Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Soy Santiaguina??

Hola guapos y guapas! (For the non-spanish speakers, look it up, I just paid you all a compliment!)

Hope you're all doing well. This last week and a half I've been in Santiago so my life has been, well, I don't want to say boring, but average. Perhaps I've gotten too used to the jet setting lifestyle? Or perhaps I'm actually acostumbrada (used to) life here in this smoggy metropolis. I'm beginning to find that I'm making less comparisons (in my head...most of the time) between Santiago and my life back in the states and have begun to really settle into the pace and Chilean lifestyle. Hey, it took 4 months but I made it!

A couple highlights from the past week:

1) Thursday night we all went to go see Que Pena Tu Vida (Your life sucks), a newly released Chilean film about a rather undesirable dude who is having love life troubles. The plot was nothing special but I understood 95% of the movie!!!! This is a huge improvement, considering my 3rd week here we saw La Vida de Los Peces where I understood approximately 10 phrases. Real learning has occurred!

2) About a month ago, I failed a test. I mean straight up failed, on a scale of 1-7, I received a 2.1 (hey man, if I'm going to do something, I'm going to go all the way). Anyways, this past week I met with my professor (who by the way is never in class, literally, I can count on my fingers the amount of times I've seen this woman and there are 3 weeks of classes left) to find out what happened. After a short chat, I realized I had misused a few words in my essay (typical foreigner) but after explaining what I had actually intended to say, she raised my grade to a 5.5! Credit will be received!

3) On Friday, a couple friends and I went to a hip hop class. Although I was an excellent dancer at the age of eight, se me fue mi habilidades (my skills have since left me). However, I still enjoyed myself; it was good exercise and the instructor had an (unhealthy?) obsession with Michael Jackson. After showing us the moves, he would continue dancing on his own, and let's just say it wasn't hard to imagine the red pleather jacket and one gloved hand.

4) I walked up a hill! For reasons only known to my subconscious, I woke up at 9AM on a Saturday to climb Cerro San Cristobal with a few friends as prep for our 5 day hike in Patagonia in December. Although I was under the impression that all of Santiago stays out until 6am, it appears that they also wake up (or stay awake) until this time and run for the hills to exercise. We came across a herd of bikers, runners, walkers and 3 different group exercise classes, including step aerobics, although I sorry to say the hunt for the Chilean Richard Simmons still continues.

5) My inner Betty Crocker was calling out to me (that and the approaching birthday of my host brother) so I decided to bake cookies. My lovely parents sent me Nestle chocolate chips (which are not sold here. Yet literally every other product here is Nestle, coffee, ice cream, the Cheerios I eat for breakfast in the morning, I'm pretty sure they have an illegal monopoly going on. Irony) so I of course chose to make the classic chocolate chip cookies. All went according to plan until the baking part, Chilean ovens and I have a strained relationship.

1) In order to turn it on, you have to turn on the gas on the stove, light a piece of paper towel on fire and then quickly stick it in the bottom of the oven. Without burning the house down. What??

2) There is no way to set the temperature; it's either on, or it's off.

3) There is no timer but this doesn't matter because cookies bake in literally 4 minutes.

The last one I found out the hard way. After about 6 minutes, I opened the oven to check on the little galletas and was greeted by a puff of smoke. As I pulled out the tray and swung open the window for oxygen, my host mother comes strolling in the door and says sweetly what a finely pleasant aroma the house has. I'm chalking this up to cultural differences.

Shout out goes to Tosin Akinsanya. The other day on the metro, Me Gustas Tu came on my Ipod, so obvio you were the first person who popped into my head. Hope you're well and can't wait to talk next week!



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

San Pedro de Atacama!

Lovely People in my Life!

I have returned from the Northern Lands aka the best viaje (trip) thus far! 3 days of exploring the driest desert in the world left me breathless, gleeful and in the mood to watch Indiana Jones (a certain type of hat was purchased and now I can't get the theme song out of my head).


1) Salar de Atacama (Salt Flat) was unlike any place I have ever been before. The national park is covered in white and produces 50% of the world's lithium (I'm sure the Energizer Bunny is thankful!). Besides being a gold mine for exports, Salar de Atacama is also home to 3 different types of flamingoes which soared over our heads travelling from one laguna (you guessed it, lagoon) to the next. Know that a good hour was spent taking photos of the landscape, animals, humans imitating the animals and our jumps for joy over our discovery of this other worldly location.
2)Hacer trekking en Valle de La Luna (Hiking in the Moon Valley) was probably my favorite part of the whole weekend. In 3 hours we ran down sand dunes, crawled through caves and scrambled on salt rocks. Salt is one of the most prominent materials in the entire region; now I understand its prominence (over abundance?) on the table during almuerzo (lunch).

3) Atardecer en Valle de La Luna (Sunset in the Moon Valley)

After our fabulous trek, we went to higher ground to watch the sunset over the mountains. The colors ranged from pink to purple to blue and changed by the minute. A relaxing end to a wonderfully nature-charged day!

