I’ve finally arrived! After a goodbye cocktail at the hostel, many of us began shipping out to our regions that very night. One of the EOD staff dropped me and two other volunteers off at the bus station, where we went our separate ways.
I took a 11 hour overnight bus down to Valdivia, while the others went north to the Atacama desert. The buses in Chile are extremely nice…basically tour buses. I was nervous saying goodbye to all that had become familiar in Santiago, especially my English-speaking group. All I knew was that my host family would be waiting for me when I arrived in Valdivia. Into the unknown!
It was a smooth ride, except for the bus breaking down at 7 am. Since I barely speak Spanish, I had no idea what going on as everyone began pulling their luggage off the bus in the middle of this random town. Half asleep, I followed along with the masses. Eventually another bus showed up to take the group to Valdivia.
It was a few hours before arrival when I started to feel nervous because I would be meeting my host family. I didn’t know anything about them except their names. I’m pretty good at adapting, but this suddenly felt very crazy.
Now one week in, I will say, my host family is amazing. Right when I stepped off the bus, I was surrounded by kisses. The mother, Zandra Palma, and her 16-year-old daughter, Karen, were waiting for me. They live about 10 minutes from the center of town. They also have a 11-year-old, Rudy, who’s a football fanatic. In Chile, you’re either for Universidad de Santiago or Colo Colo, the two national soccer teams. I saw Rudy’s poster on his wall, and asked “Universidad de Santiago?” He nearly died. “Nooooooo! Es eso Colo Colo!” It is official. I’m now for Colo Colo.
Karen’s room is covered with photos of Luis Fonsi, a Puerto Rican singer. I asked her what other kind of music she likes, and she points to her walls, “The romantic kind!” Part of my room is covered with these photos as well. I’m surrounded by photos of beautiful Latin men. Gracias, Karen.
On Sunday, the aunt, Tia Amelia, and the grandma Elsa came over for a huge lunch. Even though my Spanish sounds like I’m 4-years-old, I managed to talk to Elsa for a while about life and North Americans. I usually just throw out a verb that I think is right, and see what reaction I get. That’s how I measure how much they can understand, and if I’m close enough to the right tense. Trial and error. Una y otra vez.
The family doesn’t speak any English, so all communication is in charades and simple Spanish.
No matter what, Chileans are the most warm people I’ve ever met.
In a few hours, I’ll start classes at Instituto Imaculada Concepción, a Catholic school in the middle of town. It’s right next to La Ultima Frontera, one of the town’s most popular bars. Good urban planning.
So much has been happening these past few days. My life is a whirlwind of just going with the flow. As one of the English Opens Doors staff told us, “Be like liquid. Just take the form of whatever you need to…and just be.”
Anyway, time for some photos…