Home is Where the Suitcase Is: South America

Last week, I discussed my life-changing Antarctic adventure and how phenomenal the experience was. This week, I will be revisiting my experiences in several different South American countries - namely, Chile, Peru and Argentina.

Horseback riding in Chile

I went to Chile when I was 4 years old, so I don’t remember it all too well, but it nonetheless had an impact on me. We were there during Halloween, and I remember begging my parents to go out trick-or-treating. They said we couldn’t because Chile celebrates La Día de los Muertos instead of Halloween. They actually ended up buying me a book about La Día de los Muertos as a Halloween gift, which ended up being one of my favorite picture books. Later on in the trip, my family went on a horseback riding trip on the Andes, spending one night on the mountains. I thought I was really cool, because I got to ride the horse all by myself. I remember it was very exhausting, but it was also amazing. We got to see a lot of goats, and I was super excited because I loved animals. I continually insisted on my mother taking cringeworthy pictures of me with a poor goat. I would love to go back to Chile and experience the culture as an adult, making memories that aren’t stories I’ve been told a million times. 

School in Peru

I returned to South America when I was 9 years old. My parents and I ended up enrolling in a sort of school; however, the school was mostly adults. In fact, I was the only child in my age group, so I had my very own teacher. While my parents were off learning more challenging material, my teacher took me on field trips to amusement parks and guinea pig farms, all in the name of learning Spanish. Indeed, I would say I learned a lot; I was certainly much more proficient in Spanish than the rest of my classmates once I returned. However, it wasn’t the learning that was interesting to me, it was the extra material that came along with completely embracing the culture. I learned about local foods. One particular delicacy was, in fact, guinea pigs - and where locals enjoyed hanging out.

I even became accustomed to drinking the local tea that was provided at the school. In Peru, we also went to Machu Picchu and ended up getting completely lost. We were wandering around when my dad and I decided to hike up Huayna Picchu. Upon my suggestion, we took a different route down which actually led us to the valley down below the ruins. Our mistake cost us three hours, but we also found some other ruins in the valley below that few people get to see. Although we were exhausted from the hike back up, my dad and I felt extremely fulfilled, like we were privy to a secret no one else knew about. That knowledge alone was enough to satisfy us and leave me craving more misadventures. More than anything, that experience taught me to be flexible and know that sometimes, the real memories come from the things that aren’t planned. Now, I always follow my own path rather than alternate schedules and try to have fun along the way.

Robbery in Argentina

I would like to preface this by saying that I’m sure Argentina is a lovely country. In fact, my parents have said multiple times that they would love to go back, and it's one of their favorite places. However, as a 10-year-old, my experiences were rather terrifying, and I honestly don’t know whether I could convince myself to go back, as much as I’d like to give it a second chance.

On my first day in Argentina, we were walking on the street. Two ladies sprayed an awful-smelling substance on me and then ran up and offered to clean me up. We kept walking. Apparently, it is common practice to spray the tourist with foul scents and then pick-pocket them while cleaning them up. Already, I wasn’t having a good time.

Later in the week, we were on the subway getting off, when a couple ran up to my dad and told him he’s been pick-pocketed, pointing out a man in the crowd. My dad reached into his pocket and the wallet was indeed gone. My family and I, as well as the couple, chased the man down and ended up getting the wallet and money back, but it was still an awful experience for me, seeing as I came from a small town where public transportation and thievery basically don’t exist. There were several more instances on the subways where we almost got robbed, but no one else managed to get it from my father.

However, pickpocketing in Buenos Aires is an art. People bring changes of clothes so people can’t spot them out and know just how to move their hands. That said, there were nice things about Buenos Aires. In the downtown, there was great shopping and live music. The views were beautiful, and the graveyards were amazing. In fact, I may go back just to revisit the graveyard. After my experience in Argentina, I am a more cautious person and have never had any more close calls. It was a learning experience that there is more to life than the little bubble I lived in, and I now know a lot more about the world.