Cata Tiene Dos Familias

By Katy McCollum

When I arrived here in Chile, one of the scariest parts of the first days was wondering how I would get along with my new family. It’s strange, leaving your own country and transplanting yourself into a brand-new family who doesn’t even speak your language. I had no idea what they’re expectations would be or if we would even like each other. At first it was a shock, the bio school had given me to tell me about the living situation wasn’t quite correct. I had been told I would be living with three adult women and one child, but upon my arrival I discovered that the reality was a little different. Not only do my two host sisters not live at home, but there is a host father who stays with us on the weekends who was NEVER mentioned at all. However, after I figured out how the family functioned, it was quite easy to assimilate into the family.

When I come home from school, I play with Bea, my host niece, until her mom finishes work and comes to take her home. She loves doing my hair and saying borderline creepy things, like “You’re going to die.” My host mom and I spend a lot of time together, because during the week it’s just the two of us. I call her Mamá, and she reminds me to wear my pantuflas when I’m downstairs, constantly in fear of me catching cold because I’m only wearing socks. She also calls me Cata instead of Katy, and laughs when I am mistaken for her real daughter when we go out shopping together, as I have red hair and the whitest of skin, while she has a typically Chilean appearance. My host dad only spends weekends in the house and he is a huge fan of quizzing me about myself and my family back in Iowa, most recently we talked about music and it ended with us listening to Fall Out Boy, and Panic at the Disco at the dinner table, and a request from my host dad to ask my real dad if he liked Cat Stevens or not. My other host sister lives in Chillan, and she comes to visit on the weekends sometimes. She loves shopping and always has some new article of clothing she found online that she’s swooning over.

My role in the family has recently taken another step, and for Mother’s Day, Bea and I (the “children” of the house) were sat down and given the news that my eldest host sister is going to be having another baby in 7 months. I think I was more excited than Bea. It’s crazy to think that at the beginning I was worried about how I would fit in with my Chilean family, and now it feels as though I’ve known them my entire life. I am so grateful that I have the family I do, and that they care for me and have helped me not to die while I figured out how to function in Chile.