Merry Christmas, one and all! I'm sorry for the delay in posting. I have arrived safely home, for those who haven't figured that out or seen me yet. :o)
The last few days of school were crazy, as I expected. And I had a cold, too! I went all semester without really getting sick and then had to fight it for the last 2 days! The other thing I had to fight was the visa red tape process. I'll make a very long story kinda short. I hadn't gotten anything in the mail, like I expected. So I checked my progress online, and it said if I didn't get anything within 30 days to just go downtown and do it in person. Well, it had been more than 30 days since I had mailed everything in, so Sunday night I scrambled finding someone to go with me downtown and also someone to cover all my classes. It was not easy, but I straightened everything out. The next morning, after getting just a little lost, I made my way to the visa office. I took my ticket (like the kind you have to take at the deli counter) and looked at my number--D03. Ok, what does that mean? When we took our seats, a woman walked up to the waiting room and started calling numbers in the 60s. So I figured I'd have to wait through about 40 numbers. After 25 minutes or so, she started calling numbers in the 90s and I got my things together. She called 97, 98, 99, C00, C01...We were only just starting the C's and I was in the D's!!! So close, and yet so far away! After another hour and change, my number was called. Less than 5 minutes later we were leaving the building. Not because Chilean red tape is easy to navigate. But because there was nothing I could do there that day. I had to wait 30 days after my APPROVAL date, not my application date. I was approved Dec 6th! So basically what I had was a temporary interim visa until my real one came in. So although no progress was made, I did find out that I was safe to leave the country and come back again (which was really good since my flight home was the next day!!).
So, that being done, having skipped a day of classes for nothing (classes reviewing for finals, no less), we stopped for a quick lunch at Burger King before I had to be back for my last class. We ordered a rodeo burger (burger, with onion rings and barbecue sauce), but they ran out of onion rings. So it was really just a regular burger with barbecue sauce. Well, it tasted a little odd. Kinda sweet. It wasn't bad, but it was very strange. After the two of us did some taste testing and research, my friend came up with the reason. The barbecue sauce was actually chocolate. Chocolate!! Can you imagine? It was highly amusing, at least. :o)
The next day, I flew home. The man sitting next to me on the plane was a Chilean cowboy who spoke limited English. So for the 5 or so hours that we talked, it was in Spanish about 90% of the time. And it was quite successful! If I didn't understand, he would reword or explain it to me. And if I said something wrong, he would correct me. So I learned a lot! It was very fun and very encouraging. I was able to help translate for him and the flight attendants, who didn't speak any Spanish, oddly enough. What's more, I found that I was so used to speaking Spanish in public, that I was saying excuse me and thank you in Spanish to the American flight attendants! It took awhile to switch over. This is a good sign, I think. :o) We were able to talk about many things, including our beliefs (albeit on a relatively shallow level due to the slight language barrier). He actually brought it up first, and as we continued the discussion, he was shocked and a bit befuddled at learning that I went to church EVERY Sunday. He said I must be very faithful and serious about it. I look forward to the day that I can deepen discussions like that. After the flight, I walked with my new friend, Roberto and his Chilean friend, who were both nervous about their next 6 months in Los Angeles. I was going to help them through customs. We walked through the airport at 6am, laughing and talking. I was trying to lighten their spirits and distract them from their nerves. All was going well until we came to the separate lines for American citizens and visitors. I had to say goodbye to them (which I did the Chilean way, with a kiss on the cheek, and got many odd stares from the Americans around me), and they had to fend for themselves. I never saw them again. I'm sure they did fine though!
My last week and a half home has been a whirlwind of visiting with friends and family. I thought a month would be plenty of time to fit it all in, but now I'm not so sure! It's been odd to be home, because most of the time it doesn't feel like I've been gone! I've stepped right back in to life in New Jersey. It's been so good to be home, to see my family, my friends, to drive (oh, how I've missed it and the independence that comes with it!), go to church, hear preaching in English, and so much more. I'm looking forward to Christmas and all the festivities it brings. It's always a fun day with family and friends.
I pray that each and every one of you has a blessed Christmas, and that you are able to enjoy every minute of the day, whether opening gifts, spending time with loved ones, laughing, eating, talking. Most importantly, I pray that you can praise God each moment for the gift, the reason for Christmas. Feliz Navidad!!