The Kindness of Chileans

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Mira Diamond-Berman
December 9, 2023

As my time in Santiago comes to an end, I have been ruminating about what I will miss the most. Beyond the delicious sopaipillas (traditional Chilean fried pumpkin dough), musicians in the metro, reggaeton music at the discos (clubs), and fresh frutilla (strawberries) sold on the streets, the kindness of Chileans is one of a kind. I often use this story to exemplify Chileans’ generosity. I was running late to my class at 7:30 in the morning. A woman approached me as we were waiting under the bus stand and asked me, “Eres Chilena?” (“Are you Chilean”). “No,” I laughed, it must have been obvious I was a foreigner. Maybe my bright purple jacket gave me away. 

She proceeded to tell me that she can easily spot Americans as she was a host mom for American exchange students. In a few weeks, she told me, she will be hosting two new exchange students from California. She has a tradition of hosting “gringa dinner” every Tuesday where her students invite their American exchange friends over for dinner. She asked for my Instagram so she could invite me over for the next gringa dinner. 

Sure enough, a couple of weeks later I received a DM inviting me and a gringa guest of my choice to dinner. Part of me worried if it was safe to go to dinner at the house of a random woman I met at a bus stop, but I saw she was tagged in photos of other American exchange students. She was a legit host mom. 

So, I came over for gringa dinner and brought a postre (dessert) and I continued to come over every Tuesday, sometimes bringing a friend as well. I became friends with the students that lived with her along with their friends who they invited to dinner. The host mom told us she liked hosting students for dinner because her kids had moved out of the house and she missed talking to young people. I continued to see the host mom periodically at the bus stop as she was my neighbor—she lived just a block down the street from me. 

Another early morning, I was running late to university. I unknowingly had a bit of oatmeal from breakfast on my shirt when I arrived at the bus stop at the same time as my neighborhood host mom. She noticed the oatmeal on my shirt and offered me a tissue to wipe it off. Moments like these made me realize how much I would miss the Chilean generosity. Even though my family was far away in the U.S., I managed to make my own sort of family in Chile through a random stranger at a bus stop. The kindness of Chileans always struck me, especially their welcomeness towards foreigners. At my college in the U.S., there is often little effort to include international students. Although I have to leave the generosity of my Chilean friends soon, I can bring the kindness that they taught me back to the U.S. 

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Mira Diamond-Berman

Hi! I'm Mira and I'm a Chemistry major at Grinnell College! love taking my dog on long walks and binging a good book. When traveling, I love going on runs to explore new places.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Grinnell College
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