Fourth year in Chile

I realized yesterday that it was the first day of my fourth year living in Chile: it has been three years since I arrived in Santiago, riding high on hopes of building something meaningful in a country that I knew (or expected) to be full of needs and opportunities. It is a good time for looking back, and maybe the first time in three years that I take the time to do it calmly and in writing. Time to share it too: the few previous times when I thought about doing so, I feared to be too negative and did not dare share my thoughts in writing. I feel more objective now: you be the judge.

My first thoughts were negative: I did even less world-changing than usual. I did not manage to reach students the way I (think I) reached them back in Waterloo or Orsay, I did not manage to start the "boot strapping database" project (even though I "started" working on it with three distinct group of people), I did not finish writing by never-ending clarification/encyclopedia of adaptive algorithms. At the end of the first year I was feeling like I was "always sick". At the end of the second year I knew it to be true: my digital journal showed that my digestion was playing tricks on me roughly every two weeks, for events of one to five days. At the end of the third year, I know not to trust specialist doctors whose salary depends on telling you that your problem is of their specialty, and that I should indeed masticate better and not eat while walking from office to office.

The second thought, discovered and rediscovered in all ages, is that if I did not change the world, at least I changed myself: I knew it to be common for people with ideals when they start traveling, but I thought I had gone through this already when I moved from France to Canada and lived there for seven years. I learned Spanish. I learned a lot of psychology and physiology, a bit of neurology, of organization, and of diplomacy (for dealing with wild stray dogs and Chilean administrative staff). I learned that systems badly flawed can still work ok. I learned to manage my time even better than I manage my money, to invest more time implementing good ideas than having them, how to depend less of my environment, and to take less for granted. Once ashamed to reinvent myself in my thirties, I decided instead to be proud of the flexibility of my mind, half-way to my forties :)

Will it be, should it be, my last year in Chile? Ever since I left Normandy, I never lived very long in any place: 5 years in Orsay, 2 in Vancouver, 5 in Waterloo. But I learned to ignore such symbolism: I will stay if I find things of interest to do here, and I will go if I find more interesting things to do elsewhere. In any case, I have relearned to find happiness in what I do rather than in what I see, and will take this knowledge anywhere I go.
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