As I write, I am sitting in my apartment drinking some lovely Chilean wine (always when I write to you!) looking out at the hills of Viña del Mar. My soul is so happy. I breathe deeply as I realize I’m really and finally here. The Airbnb apartment where I am staying is absolutely beautiful (pics below). It’s tiny but has everything I need, and I love having my own space.
Only one block from the bus station, walking there was a breeze. When I arrived, my hostess (Maria) greeted with this incredibly strong welcome hug and kiss. Her friend (Ariana) greeted me equally, and they quickly settled me into the apartment. Goodness I missed this about Chile. We exchanged phone numbers and they insisted that if I needed anything that I should let them know right away. After dropping my bags, they insisted on taking me to lunch.
Of course, we are speaking only in Spanish. Oh my how this stresses my brain. But I keep thinking how being bilingual is good for long term brain health, how much I want to learn Spanish and I happily go with it as much as possible. Conversation was a bit of a challenge, but they were very patient and told me that I just needed to be braver. This is just the encouragement I needed to hear!
Then I was back at the apartment, and happily closed the door to the world. Since then, my days have been a whirlwind of activity. I am hooked into the expat network here in Viña and in Santiago, which is so helpful! I already feel I’m kind of part of a community and that I’m not completely isolated. On Wednesday, I looked at an apartment. It was leased by a man from New Hampshire. It had 3 bedrooms, but was right on the beach, which was promising. Then it became clear he was really looking for someone to take over the lease when he returned to the U.S. He kept talking up the Airbnb possibilities (because it’s right on the beach in downtown Viña, and has two rooms to rent), but I could not bring myself to consider it. Seriously, can you imagine me – an Airbnb hostess?? No, I don’t think so. And you’re all laughing because you know it’s true. 😉
Thursday I had a job interview with the English language school which contracts with the Chilean Naval Academy. This is my dream job, so I was very nervous and excited. The woman with whom I spoke liked my resume – I had the TEFL certificate and military experience, so seemed like a great fit. She promised to send along my details to her contacts at the Academy. She was not sure they would have something for me this semester, as most hiring takes place at the beginning of the school year (February), but she would let me know. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Saturday I went to an InterNations event. I was invited by one of my new friends (Kathryn) from the Viña del Mar and Valaparaíso Facebook group. InterNations is an organization designed to connect people from all over the world and to create a kind of community in various cities. About 20 people showed up – from Chile, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France and the U.S. It was such a lovely evening with some great conversation. Unfortunately, my Spanish is not quite good enough for conversation, so I found myself talking exclusively in English. This disappointed me so much because once I go to English; it’s still really difficult for me to switch back to Spanish. I just want to be speaking Spanish so I can improve!!
Sunday I met up with more friends. I met Kathryn and another friend of hers in the afternoon. Both work at the Naval Academy. So we chatted about life in Chile, working at the Academy and reasons we came to Chile. Such a lovely afternoon, sitting in the sun right on the Pacific Ocean. 🙂
Later, I reconnected with my friend Maria (from the U.K.). She’s living and teaching in Santiago, but was in Viña for the weekend, so we got to catch up. It was so good to see her! She was the first one who connected me with the expat networks (for which I’m so grateful). Her outgoing personality and passion for teaching are clearly evident, and she gave me some tips on finding resources and designing lesson plans. What a fantastic way to finish up the weekend. I’m feeling happy, part of a community and well on my way to establishing my new life here. There is much to do (my adventures in purchasing a Chilean phone will be detailed later!), but I’m laughing and having fun and feeling confident about the future. Hugs to all,