Week 4: Chau Lima/Hola Santiago!

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing *ahem* h[er]self.

Leo Tolstoy

I survived my first transition week! (Sort of. More below.) This past week was our last in Lima, and it was really such a bummer. In Cusco, I had this dawning realization that I was excited to go “home,” and that meant Lima. As in, I thought of my home, my bed, my comfort zone, as Lima, Peru. Just a few short weeks ago, I was living in a fancy-ass apartment in Logan Circle in DC, and now I was looking forward to going home to a city in Latin America. What a discovery of adaptation. While “home” in a true sense will always be where my loved ones are, it’s really amazing to know that as long as I have a roof over my head (and a comfortable bed #finickysleeper), I can create a home anywhere.

This first month has also brought to life how important communal living is to me. I’m actually starting to think that as humans, even those who are the most introverted, we require some form of communal living. We started as cave men (and women) in tribes with everyone pitching in for the larger community. This is so important. Now, especially as millennials, we live in these cities where we segregate ourselves into these separate boxes. I’ve lived alone for so long, and there are of course many elements of that I love. Walking around naked, leaving things dirty if you feel like, cleaning things if you feel like it, watching whatever shows/movies you want, playing whatever music you want, etc. etc. In DC, even though I had great friends and a great support system, there was a profound sense of loneliness. I don’t think we are meant to live alone, not truly. Of course, we need personal space, and having my own bedroom where I can go to spend my alone time and recharge is so important. But I’m now realizing it’s also equally important to have others around to do things with, to pull you up out of emotional slumps, to motivate you to do and be more. I have always wondered why things like camp and college mean so much to people (aka me) and I really do think it’s because of the strong communal bonds those experiences form. Your friendships from those times are so potent because you lived together. Your family, too. Your family is your initial community, that’s why many times those are the most intense bonds– they taught you how to live communally, and most likely where you shaped all your habits/abilities to cohabitate and to serve others in a community. Anyway, not to get too philosophical (but, kind of), this has made me realize that I pretty much can never live completely alone again. We crave human contact, even if it’s background noise, just the idea that others are there living their lives in tandem to us, even if we can shut our bedroom door, is so, so, so important.

On the flip side, the past week has really highlighted my insecurities in group settings. It’s funny how even as a somewhat fully-grown, self-actualized adult, I still have many of the same default settings in group situations. I’ve noticed that voice in the back of my head, the people-pleaser in me, just wanting everyone to like me and everything to be copacetic. If someone doesn’t act super excited to see me or doesn’t necessarily feel like making conversation/small-talk with me, I immediately jump to the conclusion that they don’t like me and I take it super personally. Meanwhile, that person might have thought it was a totally normal, nice interaction, or maybe they were just busy working or stressed or any other number of explanations. It’s been uncomfortable for me, there have been a few moments where I’ve gotten really emotional internally and wondered, “Why don’t they like me? What did I do?” And I pick apart every conversation I’ve had with that person. I take things personally they’ve said that I probably shouldn’t. But I’m working through it, working through the social anxiety. This couples with this crippling insecurity I have that I talk too much/am too loud and people don’t like that about me. I am noticing this constant humdrum of “Stop talking, stop talking, stop talking” in the back of my head whenever I am in conversations with people. I’m not tuning it out though. Like with meditation, I’m trying to notice the thoughts, and let them pass, so as not to give them as much control over me.

Another thing I’ve known about myself for a long time is that I write off people very easily. If someone says something I don’t like or does something I find annoying, I pretty much decide instantaneously that they are not a good person or not good for me, and that’s it in my head. It’s done. I’ve done this a lot in romantic situations as well (hence, the near constant singledom). I can’t really do that here. I’m going to be with these people for many months, and I have to grow to appreciate all of them for who they are because they are stuck with me and I am stuck with them. They are going to be my tramily (travel family) on this journey, and just like your real family, you may not always get along or agree with the other people, and sometimes they might really, really piss you off, but they are still your family at the end of the day. There have already been moments (some harder than others), where normally I would decide, “I am just ignoring that person now. They no longer exist to me.” And I have, for a day or two. But then I realize, I just have to get the hell over it because they will still be there the next day and the next day and the day after and the day after that. And, frankly, I just need to work on not letting other people’s stuff affect my mood and my day. And also maybe give people the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, back to Lima. It was really hard to say goodbye to Lima. It really had felt like it had become our home and it’s an amazing city and it’s where I met all my new friends. So it will always be special! Plus, the. food.

