A Travellerspoint blog

lost unfinished writings from Chile

May 25, 2009
Date of Departure
Between Mendoza and Buenos Aires, Argentina

Today I departed. I’m beginning a journey.
I left my loved one this morning at 9:00 AM. We tried to transcend tears. We were unsuccessful. We spent 326 days together. On many of these days, especially the final ones, we were not apart for even a moment. This is not a good way to leave someone. A person can’t be put through such stark and severe contrasts. We were together every second and in a single second our world turned 180 degrees. From now until indefinitely we will never be together, not even for a single second. The pain is so acute that in some moments I feel delirious and I begin to wish we had never met.
I began my first journey on May 31, 2008. Ives joined me on July 4, just a month later. We have come so far since then. I journeyed into him, he into me, and both of us into God. My life will never be the same. But I’m too fragile to think about all that now.
This morning I reached the long-awaited fork in the road. We parted ways. I don’t know how many times I thanked him for his companionship. Between all that there is to say I only hope that this road becomes one again later down the road. I don’t feel strong enough to walk too far without him. He was my illumination and my heat source. Who will light my path now? Who will keep me warm?
When the pain subsides my heart confirms that I am so glad he accompanied me for as far as he did. I was so lucky. I will always remember his face, those gentle eyes. The way he looked when he was absorbed in the moment and perfectly happy. I always knew when his mind was somewhere else. He was everything to me: my best friend, my partner, my gatito, my only glindi.
People always asked us what we were going to do when I had to leave. I understand now that neither of us had any idea how much it was going to hurt. I always told people that I was ready to leave, and that everything was going to be okay. In my mind I felt even colder: in some moments with him I would have given anything to have teleported back to the United States, never to see him again. During those times I told myself I should have broken up with him long ago. I didn’t know I was so attached to him. He is the first person who has mattered more to me than traveling, more than moving on to other things in my life. Will that feeling soon recede? Will I see clearly in a few weeks’ time, or am I seeing clearly now as a result of the pain?
For all that he was to me, there are big indications that I could never be with him forever and I was always 99% sure of it. Spiritually we’re on different levels (something I became okay with), I never was able to have conversations with him about the things that mattered to me, there were too many cultural differences that I couldn’t handle (all perfectly manageable now that I’m gone). I pray that time brings my mind some clarity.
There are two reasons for me to feel incredibly vulnerable right now. One is that I just left my gatito precioso back in Chile and won’t see him for a very long time. The other is that I am traveling alone to a big, dangerous city. The strength of reason A is directly proportional to the strength of reason B. I don’t want to be anywhere without Ives, especially not in another country where things could be dangerous. I wish I had just flown out of Chile and stayed these 4 days there. I’d have been with Ives until the very end. But stupidly I set myself up for my own torture, totally alone in a foreign place, missing Ives dearly. Every minute without him is a slap in the face, an urging to get used to what lies ahead.
¿Qué me pasa? I speak of him as if he were dead.

Posted by coffmanlz 14:31 Comments (0)

hate to post 2 notes back to back like this.

I really do. You start writing enough notes and people think you're nothing more than a loose cannon who enjoys the sound of your own voice. In my defense, at least my notes aren't all song lyrics. Ahem.

I feel strangely inspired to write by the course of tonight's events. The past few days have been full of "lasts." My last bus from Chiloé to come to Puerto Varas for a weekend. My last time to set the alarm and lock the door to my house. Last classes with my students. Last parties with friends. Last moments with clothes I decided to give away. And of course it's all been quite reflective as you can imagine.

