It all started back in ‘06. My mother had previously married a man from Billings, MT in Chile and they decided to move back to the states. It all came as somewhat of a surprise to me. As soon as I was told the news I instantly knew my normal “Chilean-boy” life was about to take a radical change.
Arriving to the Atlanta airport for our first plane transfer was an interesting experience. I had never been in a place with such a variety of people crowded in one place in my life. It all lasted very little as we boarded the plane to Salt Lake a few hours after we landed in Atlanta. The rest of the trip was pretty boring and tyring, but before I knew it I was in the Billings airport. I felt so different, like a needle in a stack of hay. It was all pretty overwhelming at first. I had only seen this many types of gringos in movies… hell I felt like I was in a movie.
I started attending a middle school called Riverside Middle School around March of ‘06. I had already finished 7th grade in Santiago, but for some damn reason they made me do half of it again in Billings. I think it was for the best though because as soon as my first school day at Riverside started I was confused as hell. They all spoke this language completely unknown to me, a language called English. I guess it wasnt really the understanding part that got to me, it was the speaking. I had taken some English classes in Chile so I was familiar to the language overall, but after hearing all these kids speak the language so quickly and skillfully made me feel like a mentally retarded child whenever I gave English a shot. People were pretty nice to me from the moment I first walked into the school. I guess they felt somewhat ammused at seeing a Chilean amongst the crowd of Americans. I did notice a few cultural and social differences between Chilean kids and American kids. For example, in Chile, upon meeting a girl, you give them a kiss in the cheek, its the nice thing to do, the kind of thing you looked down upon if not done. However as I tried to introduce myself to a girl for the first time I realized it wasn’t that way in America. It all threw me off suddenly. I was walking around with my “guide,” a kid that was supposed to help me fit in. He introduced me to a group of girls that looked like the barbies my sister played with when she was little. My instinct was to tell them my name and go in for the kiss in the cheek. However, instead of getting a kiss in return, I recieved a painful slap accompanied with the worst embarrassment I have ever felt in my life. Another difference was the obvious lack of intelligence in some of the people I met. Questions such as “Do you eat a lot of Chilli in Chile?” and “Is Chile in Africa?” are enough to give you an idea of how dumb they sounded. I can’t complain too much though, I wasn’t the smartest either.
The years went by quite fast, and I started mastering English very quickly. By the time I was out of 8th grade, I felt like I could speak it fluently. Though my accent was still present and it was what kept me from speaking out loud in class. It seemed to fade away progressively with the years.
It felt like no time and I was already in my Senior year of High School at Billings Senior High. It astonished some people to see the confused little foreign 7th grader taking classes such as AP Government and AP English. I felt proud of myself and accomplished.
I have met many people throughout my years in the states. Some of them I still talk to and have become an important part of my life. Some of them I hated and wish to never see them again. I am about to start my freshman year of college at Jamestown College, ND… This is where the real deal starts. I guess those Middle & High School years were sort of a prologue to whats about to come. I decided to start this blog to express my feelings and thoughts as I make my way through college. I will post anything from funny situations, to stories I make up in my head, to any other random thing that pops up in my imagination. Through this blog I’d like to welcome whoever keeps up with it to My Life as a Chilean American.