Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sunday, July 13

Today I woke up on my last morning in Chile. Lilian brought me breakfast to my room and I showered, got ready, and put the finishing touches on my suitcases. There were more weight problems and I had to take more things out and weigh the suitcases a bunch of times with Manuel’s little fishing scale, but I got it to all fit (barely). I took a collectivo over to the Jumbo to meet up with my friends one last time. First I spent about an hour sitting a bench with Pablo just talking and laughing. It was kind of the last time we were going to hang out, and we both knew it, but there was no awkward sadness or anything. We had just as much fun and laughed just as much as we always do, and I had a great time. Pablo has the fastest Spanish in the whole world and sitting on that bench and just chatting with him and remembering how before it was always almost impossible to understand him made me realize how far I’ve come in a year. He left, and then I met up with Nico, Augustin, Isi, Isa, Ale, Chichi, and Heian at Berezzi.
We had café helado and just chatted for a while. Isi brought a camera, so we took a lot of pictures. This was a lot sadder because we all knew it was a goodbye and it was sort of long and drawn out. I got a text from my family saying that they were waiting for me to eat lunch, so I began the long process of hugs and promises to keep in touch and last photos with each of them.
We cried, hugged, and promised to stay in touch. As I was walking away from them, looking around the Jumbo for the last time, it was shocking how this city and those people, all completely unknown and foreign to me just 345 days earlier, had become my life and my best friends. And now I had to leave them. I took my last collectivo back home and ate lunch with my family. I gave them a parting gift of a Brighton framed photo of the three of us and letters for each of them. My friend Mapache came over to say a quick goodbye and to give me a hug. Then Lilian drove me into the center so I could change my Chilean money into American dollars. When we got home, it was almost 4 and we had to be off to the airport. We put all my suitcases in the car, and I was saying goodbye to the house and getting ready to leave, when Manuel came out to the car. On the back of the car they have that cute little family of stickers—Manuel, Lilian, Fran, and Cassandra, their pitbull. He had the pack of stickers, and he told me to choose one and put it on the back of the car because I was their daughter too. It was so adorable and simple and said I love you so much more clearly than words ever could have.
We all piled into the car and went up to the airport. I was pretty nervous about checking my suitcases because of the weight, but it went smoothly—one was exactly 23 kilos and the other was 31.5 (the overweight max is 32) so everything was perfect. I checked in and then there was nothing left to do but wait until 7:30 when I had to go through security.
My friends arrived pretty soon, and I was truly shocked by how many of them made the 2 hour bus journey up to the airport to say goodbye. We sat around talking and laughing and being pretty normal (except there were moments of silence when where we were sort of dawned on all of us). My cousin Nacho and his pants had also come to see me off. The San Martins still hadn’t arrived. I called Nancy and she said they had left the house late and were rushing to the airport but that it was going to be close. She was telling me to delay going through security to wait for them, but my friends were telling me that I couldn’t miss my flight and that I had to go.
I was so stressed and just wanted the San Martins to arrive (with Sally and Vicente). It was about 7:40 and they still weren’t there, so I started taking pictures with my friends and family that were there and I was resigning myself to the fact that they weren’t going to make it on time. As I was taking a picture with someone, I heard running and was enveloped in a giant hug from Sally, Monse, Nancy, Maxi, and Cristobal. That release of the tension that I had that they weren’t going to make it brought the waterworks, and I finally started crying. Nancy was crying too because she had been really scared that she wasn’t going to get to see me again. She told me that Eric had tried to find parking but couldn’t so he was waiting outside in the car. We ran out of the airport together so that I could go hug him and say goodbye. Then I ran back in and started going around the circle of people and hugging each of them and letting them know how much I loved them and how I would never forget them.
That was really all I could say in that moment. I remember the goodbye with Cata, and the goodbye with Pablo, and those were really sad because they have been some of the most important people in my exchange and we just hugged and it was understood how much this goodbye was going to hurt both of us.
But honestly I can’t choose a single goodbye as the hardest because they were impossible and surreal and blurred by tears. I really did have to do through security of I would miss my flight, so I walked through the door, waved a final goodbye to my entire huge Chilean family, and tried not to look back again.

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