Many Santiaguinos have asked me during my time here, “Cómo has gustado Chile?” (“How have you liked Chile?”) I typically answer by saying that I have liked it very much and don’t want to leave, and then I often receive the follow-up question of “Why…?” that is accompanied by a scrunched up face. I think the past week and a half of my time here does a good job of summarizing why I love this place so much.
Last Friday, April 28, I got on an overnight bus with Kaelin to head down south for four nights. We stayed in Puerto Varas for two nights, Frutillar one night, and Pucón one night. I could write a book about those five days for all the beautiful things we saw, but instead, I’ll just list some of my favorites experiences…
In Puerto Varas: We met numerous pudus (If you haven’t Googled them yet, please do. And then imagine it nibbling your finger.). We watched the sunrise behind Volcán Osorno. We ate way too many pieces of delicious cake and kuchen (We didn’t want to miss out on experiencing the culturally significant influences of the German population there).
In Frutillar: We stood on a dock over a lake in the midst of the rain and wind (it has only rained twice in Santiago since I’ve been here, and we’d been feeling deprived). We ate more kuchen.
In Pucón: We climbed a mountain via a path through the Chilean rain forest, which included views of lakes and lagoons, ginormous and crazy-old trees of all species, lots of bamboo, funny flowers, cows, four volcanoes, the never-ending ridges of the Andes… I got a hug and head pat and cheek kiss and donut with candles in it from the workers at my hostel for my birthday. We ate more kuchen.
And all of this was in the context of small towns that would usually be full of tourists, but it’s the off-season, so they were very peaceful instead. I could also write a book about the hostel lifestyle, which I think I like a lot, but I will save that for another time. The point is that Chile is incredibly beautiful, from the mountains to the coast and from the fresh green of the south to the driest desert in the world of the north. It’s very hard to avoid getting your breath taken away and to keep your jaw from dropping when you’re surrounded by such natural wonder. Oh Chile. I will not forget you or the glory of you biodiversity.
I just got home from a retreat at the beach (El Tabo) with El Oasis. The theme of the weekend was “community.”
The people of this group form such a beautiful community, and, despite the fact that I do not share their native language or culture, I have been absorbed and integrated.
We played soccer and spike ball together. We ate together. We shared cabins. We sang to our God together. We organized skits together. We made s’mores together (the gift of Gringolandia to Chile). We celebrated a baptism of a brother together.
This weekend away from the city provided an opportunity to have lots of real conversations about the things in life that our meetings during the week at El Oasis don’t always have space or time for. In the 48 hours that we spent together, we took full advantage of every moment together, going to sleep at 3:30am and waking up at 8:30am — learning about what the Bible says about community while also doing our best to live it. We celebrated, but we also cried. That’s one of my favorite realities about honest community.
Before my semester abroad began, I prayed that God would give me three friends in Chile. I felt like that was a good goal for relationships in a different language and totally different context in general. He has beyond exceeded answering that prayer. I have beautiful friends from my study program, who are also from the United States. I have other beautiful friends from El Oasis — both gringos and chileans. I have an amazing family here that has treated me exactly like I had been their own daughter since day one.
God is good, and I am being overwhelmed by how He has decided to shower me with such goodness so liberally. So, naturally, at the thought of leaving in two weeks, I cried all over my new friends here.
I’ve found another piece of my family here on Earth. Very soon, I will return to Maryland, leaving a bit of my heart in their hands but moving forward to find more people to hold the other bits.
This is just a snapshot of why I love Chile.
Colossians 3:12-17 talks about the kind of community that I have found to be so beautiful, both in Chile and in Maryland.
Peace and Blessings and More-than-answered Prayers x