S: Grace's travel blog Santiago, Chile January - July 2011
BC: Merry Christmas Grace 2011 I love you, Mom
FC: Travel with Grace excerpts from her blog Santiago, Chile January - July, 2011
1: If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromised. Instead, set no limits because limits only exist in the mind.""" -Robert Fritz I'm a student. Writer. Explorer. Food, drink, and music enthusiast. Lover of tacos, traveling, and all things tenacious. I'm wrapping up my sixth month in Santiago, Chile, remembering my past experiences fondly in the present. Currently in Santiago, Chile.
2: 14th Jan 2011 2 things Chileans love Disclaimer: the Chilean keyboard is different than what I am used to. I can't figure out how to make certain symbols for example, I have to google the @ sign and then copy/paste because I don't know where its located on the keyboard apologies for any miscommunications! 2 things?..Patience and naps. I was in much need of the latter after landing in Santiago at 9:30 local time (6:30am Chicago/Omaha time). I was greeted at the airport by my host madre Marcela with a smile and open arms. We went home, I unpacked and ate a quick lunch before settling into one very long siesta (nap!). Everything runs a little slower around here. This is where the patience comes in. People take a lot of naps, and wander around at the grocery store for hours, and hang out and chat before getting down to any serious business. Some ladies came over last night so I could sign a housing contract and ended up staying for over an hour. They were just laughing and telling stories with my host mom while enjoying juice and bread. First major difference? Temperature. It is summer here, mornings are cool but by 11am its no different than an afternoon in July, except did I mention there is no humidity? That took no time getting used to. All the confidence I ever had about my spanish went down the drain real fast after stepping off the plane. Chileans talk extremely fast, and drop the “s” off of the end of words. I have caught myself giving my host family a lot of blank stares and I have perfected the art of raising my eyebrows in confusion, but usually I just laugh and say “si” as if I understand the jibberish they are spewing out. This morning we went to the university for orientation. Its a beautiful place. All of the buildings are old, and there are trees and flowers everywhere. I could spend the entire 6 or 7 months just wandering the courtyard and practicing my spanish with the locals who couldn't stop staring at us. I'm extremely overwhelmed by the people, the language, the way my host mom walks around with no pants on because of the heat, the weather, the way people greet each other with kisses rather than handshakes, the uncertainties of what comes next, and the apathy to figure it out and confidence to let things fall into place. I miss you all, hope you're surviving without me!
3: And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. | 16th Jan 2011 the first weekend A few more differences that I have picked up on over the first few days 1. Gas stations. You pull up and park, stay in the car until your personal gas pumper comes out and does the job for you. Pie! 2. Swim suits, and by swim suits I mean lack thereof. My host family took me to a neighborhood pool yesterday (where I proceeded to fry in the sun after 10 minutes) and I couldn't help but notice that women wear very little to cover up. Typical bikini tops, and thongs on the bottom. I got some weird looks for having what I thought was a normal swimsuit. My host mom even tried to tuck the edges of my bikini bottom into my butt so that I'd fit in... 3. The metro system here is wonderful. Better than the el in Chicago. Its modern and fast and safe. Because of the heat, there are these huge vents that spray water mist every couple of seconds to cool off. Last night I went to a couple of pubs with some friends. It was a success other than trying to call a taxi to go home. We called and tried to tell the taxi the address of where I needed to go. There was a huge miscommunication as the taxi went to my house rather than where I was, and the driver ended up waking my host mom up asking where Grace Hotz was. It all worked itself out but was an embarrassing way to start the weekend...
4: 18 January 2011 Exploring > Classes Although I guess I am learning a few things. in the classroom and out. Yesterday I started class at La Universidad Alberto Hurtado. I'm just taking one spanish intensive/get-to-know-the-culture-and-history-of-Chile class and the schedule is as unpredictable as the country itself. We had a pre-test and jumped right into class. There are 3 parts: poetry and grammar (shoutout to Marcela Brusa!), culture and history, and short stories. Classes aren't too long but by the end my brain is spinning in circles after hearing, comprehending and trying to speak so much Spanish. I'm picking up new words like crazy though. After class today, my friend Laura and I went to San Cristobal Mountain. We had some initial problems finding the mountain and thought to ask someone on the street. Ended up with a military student walking us 10 or 12 blocks to the base it was a little awkward when he asked for our email addresses or facebook names, and I told him we didnt have them eh, at least we got there. We took train/ski-lift car to the top and we were able to see the entire city, take pictures all while roasting in the sun! We tried to hike back down and ended up getting a little lost (seems to be a reoccuring theme here) but eventually found where we needed to go. My host family is awesome. My mom cooks fairly healthy which I like (assured me 5 separate times that the salmon she cooked for dinner was fresh and not from a can). Shes been giving me some advice about where to travel to, our first trip is to the coast this weekend I cant wait! xoxo
5: 20th Jan 2011 1 down, 23 to go Hard to believe that I have spent a week in Santiago! That being said, today marks the day that I’ve acquired. the internet. Adiós stealing WiFi from the neighbors and spending time at my friend Michelle’s house just to use her internet (although I can’t promise I won’t be back there to mooch of her host mom’s delicious cooking). The week has been filled with classes, more confused looks (however, they’re declining each day), exploring the city and making new friends. Yesterday my class traveled to ‘La Vega’, this huge farmers’ market in the center of the city. Fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and spices lined the streets as we tried to take it all in. I was lucky enough to try my first cazuela, a traditional Chilean stew and it filled me up for hours.
6: 24th Jan 2011 First weekend trip Who knew that salmon and pineapple was the perfect combo lunch after the 2 hour bus ride to Valparaíso? We all had some reservations while pulling up to this seaport town on Saturday morning, with the clouds looking like the furthest thing from “Paradise Valley” as the name literally translates. Our two-course lunch was served, and with it, our worries disappeared. The sun broke through the clouds somewhere between the second glass of wine and dessert and we were on our way. We took a tour of one the houses of Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda. The view was beautiful, looking out over the city and the ocean. Afterwards we checked out the neighborhood.
7: Traveling with 22 gringos makes it nearly impossible not to stand out. It took us a half hour to find our hostel (seemed to be right in front of us in the first place), and once we were settled in began to distract (disturb? eh) the other residents. We made friends with the Swedish couple next door and a 37-year-old French man, Silvan, who came to dinner and out to a club with us. (on ze right) | We hit the beach in Viña del Mar Sunday for some much needed rest and relaxation and caught a late bus home. When I got back, I met my host brother Javier for the first time and worked on some homework. I forgot about the “studying” part of “studying abroad” but the library closes at 6:00, so I guess we’re on the same page.
8: Adventure is a path. Real adventure self-determined, self-motivated, often risky forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white. --Mark Jenkins
9: 30 Jan 2011 Riding in cars with Chileans Sample script for a new screenplay, called Riding in Cars with Chileans: “Ir! Ir! Más! Más! Derecho? No a la derecha!” Good to know that there is actually a significant difference between derecho and derecha last night, my friend Sammy and I got a ride home from one of our Chilean friends. He needed help finding my house once we were in the neighborhood. It would have been very helpful to know that there is a very significant difference between the Spanish word “derecho” (straight) and “derecha” (right). Every time he asked “derecho?” I was under the impression that he was asking if he should take a right. Of course, my Spanish failed me and I gave up on conjugating verbs, yelling “ir!” (to go). Ten sudden stops in the middle of the road later we arrived at my house. Good job. On the other hand, yesterday someone asked for for directions to the metro stop, and what do you know? I sent them in the right direction. Win some, lose some. Days here are long (sometimes the wake up call is 8am after falling asleep a mere 4 hours before) but the past week has flown by. School and homework are occupying me during the week, not to mention daily lunch ventures, travel plans, and field trips to possible service sites for my upcoming Poverty and Development class. Yesterday I climbed Santa Lucia, a mountain located smack dab in the middle of the downtown area. The top overlooks the city, and there are fountains and beautiful architecture from the 1800s.
