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Gap Year Abroad

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una vida tranquila

Something I’ve been hearing a lot about recently, and have been struggling with and thinking about, is the decision between staying with your roots, staying with your past, or going forward with your own dreams.  This past weekend in Chiloe (a beautiful island in the south of Chile), “Don Juan,” as we called him, made this so real.

All 50 of my lovely compañeros and I were invited to the small house of people we had never met, who would serve us the largest amount of food I’ve laid eyes on and open up their house to us for the entire afternoon.  Talk about hospitality.  But just chatting with this lovely couple quickly shifted my vision to see that they were happy to.  If it meant that they could share their life, their passion, their story with us.

Don Juan was a soft-spoken man.  But, once you got him in a small group he could talk and talk about everything he was so proud of.  His personal rock collection, his animals on his farm in the backyard, all the plants that he grows and grows year round.  Emily and I happened to get talking to him, and he had us follow him back farther in his “granja” (farm).  We were hopping over fences, learning new vegetable names, and you could just tell from the way he spoke and the look in his eyes that this was his life.  And, he was so proud of it.  We eventually got back to a little bench hidden next to a river where he invited us to sit down.  He told us that they come out here to eat “once” (dinner) every once in a while.  He then went on to tell us that his three sons are all spread around the country now.  Some up in Santiago, some in other parts, graduated from school, working on their “real” careers.  First, the indigenous language down in Chiloe has almost disappeared, because there was no reason for these generations to learn it.  Now, the young people have no interest in working on the farm, taking over the business.  Don Juan told us one thing that day that I won’t forget for a long time.

“The farm life is one where we work really hard, all day.  But, it’s a calm life.  We eat the food we grow.  We talk to each other.  There is culture here that is slipping away.  And, when I die, there won’t be anyone to take over the farm.  And I don’t know what will happen.”  

There is something so beautiful and tragic about this.  I, initially, felt the pain that Don Juan carries heavy, heavy in his heart…and I still do.  You think about the culture there and how much it matters and should always matter.  And, then you also think about his sons.  About how I’m sure they just want to pursue what they love, and it happens to not be the same as what their father loves.  You think about working on a farm for the rest of your life.  There’s a point where selfishness is not even a word that should enter your mind.  Because, I can’t say that I would make a different decision in any way.

The outcome is a struggle between maintaining culture and sticking with familyor pursuing your own dreams and doing what you think will impact the world for the better.  And, it got me thinking.

So, thanks Don for getting me thinking.  And, for opening up your house to us.  It’s not a day I’ll forget in a long time.


Below are a few more pictures from the awesome trip just for kicks.  Always thinking about Atlanta and home and friends and family.  Sending much love and many prayers from Chile every single day.




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