Many people are probably wondering why, for those of us who can, we don't get the H.E.double-hockey-sticks-out-of-Chile now that we have survived one of the worst earthquakes in history and to avoid risking another. I know I have family and friends who have asked me, and even Chileans who ask me what I think about Chile (if I continue to like living here, etc.).
One one level, I can understand that. My nerves would probably love for us to move away as long as we didn't move to an earthquake-stricken place in the States. And the thought has crossed my mind, like as if this were a sign that we should go back. But a big part of me doesn't want to go, not yet. In some crazy way, I feel more connected to this country. Some other foreigners have mentioned they feel more "in love" with Chile than before. I don't know if I can phrase it that same way, but the emotional connection I have to this country, its people and its culture is so much stronger than ever before. One of my colleagues even said "Ahora sí puedes considerarte casi chilena después de haber vivido con nosotros el terremoto" ("Now you can consider yourself almost Chilean after having lived through an earthquake with us"). And in some way that is true....plus I have permanent residency and so I have all the rights as any citizen, minus voting and being the President. That is beside the point though. I don't know what it is about having lived through this natural disaster that makes one feel this way, but perhaps you can relate to how you felt about the US after September 11, 2001. It is a togetherness that ones feels, because united we can stand up to anything and in the face of natural disasters, we need all the strength we can get.
Chile needs us to stay here, to keep providing help to everyone displaced in the earthquake, to keep investing money into the country and quite honestly, natural disaster aside, I do love Chile. Yes, there are a million little things that irk me, cultural differences that although I am aware of them and understand where they come from, I will never be able to accept. I know that Christian and I could make more money in the US, we would be closer to my family, we would be probably be able to travel to Chile more often,....but the truth is, I enjoy my life here. We have a new fantastic apartment (despite having to climb 11 flights of stairs since our elevator is still out of service....although it sure is good exercise!). We have great friends, good jobs, and a million other little things that make life enjoyable. I am, and always will be, torn between living in Chile or the US because both have good and bad aspects, and I will always miss the other one, but for now, I like our life in Chile.
Chile also needs people to keep coming in as tourists, maybe not right at this moment, but in the future, the tourism shouldn't stop. It is a beautiful country with everything you could ask for--desert, glaciers, mountains, the beach, beauty that can only be understood when looking up, in person, at Los Cuernos ("The Horns") in the Torres del Paine National Park for example. The wine industry needs you to keep buying Chilean wine. Matt from El Cochaguino explains the importance of continued tourism in Chile and its effects of helping rebuild the country, which President Michelle Bachelet has estimated will take at least 3 years.
So what is the verdict you might ask? For now, we will stay here. My parents and family might not like that answer too much, but this past weekend's events have not pushed us from this country, but rather made us (or at least me) feel closer to it. Of course we know that life changes unexpectedly and our plans could change. I guess that is the excitement of life, seeing what it has in store for us.
I want to encourage you to help out Chile in any way you can--if you don't want a one of Christian's pictures, then please donate to one of the other causes:
Anyone wishing to donate to relief aid in Chile can donate to Cruz Roja (Chilean Red Cross), the international bank account information is:
Checking Account Nº 9941973331
Address: 153 east 53 Rd. Street 4th floor. New York, Ny 10022
Another gringa friend who is a photographer is also selling her images & donating profits to El Teletón, perhaps you want one of hers, check out this post for more information!
And a BIG thanks to those of you who have already supported a cause with a donation or picture purchase.