I recently wrote a post about my 5 favorite things in Chile, but I left out the best thing of all!
#1 (Really) The people
Today when I left my office (an office where no ones first language is english, but where everyone does there best to commute with me and include me in projects and social events), I had to track down a place to charge my, “¡Bip! Card” (a metro card). Of course I don’t speak spanish very well, so this process involves a lot of excited gesturing, and Tarzan like grunts of Spanglish. Everyone I “spoke” too, was extremely patient with me and did everything in his or her power to help me find what I was looking for.
When I didn’t know how to use the machine (it’s very complicated here. You have to put in all this information into a computer and print a receipt, and then take it to someone else to pay, then go back to the machine, etc), one man basically pushed all the buttons for me (which were in Spanish) and then explained my situation to the cashier, and then, as I was leaving the store, chased me down to explain to me, something I didn’t understand at the time, that I had to take my card back to the machine to complete the transaction. Ooops!
After not understanding that, I got on the bus, for which my card had no fare. The bus driver let me ride anyway.
When I got home and explained everything to my host mother she drove me all the way back to the ¡Bip! Card place so I could get the charge added to my card. (My host family definitely should have been on my favorite things list.)
Long story short, I’m an idiot, and luckily, I’m in a city of very kind and understanding people.
Besides the today’s events, everyone I meet who speaks english normally gives me their information and says something along the lines of, “If you need anything at all, call me. Seriously! Call if you need a ride or a translator or are lost or lonely or just want to get a coffee”.
Consistently, all the people I’ve met here have been this warm and welcoming. Maybe I’m just really lucky, or maybe I just look really helpless and people feel they need to take care of me., or maybe it’s just good old fashioned human empathy.
A lot of English speakers here, have either immigrated here from an English speaking country, or learned English by being a foreigner in an English speaking country. So maybe those people can just relate.
I’ll definitely keep that in mind the next time I come across someone in the U.S. who doesn’t speak English and needs a little human kindness.