two steps forward, one step back

these first couple months have been a period of letting go and adjusting to the new normal, as nate calls it. one stark difference has been the lack of community here. i keep forgetting that it takes a while when you move to a new place, but sometimes the social potential seems so bleak here. everyone is welcoming and happy to offer tips, we’ve had dinner with a handful of people which has been fun, but we haven’t really found anyone that we click with. a lot of the locals spend most weekends with extended family, having barbecues and escaping to their seaside condos on the weekends. someone once mentioned that there is also a lot of residual distrust from the pinochet era so that people tend to be more closed off.

the youth group is on the small side, which has its advantages in terms of logistics, but when i look at the obstacles to growing the group sometimes it seems discouraging. we aren’t part of the international school community, the kids in the youth group don’t have wide networks of friends, the dynamics of the group sometimes falls a little flat because the kids don’t go to school together or have a ton in common, there aren’t a lot of families that are really involved in the youth group, etc. for a youth group to thrive, i think there has to be an existing momentum, big personalities and something attractive, which makes it hard when the existing group is small and sometimes stilted. i think nate looks at a situation like this and rises to the challenge, while sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to me.

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we are slowly adjusting and learning more about this city. it’s a funny mix of first-world comforts; chains like starbucks, dunkin’ donuts, applebee’s combined with rampant petty theft, crowded buses and shanty towns. some restaurants and stores are located at malls, which are easier to access, cleaner and more familiar. there are nicer parts of the city, and other parts that are clearly the more “developing” part of developing nation. certain neighborhoods seem to be dedicated to a specific type of commerce; clothes along one street, auto parts along another. suburban flight also still seems to be a trend here, with urban areas made up largely of blue-collar neighborhoods, old buildings and foot traffic.

some minor victories include figuring out how to get hot water from the taps, trying to combat the endless amount of dust that accumulates overnight, the dryer fixing itself, learning what a gorro de baño is and realizing that the cashier is asking for a rewards card after scanning all our groceries. i’ve found the municipal recycling bins, and discovered that most of the trash bags here are biodegradable! very exciting if you’ve ever witnessed my steadfast efforts to recycle and compost.

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it’s been about a week since we arrived in santiago after a hectic day of departure. an SUV ran head-on into the power pole outside our house, we got stuck in traffic, were told we needed a visa for emi at the check-in desk, were told i had to pay for my checked bags, waited forever to be cleared for take-off, arrived late in atl which meant we had to run to catch our flight to santiago…but we and our entire ragtag pile of luggage made it to south america!  

we spent the weekend unpacking, settling into our apartment and meeting some of the people at san marcos. it’s been rainy and overcast since we’ve been here so it’s been a bit of a gloomy start. we have a view of the andes on one side of the apartment…but we also have a construction site on the other that seems to go from about 8am-8pm, with a nice long siesta in the middle.  

the church nate is working at donated pretty much everything we need, including a pile of toys for clementine. i don’t think she even misses philly (sorry, friends) because she’s made out like a bandit in the acquisitions department. the only thing lacking was books, so for now, we’re rotating tirelessly between richard scarry and paddington the bear.

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are we nuts?!

are we crazy to uproot ourselves from family, a supportive community and the ease of living in america?

over the past couple months we’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible with family and friends, starting with nate and emi driving west across 3/4 of the US with his sister, connecting with nate’s roots in the south and climbing mountains in colorado in a sort of farewell ode to the USA.

when the topic of in-laws comes up, i have very little ammunition in the battleground of complaints. nate’s parents have always been welcoming, his sisters have been kind and once emi was in the picture, there was a whole new layer of generosity and support. we left asia when i was 7. since then, i’ve lived at least a 7 hour flight away from extended family. we went back often but i wonder what they thought of us; these cousins that show up once a year with their bad chinese and awkward attempts at bridging cultural gaps. my brother was always better at this, with an innate ability to disarm everyone, from staid, older relatives to our cousins who usually just giggled and stared at us.

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adios philadelphia

if ya haven’t heard… we’re moving to santiago, chile at the beginning of August! nate will be working as a youth pastor at a church and our plan is to stay there for 3-5 years, after which we hope to return to philly. this will be continent #4, city #8 and home #who knows for me, so in a lot of ways this is familiar territory. however, with a toddler and husband and as the adult in this dynamic, it’s also vastly different. moving around as a child meant that there were a lot of first days in a new school, a lot of goodbyes, a lot of feeling lost and confused and many many flights and airports. as a parent you can only hope that your child will adapt quickly and that learning to part with things and people will have a minimum impact. we’ve been trying to prepare emi, telling her that we’re moving to chile. she usually asks if we’re going on an airplane and if she can come with us. she’s seen her toys go out the door, seen us box things up and the house slowly empty out. i’m thankful that she is pretty flexible and loves to see new things and be outdoors, which would seem to bode well for moving across the globe.

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toddler days

it’s amazing how someone barely 3 feet tall can take up so much time, energy, resources and space. then they ask for more. the past year of toddlerdom has been my favorite year out of two eventful years. since 1 there has been a spike in her physical, cognitive and emotional development and i’ve regained some personal time and space. she’s been able to follow me without having to be carried, she’s become more adventurous, i.e. climbing onto chairs, tables, up and down steps. it is amazing to see how quickly she is absorbing vocabulary and increasing her mental map of the world.

she repeats the last word of every phrase and is learning to ask for what she needs. she loves to dance and listen to music, jump, slide, take walks, ride her scooter, color, watch dora and look at photos of herself. she generally would rather be chased than smothered in a hug, but every now and then she’ll offer a slobbery kiss. she is also testing her boundaries which means fits, tears and frustration when she is told no. sometimes she’s tired and sometimes she just wants her way. it can be hard to figure out when discipline is necessary, and when we need to just sit on the couch and reset.

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introverted mother

nate sent me this article the other day, and it had me in tears because i haven’t taken the time to realize that i am an introverted mother. i find myself questioning whether i’m a good parent because emi’s persistent needs can be overwhelming. when i’m in the kitchen, she’ll pat my legs and rub her face into the backs of my knees, whining to be picked up. she wants to watch what i’m doing, even if it’s washing dishes. some moms would have no problem resting her on their hip but i find this extremely frustrating.

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