In my last blog, I landed safely in Santiago and navigated my way through the airport. As I stepped outside, I welcomed the crisp breeze, a nice change from the stale airplane air. It is currently winter in Chile with temperatures ranging from 50° to 75° F. Although significantly warmer than winters in Michigan, indoor heating is uncommon and the constant chill makes it seem colder.
In the 30-minute drive to my homestay, we passed through valleys, drove along the Mapocho River, busy streets, and into the heart of Santiago. I vividly remember my first glimpse of the Andes Mountain or La Cordillera. An audible gasp escaped my lips when I saw its snowy peaks appear in the distance. It looked unreal against the horizon of buildings. I wonder, is this what people feel when they see Lake Michigan for the first time?
Eventually, we pulled up to the gate of my apartment complex. I used the intercom as my driver unloaded my luggage. A few moments later, a petite woman rushed down and received me in a warm embrace. I was home!
For the next few hours, we sat in the sunroom sharing stories. Then it was time for brunch. Together, we made avocados and eggs on Marraqueta (a special bread) along with tea. Bread is essential in Chile. In almost every supermarket and with every meal you are sure to find a fresh batch. After we finished eating, my host mom gave me a tour of the apartment. My room fit a twin-sized bed and a desk and was connected to a private bathroom. I was grateful to have a place to call my own and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking my bags. When I emerged, it was already 3 o’clock, just in time for lunch. I sat down to a feast prepared by my host mother and her housekeeper. On the table was a fresh salad with a savory lemon, avocado, and olive oil dressing. They had also cooked up an omelet with tuna, eggs, mayo, and carrots, a side dish of veggies and rice, and homemade chicken soup. This was my first real meal in Chile. I was intrigued by each new smell and flavor. Needless to say, it was delicious and filling.
Later that evening, my host mother invited me to accompany her on some errands. It was still bright outside when we left and I was eager to explore the city. As we walked, my host mother happily answered my questions and shared a bit of Santiago’s history. Did you know La Palma Chilena (an ancient palm tree in Santiago) is protected by law?
After a quick stop at the bank, we returned to our apartment just as the sun was setting. Still satisfied from lunch, we sat in the living room for late-night tea. We talked until my eyes began to droop and I excused myself for bed. As usual, I fell into a deep sleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
Throughout the rest of the week, I became more fond of the cozy apartment and fell into a routine with my host family. Although it was intimidating at first, being immersed in a Spanish-speaking family stretched my knowledge and fluency. I cherish each conversations we had and lessons I learned during my time them. The morning before I left, we had family brunch with my host mom and her two daughters. Throughout the whole meal, they engaged me in their conversations. Just another example of how thoughtful they are. When the sisters started to banter, I was reminded of my own sisters and our rambunctious meals. Although my stay was only for a few days, I am extremely grateful for the kindness and grace of these women.