10: The last week has been full of surprises in the kitchen. I tried my first sopapillas, pieces of fried bread with the choice of salsa, ketchup, mustard, and other tasty toppings (20 cents a pop). My host mom has been giving me sandwiches for breakfast in the morning, and by sandwich I really mean double-deckers that satisfy hunger for a significant part of my day... | As of tomorrow, I have 10 more days of class until the 2.5 week break in February for traveling. I successfully booked a ticket to Punta Arenas, Chile, where we will trek to the Southern-most tip of the world! From there, we plan to bus back North hitting the cities of Torres del Paine, Puerto Montt, Osomo, Puerto Varas, and Pucón. We are going to save Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru for long weekends (which will be every weekend, as my class schedule is looking to be 3 days a week) during the semester. Something else: Lollapalooza has followed me to Santiago. The lineup was announced a few days ago http://lineup.lollapalooza.cl/
11: 5th Feb 2011 I’ve finally settled into somewhat of a daily routine, which is great considering classes end and vacation starts next Friday and everything will change. I’m not complaining though, 3 weeks of traveling around some of South America’s most scenic cities doesn’t sound like too rough of a life. The last week has been filled with Spanish literature, hours (and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours) of travel planning, daily lunches at my favorite spot Naturista, and a growing relationship with my host mother, Marcela, who, at 65, is the one keeping me young. I’m suffering a major coffee withdrawal here. The ‘coffee’ served here is called “nescafe” and is the equivalent to coffee-flavored Nesquick (that powdery stuff we used to stir into milk to make it chocolatey) Although in the last week, I have stumbled across a few Starbucks, being sure to order one very large cafe del día. I’ve been here for over 3 weeks, and have started to acquire several favorite Chilean things. Topping the list is the fresh mint leaves that I drop into my daily cup of tea for flavor. Mmmm. I’ve adapted shockingly well to la hora latina everyone here runs about an hour late, all of the time. Leaving at 2:00 turns into leaving at 3, and there’s no hassle about it. Relaxation. Last, I’ve discovered the gmail function that lets you call US numbers for free from your computer. Today I got a chance to catch up with my mom and best friend Gracie. Yeee! *shoutout* I’m slowly but surely making Chilean friends. Last week I went to a barbeque with my host sister and her friends, practicing spanish while stuffing my face with fresh tomato-avacado dip. Mm. Last night, too, we had some locals showing us the ropes of Chilean nightlife. Now it’s 10:36 on a Saturday night and I’m going to bed. Very unlike me, but this week has been so busy, and I need to catch up on sleep. Tomorrow morning I’m going to a yoga class that my host mom teaches at the foot of a mountain. Hoping to find my Chilean zen, or whatever. We’ll be in touch, blog. Ciao.
12: 10th Feb 2011 3 week vacation to celebrate a 3-credit class Today marked the last day of my January class, and the start of my 3 week vacation. Nothing says celebration more than an adventure up, down, and around Patagonia— swerving in between Chile and Argentina, from the glaciers in the Southern-most tip of the continent to volcano climbing in the North. To say I’m excited is the world’s biggest understatement. This is what I have been waiting for since before applying for this program! Tomorrow we take off I think we’re all excited that all of our planning will finally pay off. | Where did we leave off last time? I’m getting worse and worse at this blog thing, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering me because instead of documenting my days I am enjoying them in the present. Sunday was the Superbowl. Every American that I know down here seemed to end up at the same bar airing the game (with a menu in English, ha). Rivals sat on opposite sides of the table, while I played Switzerland at the head drowning my sorrows in Chicken Teriyaki sandwiches (only because they didn’t air real Superbowl commercials) The week went fast. Four days of school, lots of travel shopping/planning/stress, the city’s first rain since we’ve been here (refreshingly nice as it cooled the weather down from the normal 100 degrees), and lots of quality time with my host mom. If you would have asked me a month ago about my host family, I probably would have predicted that by this time, I’d be best friends with my 26-year-old host sister, not my 65-year-old host mom. But this lady is the world’s brightest gem. So many times I have found myself laughing to the point of tears at the things she does and says. She’s caring without being over-bearing, and has a laid back attitude that makes dinner conversation run smoothly,whether it be about religion, what we did that day, or the medicinal remedies of beets (yep, it happened).
13: The language continues to be the biggest obstacle, but I’m definitely improving. I’ve realized that in order to allow myself to learn, I have to stop listening to every single word and focus on understanding the general idea of what people are saying. It’s also been hard to stop thinking while I talk. It sounds weird, but grammatically correcting my speech takes too much time, and people usually understand what I’m saying, even if I’m screwing up gender agreements or verb tenses. I eat about 3 peaches a day, and Google Translate is my #1 most-visited website. Today after 2 tests and a 5 page paper, my teacher took the group out for lunch. It was hectic with 23 people, but was some nice bonding time before we jet off to different parts of the continent for 3 weeks. We all decided to try one of the famous Chilean drinks the terremoto. Literally translated as “earthquake”, this drink strives to leave you, and the ground, feeling very shaky after you’re done drinking it.
14: 3rd Mar 2011 Young and wild and free, Patagonia! Where to begin? I didn’t do the best job keeping up with a blog or journal during my 3 week vacation that came to a successful end last night, but can you blame me? I was lucky enough to experience some of the most beautiful things in the world alongside 6 people who I can now easily call some of my best friends. Punta Arenas, Chile February 11 we left Santiago and flew into Punta Arenas. Our flight was delayed (we soon realized this would be more common than departing on time) but we arrived in the city a little after midnight ready for a good night’s rest in the airport. With our next bus leaving at 8:00 am to Ushuaia, Argentina, we decided to save the cash and crash on the airport cafe floor. We took turns staying awake to watch over our bags, and figured we’d be okay as our bus ride the next day was supposed to be 12 hours. “Supposed to” being the key word. Two hours after getting on the bus, it broke down in the middle of nowhere. We had no food or water for the 4 hour delay, but made friends with some traveling Isrealis who helped pass the time.
15: Ushuaia, Argentina After the “12” hour bus ride, we finally arrived in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. The next morning we hiked Glacier Martial, choosing the difficult trail in hopes of preparing ourselves of what was ahead. We had fresh mariscos (seafood) for lunch, and began the afternoon with a boat tour of the Beagle Channel. The views were incredible, and we were able to get out on an island to explore around and take pictures. The other days we were there we explored the city, went hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park, made dinners in our hostel, and spent the nights in Dublin Bar, known for being the Southernmost Irish bar in the world.
16: El Calafate, Argentina We arrived in El Calafate on the night of the town’s birthday and got a quick bite at a celebration festival, set up our tent at a campsite, and went to bed. The next morning we went to see Glacier Moreno. It was huge! | Puerto Natales/Torres Del Paine, Chile Next stop was Puerto Natales for a night, gearing up for our 4 day adventure in Torres Del Paine Natural Park. This was my favorite part of the trip. We hiked every day, and the views from the top were the only thing pushing our incredible tired bodies lasting off of pasta and peanut butter (not together, but you catch my drift) I wore one shirt the entire time which was really gross, and I felt bad for my tentmates every night until they took their shoes off, and then I felt just as bad. As great as the trek was, we were all thankful to hit the showers when we got to our next hostel.
18: Bariloche, Argentina We stopped in a couple of port towns on the way to Bariloche, making this city much more appealing. We rented bikes to see the city from a new point of view, which turned out to be one of the most beautiful views of the trip. Later that day, we climbed Cerro Campanario (to think we had energy after a 17 mile bike ride of mostly uphills) but it was well worth the climb seeing as National Geographic ranked it in the Top 10 Views of the World. Our hostel was cooking a barbeque when we got back, which was exactly what we needed after a long day of hardcore exercise.
19: Pucón, Chile Pucón was the perfect place to end the vacation. It is home to several outdoor sports, and we took full advantage. The 7 of us went white water rafting which included the chance to cliff jump (of course each raft could only house 6 people, and I got stuck with 2 Chileans, a British couple, and a man who spoke neither English nor Spanish but fun nonetheless). After the long rafting trip we went to the hot springs to relax. The next day I went paragliding, telling that fear of heights of mine to calláte (shut up). We stayed in a cabin, which, even without hot water, was super relaxing and a great way to round out the last few days.
