Off to Peru. But first…

Two years ago today over a basket of tatter tots in a South Philly dive bar I said for the first time to a friend a then terrifying statement: “Hey, I’m gay.” Surprisingly, the world did not end, my friend didn’t walk out and I was able to finish my tots. The next few months were filled with similar situations much like the first. I’d confront another friend with the same truth that would bubble up in the back of my throat and croak out in a sudden statement that would sometimes even surprise me. This continued until my birthday, where as a gift to my 22-year-old-self, I told my family. My sister’s reaction: “I’ve always wanted a gay brother!”

The reason for this story is this; two years ago I was a fraction of who I am today. I felt like I was floating. I never denied who I was, but I did deny the fact that I could openly be who I was. The most traumatizing truth in my life then is now the most motivating one now. I’ve accomplished a lot, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve lived a lot. I’ve shed 100 lbs because I no longer have to feed a lie. I’ve seen 25 countries because I’m no longer stuck in a closet. I’ve made countless friends because I’m no longer a stranger to myself. It’s not because I’m gay, straight, bi, questioning, or even because I’m a 6’4″ giant that has an obsession with cat shirts that I could do these things. It’s because after two years ago today, I was able to start being myself.

When people hit an anniversary they celebrate themselves. I want to celebrate the people in my life that have supported me along every step of the way. Coworkers that became friends. Friends that became family. And family that became a part of me inseparable from myself. I thank you not because I needed acceptance of who I was, but because you made sure that I knew I didn’t need acceptance of who I was. That who I was was fabulous. And that who I was did not change after three words said over a basket of tatter tots.

So to all of you, although this post can never convey my gratitude, thank you. This is me celebrating you. But I can’t give all of the credit to you. I want to own some too. So for me, as my congrats to myself, there’s Peru. And with that, I’m off to go ride a llama.

Adiós.

My 2014 Resolution

Waterloo Bridge, London - New Years 2012

Fireworks from Waterloo Bridge – London – New Years 2012

Now that Christmas has come and gone it’s time to look forward to the New Year. With this comes a tradition that many wishful-thinking people participate in each year: the New Year Resolution.

Like many rituals surrounding the holidays, resolutions have begun to straddle the line between timeless tradition and generic cliché. However, it is still an act that at its very core strives to make a better person, relationship or, if extremely ambitious, world. It’s an idea that January 1st represents a new start, and with this new start comes a new “me.” Whether it’s to drink less, workout more or hell, even if it’s to eat more pizza, the resolution is an act worthy of recognition.

2012 was the first year I committed to a resolution. I found myself on the roof of a random center city apartment party. The friends I had gone with had disappeared so I was left watching the final minutes of 2011 tick away alone. It was then that a girl approached me. “Are you gay?” Having hid in the closet comfy and cozy up to this point, the question almost knocked me off the roof. “No!” I said back a little too defensive. “Shame,” she said, “my friend needed a New Years kiss.” As she and her counterpart walked away and the clock struck midnight, it was clear what my resolution would be. By year’s end, I had to come out. To friends, family, to anyone that was a part of my life. I would no longer stand watching the fireworks alone on the roof.

I had brought out the big guns in 2012 and had succeeded. That was a year about sharing who I was with my loved ones. As I stood on Waterloo Bridge watching the fireworks explode over Big Ben and all of London, I realized that 2013 would be a year of reflection. Too often, I would plan things, look towards those things for days, weeks and sometimes months, and then they would pass. Was I growing? It was time to find out. My resolution then was to write at least once every day. It didn’t matter if it was in a notebook, piece of scrap paper or a discarded cup. I wanted to touch a physical pen to physical paper once every day calling attention to the day I had. I needed to acknowledge my days. I needed to stop letting them float by. I created an external space to analyze myself and my actions. Reflection was what I needed in my life. So that’s what I strived for.

However, for 2014, I have a different resolution.

I want to fail. Miserably.

