Saturday, November 11, 2017

Here's hoping

Dear Readers,

As of this week, I’ve been accepted into CAPA’s study abroad program at La Universidad Austral in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That’s right—after years of watching me write yet another blog post about Argentina, changing my profile picture one more time to an old picture from Buenos Aires, and about a million Instagram photos of me eating alfajores—you’ll get to see EVEN MORE posts about Argentina except in real time. Contrary to what I’m sure must be popular belief, I’m not going because I love the food so much (although I do).

When I left Argentina in 2013, I vividly remember the youth pastor there telling us goodbye on the bus. He didn’t even tell me goodbye: “You’ll be back,” he said. I knew he was right. Yet even still, it feels strange to go back. I was a sophomore in high school last time I was there—now I’m halfway into my junior year of college. The Claire who left Argentina isn’t the same Claire who’s going back, though sometimes I feel like I haven’t changed at all. I’m sure it will look like it, too, when my plane touches down in February and I’m feverishly studying Spanish grammar until the last second just as I did four years ago.

 Every time anyone has ever asked that classic ice breaker question, “If you could go anywhere in the world right this minute, where would you go?” Argentina has been my standby answer. It's been the place I've been hoping, waiting, to go back to for years. Suddenly, it is the place I’m going. I’m going there. And I feel kind of panicky.

On Wednesday, I picked up the cute little curly-headed five-year-old I always pick up on Wednesdays, and we got out her giant foam world map puzzle. We started piecing it together, and as we did, I told her about my plans for next semester. Once we had placed the United States in its proper place above South America, I pointed to Mississippi, and then to Argentina. “Look, it isn’t that far, there isn’t even any water separating us—it’s all land! You could walk to me if you wanted!” Looking at the map like that, I was pretty comforted—if it goes just really badly, surely I could just take a bus back to Mississippi, right?

But Nora saw right through me. She rolled her eyes, “Claire, that is really far! You know where I want you to live?” She threw herself into my arms. “Right in this neighborhood! There are some houses for sale!”

I don’t think it’s the going, per say, that made me have to bite back tears as we sat there with that foam map (fun fact: we never even put the rest of the world together, just the Americas haha), but the leaving. Wow, it turns out that going and doing cool things like studying abroad involves leaving a lot of things, places, people that you really love. And that’s just plain hard.

I’ve been struggling with that hard all semester. A friend of mine just got back from spending last semester in London, and I’m pretty sure is the reason I haven’t just backed out of all of it. Every time I start to panic, she reminds me that everyone hates leaving, but that it’s so so worth it. I believe it a lot of the time, because I really am so excited to be back. Wow. It's amazing to me that I get to go back. 

Whenever I talk to my host family from high school, they tell me, “Estamos esperandote!” which translates to “We are waiting for you!” The verb “esperar” can also mean “to hope,” though, and that little phrase makes me feel hopeful for this next semester.

It feels like this place is where I’m grounded—this is the place where I have people and places and responsibilities and a reason for being here. Sometimes I worry that I won’t have purpose in Argentina and I’m just going, alone… But as long as someone is “esperando” hoping for me, I think I might just be okay.

Your blogger,

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