I’ve just completed a two-week stay in my native Santiago, Chile, after having been absent for almost ten years. I enjoyed every minute of it. It is often said that “you can’t go home again,” but in many ways I felt as if I had never left. In other ways it also felt somewhat like a foreign country.
It was very interesting to see what makes people “tick” in different parts of the world. I have to say that although there are several points of convergence between the two cultures, there are also some very divergent views about life and about the pursuit of happiness between the two. Chileans in general always try to find the bright side of things even in the midst of adversity; surely Chileans do complain a lot about the annoyances of daily living: the public transportation system, the government in office (regardless of party or color), the cost of living, the weather, the traffic, crime, each other, etc., etc., but they generally don’t get hung up on things for very long like they do here in the States. One seldom sees the activism that one witnesses here, except within the youth. (Students are usually the ones who take to the streets brandishing placards, mobbing public places, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. I suspect, however, that their main motivation is the excuse to cut classes or to get a cheap thrill, not to really take a stand on issues.) This can be both good and bad. Good, because I believe it is healthier to keep an open mind and not try to fight windmills and lose one’s sanity; bad because sometimes such a lackadaisical attitude prevents people from effecting real change by getting personally involved in the problems that face them. Perhaps a happy medium would be best.
Chilenos have a great ability to “make do.” People there “make do” when they have no money; they “make do” when they can’t afford medical care; they “make do” when their car breaks down and they can’t afford to fix it, or when they just don’t have transportation at all; they “make do” when they need something repaired and lack either the means or the skills to do the job; they “make do” when disaster strikes (who can forget the cataclysmic 8.8 earthquake that shook the country on February 2010); they “make do” when they lose homes, possessions, jobs. Their sense of humor is without equal; they can make jokes about everything and everybody. They have a great capacity to enjoy the simple things in life: a good meal, a good glass of wine, a cool place to rest in the summer, a nice spot by the fire in winter. Although a US-style consumerism has crept up in some circles, people generally find contentment with little. They are a very resilient people. I admire them for that. It is one of the things that makes me proud of being part of that heritage.
And by the way, yes, one CAN go home again!