I want to fail so hard it hurts. I want to put aside my sharing and reflecting I’ve picked up over the last two years, and I want to attempt to grab life by the horns only to be tossed into the air like a rag doll. I want to seek to achieve something I never thought I could, work day in and day out to achieve it, put every ounce of effort I have into something, and still come up short. I have big goals, but I give up too easy. Much of what I have accomplished this far has been through the support of others. I want to shoot off into space for the first time alone. I  I want to aim for the stars and miss by a mile. I want to come crashing back down to earth, reset my trajectory and launch right back off into space, this time a little higher. Failing at something this bad can only mean one thing: I tried. I want to try this year. I have goals that i’ve shared with others and reflected on with myself. This is the year I’ll go for it. When I fail, I’ll know what not to do next time to not fail.

I want to get my heart broken.

I want to suffer heartache. Maybe twice. I want to want to do nothing but cry in bed all day eating Chinese and watching whatever Bravo marathon is on. I want to feel actual physical pain from an intangible emotion. I want to put aside my reasoning and my independence and invest love into someone else only to be rejected. As someone who falls in love with every stranger that passes him by in the streets, I should have no trouble finding someone that I could temporarily put my heart on loan too. However, by date three I continually find myself hanging the “Closed” sign and pulling the shades down preventing anyone from looking in. I want to let go of this defense. I want to let go of all defenses and instead always leave my shop door unlocked. When someone does finally come in and rob me for everything I’ve got before running off, at least I’ll know I’ve finally stayed open long enough to make some sort of profit. With this, I’ll invest in something better for next time.

I want to get a real bone broken.

Whether it’s an arm, a leg or a collarbone, I want to break something good. I want to wake up in the ER with nothing but an aching body and sore ego. I don’t care if it’s doing something stupid I’ve done 100 times, or doing something stupid that I was doing for the first time, I want to end up with a cracked rib. Being scared and walking away from something never ends in a story. It ends in a “I should have.” I spend too much time playing it safe. If I’m already in the process of putting my mental and emotional self on the line, why not throw my physical self into the line of fire as well. I’ve always been one to let reason talk me out of action. I fall back on a night in front of the TV watching “real” people live out their lives. It’s time to give up the remote control and toss out the self control. I want to attempt everything, even if it’s just once. This way years from now when someone inquires about a scar I can smile and say, “I was an idiot.”

In short, for 2014, I want to live a year with no “What If I’s.” In 2012 I shared with people what I was too scared to do. In 2013 I reasoned with myself on what I should and shouldn’t do. In 2014, and hate me if you want because I hate myself for thinking it, YOLO. I want to live a life worth living. Worth talking about. Worth thinking about. I’ve learned how to learn from reasoning. Now I want to learn how to live from living. I could probably think of a million better ways to sum up my resolution for this year. But, I’ll just give one more so that my final word is not YOLO: For 2014 I want to live each day with no reservations — not like it’s my last, but like it’s another day and chance to fuck shit up just so that I can rebuild, better.

That, and to eat more pizza.

Tuesday Morning

It was sabotage, you and me.

I, too eager.

You, too hesitant.

What we should do.

What we shouldn’t.

Enforcing or preventing, the word was destructive.

Both too misleading of what could be.

A few drinks,

A few words.

I felt relieved.

I assume you did too.

But as they say when one does:

We’re both asses,

You and me.

It only took a day,

“Something is better than nothing,” I reasoned.

But what happened, happens in the past

With hope that what the future holds comes fast.

Still, you’re there. A friend forever.

Connected but distant is the new norm.

All I’ll get is another like.

Mid-November Getaway: NOLA & NYC

'ol Red.

‘ol Red is ready to hit the road again.

It’s been a while since I’ve last dusted off my blog. It’s been even longer since I’ve done the same to my backpack. Yet, here I am on a Sunday night packing them both with a few last minute things.

Life’s been feeling pretty stagnant lately. Coming from Chile where I was able to bus to a new city every weekend for about 2,500 pesos, realizing it’s not as easy back home in Philadelphia is a harsh awakening. What’s more is the thorn that’s been in my side for a few years now. It’s the fact that when it comes to travel, I’ve seen none of my home country.

