my last days in Chile
12.10.2010 - 12.14.2010 85 °F
(There are two new entries before this about my mom's visit. Yes, it would have made more sense to finish the Chile blog before leaving Chile.)
My last days in Chile were far less exciting than they should have been. I was exhausted, and my friends were off on their own Patagonia adventure. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were a mix of sleep, being lazy (which is different from sleep), and desperately trying to fulfill my promise to bring back Chilean Christmas and birthday presents.
Sunday's shopping trip was a little more exciting. As I left one market with the intention of heading to another, I found myself surrounded by thousands of Santiaguinos all staring into an open street. Nobody felt like explaining what was going to happen, but I finally coaxed it out of someone that there was going to be a parade. Even though I couldn't see the street, there were rumors of globos gigantes (they call balloon floats "giant balloons") so I decided to stick around. Based on what I saw, I was pretty certain that Chile had purchased ten-year-old balloons from the US and that this was the first time balloons had ever been used in a Chilean parade. I later found out that both of those conclusions were correct. Half of the balloons were of characters that Chileans don't know, so I became the expert in my section of the crowd and tried my best to explain why their was a giant turkey wearing a pilgrim hat and how a potato can be a toy. After about thirty minutes, the parade came to a complete standstill. After forty-five minutes of zero movement, I decided I didn't want to wait around more, but the metro had shut down because there wasn't enough security. Not sure how much of the two-hour walk home I was going to have to make before I would find an open metro or a running bus, I started pushing my way through the crowds, and along the way I found the source of the problem. The parade route included a turn, but the police had not done a good enough job of clearing the roads, so all directions were completely full of people and there was nowhere to move. Three floats had somehow popped and were bundled up in heaps on the ground. I felt kind of bad for Chile and it's little parade; it was a good first attempt. (In case you were worried, I ended up only having to walk for thirty minutes, not two hours.)
I said my goodbyes to my extended host family on Monday during lunch. I didn't see very much of them in the second half of the semester because I was traveling so much, but it was still sad to say goodbye. My friends had gotten back that morning, so we got together to compare stories and do some more shopping. Abby was sick in bed for the day, so that night I went to her house for dinner and ended up accompanying her to meet Chile's champion male gymnast. I think he is her host cousin, but he's been training in Europe all this time so they had yet to meet.
My flight wasn't until late on Tuesday, so during the day my friends and I went to say goodbye to the study abroad program directors (and to turn in our carbon monoxide detectors), visit the market one last time, and enjoy Santiago's finest ice cream. At eight o'clock, it was time to head to the airport; I cried all the way there. Magaly stayed with me as long as she could (which was a long time because the airport was a madhouse), and we said our goodbyes right before immigration. It was impossible to fully express my gratitude in Spanish, but I think Magaly knows how much I loved my time with her. I left her some flowers and a nice note in case she didn't. I continued crying through the immigration line, up until the agent told me that if I was sad to leave than I should just stay. I had somehow found a fast track through all the lines and ended up through security before everyone else, which worked out nicely because I got to say goodbye to Madeline who was on the earlier flight to Georgia instead of Dallas. My other friends were on my flight, so the rest of the goodbyes came in the Dallas airport.
As the plane touched down in Denver, I started to cry again. I was so happy to be home and so excited to see my family and friends, but I was also heartbroken to have left Chile behind. I had an incredible five months, filled with beautiful places and wonderful people, and it's hard to just give that up. Most of all, I think I'm going to miss the opportunity to speak Spanish every day. My life truly has been bilingual, and it feels like part of my personality is now tied to Spanish, so losing that feels very strange. I'm really happy that I chose the fall semester, because coming home to Christmas has made everything a lot easier. I have yet to experience "reverse culture shock," but Denver did look awfully small flying in and the amount of open space between buildings and houses still looks weird to me. I'm completely broke, but every peso spent was worth it. I can't say yet what I "learned" or how I've "changed" from the experience, but I promise it was more than just an excuse to travel.