Elyssa Garrett, United States

“The password. Can you give me the password?” repeated the alarm company lady on the other end of the line.

“Uhhhh. I don’t have it. It’s that…” I blurted into the phone, searching for the correct Spanish words and structure, “I’m trying to call the family…but I live here!”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes. Thank you!” She must have thought this was funny since the alarm was still blaring in the background.

We hung up. At least I now knew I had sufficient control of the Spanish language to defend myself against accusations of breaking and entering, but I was slightly concerned that it was so easy to bypass the security questions after the alarm had been tripped.

The alarm was still going off when I got a call from Laura, whom I had called as soon as the event began. “Hola, Elyssa! Cómo estai?”

“Bien, Laura! Pero uhhh..El alarmo {this is incorrect} está….no tuve la clave!”

She knew exactly what was going on. She had texted me earlier, “Call me before you get home!” I had [correctly] assumed that she had forgotten I was coming home early and had set the alarm when she left for work in the morning. On the way home, however, I got a call from Nacho. He asked me if I was on my way home and when I told him I indeed was, he said, “Okay, that’s all.” I assumed he and Laura had been communicating, so I figured the problem had been resolved. Nevertheless, I tried calling Laura before entering the home. She didn’t answer so I thought, “There’s no way they’d let me come home to a set alarm with no knowledge of how to turn it off. Nacho would have said something on the phone since he knew I was coming home…”

Not the case! I enter the home. There’s an immediate beep that indicates I have fifteen seconds to enter the code. I don’t know the code. No one ever gave me the code. WHAT IS THE CODE?? Any chance it’s the same one as my home in Florida? No? OKAY, S#*! I stand there, waiting for the inevitable: >>¡¡¡onomonopiac description of a tripped alarm!!!<<

There is literally nothing I can do but wait. Wait for what? I don’t know. A call from the alarm company? To be taken into custody by the Chilean police force? Should I RUN? I literally thought that: SHOULD I RUN? WILL THEY FIND ME IF I RUN? WILL THIS STOP IF I RUN? I did not run. Instead, I answered the phone: “I don’t have the password, but I live here!”

Laura gave me the code and I could finally stop the alarm. She told me that someone would call the house. I told her they already did and that I dealt with it, though I could not give them a security password. She said they’d probably just call Nacho to get it. I asked her if I had to worry about the police coming to the house, she assured me they wouldn’t come.

Feeling pretty good about how I handled the situation, I retreated upstairs to my room. As soon as I reached the top of the stairs, the doorbell rang. Wonderful, a visitor! I love company! I look out the upstairs window to see a man in uniform walking around the house. I SHOULD HAVE RUN. I rush back downstairs and open the gate for the man.

“**Something fast in Spanish**,” he says. I know what he wants. I DON’T HAVE THE PASSWORD, I sweetly convey to the nice man in the Federal Chile polo shirt with the Federal Chile truck parked behind him and the Federal Chile clipboard in his hands. I tried to explain that I was an exchange type person living in the house. I HAD FULL PERMISSION TO BE HERE but yeah, I tripped the alarm, sorry about that. Nope, I got the code but still not the password.

He asked me to write down the name of my host bros who own the house. They both have 4 names each and I could only remember two of them per person, so I wrote down the two I remembered. He then asked me to write down my own name and, under it, the number of my Chilean Identity card. “I don’t have that yet. I will next week, but not now.”

“Okay,” he said, “Then just write down your nationality.”

And there on the clipboard, under a long list of other names—who knows how many of them had also not been given the code by their host families– I wrote: Elyssa Garrett, United States.

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