Once I got off the plane in Santiago, I was plunged, unreadily, into the world that would be my home for almost a year. I say unreadily because my only regret is that I didn't spend as much time with my friends and family as I should have before I left. But once I arrived in Chile I began to lead a life that to my family and friends back home, is new, exciting, different, perhaps a dream life even. I don't know. A life they could only imagine about.
Now I have been leading this life for three months. A typical Chilean life, that the other 16 million people in this country lead. I go to school, do chores, socialise with friends, try doing homework, and live as part of a Chilean family. Through these three months I know I have changed. I don't mean changed as in my personality as much (Nic: Anita's crazy but we love her. Sound true enough?) But now things that concerned me, and where I want to go in my life has changed. If I had lived these three months in New Zealand like a normal Kiwi, I know I wouldn't have become as worldly, and enriched as I have become in Chile.
I wouldn't have seen poverty, I wouldn't have felt so isolated, I wouldn't have learnt so much about myself if I hadn't chosen to do an exchange.
I used to love a book about a boy with cancer who had a notebook that would take him to a different world if he fell asleep thinking of that world. In that different world he lead a life full of danger and mystery, while back in his own world he was bedridden and fading away. He got to experience two worlds in one lifetime, but eventually had to give up on one world.
I am a bit like that boy (except I'm not a boy, and I'm healthy). My life here is something surreal at times. I have moments when I think 'whoa, I'm in Chile!' But the thought that I'll have to return home also scares me. I'm happy with both the places I live, Chile and New Zealand. They're different, in obvious and subtle ways. But they're both Home.
Communication has become easier. After three months, conversational Spanish is pretty much understandable, and I can contribute to a conversation, as well as understand more without having to translate. And that does make life SO much easier!
Friends are friends, not people who are interested in the Foreign Exchange Student. I know now they are friends with me because they actually like me, not because I'm new and interesting!
Family is family. I feel like less of an outsider, although at times I do still feel like an outsider, but that's only natural becuase they have been a family for years and years and I have been in the family for three months!
I've learnt to be more patient. That if I wait it out, it will be okay in the end. And if it's not ok, it's not the end. I've learnt what makes me happiest can also be what causes the most pain. I've learnt to go with the flow and not worry about where that might take me. I've learnt that I can put my full trust in some people because I can't not do that. I've learnt that even if I try my best, it might not show, and to cope with that when it doesn't. I've learnt to be more self-sufficient, think more for myself, and be more independant. I've learnt that in these three months I've changed more than I have expected, and am happy with where I am now.
I've learnt that life is for living, that I have to take every moment as it comes, embrace life, live if to the full and not have any regrets.
I've learnt that time goes faster that I ever imagined, and that if these three months have passed, I only have eight left, and I have to carry on making the most of every minute.