Spotlight: The Beginning

The day I had been dreading all year finally came and passed in a montage of blue robes, family photos, and lots of wine. Although the PSU Liberal Arts ceremony was almost two and a half hours long, it felt shorter thanks to constant, sardonic texting with Kerri, my little B.A.Economist. After a couple painful hours, Chris came with my family to Spats for dinner where we had fabulous meals and I almost set the restaurant on fire. Luckily, I have reflexivos increíbles, and I smothered the flaming napkin before it matured to reach its potential.

After two bottles of wine and some créme brulee, Chris and I braved the pouring rain to find Candace and celebrate something a little less depressing than graduation: her 21st birthday! Finally. When we got to Candace’s, she was already celebrating with some of her best friends. The 21 year olds swept her away around 11:45, just in time to buy her first legal drink at the Phyrst. Basically the entire racquetball team was there in addition to room mates and close friends. As Candace has been my primary motivation for all underage appreciation nights in the last year, it was amazing to finally incorporate her into the world where you get to pay for your own drinks at any watering hole. She will learn quickly that it is expensive to be 21.

Although Candace was a hot mess most of Saturday night (for evidence, see photos on Facebook where she looks very much like a relapsing drug addict), she was impressively composed on Sunday morning for graduation brunch. My parents stayed in a friend’s house outside of town, so my friends accompanied me to brunch there, where we drank salty Bloody Mary’s, strong mimosas, and ate warm quiche and fruit. Well…I guess the mimosas weren’t very strong at first. About a half hour into the little gathering, my mom noticed that none of the champagne had been opened yet. As I was the designated bar tender, oddly enough the blame was quickly placed in my name. Who knew I was to mix the drinks myself and not just poor from a seemingly prepared pitcher? Once we got that straightened out, however, the morning progressed smoothly.

Saying goodbye to everyone was the worst. First was Grace, then Amy, then Candace. Shortly thereafter were the 604 girls, Alex, Libby, Lauren, and Lindsay. Tuesday I said goodbye to Michelle and Kerri on my way out of an empty apartment. Most of the drive home I cried, trying to keep it together so as not to further aggravate my already vulnerable driving habits.

When I finally had myself more or less composed, a serenade by Amy Winehouse was crassly interrupted with a very familiar set of circumstances: flashing lights, black and white sedan, and an obnoxious wailing siren. I glanced in disbelief at my speedometer, reading 72 mph. I’m getting pulled over for 72 in a 65? Really? The levee of tears broke before the officer even opened his car door. He approached my window with an air of self importance and a funny little state trooper hat. Despite my feminine charms, the merciless police officer was resolved to punish me as I was actually in a 55 zone. To ensure that I didn’t revert to my former, devilish ways, the devoted law enforcer proceeded to follow me at a pace of 54 mph for the next six miles, where the road subsequently turned to 65 mph. I had been so close to impunity, it was revolting.

When I got home, I spent the first night and day unpacking and organizing my room, and then of course, repacking for Chile. Lauren, Sara, and Emily came to keep me company, and we had so much fun telling stories and reminiscing until late in the evening. Wednesday morning came quickly and I found myself on a plane to North Carolina. Chris was waiting for me at the airport and when I stepped into the sun, I felt the frosty Pennsylvania spring thaw instantly. But then again, when Chris is around, I always get that feeling, so it may be completely unrelated to the weather. Corny, but true.

Chris had to work the next two days, but I had plenty to do. And by that I mean, I slept and went to the pool. A few days in the sun caused what I like to call a “rosy glow,” and others might call “sunburn,” but since I am going directly to another winter in Chile, I felt justified in the indulgence. We had most dinners with Chris’ roommate, Jared, and Jared’s girlfriend, Elizabeth. They were great additions to the good company of grilled steaks, burgers, veggies, and wine. One night we went out to a bar that Chris had been bragging about for months, called “The Saucer.” Every Wednesday the Saucer serves a specialty beer in a collectible glass. The beer that week was somewhat like a heiferweisen and it came in a pretty goblet that I ended up forgetting at Chris’ despite my determination to collect a Saucer cup of my own.

After a few tranquil days with Chris and an impossible goodbye, it was back to the madness of preparing for Chile and stomaching more of the same. As soon as I got back into Lancaster Saturday night, I met all the girls out for dinner at Annie Bailey’s, a restaurant and bar in Lancaster. We sat outside, braving the potential thunderstorm, and were entertained by good conversation, $2 pints of Blue Moon, and a live band. We had so much fun together and later in the evening many Lancaster loves came out to play.

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On Sunday, my mom kept asking me if I was nervous. I honestly thought I should be, but I wasn’t at all. I was just excited to meet new people, travel, and learn another language. I couldn’t wait for the confusion, the mishaps, the miscommunications that accompany traveling. But, most of all, I was excited to do something I am proud of—to give something, English—that actually has the power to improve the prospective opportunities of the next generation of Chileans.

When I had gone over my check list ten or twenty times, I finally felt prepared for departure.

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Published by

Kate Springer

Freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong. Contributor at CNN, Forbes Travel Guide, BBC Travel, Fodor's Travel Guide, superfuture, Tatler, and more.

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