Friday, June 12, 2015

Final Seconds in Santiago

It's hard to explain the end.  It was Friday, June 12th and this was our last official day in Santiago.  The kids last day of school was the following week, but we were taking them out early, so we could go on one final South American trip before heading home.  I knew this day would be busy and that was probably best.  After getting the kids all to school, I raced around doing the last minute errands the I needed to get done before we left the following morning for Peru.  I drove over to pick up more copies of our passport photos, I made a pit stop at the grocery store for snacks for the flight, I ran to the pharmacy to stock up on as much of my medications as possible, and as I was pulling away, I saw the round about I had driven around almost daily for the lat 3 years.  I've always loved seeing that big Chilean flag in the center and suddenly it hit me that this was the last time I'd go around it.  I stopped my car and snapped a picture of that memory before crossing off the next item on my list.  

"Sentimientos Encontrados." 

 That's what you say when you have mixed feelings about something.  And wow, if that doesn't describe what was going on in my head and heart.  So thrilled to be together with Joe again, so happy that we would be close to our family again in the United States, so excited about the idea of being able to find everything I need at one grocery store, so thrilled to be able to not have to think so hard whenever I'm speaking with someone, so ecstatic for the efficiency of so many things in the US... and on and on and on.  And yet, so sad to be saying goodbye to such amazing friends who have become like family to us during this expat adventure; so sad to leave a culture and country that we have thrown ourselves into and have tried our best to understand; so sad to say adios to a language that I was really starting to feel comfortable with; so sad to leave a continent that we have had the blessing of exploring with so many incredible adventures... and on and on and on.  Would we get bored at home?  Because things are "easier" there?  Expat life is an adventure and a challenge.  Would I miss it?  The thought crossed my mind and then I laughed.  Life is too full no matter where we are to ever be bored.  I can't remember the last time I was bored.  But what would it be like going home?  Would people be interested in hearing about our adventure?  Or would they just be happy to have us back and pick up like we never left, not realizing that a part of us had been changed for what we had done?  How would WE remember our time in Chile so it wouldn't turn into a "blip" of a memory that almost didn't even feel real?

My mind was a whirlwind of thoughts.   As I drove away with that flag in my rear view mirror, a big smile spread across my face.  I felt peaceful.  I have loved every single happy, horrible, challenging, heartbreaking, adventurous, humbling, stretching, thrilling, frustrating, hilarious, FUN, moment from these last 3 years and although I would miss it, I was ready.  It was our time to go.  

 We had said goodbye to our TKD friends the night before. 
 If I could wrap up their teacher and bring him with us, I would in a heartbeat.  
 The kids loved him.  He taught them so much in such a short amount of time.  
And they made some pretty great friends too!

 I picked Luke up on his last day at Goldfish.  They decided to have a letter party to celebrate.  How completely perfect for Luke!  His favorite thing in the world is letters.  So "Sammy the Snake" said goodbye to his incredible teachers, one being, Ms. Dani (AKA Annie Apple).  He was smothered with lots of Latin love from all of the staff at Goldfish.  Hugs and kisses and more hugs and more kisses.
 And then he was given a big bag to take home with all of his hard work during the year.  
This portrait was a definite favorite in my book.  Dad, Luke and Mom.  I think it's a keeper.

This kids just melts me.  We climbed into the car, and headed straight over to Nido, where we would be for the rest of the day.  Even to this day, he still hits me sometimes with, "Wemembew my school, Goldfish?  Can I go thew again some time?"

 Jake's goodbye party in 1A.  All of Jake's classmates sat around him in a circle, while Ms. Amber presented him with a  special book that the class had made for him to say goodbye.  He was pumped he got to sit in the king's chair.
 Then each of the kids went around and complimented Jake on some of their favorite qualities of his.  I LOVED watching his handsome face as he listened to all of the love that was filling up his bucket.  He said "thank you" after each and every one.  With that smile the entire time.  

Did I mention that he melts me?

