Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Days Before the Move

I didn't know what to expect in the days before my move.  The logistics of the final weeks were pretty straightforward:  sell my bicycles, sell the car, give away or sell most of my possessions.  The emotions I would experience and thoughts that would run through my mind were more uncertain.

I was humbled by my final days with colleagues, friends and family.

First, thank you to:  1. my Columbus Literacy Council co-teachers who hosted goodbye events, with cards, brownies, lemonade, and goodbye discussions with the students; and 2. my Toastmasters club which hosted a happy hour at a Mexican restaurant (it was a blast to meet outside of our Thursday gatherings).  

The going-away party with friends was perfect.  It started with a grillout and a keg of Columbus-brew beer (brought to the event on tandem bicycle!) and ended at my friends' favorite place in Columbus for dancing.  

At home in Cincinnati we had a gathering with some extended family and family friends.   Over the past few years the way I look at family has evolved a bit (perhaps this happens in adulthood).  I now better realize the importance of having people with whom you will always be connected, who will always care for you, and who have a shared history.  It was fun talking with my uncle, a gas station owner, about his marketing of specialty beers, and with other family members about their travels, jobs, and other experiences.

Emotionally it was hardest to leave Columbus.  Columbus represents the place of my early adulthood, my university education, and relationships with friends that I will have for life.  I had grown to be a huge fan of the city and thought of myself as an ambassador for outsiders and my friends alike ("hey guys, there's such-and-such going on this weekend, it should be fun, wanna go?").  It was saddest to know that I was leaving this place that I love, and that my time with my wonderful friends, who I love, was never going to be the same again. 

While it was emotional to leave my home and the people there, it was not hard to press forward with this trip.  I felt like there was a magnetic pull for me to do this, there were no doubts in my mind about what I was about to do.

In many ways I looked at my final days like a roller coaster; when I left Columbus I climbed into the car, and from that time forward the car was going to climb and climb to the top of the hill, until I reached the top of the hill, got on a plane, and started the ride that would be my new life in Santiago. 

Joe and me, shoving off on the tandem keg-bike (his own creation).

**more photos to come

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Lead-Up to Santiago

Why do this?  Simply, moving to Santiago (or anywhere else in South America) is an opportunity that I couldn't pass up.  I'm doing this to hone my Spanish, experience another culture, see the world from a different perspective, have an adventure, make great memories for life, and answer the questions of "can I do it?" and "what would it be like?" that I don't want to grow old without answering.

Seeing as this is my first blog entry, I'll first focus a bit on my mindset leading up to the move.  Please note -- I'm actually writing this on my second day in Santiago.  I couldn't bring myself to do much writing in my last weeks in Ohio; that time was devoted to saying "see ya later" to my friends and family and to finalize elements of this trip.  My first day (days) in Chile will be covered shortly. 

I can remember the moment that led directly to the move to Santiago:  it happened in the summer of 2004, during two weeks of solo travel after a study abroad experience, when I was walking around Barcelona and enjoying myself.  During a period of extreme enjoyment of my circumstances I raised my head to look at the windows of an apartment building and thought "how cool would it be to live up there?".  I immediately had a mental picture of my life -- walking through the streets of Barcelona, attending events in the city, meeting up with my foreign friends, and having a unique experience.  At that moment the seed was planted, I knew that I would someday find a way to answer that question.

In the following years I dabbled in this goal.  I wondered where I would want to go and how I would do it.  I knew I wanted these things:  1. a country that spoke Spanish (to allow for perfecting of my Spanish); 2. a large international city with decent public transportation (to have international opportunities, more ease to cross the city to attend events and meet friends, hopefully better job opportunities); 3. access to the ocean (to learn how to surf, a minor -- but real -- goal).  Over time I settled on South America as the destination -- Central America was too close to the US and to what I was familiar; Spain was too developed, too refined, and too similar to the US.  From my limited travel experience, along with knowledge gained from books and others, I felt that South America had an element of "grit" and uniqueness that would make it an interesting destination. 

Moving quickly from 2004, in 2010 my life situation was in tune to allow this dream to be realized.  After some research I decided to focus my intentions on Santiago, Chile,  which matched the profile that I was looking for in a destination city. 

Toledo, Spain (summer 2004)

With my host family (minus Jorge); Toledo, Spain (summer 2004)

Train station on Spain-France border.  This was the setting for a memorable experience involving the Middle East, terrorism and racial differences (if you've heard the story you know what I mean).  (summer 2004)
 *note:  I packed very light for my Europe trip, hence the reason why you see the same shirt in these photos.  (I think I took 4 shirts total)
**note #2:  Yes, that's my real hair.