20: Why should I think of myself as being an Argentine, and not a Chilean, and not an Uruguayan. I don't know really. All of those myths that we impose on ourselves and they make for hatred, for war, for enmity are very harmful. Well, I suppose in the long run, governments and countries will die out and we'll be just, well, cosmopolitans
21: 11th Mar 2011 Santiago and sustainability Going green is tricky business here, with the exception of the queasy feeling after a long night out (KIDDING!) With over 7 million people living in Santiago (more than half of the population of the entire country), there is certainly enough pollution being enerated, but I’m not experiencing the same kinds of sustainable efforts as I do in the United States. | There’s a high level of air pollution, which can be easily spotted covering the otherwise perfect backdrop of the city. Recycling is rare, almost non-existent, although I did meet a man with a recycling tattoo on my vacation and proceeded to call him ‘hermano’, but that’s another story As much as I cringe throwing everything in the trash, I’ve realized that there is a certain mentality that’s refreshing and far more sophisticated than anything in the U.S. For starters, many families grow some of their own food. Tea leaves, grapes and lemons are dangling outside of my window every morning when I wake up. My host mom buys our fruits and vegetables at a local fereria instead of at the supermarket. We eat foods that are in season here, and I’ve been told when winter hits, the food will change. This cuts down transportation pollution impacts, and aside from being healthier, are the tastiest fruits and veggies I’ve ever eaten. For starters, many families grow some of their own food. Tea leaves, grapes and lemons are dangling outside of my window every morning when I wake up. My host mom buys our fruits and vegetables at a local fereria instead of at the supermarket. We eat foods that are in season here, and I’ve been told when winter hits, the food will change. This cuts down transportation pollution impacts, and aside from being healthier, are the tastiest fruits and veggies I’ve ever eaten.
22: I know I’ve mentioned this, but the Santiago metro system is incredibly reliable. Chileans definitely use this to their advantage. My family has a car, but only uses it on a strictly-need-to basis. My host sister takes the bus to work and school, and I could probably count the number of times that the car hasn’t been parked in the driveway. Walking is common as well. Chileans are rather frugal, choosing wisely where to spend their money. Houses are small but quaint, and there is not a lot of excess. They have what the need, sometimes a little more or a little less. Of course, there are upper class neighborhoods, but even so, aren’t as ridiculous as some back home. They find uses for everything and don’t buy something new unless they need it. We hang our clothes to dry outside in the sun, and always turn off unnecessary lights. Air conditioning and heating systems don’t exist in most homes and buildings, unless they are internationally owned. Perhaps it’s because Chileans live near and have access to some of the most incredible environments in the world, or because they are somewhat less developed than the U.S., or because of history. For whatever reason, I think Chileans have, fundamentally, what a lot of Americans lack. We can recycle or shop organically at Whole Foods, but until we give up year round bananas and personal cars, we are just as bad, if not worse, than the situation here.
23: 13th Mar 2011 Encounters to remember The transition from vacation back into my 80-degree, beso-greeting, dinner-eating at 10pm days has been easy. And by easy, I mean it’s almost as if I never left. Last Sunday my Chilean family celebrated my host brother Javier’s birthday. Some other family members came over for what I thought was going to be a typical birthday celebration- dinner, maybe some presents, and dessert. I quickly learned that in Chile, the emphasis is on dessert. A poorly prepared cake is the greatest way to insult someone. Dinner barely matters (we had sandwiches), and the birthday boy could have cared less about presents (my host mom gave him cologne, which he accidently left sitting on the counter as he left). My host mom spent 6 hours preparing the cake, made with 2 pounds of raspberries and 32 candles on top. Everyone had at least two pieces, still leaving plenty leftover for me to enjoy as a snack this week. Tuesday night, some friends and I decided to go out in hopes of celebrating Mardi Gras. We quickly realized that although 90% of people here are Catholic, “martes gordo” does not exist. We were able to celebrate International Women’s Day, however, getting 20% off at tables of only women obviously kicking our guy friends to a separate table. Thursday was my first official day of class, and my schedule is as follows: Tuesday 4:30-5:50 Poverty & Development Wednesday 10-12:50 Social and Political History of Latin America II Thursday 3-4:20 Poverty & Development Friday 10-12:50 Poetry and Society
24: After school Thursday, I went to an asado (barbeque) at the house of some friends we met while hiking in Torres del Paine National Park. We were a little shocked at the methods to starting a grill here included a hairdryer, but nonetheless, the food was delicious and free! I had plans to go to the beach this weekend, but after the earthquake in Japan, a tsunami alert was issued for the Western coast of Chile (which happened to be exactly where we were going). I stuck around Santiago instead, but hope to go next weekend. Friday night I went to my friend Ceci’s host house for a going away party for her host sister who will be doing service work in Haiti for the next year. We enjoyed homemade tomales, accompanied with tomatoes with basil, and of course, desserts desserts desserts! Yesterday I saw Cisne Negro (Black Swan) with my host mom at the movie theatre, anticipating a dubbed version of the English movie. Unfortunately, the movie was in English, and had Spanish subtitles. I had a good time following the Spanish subtitles, though, noticing that they fail to include certain x-rated words we have in the English language 9:45, time for dinner. Until next time!
25: 21st Mar 2011 The Bucket List Sitting on the beach on the coast of Viña del Mar this weekend, my friend Michelle and I started talking about things we still want to accomplish during our time here. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, we were comparing bucket lists. Michelle, being the journalist-major, blogs-everyday, organizes-all-of-our-trips-here type of girl, had a clear picture of her list, everything from celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary to skiing in the Andes with her godmother. I’ve always had things that I’ve hoped to do before I kick the bucket, but never have taken the time to sit down and write a clear and concise list. As I started scribbling, I realized how lucky I am to be in Chile, how blessed my life is, and how many of my “must-do’s” have been done during my time studying abroad. Of course I added 30 more (why stop now?). Some of my “before I die” hopes include riding a mechanical bull, making my own sushi rolls, and traveling to Greece. The beach weekend was great. Between naps on the beach, we met travelers from the UK, Colorado, and Costa Rica. I bought a bracelet inscribed “GRACIELA” which is what I’ve officially changed my name to, as the ‘Grace’.. ‘Cris?’ ‘GRACE’ ‘huh? Cris?’ conversation was getting a little old every time I met someone new.
26: I haven’t missed many material things from home, however this week the cravings came hard. Pickles and sushi were in some sort of twisted competition for my affection. I tried satisfying my sushi desire not once but twice in Santiago, but was extremely let down as the rolls were bland and dry. I gave it a go once more this weekend on the coast (figured this might be a bit more promising) and was finally satisfied! So much that I proceeded to eat it two days in a row. Pickles, on the other hand, don’t seem to exist. I’ve looked in grocery stores and mini marts, even hit Subway for the non-preferred sliced version, but NADA! My uncle’s ex-wife read of my pickle dilemma and informed me that her friend owns a restaurant down here and that he could help me find some pickles. Stay posted...
27: 21st Mar 2011 There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction Salvador Dali
28: 28th Mar 2011 Bienvenidos a mi vida My host mom has four children. Valentina is the youngest and lives with us. Next is Javier, Sebastian, and the oldest, Loreta. Loreta is married to an American man, Eric, and they have a son, Max. Eric’s mom was in Santiago for a few weeks visiting, and we went over to their apartment last Saturday to visit and spend some time before she left to go back to the states. Because Eric’s mom has been here (and doesn’t speak a word of Spanish), my host mom has been trying to learn a few English words in order to converse with her. Marcela will come to my door and say “to eat lunch!” when the food is ready, and proceeds to ask me how to say every item on the table. When we got to Eric and Loreta’s apartment on Saturday, it was comical watching the two grandmas trying to talk, turning to me, Eric, or Loreta for comfort with looks of confusion. Eric was translating, until him and his wife left to go grocery shopping. Marcela, Javier, Eric’s mom, Max, and I were left. I started playing translator as best I could between the languages. My spanish has improved, and I could understand both languages, but on the spot it was tough to go back and forth. Neither party seemed to notice, and I was feeling pretty good about my helpfulness. I could see the same struggle in their faces that I have been experiencing well, about every day since being in Chile. As we were walking home, Javier told me that he was very confused talking to Eric’s mom. Marcela told me the only words she recognized were “thank you” and “goodbye.” I couldn’t help myself, suddenly blurting out “Bienvenidos a mi vida” welcome to my life. I was extremely impressed with the initiative my 65-year-old host mom took to learn even a few words of a language that is completely foreign to her in order to communicate with Eric’s mom. Every day for the last couple of weeks, she had 10 English vocabulary that she tried to remember. From the other side, Eric’s mom didn’t seem to know any words in Spanish. Marcela was cheerfully shouting, “cooking!” as Eric’s mom grilled vegetables on the stove, and gave Max a high five as the “winner!’ of his board game.
