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Gap Year Abroad

4 posts from November 2015


my run today

It’s been four months, and I still run down Avenida Alemania, completely in awe of the view of the colored houses and sparkling blue ocean down below.  In awe of the graffiti and the little shops I run by.  I always stop at the same spot and say, “I’m so lucky.”  And then I realize I’m in Chile, and say I’m so lucky again.  There’s no way I could ever get used to that.  Because, I really am so so lucky.

So, this is a quick message of what I thought about on my run today.  In Chile.  With the view of the port down below.  Did I mention I’m lucky?

I have learned so much from Chile.  I’ve learned to live stress free. I’ve learned a whole lot of Spanish. I’ve learned how to learn to learn about other cultures, to suspend judgement. To realize that if people do things differently,  that’s not wrong, it’s just different.  I’ve learned that the world is a hell of a lot bigger than the 4% of people that live in the U.S.  And, I’ve learned that people do have me stereotyped.  And, its difficult and frustrating.  But, I can break it if I try hard enough.  I have a clearer view of who I am in this world.  I’ve grown more in love with the Latino culture, if that was even possible.  I’ve learned how to be still, to live on someone else’s schedule, to be late, to understand how other people see time.  I’ve learned how to love four people a whole lot and to put myself in very uncomfortable situations.  I’ve learned Valparaíso.  I’ve learned the cobblestone streets of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, La Plazuela, how much it costs to go to Papudo con Concepción and then to Cirilo Armstrong.  I’ve learned the port and its boats and my runs to Playa Ancha and my walks through Plaza Victoria and down Puerto Montt.  I’ve learned that the 607 is my savior and will always take me home.  I’ve learned to live on the beach (that one’s not too difficult).  I’ve learned to love on little five-year-old balls of energy and 8th graders that need my love and support at this pivotal time in their loves.  I’ve learned to live on my own, but I’ve also learned to ask for help.  People will help you when you ask.  I’ve learned to love this city, I’ve learned to love this country, and I’ve learned to make this place my home.  And, as much as I can learn about Chile, Chile has taught me so much about myself.  I’ve learned that I have an absolutely incredible family in Atlanta, with friends that love me unconditionally.  I’ve learned that I’m broken, but I’ve seen myself be very strong.  I’ve learned that God is everywhere, and as much as I ever try to push Him out, He’s not going absolutely anywhere.  And, for that I’m thankful.  I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

And, that’s what I thought about on my run today.




it's called living


Today was the first day I saw my host sister cry. We were all having our normal Sunday lunch with the whole family, and I noticed immediately how upset she was. Her normal buoyancy and lighthearted comments weren’t there. When my host dad asked what was wrong she starting talking very fast and very quietly until her words were masked by her tears. I couldn’t understand her muffled Spanish completely, and was stuck between asking more questions to find out what was wrong and giving her space. I realized the struggle of the place I have in a host family. It’s unbelievably complicated. You’re a friend to your host sister, but also a sister, but also an outsider that never knows when it’s your place. I felt a little on the outside during the rest of almuerzo not knowing my place in this complicated situation. 

Later, my host sister came into my room and we began talking as we always do. I trotted carefully in our conversation, not wanting to ask what was wrong. But then she told me. She spilled all about her problems, both boyfriend, family, and school. I felt so touched afterward, nearly on the point of tears. My previous thoughts of being separated from the family were completely washed away. I felt closer than ever to my host family, and I know more than ever that I am an accepted part in their family.

Being part of a host family is complicated and strange. You’re partially adopted, partially a visitor for just a long amount of time. I have seen my parents bicker, my siblings scream at each other, my brother bring home different girlfriends (much to my parents annoyance), spent time with my sister’s boyfriend, met cousins after cousins, talked with family friends, spent whole cold days with my host mom in her bed, painting with my dad late into the night. Over long conversations you become friends. You learn about each other’s past, what they hate, what they love. You learn who they are and who they are becoming. Over 6 months of being together, you become part of their family. When these things happen in my life here I escape the word “traveling”. I live here. Yet we all know it is going to end. It’s a weird concept and how to go about living for only 5 to 6 months in a different place is challenging. To immerse yourself completely or to stand off guard knowing it will end in a few months? Though the question is hard, the answer is so simple. I want to have a life here, and although it will be painful when I return to the United States, I will know my experience in Chile was truly amazing.


those days pushed into a box in the attic

February 27, 2015 (10 months ago)