I can count on one hand the amount of US cities (the big ones that is) that I’ve been to. This pales in comparison to the 20-something countries that I’ve had the honor of wandering around over the past few years.  I just haven’t felt the pressure to travel on a national level as much as I have on an international one. I’ve always figured it would be around to do. More embarrassingly, I’ve always been under the impression that what exists outside of our borders is more grand than what’s inside. I know that this isn’t true. America’s awesome. I’ve just been too thick to realize it.

Luckily, both the feeling of cabin fever and the neglected home travel will come to an end this week. Tomorrow I’m heading south to New Orleans. What started off as work  has transformed into an extended stay and vacation after the suggestion of a co-worker. I’ll be spending 4 days in the big easy by week’s end. 2 days of work. 2 days of play.

I know nothing about NOLA besides the typical: French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Jambalaya, and the fact that there is a coven of witches there. So, if you have some tips, please shout them out. I’m all ears.

I’ll be visiting my friend Jen who lived in Rio Bueno, a village 30 minutes from mine in Chile. It will be great to see her for a number of reasons. 1. I haven’t seen her since leaving South America. 2. She knows New Orleans and can be my own private tour guide. 3. She has my jacket from Patagonia that I had to leave behind in Argentina. and 4. Most importantly, I’ll have a free place to stay. Having friends in cities far and wide is useful beyond belief.

I’m hoping to get as much out of southern living before coming back up north and continuing my November escape to NYC. After working from home on Friday, I’ll be catching the first MegaBus to NYC where I’ll be spending the weekend in Brooklyn, again visiting some friends and finding another couch to call home. Friends sure are swell.

What I’m hoping for is that this forced work trip will finally slap me out of my avoidance of domestic travel. I have a list of cities that I want to start crossing off: Chicago, DC, Boston, San Francisco, Austin. I’m hoping that this trek down to New Orleans will bust open the door to US travel and persuade me to start exploring the country that I call home.

 

High School Reunion: Drunk, Wet & Humble

Sons of Cahill

Sons of Cahill

I’m drunk. I’m wet. I’m humble. I just got home from my 5-year high school reunion.

I’m sitting here on my bedroom floor soaking wet from the storm that hit just as I was heading home from the reunion. I figured that the best thing to do to pass the time between now and when the Chinese food that I ordered gets here is to write. By tomorrow morning when this post goes live I will already have had time to edit it from a sober standpoint. But for now, It’s being written exactly how it went down: high school besties, bullies and crushes.

I’ll start off by saying my high school experience was completely average. I’d like to tell you that I was an all-star. I had a crew of friends. Everyone knew my name. I partied and broke into the school after hours. But that would be lie. I’d like to tell you even more that I was the high school outcast. I sat at the back of every room. I never said a word. People pushed me into lockers. I would go home and write in my journal about how it was only four years. But that would be a lie, too. Instead, I can only tell you that it was average. I drifted through my years in high school. Popular or nerd label free. I was just a kid in high school. No dramatics.

There’s a certain amount of klout in telling someone that you went through high school in Philadelphia. There’s even more of it when you tell them it was an all boys Catholic high school. Advertising itself as the best four years of your life, high school sets itself up for failure. It was by no means the worst four years of my life, but it was definitely not the best either. It was just four years. Four years that I learned from. And four years that moved me forward.

Returning tonight after five years, I was anxious. I didn’t know what to expect really. As we’re taught, high school reunions are meant to flaunt your successes after graduating. But after only five years, did I really have any? I had a new job, new apartment and a new weight. But they’re not life landmarks worthy of  mass recognition. They’re just things that happen on the ladder of growing up.

Regardless, I was ready to see what my fellow brothers in purple and gold had been up to. Whether or not I could brag, I was going to revisit a past that honestly was now a blur to me. I figured worst case scenario, I grab some free food and drink and return back to my current life. I was not expecting however what I was able to leave with at the end of the night: pride.