29: Otherwise, the week has been low-key as I’m settling into classes and the mountain of reading that comes with them. Forty pages a week isn’t much, in English but with the added Spanish factor, it takes me a lot longer than I’m used to. There was another 3-point something earthquake tremor last night, but I slept through this one (imagine that). Thursday I’ll be starting my service project that coincides with my Poverty and Development class at Colegio José Antonio Lecardos, a grade school in the Northeast region of the city, about an hour commute from my house. I’ll be acting as a teacher’s aid, helping create fun and interactive learning games, and whatever miscellaneous tasks he or she needs. This project will continue until July 1. I have a lot to look forward to during the month of April! I have some trips and festivals planned, and lucky you will get to read all about them. Besos! | 4th Apr 2011 Festival Weekend Sleeping in until noon this morning was highly appreciated after the weekend’s events. Another morning of dragging my beat-up, muddy feet out of bed before the crack of dawn and I think they would have given out on me. Classes were cancelled Friday on account of a party. The university rented out a campground in Cajón del Maipo, a river valley town an hour or so Southwest of Santiago, and organized buses to and from the site all day for students. The sun greeted us when we stepped off the bus, and we enjoyed live music, dancing, swimming, BBQ, and the chance to meet and converse with other students of Alberto Hurtado.
30: My friends and I spent a lot of time getting to know Chilean students who are studying to become English teachers. They helped us with Spanish, and we corrected their broken English. We figured we were on the same level of speaking, and it helped to have people patient enough to hold conversation and correct our mistakes. Saturday morning, I was up bright and early for day one of Lollapalooza, a music festival based in Chicago that traveled internationally this year following me to Santiago. We stood in the extremely unorganized and chaotic will-call line for an hour and a half before getting our tickets. Fourteen hours later, I was fighting for a spot on the crowded metro home, comparing details of the day with my friends and gearing up for day two.
31: Sunday offered a little more empathy, spending 12 hours on my feet opposed to 14, but the quality was just as good. I saw Javiera Mena, 311, Chico Trijullo, The Flaming Lips, Sublime with Rome, 30 Seconds to Mars, and my favorite show of the weekend Kanye West. | Day 1: Los Bunkers, Denver, Steel Pulse, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Empire of the Sun, Fatboy Slim, The Killers
32: 5th Apr 2011 Enjoying the care package my sorority sent me while missing home- Omaha and Chicago! Thinking of you all today.
33: 6th Apr 2011 Hump day snacks Coming home after a long day of classes on Wednesdays always lifts my spirits. I’m greeted with a fresh new supply of fruits and vegetables for the week after my host mom goes to the farmer’s market.
34: 12th Apr 2011 Where are we? The conventional phrase ‘the early bird catches the worm’ became far too familiar this weekend. With two wake up calls at 4 a.m., and the other two around 8, I caught a lot more than worms in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama. No matter where we were, or what time of day it was, the same question kept creeping up “Where are we?!” The desert was, for lack of a better word, deserted. The isolated tranquility added a mysterious factor to our excursions, leaving us with breathtaking views and lingering questions about how, and why, it all existed in such remote places. We arrived in Calama, Chile, Friday morning and took a bus about an hour and a half West to the city of San Pedro. We took tours of two desert valleys, Valle del Muerte and Valle de La Luna, ran down a steep sand dune, explored natural caves, and had the chance to star gaze at one of the clearest skies in the world.
35: Saturday we took an all day of a salt salar, including an oasis gorge, a small town, and two lagoons. We saw a bunch of flamingos at the salt salar.
36: Sunday morning we took a tour of a rainbow valley. The mountains are different colors depending on the minerals that make them up. The red are from iron, green from copper, etc. We had a short break for lunch and a nap and headed out to Laguna Cejar, a lake of 9.9% salt (more than the Dead Sea). We could easily float without effort. Afterwards, we cliff dove into the Ojos de Salar, two giant holes that go 2,000 meters into the ground filled with water. No one knows how they got there, but the fresh water was entertaining for swimming. We finished the day touring the white Salar de Tebenquinche, a huge salt bed with a thin film of water. The pictures look like we are walking on water!
37: Monday was an early one. Another morning awake before 5 a.m., we had the chance to see natural geysers and swam in hot springs. Afterwards, the tour guide surprised us and took us to a prohibited (loose word here, apparently) volcano, with active craters spitting magma into the air. We were only allowed in the area for 5 minutes because of the amount of sulfur in the air.
38: 19th Apr 2011 ABCs of Santiago My good friend Michelle’s mom and brother are visiting Santiago for the holiday. Last night, she invited me and some friends over to their hotel to meet her family, have some drinks, and hear about their first impression of South America. And today, while sitting in my Poverty and Development class and focusing as hard as I could on the video we were watching without volume (typical South America), I couldn’t help but make a packing list for my upcoming trip to Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Between hearing the “odd norms” from Michelle’s family, and planning for the differences I may encounter in two new countries this week, I got to thinking: Are there abnormalities in Santiago that I’ve become accustomed to without realizing it? So I made a list. The basics of Santiago if you will, and the things I’ve incorporated into my daily routine, as familiar as brushing my teeth and washing my hair. A is for avocado or “palta” as they call it in Santiago. Palta is everywhere on bread with breakfast, acting as salad dressing at dinner. It’s cheap, common, and accompanies just about every dish at any given restaurant. B for Bellavista, a young neighborhood in Santiago, most relevant in my life as it houses streets filled with my favorite bars and night clubs. C ¿Cachai? Cachai is a Chilean slang word that translates to, “get it?” It’s a top 5 most used word between my host family, teachers, and Chilean friends. D is for dogs, dogs, dogs. Wild dogs are EVERYWHERE in Santiago! I can’t leave my house without passing at least a few on the way to the metro. They swarm tables at outdoor restaurants, take naps in the middle of busy strip malls, and will follow you for blocks if you have an ice cream cone in hand. E for Empanadas. Chileans love empanadas, a pastry of thin bread filled with meat, vegetables, cheese, jam, or any combination of the above. They are sold on the street, in gas stations, and in restaurants.
39: F is for Francisco Bilbao, the name of the nearest metro station to my house. It’s about a five minute walk. I’ve mentioned before that the metro is extremely modern, quick, and reliable. The only downfall is that is closes at 11pm, but I’ve started using the 24-hour buses to cut down the costs of taking a cab home. | G for Gmail phone. Ok, this is lame one, but I couldn’t think of anything else. My Gmail account has a phone function that lets me make free calls to U.S. numbers! H for hambre. Another semi-lame choice, but hambre means hunger, which I always have. My host mom more than keeps me content though. Her food is deliciosa! I for inglés. English, my main language is becoming a little less noticeable when attempting to speak Spanish. J for JUMBO, (pronounced YUM-BO) is the super, supermarket that my host mom frequents. Imagine Walmart + Best Buy + Costco and you’d have about 1/4 of the store. It’s best to go between 2-4pm while Chileans are eating lunch and napping. I made the mistake of accompanying my host mom at 8pm the other night and found myself in a nasty game of bumper-carts and elbow throwing with the 100s of people trying to get the weekly shopping done. K is for kaki, a fruit I recently discovered that grows close to my backyard. After some research I learned that the kaki is one of the oldest fruits in civilization. It’s made of a thick and pulpy jelly-like substance, resembles a tomato, and is too tempting to resist when offered a bite! L is La Reina, the name of my neighborhood.
