Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tía Mar-ga-rit

I had the privelege of observing in a basic school (preK-8) here in Santiago -- 4 times to date. I have so much to share and so little time. More stories later. . ..but for now a quick summary and some pictures from my day in Pre-Kindergarten. Let's just say I get to go to elementary school -- that should sum up how fantastic it is. The kids ask me all sorts of ridiculous and wonderful things. . .

Here's a tiny taste: My first day at this school, I observed 5th grade. After introducing myself as from the United States, I took a seat in an empty desk. The boy in front of me turned around and enthusiastically said, "Are there more McDonald's there?" and promptly offered me a Jonas Brothers sticker. Oh, America. I get to jump rope at recess and play tag and watch the pre-Kinder teacher get on all fours and demonstate how to walk like a cat and then the students have to mimic this manuever themselves -- some slither like snakes instead of strutting like cats. In basic school (K-8) teachers are called "Tia" meaning, aunt. I am Tia Mar-ga-rit. The kids don't understand who I am if I am not a student and I am not a new teacher. They have decided I must be someone's (in their school) mom. I assure them (and you) that I am not. They are simply bewildered as to who I could be --but, notwithstanding, they want to talk to me and talk to me. I get stories about scars and burns, what other countries kids immigrated from, and even kids who beg me to let them show me how to fart with their armpits (in the middle of the teacher teaching). Everyday when I leave the school I get at least 20 kisses on the cheek -- often leaving crums of their previously consumed snack on my face. It's glorious. More soon.

(Note: all these pictures are from Pre-Kinder. )

This little guy did not want a picture of himself, but of his easter egg. He was very proud.

Pre-Kinders coloring Easter Eggs!

The teacher was Amazing -- so engaging.

Above: Dancing up a storm. Check out the kid in the forground with the big smile .
He was just loving this.

Below: An easter bunny that was hopping around the Pre-Kinder class!

Below: Diligently working on their easter egg coloring projects -- check out the backpacks -- Barbie, Tinkerbell, Disney Princess, and Hannah Montanta. The little guy in this photo even had a Spiderman backpack that he just had to show me.

Sweet, yeah?

Everyone jumping up at once when the teacher asks for volunteers to practice walking like a kitty cat.

The teacher encouraging the students along as they practice walking like cats.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

La Monce

I am getting to know more Chileans! A couple of weekends ago I visited a Children's Home in Santiago after being invited by a friend on my program, Cassandra, whose mom (host-mom) volunteers at the home. This is were I fell in love with La Monce (see above). I am definitly going to have to return. La Monce and I blew bubbles, played with play-dough, and practiced colors. We started with blue. After that, everything was blue. Ha. I helped her climb up onto the playground were she commenced to wave at everyone below and say "Hola" and laugh for a good 25 minutes. One of the volunteers started calling her "Hola" instead of "La Monce." Ella es super-linda y super-simpatica. (Really pretty and kind -- sorry, I don't know how to do accents on the blog so spanish words are tough). I adored her/adore her still. Cassandra's Chilean host mom was a really good example of how to interact with the kids -- she just hugged them and kissed them and told them they were so so beautiful, or so so handsome. That's what they need--- plain old affection. They were all under 5 years old or so! Definitly one of my most special couple of hours in Chile so far. Thanks, Cassandra!
Today I started my observations in a Chilean Basic School -- grades K-8. In the first class I visited -- 7th grade Natural Sciences, after I introduced myself the boy sitting in front of me turned around and asked me if there were more McDonalds in the United States than in Chile. I told him that, yeah, there were. Then he proceeded to offer me a Jonas Brother sticker! Oh, America -- are we more than McDonalds and Jonas Brothers? I like to think so. I am glad to start delving into the hands-on part of this adventure. After classes, my program invited students studying English at the university we have classes in to a bar where we hung out -- we spoke Spanish and they responded in English. Great practice, lots of fun, and I made some new Chilean friends. Tommorrow is a party for my program director's 50th birthday and his 25th wedding anniversary -- so he invited all of us to his house!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hiking en Las Cascadas Animas

So, a few friends and I traveled by bus for 2 hours (for about $2.50 each round trip) to hike to Las Cascadas Animas. We followed up this breathtaking hike by walking down the highway a bit to an artisan shop . . . really a tent in a couple's front yard where they sold crafts and the husband played guitar and sang. The artisan recommened this great restaurant -- a one room wooden building with maybe 6 tables and 4 choices of meals . . . amazing homecooked Chilean meals. An ideal way to spend a Saturday -- just saying.

