Our daughter Katie Harbaugh talks about the rich Chile culture she enjoyed while growing up and living in Chile. Life in Chile is unique, as is the Chilean culture.
Harbaugh trades life in Chilean capital for rural life in South Mississippi
By: DeAnna Edwards, Staff Writer, Jones County Junior College Paper, Radionian
Most people say that Chile is an unforgettable country of great beauty, stunning nature and exciting experiences.
Katherine (Katie) Harbaugh, a pre-nursing student at Jones, got to experience this unique environment, Chile culture, first-hand while living in Chile for nearly 14 years. Harbaugh was born in Athens, OH. Her parents later felt a call to be missionaries, so they gladly accepted and moved to Texas to attend language school and learn Spanish.
When Harbaugh was six, she and her family…moved to Chile. The country seemed to welcome the family with open arms. “The people are extremely nice, and we were immediately immersed in the Chilean culture,” said Harbaugh.
As missionaries, the family started a church in their own home where Harbaugh’s father was the pastor. What started out as just a small gathering has grown immensely. There are about 50 people that attend on a regular basis [and they now meet in a rented facility]. Harbaugh’s father also trained the Chilean men to become leaders who have now taken over churches as pastors and elders.
When the family was finally settled in, Harbaugh quickly enrolled in a private school called Windsor School[this was in the beautiful southern city of Valdivia, about 15 minutes from the coast], but was home-schooled after three years because she and her siblings began to lose their English. “I didn’t learn how to read in English until I was ten years old because I did so well in Spanish, and nobody ever thought anything of it until we came back to the States to visit,” Harbaugh explained.
Although many Americans may think of living in Chile as being primitive compared to here, Harbaugh said that Chile actually has a lot of activities to offer. “Chile is full of fun stuff, especially with 4000 [kilometers] of coast line,” she said. “We went to the beach, hiked mountains and camped by waterfalls, and went to volcanoes and climbed on lava. We also played a lot of soccer and tennis. I played basketball on a city team for two years, and then I took Tae Kwon Do and Karate lessons.”
The family also traveled a great deal during their residency in Chile. They attended church camps and conferences in Uruguay and visited many extravagant places such as the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Every summer, Harbaugh went to the southern islands of Chile to do missionary work. During the time she was there, she and her friends hosted fun activities for children and [went] visiting people to tell them about God. “It really impacted my life seeing the need that there is,” Harbaugh said. “Many people had never heard the Gospel message. “There are around 33 islands in Chile – some with 900 people and others having only 30, and most of the islands don’t even have a church. “The people just live off the land by planting potatoes and eating a lot of seaweed and seafood. . .”
Two years ago, Harbaugh decided it was time to return to the States. She lived in Maryland for a year and attended Washington Bible College. The campus is located only 20 minutes away from Washington, D.C. and 30 minutes from Baltimore. She then moved to New Jersey and lived in Hoboken for a year, which is extremely close to New York City. Although she did not study in New Jersey, she had a few jobs and worked for an attorney as her personal assistant. She also found part-time work walking dogs.
Harbaugh’s parents made a similar decision and chose to return to the States this year for a transitional time so her younger siblings could go to an English high school. They were not sure where to relocate, but Harbaugh’s father had studied with Pastor Jerry Marcellino from Audubon Drive Bible Church in Laurel more than 20 years ago at Capital Bible Seminary in Maryland, and they have been very good friends ever since, so the church welcomed them with open arms. “The Lord really worked things out and we were able to move here mid August, and I was able to continue my education at Jones,” Harbaugh said. “I definitely like the weather better here than up north!”
Although the family is very happy with its new life in Mississippi, Harbaugh still misses her Chilean childhood and the Chilean culture. “The people are what I miss the most,” she said. “They just have something very welcoming and loving about them and my heart goes out to them. They are all so funny and friendly, and you feel welcome right away. Our church was like one big family. I also miss my view of the Andes. We lived in a valley and I took for granted having the mountains surrounding me.”
“Sometimes I do miss our Chilean food. They don’t eat a lot of spicy foods, but the cuisine is very exquisite. They eat a variety of great seafood, meats, vegetables, and baked goods. Mississippi and Chile have an extremely diverse culture. Although Mississippi is a little slower than some other states, Chile is more laid back. I think it has to do with the Chilean culture – people run on their own clocks, and you don’t need a car to survive because there is so much local transportation, such as subways, trains, buses, taxies, ferries, and a national airport.
“Chile is just a very advanced and stable country. The economy has prospered quite a bit, and all of the people are very hard workers.” Harbaugh would like to return to Chile some day, but for now, she has other plans.
“I love Chile culture and I wish I were there now,” Harbaugh said. “I try to go two times a year, but this year I went to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic instead.”
“I still have my permanent Chilean residency, but I had to write a letter to the Chilean embassy asking them to extend my stay in the States for another year without me losing my residency. Although I have not visited the country this year, I still chat and email my Chilean friends almost every single day. I call them sometimes, and they call me as well. I wish I could go for Christmas but tickets are very expensive. However, I might go back to visit this coming summer.”
Though she does not get to visit quite as often as she would like, Harbaugh still keeps up with the latest news and updates from her home country. She recently learned that Chile elected its first female president, and most people seem very happy with her.
Harbaugh plans to continue living here in Mississippi while she finishes at Jones. She is uncertain about were life will take her afterwards.
“I get restless after a while, and I start getting the urge to move or visit somewhere else,” she explained. “I will continue to live here a few more years, but I will definitely travel as much as possible.