There are some rumors around our community about the gringos who come to Chile just to have a good time for a couple of years. It’s frustrating to hear about. If I had the chance, I would ask these people, “Does leaving your friends, family, country, culture, and comforts for two-and-a-half years sound like a guaranteed good time to you?” If having a good time is your main goal, this is not a smart way to do it. The reason is one detail about life in Chile that I don’t mention often: it’s not easy.
One reason is obvious: missing things. I miss my family and friends. In fact, it’s much harder than I anticipated being away from them. I miss things I knew I would miss—having a computer, Notre Dame football, going to school, NPR. I even miss things I had no idea I would miss: driving a car, walking barefoot in a house, church hymn in English, clean stuff, and the U.S. culture.
I never thought much about the culture in the U.S. I didn’t even recognize what it was. Now I have a better idea and I miss it. Not everything, mind you (politics comes to mind), but it’s tough being outside the flow of life there. Here July 4 is just any other day. I forgot that last Monday was Labor Day. I didn’t even remember that September 2 was Notre Dame’s season opener. When the weather is nice back home, it’s not here.
When I think about all the things that I miss and the things that I am missing, it’s a natural question to ask why. I do. I wake up some days and ask myself what I am doing here. Sometimes even work doesn’t provide helpful answers. Girls scream at me in the foster home; students don’t put effort into learning; I sit, sometimes in silence, with elderly people for a couple hours each week. My impatient half taunts me, asking about the careers that all my friends are pursuing. Why this?
It’s not that I don’t have any answers to the question, but some days—even some weeks or months—the answers are harder to see than others. On those days, it’s not easy.