4) Yet another birthday surprise! Saturday night we were privileged enough to listen to musica andina (Andean music?) and learn some of the traditional dances from the owner of our hotel. Suddenly the band started playing "Feliz cumpleanos" and all my friends pulled out noisemakers and sang to me as the hotel owner brought out the most delicious cake ever (peaches and manjar) brightly lit with 21 candles. I was sufficiently surprised and very touched; I'm so lucky to share this life changing experience with these six amazing women.


1) Although babies and children love me, it seems animals and I are not on the same wave length. We visited an indigenous community where there were goats, horses, sheep and llamas. When I tried to interact in a calm and friendly fashion with the latter, his response was to spit in my face (chewed grass included). Needless to say, that was the end of that short lived friendship.

2) Yet the lowest low was actually due to the highest high: Saturday morning we woke up at 5AM to see 5 different types of geysers! Unfortunately, this also meant doubling the altitude we were at in an hour and a half from 2,000m to 4,300m. While I was impressed with the sights and sounds of these natural phenomenons, my body was less than pleased. After about an hour in the upper stratosphere, I came down with altitude sickness and was confined to putting my head between my knees and sleeping in the van for the rest of the morning. But hey, sometimes sacrifices have to be made and I would say it definitely valio la pena (was worth it)!

Shout-out goes to Laura Adkins; know that when I was taking 10,000 pictures of the flamingoes, all I could think about was baking apple pie (and the cinnamon sugar crust crispies) with you in your kitchen while you stood with one leg perched on the knee of the other like a rare form of bird. But don't worry, you are, and always will be, the most elegant.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cumple Cumple Cumpleanos!

Hey guys!

First things first...I'm 21! So legal in all the countries of the world!

I've had an absolutely lovely and wonderful birthday here in the southern cone. It's been incredible; turning 21 and being so far from home makes me a bit sad but I have been received so warmly today by all of friends, students and family that I have entered into a state of continuous smiles! And the fact that my birthday is coinciding with the rescue of the 33 miners has been a very unique and special experience, que todos esten seguros y con sus familias antes de la medianoche hoy dia! (I hope that all will be safe and with their families before midnight tonight!)

A couple memorable moments from today:

1) I arrived at volunteering a few minutes late but my co-teacher told me not to worry, that there were visiters at the school today, so we wouldn't be starting class until half past the hour. 20 minutes later, I entered the classroom to a huge surprise party from my first class of students! They sang feliz cumpleanos and had all brought food to share, as well as buying me a Kunstman cerveza (beer) to drink on my 21st! So, like many newly legal estadounidenses (U.S. citizens) I began drinking at 8:30 in the morning on my birthday. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten my culture.

I went to my second class and after half the period was over, we left because they had an assembly to go to. 15 minutes later, my co-teacher informed me that the "assembly" had been cancelled and I returned to the class only to be surprise partied once again! This time there was a cake, I made a wish and blew out my candle and then was told to shove my face in the cake, apparently a Chilean tradition. Pretty sure I looked super chori fly (basically, really cool) with frosting all over my face! The girls bought me an apron with pictures of empanadas and recipes, so be prepared to eat some yummy traditional Chilean food when I get back!

2) My lovely program mates also threw me a surprise party in the office of our program director. We had chocolate cake with manjar and will be enjoying a delightful dessert wine from Mendoza on our next trip which begins in less than 8 hours!!!

3) All the girls on my program came to my house to have once (translates literally to elevens and is the third of four daily meals, essentially tea time). The ladies and my family sang me feliz cumpleanos and my host mother informed me before I blew out the candles that in Chile you get 3 wishes instead of one. Perhaps I should have my birthday here every year! The cake was a mixture of lucuma (fruit that is stil unknown to me but rather delicious) and manjar (dulce de leche) Yummmm!!!! Afterwards, my host brother made us some sort of special "family secret" drink. All I know was that it had pineapple flavored ice cream and was alcoholic. Drink up!

So in summary, I have consumed alcohol, sugar and received lots of carino (basically equivalent of TLC). All in all, an absolutely wonderful and most memorable birthday!

Shout-out to all of you who have contacted me today! I miss you all and hope you are as well as can be!

Besos gigantes!!!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mendoza, Argentina!

Hey lovely people in my life!

So, in case you didn't read title of this post, I just got back from Mendoza, Argentina! (ok, maybe I just wanted to say that again). We had a long weekend with Columbus Day (although here it's called Dia de la Raza or Day of the Race) so we decided to jet off to holiday in another country. Have I mentioned I love my life?


