This was going to be my Christmas letter contribution, and then it got too long. So here it is for you all. Also, current update: December saw me in the south-central region of Chile, primarily on Isla Chiloé, then Santiago for Christmas and back to Valparaíso for New Years. Currently traveling in Bolivia, starting in La Paz and about to go to Isla del Sol tomorrow, and then off to Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and maybe more, depending on timing. After a quick stop back home in Valpo, I´m off to Brazil for a month to visit a friend, and then with the end of February, if I´m not too exhausted from Carnaval and traveling in general, I am planning on hitchikking south again, possibly to Tierra del Fuego if I can get there, or Carretera Austral, or wherever the truckers take me. Then back to the ol´ grind in March. Oof! It´s gonna be great.
If New Years, and this letter, were a test I had to take about my 2014 Takeaways, I think I’d start reflecting on organizing with the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Wellesley (baby boomers, this is like apartheid divestment, except the big bad guy is more or less Big Carbon’s mantra of drill, baby, drill). I learned the importance of action in the face of administrative blather and keeping palms to the earth with its pungent grass roots because our campaign did neither and fizzled. Slowly, painfully and with copious over analyzing. With that, too, I learned the importance of learning from failure, learning not to fear quite so much what it means to fail.
I learned that a good snuggle can cure a panic attack, that thinking you have a brain infection when your neck is sore from studying, and your head hurts from not sleeping and your body is overheating trying to get you to slooooow the heeeeccckkkk doooowwwwnnn, you should probably just slow down, and not work a lifeguard shift. Please.
I learned that telling jokes is a much more fun way to teach English vocabulary than flashcards, that nobody judges you too much in Sunday-night street soccer if you score goals for both teams, that unpasteurized Salvadoran sour cream is a road well traveled to a thriving stomach infection and 3,000 calories of fried chicken in half an hour won’t exactly eradicate it, how to sit through close to 9 hours of church in a week and still have an intense religious experience, how to be charmed by Salvadoran teenagers that read astronomy, or make friendship bracelets with me, or play guitar riffs that make you want to cry in happiness.
I have learned a fair number of Chilean Spanish’s more choice adjectives, almost how to juggle indefinitely, the way my body feels playing African drums on a windy beach at sunset, how to travel alone, how to avoid catcalls in the street, to always go back to that same vendor in the Saturday market because then he’ll give you little presents so you keep coming, that plenty of Chileans aren’t as homophobic as they might seem, just a little confused about what actually goes on in gay peoples’ heads, anyways.
Above all, I have learned to cherish people, keep them close, enjoy with every particle of my being roommate bonding with a rubber frisbee in the hallway at, frisbee team parties where you dance like a wet noodle octopus with its tentacle in an electric socket, holding hands next to a glassy-surfaced lake of a night in springtime (dark chocolate = added bonus), how to acknowledge humanity and greet a roomful of people each with a kiss on the cheek and a “how are you?”, how to say goodbye while crying so hard, so silently, that words can’t come out and your body shakes, that I can make my peace with Google Hangouts and internet short-outs if that means seeing a hologram of my friend for an hour, how to wrap the world into a hug and not let go for many heartbeats, that sometimes it’s enough just to be in the same room as someone and let them talk first, and once they start talking, let them fill the awkward silence, and you may be surprised at what comes tumbling out.
Let’s pause for a second. I’ll let you break that too-long silence.