Yep, I get to see this. amazing.

American friends and our wonderful Chilean guide, Gabriel.

El Rio.

Santiago: The Views

My favorite little street -- between my friend's house and the bus stop. These pictures cannot do justice to the incredible views of the Andes and Cordillera Mountains. . . with the naked eye it looks like they are close enough to just walk right up them . . .

The view from the living room window of my Chilean Family's apartment. Amazing, Amazing, Amazing. I get to see this everyday!

Another view from the same window.

And another. . .

The view from my Chilean homestay brother and his girfriend's apartment, where we stayed after the earthquake . . .

Pictures: "El Mar" (The Sea) -Alogorrobo, Chile

1) Above: Rocks in the Pacific!

2) Below: First Day in Algorrobo,Chile for program orientation! My first time seeing the Pacific Ocean!

3) View from our fifth floor window where we stayed for 2 nights! This was the definite plus -- the negative: we carried all our luggage for 3 month and multiple seasons up to the fifth floor up steep stairs.

4) Window boxes on a home on the walk from Chilean Poet Paul Neruda's house back to the hotel.

5) View from Paul Neruda's Home. Nice, right?

When my whole world is shaking

After the earthquake, Sat Feb 27th, I was lying in bed listening to the trusty Ipod. A song came on that I've heard many times before, "Your Hands" by JJ Heller. Maybe the song is a little cheesy, but she has a really beautiful voice and a powerful message. The thing is though, it had never been as powerful as in that moment . ...
Listening to it is really the only way to go: check it out for free by going to lala.com, then in the search box, type "JJ Heller Your Hands" and when the song comes up, click "play."


I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
That you would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh, Lord before these feet of mine
Oh, Lord before these feet of mine

When my whole world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost and hurt,
I know you hate to see me cry,
One day you will set all things right

When my whole world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

Your hands that shape the world
Are holding me, they hold me still . . .

Life of Pi

I started reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel (I highly suggest it). I am only a little ways into it, but Martel has this way of ordering his words and telling stories that is really incredible, so, I thought I'd share:

(Note: The main character is named after a swimming pool in France: Piscine Molitor Patel.)

"My name isn't the end of the story about my name. When your name is Bob no one asks you, "How do you spell that?" Not so with Piscine Molitor Patel.
Some thought it was P. Singh and that I was a Sikh, and they wondered why I wasn't wearing a turban.
In my university days I visited Montreal one night with some friends. It fell to me to order pizzas one night. I couldn't bear to have yet another French speaker guffawing at my name, so when the man on the phone asked, "Can I 'ave your name?" I said, I am who I am." Half an hour later two pizzs arrived for Ian Holihan."
It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names. Witness Simon who is called Peter, Matthew also known as Levi, Nathaniel who is also Bartholomew, Judas, not Iscariot, who took the name Thaddeus, Simeon who went by Niger, Saul who became Paul.

-(The first paragraphs of Ch. 5, pg. 25.)

Another quality quote (pg 31 chapter 7): "It was my luck to have a few good teachers in my youth, men and women who came into my dark head and lit a match."

Thank you to all of you who are reading this-- who have been my teachers -- both in school and out. Teaching me about friendship and family and trust and humanity and life and loss. I am thankful for you!

I have been thankful a lot here. (After some pretty scary experiences: 1) earthquake 2) the more than 100 replicas/aftershocks that have ensued since the earthquake 3) A blackout of, not my house, or my barrio, or my city, no, the ENTIRE country of Chile. I was in a metro station about to get on the train with two friends Saturday night right after dark. All the power went out. We held onto eachother, got out of the Metro station and realized it was dark above ground too. We had to walk all the way to my friend's closest house. I thank God I was not alone and that I was NOT on a metro train full of people stuck underground -- can you imagine?? When it happened we were like, really? Is this happening? Really? Turns out this has never happend before in Chile on this scale -- of course, what luck we have! But, alas, I was provided for and I am safe and sound -- sano y salvo. The lights came back on, and all is normal now. Let's just leave it at: I have had lots of moments to examine that life is short and anything can happen at any moment-- like earthquakes and blackouts of countries. )

Like the protagonist of Life of Pi, I also have slight name changes (Maggie is not a real common name in Chile, if you can imagine): I am MaRR-Ga-RIT or Ma-zsh-E or things like that. And I am being changed by the people I meet here, and I know I will continue to be changed by those people I have yet to meet here.

