Wow, it’s been a long time since my last post. I’m currently in the middle of a two week trip by home to kick off my summer vacation in Chile, so I’m going to take advantage of the time to write a quick update. Safe to say that I need to work towards more frequent updates. Expect to see some more consistent updates, hopefully on a bi-weekly basis.
I spent the holidays mostly with my host family in Chile. With the combination of warm weather, being sick, and also being away from home, the holidays just didn’t feel the same as they normally do. In many ways I barely noticed that they passed, and that was definitely difficult for me.
For Christmas, my host family had about 5 other expats as guests for Christmas. They were from Malasia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Ireland. It was really neat to hear their stories, as well as share the holidays away from home together. There was a certain sense of solidarity in that. Together we had a wonderful Christmas dinner, at which everyone opened presents at midnight. The next day, in the afternoon we went to my host father’s parents house about an hour north of Santiago in the countryside. New Years Eve I spent with my friend and her host family, and we had a wonderful dinner and toasted the new year at midnight.
On January 2nd, about 15 adults, 60 students, and I went to Chiloé, an island in the south of Chile on a mission trip. It was a truly unique experience; never in my life had I walked around a small village knocking on doors and asking the people if they wanted to talk about God or pray together. I learned a lot about the people of Yaldad, the community in which we stayed, and spoke a lot of Spanish. Their community was right on the inlet of the sea, so every morning I woke up to the smell of sea salt and would watch the tide go in and out. The community comprised of about half Catholic and half Evangelical Christians, and it was interesting to see how distinct and divided the community was along these lines. It was both eye opening and sad to see how the divisions between Christians exist not only in the USA and Europe, but also in other countires as well.
“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”
– Saint Augustine of Hippo
During my visit to Chiloé, I had no mobile phone coverage, and our school was situated on the side of the only main road that ran through town. We spent much of our time roaming in search of homes, which led us through countryside, farms, and dusty roads. The sea-salt swept off our faces as the wind blew across the ocean, which to me resembled a small lake at the end of our periphery. Chiloé was, by all means, largely untouched, and it was easy to appreciate the beauty that God had given us in our trip there. In fact, a common theme of discussion with the local people was how beautiful this land was and how dirty/noisy/crowded Santiago was. As a recent resident of Santiago, I did not share the in the student’s derogation of the big city life, but I suppose that is a post for another time.
Despite their I think that we all have the “Santiago” of our hearts. We all have the thoughts, ideas, relationships, and emotions that we are most familiar with and which fill our days with thoughts. These thoughts are easy for they are more often than not a product of habit, and returning to them is so seamless that we often don’t realize we are doing so. For me, it is extremely easy for me to think about my current “to-do” list and whether I am optimizing my time and completing all the tasks “required” of me. While familiar territory, these thoughts are often chaotic and jarring at times, with thoughts and new ideas running through my mind like cars on the main freeway through town.
For me, I often let these thoughts to take up a large portion of my time and energy, even though my “to-do” list is just a small portion of who I am. Just like Santiago is only a speck in the world, there is so much more to contemplate, to discover, and to appreciate within myself that I often pass by within myelf. Why? Because it is much easier to worry about the stack of papers I have to grade than to sit and listen, truly listen, to what my body and mind is telling me, especially when those emotions are uncomfortable.
And these uncomfortable emotions pop up all the time in life. I cannot say for certain if it is happening more now that I live outside of my comfort zone, or because I am maturing and listening to my heart more. But I can say that I have found myself just plain sad sometimes, especially when on surface there is no logical reason that I am sad. Conversely, feelings of happiness, gratitude, or content have bubbled over in the simplest or most mundane of moments.
In the past, I use to ignore these feelings, and instead of listening to the emotion and learning from it, I often shut it out with the noise of everyday commitments, job priorities, or even surfing the web. Recently, I have tried to just allow myself to truly feel and not stamp out these emotions. The journey through life has also been an opportunity to learn more about myself, exploring the depths of my heart and being that I didn’t know existed before. Certainly, this process has made me more human and inculcated within me the ability to connect more with others and myself.
I don’t think that I will ever lose my love of travel, nor should I. However, St. Augustine challenges me to accept that I, too, am a wonder, and am worth exploring, traveling, and admiring.
When was the last time you took the time to wonder at the marvel that you are?