I like to say that I was a stubborn child. Usually, I say it as an explanation as to why I am a stubborn adult. But really, its true. And as a stubborn child, I also made decisions about my future. I am not alone in this–its genetic. My sister decided she was going to be a lawyer at age 7 (or there abouts, what do I know, I wasn’t to be born for another 4 years). Speaking of 4, I was 4 when I announced I would grow up to live in South America. Really.
At the time, I was learning Spanish in preschool; my Montessori was very good and had lots of options. As I tend to do when learning new languages, I shouted the numbers in my sleep. Then, I asked my parents where people spoke Spanish, they showed me on a map and I made my decision.
Fast forward to high school. I desperately wanted to be an exchange student to somewhere in South America. My parents, lukewarm on the idea, have always supported me. It helped that during that time my father went to Germany to work on his language. He came back convinced that living in the place was the way to go and I applied. My dentist told my parents and I about the Rotary exchange program and I opted for this over AFS. As part of the program, I could specify where I wanted to go, but I was not guaranteed anything. Since at the time I knew nothing about South American countries, my only request was that they not send me to Spain.
Just after turning 16, I boarded a plane with 42 other Rotary students bound for Chile. The other Wisconsinite was sitting behind me. As we descended into Santiago (and got past the clouds that looked like this), he exclaimed, “Cows! We apparently haven’t even left Wisconsin!” And it was true. If it weren’t for the mountains and the lack of lake that looks like an ocean, the landscape looked remarkably like home.
To be continued with “Lunar Landing, Language Learning, and Leftovers“