Today was kind of awesome.
And at times a little awkward.
Today, I got a new family, and I wouldn’t trade this day, or these people, for anything.
We left Santiago this morning after climbing Cerro Santa Lucia (So. Many. Stairs.) and grabbing lunch at a local market (where I ate my first empanada). Though the drive to Valparaiso was gorgeous, I found it hard to focus on the scenery; I could think about only one thing: meeting my Chilean host family.
The entire bus was abuzz for the last five minutes of the trip as we asked each other profound life questions: Does my breath stink? Do you have a hairbrush? Does my nametag make me look fat?
Then we hopped off the bus, grabbed luggage, and walked as a giant gringo herd into a room full of future parents, trying to match the labels on our shirts with the faces in the crowd. I grabbed my roommate Jennifer and we stood face-to-face with our host mom, Ariela. The two of us waved goodbye to our friends and followed her out the door.
I was terrified.
My Spanish is terrible. Nonetheless, I found myself in the passenger seat trying to keep up conversation while we dodged drivers who make Jeff Gordon look like my great-grandma.
The three of us chatted while I wondered just how often I could use Como? before Ariela kicked me out of the car, but she stayed incredibly patient, and I began to relax.
We arrived at the house, and Ariela showed us to our rooms. Up to this point, Jennifer and I had assumed we would share a bedroom, but we were surprised to find ourselves directed to two different places.
I started unpacking, and after a few minutes I heard footsteps on the stairs. They were too light and fast for an adult; the kids were home.
I hadn’t realized how nervous I was about meeting them until my heart started pounding again. But as the trio poured into my room, chattering excitedly, and kissed me on the cheek (a greeting I’m still getting used to), I was hooked.
The three of them are very extroverted, but still incredibly polite. They’re fun and adorable, but what really strikes me is their hospitality, especially that of the only girl, Consuelo. When Ariela showed me to my bedroom, the décor gave me the impression this wasn’t just a guest room. I asked Consuelo if the pale purple room belonged to her.
She just nodded and smiled. “Si, pero no me importa!”
No me importa. It doesn’t matter.
That one phrase hit me like a blow to the gut. I took over the room of an eleven-year old-girl who is now sharing a room with her two brothers — and this isn’t a slumber party, I’ll be here for a month and a half — and all she can say is “No me importa”? I tried to tell her I didn’t have to take her room, that Jennifer and I could share, but she insisted.
The entire situation made me do some serious thinking. How often do I complain about needing more “me time”? How many times do I separate myself from other people to “recharge,” or refuse to do something for someone because it interferes with my routine? How far am I willing to inconvenience myself for someone else? I completely understand the legitimacy of needing personal time — even Christ took time alone to pray — but if I’m really honest with myself, the majority of the time I need is selfish.
Consuelo gave up her entire room and all her privacy to house the new gringa and she happily did it too.
Let me tell ya, the girl’s got some small feet, but those are big shoes to fill.
I’ve hardly been with my new family for any time at all, but I feel at home here. I’m learning more than I could have imagined (and not just about Spanish). I could go into a whole other post on how God arranges even minute details if we ask Him, but I’ll refrain (at least for now).
Jenna Stanford is an Alabama native who attends Mississippi State University and enjoys reading, writing, horseback riding, and eating too much ice cream. This summer, she’s studying abroad and doing mission work in Chile with Veritas.
Step out of your comfort zone and into a new culture where the world is your classroom and the teachers can be those we least expect, like children. If you’re ready to grow in new ways and invest in the body of Christ around the world, contact Veritas today.