So for the winter vacation I’ve escaped the frozen northern hemisphere to arrive at a more enchanting and comfortable zone of Chile and Argentina.  Before making my way back to St Paul for my flight on Thursday morning of the 23rd, I had to first finish up my overly-hectic end of semester, which included too many formal presentations and few final exams and a final paper in my Spanish literature class.  I had my last final at 7:45AM on Tuesday for Wind Energy Site Design and Construction and celebrated with an extremely unhealthy brunch of 4 eggs over easy, 8 pieces of bacon and an ice-cold IPA.

After four hours or so in Mad-Bus I was bewildered and home; I got to spend a little more than 36 hours total at home with Bart, Bonnie, Charlie, Tucker, Ali and Kai, as well as the family, before heading out in the morning for my flight at around 5:30AM.  The first leg of the trip from St Paul to Miami was very easy, although I didn’t get any sleep of any substantial measure since I had my earbuds in my bag in the overhead compartment and couldn’t block out any noise; I also didn’t have a pillow which didn’t help the situation.  This sleepless flight combined with two and half hours of ‘sleep’ the night before after going to the Muddy Pig for drinks had set me up for a long day.  I got into Miami at noon and didn’t have a flight until 9:55PM..which was bad, but even worse, the flight was delayed by nearly three hours so I spent 12 hours in the airport.  I bought the airport wi-fi for the first time in my life so I could video chat with Camila and Eddy whenever they were available.  The little sleep I got was on the floor near an entrance way to the street that had two outlets that I could use to charge my phone and computer while I napped.  The best I could muster up was an hour of sleep at a time with all of the noise of the airport (ridiculously annoying holiday jazz music and announcements at five-minute intervals) although one good thing was the $20 meal voucher which bought me way more over-priced pizza than one person should eat in a sitting.  Eventually I got on the plane and was headed to Chile on flight 503.

After 9 hours or so, I woke up in the plane and saw that the giant cartoon plane the size of Florida that was on the map was quickly approaching Santiago.  This is the first time that any emotion resembling nervousness entered into my heart.  I was seated next to a Spanish man aged 38 that also had a Chilean girlfriend that he was going to visit for the first time; they had been together for four years in Barcelona.  I felt like I was part of a small  but distinctive club (maybe not so small since Chilean women seem to love extranjeros) of foreigner boyfriends coming to visit their pololas.

After sweating my way through customs with two laptops without issue, an obvious infraction that is definitely punishable by fine, and dripping as I waited for my gray companion at the baggage claim carousel.  At this point everything was surreal and even though I had already gone through the same airport and process before, everything seemed completely new to me.  The only thing that was familiar and certain was the Chilean Spanish littered with “Po’s,” “Huevon’s” and other gems like “lata,” “raja” and “wea.”  Waiting for me at the gate was my one and only prize: Camila.  She had been waiting for me for more than an hour anxiously looking at each person that came out of the gate that vaguely represented a six-foot tall gringo.  She approached me like a crazed pop-fan crossing the rope with an agility that I’ve never seen before out of her.  We did a funny dance consisting of many hugs and kisses and very few steps forward towards the car park.  Distracted in a moment of passion and joy, I put a book with my passport on top of her little red car while we got familiar with each other’s lips.  As things progressed, we realized that we had three onlookers parked in a truck directly facing ours just a couple feet away: three guys all watching our aberrant making out session: they honked their horn as we started to push the limits of PDA.  We took note of their kind gesture and departed.  Of course, I didn’t realize that those two little items were still on top of the car when we drove away, nor did we hear the yells of the parking attendant as he saw the passport fall to the ground.  After we drove about half of the forty minute drive back to her house, Camila and I both realized that I didn’t have my passport after being on the ground for a mere hour.  We turned back as soon as we could, which wasn’t that soon since we were on an expressway that cuts across the city, to head back to the airport, worried that this trip might already be tainted with the misfortune of a lost passport.  Luckily, when we arrived at the parking lot, they had my passport more or less waiting there for me.  One of the guys had brought it across the property in his truck so we waited for a bit while he brought it back.  A combination of relief, ecstasy and disbelief we drove back together to Camila’s house in the “Red bullet,” the name donned unto the car by myself.

It was Christmas Eve day and also the day of my arrival  We ate a lunch of porotos granados and chirimoya alegre, which is a tasty tropical fruit doused in orange juice with Camila’s dad, Alfonso, and the other international guest in the house Julia, a 20 year old Austrian that is the girlfriend of Andres (Cami’s brother.)  I found myself in the  middle of a loving family in the most beautiful of weather possible with sunshine and 80 degrees, and the girl of my dreams by my side: complaining was not an option anymore, things were just too good.  My friend Anca, who moved down to Chile with her Latin lover Javier came and visited us – I passed off the contraband brand new laptop that I had brought down for him and we made plans to meet again after Cami and I got back from vacation to the South of Chile and Argentina.

One small complaint that I found was that the peanut brittle I was carrying in my suitcase had opened up and put a candy coating on about half of my clothes.  Cami and I went to work on that little problem while I came to terms with the fact that I was really in Chile with my love.

Camila and I tried our best to rest for a  while before the Christmas guests arrived at around 9PM for the start of the celebration.  The guests for the night were twenty plus members of Camila’s family including her mom’s four sisters and one brother, as well as two grandmothers (Omi and Sisty) and seven cousins all younger than Camila.  The food was amazing and plentiful, with many moms cooking like there was no tomorrow: there was multiple large dishes of lasagna, two large paellas filled with seafood, and three entire cakes to eat for our familial group.  Christmas started around 9PM and went until around 4AM, with much of the time spent out in the summer breeze on the patio and people dressed in short dresses, polo shirts and shorts.  Just slightly different than the holidays in Minnesota.  I actually had three Christmases this year: one at home with family and friends where I was the only one opening presents, one with Camila’s extended family where we watched the “little guys” open presents then fall asleep around 3AM then a third Christmas where just Camila’s close family and Julia and myself opened present in their parents’ bedroom.    The next day we also did a video call with my family and Camila’s family to show off gifts and talk about Christmas and how crazy the celebration is here compared to back home.

I gave Camila’s family peanut brittle, chocolates, a Word a Day book, tiramisu, mix for Olive Oil rosemary bread, a Bob Marley remixed CD and “Earth,” the Jon Stewart book, for her brother, chocolates for the family, a framed photo of Camila and I, a pearl and diamond necklace for Cami, “Eating Animals” the book for Cami and some socks also for Cami.  For some reason on the plane I was still thinking that I wasn’t bringing enough gifts but now that I write them all out it looks like it was plenty.

From Cami and her family I got an I Heart Chile mug, Norweisser Chocolates (the best in Chile apparently), a hat that I won’t be wearing any time soon, “How to Survive the Chilean Jungle: 2” which is all about Chilean slang and really hard to find in the US, as well as, of course, more chocolates, a mosaic of Camila’s trip to MN as well as a gift from her parents of a private wine tour where we get to make our own wine.  Here’s the link to the vineyard’s website; we’re going late next week in the morning, and it should be really fun.

I’ll be writing more on the last 5 days or so when I get a chance.

Un abrazo to all of you reading this,