17 days ago
From Hailey Nuthals, June 12, 2013 —
I know some the most remarkable moments of a trip like mine are supposed to come later on, when I’m experiencing the people and the culture. But for me, it didn’t happen like that.
As the automated safety warnings were projected throughout the plane, I felt a sensation in my stomach akin to the one that arachnophobes get when they find a spider crawling across their skin. The warnings, of course, were in Spanish — the flight was to Santiago, Chile — and I understood a fair amount of it, so I knew my discomfort wasn’t due to apprehension of a language barrier. I figured — hoped — that it was lingering sickness from the virus I had come down with a week prior.
Five hours later, as the airline dinner was placed on my tray, I shifted my legs to try and be at least partially more comfortable. The smell of cheese and tomato sauce wafted into my nose from the ravioli wrapped in tinfoil, steaming lightly. My stomach churned more. I sighed, and sipped at the water slowly in an attempt to placate my senses. It took me an hour to eat the tray of food, and after that time there still remained about four-fifths of a chocolate dessert, two bags of salt crackers, and half a serving of ravioli. When the attendant took the tray from me, its now empty space was filled with the realization of the cause of my discomfort.
When I came to Deerfield, I never got homesick. I had accepted that Deerfield was going to be my new home, and though it was hard to adjust, I was never afraid. But this, a four-week expedition to a foreign country and my first time leaving the States, scared me. I was going to be in a place that didn’t speak English, with a family I had never met (and indeed, never even spoken to) for four weeks, with a group of students whose names I still couldn’t remember in entirety. I was not going to be there long enough to call it home, and I was going to have a very difficult time contacting the people who lived in my home — either of them.
What I was experiencing was my first instance of homesickness, and it was strong. I wanted to get off the plane, but we had already lifted off and were well on our way. The time to back out had come and gone weeks ago. So I continued to sit, folded into a seat too small for my proportions and feeling myself becoming increasingly uneasy about the four weeks ahead of me.
When the plane touched down onto South American soil, I was well and fully wishing I was on a different continent, safe in a room I had spent the last week packing into six boxes and a suitcase. I sat silently for the hour in between our connecting flights, and walked just as quietly down the tunnel to the final plane that would bring me to Montevideo. Just before I stepped onto the plane, I stopped to wait for the line to file in. To my left was a breathtaking view I had never considered — the Andes of Chile, spread out before in the most amazing sight ever bestowed upon me. They were beautiful, snow-capped and monstrous, looming over us like George Orwell’s Big Brother: just as intimidating, but infinitely more calming.
Those near-insurmountable geographical marvels erased my worries. At that moment, I became calm, and started to think. I had never seen anything like them, nor anything like the things I was about to experience. I could only hope that Uruguay would prove to be as awe-inspiring as the Andes, but at that point, I wasn’t concerned. I looked back to the line of people ahead of me, and stepped onto the plane that would carry me away from the Andes and to Montevideo, to the Ciudad Vieja, to an adventure I couldn’t begin to anticipate.