And so begins one of the most hackneyed subjects for a travel blog – homesickness and how I’m dealing with it.
Homesick? you might ask. But Shru, you’ve only been there for three days!
Yes. I’m homesick. I have only been here three days, but it feels like a lifetime. The flight up here was fairly uneventful. For the first time in a while, I managed not to lose anything, break anything, miss anything, or get seated next to unhappy infants. We waited in the airport for around four hours before we traveled to Valparaiso, where the University is actually located. I’m sure the drive was beautiful, but I wouldn’t know because I was fast asleep within five minutes of it. I waited for my host family for probably another hour after that, and when I eventually got to my place of residence, I was too tired to process anything.
It’s gotten much better since my arrival. My host family is warm, generous, and extremely affectionate. I am beyond thankful for them. Viña del Mar is paradise on earth. It never gets extremely hot or extremely cold and the beach is pristine and picturesque. I can hear the waves crash on the shore from my window. This week, Viña hosted one of the most important music festivals in Latin America. Last night I could distantly hear Daddy Yankee singing from his stage on the beach. I’m definitely living the dream here – but honestly the dream is terrifying sometimes.
I miss the fact that I was never more than an afternoon’s drive away from my parents. Now I’m 5000 miles away and instead of feeding me and sending me to bed early when I’ve had a hard day, my mom has to be content with talking at me very loudly over Skype. Any of you who know my mother know how loud she talks on a normal basis – she’s convinced you have to scream to be heard over skype, so I’m pretty sure our neighbors back home have invested in earplugs.
I miss the fact that everyone speaks slowly and musically back home. Though I’m sure I’ll incur my father’s wrath for saying this, I’d give anything to hear someone say “y’all” again. Every Spanish speaker I consulted before I embarked on my trip fervently wished me luck. “Los Chilenos no hablan español,” one said. “Hablan algo medio loco.” I’ve come to find that “medio loco” is about right. They speak at warp speed and don’t pronounce the letter S. Half the words they use belong to a lexicon known only within the borders of this country. “Pololo” is boyfriend. “De retiro” means “I’ll be back.” They also randomly insert the word “po” into sentences – roughly translated, it means “well.” I know the transition into full Spanish immersion would be hard, but it is a steep curve. I miss my heart being blessed and my daddy being hollered at by his nurses. I know my Spanish is better than a lot of the lost students I’ve met so far, but for the first time in my life, words escape me.
I miss being able to grab my keys and go wherever I wanted to go. Today the bus didn’t even pause in front of the stop outside my house so I got him to stop in the middle of the road a half mile down and walked back.
I miss hot water at the twist of a tap. Here, I have to tell my host mom that I want to shower and she will turn on the hot water heater for me.
I miss leaving my door unlocked. I get told repeatedly that I can’t bring my valuables anywhere or they will get stolen. This, to me, seems contradictory to the repeated testimonies I get of the warmth and kindness of Chileans. Pablo Neruda described the city I live in as “the city of wind and bandits”
I miss Sriracha. Aji, the tart pepper they use for spice here, just doesn’t cut it.
I think what I miss most of all is the people. I took for granted being able to walk down the street in any direction and find people that know me. I miss walking into the nail salon and being greeted with “Hey honey, we haven’t seen you in WEEKS. How’s your Mama?” I miss being in Oxford and being able to walk smack into someone I know, no matter where I am. I miss being able to greet a random stranger on the street with “Hotty Toddy!” and knowing that with the utterance of those two magic words, I have a friend. I miss nike shorts and chacos and my communal closet.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that I’m here. I’m extremely excited for the opportunity and my spanish is slowly but surely getting better. I’m not afraid of what Chile will bring in the short or long term. But you can have roots and wings.
I think I left my heart in Mississippi, y’all, tucked somewhere amidst the trees in the Grove. Keep it safe for me until I return. I promise I’ll be effusive and enthusiastic in my praise for Viña in my next post.