I came to work at the hotel this evening feeling rather on the edge. By on the edge I don't mean easily-angered or about to snap at any moment. Tonight "on the edge" means that I'm about to turn the page and start something new. I'm about to exhale the final sighs of the exhausting chapter I'm finishing and gasp as I turn the page and see the things in front of me. And in a bored, but contemplative moment at work I imagined my boss, Vicki, asking me how the past week had gone and I went over the conversation in my mind, talking out loud to myself with my long-winded responses, venting honest complaints and opinions into my own ears about 6 months worth of experiences and changes. I realized that if she really were to ask me, she would expect a brief response before she went on into some other subject, and all the things I'd like to really get out would be best discussed over a cappuccino that had exactly 2 hours worth of sips in it, and that the probability of having coffee on a "free" afternoon or evening is just unthinkable. Moments later she called the hotel to see how things were. We got to talking and before I knew it she was telling me she was coming over to share a drink with me so we could talk further. Wow. Seriously? Strange.

The conversation was full of uncanny twists and turns. Vicki revealed parts of herself that I didn't realize existed and I'm sure I did the same. It's remarkable when you have a certain impression of someone and then you hear their ideas of how people should be. It opens your eyes to the discrepancies, but you can also hear their soul crying out in desperation to be the person they dream they will be one day. My boss is a highly spiritual person, an eclectic mix of Hindu, New Age, Christian, Buddhist, and whatever lies in between, with the frequent admission of her proudly self-invented phrase, "I pray around." It has been a fascinating night of opening our hearts to each other, admitting philosophies, sharing family histories, and softening ourselves to become sensitive and available to meet the other's inner needs. So encouraging. She implored me to cultivate my inner life so that I can impact the guests that come. Even though my boss describes people in colors and talks about her past life and how her deceased father's soul lives in her youngest son, I knew exactly what she was talking about, and she's exactly right. This line of work is more than going through the motions (as I'm so used to). It's about leaving a mark on everyone you meet, and beyond that, letting God leave the mark on them as He works in and through you every day. It's a job that, if I let it, will break me out of slothfulness and into a new realm of personal relationship, both with the guests of the hotel and with Vicki, my boss. Of course it's all about what you allow, all about what you cultivate. You reap what you sow. A glass can only spill what it contains.

After it was all said and done she gave me a big hug and welcomed me to the family, with the promise that I'd be able to be involved in her real family as well, which was more than encouraging being so far from home.

I feel like I've been given a new chance to break out of my spell of laziness in social skills and work ethic. If you pray, please pray that I'll seek the strength to make something of my time here.

Posted by coffmanlz 18:31 Comments (0)

A vacuum for complacency?

Months ago I proudly told friends about a piece I was working on writing that I'd post in "a few months' time." I knew the subject matter was too heavy for me to deal with all at once; I knew it was an insuperable juggernaut, and that submerging myself in the thick of the battle would take weeks, months, and maybe years. Only one month later I gave up on the struggle completely. And the consequences are killing me. Depression is emerging, and I can only blame myself.

My experience in Chile has led me to inevitably discover the ugly, dead or dying parts of me that I have never noticed before due to familiar and comfortable situations. Despite cultural norms there are what seem to be universal morals that I fail to fulfill. I can blame character flaws on the culture in which I was raised, on DNA, and on family influences, but I cannot blame my resistance to change those flaws on anyone or anything but myself. My eyes are being opened to parts of me that I don't like to see. Being in this culture forces me to see them every day. I have subconsciously been wearing a mask for years, and Chile is removing it slowly.

I now know that any social skills that I have rely purely on my overdone, but cleverly-placed slang usage and cultural or historical references. I don't value conversation. I value human relationships only so that I don't get too bored by myself. I'm addicted to the Internet. I'm a terribly cold person who really isn't worth anything in conversation. I never ask you how you are, or if I do, I don't really care what the answer is; I am most likely only asking because I'm overconscious of my coldness and don't want you to not like me.

Most of all I'm terribly lazy. I'm too lazy to practice Spanish. I'm too lazy to go out and make friends. I'm too lazy to try to start up conversation with my host family. I'm too lazy to do a good job at school (if I even show up for classes). I'm too lazy to keep up with staying in tune with God. I'm too lazy to work out. I'm too lazy to eat healthy food. Too lazy to not eat like a savage. I'm too lazy to be more sociable, not to mention cordial, with people.

