Displaced creative Sally Rose: Is she coming…or going?!
Sally Rose, who was one of last year’s Wonderlanded guests, recently confessed to me that she’s a perpetually perplexed peripatetic expat. We decided she needed her own column to explain this contradiction in terms. This is her first attempt. Enjoy! —ML Awanohara
Hello, Displaced Nationers! I’ve been an expat for five years. That’s if you don’t count the five years I spent in New York before that. For a wide-eyed girl from rural Texas, living in New York felt like being in a whole new country, except that I didn’t need a visa.
Now, I’ve been in Santiago, Chile, for five years and I’m beginning to get itchy feet again. What’s that about? A friend accused me of having a five year maximum in any one location. Though I’ve lived longer than five years in several places, they ultimately didn’t stick either.
She could be right.
Am I a gypsy (or whatever you’d like to call it) at heart?
I used to tell people in Chile that I had gypsy blood, but in Chile, being associated with gypsies has a bad connotation, so I decided to tell them that I was a vagabunda, a vagabond, but I think that was as bad as gypsy.
My Spanish teacher tells me I’m a patiperra. It’s a Chilean term that means globe-trotter. One Chilean writer, who calls herself Patiperra, defines it as:
“A wanderer. Someone who doesn’t stay at home often, someone whose burning curiosity leads them on journeys to places they’ve never been.”
Guilty, as charged.
Maybe it’s simply my adult ADD kicking in, or I could be kind to myself and say it’s my inquiring mind that wants to know more places.
March 1 will be my five-year mark in Chile, and I’m thinking about making a change.
Careful what you wish for…
I’m not a writer by profession. I went to Chile to be a volunteer English teacher. I even visited and volunteered four times before making the big leap. My book, A Million Sticky Kisses, chronicles my first visits to Chile as a volunteer teacher.
Volunteering in Chile was a dream-come-true—until I actually moved there. As American radio broadcaster Paul Harvey was fond of saying, here’s the “rest of the story.”
Between my final visit as a volunteer and the time I made the move in 2011, things had changed drastically at “my” school.
The administration had changed, and the director, who had been so kind and supportive of me, had been fired, along with an assistant director and several teachers whom I knew and liked.
A pall of anxiety hung over the school because teachers were being let go for minor infractions. The teachers who remained were terrified of the new director, who was a member of a conservative, rigid religious sect.
He viewed me suspiciously and made it clear that I was not welcome in the classrooms. The atmosphere of the previous two years had vanished.
My teacher friend, Marisol, invited me into her classroom, but even she, who had worked at the school for 40 years, was afraid of the new director’s power.
In the end, I went to the school for 45 minutes, once a week, to do cuentacuentos, story hour, in the library, under the strict supervision of the librarian and her assistant.
The happy days of volunteering in the classes at “my” school with “my” kids were a distant memory.
I made other volunteer attempts: doing a workshop for hyperactive fifth graders, singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for three hours in a classroom of 40 nine-year-olds, assisting the English teacher who didn’t speak English.
“What is your name?” I asked her.
“I’m fine, thank you,” she responded.
The last year I volunteered was magical. I’d met a new friend, who happened to be a volunteer coordinator. She asked me to assist in a class of 16-year-olds.
“You want me to do what?!” I’d never worked with 16-year-olds before and just the thought of it gave me the willies.
By saying “Yes,” my pre-conceived notions were shattered when they turned out to be the most respectful, creative, fun kids I’d ever known.
I wanted to be at that school forever, but at the end of year, the owners, who were having financial problems, sold the school, and my students were scattered into the wind.
Should I twiddle my thumbs…or write?
The following year, Year Nº. 4 in Chile, I returned after my summer vacation, thinking that I would find another volunteer position. Something had always turned up before.
But not that year. Though I searched and searched, nothing materialized. I ended up without a purpose, twiddling my thumbs.
That’s when it hit me. I could rekindle my writing.
I had been blogging for years, and I’d previously taken a few stabs at novel writing. This time, I sat down and wrote a children’s book about Penny, a Golden Retriever puppy with a special mission.
The result was Penny Possible, the true story of a service dog in training.
I repatriated back to the US for six months while I revised A Million Sticky Kisses and self-published both books.
When I returned to Chile again last year, I penned another children’s story, about a dog named Elvis who lives on the streets in Santiago. It’s currently being illustrated. The working title is Love Me Tender.
Hm…writing is portable!
There are other stories I’d like to complete. Some are half-finished, others are just a twinkle in my eye, but guess what, folks? Writing is portable. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Chile, the US, or Timbuktu.
Almost at the five-year mark, my feet are itching again. Does this mean I’m leaving Chile?
I’m not sure, but it does mean I’m exploring. The world is a big place and I haven’t found my little piece of it yet.
* * *
Thank you, Sally, for sharing your quest to find your “little piece of the world.” Readers, where will Sally try (or not try) next, and how long will she stay? Is she a gypsy or a settler at heart? I hope you’ll join me in saying we look forward to the next installment! —ML Awanohara
Born and raised in the piney woods of East Texas, Sally Rose has lived in the Cajun Country of Louisiana, the plains of Oklahoma, the “enchanted” land of New Mexico, and the Big Apple, New York City. Then she fell in love with Santiago de Chile and has been “telling tall tales” from that long, skinny country since 2009, and living in that city for the past five years. But where will her next act take her? The author of a memoir and a children’s book, Sally has an author site where she keeps a blog, and is active on Facebook and Twitter.
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