volver.Santiago, Fall 2010
I find myself returning to my routines, some come quickly, others do not. I hustled back to work the day after coming home, not entirely by choice, sort of a consequence of timing and a need for dead presidents. It’s not something I’d recommend for study abroad return-ees, but it has been one of, if not the, easiest routine to re-enter. My work hasn’t changed except for the scenery outside its windows and the attire I wear according to said weather.
But that’s a matter of importance: the weather. Coming back to ‘reality’ I’ve noticed just how skewed many people’s views of Latin America are, even those with whom I’ve relayed information directly from the source. Chile, eh? Tropical right? I quickly respond with a ‘No’ and a ‘Not all of Latin America is Mexico.’ The questioners rally with a ‘Chilly in Chile’ pun to which I hold back a shudder in response. But then I see that Chile and the US of A really aren’t that different. In the water cooler conversations I’ve had about Chile, people jump to puns because they don’t know much of anything about the place. But when I was back in Chile most Chileans confused Pennsylvania with Transylvania and would jump to quips about Dracula or vampires. As I told a fellow IES student once while walking home in Chile, “This country is just the same, but in its own way.” I could find a million similarities between my life in Santiago and my life in the states, but the differences are what made the trip important, and the differences are the things I stopped noticing by the end of the journey. Humans adapt, we make home where we are, and that’s what I did. In feeling at home in Santiago I started to see American things as the foreign. Burger King felt like globalization, English words seemed meaningless in ads, and the popular songs from the states only sounded right when sung in a Spanish accent.
So now I’ve returned and I have to adapt yet again. I must adapt to the cold and the nightfall coming at six in the afternoon, to having my own car in place of taking buses and metros to every destination, and to hanging with the friends of old who have four months of nuances to catch me up on. Indeed, a quick return to work wasn’t the worst decision, because for all I need to adapt to, work is one of the few things that haven’t changed one bit.
I leave you with these wise words of Mr. T.S. Eliot from his poem Four Quartets:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
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