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Gap Year Abroad

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I can't stop thinking, "I'm so lucky."

The fact that I haven’t blogged in about 2 weeks fully describes my past 2 weeks.  I have been going and going and feel like I still haven’t had a second to breathe.  But, I can honestly say it was, by far, the best time I have had in Chile so far, and I learned things and made memories that are impossible to forget.  So, this post will be more of a catch-up, what I’ve been up to, because I know I have been bad at telling even my family at home what’s been going on.

So, September 18, is Independence Day in Chile, and that means having 10 days free for vacation.  Yes.  This is why I love Chile.  So, I celebrated my sister’s 13th birthday on the tenth… (with selfies and family and yummy food).


IMG_7397And, then on the morning of the 11th, Chloe and I took off for San Pedro in the Atacama Desert.  We had an amazing time in the Cejar Lagoons, Los Geiseres, Valle del Muerte, Valle de La Luna.  It was all so gorgeous and breathtaking; pictures don’t do it any justice.


Valle de La Luna


best sunset I’ve witnessed




The four days we had planned in San Pedro were pretty awesome.  Full of friends and new friends and stars and breathtaking landscapes and many inside jokes.  I felt content, and I felt ready to come home to Valparaiso and celebrate the 18th with my family.  But, things took a quick turn when we found out there was a “strike” on the 15th because workers in the airports were not satisfied with the retirement situation.  So, on the 15th my flight in the morning was completely canceled.  My friend, Luz, came running into the hostel saying the only flight she could reschedule to was on the night of the 17th, meaning we would barely even make it for the 18th, if everything worked out.  I felt like I was going to cry.  I called my family in tears, and my mom and sister were reassuring me that it would be OK, we would have a great time on the 18th.  But, I wanted to be home when I had it planned.  I wanted to hang out with my sister all day on the 15th, go with my friends to the fondas on the 16th like I had planned, go to an “asado” with them on the 17th.  It was going to be so much fun.  I felt crushed, I felt like it was all completely out of my control.

Woah.  Talk about a change of plans.  Talk about trusting in His timing.  Talk about talking the talk but not following through with my words.  I took a deep breath, calmed down, laughed a little bit with my friends, and tried really hard to realize that there was absolutely nothing I could do.  There have definitely been worse things.

So, there we were.  Luz, Chloe, and I in a new hostel, in San Pedro, for a little longer than expected.  We relaxed and slept and read and walked around and talked about anything and everything.  I learned a lot about the patience I’m developing and still need to develop.  Then, we got a call on the night of the 15th that maybe, just maybe, we could get a 9am flight the next morning.  We talked to the people on the phone, and they told us that we were in fact confirmed for the flight the next morning.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ecstatic.

We got to the airpot at 6:30am the next day, they proceeded to tell us we weren’t on the 9am flight, but they would put us on the 2pm flight.  I could deal with that.  We waited upstairs until about 1:30pm and thought it was a little strange that no one was up there.  Until we looked downstairs at a mob of people yelling at the ticket counter, because the 2pm flight happened to just be completely cancelled.  That’s when they told us no flights were actually confirmed until the 21st. The 21st.  Now, I’m a somewhat flexible person, but this flat out scared me.  I don’t think I could do 6 nights, 6 days in an airport.  It was a struggle, but we got boarding passes for the 10:55 flight that night.  It was a long day.  Oh, and don’t forget about the earthquake that also happened that night.  It was getting to the point where it was extremely comical how many more things could happen.  I have honestly never laughed so hard when we found out there was an earthquake on the news around the world (of course after we made sure our families and friends were all completely fine).

The biggest thing I learned from my airport extravaganza was definitely how humor changes situations like this.  It’s normal to be upset, frustrated, scared, and everything in between.  But in the end, it’s up to you to decide what emotions you display.  And, just sitting there laughing with my friends on hour 16 in the airport, partly delirious and extremely tired, was joyful and happy, in a lot of ways.

When I finally saw my family on the morning of the 17th, I started bawling when I saw my sister.  That’s not something I usually do, but I think it was all the emotions and tears I wanted to cry the past three days coming out.  It’s so true that you don’t realize how good you have it until you don’t have it.  And, when I wasn’t with my sweet family in Valpo for those six days, I missed them so much, and I was so happy and blessed to be back home.  I have built myself a life here, a home, and this is the first time I truly appreciated it as much as I should always.

The next few days were full of birthday parties, lots of family time, fairs (fondas), barbeques (asados), Chilean pride, dancing, 18th love, so many new words and new friends.  Topped off with spending the night at a farm house in Quillota with all of my Chilean friends. This resulted into a very content and tired Smith on Monday morning.

So, it was a good 10 days, definitely some of the happiest I’ve had.  I’m a lucky girl to call some pretty awesome people here friends and family.  I have been showered with more blessings than I deserve.  For now, I’m back to “normal” life, which includes classes and volunteering. But, every day is here is still new and full of adventure.  I just have this feeling in my stomach that I can’t describe, of pure happiness, when I think about the past ten days and the time I had with people I love.  And about all that will happen in the future.  And, for that, I can’t stop thinking, “I’m so lucky.”


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