Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's official - home for Christmas!

This post is an adaptation of an email that was sent to close family and friends. After consideration and in response to my excitement, I decided to post the information on the blog as well.

Well, the flight has been booked and I am already excited to come home!!

Here is the information:

Day Date Flight City Time
--- ----- --------------- ------ -----


As you can see, although my 27-month contract with Holy Cross Associates is officially fulfilled with my return to the United States this December, I will be travel back to Santiago on January 14. This is so I can travel to the United States with the Chilean exchange students who will go to Washington, DC with me, leaving Santiago on January 17. I will be in Washington, DC until the 21st, in which all the students will go to their respective schools around the U.S. Just as last year, I will stay for a few days visting friends in DC, then return to Santiago (this return trip is paid for by the school, a round-trip ticket from Santiago to the U.S. is actually cheaper than one way - I think it is a way to secure that one will not stay in the U.S.)

The plan from there is that I will travel for two or three weeks, going back to Bolivia to see my Bolivian family for a week or so (now that I can understand everything they say :-) ), as well as making my way to Peru to hike and see Macchu Picchu. Plus, staying in the United States would mean two straight winters. I want to enjoy the Chilean summer sun, being with friends, the beach and the ocean.

I have been offered a job here in Santiago from February to May, allowing me to work until mid-May and save some money in order to start graduate school in the Fall (the living expenses here are very low, so much that I am certain a good amount of money can be saved...more than what I would make with a job in the U.S. at that time. And that would be if I found a job in the U.S. that would only hire me until I leave for graduate school a few months later.) I also feel that this time will allow me to tie-up loose ends and put a full closure on my time here, particularly all the projects I have, including a few new projects I just started just this week. It is funny, realizing that I need these four months to truly feel complete in my experience - with those four months, I will complete two years of work in Santiago, exactly the amount of time that an Associate spends in one place if they do not move and change locations, as I did several times throughout my experience.

I am very much looking forward to returning home, particularly for Christmas - Christmas Eve is my second most favorite holiday of the year (with my birthday being my favorite of course!) This Christmas Eve will be particularly special because I will be in the United States, after having been in Chile for the last two, and I will have a new neice or nephew to share it with!

That being said, 4 months and 16 days until I will be back in the United States! Until then, the work and daily Chilean life continues....

A hug to all,


Friday, July 25, 2008

Just call me "camp counselor"

“It’s chilly in Chile” and “I love mint tea” are my most common gmail chat away messages these days. Lately, in the midst of another cold Chilean winter, keeping warm with my very loyal boyfriend and a large mug of mint tea have pretty much been the highlight of my social life once the work day ends.

So, it comes down to my work to provide entertainment. Luckily, this has not been much of a problem, as I have been playing host to 6 teenage girls the past month or so. That being said, there is never a dull moment. These girls, part of the exchange program I created at a local high school I work at, come from Idaho, California, Idaho, Kansas City and Chicago. It is funny how these girls are unique but very similar all at the same time.

Two weeks ago, while students of the high school were in semester final exams, the girls and I took advantage of the free week to travel and see the sites in and around Santiago. Of course, we hit up all the highlights, with trips to my favorite town of Pomaire (family: where all your clay bowls came from), Pablo Neruda’s house in Isla Negra, and of course, the beach towns of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. The beach towns would have been great…but the clouds were so thick that the ocean could barely be seen. We took a chilly horse-drawn carriage tour of the cities anyway.

It has really been eye-opening seeing Chile all over again through these girls’ perspective. Although I was a bit older, and I would like to say more mature, these girls had the same basic level of Spanish and same amount of experience with Chile (none) as I did when I arrived for the first time almost two years ago. I laughed to myself several times when I heard the same comments come out of their mouths as did mine when I first arrived. I smiled when they tasted pisco sour for the first time, reacting with a sour-puck face, then a few minutes later asked for more. I even comforted them when they expressed frustrations over the non-existent concept of time in Chile or being treated like a child/stupid by others simply because they could not understand the language. Overall though, my relationship with the exchange program participants was summed up by one of the girls during our Valparaiso trip, when she said, “Michelle, I feel that you are our fun camp counselor and we are at camp.” I will take it as a compliment.

I guess because my family or friends will not be able to come down and see my life here in Chile, I really did enjoy the moments when they asked about my life and I was able to share some part of it. I was still not able to answer the questions “What do you miss most about the United States?” and “What will you miss most about Chile when you leave?” and I am sure those answers will not be discovered any time soon. Regardless, at the end of their very short stay, I am confident to say that they at least got a sense of this country and this culture…if nothing else, they will go home with a lot of new friends, including one very fun “camp counselor.”

A group of Gringos: Some of the visting U.S. exchange students, their Chilean "sisters," U.S. teachers who teach at the high school they are visiting, and me.

Some of the visiting U.S. exchange students and me, riding the Santiago subway

Some of the visting U.S. students and me, at Isla Negra and Pablo Neruda's house