshake or dos besos if they are family or good friends. Like most sevillanos, Maria lives in a small apartment equipped only to sleep, eat, and do laundry. Entertaining guests at homes is not a thing here like it is in the U.S. If a group of friends want to hang out, they will go to the bars or the plazas.

For breakfast, Maria and I normally eat toast with olive oil and jam or a muffin and drink milk or juice. Lunch and dinner has varied from veggies to pasta to soup to fruit, but I can always count on a basket full of bread or pretzel-like breadsticks…sorry Coach Cole. Maria and I eat lunch and dinner in the living room while chatting (in Spanish of course) and watching some of her favorite TV programs: “Yo soy del sur” (a singing competition for southern Spaniards), “Parejas” (contestants go on a blind date hoping to start a relationship), and “Cámbiame” (contestants receive an extreme makeover and wardrobe alterations). It has been so great getting to know Maria and she has been very sweet and understanding about my imperfect Spanish. I’m excited to spend more time with Maria, learn more about the culture, and improve my Spanish!

Orientation fun and sightseeing will be coming up soon!

    

Shopping

So I went out on a journey for groceries for the first time in Dublin.  I was surprised at the differences between groceries stores in Dublin and in Holland, Kalamazoo, and all of America.

The store is called SPAR and it was hard to navigate.  They did not even have everything I was looking for, like tissue or bigger food items.  I got toilet paper (yes, my residence did not provide it for me), juice, rice (love it!), and cleaning supplies because those will come in quite handy.  I realize that I have become a morning person in my week in Dublin. Back to the point, it was a refreshing experience going to a place I had never been to before and establishing new techniques for something that I take for granted everyday: grocery shopping.

Take note, people, for your future study abroad trips because the world is a lot bigger than just the America that you live in today.  I know that the next time that I venture out for groceries, I will also bring a trusty bag and list with me, so that I can figure out what I got at one store and what I need at another store.  My first week in Dublin continues, and there is more to come!

First Day

Hi guys!  I have just arrived In Dublin.  I took a taxi from the airport, meeting two lovely ladies in the IES program along the way.  The taxi driver was pretty funny, stringing American lyrics to go along with the occasional yank declaration.  Somehow, someway, we made our way to the Binary Hub, which will be my home for the next 3, 4, …….. Actually 101 days, to be exact.

The first night we had a tea social, only in Dublin, where I got to meet many other people in the IES abroad program, as well as the coordinators and student assistants.  I also instantly connected with my roommates and fellow study abroaders in my building.  The first night, we went into the heart of Dublin, which was the first time that I experienced a culture with a drinking age below 21.  We had fun, talking and connecting while sipping Guinness and occasionally eating hearty food (I personally loved the Irish Stew).  The next morning, we had our first day of orientation.  I will admit there is still a lot of information to digest and process, but that comes with being in a foreign country for an entire semester.  Topics ranged from how to deal with sexual harassment to a sim card to how to not draw too much attention to yourself.  It was fun to not only listen to IES Abroad personnel for several hours, but also to see the people that I would eventually see in the classroom very soon.  It has only been two days now in Dublin, but I am excited to not only be here, but experience what is ahead.  I will be back soon with more stories of my Dublin Escapade!  Stay tuned.

¿Dónde empezar?

So much has happened in the past few days that I feel a gallery of photos would better express my excitement for the wonders that I had the privilege of beholding.  The enormous Palacio Real (ironically, the king and queen do not live here), the beautiful and monumental Almudena Cathedral where the current king and queen of Spain held their wedding, the awe-inspiring Madrid town hall (El Ayuntamiento de Madrid), and the oldest restaurant in the world (el Restaurante Botín, which was founded in 1725) are just a few of the sights that made me beam with life.

The First Bout of FOMO

I began dreaming of my college study abroad semester pretty early on in my high school Spanish classes (what else would have motivated me to get through all those “preterite versus imperfect” lectures?). During Hope prospective student visit days, I sat front row at every off-campus study info session, stored away all the pamphlets, and talked to countless students about their experiences abroad.  When I arrived at Hope in Fall 2014, I plotted out my 4-Year Plan based entirely upon my semester abroad.  However, when it came time to actually make the plans a reality, fear and anxiety crept in.  It wasn’t that I lost the desire to go abroad, but rather that I didn’t want to leave Hope for a semester.

Clearly, events occurred that changed my mind, because here I am writing from Chile.  I can confidently say that I am exactly where I am supposed to be– being challenged, humbled, and left in wonder by this new home of mine.  However, I will break the myth that every day abroad is as much of an adventure as an Instagram picture or blog post may convey.

This past weekend at Hope was Orientation Weekend.  Having been a part of the Orientation Staff for the past two years and loving freshman orientation myself, it has been incredibly difficult to miss out on the best weekend of the year.  Flipping through all the Instagrams and Snapchats, the reality hits that life goes on without you.  When your friends are all moving in together and reuniting after summers apart, you’re not a part of the group texts to meet up at New Holland, Captain Sundae, or a Lake Michigan sunset.  No matter how much we glorify FaceTime and Skype to keep us connected, nothing adequately compensates for the 10,000 miles of distance that exists.

Amidst the FOMO, I am reminded of the gift it is to have a place and people to miss.  I would not trade this adventure abroad for anything– even for my long-awaited senior year fall semester at Hope.  As I write this, I fear that this is just the beginning of the FOMO.  There will be an abundance of things to miss out on, and plenty more anticlimactic days abroad.  However, when I allow myself to sit in that ache to be with the people that know me the best and in the place that I feel the most at home, I am grateful to carry that sense of belonging with me.  Best of all, it’s what will welcome me home in just a few months!