I've been so motivated to be the hardest worker in Latin America for so many years; to get involved in life and in LIVING, to make lifelong friends, to have a close family community, to dive deeper into God, and these six months I have literally done nothing but stagnate. I've slipped really, really far into a spiritual/moral/self-awareness coma; I'm nothing but a robot who does the minimum possible to survive. What have I become? The relationships I had hoped to cultivate have all been practically destroyed; never in my life have I lacked so much favor among people. Almost everyone that I have met has disliked me for some reason or another. I've never experienced anything like it.

Because of this, these 6 months have been incredibly difficult and disagreeable. Gosh, for no other reason but myself. I've inflicted it all on myself. And it all started when I felt God bringing me toward a goal at which I felt it was impossible to arrive. I backed away from him, scared to do what He asked, and I turned around completely and walked away. And here I am, far away, with no real idea how to pinch myself so that I wake up and start to move. And in the meantime, no matter how much I fight it I cannot help but think that I have wasted so much time. And it's then that it dawns on me that Donald Miller's quote is true, and it makes me all the more depressed. ("It occurs to me it is not so much the aim of the devil to lure me with evil as it is to preoccupy me with the meaningless.") Preoccupied with meaninglessness. Well-said.

What is fascinating is that God has begun to work in spite of me. I can't begin to tell you how he's managed to bring things around regardless of my lethargy and lack of motivation. Well, I'll tell you, but in the next note, the chapter that has been waiting to be uncovered.

Posted by coffmanlz 17:57 Comments (0)

Because Anne Marie said.

Chile pulled a fast one on itself again.

Two days ago I walked down the dirt road of Llau Llao to catch my daily bus to the city for a hard day's work of teaching in my beloved, chaotic highschool. When I reached the freeway (on whose shoulder I must wait patiently whenever I want to flag down a bus to take me into civilization) I saw lines and lines of huge trucks and buses blocking entire lanes of traffic. Tiny cars could barely squeeze between the giant grills of the trucks and the cement median. As I walked through what seemed like highway aisles made of towering vehicles I saw men barbecuing, drinking beers, and listening to music from between their trucks, having a great time free of work on one of the most gorgeous first days of spring. From here I realized that no buses were going to come that day. They appeared to be on strike. I decided to wait for a taxi.

Perhaps I was waiting longer than I realized because finally a man came up to me and asked me if I was trying to get into town. He said nothing was going to come for me and I'd have to hitchhike. And for the first time in my life, I climbed into the back of a truck of strangers. As we drove away I heard a truck driver shout to my new chauffeur, "Looks like you're all set now that you've got a gringa in the back!" and all his comrades cheered and laughed. The man in the passenger seat tried to catch my reaction. I rolled my eyes.

I made it into town about 10 minutes after my class had started, but I still had to take my second form of transportation from town uphill to the highschool. I arrived to school super late that day and had to explain myself to the entire board. Thanks Chile.

I came home that day walking. The cab I took couldn't drive me all the way to my house with the blocked road. He dropped me off at a certain point, charged me the full fare, and I walked by all the trucks again. I was applauded for my successful return to Llau Llao. I was tempted to weigh the possibilities of taking advantage of my new admirers by asking for a beer and a piece of whatever they were grilling, maybe we could hang out for awhile. Nah.

Today was more of the same. When I took a taxi home he tried to take a back way on a dirt road but was stopped by someone else's fun little road blockade they had set up. These truck drivers really wanted to cover all their bases in SCREWING NORMAL PEOPLE OVER. I asked the cab driver why they were striking. "They want the President to come," he said. "She hasn't kept her promises." He told me the entire island was on strike, including the ferry that takes people to the continent. That means everyone is literally trapped on the island until further notice. I asked him when the strike would end. "Tomorrow, supposedly." 'Good,' I thought to myself. 'I have plans to go to the continent this weekend.'

