>This is part of a group blogging topic. Find the other entries here at Kyle’s blog.
The story of why I first came to Chile is simple and boring. I needed (and wanted) to study abroad for my major. I had already traveled to El Salvador, but I had never been to South America. My university offered programs in Chile and Argentina. The Chile program was smaller and offered a host family experience, while the Argentina program was larger and the students lived in dorms. So, I decided on Chile, mostly by process of elimination.
I actually kind of dreaded coming to Chile to study abroad. See, the summer before I had an amazing experience living in the campo in El Salvador and came home with a Salvadoran boyfriend (well, he didn’t come home with me, but you get the idea). So, I was pretty caught up in my relationship with him, and could only really focus on the next time I would be able to go visit him. Six months in Chile were just cramping my style.
However, that changed pretty much as soon as I got here. Things with my Salvadoran boyfriend went down the drain (for many complicated reasons) and then I met F. I loved my host family, the people in my program were great and I LOVED living in a city (something I had never done before in my life.) I got totally wrapped up in everything Chile.
My study abroad friends and I went on a trip to Peru and Bolivia in February, and I remember towards the end just aching to be back in Chile. But when people ask me why I like Chile, I can’t really explain in concrete terms. Yes, I like seeing the snow-capped Andes mountains in winter, I love once, I like going bed late and waking up late, I like pisco sours, etc. But it’s more than that. It’s this feeling I get when I smell the wet pavement after my neighbor has watered her sidewalk, or I hear a micro on the street, or I see the Chilean flag, or I taste a completo. It feels like home to me, just about as much as Vermont feels like home.
So towards the middle of my study abroad experience I started brainstorming ways to come back here. First I decided to write my senior Honors Thesis on La Revolución Pingüina (by the way, if you need to know anything about the Chilean Education System, I’m your woman) and therefore got a grant to come back to Santiago to do research in January 2008. Then I started researching ways to teach English in Santiago. By March of my senior year, I pretty much had decided that’s what I was going to do.
People sometimes ask why I didn’t try to travel somewhere new. First of all, I don’t think I could ever live in a place where no one spoke Spanish. I never want to lose my fluency. And I studied all things Latin America during college, so obviously I feel more comfortable here than in Spain. And because of my study abroad experience I KNOW Chile. I know the customs, the habits, the language, the transport system, how to deal with people who don’t know customer service, how to take a number at the pharmacy, etc. etc. I feel as though if I went to another Latin American country I would have to learn that stuff ALL over again, and that I would constantly be comparing it to Chile.
Well, the rest is history. After graduation I worked for 7 months at a famous ice cream factory located in Vermont and saved up money to pay for a TEFL course and my plane ticket down here (plus enough to live on for awhile and to pay some interest on my loans). If you want to read about my life then, look in the archives of this blog, but it wasn’t very thrilling.
But it was definitely worth it, because here I am, teaching English in Chile.
I guess I should add that I would be lying to myself if I said that F. had nothing to do with my decision to come back. But he was never the main reason. I always knew that if things didn’t work out between us, I would be able to stay here anyway. And I was right, because I’m still here, and plan on being here for awhile.
I realized I didn’t answer the second part of the question. Maybe I didn’t because the answer is: I don’t know. I do know that I have a plane ticket back home for Christmas, but my feeling is that I’ll come back after that, although I recognize that a lot could happen in nine months to change my mind. I have plans to go to Grad School in the U.S., but until I figure out exactly what for, I have a feeling I’ll be here.