Friday, September 14, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Bethany

The calmness of her voice gave her away. I knew the instant I picked up the phone, the meaning of the call, but she didn't say it then. Instead, she said she wanted us to get together for pisco sour and manjar (something very similar to dulce de leche) and she would be over in an hour or so. My anxiety, which had begun in my big toe shot bolts of lightening first through my calves, and then thighs. Once it reached my stomach, the game was over. The stomach is like miracle growth to anxiety, there is no turning back after miracle growth has cast it's spell. After the anxiety had reached the furthest regions of my body, it began planting clouds of doubt. What will you do when she leaves Chile? What will life as a sola gringa be like? Will we make it? Should we consider going home as well? I knew why she wanted to go home. She had been talking about how unhappy Chile had made her, and that staying in Chile for the sake of finishing the program was not as important to her as being happy. But, I was not Bethany, and although I had ridden along a similar roller coaster as she, mine consisted of less dips and more height. There were definite pockets of unhappiness in my life in Chile, and moments when I thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing here? All I want, is to be somewhere comfortable and familiar, with heaters and Taco Cabanas!” But life as a roller coaster does not coast only in the low points but also reaches heights unimaginable. Walking home from school through the valley near our house, I often feel overwhelmed by the beauty of the sunset in the sky as big as any Texas sky. The horses would look up from their grazing seemingly annoyed by my presence, but a little apprehensive. The rolling hills surrounding the town never turned brown, but seemed to grow greener with each passing day. Life is not meant to be a walk in the park because without a struggle, there is nothing to be proud of and I was proud of our bold decision to come to a foreign country to help children possibly get ahead in life.

Over pisco sours we discussed in detail her decision to leave. Although I would have preferred her to stay I knew that this was her choice, something that could only be decided by her. The determination in her voice dared anyone to argue and we respectfully made no attempt to contend. We discussed her plans for the following two weeks before her departure. Her flight was to leave from Santiago, and we would meet there with our fellow fifth and sixth region buddies to say our adieus to Bethany. We treated ourselves to one night in the luxurious Marriott with Bethany's ex-employee discount, and lived lavishly the following morning with a dip in the hot tub and a roasting in the spa. We feasted on sushi in the richer part of Santiago, partied with our fellow Chilean friends and said what we had come to say, “goodbye.”

Walking home from the bus stop in Pichilemu, I felt a physical change to the town. An emptiness that hadn't been there before, was present now. Possibly it was the hole in my heart projecting onto the town, a hole that I didn't want to face. But it is my opinion that the town felt her departure as well, and formed a black hole where her spirit should have been. As I walked, I kept repeating to myself, “We are going to be Okay. We are going to make it. We CAN make it.” I knew the words I said to be true, but life would change, and the emptiness saddened me. Life had been easier with our friend and ally, but we could prevail, we WOULD prevail!