An Alien in this Land

court on ocean walkway EDIT

Moving to a new country feels like a really stupid thing to do, sometimes.  I have felt incompetent, useless, and foolish.  I have felt out of my element, over my head, confused, frustrated, and irrationally upset about little things.  I complain more than I should, and sometimes it feels lonely.  My pessimistic moments have the power to turn into days, sometimes.

When I’m low, I can only think of myself.  I do things to make myself feel better, like YouTube a Power Yoga class or take a walk on the beach, pour myself a glass of pisco or hold the Llama’s hand.  I allow myself to read a book in English, or search for articles about the likelihood of anyone other than Trump becoming the next POTUS.  I promise myself I’ll hit “restart” tomorrow, and try harder.

This week, I received an offer for a part time job with a small boutique hotel company in Valparaíso.  I had a similar position in college in D.C., and I got paid more for it.  But this part time job means so much to me right now. Why?

I exhale in relief at having crossed this little hurdle, and as I inhale I remember how easy this has been for me. It’s only been two months since I landed on foreign soil. I am here from a safe country where I had a great job and was able to save money and plan for the adventure of a lifetime. I speak a language considered to be [one of, if not] the most universal on the planet. I was educated in the language of this foreign land, allowing me to communicate my needs, as well as my wants. People of my coloring and cultural background have historically held positions of professional and political power in this country and many others. When I ask a stranger to hire me, I’m not asking him or her to see beyond generations of racism and class-ism to see my value as an employee. I am fortunate in so many ways.

In these moments of relief and happiness I want to cry for the people who have immigrated to places like Chile and the U.S.A. under different circumstances. Fleeing home out of desperation, due to poverty, due to warfare, fearing for one’s life and the lives of family members. Downtrodden, frustrated by lack of opportunity, travelling on their last dime or a promise to repay a debt. Over the last century, millions of these people have bravely left behind homes and parents and siblings and fiancés they would never see again. No personal story of immigration is the same as any other. People continue to make these journeys every day, across battlegrounds and tossing waves, from places as distant as Syria, Colombia, and Korea. They risk a deathly voyage. Once upon foreign soil they prove first their existence and then their worth, many times over, often without speaking the native tongue. They rely sometimes on communities but mostly on strangers so that they can press “restart” on their lives, not just a hard day.

I am inspired by these stories. I borrow their bravery.

When I put myself into that global context, I worry that I’ve read too many millennial-targeted articles with names like “15 Reasons to Quit Your Job and Travel the World.” I am struck by the fact that while innumerable friends and acquaintances tell me they wish they could do what I’m doing, I don’t personally know a single person who has. Probably because it’s sort of a dumb thing to do.  At the very least, it is a risky thing to do. Does this mean that I’m chasing something that the rest of my community recognizes as an impractical dream?

We’ll see. For now, I’m thrilled to be have the opportunity to earn some Chilean pesos and to keep working to make this dream a reality for the Llama and myself.


8 thoughts on “An Alien in this Land

  1. Mary Janusz says:

    Courtney … Love your honesty and that you are sharing your experience with all of us. Your journey makes us realize how pedestrian we have allowed our lives to be, but I must admit I find comfort in this. Thank you so much for sharing! We will look forward to each and every post on your blog

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindatoll says:

    I love your writing- so open and honest. Whatever happens-you are doing your best and exploring this big world. You have family and friends who love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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