My trip has finally come to an end. In a few hours I will be boarding a plane to fly home to Sydney where I face a slightly more normal reality. I am looking forward to climbing into the drivers seat of a car after 11 weeks sitting in the passenger seat (which incidentally is usually the same seat I would sit in to drive my car in Australia). I am looking forward to being back at church and bible study and hearing it all in English once again. I also have the enjoyable task of dealing with all the correspondence of the past 11 weeks and the need to find a source of income soon.
Anyhow, I figure I will leave any philosophical musings about what I've learned, how I've grown, etc for when I return (assuming it happened at all). For now I will stick to recounting my experiences of the past week...
Last weekend was the Congreso Nacional de Jovénes de la Iglesia Angicana de Chile (the national youth conference for the Anglican Church in Chile). I took a bit of arm twisting to go, but I went and it was definitely worth it.
It was good seeing familiar faces I had met over the previous weeks and also the CEP students who were involved with running the workshops and talks. But it was also good to meet new people. I was very thankful that so many of them could speak some English, although my Spanish really did get a workout that weekend.
The first place it got a workout was in the first workshop I did. It was called 'Conviértete pecadorrrrr' and it was about evangelism. Christian who was running it was probably the hardest Spanish I've ever heard. It was fast, but what really made it hard was that it was very Chilean - i.e. lots of dropped endings and shortened words (much like Australian English). But followed some of it, especially through the notes and I was very impressed at the depth they went into (the official age range was 15 to 28).
I went from one extreme to the other for my second workshop. It was on conflict resolution and it was with Jo Charles another CMS missionary from Australia. Being an English native speaker meant her Spanish was slow and less Chilean, so I managed to understand most of it (well except for the last hour when my brain switched off due to sleep deprivation and Spanish overload).
The sleep deprivation was combination of factors. Firstly the last activity for the day usually ended at about midnight. Secondly the first night also had 'el cambio de hora' or daylight savings, so we lost an hour sleep. Thirdly alarms started going off at 6:45am and the official wake up time was 7:30am. Finally the classrooms where we were sleeping were packed. There were over 30 guys sleeping in the room I was in. Some had no space between them and not an inch of the floor wasn't taken up by something. So the first night we didn't get to sleep until 1am (2am really). But it was only for 2 nights, so I could live with it.
So overall it was a great weekend. It was fun watching (and taking many photos) of the very silly games. I got to meet some lovely people. My Spanish improved (especially after getting a lift home in a car without any English speakers). And I can now say I've been to a Christian Conference overseas.
Since it was my final week in Chile I decided I needed to do the usual tourist bits. So on Wednesday, after a morning in the CEP, I walked around Central Santiago with camera in hand (well 'in bag' after my first week) snapping a few photos. I was a little disappointed by how the smog affected my photos but got a few good ones. One of the places I visited was the Cathedral on Plaza de Armas. I found it very strange walking through and was struck by the people praying to Virgin Statue - it left the same sad impression on me as when we visited the Pagoda in Burma.
I also went to the Museum of Precolumbian Art and the Museum of National History. I was particularly impressed by the latter who gave me an mp3 player with English commentary on each of the rooms (¡gratis tambien!).
Thursday I climbed Cerro San Christóbal - the tall mountain in Central Santiago with a big statue of Mary on it. The Funicular ride up (much like the steep railway in Katoomba) was lots of fun. The statue was a statue. The head on a rock was very amusing as was the book underneath still showing the old Pope. But seeing the prayers to Mary next to the statue were sad. I then caught a cable car (called a Teleferico in South America) down the other side and walked back to a Metro station.
I got to walk down one of the nicest streets I have seen in all Santiago. It was wide with grass between the road and the path and the path and the houses. There were even cars parked in the driveways, not behind fences. Such a difference to the poorer areas of Santiago. I then finished the day with more junk food.
So my last week has been pretty busy. I've also had to say goodbye to many new friends too, especially the students at the CEP and the youth of La Florida and Providencia churches. Soon I will also have to say goodbye to the Swans which will be very sad.
But soon I will be home and I am looking forward to it. Please pray for safety on my trip back to Australia. Also pray that I would deal with being in Australia again well too.
Thanks for coming along for the ride. See you all very soon!