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.