This weekend, I took the two hour bus ride to Viña del Mar. I got to have lunch with my familia chilena, and it was incredible to see what types of things had changed.
For example my Spanish. It has definitely improved, which I noticed from the way I could actually have full conversations with my host sister and mother. But it also definitely still needs work, which I noticed from the fact that I could only understand like 70% of their responses to me.
My family, also, had changed a bit. Both of my sisters now have pololos (the Chilean word for boyfriends), my brother is now enrolled in the naval academy (and has grown like 4 inches I think), and mi mama is thinking of moving. Which I told her is unacceptable because I love that apartment. She made a very good point that it’s a little too small for the family, as there are 3 bedrooms and generally 5 people living there (including their cycle of exchange students). However, I have one million memories of that place and reminisced so hard during our short afternoon together… The bathroom where I took too many cold showers because I could never really understand how the hot water worked there. And the kitchen where I made myself a breakfast of eggs and bacon almost every morning, and where the fridge was always stocked and open for me. And my bedroom where I watched tv programs with Spanish subtitles, while studying for my Latin American Economics class. And the patio, where I relaxed and read books, finding my happy place. This place was my home for 5 months. Which doesn’t seem like much but I had grown to love it so much. It gave me that feeling of relief to walk through the door after a long day at school and be able to nap or eat or relax. It gave me a family to talk to if I ever got homesick or I just wanted to practice my Spanish. It gave me a true home away from home.
I was blessed to have such an amazing family and to be able to connect with them. Living with a host family was one of my favorite things about studying abroad in Chile. Being back, and living on my own, I’m experiencing something completely new. I have to do my own laundry (ugh), buy my own food (ugh x100), and clean up after myself (which is actually fine). It’s completely different, and I definitely miss the support I had from Maritza and the rest of my family. But this is something that will continue to shape me as a person, just as my study abroad semester shaped me.
It was amazing to reconnect with my family, and they made me promise to come back. They said they would take me exploring in Valparaiso, which is something I am very excited about and so happy they offered to accompany me! Maritza, Andrea, Camila, and Victor treated me like I really was a part of their family, and continue to treat me that way. I am so lucky to be able to call them my Chilean family.