“…But, I’m forgetting that there are going to be days where I want to talk in English – with people that know my slang words and inside jokes.  I’m going to want to crash in a room where I feel completely comfortable and have days to myself.  I’m going to want to drive and eat normal food and maybe even go to school where I am comfortable in my routine.  I’m going to wish I was with my family in a house with my phone and computer.  I am so comfortable in the life I have in Brookhaven, a little too comfortable I think.  Nothing is really challenging me here.  I am so grateful for tons of people in my life that I learn from everyday, but I need a change of way and change of pace.  I need to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, into situations where I’m not always going to be happy.   I’m not going to want to get on that bus for an hour every morning and work hard and have kids relying on me to teach them.  I’m not going to want to wake up early.  And there will be days where I will want to be back home because that is the easy way of life.  But, a life that’s beautiful is not usually easy.  I’m going to go to that orphanage everyday because it is going to form me into something that I can’t even grasp right now.  I am fully going through with this for not a single reason, but a feeling.  A feeling that is what is right for me.  And, I have no idea how it will go, who I will be after, or what the effects will be.  But, I do know that it is the right choice for me, and I’m going to discover some amazing people and some amazing things about myself.  In a little more than a year, I will have lived in a country without Americans for an extended period of time, speaking my second language.  I will have seen and done some extraordinary things.  And, I have no doubt that I will have made some lifelong connections that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  This could easily be the most important year of my entire life.  If that isn’t worth it, I don’t know what is.”


November 15, 2015 12:56 am

One thing that I pondered before I left for Chile, but could never fully accept, was the fact that I won’t be living in a fairytale.  I’m not on vacation; every day is not full of adventure and travel and bliss.  Maybe I post the pictures on Instagram of my amazing adventures to waterfalls, islands, geysers, and nearby cities and countries.  Maybe I write blog posts about my amazing friends and family and my crazy adventures through Chilean deserts.  Maybe those things are very very real, and amazing, and memories and experiences that I cherish.  But, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t days nearly as glamorous.  In fact, I have had plenty of days quite the opposite.  Some lonely, lazy, upset, tearful, and average days.  When you live somewhere for six months, there’s no getting around that word “live.”  I live here, just like I live anywhere else.  I’ve had days where I am so tired that I have not gotten out of my bed once.  I have been sick.  I’ve had a fever, I have a cold, I’ve had to skip class.  I have had days where I feel like I’m doing everything wrong.  I have had days where I can’t understand a word of Spanish, and nothing makes sense.  Those usually follow a day where I feel like I’ve really improved my fluency (jokes on you!).  I have had days where all I want is to be sitting in my basement with a group of my friends, eating candy, fighting over what movie we’ll watch, chatting about life.  I definitely have had days where I’ve cried, and I’ve gotten a hug.  But, I’ve also had a few days where I’ve cried with no one there to know or understand.  I’ve had days where I don’t want to get up at 6 A.M.  and go on that bus for an hour.  And, I’ve had many a day where I want to get in my car instead of waiting for public transportation (I’ll always love you, micros).

I’m not saying all of this because my life is hard here.  I’m saying this because life is hard anywhere.  And, moving to another country does not cure that, does not prevent bad days.  So, I decided to give my attention to those days, because they are of value too.  Those days that are stuck in between the cracks on the sidewalk, pushed into a box in the attic.  Those are the days that I’m not telling my friends from home about, not how I answer, “How is Chile?!”  They are not what I’m posting on Facebook about.  But, again they’re of value. Because it’s through those days, I’ve learned to appreciate my car, my community at home, my family.  I have seen my patience grow through those days, my ability to change plans, my need for rest, and my realization that I’m not invincible.  And in the end, I am living in Valparaíso; I have gotten to experience good days and bad days in Chile.  And that’s what makes those not-so-glamorous days so very worth it.

Feliz Cumpleaños

Never before had I been sung Happy Birthday in three different languages from a table full of homemade cakes and completos. The orange-walled house was bubbling with warmth from all the family and friends that came to wish me a feliz cumpleaños. The table in our house kept cycling through new people who came to wish me a great birthday, give me a kiss on the cheek and drop off a small present. My host mom had decorated my birthday with love and Feliz Cumpleaños!!  signs around my room and around my house that only began to demonstrate how much she cared for me. 

From the moment I woke up, as my host mom had told me the day before, we celebrated my birthday the Chilean way. That entails, as I soon learned, a yummy once (a small dinner, much like English tea time) with lots of tea, completos (the Chilean hot dog with avocado, tomato, and mayonnaise, or any combination of the three), and many many sweats hidden around the house. The people, at around 7 at night, arrive and sit and talk for many hours enjoying all the food my host mom kept cooking. The house was full of laughter, which is everything I ever wanted on my birthday. She cooked all day to celebrate with many people and share our house and my 18th birthday with so many people that matter to me and others that I did not even know but approached me with equal love. The amount of love I received on my birthday is inexplicable. It was truly beautiful, and I will be forever thankful for the unique experience I received on my 18th birthday. 

This is my Chilean family on my birthday:



I think it's amazing that I was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate my 18th in a country where 18 means so much! I will remember this day for the rest of my life:) 


Also my parents from the United States were able to join my Chilean family and friends!:


If you look you can see everyone has a cup ready for tea, my beautiful chocolate cake, small completos (they look like hotdogs) and so many small dulces (candies) that I still haven't finished eating! 

It was a beautiful day- thank you to everyone who made it what it was. 

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