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Gap Year Abroad

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A new perspective

The Market was compact, bright and intensely overwhelming. As I walked through the two foot wide, dirty path dodging runaway apples and oranges, vendors bellowed their prices at me. Dusty hands flew around the fruits and vegetables placing the products in reused bags, receiving coins from the customer, and wiping the stray juices of squished merchandise onto the closest cloth. My feet sidestepped homeless dogs and cats sniffing the scene for a bit of food. My parents looked back and motioned with their hands the universal sign of ‘keep up’. The scenery intensified as I walked farther into the center of the market, and I focused on the back of my sister as my parents ran in opposite directions to buy the food for the week. 

Slightly later, I caught up to my mom who was buying pears at a slightly less congested area of the market. I smiled at the vendor, and he smiled back. The man offered me a pear keeping the smile across his face. I immediately noticed that the pear had a small chunk missing from it, and a thin coat of dirt. I was hesitant to accept this offer because I knew that my States mom would have scolded me for taking an unwashed fruit. But, with eyes filled of anticipation and a small, proud smile on the vendor’s face I took the pear from him and took a bite of the fruit. My hands, his hands, the pear, were all unwashed and I had not a single clue where two of them had been, but it didn’t matter.

Below what I deemed an unclean pear was a juicy masterpiece. It was unbelievably fresh and delicious. My mind was racing with the concepts I had learned as a child: I will become sick from the unwashed fruit. But that was only my perception of the fruit. To the vendor, it didn’t need to be washed in order to be enjoyed. It is a simple difference between our cultures- and neither is wrong or right. 

In order to be in this culture I needed to slightly let go of my United States conception of clean, and allow myself to see the pear in a different way. I mean, in the end, the pear was delicious and I didn’t get sick from a little dirt. I had walked away from my concepts and welcomed a new world, and I don’t regret it.  

This small experience in my Chilean life marks a time that I know I will remember. The accumulation of all these small activities outside of the comfort of my culture norms formulates the experience of a new culture. It is not the grand moments, however fun those are, but the everyday movements of life. And that is where all the interesting moments lie.


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