40: M for manjar, is a caramelized milk spread that Chileans eat with bread and crackers. I’m not too fond of the taste, but I can’t go a day without running into it. N for La Naturista, my favorite restaurant in Santiago. My school gives me lunch tickets that are valid at places around town, and this just happens to be one of them. The menu is all vegetarian and fresh dishes, my favorite being ‘Huevo Rachero’ a mix of eggs, tomatoes, avocado (of course), corn, beans, cheese and a tortilla. | O for Onces, the ‘tea time’ custom that Chileans prefer to eating dinner. Freshly squeeze juice, tea, coffee, bread with tomato/avocado/jam, fruit, and homemade cakes are serves at Onces. We usually eat a normal dinner in my house, but sometimes on the weekends my host mom has friends over for Onces. P PO! ‘Po’ is a filler word here, inserted at the ends of words or phrases. For example, ‘Sí’ (yes) is often ‘Sí po’ ‘Bien’ (good) changes to ‘Bien po’ and so on. Q for Quilmes. Quilmes is technically an Argentinean beer, but it’s just as common throughout Chile.
41: S is for street performers. While waiting to cross the street, riding the bus, or stuck at a red light, you’ll be sure to encounter various street performers. Everything from juggling to washing windows, selling roses to playing bongo drums, they hound the streets showcasing talent while collecting loose change. U-A-H. Universidad Alberto Hurtado, my school here. V for VINO! Vino means wine, and Chile has enough to go around. As the 5th largest wine exporter of the world, Chilean wine is like water. It’s cheaper than water at restaurants. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carmenére. W Weón. In recent conversations with young Chileans, I hear “weón” about 10 times a minute. Its English equivalent is “dude” but is more frequently used here. Almost too much so. X, equis. The letter X in spanish is pronounced ‘equis’ but equis also means ‘whatever.’ Y for YOGA! Yoga is spanish is ‘yoga’, and my host mom is a yoga instructor. Last night I swallowed some water down the wrong pipe and she pushed me into the living room, showing me breathing exercises and forcing me into sun salutations to alleviate my pain Z for zanahoria, carrot, which has surprisingly become one of my favorite fruit juices here. When mixed with a splash of orange juice, I can hardly put the cup down. Tasty. | R, unfortunately, for rat tails. While Santiago is fairly modern in comparison to the U.S., they are slacking in certain areas, one being hairstyles. This totally rad fad is stuck in Santiago, catching my attention every time I leave the house.
42: 26th Apr 2011 Breakfast, lunch, dinner- each in a different national capital I love traveling, I do. It’s just the actual transportation from place to place that wears me out. Yesterday, after a 6am wake up call, 5 buses, a ferry boat, and plane ride, and 13+ hours of traveling, I was happy to be back in my host house. It was well worth it, as I got to see 2 new cities of South America. Plus, I ate breakfast in Buenos Aires lunch in Montevideo and dinner in Santiago. Last Wednesday, some friends and I set out for our most recent trip. We flew into Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. We spent our short time there exploring the 1940s-esque city the highlight being coming across a ‘port market’ along the boardwalk, filled with shops and meat eateries, where we enjoyed a huge lunch! Later that day, we boarded a ferry boat (that seemed more like the Titanic than a standard ferry) that took us across the bay to Buenos Aires. The ride was about 3 hours and included a tango show.
43: We were in Buenos Aires from Thursday night-Monday morning. The city reminded me of a mix between NYC and Washington D.C. It’s a city of about 15 million, but the geographical size is spread out. There were tango dancers lining the streets, public transportation was cheap, and the food was delicious. We went to Recoleta Cemetary- an incredible huge and famous place where some of the most famous Argentineans are buried- saw the Argentinean version of the white house (called the ‘pink house’), went to the International Book Fair, explored several neighborhoods, and checked out a botanical garden. Saturday night we went to the River Plate vs. Godoy Cruz soccer game. We went through a tour group, advising us to stay 30 minutes after the game ended to avoid violent fights between fans outside of the stadium. The fans were rowdy but dedicated. They whistle instead of boo-ing the opposing team, and the cheers are song-like rather than the classic ‘here we go (insert team name), here we go! (clap clap)’ that is too familiar in the U.S.
44: Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” Benjamin Disraeli
45: 1st May 2011 Plus One I could write for days and days about the cultural differences between Chile and the U.S., everything from the late dinner times to not tipping the taxi driver to the overwhelming hype on soccer game days. One difference that has particularly been called to my attention is that children live with their parents until they’re married. My host sister is 27, finishing her last year of college and working, all while sandwiched in between my room, and my 65-year-old host mom’s which was why I was a little surprised to find that as of last week, we have a new house guest- her boyfriend. They say living together is an art, and in this case, it’s a job. I’ve been woken up every morning this week by noises of sawing, drilling, vacuuming, and nailing things into the wall giving me the same feelings as the 4AM fire alarms in my freshman year dorm gave me, except worse, since I know it won’t stop for hours. We have this little room off the side of our house (and conveniently directly behind my window) that my host sister used as her art studio, until recently. Clearing the room out to make room for Sebastian’s things is now the focus of the day, bringing my host brother and his friends over to help with the mess. I don’t mind having another person in the house at all, I just hope the noises stop soon so I can get back to enjoying my mornings.
46: 5th May 2011 Running late for nothing This morning I did something I rarely do, and likewise despise doing- I woke up at 7 a.m. My friend Michelle’s aunt works for IBM. She put Michelle and a plus one on the list to a speech at a local Santiago university regarding IBM and community service in Chile. When Michelle invited me, I was excited except for the fact that we had to be up so early to get there on time. But as the alarm went off, I rallied to the occasion and was out the door by 8. I got to the metro, which coincidentally had broken down and the platform was full of frustrated, high-nerve people on the way to work, school, and the like. By 8:45 I hadn’t moved, so I walked back upstairs thinking I could hail a taxi in fear of being late. Think again. There were just as many frustrated, high-nerve people outside hailing cabs, jumping on over-crowded buses, and doing it all with more persistence than I had. It felt like a first timer in New York trying to hail a taxi like you see in the movies, people were cutting in front of me and sprinting into cars without the slightest concern for anyone else. After 30 minutes of waiting (and plenty of failed attempts to actually get inside a cab), I became on of those frustrated, high-nerve people. I put my foot down (and by putting my foot down, I stepped about a lane and a half into the street) and finally got the attention of a driver who stopped, and I hopped in. We picked up Michelle, and 20 minutes later we were at the university, only 15 minutes late to the speech. Michelle and I were running down hallways and asking for hurried directions (in Spanish, I might add) we were late, and we knew it. However, we got to the auditorium and realized we were the first ones there. Sound checks were being made, and we slumped into our seats, thankful that it hadn’t started yet. ..And an hour later, the second person walked in. Typical ‘tiempo chileno’ we thought, as things down here typically run at least an hour late. By 11, it hadn’t started and we had to leave in order to make it to our weekly volunteer job on time. As we were walking out, the speaker was walking in. 90 minutes late. We boarded the metro to the other side of town, on the way to our volunteer job that started in an hour. Things started to side with us, arriving just on time to volunteer in our classroom. and naturally, the students had a test today. We could have been 45 minutes late, but we used to time to sit back and take a breather. It was noon and we were wired.
47: May 2011 Isla Negra + big pool This weekend, my program director invited the exchange students to take a day trip to Isla Negra, the site of one of the three houses of Chilean poet and politician, Pablo Neruda. Neruda was one of the most important Latin American poets of the 20th century and is popular in the studies of all the Chileans that I have met so far. This house was said to be his favorite, and I could definitely see his point as it overlooked the ocean. | It was a somewhat disastrous morning from one side of Santiago to the other, and we hadn’t even been to class yet. The rest of the day ran smoothly and on the way home from school, I started to think that I let my nerves get wound up for nothing. I’m keeping the same attitude as I begin to prepare for my poetry test tomorrow morning, hoping that tomorrow isn’t as rushed as today was.
