So right now I'm sitting in Panera Bread in Vorhees, New Jersey. It's hard for me to believe that in exactly 34 days (February 10th) I will be leaving for South America. This is a trip that I have been planning on taking since April, and I was determined that it would happen this time. (I had tried to travel to South America for an extended period through a Fulbright, then through an alum from Occidental that runs a preschool in Chile, and then through a teaching program. Each of those opportunities did not work out for one reason or another.)
Before I go any further, I should be sure that everyone reading is on the same page about what I am doing: I have been accepted into the TeachingChile program to teach English to kids K-12 at a private school in Santiago. I will be doing so from March 1st until December 15th or so. When I was looking at the orientation that starts on February 19th, I realized that it was shortly before Carneval. Seeing that this is right before Carneval, I did a bit of research and was able to arrange my travel plans to be in Rio de Janiero for Carneval. Apparently it is one of the biggest parties on the planet, and seeing that I had already been to it in Cadiz, Spain and Cologne, Germany I figured going to it somewhere else would be pretty awesome.
I have to say that I have already had a roller coaster ride of an experience getting my visas for Chile and Brazil. It mostly had to do with submitting my FBI Criminal Background Check in early November and basically hearing nothing for close to two months. I then find out that they could not guarantee when I would receive my FBI clearance, which is required to get my visa for Chile, and my visa for Chile was supposed to be required to get my tourist visa for Brazil. After contacing the Consulate of Chile about this, they sent me an email telling me they would process my visa without the FBI clearance and to just forward it to them once it did get processed. When I went up to the Consulate in New York, however, they told me that they would apply for my visa without the clearance, but they would not grant it to me until they receive my clearance. After some explanation of the situation (and a very helpful email from my program) they agreed to grant me the visa without the clearance but forwarding it on upon receipt. My appointment to get my visa is January 20th.
So the next step was taking care of my tourist visa for Brazil. I took the trip up to New York fully expecting them to not to grant me the tourist visa since I didn't have my visa for Chile yet, but they took one look at my application and put it in with the rest of their applications to get processed. I am going up this coming week to pick it up. I practically owe my life to the program director for talking me through the experience and providing me with all of the paperwork and requirements a countless number of times over the phone.
My checklist of "to do" items is growing smaller. I ordered some travel guides and am anxiously awaiting them in the mail. I've pulled out my luggage to get ready to pack again. It's hard to believe that I will once again be away for close to an entire year. The excitement is building, and part of me wishes that I could wake up and it would be February 10th so I could just skip all of the anticipation. Despite that, it still does not seem real to me that I am actually doing this.
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I feel a bit scared and apprehensive. But I know that my language skills are solid, I am a seasoned traveler and skilled teacher, and that I will be with a program that is there to help us with anything we need. Once I arrive in Santiago I am sure that my fears will be put to rest.
Countdown to departure: 34 days