entering the home stretch

While I have somewhere around two months left before I return to the United States, my remaining time here feels as though it is rapidly coming to an end.  In about three weeks my parents will arrive for a week and a half, and my classes will, with the exception of a few somewhat major papers, be finished.  I will then start traveling toward the north end of Chile until I meet Charlotte somewhere around Salta, at which point we plan to return to Buenos Aries by way of Iguaçu and intercept Seth and Cassie.  Another week of travelling with them to who knows where followed by a short amount of time in Peru will round out my trip.  Assuming that these plans eventually come to fruition, I have between three and four weeks left in Valparaíso, depending on whether the time during which my parents are here counts or not.  The end is definitely creeping up on me.

Perhaps the change is in part because the end seems so near, but somehow since returning from Buenos Aries, Valparaíso has become home.  The cultural differences are still painfully obvious at times, and there are parts of the United States that I miss, yet the same is true – though perhaps to a lesser extent – of the way I feel about New England in relation to the Pacific Northwest.  There’s now something comforting returning to the city, though I can’t explain why, or even when the change happened.  I doubt I could give up Seattle and New England if someone was to offer me the chance to stay here for another semester, but it’s a start.  I expect, or at least hope, that someday I will return to Valparaíso.

That being said, I am reaching the limits of my ability to live with a host family.  In this particular situation, living next to the weird and nuanced inter-familial relationships yet being inherently separated from them has been difficult, and my host mom’s somewhat unpredictable OCD tendencies don’t help.  I’m both family and a guest, and frequently I’m not sure which instinct to follow: do I follow my host brother’s lead and put my dirty dishes in the sink, or do I clean them?  What do I do when my host mom and brother spend all morning fighting?  (also, is that what I was like in high school?  Probably.)  Furthermore, I just miss living with friends, cooking good food, listening to music through speakers, and having laid back dinner parties – all things that are hard to do while living in someone else’s house.

Though life has been otherwise pretty normal, here are a few exciting things that have happened recently.  First, I can now read most books and papers without a dictionary, though I’m sure some of the meaning is lost.  Reading in Spanish is infinitely more enjoyable, not to mention faster.  I’m currently in the middle of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Second, I peripherally participated in a Chilean protest on May 21st, which not only involved police with riot shields, but also getting tear gassed by Guanacos, or large armored trucks outfitted with cannons that shoot a mixture of water and tear gas.  Though it seems extreme coming from the United States, one of these protests happens at least once or twice a month, so it’s not really anything to get excited about.  Finally, this weekend some friends and I attempted to travel through the Andes to Mendoza, but the pass was closed due to snow.  What I don’t understand is why we had to drive three hours up there, despite knowing that the pass had been closed due to snow for the past few days.