48: Excerpt from one of Pablo Neruda’s poems: “All were entering the boat my poetry in their struggle had managed to find home. And I felt proud”
49: The group got lunch down the road after a tour of the house, enjoying fresh seafood and discovering we were within walking distance of the world’s largest pool. We had some time to kill after lunch, so we walked down the beach to catch a view of the pool. It is over a half-mile long, covers 20 acres with a 115 ft. deep end, holds 66 million gallons of water, and takes $2 million a year to keep clean! | And the pool (although it was being drained, which only happens once every 3 years, but still cool!)
50: 12th May 2011 The make-shift snow day “Students march peacefully through various cities” was the headline on CNN: Chile that greeted me this morning. And after much contemplation and discussion with my classmates last night, a few emails back and forth with our program director, and the advice of my all-knowing host mom, it was official: May 12, 2011, with a temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit, would be my first make-shift snow day in Santiago aka, no class! I had heard about these types of protests before arriving in Santiago, but it took 4+ months to actually experience one. Thousands of students (not only in Santiago as this is a national protest) marched through various cities, demanding a reform to the system of higher education. Specifically, they want access to more resources, scholarships, grants, and institutional reform, making it more democratic.
51: While the headline deemed the protest “peaceful,” police often use tear gas to stop any violence that breaks out. We were advised to take the day off, stay away from the downtown area, and avoid taking part in the protest. Fine by me, as I had a chance to sleep in and now have an extra week to prepare a presentation!
52: 15th May 2011 Pomaire- land of the pottery Yesterday morning, a few friends and I took a day trip to Pomaire, a small town about 30 miles west of Santiago. Pomaire’s streets are known for being lined with pottery and craft stalls, and the restaurants serve typical Chilean food. We spent hours walking the streets, popping in and out of the artesian shops and admiring the clay-work.
53: There were even men working on the spot, spinning clay into vases... | And then we found the world’s largest lemon. Om nom nom.
54: 19th May 2011 We’re not so different after all, are we? Above is a picture of the site of my service internship here in Santiago, Colegio José Antonio Lecaros. It’s a school of over 500 students from kindergarten to seniors in high school located near downtown Santiago. My friend Michelle and I volunteer here every week as a service-learning part of our class, Poverty and Development. We assist with an English class. Today as part of our university class, Michelle and I gave a presentation explaining our project- what it entails, the challenges, and how it relates to our lectures. We initially had a hard time coming up with challenges. This school isn’t necessarily luxurious, but it isn’t strikingly poor. We know that there are poorer neighborhoods, and with that poorer schools. Our kids are fairly clean and happy, and the facility seemed relatively average, minus the overwhelming high number of students who attend.
55: However, we have noticed a difference in the evident lack of motivation from the students. During class, they talk, draw, listen to music, take pictures of each other, even kiss anything to avoid paying attention to us, the teacher, and their homework. On test days, the classroom was significantly more packed than usual. As juniors in high school the behavior was somewhat shocking, and as we thought about it, we realized it most likely stems from their home lives. As kids, it’s hard to be motivated in school. Many of the kids in my classroom likely don’t have guiding voices in their lives encouraging them to do well and challenge themselves. They simply don’t care, and have no problem expressing that. After presenting to our class, our teacher informed us that this was known as being one of the better schools as far as preparing for college goes. I think that called my attention the most. I knew it couldn’t have been the worst school, but to think it was on the higher end was shocking. It really struck me how blessed I have been growing up, having teachers, friends, classmates, and family supporting my education and pushing me to make the most of it. My favorite part of working with these kids has been witnessing their thought process while learning English. There’s looks of confusion, pondering, and the face of self pride when something starts to make sense. And as much as I love watching students excel, I equally love the fact that I’ve experienced the same confusion, moments pondering, and pride while learning Spanish. We’re not so different after all, are we?
56: 25th May 2011 PASE ESCOLAR Santiago public transportation holds a large role in my everyday life. I use at least two swipes a day on my transantiago BIP! card, averaging at 580 Pesos a swipe (a little over $1 US). It’s relatively cheap, but it’s added up over time especially when my Chilean classmates and host sister have their hands on a personalized and discounted student card. Almost two months ago, I applied for my discounted, personal pase escolar, allowing me to ride the metro and buses for a mere 180 Pesos (US 40 cents). We had heard that the process, like many things in Chile, is unorganized, confusing, and can take months to obtain the actual card. With the recent strike pertaining to education, our director told us that the man in charge of the student cards had quit in the midst of the madness. We were expecting to leave Santiago without ever getting our hands on the discount card. Until yesterday. On the way to class, I stumbled upon a list bearing the names of students who had successfully obtained their discount cards one of them being me! I realize that I only have 40-some days left in Santiago, but now I can swipe my card 3 times for the price of one.
57: 29th May 2011 CONCHA Y TORO Saturday afternoon, some friends and I took a tour of one of the vineyards in Concha y Toro, the largest producer of wine in Latin America. The tour was beautiful and informative for someone like me who had no previous appreciation for wine! Here are some highlights: We saw the house of Don Melchor, the founder of the vineyard. Melchor came with his family from Spain and brought grapes from France to plant in Chile.
58: Next were the vines themselves. Although we toured in off-season, the plants were still colorful, and the mountains behind them provided a picturesque background. We tasted a Carmenere red wine and our guide helped us to pick out specific flavors and aromas- specifically chocolate, plum, and coffee. This wine is produced from one of the grapes Melchor brought from France. Shortly after, the grape died out in France and today is only found in Chile.
59: Finally, we tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon red wine, noticing flavors of cherry, vanilla, and plum. This was my favorite, and after returning to Santiago and talking with my host mom and real mom, I learned this blend is both of their favorite red wines! | We went to see the barrels where the wine is stored, learned about the different types of wood used and temperature the rooms are kept at. | Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. —Benjamin Franklin
60: 6th Jun 2011 Recent happenings Tomorrow officially marks the start of my final month in Chile. I can hardly believe that it has been 5 months since I arrived in Santiago, and at the same time I’ve realized how far I’ve come. There have been some major changes around here for one, the weather. January, February, March, and most of April were hot. It was summer here, and the temperature ranged from 80-100 degrees. There is no air conditioning in Chile, I was constantly sweating. Now, I sleep with 2 pairs of socks, sweatpants, a long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt and occasionally, a hat. | January, February, March, and most of April were hot. It was summer here, and the temperature ranged from 80-100 degrees. There is no air conditioning in Chile, I was constantly sweating. Now, I sleep with 2 pairs of socks, | Michelle and me in Viña del Mar, Chile, on the beach in March. | Snow-capped mountains outside of Santiago, finally!
61: Santiago’s winter has officially arrived. The days are bearable, between 50-65 degrees, but the nights get down to the 30s, and without heat, it’s cold! Yesterday I went to a soccer match with some friends. The game reaffirmed what I knew about the relationship between South Americans and soccer- it is an obsession. The game is part of the playoff series in Chile, so spirits (and cheers) were high. As we were leaving the game, it started to downpour rain the first rain Santiago has had since I’ve been here. Although we walked searching for a metro stop for an hour and got completely drenched, the view out the window was beautiful this morning. The usual city smog had cleared and the mountains were covered in snow.