I walked half a kilometer home and the phone rang. My host mom answered it and one of the first responses she had to the person on the other end was the Chilean equivalent of the F-word. She hung up the phone and told me that the strike was about to get worse. At 5 PM the trucks would block off the highway entirely so that no one could pass, and that all the cops would come out AS WELL AS the Chilean Special Forces. There was going to be a big fight.

I took my laptop out onto the deck to feed my Facebook addiction while trying to catch some of the madness. The moment I heard an ambulance making their way through the traffic I ran in to grab my camera and hurried down the hill. As I stood out in the highway taking pictures men in trucks yelled at me to take theirs too. They asked me what newspaper I worked for. However the scene I stepped into wasn't too interesting. Still listening to salsa and cumbia, still grilling, still hanging out in the streets, cops were still helping manage traffic as usual. Bored, I went back to the house, came to my room, and opened my window (which looks out onto the highway). Ever since I've heard cars honking, sometimes I'd hear sirens blaring, sometimes I'd see Special Forces vehicles, sometimes I'd hear shouts and fights, and sometimes I'd hear more ambulances.

Anne Marie first recommended I yell out the window, "Let them eat cake!" and then suggested I promptly write a blog.

Come to Chile, friends. This is the best propaganda I can give you.

Posted by coffmanlz 13:42 Comments (0)

I wish I could wait til tomorrow to write this.

View vacaciones de invierno 2008 on coffmanlz's travel map.

But I'm afraid it's impossible.

I wish I could sleep right now, but I can't, not until I've expressed my gratitude publicly (on Cacebook no less)! Heh.

To catch up with things a bit, I write you from Valparaiso/Viña del Mar (they're 10 minutes apart), Chile at 2:30 on the morning of my twenty-fourth birthday. I've never felt so alive; it seems as though the very blood within my veins is speaking to me, cheering for me, pumping from the pure exhilaration which is its source.

For the first time I celebrate my birthday in the winter. I managed to sneak away from the Liceo for winter holiday and my friend Taylor came to visit me all the way from Missouri. We planned our wintery excursions, part of which included a desire to see Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Chile's proudest view of the Pacific Ocean. I was on Facebook one day a couple of weeks ago and was browsing through the emergent church groups trying to find one to join, mostly to secretly but amicably spite my friend (that's you, David Hamilton). I was surprised to stumble upon Iglesia Emergente, an emergent church based in Valparaiso. I requested to join the group and immediately the administrator of the group-slash-pastor of the church contacted me, thanking me for joining and anxiously asking me questions about myself. As we continued to talk I mentioned that I had planned to visit Valparaiso with a friend soon and inquired about cheap hostels in the area. I received a shocking reply: this pastor and some of his friends welcomed Taylor and I into their homes to stay for free to help our embarrassingly economical travel budget. A little hesitant, but even more desperate, I took up the offer.

We began to plan things. Hector, the pastor, and his wife Macarena, live in Viña del Mar, and their two close friends and fellow church members, Carlos and his wife Kati, live down the street. Taylor would stay with one couple and I'd stay with the other. At this point I knew nothing of anyone but Hector, and I didn't even know the ages of any of these people. One side of me was concerned for Taylor's life and my own well-being, but my stronger, adventurous side was raging feverishly.

The day of departure to Viña del Mar arrived. We were given specific instructions regarding which bus to take, what to tell the driver, which stop to get off at, etc. We failed completely. We got on the wrong bus, the driver said he couldn't take us to the stop, and we wound up on the complete opposite side of town at the main bus terminal. Frantic and feeling like utter disappointments, Taylor and I tried to find a pay phone to call Hector (because my cell phone decided to completely go kaput just 2 days prior). After about 15 minutes of failed pay phone attempts, we finally got in touch with Hector (this was the first time I heard his voice, might I add). There I was, this complete stranger, breaking the news that we completely screwed up the instructions and that we were actually nowhere near his house, but we were more than willing to take a taxi. Finally he told us he would come all the way out to pick us up. Unbelievable. Sometimes that kind of kindness makes you feel awful.

