One of the most difficult things about choosing to live your life abroad is that the world of international teaching is extremely transient. People come and go. For brief periods of time these people become your family, and it is extremely sad to watch your family get smaller and smaller as time goes on. Three years ago we started out as 15 fresh-faced newbies, bound and determined to make Santiago our new home. I don’t think that on that winter’s day in July of 2011, any of us could have dreamed what our lives would have been like now. Over the past three years, we have done and seen so much. In just our small group of 15 people, so much has changed: we’ve set up homes, established friendships, developed traditions, lost jobs, got new jobs, got engaged, got married, had kids, battle diseases… We’ve traveled, laughed, visited many, many wineries and made amazing memories. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world, but somehow, when people leave, it always makes me feel like it’s time to move on. Will Santiago still feel like home now that many of our nearest and dearest friends have left?
When you live outside of the country it is difficult to define the concept of home: is it where you grew up? Is it where you currently live? Is it where your family members reside? For me, home is that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you are surrounded by people and things you recognize and love. For the past three years, Santiago has been that home for me. Home has been me, laying on my couch, wallowing with Chingy in front of the TV in our terracotta living room. Home is trying out a new recipe in our kitchen on a Saturday as Agustina does the laundry: preparing for some gathering or barbeque or party or what-not. Home is watching the sun peeking up over the Andes mountains covered in snow as Jon drives us to work. Home is me, trying desperately to fit my car into the miniscule parking spaces in the basement of Clinica Alemana, where I have unfortunately spent many a day in the past two years. Home is watching Chingy chase rabbits and birds in the park near my house as Jon and I walk around the path, catching glimpses of the Costanera Center when it is not obscured by smog. Yes: all of those things have been home for me. But mostly it’s been the people. The most amazingly strong and supportive group of friends a person can ask for. And it breaks my heart to have to say goodbye. However, that is life. Things change, people change, and all you can do, is cherish the memories of the time you were able to spend together. Instead of being sad, it is best to smile, laugh, and vow to see each other in the future.
I recently received the most wonderful wedding gift from my dearest sissy-wissy. She put together a book for me and Jon where people from all different parts of our life had written us messages and sent in pictures of us through the ages. Flipping through the pages of that book, I now realize that home is not really a place. Superficially I realized that over the course of my thirty three years I have apparantely changed my hairstyle a lot and have either eaten more or stopped playing as much soccer… hahah! I have spent a lot of time in many places: Rhode Island, England, North Carolina, Houston, Los Angeles, China, and Chile. And I have made many amazing friends. All of those people and places pictured in the book make up who I am today. Reading the words that you all wrote have filled me with so much love that my heart is full to bursting. Literally, I am writing this blog now so I can stop crying and get some sleep. Thank you to everyone who has made me and Jon a part of your world. We love you so very much. As long as we have all of you in our life, we will always have a home, no matter what continent we live on.