This past spring break I went on a mission trip to Chile with the girls from my high school. This happens every year, the trips alternating between a mission trip and a Rome pilgrimage. The boys went on a Rome pilgrimage and next year I will be making that trip. But back to Chile.
Before I went I had no idea what to expect, except from stories that my sister had told me of previous mission trips. I was excited, happy, and nervous...but mostly nervous. Up until this trip I had NEVER been outside of Canada before (I had been on a plane before so no worries there) so I really was embarking on a new experience.
Our flight had a layover in Toronto, so it was 4 hours to Toronto, a 2 hour layover, and then a 10 hour flight to Santiago, Chile. Needless to say I was absolutely whacked by the time the plane landed. In fact, I was so tired that while standing in line to pay the reciprocity fee (don't ask) I actually sat down on the floor (crazy Canadian tourists) and nearly fell asleep. I couldn't be bothered to care about the wondering looks I received because it felt so good.
Walking outside of the airport was like being hit by a sledgehammer of hot air and humidity. I have to ask, why the hell does anybody live in Calgary when they could live, I dunno, somewhere warm???
Chile is beautiful. It's green and mountainous and hilly. It has flowers and palm trees. The sky looks blue it you kinda don't look at it to closely (smog). The sun shines and it's hot and humid. The drivers are pretty crazy, but it just adds to the general atmosphere of being in a foreign place. The first day we got to the house that we were staying (it was quite nice, in a gated compound where the Legion of Christ had several houses), we went for a walk (I had Chilean ice cream for the first time!), had dinner and showers, and went to bed at 7:00 pm. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow...having had zero hours of sleep the night before is better than a sleeping pill. Our morning wake up call was 6 am so this was probably a very good thing.
We went to a state school on the next 4 days. All of the kids were quite poor, most had parents who were in jail or had no parents at all. Many of them were single parents themselves. There was a nursery where they could drop their babies off during school and pick up wasn't until 7:00 because they all had to work. But despite all of these hardships in their lives they were incredibly happy and smiling and generous. They couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak Spanish but it didn't matter because all they wanted was to have somebody who would listen and love and care.
While we were their we basically just interacted with the students, playing games and singing songs. With the older ones, we actually joined their English classes and helped tutor a little. For the most part, though, we spent the majority of the time talking, or trying to, which was even funner.
The last day of the mission we went to a house for the mentally disabled. I can't even describe the beauty of the people who lived their. It was almost heartbreaking how loving and smiling they were. They had nothing, no parents and no family but they were SO happy. All they wanted from us was to hold our hands or to see our smiles. We played with them and sang songs and just that little bit of our time was enough to make their whole day for them.
Our very last day of the trip we went to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. They are town on the sea. At Valparaiso we went on a boat ride and we saw sea lions. At Vina del Mar I went swimming in the ocean! And I got sand absolutely EVERYWHERE! The ocean is terrifying because it crashes into you and pushes you off your feet and then it pulls back out and pulls you along with it. For the first 5 minutes I was pretty convinced I was going to drown.
And then we hopped on our plane for 10 hours...I got ZERO sleep...we got to Toronto at about 3 am and had about a 1 hour layover, then we got on our 4 hour plane ride to Calgary. And then home :). I was really sad to leave but home is nice. I think I will go to Chile someday again because I've never had the feeling that I felt when I was there. I really can't describe it but it has something to do with forgetting about yourself, seeing your problems in perspective and having to put all of your trust in God to get you through the day.