The only thing that never changes is that everythhng does.
I am nearly at the midpoint of my time in Chile, which seems to simulatneously be a sad realization and a happy one. I know that I am growing and changing...I feel it down to the muscles in my legs that have grown hard and flexible from all the walking, hiking, jumping fences, yoga, and aerobics. I feel it in my ability to put up with more than I ever thought I would, both in terms of culture shock and work. I see it in my mentality. I see it in my style. I hear it in my voice.
Could it be that I am finally growing up? For realsies this time? I notice a strength and determination that I always knew was within me, but that almost never had a true challenge to withstand and overcome. I am learning to choose my battles wisely. To express myself concretely. To assure that everyone knows how hard I and the other volunteers are working. Prhaps most importantly, I am learning to trust my own internal compass and follow what I know to be true or correct without giving too much credence to the opinions of detractors.
A good example of all of this came about yesterday at the office responsible for doling out visas for foreigners in Chile. I went in last week to give my passport to the woman who processes them, so that she could finally allow me to legally live and volunteer in Chile (two months late...eh, pasa nada). She told me it would be ready on Thursday of last week.
When I returned on Thursday, I noticed that the office was closed. I asked around for Señora Edith, but she wasn't there. A few more days passed with my passport in her filing cabinet.
Yesterday, I went back to the office and the Señora was in a meeting. "I can't help you," said the woman telling me that she was busy, "I know nothing about foreign visas."
"I just want my passport back, please. It has been here a week. I cannot go around without it any longer," I said. Secretly, I feared she had somehow lost it.
"I can't help you. Come back later."
"I am teaching in a school here in Natales all day, every day. I cannot come back later. May I speak with Señora Edith please?"
"She is busy."
"She told me it would be ready on Thursday."
"She is in a meeting."
"Please, I need my passport. It cannot stay here longer."
"I can't help you."
"Right. I am not leaving until someone gives me my passport."
The woman I was talking to (mind you, this whole conversation was in Spanish) blinked in disbelief.
"I cannot return later. Is there someone who can give me my passport, please?"
She rolled her eyes and grabbed another woman from the office. She began looking for my passport, and tried to hand me a Russian one that happened to be on the desk.
"I am not Russian. I am from the US. My name is Coleen Monroe."
Searching through the filing cabinet, she asked me to repeat my name two more times. Eventually I helped point out my folder to her and she finally gave my passport back to me. Phew. No calling the US consulate in Santiago for me to say that the gobernación took my passport.
"Thank you very much. Have a good day."
Despite all this lofty rhetoric, the days continue to pass in some semblance of normality. Maybe it isn't a grand victory that I managed to get my passport back. Maybe it shouldn't have to be such a fight for every little daily task. Maybe I am exaggerating how much it can be a pain in the ass to do these simple things.
Sure feels like a small victory, though. I've got to take them where I can.