Friday, March 13, 2009

Chile, What Drew Me There and Drove Me Away

My last post was the day before my 24th birthday. That was a long time ago, and since then I have moved back to the States, survived my first winter in over 2 years (which really isn't anything big because I'm in the DC area, snow sprinklings are true winter events here). 
The question I find myself faced with right now here in blogosphere is, what has kept me from blogging in the past 6 months? While the answer may want read like an epic poem, I will do my best to keep this post sensible, clear and not unreasonably long. The interesting thing is, I started writing this draft just the night before Kyle posted the group blog idea, What Draws Us To Or Drives Us From Chile, which seems entirely tied to me ditching the realm of public writing for so long. 

I have had two very separate and different experiences of Chile: study abroad and what I have come to call "life". My study abroad story is pretty much the same one we all repeat to each other when we meet...what is the deal? Are we all from the same womb? Is our generation instrinsically prone to latin-love-affairs-turned-serious-life-altering-decisions? Something to think about. Neruda, Mistral, Allende, Pinochet, military coup, long skinny country with dope geography, all buzz words most Chile study abroaders pop out about their reasons for giving this place ago. I was no different. So yes, I studied abroad my junior year (other july 05-06ers out there?) and life, in general, was study abroad-tastic. I went to class, I drank beer at noon, I danced until the micros started running again, I traveled, I fell in love, and, thank god, I learned Spanish. Main goal accomplished, check plus. I returned home sobbing, bemoaning the long-distance state of my relationship. D and I held it out and as soon as I could graduate and put together some dollar bills, I hopped a plane with a half-cocked plan and tried out Chile times 2. 

Ah yes. The Chilean Love Affair, the second round. I realize now that I never was head over heels in love with Chile. I knew I thought Santiago was just ok, not exactly my scene if we're talking about sweet cities, but people I loved were there so I knew I'd be ok. Besides, I didn't want to do what a lot of my fellow graduates were doing. I wasn't ready for this internship here, that intership there, foot in the door helloooooo career! I had (HAVE) no idea what path to take, all I knew was someone I loved was somewhere and I couldn't stand another minute living in the agony of separation and I wanted to grab life by the ***** and stick myself out there, really project myself out of my comfort zone. 
But slowly I began to experience my environment as toxic. The food, the transportation, the work, the people. The bad started to sit on the good like a giant boulder that I lacked the strength to move. I never really got the ball rolling, mostly meaning my work was not satisfying enough to keep me motivated; I was treading water and eventually I was going to drown. The saving grace? My gringa friends. We may have complained about the same ridiculously frustrating or ridiculously hilarious things, (rampant incompetence/racism/classism/sexism, is there a "service" industry? chilena friends? am I gonna die on public transport? pokemonas, mullets) but we made life FUN and supported each other through the madness. And many of you still are! But for me, Chile Round 2 ended after a year and a half and I find myself back in Gringolandia, the forever displaced gringa trying to find her way.  

Did I leave Chile because of Chile? In part yes. But mostly, Chile and I, at this point in time, are not the right fit. There is something I need to be doing in the world right now and somehow I know to the core of my being that Chile is not where this is going to happen. In a certain respect I am disappointed in a lot of my behavior while I was there. I was often impatient, uncompassionate, rude and judgemental. I told myself it was fair because of how I was treated so often, but in retrospect it just made me bitter. It was energy wasted. Now I'm not beating myself up saying whoa is me it's all my fault, but it's important to know that it is something I am slowly recognizing. Chile was this magnifying glass, like a personal development alarm that would go off all too often to tell me, "Yo gringa! Get your **** together fast or someone or something is gonna mess you over!"

I left Chile for introspection and reconnection, with myself and with family and old friends.  
If I were a spool of thread, my time in Chile was one of unravelling. This experience was both scary and very, very necessary. Before I was wound up way too tight and not in the way I wanted to be. My life in Chile took me out of my comfort zone, forced me through challenges I would have certainly avoided if it had been possible. While many of those experiences I hated bitterly while I was in them, they were gifts for me to practice being the person I want to be. I am learning to come full circle and appreciate Chile in a different way and recognize the ways I think it is sick and the ways I think it is healthy. And most of all, how not to take things so personally. I can honestly share that I am optimistic and happy and certainly no longer the anxious girl I once was. And I share this small victory with Chile, its mountains and its sea, and all the people there that I love.