June 23, 1963: On the plane!

[To those in the avatar project: I’ve decided to post in my own name, from my own (faulty) memory. It gives me a chance to write down what I do remember of the years I spent in Chile or thinking about Chile. My dates will be a bit different than yours, but this gives me a chance to also partake in the project.]

It’s taking such a long time to get here. First the trip from LA to Miami. I’ve never been away from home for so long…or gone so far away. I’m nervous, and I have to say it, scared. Will people understand me? Uff. I was almost glad that the flight from Miami was delayed and that it seems to be taking forever to get to Santiago. Panama, Quito, Lima, and still Santiago is far away. Maybe we’ll just spend the next four months in the airplane! I brought my guitar with me. Not sure why, maybe it will help me make some friends. I didn’t prepare much for the trip. I think I’ve been in denial since I got the letter telling me I was accepted to the AFS program and would be going to Valparaíso, Chile (which I did find on a map). I’m going to be staying with a family named LeDantec – kind of strange for a Chilean family, more French than Spanish. My “father” (we’re supposed to call our host family “father” and “mother”) is the “director” of a newspaper in Valparaíso called “El Mercurio.” I guess that means he owns it or maybe writes for it? I have three “brothers,” and I’ve already met one! He’s the oldest boy in the family, like 20 or something, and is in the navy. About 2 months ago we got a letter from the LeDantecs saying that he was on some kind of training ship which would be docking in Long Beach in a few weeks and we could go down and meet him if we wanted. So we did. It was an amazing sailing ship, filled with masts, beautiful wood and brass – it must be very old, but it made it all the way from Chile. The ship is called the “Esmeralda,” which means emerald. We said a few words to him (my mother actually did most of the talking since she’s better in Spanish than I am and I’m pretty shy – how will I ever get on in Chile?!?), and he said that the family was eager to see me. But right now I’m a lot more nervous than eager.

I slept a bit between Panama and Quito, but not much after that and  I’m sitting on the left side of the plane, just in front of the propellers, and I can see the Andes with the sun just coming up behind them. I saw the Rockies once when I flew from LA to Washington, but these seem somehow thinner and more stretched out, but also so high. It’s like somebody picked up the Rockies and pulled them out like the salt-water taffee we always get in Laguna Beach. It’s going to be winter in Chile, seems funny because it was hot in LA when I left, and sweltering in Miami. Here the mountains are covered in snow. Not much longer now. I’m soooo nervous.

1 thought on “June 23, 1963: On the plane!

  1. Carlota says:

    Mucha suerte Steve! I have never travelled outside of la Argentina, but when I graduated from secundario I went to Salta and Jujuy in the North with some friends and I was so nervous to leave my parents for a few days! Now I live in Buenos Aires with my sister and I am used to being more on my own. You will do fine!

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