 We had some special treats and then the class signed Jake's Nido flag for him to take home to remember them.  
 Jake couldn't have been smiling any bigger.  I am so grateful for Ms. Amber.  She is one amazingly gifted teacher.  I have learned so much from working with her and being in her presence.  And I know that Jake grew leaps and bounds this year in so many ways because of her influence.  We gave Jake a big squeeze and let him finish off his school day, and ran up two flights of stairs to 4A, where Kate was doing a huge, semester-long, presentation on Nigeria, for her last day at Nido.

 She has completely blown me away with what she has been able to learn and master.  I watched her as she told her audience all about Nigeria, and my heart was bursting inside.  She was so confident and prepared and comfortable in front of everyone.  I can remember when we first came to Nido, Kate was so reserved, that her teachers told her she needed to speak louder so people could hear her.  I looked at this girl today, the one her class voted on to be their representative; one of two in her class to be given the President's Academic Award, the one who brings a special energy to the classroom, and I was so grateful that her time in this country had been an overall positive one.   

I love this girl.  Have I told you?  She melts me.  

 I brought donuts for her to pass out to her classmates to say goodbye after all of the presentations were finished.  There were lots of hugs and packing up cubbies very slowly and laughter and more hugs as we finally made our way out to the front of the school...well after the bell had rung. 

So that's it.  Jake spent his Kindergarten and 1st grade at Nido.  Kate spent her 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade years at Nido.  And it was time to say goodbye.  We loaded their heavy backpacks full of projects and end of the year papers into the car, took one last picture, and shed some tears as we drove away.  
We would miss this place.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Last Sunday in Chile

The kids and I were a touch late getting to church.  We slipped in quietly and sat towards the back.  As the hymn for the preparation of the Sacrament began, all of the sudden, little Amanda Nunez came running up to me and handed me this half sheet of paper with carefully drawn colored hearts all over it.  There was a huge red heart in the middle and above it read, "Hermana Berigil."  Sounded out PERFECTLY in Spanish.  I broke into a huge smile and then my eyes got a little watery and I thought, "Uh-oh.  This might be a tough one, today."

After the Sacrament was passed, her sister, Violeta, came up to me with the sweetest little picture of a 4 year olds interpretation of what a person should look like, and then threw her arms around me. 
Yep.  It's gonna be rough.  

The Bishop announced that Fast and Testimony meeting was today and as soon as he sat down, 3 girls in our Primary got up and bore the sweetest testimonies.  I just decided to let the tears flow.  What's the use in stopping them?  At this point, waterproof mascara doesn't even really help.  Then Jake turned to me and said, "Mom, I want to bear my testimony."  His first time ever.  "Can you translate for me?"  

I had to pull it together enough to walk up there and Jake stood up, bore a beautifully simple testimony.  He said that he knows that Jesus is real because he can feel him in his heart and Jesus helps us when we fall.  My sweet Jake.

And then Samuel, another little boy got up... My heart just swelled as I listened and watched these amazing children get up and share their feelings about the Savior.  I have watched them learn and grow for 3 years and I wanted so much for every child in that room, young and old, to know that the only way we can be truly happy is by leaning on our Savior.  He will carry us through as the world becomes a more and more difficult place.  I tried to tell them that in my sniffly, teary Spanish and English.  That has been our whole goal in Primary the entire time I've been in there.  For the children to feel love as soon as they enter that room and to know that we are happiest when we follow Jesus Christ.  I hope they felt it and I hope they will remember it.
I made it to Primary and sat down to play the piano, and Luke decided to join me.  (Britany Evans happened to capture the moment ;) ) He refused to sit with his class today.  At this point I had to roll with it.  That is one HUGE lesson I've learned here.  If you can roll, you'll enjoy things MUCH more.  It has kind of become our motto when we show up and realize that we are IT for that day-- combining classes, bringing in the nursery kids to sit with the bigger kids...doing a double sharing time and throwing together a singing time while playing the piano?  At first I had hernias almost every Sunday when things like this would happen.  I'd feel my heart start to race and my face would get HOT.  I slowly learned the lessons of improvisation and doing the best you can, and being Ok with that.  And not even OK...but being GREAT with that.  Look what we pulled off today with a lot of help from above!  Phew!  Let's hope next week is slightly smoother :)
In addition to Luke sitting by me, every time I got a little teary in there, a handful of children were suddenly around me with their arms wrapped around my neck.  Oh, there was a lot of love today.  A lot of love.  I felt it so strongly.
As we sang Jake's favorite Primary song to say goodbye to him, more little notes, one by one were being dropped into my lap.  "Berryhill, Berijil, Berrigil, Bary, Hill"... I loved every single one of them.  Tati and Joana had the children put together a calendar with every single child's birthday.  On that day, they either picked their favorite primary song or scripture and wrote it in the box so we can sing or read for that child on that day.  What a wonderful way for us to remember everyone!!!
Some for Kate, some for Jake, some for me, some for our whole family!
Thank you!!

