Some moments can never be captured on a camera. Some moments are too precious.
This week, I have been able to have some of the best, happiest days of my stay here. We've been able to finally go out into the field due to better sea conditions, so I was able to see far more of Chile than I had beforehand.
On Sunday, I was admittedly in low spirits. I had finally finished my behavioral run, but I was so worn out that I could hardly move, think, or do anything. They apparently have a nickname around here for me, "La Machina" (The Machine), because I just "keep going and going and going." I do have to agree with them, I do feel a bit like a machine. Part of it is because I push myself so hard and keep the end in sight, so it allows me to continue moving onward. Part of it is also because I am cautious to reveal my inner exhaustion because if I continue to stay positive in front of them, it also helps me to remain positive as well. That day, though, I wasn't feeling it at all.
The next day, though, something happened that lifted my spirits. We would be going out into the field, and not just right outside of it or a few minutes away, but an hour long drive out to the location. I was elated. My spirits were instantly lifted and finally I would be able to go on one of the field excursions that I had been dying to go on.
All of us packed into the truck and went out towards the field. I'm fairly petite so as usual, I had to sit in the middle seat. Here's the secret, though: the middle is the best seat. You have the best view and you are able to see both the driver and the passenger and it makes communication much easier. I saw the Chilean landscape unfold before me, complete with snow-capped Andes Mountains and tree-lined roads and was able to listen in and practice Spanish with them. Suddenly, I realized something: I was content. I was comfortable and happy to sit there in the truck with two people I had grown comfortable with and take in all the views. It was wonderful, and I was just lavishing that feeling as we drove through the tree-lined roads with the sun peeking through them.
They had told me the first location was gorgeous. "It is so beautiful. You will love it." They did not disappoint and as we rounded the bend, I saw one of the most gorgeous expanses of sea I'd ever seen. The sea was in an arch around the land and surrounded by tall, majestic cliffs. It almost looked tropical (despite the outside temperature). I couldn't help but gasp.
The cliffs were where we would be going for field work. They had warned me that it was a very, very dangerous location due to the steepness of the rocks and how slick they were, so I was not able to actually go down into the field but rather had to watch out for large waves to make sure that the others were safe. They weren't kidding about the rocks, it was a steep climb both down and back up, but the view was absolutely worth everything. The sun glowed from behind the cliffs and bathed the brilliant blue waves and I was awestruck.
After leaving this location, we drove through Valparaiso, a Chilean port city that is densely-packed but very colorful and vibrant. It was evening and the sky was a lovely shade of pastel pink and purple and made the most beautiful backdrop for the little colorful buildings. The evening light cast a pink glow in the car, and in that moment I was so, so happy. I couldn't stop smiling and could hardly contain my joy in that moment. Sitting in a car with two people you've grown close to while taking in beautiful views is one of the most wonderful feelings. I have difficulty growing close to people, bonding with them, or feeling comfortable with them, but in this moment I felt all three. I didn't want to leave it, I wanted to taste it just a little longer and soak it all in.
Due to awful traffic, we made it to the next location, Montemar (near Vina del Mar), right after the sun had gone down and the stars began to peek out. We had to climb on the rocks in the dark and I had to hold a flashlight as far above me as possible to allow the other person to see the organisms that he had to count for his data. Even though it was dark, it was beautiful. A line of color still hugged the top of the ocean horizon and the stars began to appear more and more as we climbed back towards shore. Afterward we went out to dinner together and it was wonderful. The whole day was wonderful. It was my favorite day here in Chile and I will remember it forever. Some moments stick with you and I know this one will.
The next day, we went into the field again, but this time with another girl who was unfortunately sick, so it was basically just myself and the other guy from the day before. We were going to Pichilemu, and it was a two and a half hour drive to get there. I was comfortable with silence and looking out the window, especially since I was tired, but I knew this was the perfect opportunity to practice my Spanish. I wasn't quite sure what to talk about, it can be difficult to hold an actual, real conversation with someone in another language when you are still learning, so often the conversations won't follow or are about very trivial things. However, these sometimes awkward conversations are important for learning and are truly very helpful, so I spoke almost entirely in Spanish about the most random things just to get in some practice. I was worried I was boring or bothering him, but I knew I had to work on my Spanish and I kept going. He is learning English more, so I would talk to him in Spanish and he would respond in English. At one point I tried to ask him if I was boring him and he squinted his eyes and cocked his head in confusion. "Boring, boring, boring... I don't know what that means." I didn't have any clue how to say it in Spanish, so I had to think of something close enough. The best I could come up with was "Do you like talking with me" (except I said it in Spanish). It was significantly worse than saying "Am I boring you," but unfortunately that was the best I could come up with. That's the thing about it when you are first learning, you can't always say quite what you'd like. He just laughed and said, "Yes, Brooke, I like talking to you" in his thick Chilean accent. Sometimes you just have to say what you can even though that's not what you meant to say just to get at least some of the point across.
I was so proud of myself for speaking in so much Spanish, this was a feat that I wouldn't have been able to accomplish when I first arrived. Now, though, I could do it, and I was able to sometimes even speak in Spanish without having to translate in my head before saying it. I was elated.
Pichilemu is a long, expansive beach with waves that are perfect for surfing. It is a huge beach and a lot to take in, but it is absolutely beautiful. Once again we arrived at the location later in the day, so we only had a little time to do what we needed. This time, much to my relief, I had a job to do, so for the short period of time we had before the sun went down, I scoured rocks looking for sea stars. I really enjoyed it, too, it's far more enlivening than circling rows of tanks doing monitors. When I go out into the field, I want to be able to actually WORK, not just stand around awkwardly or "help" do some little remedial task. I don't like not being able to work when everyone else is working; if you're working, I should be, too. Today, though, I finally had a job to do, and even though I was very new and hardly knew what I was doing, I tried my best and did it.
The sun began to go down and cast the world in a glow I have loved so dearly. The other girl had returned to the car because she was cold and feeling very sick (I felt so bad for her!), so it was just me and the person from my lab with whom I have grown the closest to. After finishing our work, we left the rocks and headed back to the car, but he stopped for a moment and turned around to look at the sea. "Say goodbye to Chile, Brooke. This is the prettiest place here." I begged to differ as I considered the place from the day before to be the prettiest, but I agreed that it was still beautiful. As we looked on at the setting sun, he gently remarked, "Don't forget Chile, Brooke." I told him I never would, and how could I? I also told him to never forget me and he replied, "I'll never forget you. Never!"
I didn't have my camera with me. Not even my phone. Both were sitting snug in the car, so I have no photos of that day or moment. I had a phone photo and a few shots from the day before, but none of them really captured the view. But, it's ok. Some moments can never be captured on a camera. Some moments are too precious. The two of us standing there with that view and those tender emotions could never be captured. They could only be experienced, and that was how it should have been. As the two of us walked back in the evening glow, stopping here and there to watch the sunset just a little longer, I didn't regret not having a camera with me. This was special, and it was captured raw and organically. I will always remember those colors, his words and energy, the wind, the feeling of the chill on my cheeks, the view. It will always be a part of me.
I am so grateful for those two days. They were two of my favorite days of the whole trip, and I will treasure them always and forever. For all of the difficult days that you have in life, there will be days that will make everything else fade in comparison and will enliven you. Reach for those days. Cling to those days. Recount those days. They are worth everything, I promise.