Today is Thanksgiving Day and it is HOT outside. No, it is not the Wisconsin version of a ‘warm’ Thanksgiving, it is an honest-to-goodness hot, lay-in-the-sun and don´t-forget-your-sunscreen type of day. My body is officially super confused. Of course I knew going into the semester that the seasons were ‘opposite’ in Chile, but I guess I never really thought about how strange it would feel to just swap seasons out of the blue. Let me tell you, it is pretty darn weird. My brain refuses to accept the fact that it is already the end of November, because it feels like the end of June. Every time I go to the grocery store, and see Christmas decorations next to the aisle with the swimsuits and flip-flops, I think ‘Oh, there must be some type of clearance sale because we are in the middle of summer and no one needs Christmas decorations right now’. I literally just cannot understand the fact that Christmas and summer here are one and the same. There are no songs about Navidad Blanca (White Christmas), because there is no white Christmas! There is no one drinking hot chocolate or putting up Christmas lights because it is actually hot out and it stays light until around 9:00. (Actually, the lights may be more of an electricity thing, because Chileans are VERY conscious about electricity usage. Any time an appliance is not being used, they unplug it. It literally took me a few days to figure out why the microwave wouldn’t work when I tried to use it.) But that is beyond the point. The point is, my brain seems to finally have adjusted to the fact that it is getting warmer, not colder, here, but just when these seasons start feeling normal, I am going to mess them all up again by flying back to the cold wintery Christmas of Wisconsin. I am beyond excited for SNOW and CHRISTMAS but I think I better start doing some type of mental training exercises or something to prepare me for the huge temperature shock that is quickly approaching!
But, before I get too far ahead of myself, TODAY IS THANKSGIVING! Which, honestly, means absolutely nothing to anyone in Chile. I told my host mom that today is Thanksgiving in the US, and her reply was ‘Oh, that is in November?’. So obviously there are not any huge celebrations or anything going on here. But, one of the many perks of studying abroad through a program, is that there are a bunch of other Americans here in Santiago right now without anything to do on Thanksgiving either. So, naturally, we decided it was time for a Thanksgiving potluck: US/ partially Chilean style. It is really tough to make a ‘real’ Thanksgiving dinner here, because a lot of things you need are either super hard to find and super expensive (a full turkey) or literally do not exist in Santiago (canned pumpkin). Pretty hard to make a real Thanksgiving dinner without a pumpkin pie. But I would say our potluck, even though not quite as ‘traditional’, came pretty close in quality. Macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, salads, rice, bread, apple pie, peanut butter brownies (!), all together with the Chilean specialties of meat, meat, and more meat! For real, it was one of my favorite meals in Santiago, as sad as that sounds. How can you beat a combination of the best foods from both the United States and Chile? Easy answer. You can’t!
So, long story short, today was a day filled with turkey pieces cooked on the barbeque, no live Macy’s Day parade (I was too busy taking a final exam), and no pumpkin pie, but still a Thanksgiving to remember. Honestly, if being in Chile has taught me one thing, it is how much I have to be thankful for in my life. I will never forget the day I gave a presentation about myself and my life in Wisconsin to the 7th grade girls in the public school where I volunteer as an English teacher. The girls were intrigued by everything about my life, and for the first time EVER, they were actually listening to me in silence because they really were interested in what I was saying. I had some funny pictures in that slideshow (aka my family’s pet rabbit dressed up in a queen outfit, my sisters and I making snow angels in our swimsuits, etc.) but there was one picture that by far received the biggest reaction. Here it is:
When I first put the picture up, the girls just kind of looked at it, not really saying anything. But then, when I told them that was my house in the United States, they literally all gasped and started going crazy! For these girls, my house back home was so impressive, that at first they assumed it was some type of public building. Once they found out what it actually was, they were shocked and just kind of stared up at it for a while. Even the professor looked pretty surprised when I told her that this isn’t an especially huge house in the United States, but is actually pretty normal. This one moment was literally all it took to remind me exactly how lucky I am and how much I have to be thankful for, not just today, but every day. Not only do I have a nice house with a big backyard and a funny-looking rabbit, but I am also able to attend a world-class university, go on awesome vacations with my family, and own my own computer, things that are unthinkable in other parts of the world. As if that is not enough, I am lucky enough to be able to travel to a different country, experience a completely new culture, meet people from across the world, and gain a completely different perspective on life. Despite all the challenges, the language barrier, and the often strange food selections, studying in Chile has honestly been the best decision of my life. Do you remember those aliens in Toy Story? The annoying ones who just walk around clinging to Woody saying ‘You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful.’ Well, the phrase doesn’t exactly work in this situation, but I could pretty much say the same thing about studying abroad: ‘You have changed my life. I am eternally grateful.’ (Just picture me saying that for hours on repeat in a really annoying high-pitched tone if you want the full effect!)
Obviously there is no way I could be where I am today (in case you missed the main point of the blog, CHILE would be the correct location) without the support of so many people, and to them, I must give a big THANK YOU! So here it is, the ‘acknowledgements page’ of my blog. If some day I become a famous writer and my blog becomes an instant best seller (I would say the chances of that are obviously pretty good), you are totally welcome to brag about how I mentioned you in my first literary success!
Thank you x 10000 to my parents for everything they have done for me, not only to help me prepare for Chile, but also to help me become the person that I am today. Who knows, if I had been raised differently, I might have been one of those people who wanted to study abroad in Argentina (gasp!). Thank goodness that didn’t happen! But seriously, thank you for supporting me 100% in my crazy decisions and never giving up on your gringa daughter!
Thank you to my three crazy sisters for always reminding me of the things I have to look forward to when I come home… ‘Heather, if you were here right now, you would be washing the dishes instead of me!’ I am so lucky to have somewhere to miss and look forward to coming back to!
Thank you to my grandparents for bombarding me with crazy travel stories from the time I was born and inspiring me to get out and see all the crazy things the world has to offer! I am working on collecting a nice stash of complimentary items from airplanes and hotels to show you over Christmas, but it is proving to be harder than it looks! Free eye masks and toothbrushes are hard to come by in Chile!
Thank you to Brent for sticking around and always being there for me even as I go flying across the world for 5 months to make my own crazy adventures! You have been incredibly supportive, even when I randomly go ex-comunicado for long chunks of time because my computer charger dies or I take a random trip to the middle of the desert. I am working on a solution to the computer charger problem, by the way…!
Thank you to my Chilean host family for making my time in Chile some of the best of my life. I have always felt so welcome here, and I love being treated like I am actually another member of the family. Honestly, I cannot imagine my life in Chile without these people!
Thank you to all my friends and roommates back home for not forgetting about me! (Well, I am assuming you haven’t, at least!). I honestly cannot wait to see each and every one of you when I get back!
And finally, thank you to all my new Chilean (and American) friends here in Santiago. If it wasn’t for you, my experience would be nowhere near as fun, exciting, or hilarious as it is. I have made memories to last for a lifetime, and I don’t think I would do anything differently even if I could!
That’s all for now folks! The 4 week countdown before I return to the United States has officially begun.
P.S. Thanks to Monesha (our pet rabbit) for being awesome. Rachel will probably never speak to me again if I don’t mention her!