In our final week, I: 1. Ate anticuchos and tripe. Anticuchos are beef hearts. Surprisingly, so good. Tore my stomach up, as per usual in these parts, but super tasty. Highly recommend; 2. Did a really awesome workshop run by my friend Sarah about finding what truly motivates you and turning that into your career. This also subsequently caused me to have a bit of a mental breakdown later in the day when I realized I do not know what motivates me at all, hence, why I’m on this program. The women on my program were super great and supported me when I was having a bad/emotional day, and its so nice to know I’m not alone in my angst and personal frustration; 3. Had our “Farewell to Lima” party where we went to a “microteatro” which is basically 15-minute little plays in different rooms. Very interesting. Even though it was in Spanish and I couldn’t understand most of it, the acting was really good and it was a cool experience! We also went to a salsa club afterwards, so fun even though I can’t salsa for my life, still such a cool experience; 4. Explored the old city of Lima; 5. Had a last “Ladies Night” out with some of the women on our trip and our Lima experience manager, Gaby, at this butterfly bar! They have an area with live butterflies flying all around and then women performing acrobatics as butterflies. Super duper cool. I felt like a little kid again! (And also may have had a massive girl crush on the women performing these amazing acrobatic stunts…)

Then on Saturday, we packed up our apartments, were picked up, and were driven to an Irish bar where we hung out for most of the day. We were here until we went to the airport for our flight. I need to pause again to recognize how far I’ve come with my fear of flying. I would have NE. VER. stepped foot on this plane two years ago. It was a budget Latin American airline. And I just didn’t even think twice about it, no problem. Anyone who says people don’t change, I challenge you. People are who they are, but you have incredible control over how you react to situations.

Now, onto Santiago. I don’t know if it’s just because it is our first transition, and change in general is hard, but our first day here was pretty rough. I was already very nervous about our apartment situation when I Google mapped the location and it looked sketchy AF. I tried to remain positive, though, because you never know. We showed up at 1 AM after landing, and we turned down this not very-well-trodden street, which was dark, deserted, with a lot of graffiti. We go into this old building, the woman can’t get our apartment door open. We enter the apartment and it’s just . . . not great. Most of the lights don’t work, it’s very dilapidated, my bedroom door has no doorknob (just a hole where one should be) and doesn’t close, our shower is subpar, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on. It’s frankly why I haven’t done an apartment tour for any of you. It was a bit of a shock to the system after having such a cute Lima apartment and also knowing what other people on my program have here. There is one building with 16 of our group living in it called the “Mansion” where everyone has newly updated rooms and gets to live Real World-style. So, it feels a little isolating being on this random alley by ourselves in a run-down apartment, but, I’m super grateful I have Nandita, she is awesome and we will get through this together. Already today, I’m getting more used to the apartment. At least its spacious. My bed is really nice. I’m just trying to get more accustomed to the safety aspects of it. I’m sure most of it is in my head, but we have also been warned that Santiago has a lot of robbery/pickpocketing. So this city will be challenging in different ways than Lima, but that’s good to know and that is why I’m doing this program. There’s a saying that Remote Year keeps repeating that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How much of me is upset because of the apartment itself or because it’s not as nice as what others have??

Yesterday was our first day in the city, and we just dealt with apartment stuff, trying to get things fixed. We also did a bit of exploring around and ended up at this really cute food truck/drinks place. Before we knew it, it was 9 PM. The sun was still out! So crazy. We’re actually currently one hour ahead of ET, which is kind of funny. This will change next week when we fall back, but because we’re so far south (guys, straight up, we’re so close to Antarctica!!), the sun stays out forever.

Speaking of, I’ve had my first big lesson in saying no. There was an option to do a trip to Patagonia (or plan one on our own), but it falls over Passover, and also in general I wasn’t sure if I was the kind of person who could do such outdoorsy things. I thought to myself, is this something I would have sought out on my own before this, or am I just going to do it because I “should”? I also think the fact that it fell over the Passover seders to me was a sign I shouldn’t. I love Passover, I’ve never missed a seder, and I don’t plan on starting now. Plus, how cool to try to find a seder in Chile! Me and Sarah, the other Jewish girl on my trip, are thinking of planning a seder for our group, which could be so fun. I’m having a bit of FOMO about not seeing Patagonia, since I probably won’t be back down in this area of the world any time soon, but who knows– maybe I will! After all, there’s still Argentina and Brazil, neither of which I will have explored at the end of the year. There are just a million things and never-ending “should dos” on this year, and I really have to prioritize what is going to be meaningful to me. I’d rather save my pesos for Asia where there are beaches and islands and lots of fun food I will want to try. It’s hard though! I’m still second-guessing this decision, ah well. This helps with the budget but also gives me actually more time to explore in and around Santiago, which felt so compressed in Lima. Our weekends are always packed, so it will be nice to have some more time to just live in the city we’re in.

Looking forward to my first week in a completely new country well south of the equator. Still blowing my mind. Enjoy these last few pics from Lima and if you have any Chile recs, let me know!

2 comments

  1. Love it all. Love you sharing your truths in real time. (Did you stuff toilet paper in that hole in the door?!)

    And Seder decision is a yasss! So many surrounding reasons not to go to Patagonia, but that bottom line to be able to try to find a local Seder and maybe make your own = great. We’ve done both those things when faraway (Barcelona!), and they both were amongst our most memorable seders.

    Thank you for writing. Love you!!

    Like

    1. This is sooo great to hear! I have yet to figure out the seder situation, taking it one step at a time, but I hope there is a cool option here. I hear the Jabad is great, so we shall see. (And thankfully, no toilet paper in the hole in the door!) hehe

      Like

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