Friday, March 12, 2010


When I was little and my Aunt Lori would come over to visit she would chase me around and around trying to greet me with a shower (more like a bath) of kisses. From what I remember, I thought that this was weird and disgusting. I remember climbing a cherry tree in my backyard to escape her kisses -- but she just climbed up the tree and kissed me anyways. . . All that to say that in Chile, you greet everyone with besitos -- cheek to cheek with a kiss, only on one side, not both. You also say goodbye in this manner. I like this -- because it breaks down boundaries -- you kind of feel like you know a person after this sort of greeting and that now you can be friends. Handshakes, well, handshakes are stiff and do not break down boundaries between people like "besitos." I may have been that kid who climbed a cherry tree to escape Aunt Lori's kisses -- but I am liking the warmth of the people of Chile. For example, last week, the SIT group (18 students) met up with our director early in the mornng to head to the Red Cross together. Well, when Roberto (the director) arrived, he didn't just greet those near him with besitos or give a friendly, "Good morning." No, he greeted ALL 18 of us, one at a time, with besitos. (I think for guys greeting guys it's a kind of handshake-hug-pat on the back kinda combination.)

I have much, much more to tell and plan to sit down and do so this weekend. Quick Recap: I met up breifly with the lovely Kelly Gillean of Rhodes College who is also studying in Santiago. . . pretty crazy to see a familiar face in this Chilean city! I visted an orphanage last weekend and fell in love with the sweetest little 3ish year old girl, La "Mon-say" and today was a heavy day of visiting Santiago's cemetary and various memorials to those who were killed, tortured and who disappeared during the dictatorship in Chile from 1973-1990. Tragic. Tragic. Tragic. To be at a mass grave where unnamed bodies were dumped and to sit in front of a wall of hundreds of names of people's brothers and mothers and lovers and children and friends who were lost during this time because of the hate of other humans -- I don't think I can really describe or process that. I'll share pictures and stories soon. For now, I encourage you to do some googling on the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. Be prepared to be sickened-- and inspired to believe in peace and realize the need to fight for it. Part of this occured in my first two years of life -- how did I not know anything about this until so recently??? (did I mention that the U.S. had a pretty important role in helping to install the dictator . . . because the president, Salvador Allende, was a socialist? Yep, google that too. I let you make your own opinion.) In Argentina, even more people dissappeared under their dictatorship than in Chile. Anyways. . . .like I said, I need more time to express everything that was today. . . so more soon. Also, lots and lots of really strong "replicas" or, aftershocks, of the earthquake this week. Pretty alarming, but I am still safe and well. It's just a little disconcerting to fall asleep to the whole earth shaking. But, when there is a massive earthquake, the plates have to settle and with this comes a lot of groaning of the earth. It definitly reminds me how very little control I have over my life. Headed out early, early to hopefully see waterfalls and mountains! Peace to you all from beautiful, beautiful Chile!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cookies For Breakfast and la Cruz Roja Chilena

She came up to us and asked if she could ride in the elevator with us. She was on her way to visit her friend on the eighth floor. We live on the sixth floor. She was afraid to ride the elevator alone-- it had just been repaired post-earthquake. Mercedes and I rode with her, of course. When we got to the sixth floor, she asked if we would please ride with her to the eighth floor and then come back to the sixth -- she didn't want to be in that elevator alone at all. She was about 8 or so. Ha.

As we sat in the Plaza Brasil eating ice cream, a tiny puppy kept running up to us and sitting in our laps. His owner, about 6 or so, kept running after him and picking him up and taking him to the other side of the park. He would set the little guy on the ground, and immediately the dog would take off running towards us. This happened about 4 times. Finally, they tied him to a bench with his leash. The park was full of people -- lots and lots of people-- and the puppy kept running away, but only in our direction.

Friday morning, our entire program headed to the Cruz Roja Chilean - The Red Cross -- to sort through clothes and bag them up to send out to earthquake victims. We sorted through clothes -- tossed out the stained and ripped and sorted them into bags --- "mujer/women," "hombre/men," "baby/bebe," "ninos/boys," "ninas/girls," "bufandas/scarfs" ect. Lots and lots of clothes. What the red cross needs now are cleaning supplies, soap, shampoo, flour, oil, milk ect. Some of the clothes we sorted through would be whole boxes of the same pair of jeans or sweaters -- many with the plastic security devices that stores put on clothes so you can't steal them. Hm??? Are theives donating their plunders? At least they are going to a good cause?? It was a bit strange.