Not all of the Primary teachers made it in the picture, but I am sooo grateful for these women who come and teach every week.  We have a tough group and week after week, these teachers prepare meaningful lessons for these kids.
An attempt of a group shot.  Complete with dogs!  How fitting!

We will miss you, La Dehesa Primary and Ward.  This has been an experience that has stretched, pulled, twisted, and turned me upside down.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  It'd be lying if I claimed I wouldn't be looking forward to a few weeks of tranquility ;)  But it's usually the things that you work your hardest at that mean the most to you.

Stalwartly-smiling Luke.  The silliness doesn't even phase him!

After our last few goodbyes, we piled into the car and headed straight over to meet the Hiten's for a little farewell.  I don't think I even had an ounce of makeup left on my face, but that didn't matter one bit.   We all had a chance to enjoy each others company one more time before parting ways.  It doesn't seem possible that we really became friends just 3 months ago.  Can that be?!  Thank you, Connie and Charles for treating us to a lovely afternoon and for more importantly your friendship.  It's priceless.  We will miss you dearly and look forward to when our paths cross again!

Jammie Party

How long can the party last?!  

Kate and Jake were invited over to Javi and Dani's home for a late over on Friday night.  All of Kate's good friends from church were there and Jake got to have a blast with his buddy Dani.  Jammies were  put on, pizza was ordered, movies were watched, and thoughtful gifts and sweet notes were given to Kate and Jake!!!

Seriously overwhelmed with all of these dear friends and the love that is going around.

(Kate, Eli, Sawyer, Celeste, Javi)

 Kate has so many little keepsakes to remember her friends, she shows them to me over and over and over again.  She sits there and just smiles and I know she is one happy girl who is sad to leave her life here but happy to be back in California.  Hmmmm....sounds just like someone I know. 

 Dani and Jake had a BLAST together.  Jake has his Incredible Hulk that Dani made for him by his bed so he can see it every night.  Man, we have been blessed with good friends.  

 How fun is this?!
Thank you SO MUCH, Tati, for organizing this and making the kids feel so special.
They had the best time and will never forget that their friends did this for them.

 And while the older two were partying at the Leon's home, Luke asked me out on a date.  
We hit one of our favorites... Green Pizza... for the last time.  The two of us ate a bunch and laughed a bunch and then headed back to the hotel.  He fell asleep before his head hit the pillow.  It had been a busy week!!!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Did You Say Heated Pool?!!!

It's perfect really.  We have access to a heated pool in the middle of winter.  There's no better way to say goodbye to friends who are staying and friends who are leaving, than to have them over for a little fun.  
And so we have done it all week long.
Homework doesn't matter at this point, right?
Javi and Kate...
 and their sidekick. 

 Kate and Eli

Lucas, Liam, Jake and Matthew

 Martina and Kate

 No matter who comes up, everyone likes to take in the view.
 Andy, Eduardo, and my boys

 These kids are cracking me up!  

 Perfecting their synchronized flips

Martina is off to Mexico and we are off to California.  Closer than they realize :)

 4A Friends
Isa, Kate, Cecila, Paula and sidekick

 I even managed going out to dinner with these four and Jake and Luke all on my own on a crazy Saturday night at Parque Arauco.  

 I realized while we were sitting at dinner that I might be slightly crazy to take on such a task.  

It's been a LOT of fun.  
Sometimes you just have to go for it ;)