Classmates that I hadn’t spoken to since graduation day were some of the first ones that came up to me. We fell right back into what we had left five years ago. A handshake and a call out of the last name(who uses a first name anyway) was all it took. We realized that we were all still connected. I’d like to credit that to the camaraderie that an all boys school instilled in us instead of  Facebook. But either way, we were still in touch with each others lives.

I was shocked to hear from guys that told me they kept up with my travels through my blog. That they followed my time through Europe, while living in Chile and the other random journeys that fell in between.  I was happy to hear about similar journeys that they had taken, or that they were planning. Throughout the night, we went back and forth with our successes and failures. We were genuinely interested in each others’ lives. It had been five years, and although we all had similar fears that we were unaccomplished, I think last night we all realized that we were. Victories seem small over a large expanse of time. However, once brought together and shown in a snapshot of a five year span, you quickly realize how much you have in fact accomplished.

And it wasn’t just a few of us. It was a majority. No one was stuck in the high school “golden years.” We all had matured. We all had progressed. We all viewed the four years at Roman Catholic high school as a beginning to the lives we were now living. Not the best four years. Not the worst. But just four years. I left the reunion tonight filled with pride. Pride in myself, my graduating class and the ambition that we all had. Although we’re by no means at the final whatever we are all looking for, I think we all realized last night that we had taken giant steps towards it, whatever that is.

So here’s to the class of 2008. I’m honored to call myself a Cahillite. I’ll be seeing you around.

Brain Tumors, Sunflowers and Why I’m Me

photo (16)

It’s September. A month that we’ve been trained to loathe since we entered into our first year of school. Then, it signified an end to summer and dramatics aside, freedom. We said goodbye to the late nights, the beaches and most tragically, the 7-day weekends. As we got older, picking up part-time jobs, cramming in errands and losing time for our new versions of play, September represented the beginning of days getting shorter, darker, colder and a hell of a lot less summery. And then of course there are the terrible and unforgettable events that occurred that no one trying to capture the essence of September could avoid. Our country was attacked. Thousands died. Millions mourned. All in all, September is kind of a dick.

But for me, September stands out as being a royal expletive for another reason.  And what’s worse, I almost escaped it all. One day. That’s all there was left to this hellish month. One day away. Tomorrow, then, would have been October. The bad juju that accompanied the month would have come to an end. Nevertheless, on September 30th, 2006, Amy died.

But, hold on. That part of this story isn’t ready yet.

I was 10 years old in Atlantic City staying at the Showboat Casino. 12 years old in Miami sunbathing at South Beach. 14 in Las Vegas walking down the Strip. Amy didn’t care. There was no age minimum on a vacation. She took me everywhere. She was the aunt that would ask you what you wanted for your birthday but wouldn’t give you it. She would give you something better. There were even times that she included me into her international itineraries. Italy, Greece, the Dominican Republic. Nothing was off limits. For her that is; my mom had other feelings on the matter. Leaving the country was not yet a viable option for a 14 year old. Still, I have Amy to thank for my first taste of travel. I have Amy to thank for a lot of things, actually.

She was my escape. In a family that seemed to take turns spinning the Russian Roulette Wheel of Misfortune, Amy was the young, 30-something year old aunt that was healthy, adventurous and an all around total badass. She took me away from the heart attacks, the aneurisms and the cancers.  She was the mom that jumped on the field when my mom had to take a seat on the bench because team breast cancer was kicking her ass in the fourth quarter. She was the best friend that took me to the Philly Car Show when my best friend took their best friend to Dave and Buster’s without me. She was the aunt that was there. Always. Then, she wasn’t.

It was a glioblastoma malignant tumor. Or, brain cancer. That asshole put an end to my escape with my partner in crime twice. The first time, Amy won. The second time, two years later, the asshole won. I was 16. And of course it was September. I remember the home phone ringing. It was early in the morning. I was in my room playing PlayStation. That’s what I did. My mom picked up downstairs in the living room. I ran to the upstairs phone, covered the receiver and picked up to listen in on the conversation. That’s what I did. I haven’t done that since.

