Saturday, June 18, 2011

Well... I'm back

Here I am, sitting in my own room in my small town, looking out my window into my court where the lawns are green, there's no fences or gates around the houses, we leave our cars and front doors unlocked and the humid summer air is making me sweat when I'm doing nothing. I've been driving by myself again, ordering food in english, paying for things with Canadian currency, running into old neighbours, seeing friends again, biking in the country were everything is green and the houses are pretty and perfect... so far away from everything I used to know and was living these past 10 months.

My last two weeks in Chile were constant non-stop days. I was out everyday doing something, last minute shopping, spending time with friends and going to the discos for my last time. By the end of my second last week I thought I was ready to go home, I felt satisfied and the idea of leaving seemed really nice. But by my last week in Chile I did not want to leave at all. By the time you can count down the days in single-digits things really start to hit you that the time is coming to an end. I had my despedida on Saturday night and some of my friends and I went out to a disco for the night. I finally got to my house at noon the next day after only sleeping 4 hours and then had to finish up my packing. My best Chilean girlfriend came over as I was packing and also gave me some last minute gifts that really mean a lot, especially the letter she wrote and we both started to cry after I read it. We then had our last family lunch together (I'm going to miss my host-dads weekend cooking), and then I had to say my goodbye's to my Grandma and host-brother who weren't coming to the airport. The whole way to the airport Cony (my Chilean friend) and I didn't even talk, or couldn't. All we could do was look out the window and hold back our tears as best we could. But I couldn't hold back that well as this was the last time I was going to be able to see these streets and places that had become so familiar to me.

We arrived at the airport and already some of my friends had been there waiting. Finally checked my baggage (two overweight bags and having to leave my guitar behind) and then had all the final goodbye's. This day was one of the hardest days in my life. I was an emotional wreck and it was impossible to fight my tears. I couldn't stop hugging all my friends, there never felt like there was enough hugging and talking to fill that gap that I knew I was going to have once I stepped through security and left my Chilean life behind. I had become so attached to the country, the people, and my life there. Why was I leaving all of this and going back to Canada where I knew nothing had changed... was I leaving to early? Saying goodbye to some of my best friends in the world was horrible. Luckily I wasn't travelling alone, I was with my best friend from exchange Emily from Toronto. We only met each other here in Chile and it's crazy to imagine our exchanges without each other. They would not be the same and we would not be the same. We had become like sisters, or more like twins, and we've gone through this whole year together and have some of the best and craziest memories together. So we went through security together crying and shaking and almost having a mishap of Emily not being able to leave the country since she's 17. We finally got to our plane and the tears where still coming. The take-off and landing were really hard because it officially symbolized "the end" of exchange.

My exchange has been filled with new opportunities, adventure, hard times, amazing times, love, loss, self-building, new experiences, sadness, happiness, and so many other things. I have truly grown as a person and I think some people might be surprised by it. I still don't know if I've changed drastically or just little parts of me, but I feel like I'm more myself now, and I'm really content with it. Exchange was the best impulse-decision of my life, I literally had never thought about taking a gap year before university until I heard that one announcement on the morning announcements my grade 12 year.

The reverse culture-shock is real, I feel like I'm just on vacation visiting and will go back to Chile soon. But that's obviously not a reality. It's really hard to realize that I can't be in Chile anymore, I honestly want to be there right now instead of Canada. But that's how life goes, and it's on to the next chapter of my life.

As for life now I'm at home waiting for family friends to come over for my step-dad's birthday, a regular weekend where my family loves to entertain and cook. Luckily I was able to go to Emily's house last night and we spent time talking on her roof about exchange and life, and how we've been dealing with being home. Only the other exchange students truly "get it". Next weekend I'm leaving to go live and work up in northern Ontario in Killarney Provincial Park for two months and won't be home until the end of the summer. I'm not so worried about leaving my Canadian family and friends, it's the worry of how will I still be able to contact my Chileans, we're already a hemisphere away...

Daniel after his "birthday" with all his Canadian loot (his birthday is July 8 so we celebrated in June!)

Family dinner at Los Buenos Muchachos

Me and my girl Cony my last night

Last hours at home

First host-parents on the left, second on the right

Nicole, Cony and Daniel

My Grandma is the best

Maybe I'll keep writing in my blog, most likely random reflections or stories from my year

Los amo mis amigos chilenos y los intercambistas
Nunca los olvidaré
Ustedes son los mejores del mundo, de verdad!