A year ago today, I arrived in the Santiago airport with two bulging duffel bags, a violin, and an address scrawled on a sheet of paper. That night, I slept on the floor of the empty apartment above my soon-to-be-office with my belongings strewn around me in a chaos of cotton and Ziploc.
The next several days were a haze of words, sore feet and hunger. At my new internship at the newspaper, my eyes ached from reading, and my fingers agonized over which keys to type. In my mouth, on the other hand, a battle raged between my recently acquired quiteño accent and my latent Chilean one. I spent hours scouring the streets for an apartment, a cell phone and old friends. And I hardly ate because I was simply too exhausted to.
A year later, some things have changed. This morning, I woke up in a warm bed instead of on an icy floor. Chile, with its homecourt advantage, has won the battle for my tongue, with "po" having long since vanquished "fff" and my "s"s having steadily retreated toward aspirated defeat. (That's not to say, however, that an occasional "achachay!" doesn't slip out.)
Some things, though, remain the same. When someone asks me how long I'm planning to stay in Chile, my response is identical to what it was a year ago: "I don't know. I'll see how things go." The same goes for that most loathesome of questions, "What are you going to do with your life?"
No clue. I want to write, but not the news. I want to go back to school, but I don't know what to study. I recognize that better educational and career opportunities may be open to me in the States, but I strongly suspect that if I were to return to the U.S., I would spend half my time pining for Chile.
So, if you have an extra future lying around, why not give it to me? It's my Chileaños, after all.
Actually, I did receive a present today: a temporary residency visa that refers to me as "Doña Leigh" and grants me permission to stick around these parts for another year. Chile's Internal Revenue Service, bless it, also chipped in and gave me some tax forms. It's the thought that counts.