I recognized the voice on the other line immediately. It was my uncle. He was at the hospital in hospice with Amy. Only, Amy wasn’t with him anymore. I think I was in shock. I put the phone back on the hook. I walked back to the TV and unpaused my game. It wasn’t until 10 minutes later when my mom came up to my room, and I pretended to hear the news for the first time, that I began to cry.

The funeral came and went. Or at least I assume it did. The first real full memory I have after that morning phone call was sitting on the steps in my backyard, weeks after. It was dark. I was alone. That’s when I realized that the one escape that I always had from the illnesses my family was so chummy with was gone. Amy had left me alone with it all.

In my many talks with advisors, I kept hearing that grief hits everyone differently. Sometimes it’s right away. Sometimes it hibernates. Looking back I wish I believed this idea of hibernating grief instead of feeling like after only a month after the funeral, I was fine. I may have been able to salvage the next 5 years of my life.

OCD hit. Hard. I lost sleep on nights that I was awake until 4am trying to end a prayer just right so that I could go to bed and not wake up with cancer. There were friends lost because no one wanted to hang around the kid that was constantly sad. The one thing that I didn’t seem to lose was weight. Quite the contrary, I was exceeding in not only holding on to the pounds, but, adding to it. I was always a “big” kid, but it was over this 3-year period that I skyrocketed up to 310 lbs.

I floated through my last years at high school. Moved on to college at Temple University and for the most part floated through my first two years there too. Then, the moment that shifted me from neutral to drive happened: London. I found a crumbled up flyer on the floor for Study Away. The next week I had applied. The following week I was accepted. 4 months later I touched down in the UK and it felt like I had woken up. I’d left the dream state that I had unknowingly been in. It had been 5 years since Amy died. It wasn’t until fleeing the country did I find away to confront what I was ignoring. Ironically, this was done by escaping it.

I’d lie if I said it happened immediately. It of course was a gradual wakeup call. Each new country that I began to add to my roster was another push in the right direction. Each new place I experienced, I gained that much more respect for the mere fact that I was able to do it. I was alive, healthy and experiencing everything that Amy would have wanted me to. Travel was beginning to become my cure. And then it started to happen. Sunflowers started showing up. Everywhere.

One of the first things that anyone that has seen me in person usually notices (after my height) is my elbow. On it is a sunflower tattoo. Sunflowers were Amy’s favorite flower. They became my favorite flower. They became something so much more than a flower, but the memory of Amy inked on my skin to carry around with me wherever I went. When I see a sunflower, I know I’m on the right path. That’s why when the sunflowers starting appearing, it didn’t take me long to realize what they meant. I needed to keep going.

The sunflowers seemed to follow me wherever I went. Outside of a shop on Brick Lane in London. A vase in a Parisian café. A small street in Florence. A painting in Barcelona. On a ferry in Athens. These sunflowers were my push. I came home, came out and most importantly came to a new realization of what was important: Everything. Whether it was an average day in Philly or a once in a lifetime trip around the world, everything I did would have importance. I’m grateful for the lessons Amy taught me, and the freedom that she showed me. Most importantly, I’m grateful for the gift of the sunflower that she passed down to me.

It’s September. I’ve recently returned from my 20 something-th country spanning across 6 continents. I’ve been hired as a full time writer. And I just moved into my own place. It’s a lot to look back on. A lot to wonder if I’m making the right choices. The other night I went for a run in my new neighborhood. I was only about a mile in when I cam across a sunflower growing high over my head. I stopped for a second to stare up at it before continuing on my run. That’s all I needed. They always are.

One of the biggest things Amy taught me was that the life that seems so long now, can be a lot shorter than you think. When you stop moving forward, you run the risk of never reaching your end goal. The sunflowers that I see always remind me to stay in motion, throughout all of my decision. I’m not wasting any more of my time in neutral. Not when there is so much drive on this earth to keep me going. Amy never really left my life. She instead gave me motivation to live it.

