The past few days have a been a whirlwind of despedidas, goodbyes, and “last” experiences in Caldera (really, in the Atacama Desert). Between the EOD program, my host family, school profes, and Chilean friends, I’ve been kept busy eating, cooking, and eating more and cooking more. Busy enough that I’ve managed to avoid emotionally processing what it really means to leave my home for the past 4 months.
Above all, though, the most important thing I can say about my experience is that I have a lot to be grateful for, starting with having the means to take a gap year and fly to the other end of the earth to work for no pay teaching English. Then finding a second family in the Parada-Munoz-Antiquera clan, that went above and beyond to make me comfortable here, in the middle of the desert by the sea. Teaching in a small little school the size of my high school graduating class alone, with students that ask about me even after I leave. Meeting friends that have coaxed me out of my shell a little bit more and taught me about how to be a more open-spirited person.
It would be silly to pretend as if my time here has been all roses and sunshine - it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. It was exasperating, confusing, isolating, and messy; I now have the utmost appreciation for teachers and know education is not my profession. But it would be equally ridiculous to let those moments overshadow the strength and spirit that I’ve gained here in Chile, or the fact that I will be leaving a part of me behind when my bus pulls out of the cement lot at 9 PM tonight.
So instead of a despedida, or even a promise to come back soon (which always seem too final when life can be so unpredictable), I’ll give thanks. Better to appreciate all of the unexpected friendships, giggle moments, and breathtaking views and look ahead to gallivanting across the south of Chile than to focus on what I might be leaving behind.