Retrospect is everything.

Learn from the bad, appreciate the good.

Now that I’m finally slowing down and staying put, a lot of thoughts are catching up with me from the last year. From South America, my short visits in the United States, and now my first week in Spain.  Needless to say, it’s about time. Comparisons are constantly going off in my head, which are quite distracting from getting a fresh start here. Hopefully if I can get some of them out in writing, it’ll clear some space and leave me with un mente abierto, an open mind!

South America. I still can’t believe how fast my time there went by. While it wasn’t my first experience outside of the U.S., it was definitely a trip like no other I had taken before, and perhaps I’ll never experience anything like that year ever again. And so I’m keeping that continent and my “a little over a year” time there on a pedestal. Now I understand how my friends felt when they went home before me, and why several already returned to Chile.  I am envious of anyone I know that is still there, and I can’t stop wishing I had more time there and in a few situations, I wish I had done things differently. I’ll get over that eventually, but generally, I don’t close chapters when I start new ones… I linger… and I check back.

So here’s what I’ve realized.

The best word I can think of right now to describe South America is “charismatic.” With all of the issues that exist in any country, government, or economy, it’s the people that draw you in. Literally. They greet with kisses on the cheek, accept your gringo awkwardness, and immediately invite you to asados or tecito. They converse with you when your responses are short, and show you around and teach you even when you can’t express your gratitude. I guess I mostly am thinking of Chileans, since in other countries I spent more time with foreigners.

I miss Chile and South America. What do I miss about it? It’s more than just the freedom of traveling alone for more than a year. I miss saying hi to everyone on the street. I miss being understood and understanding. I miss the automatic and unquestioning friendliness from strangers. Not only are the natural and historic sites breathtaking, but the people – the way they are – truly steal your heart! I think I might have been a little selfish, enjoying how I was automatically interesting just by being a North American, and not appreciating it as much as I should have. There is so much more I wish I could share and teach to family, friends, students… and even more I wish I could have learned. It just feels like I wasn’t actually done with my time there. I was more than ready to go home because it had been such a long time, but I think I am going to need more time back there eventually. Maybe in a year or maybe I will have to wait until after grad school, but I’ll go back.

I just read this article about how America is like an ex-boyfriend. And while maybe it’s not “the best” for me (but really, what is?), I’m also not yet ready to move on from my foreign love affair that is the continent of South America.

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