Days are beginning to blur together in visions of sweating in the smoggy heat between tall graffiti-laden buildings and too-slow crowds I want to get around. Granted, they are only too slow because I like walking fast, even when I have no destination. Recently this has looked like me speed walking through the downtown (where I live) to go find things like peanut butter and lamps. Tomorrow this will look like finding turmeric, cardamom, and a yoga mat.
I’m three weeks in and things do not strike me as new, or notable, as often. Or maybe with my desire to become accustomed to the here and now I’m not letting my eyes be filled with the wonder that I should.
And I should.
I should marvel at the greatness of this place, just like I should where ever I find myself. I should bask in the little joys and oddities that now are my normal because it will fend off the incoming discouragement, nostalgia, loneliness. They are inevitable but do not have to be all consuming.
Here is my recipe, then, to bask in the light: a list of the oddities, the joys, the nuances that I want to recall later when I miss this place something fierce. Shared with you as all joy is better when multiplied. (And because people have been asking how I am, & thank you for that)
I sweat the most at 5 pm when my room becomes an oven. Today marks the autumn equinox so in just a bit longer I’ll be dreaming about the oven while in my room feels like a refrigerator.
A 50 year old guy jogging saw me sprinting and then challenged me to a sprint. I lost. I was rather warmed, however, knowing in that moment I was part of the community in some weird, small way (albeit the slower part of the community).
The parks and plazas are the place to be on weekends and some evenings. What is kind of empty on weekday mornings when I run teems with families playing volleyball, people selling snacks, couples canoodling in the grass, kids laughing and simply life.
There is graffiti everywhere in my neighborhood. It’s beautiful and thought-provoking. Though the majority is what I chalk up to be gang tags, there is an endless supply of intricate murals, true works of art. Some messages by my house always get me thinking: “I want free and quality education, and you?,” “rebel or slave?” It troubles me that I don’t have a question or thought so deeply held within me that I’d want to spray it upon a wall. Regardless of the type, the graffiti adds a unique charm to the otherwise classic downtown.
My roommates coming home from work is a highlight of my day. Conversations with Joselyn and Natalia (la Jose y la Nati) are always a reason to stay up a bit later with some tea and maybe toast.
Natalia taught me the basic steps to dance Cueca, the traditional music which in the last decade came back from a slow decline and has made a strong resurgence in popularity with young people. It’s a courting dance and features scarves (or napkins for a spontaneous moment). I’ve been going to a small ashtanga yoga class with Joselyn. While she does incredible inversions, I’m hoping to graduate from sun salutations.
I’m learning how to read music and Spanish lyrics at the same time as I’m the newest alto in one of the church’s choirs. We’ll be doing a concert honoring the Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra. Amazing lyrics and storytelling that make her an important part of Chilean culture.
Despite my gringo accent and my Mexican influenced speech, Spanish this time around is so much better. I have a long way to go and lots of Chilean slang to master but it feels better coming in with a year-long immersion under my belt. I can actually make meaningful conversations (read: actual relationships) right off the bat.
An ecumenical women’s group planned a liturgy service honoring International Women’s Day honoring the lives of strong women leaders. It was also a way of denouncing and praying for the pain and injustice women live in, with a special focus on our marginalization within the church. Tributes to female leaders of these communities and in the Bible were given. I may have only been in charge of making the powerpoint, but this was a moment where I felt in my bones “it’s good to be here.” There was a large group of us from the church who participated in the march. Am I energized by the feminist and social justice forward vision they have? Absolutely.
The metro is not so much like the beast that is the Mexico City metro. This is both good (you can get on and off without feeling the oxygen squished out of you from the sweaty strangers packed on the thing) and bad (not as frequent of trains, not as many routes). I normally travel for an hour on bus or bus and metro to get to the congregations.
Sara and Chris, here for Sara’s internship year to become an ELCA pastor, introduced me to what is the most exciting street market I’ve been to yet. It’s like a well organized garage sale that goes on for blocks and blocks and… and I bought flowy pants and a fanny pack. (Both very in style.) These two were the first to show me around and really get to know me. But it’s not the fact that they have helped me but that they are thoughtful, passionate and fun people that make me grateful for their presence.
So there you have it. I’m doing well, meeting more people fast, and beginning to get a true grip on how my work will take shape though this will take time to flesh out. So far I’ve begun tutoring the bishop in English for her upcoming event in South Africa, I’m half way through a teaching ELL (English language learners) online class, and met with various people as I form my project proposal. Thank you for your support, prayers and thoughts. I look forward to sharing bits about the months and years to come with you.
Abrazos desde Chile.