Series of events from today:
1) Woke up early to skype with my parents. It's my momma's birthday today and I am sad I'm not with her and my dad in Chicago.
2) Got ready and left the house with host mom and older host brother. Host mom had told me that on sunday we were leaving around noon for (insert place name here). Needless to say, I had no idea where we were going.
3) Got on the highway leaving Santiago. Stopped at a restaurant and ate traditional Chilean food. We ordered a pardillera to share which turns out is a heaving bucket of meat. Literally, ALL MEAT. And steaming and HUGE. Inside the GINORMOUS pile of meat is a potato. SO. MUCH. MEAT.
4) Got back on the road, drove into the countryside area, through a couple little pueblitos. Saw some buildings which had been damaged by the earthquake and still not fixed, which was really depressing. Then drove about in the cerros (hills) to a place where there was open land and for sale signs posted in the middle of fields with numbers to call. Stopped next to a field while my host brother called the number on the sign to inquire about prices. Literally, in the middle of a wide open field, calling a phone number from a sign on a wooden stake. WHAT?
5) Then went to a gated community close by. A woman was standing outside her house, we stopped the car, she got inside and we drove while she told us about the value of all the properties. I thought she was a real estate agent. Turns out she is Marisol's best friend from childhood.
6) After a short drive where I tried very hard not to fall asleep, we returned to said best friend's house and toured it as well. Outside there is a beautiful garden, pool, gazebo, huge tree with a bunny nest (hutch?) inside. She has 4 dogs, two of which were larger than I am and enjoyed smelling my butt.
7) Inside the house there are conservatively 17 plasma flat screen TVs. Ok, maybe not 17, but actually, no exaggerations, Eight flat screen plasma TVs. WHAT?? The rest of the house is beautiful, the woman's closet is the size of my room in my host house. We then sit down for onces, pronounced own-says (like tea but later at night) and I eat LOTS of toasted bread and avocado. YUMMMM
8) During onces, best friend's husband talks about prank calling emergency numbers, like nine hundred eleven in the United States. When the dumb look on my face does not disappear, he repeats this number multiple times, but I still don't get it and he thinks I'm an idiot. I don't want to be rude and tell him that it's nine one one so I just smile and down my tea.
9) Turns out, he thinks I am Chilean and did an exchange program in the US. He is confused why I can't understand him when he speaks. After the truth about my situation has been explained, he directs all questions about me to my host brother since clearly I am an illiterate idiot who is only capable of eating disgusting amounts of toasted bread and avocado.
Ok, clearly I'm a bit frustrated. Although many English words are a part of the language here, they are pronounced differently according to the sounds of the letters in the Spanish alphabet. Another example, yesterday during lunch, my youngest host brother refused to eat spinach. I teased him, saying that if he didn't like spinach, he couldn't grow up to be strong like Popeye. The table went silent, then everyone broke out into laughter because of my pronunciation of Popeye (pop-eye) when clearly the correct pronunciation is Popeye (pup-pay-yay). My host mother just shook her head and smiled. Silly gringa.
Although these types of situations are trying, it really proves the true arbitrary nature of language. Really, nothing is "correct" in English or Spanish or any other language, it's all dependent on the general concensus of the community on what sounds should correlate with certain objects or ideas. Depending on one's background, there are different interpretations of every grunt, screech or mumble that comes out of my youngest host brother's mouth (I have yet to understand a complete sentence).
As for now, I'm just breathing in deeply and trying to let my tense feelings leave with the exhale. Tomorrow's a new day.
Shout-out goes to Barb and Jack Helfrich. Today, when we were driving through the cerros, it reminded me of the lovely view from your backyard of the hills and mountains. Hope you guys are doing well!
I've decided I'm putting my host mom's friend's house on my christmas list. Including the eight flat screen TVs. One for each night of Hannukkah, how perfect!