This year on October 6th is the 7th Annual Amy’s Walk. The walk begins at 2pm at the last house on Boat House Row. You can find more information as well as the chance to donate to the American Brain Tumor Association at https://www.facebook.com/events/182832635221272/.

Sunday Wine

For me Sunday night always brings with it an unprovoked sense of unrest. I’m not always sure where it comes from, but I know this feeling can be traced all the way back to grade school. Then, I used to sit in my room and cry dwelling on the fact that another weekend was over, and another school week was about to start. Now, I sit in my room and drink. Tonight it’s a bottle of Yellow Tail’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It pairs well with this first night of Shark Week.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because these foul, once-every-7-days emotional visitors sometimes produce a night of constructive reflection. Whether it’s the dampened spirt or the wine that produces said constructive reflections, they’re always welcomed. Tonight’s centered around my return from Chile. Next Sunday will mark 2 months since I’ve returned home.  2 months of becoming reacquainted with Philadelphia.

Philadelphia from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge

Philadelphia from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge

At this point, I’ve seen the people that I missed. I’ve visited the spots that I missed. I’ve even eaten the pizza that I missed. Really, I’ve done everything that one would typically need to do to get back into the swing of things. The only thing is, I’m not back into the swing of things. And, I don’t want to be.

LIke the growing pile of dirty laundry on my bedroom floor, the mound that has been my life since coming home to the States has only gotten bigger as more time has gone by. I’ve added new friends. I’ve found (and lost) some new “more than” friends. I’ve even managed to lock down a new gig. I’m a hired junior copywriter now. I find myself on a train to Harrisburg 4 days a week working a job that I didn’t know existed 4 weeks ago. If you would have asked me at Santiago International airport 2 months ago what I saw myself doing for the rest of the summer, I would have probably said, “Netflix.” Now, I can tell you that I’ve actually been doing a lot. I attribute this to not quite finding “the swing of things.”

Evening Commute. Harrisburg to Philadelphia

Evening Commute. Harrisburg to Philadelphia

I’m most happy when I’m non-complacent. While complacency can be good for some, I personally find it decaying. I like feeling restless. It pushes me to be spontaneous. Something that has singlehandedly positioned me to be where I am today, both figuratively and literally. I’m always surprised when people tell me that they admire my determination. That they see me make goals, and then reach them. I can truthfully say, that I’ve never once sat down, stared out into the vast universe and professed to the heavens my new goal in life that I would attain no matter the trials. I instead wake up on some mornings and think, “I’m not happy. How can I change that?”

That exactly feeling resulted in my undergrad major change to Advertising. It lead to my semester in London. Pushed me out of the closet and in front of my friends and family for the first time. Persuaded me to quit everything here and move to Chile to teach English. Then persuaded me to quit everything in Chile and move back here to find a job. That feeling of unrest has done a lot in my life. It’s a feeling that I don’t want to lose. Staying out of the swing of things is an easy way to hold on to it.

Market Street

Market Street

I’m living the events in my life as they happen and at least for now it’s working out. I do what I want to make myself happy, not by what I’m told should make me happy from others. A “more than” friend once told me that he hated the word “should.” He felt as though it packed behind it a feeling of guilt. “You should call your dad more often.” “You should go to your friends show.” “You should do this, you should do that.” Our actions once performed out of guilt are no longer our actions. We’re not doing them because we want to, we’re doing them because we should. I didn’t understand him at the time, but looking back now I can see that he was right. If I listened to all of the things I should have done, I wouldn’t have done all the things I have done. I wouldn’t have met all the people that were out busy not doing the things that they should have been doing either. “Should” is a bad word. You do things because you want to. Or you don’t do them because you don’t. My decisions are mine. Sometimes my decisions even surprise me. But, it’s this surprise that is keeping life so…. surprising.