62: 13th Jun 2011 Oh, look how far we’ve come! This afternoon while having a leisurely lunch at a neighborhood spot, reading my current book and munching on a salad, a man approached me, asking, “do you speak English?” He joined me for lunch and I quickly learned he was a University of Texas student working in an architecture firm here for the summer, and doing research on Chilean architecture after the 2010 earthquake. He just arrived in Chile, and his Spanish is pretty basic and by that, I mean at or around the same level where I was when I first arrived in January. I was getting such a kick out of his pronunciations of words that now come first-hand to me, and I couldn’t help but think how far I’ve come. That being said, my friends and I have had our fair share of mix-ups, word chaos, and struggles to communicate what we want to say all while, of course, embarrassing ourselves. Here are some examples: After a weekend at the beach where our program provided us a free lunch, our teacher asked us how the food was, and what exactly we had. In a struggle for the word pineapple (piña), one student proclaimed she had eaten salmón con pene, aka salmon with penis. (Is that inappropriate for a blog post? Probably) Later that month while in Torres del Paine National Park at a campsite, one of the campsite workers approached me after a long day of hiking and asked if I was tired. I was rubbing my face, trying to alleviate the pain of a nasty sunburn, and responded that no, I wasn’t tired pero, ¡tengo un pico! (But, I have a penis!) While hiking, I misunderstood a conversation between my friends listing off all the Spanish words for penis as a conversation listing off all the words for sunburn. (Again, inappropriate? Definitely, but don’t blame us, blame the altitude!) A couple weeks ago in class, two of my friends were presenting on their service project. They explained that a certain saint “melted” certain organizations, rather than founded them. Fundir= to melt, and fundar= to found.
63: In one of my classes, we were listening to a Spanish song and had to fill the blanks as a listening exercise. The song ended, el alma se queda oscura (the soul remains dark) but one of the students in our class thought it was el alma se queda cruda, the soul remains raw. My friend Ceci is from Mexico, and her first language is Spanish. But even she has had a few mix-ups. Chilean Spanish has a few words that are unique to Chile, and often hold different meanings in other Spanish-speaking countries. One night, Ceci offered to help her host family wash the dishes and said yo puedo lavar los trastos, I can wash the dishes. However, for Chileans, los trastos means butts! These mix-ups are sometimes crude, but are always funny afterwards and have provided us with some good memories. On a good note, I’m positive I’ll never inappropriately mix up the words I have in the past again. | Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. —Robert Brault
64: 16th Jun 2011 Tear gas, protest, and perspective There are the times when I cry on my own accord- because I’m happy or sad, or overcome with emotion at the end of a good movie. And then, there are the times when I cry because I have been tear gassed by the Chilean government. It started this morning. I was awake bright and early and on the way to my volunteer job in downtown Santiago. Upon arriving at the high school, the teacher I work with informed me that the students had not shown up for class, in typical fashion of Santiago students protesting the education system. I hopped right back on the bus I took to get there, and as we approached my destination, the bus took an unexpected turn off course. “Weird,” I thought, “but I’m close enough. I’ll get off and walk the rest of the way.” | Me when the gas hit. It was all downhill from there.
65: As soon as I got off I quickly realized the bus had turned because it physically could not continue down the road. Another Chilean protest- the biggest I have seen- was happening. It was crowded but calm, not violent, so I made my way through it to find somewhere to eat lunch before my class. Two hours later I was walking back to the university, hurdling over remnants from the protest that turned violent. Glass from broken store-front windows, street signs, fire, smoke, trash, lemons, and hundreds of police officers lined the streets.
66: I made it to school and thought I was safe, until a tear gas bomb was thrown into the main patio, inflicting chaos and pain to me and the other students there. My nose started tingling and eyes were watering. It felt like needles were being shot into my lips. I couldn’t see. My friend Michelle was screaming, “What do we do?! What do we do?!” as if this was a situation I commonly find myself in and therefore would know what to do. The only thing I could think of was to run and the only place to go was up the stairs. We were stuck on the stairs weaving between short and slow Chilean students who were covering their mouths looking for refuge. We finally made it to our classroom, and I was fine and safe, just a little puffy-faced for the next hour and a half. | Students at my university covering their mouths to escape the gas.
67: I immediately began questioning how this could have happened and how it is legal. Why was I still expected to go to class after what just happened? And time after time, I was getting the same indifferent reaction out of the Chileans in my class, my program director, and my host family. And then I realized- the people in Chile have witnessed eras much more political than this. The 1970s began a reality filled with militant communists, the election of the socialist President Salvador Allende who was overthrown by a military coup eventually leading to an extremely torturous dictatorship regime until 1990. I can’t help but think of the 30,000 people detained, tortured, and often killed by the government during this 17 year period. Or their families, hanging on to the hope that they one day would return. And about those who supported the dictatorship, hoping to establish a real democracy and today living with the consequences. It made more sense why no one was too upset about a few tear gas bombs. Chileans are strong people with a strong history. Brutality is sometimes a daily occurrence, but these strikes are often the only way to gain the attention of the government who, historically speaking, has regarded their citizens as trivial. The motivation to face the struggle despite the possible setbacks is something that I can admire, and I’ve taken a lot into perspective after an afternoon of dramatically drawing attention to my puffy eyes and swollen lips. [Photo credit to Ashley Lahoda, the only one crazy enough to be snapping pictures during the whole ordeal]
68: 30th Jun 2011 The things that go wrong often make the best memories I will remember my trip to Perú for many things- warm days and cold nights, the Incan ruins scattered around various cities, tropical fruit markets lining the streets, and llamas grazing on hillsides. But what stands out most was the amount of unplanned changes that happened and how they turned out to make a good trip better. We left Santiago last Wednesday and arrived in our destination a mere 36 hours later. We took a flight, 2 buses (one was cancelled luckily we found another company to take us), 2 “collective” taxis, and finally made it to Ollantaytambo, an Inca village (and the only still inhabited) in Southern Perú. We did a hike of the local ruins upon arriving, running into all sorts of animals- pigs, llamas, horses, cows, donkeys, dogs, and bulls.
69: Punamarca ruins in Ollantaytambo, Perú. | View on the drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, Perú. | Sammy and a bull on the hike to the Punamarca ruins- Ollantaytambo.
70: From Ollantaytambo, we took a train to Aguas Calientes, a small Peruvian village that leads up to Macchu Picchu. Once at the top, we had the day to walk around and admire the stone city of Macchu Picchu dating back to 1400 AD. Shortly after, it was mysteriously abandoned. It was likely built for the Inca emperor Pachacutec, although the use remains unknown. There are theories that it was used as a religious shrine, vacation home, agricultural center, and prison. Regardless, the architecture is incredibly unique. It wasn’t hard to believe that it has been named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. | Ceci, me, Michelle, Sammy, and Alex at Macchu Picchu. | Macchu Picchu ruins. Try tilting your head sideways to the right!
71: We continued traveling to Cusco. From there, we were supposed to visit Lake Titicaca, the bordering lake to Bolivia, but due to protests in the area we were unable to go. We decided to stay in Cusco, enjoying the city architecture, conversing with locals, and horseback riding (which turned out to be quite the experience). The ranch was, for lack of a better word, sketch. My horse was anxious and bit my friend Sammy on her leg. Sammy is the same friend that tried eating the Peruvian delicacies of guinea pig and alpaca.
72: On our last day we visited Arequipa, the second most visited city in Perú, after Cusco. We took a bus tour, learning about different aspects of the city that lies in the valley of three volcanoes. | Me holding a baby goat- Cusco, Perú. | Me, Ceci, and Michelle, taking a break from horseback riding- Cusco, Perú. | Plaza de Armas- Arequipa, Perú. | Volcán Misty- Arequipa, Perú
73: On our way back to Chile, our bus got a flat tire and we were stranded for four hours in the middle of nowhere. But problems and all, Perú was one of the most unforgettable trips that I have had in South America. It was my last trip until I go home, and I had the chance to share it with four of my closest friends.
74: 2nd Jul 2011 Cafe with a heart There is something about whole food, natural ingredient and often vegetarian restaurants that immediately grab my attention. I’m a large advocate of fresh, local, healthy and organic food and try to support establishments that serve it as much as possible. When in Omaha, I always make a point to visit Blue Planet Natural Grill and McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe. In Chicago, my favorites include Heartland Cafe and The Chicago Diner. Even in South America, I’ve found home in Santiago’s Naturista and El Living in the southern city of Punta Arenas. In my most recent trip to Perú, I stumbled upon a restaurant in the city of Ollantaytambo- Hearts Cafe. It lies on the corner of the city’s Plaza de Armas, or main square, advertising both typical Peruvian and international food. Upon entering, I realized they served much more than that. The mural-plastered walls and pamphlet-covered tables made it hard to ignore that Hearts Cafe has a strong connection with Perú. 100% of their profit goes to projects benefitting women and children in indigenous highland communities in the Sacred Valley. These projects are more than just a hand-out; they strive to implement education and self-sufficient programs to those less fortunate in the area.