Crazy, Crazy story: So after a great evening of dining at "Vacas Gordas" -- literally, "Fat Cows"-- a great place for CARNE -- meat. (our first time navigating a very complicated menu in spanish) we met up with people in a "suberb" of Santiago for ice cream. A few of us are sitting at tables in the sidewalk, about 25 minutes from the Cruz Roja were we had been that morning. All the sudden, one of the girls saw someone she recognized and greeted him with the typical Chilean besitos (kiss on the cheek). We all realized who it was and greeted him as well! It was a Chilean guy that works at Cruz Roja that we had met that very morning and had talked with for a while during a water (and of course cookie) break. He just happens to live near the ice cream shop we happened to be eating at the very same day we happened to volunteer at Cruz Roja. Did I mention that MOST of the population of Chile lives in and around Santiago?? What are the odds?? Crazy. We are hopefully going to Cruz Roja Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

After encountering our Chilean friend, we realized it was really late. I still don't have a functioning phone (hopefully today) and wasn't too keen on the idea of going in a radiotaxi (really very safe) all the way home (30 min) by myself during a week of aftershocks. Also, our very protective, great, father-like program director, Roberto, is really encouraging us, requiring us, really, to be back in our homes by midnight in case of big aftershocks. Smart idea. So, I stayed with my amiga Tracy at her house nearby the ice cream shop. Her host mom pulled out the trundle bed for me and set me up in the living room. The next morning she made us breakfast -- bread, OF COURSE, homeade plum jelly, avacado, and cookies?? What? cookies, for breakfast? ha. I ate a lot of cookies. I felt sick. I am glad we don't eat cookies in my house for breakfast. Her host mom is wonderful and we talked for a while before I headed home. She has hosted students for about 20 years! or something crazy like that. At one point, she hosted 2 students at the same time (for a differnt program) -- a boy and a girl, for two whole years -- they would travel, but always return to stay with her. They ended up falling in love, he proposed to her in their host mother's kitchen and now they are married with children. Wild. Some kind of story.

Tonight we are going to have a celebration for my host mom's birthday that was on Monday. I think we are going to make sushi -- pronounced "SEWWCHEY" here. Fun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Not lost, just touring."

I am often told I have a horrible sense of direction. In defense, I convince myself that I have incredible sense of direction. I should realize the importance of being honest with myself. [Side story: When I was somewhere between 10 or 12, my grandfather, unfamiliar with my town, was taking me to soccer practice. I was giving him directions. He would ask, "a left here, at this light, maggie?" and I would respond, "right!" (meaning, "correct, please do take a left here because that is the way to soccer practice") -- but he heard me say "right" so he would quickly turn the wheel the opposite direction and take a right. We got there, eventually, after lots of "right" turns.) It was a fiasco that he still reminds me of. ] Anyways, I love this city. I fell like I can say this honestly because I spent hours walking it today. First, in the morning, when I walked to school by myself for the first time (note: of all 18 students I live closest to the the building where my program is (only 5 blocks or so). . . other people spend an hour on a combination of metros, micros (buses) and walking) -- I, well, I went the wrong way. For a while. All but one arrived before me. Now I know the way to school -- by multiple routes. On my way home, after a day of class, visiting a sick friend in the program in the hospital, and exploring the city with a friend, I got a bit turned around again. She gave me quality directions as to how to ride the metro and get off at the correct spot, ect. The problem way, I was a bit confused as to where this stop is in relation to my house -- hey, I had never taken the metro alone before, okay? Like my mom always says, "I wasn't lost, I was touring!" In between these bouts of confusions -- I spent probably 3 more hours walking exploring the city intentionally. I am definitly worn out. All this walking is good because there is a lot of bread here. And I'm talking a lot. "Pan" (bread) for breakfast, for lunch, for once (like tea) and for dinner. Gotta cut back, you know what I'm saying? And bread doesn't come sliced in a bag (though I'm sure you could buy it that way in the supermarkets here) . . . you buy it (rolls and tiny loafs) by the bagful every other day or so. It is "fresca, cachai?" -- "fresh, you understand?"