From then on things have been nothing short of completely phenomenal. I can tell you in all honesty that these 4 Chilean emergents are the most servant-hearted believers that I have ever known. They have been so kind to us, paying for every last bit of our transportation, surprising us with little snacks they buy for us in secret, feeding us numerous meals in their homes, of course letting us stay with them and making sure we are completely comfortable, planning three days' worth of activities for us to all do together, showing us around Valparaiso and Viña for hours and hours on end, taking care of Taylor when he was sick, helping us organize our travel plans, and finally, tonight.

Today Hector, Macarena, Carlos and Kati took Taylor and me to Viña del Mar to see the ocean and the mall and the markets. We walked and walked and walked. Walked by the ocean, walked around the mall. (P.S. I found a book that I absolutely would kill for: How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle. All the Chilean slang anyone could ever want to know. And slang is a big deal here. Like, a BIG deal. I've been trying really hard to learn it lately. It's a lifetime process. Anyway.)

They were so patient with us. I was obsessed with standing and watching the waves because I haven't seen the ocean in years, and I think they preferred to walk around the mall. Then Taylor fell very ill for a mysterious reason and they took such good care of him; they took him to a pharmacy and found the perfect medicine for him and made sure everything was okay, cutting the evening's plans short for us in order to go home instead because Taylor felt bad. Hector was even there for Taylor when he had to get off the bus early because the jolting was making him sicker. When we got back to Hector and Macarena's house, we all ate a dinner that Kati and Macarena prepared for us, then we watched a movie (Los Conquistadores, aka..... Pathfinder?). So much fun. I was starting to feel like I had known these people for years.

Then it came time for Carlos, Kati and me to go home. As we were about to walk out the door the lights were turned out and there were some comments about how it was raining outside, how cold it was, how Kati forgot to put on her coat, etc. And before I knew it, I saw a little glow in the darkness and Macarena was coming around the corner with a birthday cake, candle and all, and I think my brain finally kicked in around the last few words of the Happy Birthday song. I couldn't believe it. These people I hardly knew had bought me a cake and were singing Happy Birthday to me. I even got the cake-in-the-face tradition. Classic. Someone turned on the lights and there was Carlos, gift in hand. Wrapped and everything. (It was wrapped beautifully. Anne Marie.) Wouldn't you know they bought me the Chilean Jungle book? I couldn't believe it. I started crying. I've never had such a special birthday. My eyes are welling up right now. These four people that I've only known for a matter of days spent so much time and effort to make my birthday special. This day stands as one of the most unforgettable in my life. Few other times have I felt so loved. I'm writing this through tears even now. When we sat down to eat the cake together I asked Hector (who speaks English fluently) how to say "I can honestly say that this is the most unforgettable birthday I've ever had," and I started to cry again. Estaba muy, muy, emocionada. :) And we had birthday hats!!!!!!!!!!!

So I stayed up an hour later to say thank you. Thank you Hector, Macarena, Carlos, Kati, and Taylor for absolutely everything. I never imagined any of this would happen, I never imagined such a special birthday in my life. I've never felt anything like this before. I hope that we all stay in touch for a very long time after this. All of you have impacted my life tremendously. Here come the tears again. Thank you for being such servants. Thank you for all that you've done, for opening your home, for trusting complete strangers, for treating us like royalty, for the incredible birthday and the book of course, for all the great times and the laughs and the vulnerability and the friendship. Thank you. There is no way we could ever repay you (I've been racking my brain trying to think of ways). You all will be in my prayers and I hope to see you again for New Years or sooner, God willing. :) Thank you again. I love all of you dearly.

P.S. Hector, you'll have to translate this for everyone. :)


Posted by coffmanlz 21:27 Archived in Chile Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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