Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lindsey 1, Public Transportation 0

Today, my friend Rachel and I took the micro (little buses that run everywhere between Valpo and Viña) to Colegio Integrity for our oral interviews. We found our bus, told the driver we were going to Plaza Miraflores, handed him our money, and sat down. She turned to me and said, "I feel like such a grown-up!" and I knew exactly what she meant. I live for tiny moments of victory. I also think traveling makes them constantly available. I don't think I considered myself an adult until I was 18 and living in my first apartment by myself in West Asheville, totally unable to figure out the heating unit (notice a theme?), shivering and wrapped in a giant blanket cape, on the verge of tears. Then the gas unit turned on, and I celebrated by putting on my Bessie Smith record, drinking tea, and reading in the bath. I'm not sure if I really know how to live with myself, but I think every time I have a moment that affirms my capability, I get closer to figuring it out. I did well on the written exam and passed the oral interview, so now I get to take advanced classes! This means: 1) I can take the classes I need to transfer and thus 2) I can graduate on time. Graduating is becoming increasingly important to me as I enter my fifth year of undergraduate studies.

Today, we walked all the way from the Colegio in Miraflores to downtown Viña del Mar, about a thirty minute walk along a four-lane boulevard with the river on one side and the hills with all those colorful houses on the other. The street is lined with coffee shops, indoor produce markets, and outdoor restaurants, most of which were empty at 3:00 in the afternoon. We passed groups of girls and boys in Catholic school uniforms who were running to catch the micros and standing around on the corners talking. I really like this city. I'm trying to work out what I mean when I say that it feels Latin American. I will definitely return to this idea. 

I register for classes tomorrow, and at the moment, my schedule looks like this: Contemporary History of Latin America, Practices and Discourses of the Contemporary Latin American Narrative, Globalization and Integration in Latin America, Advanced Chilean Culture and Communciation, Advanced Written Spanish, and Chilean and Latin American Literature IV. I will register for 21 hours, which is the equivalent of about 16 hours at a U.S. university. I may drop one class, but we'll see. This burgeoning idea of what I'm thinking of as Latin American-ness will take shape when I start my coursework. I'm so ready to be in school again. Every break seems too long. Why am I such a dweeb? I think it's because I know how much school helps me find words, concepts, and historical contexts for the things that define my experiences. Does that make any sense? I like being able to know why I feel a certain way about a certain thing, and why the things surrounding me are the way they are. I am already learning so much more than I ever would in a university Spanish class, but the fact that I'm here to attend university makes this like an epic double whammy of potential brain expansion.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Amelia Earhart, Definitions of Homesickness

I can't stop reminding myself: I'm here I'm here I'm here! No, really, I'm actually here! Right now, I am sitting in my bedroom, looking at my boots lined up along the wall and my dresses hanging in the closet. The house is chilly with the winter air, but that just makes the past hour I spent sitting at the little kitchen table with my host mom and sister, eating toasted sandwiches, sipping hot tea and talking, so much cozier. Some things that are new: 1) The hot water system. It's a big, dangerous-looking tank in the kitchen that requires the lighting of a match, the fiddling of knobs, and the pulling of levers. I'm afraid to touch it. 2) Southern hemisphere constellations. I looked out the window over the Atacama on my flight from Lima, Perú to Santiago, and saw the Southern Cross in a sky so vast and desolate it was eerie. I was looking down at the driest desert on the planet, and it was pitch black. The earth blended into a dark sky glowing with unfamiliar stars and I felt tiny, staring out of my little round plane window. I wonder how Amelia Earhart felt when she was flying over the ocean at night.

Eventually, I made it here around noon for a total travel time of 30 hours (wake up, drive to tampa airport, fly to miami, wait five hours, fly to lima, wait four hours, fly to santiago, wait five hours, drive to Viña, explode, combust, meet family). All the time I spent in airports, hearing English fade out, noting the decreasing population of vacationing Americans, made me realize just how far away Chile is. This is the furthest I've ever been from home by myself, and it's really scary. It's scary, of course, until I remember that my bright white house is two blocks from the sea where you can watch freighters coming into port and hear musicians playing along the sea wall. Scary until I realized that I kind of fit in here. People don't turn their heads to look at me because I don't stick out as much as I have in other places. The flight attendant, when he was walking through the plane with customs declaration forms, looked at me and asked, "Eres Chilena?" "Are you Chilean?" He even used the familiar! Finally, it was scary until my host mom started to end her questions to me with "mi amor," like "Estas contenta, mi amor? Quieres algo?" and I remembered why I'm doing this, and why I wanted to live with a family. Because my home is here for the next five months. And that is *so* not scary at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A long summer, a new hemisphere

This has been one of the strangest, most haphazard summers of my life. I fell in love at the end of Spring semester, moved away from the place where I've been pleasantly moored for the last six years, sold my car, rode the overnight hell train of snoring to Florida, went to Europe with my family, and spent the last month alternating, mostly alone, between the beach and an office where I research and write about awesome dusty robots from the 60s. Everything has been steeped in slow sunlight and the certainty of leaving.

I've learned a lot since the beginning of this year. If I had to compare this period of my life to a chapter in American History (I wish people would stop asking me to do this all the time.) I might be in my Manifest Destiny period. I've been careening forward like a jerk and working out the details later. Anyway, the point is that shortly after Westward Expansion came the Progressive Era, which was awesome! I think I've been sowing the seeds of my Progressive Era all winter, and now it's time to let them grow. Please don't point out the problems in this mixed metaphor. Thank you.

My flight leaves this Sunday, July 24th at 9:50 a.m. I arrive in Santiago, Chile at 2:35 a.m. on July 25th. Then I ride three hours in the dark to the coast and meet my family in Viña del Mar around dawn. I'll crash into bed, my bed, at 6 or 7 a.m. and wake up a few hours later in a new house, surrounded by a new dialect, enrolled in a new University, in a new hemisphere. I'm excited and terrified, but I think I'm ready.