After arriving late to class to meet the other students, we together went through a workshop with a Chilean psycologist to process life during and post the earthquake. Got to know eachother better and then everybody hugged everybody (seriously). I mean, it could of moved you to tears. Then we had spanish class. I am excited for these classes because you actually use them. I learned all these new ways of saying things, and when I got home with my family, I said them. That is what it is all about, yeah?

The most beautiful part of my day was exploring the city with a friend. We tried to go to this famous park with this MASSIVE hill -- like an Andes Mountain peak in the middle of the city with stairs wrapping around it-- that you climb and then are able to have a beautiful beautiful view of the city on a clear day. Problem: earthquake. The stairs were not open for use. So, we walked around the park of lovers -- seriously -- in Chile, in parks, there are lovers everywhere. And dogs. Lots and lots of stray dogs. Just chilling, asleep on their side, totally relaxed, an inch away from a four lain main road. Also, lots of worker dogs. There are armed guards in the parks and plazas and many of them have dogs on leashes. Worker dogs. Lots of German Shepherds. At the base of the park, there are lots and lots of artisan shops. I needed a bag for my books, because backpacks are a bit of a target for pickpocketers -- don't worry, I have a beautiful, inexpensive typical Chilean Mapuche shoulder bag now. Love it. Also, I scouted out LOTS of gifts. I decided I better wait a while to buy them --- so be nice to me and maybe I'll pick one out for you. Ha. I really didn't expect markets like that in the city of Santiago -- but I sure hoped for them. And, they exist. We continued our walk into a district called "Bellas Artes" literally, the Beautiful Arts district. We found a little corner cafe full of beautiful art, the cafe lived up to the districts reputation, and I had a brownie and a strawberry juice -- literally, strawberrys squished up in a cup. Some quality food, some quality conversation and we paid. Then talked with one of the waiters. He lived in San Francisco until he was six, so he spoke a little english. We told him his english was good, but then continued in spanish. Good guy.

I have spent the night doing my first packet of spanish homework and talking with family here and at home in the states. Of course, I ate . . . I ate a cheese sandwich (2) which I thought was my dinner. BUT, 20 minutes later I was being served dinner -- pasta with "salsa," lettuce, tomato and beets. My first experience with beets -- mom, you would be proud. Not my favorite. I tried to eat most of them. But my host mom explained if I don't like it, I shouldn't eat it. Then she began to prepare my lunch for tomorrow -- don't pity me. Lunch is a big deal here. The main meal. I have rice, chicken, and "squash" to bring in my little lunchbox to school. What a throwback.

We all laugh about squash. It's called Zapallo Italiano here, but my first day my host sister and the host brother's girlfriend were asking me to explain "squash" to them -- because they have it planted in their facebook farm game. I tried to describe it to them and they decided they must not have this vegetable in Chile. Finally, when they got the zapallo italiano out of the fridge to prepare for dinner, I explained -- this is SQUASH. So now, the main english word of our house is "squash". Ha. It's funnier if you are here, I think.

Mostly, I like getting to know people here. It's like the first semester of college (Leigh, I know you are going to disagree with what I'm about to say . . . ) you get a fresh start and get to know all new people and build new relationships. I really enjoy this process-- the process of understanding someone's story. My favorite part of this experience has been conversations -- over meals with my host family, when my entire host family was perched on one bed with our eyes peeled to the news after the earthquake, on walks with other people in my program, in between classes, on the beach during orientation. So, so quality.

And, this, my friends, is my first semi-normal day in Chile (minus the psycologist). I am liking normal.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Earthquakes, Listening, and College Entrance Essays

So, another girl in my program explained to me today that the worst thing you can do in an earthquake is run down the stairs. The stairs are the most dangerous to be. She's from San Francisco, California-- she would know. Supposedly, the latest earthquake research after Haiti is that in the event of a quake it is best to stay near a bed, because if the room falls, it will fall on the bed and not on the person. Something like this. Well, in the midst of the crazy shaking of an actual earthquake -- escape from the sixth floor seemed like a really idea. It's interesting how, in reality, so much calamity can be prevented if people know about dangers ahead of time. After a major earthquake in 1985 that caused much destruction, Santiago imposed strict building codes to withstand earthquakes. In Chile the death toll after the "terremoto" has reached more than 700. Yet, in Haiti, the earthquake, "weaker" than the one that occured here, the death toll is more than 200,000. The difference is that Haiti is the most impoverished country in our hemphisphere, and Chile has arguably, or not, the strongest economy in South America. It comes down to money, doesn't it?? Those without end up be those COMPLETELY without -- without life, without shelter, without water, without food. So, Chilean is faring incredibly in comparison with Haiti, but there is still much loss and hurt. And I promise after a stay here, even in a stable Chilean family, you would realize just how much we have in the United States. I mean, I live in a dorm room and I have crazy amounts of dishes and art and clothes and books and electronics . . .