75: While all profit goes to supporting these programs, none of it would be possible without donations. Medical/school supplies and lightly used clothing donations are accepted and can be sent to: Sonia Newhouse c/o Hearts Cafe Plaza de Armas, Ollantaytambo Cusco, Perú Hearts’ programs also need volunteers. Art, theatre, and language teachers, along with doctor and nurse volunteers are in constant need. For more information, visit heartscafe.org or livingheartperu.org. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. | Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic that any dream made or paid for in factories. —Ray Bradbury
76: 4th Jul 2011 The days are long, but the years are short Laying in my bed, blankets up to my neck to keep warm and feeling like Charlie’s grandparents from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I’m shocked to realize I only have four more nights in South America. Six months here, and only four more nights! My time here has been incredible. Everything from looking out into the vast nothingness in the Atacama desert, to quenching my thirst with fresh glacier water in Torres del Paine National Park, this experience has exceeded my expectations more than I can describe. I’ve learned so much about the world, Chilean culture, the Spanish language, and myself. But the people who have stood by my side through it all are what made it all so worthwhile and unforgettable. Walking into Universidad Alberto Hurtado on the morning of January 14, I met the 22 other students in my program. We were different. We are different. We come from all over- California to Mexico to Maine. However, we hold more in common than we thought. We came to Chile to learn Spanish, travel, experience a new way of living, and develop new relationships. I grew especially close to four, and they have made this experience what it has been for me. They’ve been by my side through the good, bad, fun and frustrating times.
77: It only makes sense to mention Michelle first, as her dominant personality traits include being the world’s biggest planner, who wakes up early and is always ready to get out of the house and find something new to do. I owe her (and her travel book) a lot of credit for my memories in South America. We’ve shared bit by bit of ourselves with each other while laying side-by-side in tents, on the bus to volunteer together, and while killing time before class over some horribly made coffee, to name a few. Equal to her structured lifestyle, she is rational. If something goes wrong, she accepts it and immediately starts planning another route to take. | Michelle Kingston and me, Atacama Desert, Chile, April 2011.
78: When I think of Sammy, I think of an extreme girl. I coined the term after hiking with the girl for four days in Torres del Paine. Time after time, she’d be practically running up the mountain while the rest of us struggled to keep her in eyesight from hundreds of feet behind. What I love about Sammy is that her personality is laid back- the kind of extreme that doesn’t make a big deal about itself. She’s extrememly late, and has extreme allergies to cats and horses, but continually has the urge to pet both of these animals whenever she sees one (showing her extreme kindness). Alex is in my sorority, and was the only one I knew before arriving in Santiago. That being said, being here together has absolutely strengthened our friendship. She is the most responsible of the group, always making sure everyone gets home safe after a long night out and knows the Santiago bus system like the back of her hand. She can be stubborn, but always in the name of helping other people. Although I wish her generosity was the thing I will remember her most by, her voice takes the lead. Not only does it lower two octaves while speaking Spanish, but the girl can sing. She’s provided us with music in otherwise silent situations, and I’m looking forward to going to her performances back in Chicago (that is, after she returns from studying abroad again next semester in Rome, Italy!) | Sammy Fromme and me, Bariloche, Argentina, February 2011. | Alex Scharf and me, Ushuaia, Argentina, February 2011
79: Finally Ceci, the strong-willed diva from Mexico whose laugh is funnier than any joke she can tell. Ceci has offered an enormous amount of help with the language barrier as Spanish is her first language. She is matter-of-fact and detail oriented, whether while ordering a customized meal when we’re out to lunch, filling us in on the most recent happenings of E! news, or quoting a movie word for word (seriously, w-o-r-d-f-o-r-w-o-r-d, it’s outrageous). I’ve witnessed a real growth in Ceci, transforming into someone who is more accommodating of others while keeping her opinions relevant. | Ceci Córdova and me, Botanical Gardens in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 2011 | Sammy, Alex, Michelle, Ceci and me, Macchu Picchu, Perú, June 2011.
80: The one and only, Marcela Contador. | Then, there’s the hard one- my host mom. I’ve hands down spent the most time with Marcela over any other person since January. Her once startling, high-pitched voice calling ‘ya Grace!’ from the kitchen for meals is now familiar. I’ve grown accustomed to her unique and often outrageous tendencies, like walking around without pants or opening all the doors and windows on a 30-degree day announcing “how fresh!” I’ve learned so much from her, and gained insight and perspective on a variety of issues. I’ll forever cherish our nightly talks over dinner, walks around the neighborhood, and giggles shared watching our recently adopted and foolish cat run around in circles chasing the after the sunlight. Above all, I’ll never forget her generosity. Comparing host family stories with my friends, it’s obvious that Marcela goes above and beyond. She has helped me learn so much Spanish, provided constant help and support without hesitation, and made me laugh. Unfortunately, she won’t be in Chicago this fall. She has email and Skype though, and we’ve promise each other to stay in touch with lots of photos and life updates. Four more nights, yes, but these relationships have provided me with so much internal growth that will be with me for the rest of my life. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for my Chilean family, even after I’m gone.
81: You cannot fully understand your own life without knowing and thinking beyond your life, your own neighborhood, and even your own nation. —Johnnetta Cole
82: 5th Jul 2011 Oh, how much easier my life would be with a packing robot. Or a packing remote. Or any sort of gadget that magically put all of my things into my bag, nice and organized without much effort. Packing is one of those things that gives me more stress than it should along with the drafts folder of my email, marshmallows (sugary air?), and watching people gawk over small animals. Procrastination has taken over once again, and I’m having trouble with this whole saying goodbye thing. | 7th Jul 2011 I think I’ve been dreaming for 40 days and I know I’m sleeping cause this dream’s too amazing Edward Sharpe (who I saw at Lollapalooza Chile in April) sings these lyrics in their song 40 Day Dream. The feeling is all too familiar to me, except 40 days has been 6 months. I write to you now from the Santiago airport, soaking up my final minutes while waiting for my departure flight to the USA. My bags are packed as they were on January 13. The worried look in my eyes of what was to come is replaced with a worried look of when I’ll return and when I’ll reconnect with the people with whom I’ve formed such strong relationships. To be honest, it’s completely bittersweet. Am I beyond excited to see my family and friends from home? Yes. Am I craving cold milk in my cereal, pickles on my sandwiches, and a late-night popcorn snack? You bet. But to say it was hard saying goodbye to my Chilean friends and family would be the understatement of the year. I’ve had an amazing experience here, and it’s hard to leave.
83: I’ve compiled a few lists to help further express my feelings. First, some things I’m looking forward to: 1. Writing the date month/day/year instead of day/month/year (you have no idea how many times I’ve mistaken June 3 for March 6) 2. Ordering in English, and knowing exactly what I’m getting 3. Pickles, popcorn, cereal, real coffee 4. Having a dryer to dry my clothes 5. Classes in English 6. Tall people 7. A closet full of clothes (so many options!) 8. Seeing my friends and family And some things I’ll miss about Chile: 1. Ordering a drink and 2 coming to the table (It’s always 2 for 1 happy hour!) 2. Practicing Spanish 3. Classes 3 days/week 4. Fruits and vegetables (sorry California and Florida, you’ve got nothing on Chile) 5. Traveling and experiencing new parts of the world 6. Homemade meals, all of the time 7. Tiempo Chileno, everything runs 30 minutes late 8. Chilean friends and family But most importantly, a list of what I’ll take with... 1. A higher fluency of the Spanish language 2. Appreciation and understanding for a different culture, and in turn, appreciation for my own culture 3. Confidence to live outside of my comfort zone 4. Chilean music 5. Lasting friendships 6. Lots of souvenirs to remember South America 7. Lasting friendships 8. Memories and gratitude of my amazing experience in Chile See you all soon! Nos vemos!