 

5 Last Things My Students Taught Me This Week – June 2nd

Week after week I’m the one standing in the front of the classroom, but week after week it’s my students who are surprising me with new lessons.

Here are the 5 things my students taught me this week:

  1. British English sounds cooler, but American English is okay.
  2. You MUST kiss the cheek and shake the hand of every student (All 250 of them) as you give your farewells.
  3. A “fake” Facebook for students is a no go. Friend them for real or the friendship is over.
  4. Leaving is okay. Just make sure you’re leaving behind a lesson just as valuable as the one you’re taking home.
  5. Never say adiós. It’s nos vemos.

It’s been great, Chile. Nos vemos.

Primero B

Primero B

Segundo CTP

Segundo CTP

Cuarto C

Cuarto C

Primero C

Primero C

2a

Segundo A

Segundo C

Segundo C

 

To see photos as they’re happening, follow me on Instagram @Mrthornbury or on Twitter @zachthornbury!

I’ll See You Soon

I’ll start by saying this: my time spent in Chile has been one of the most life-changing adventures I’ve experienced.

It’s also been the most difficult. But, not for the reasons you would think.

The teaching, I loved. Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are. “Zach, Zach Thornbury, not only tolerating children, but, finding enjoyment in teaching them?” The true answer is yes.

It’s because of this that the decision to end my time teaching English in Chile has not been an easy one to make.

There were bad days. There were days that made me wonder how anyone could find satisfaction in standing at the front of a classroom teaching a group that didn’t want to be taught. Battles of will with a student who simply would not put away their cellphone. Lesson plans that just simply fell flat.

But there were also good days.  Days that made me wonder how anyone could not find pride in standing in front of a classroom teaching a group that they could call “their kids.” Achievement showed not in test scores, but in hearing your favorite slang, phrases and expressions from home being said by students living a world away. 6pm after school English club meetings that students actually attended.

I was invited to a private student completo party.

I watched as my team took home 9th place at the debates.

I listened as my students argued which group’s day it was to go with Mr. Zach.

Like I said, the teaching wasn’t the difficult part. It was the reason I was here, yes. But, there is so much more involved in living the small town life in the south of Chile than I could ever write.

This is the point in which I’m supposed to defend my decision. But, I won’t.

Instead, I’ll say these three things:

To my fellow volunteers teaching English, Congratulations. On accomplishing what few in this world would ever even try. On taking on a responsibility not knowing how you would fulfill it. On devoting your time, effort and sometimes even sanity to a charitable act that rewards you in experiences gained. I knew some of you for only one day and others I’ve stood by since day one. We helped each other escape. We also helped each other go back to work. There’s one apartment in Philadelphia that has a bed waiting for you as soon as you’re ready to come home. I will miss you.  ❤

To my students, teachers, family and Chile, Thank You. For showing me there’s more to this world than my world. For doing your best to make me feel comfortable being uncomfortable. For lending me some lessons on modesty, independence and responsibility that I may just take out on loan with me back home. When I do think about this experience, I will think about these lessons, these experiences, that made icy showers and bread feast dinners worth it. Every country traveled leaves an imprint on the traveler. The one’s that we choose to live in just have more time to do so. I’m glad to return home with Chile’s.

And finally, to my friends and family at home, I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Chilean Flags from my students after a field trip to the arcade.

Chilean Flags from my students after a field trip to the arcade.

5 Things My Students Taught Me This Week – May 12th

Completo Party for El Día del Alumnos 2013

Completo Party for El Día del Alumnos 2013

Week after week I’m the one standing in the front of the classroom, but week after week it’s my students who are surprising me with new lessons.

Here are the 5 things my students taught me this week:

  1. Give respect, get respect.
  2. Pick a favorite football team and stick with it. (Colo Colo or La Un)!
  3. Always bring in more cups than you think you will need.
  4. “Cachai?” is the Chilean way to ask “Got it?”
  5. Dancing makes any lesson memorable.

To see photos as they’re happening, follow me on Instagram @Mrthornbury or on Twitter @zachthornbury!

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