I have been very blessed. Today my SIT program reunited. We sat around the table eating pizza (talk about comfort food . . . it was DOMINOS, nonetheless) and listening to each person recount their experience. Some people were very calm and unshaken. Others, less calm, and more shaken. One chica was talking with her boyfriend on skype when the earthquake happened. I think we are having an earthquake she said to him -- to the boyfrind that was sitting comfortably in the United States. WEEEEEEEE ARE HAVING AN EARTHQUAKE!!! and then the internet cut off. Poor, poor guy. We decided he was probably the first person in America to know about Chile's quake. Can you imagine?? Having to call her parents in the middle of the night, ect??? I think he is pretty thankful for that gal right about now. I live in the center of Santiago, but many of my peers live in houses 40 min to an hour outside the capital. Some of them lost much -- all their dishes fell the the floor, tables shattered, all the furniture in the floor . . . but all have their lives. Some were definitly struggling and emotionally shattered by this experience. Others live in homestays whose parents have brothers or mothers or nephews in La Concepcion -- one of the cities most effected by the quake -- a city in ruins -- where people have lost everything. They have as of yet been unable to contact their relatives. Imagine the stress and emotion in those homes. I think I got so caught up in being safe that I forgot that an earthquake is not a little deal, and it is affecting a lot of people. I always get caught up in what is right around me -- the people I love, the places I frequent, the causes I care about. For now, we are taking it day by day. Giving time for people to process and heal and evalating how we can love this country well.

We also did more normal things (how I love NORMAL things these days), like taking placement tests for spanish class -- oral "tests" where you simply sat with the two professors and talked with them in Spanish about whatever they asked. I don't know which level I will be in-- I think it will be good if I am in the lower level so I can build a really strong foundation. No matter what, I am learning SO much spanish. I think so, anyways. ha. When something like the earthquake here happens, it requires families to stay in their homes and be together -- so I have had lots of opportunites to both listen and speak. And the best part is that I am learning to be quick to listen and slow o speak -- something I always struggle with because I love to talk. It is so important to listen to peoples words, it is how you understand humanity. I am forced to listen more here -- because I have to in order to understand. I love that everything is so tangible here -- learning a new language, and getting to use it! Today Mercedes, my host mom, walked me to class, and afterwards I walked with some of my peers around the city and back to my house. At first it was a group of like 10 of us -- gringos. Talk about CONSPICIOUS. This was definitly not ideal. We love eachtoher, but best not to wander around cites in groups of 10 with backpacks and cameras and guidebooks to Chile, ha. We split into smaller groups of 3 or so.

I realize more everyday how much I am because of the people I've known and know. I remember my cheesy, but I guess effective, college essay about being the person I am because of those I have encountered in my journey of life. The essay question was a trite one: who is your biggest influence? How can that be one person??? It went something like. . . "I am the Mississppi child, I am . . . . " But, really, no matter how cheesy, it's so true. So many people have built me into the person I am, and I am nothing without them. Thank you for the outpouring of love and encouragment over e-mail, facebook, and blog in the wake of this earthquake. It also makes me thankful for the opportunity ahead --- to cultivate relationships with Chilenos. It's beautiful because it's not like stealing -- when you build a relationship you don't take part of the person away from them, leaving them empty, but, hopefully, it can be mutual, and you can gift eachother, share, a part of yourselves, the best part, and both move forward stronger because you have crossed paths. You know?? I think that if I was writing that same college entrance essay today, there would be no way I could stay within the 2 page double-spaced limit. Are you kidding? I'd have to say "I am that friend, and that friend, and that friend, this professor, and that rolemodel, and that stranger I saw on the street in Santiago and the mom of _____ and my mom and the grandmother of __________and the . . . . I would fill in your names, but like I said, it would be a very, very long list. Extensive, in fact.