We were scheduled to leave in the afternoon on bus. Unfortunately, we almost didn't make it because our same seats, which we bought online, had been sold to other passengers, who bought their tickets at the bus station. Turns out there is a lack of communication between the bus company and their website. Because that makes sense. Fortunately, after a bit of a scuffle (don't worry, it didn't have to get physical) we were able change our seats, board the bus and begin our vacation! The afternoon was an absolute delight with sunshine and hardly a cloud in the sky during our 6 hour bus ride, 3/4 of which was in the mountains. I probably took 80 some pictures of the elegant Andes but here is one of my favorites:
Anyone else now have "The Long and Winding Road" by The Beatles stuck in their head?
We were unfortunately awoken early by the sound of a jack hammer out the window. Three out of the four blocks surrounding our hostel were under construction and apparently they didn't get the memo about the long holiday weekend. So we started the day a bit early. Before leaving the hostel, we attempted to pay for our rooms (for the cheap cheap price of $10 a night!) but the total kept coming out as more than it should have been because a friend of ours got sick at the last minute and couldn't come and we were being charged for her fee as well. Although I had previously emailed the hostel about this change and received confirmation, it seems the owner's son answers the emails and he lives in Buenos Aires and only talks to the family a few times a week, so there was a lack of communication. (are we sensing a theme here?) So, after a scuffle (which very nearly did get physical) we ended getting the price down to only $20 extra pesos argentinos which is the equivalent of $5 dollars. Thanks to my friend Victoria for her excellent negotiating skills!
Mendoza is smack dab in the middle of wine country, so what could we do but rise early (once again) and head to the vineyards? We arrived at 10AM at CarinaE to meet up with the ever so lovely Jessica Woll and learn about the process of fermentation. After a short tour, we were lead to the tasting room, where we sophisticatedly sipped three different types of Malbec wine (to all my WashU buddies, hope you all had fun at WILD and please know that I too was tipsy at 11 o'clock in the morning). I felt so adult and want to highlight that this took place 4 days before my 21st birthday!

After we were good and buzzed and had taken a delightful stroll through the vineyard, half of us chose to head back. The price of a taxi was ridiculous so we opted for the colectivo (Argentina's name for the bus system). Unfortunately, the colectivo only takes monedas (coins) or a magnetic fare card which we didn't have and are only available for purchase in downtown Mendoza, which was our final destination. We ended up going to a nearby kiosk/grocery store and begging for coins. After everyone in the store, workers and customers, had emptied out their pockets, we had just enough for our journey back to the centro (center of town).

Things to note: a) my ridiculous amount of excitement in this photo and b) while getting to the vineyard took about 25 minutes, the bus trip back was an hour and a half. O well, at least the views were nice.


After going out the night before, sleeping less than four hours and getting up early to check out of the hostel, what, you may ask, had we planned for the day? Paragliding! We signed up to do it the day before but after a night of partying and a lack of the sleeping, you'd think I'd be less than pumped. But, aside from a few nerves, I was ready and willing! A year ago, I would have never had the guts or the confidence in myself to do this but I found myself jumping at the chance!

We were picked up outside the hostel by a guy in a dusty jeep and drove about 20 minutes outside the city into the hills of the Andes. On the way there, our instructor asked us if we were nervous; when we shakily replied yes, he said not to worry, only about half the people who paraglide vomit. But don't worry he said, "Relajense y si se sienten enfermas, pueden vomitar tranquilmente" (Relax! and if you guys feel sick, you can vomit tranquilly/in a relaxed state). I put my life in this man's hands.

But hey, sometimes you've got to take risks in life. And I'd like to say, although I did feel a bit sick during the 30 minute ride, it was well worth it!

My friend Naomi and I were the last to go. After subiendo el cerro (driving up the hill) on a "road" which really was the equivalent texture of the rest of the mountain, we arrived at the top. I got strapped into my gear and to my instructor and the assistant asked me "Are you ready to run?" Before I could answer, he pulled on my jump suit and my instructor and I ran off the mountain and flew into the air. Honestly, it was just like a dream, nothing beneath my feet and soaring above the mountains with ease. Although we were blowing about in the wind, for the most part it felt like we were still, as though I were seated in a porch swing and enjoying the view.

Because we were the last to go, we were in the air right when the sun began to set. Well worth the wait!

We headed back on bus that night and upon arriving at my house in Santiago at about 6:30am, I promptly slept for 8 more hours, waking up just in time for lunch!

Shout out goes to Mary Vasquez, after this experience I just might be ready for sky diving with you after your graduation! Well, falling from the sky is a bit different than swinging about, so perhaps a bit more convincing will be necessary.



P.S. As I write this, they are beginning the rescue of the 33 miners in Copiapo. It'll be about an hour for each one so they'll be working all day tomorrow and won't finish until Thursday morning. Keep them in your thoughts!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ingles Abre Puertas: part deaux

Hey All,

A few quick anecdotes from my volunteering experience thus far:

1) I speak in English with my co-teacher so she can practice her language skills; therefore I am my usual expressive, ruidosa (noisy, loud) self every Wednesday morning! Today I was telling her a story and made some sort of obnoxiously nasal noise to express my mood within said story. First her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets with shock, then she just shook her head, saying that she is always taken aback by the expansive nature of North American personalities and the volume of their voices. According to her, Chileans are much more reserved and express the same intensity of emotion but in a more laid back manner. (Yet my host mother's weekly teas with her friends, which can best be described as playful screaming matches beg to differ...)

2) Today in class, my co-teacher was talking to a student sitting at a desk and urgently called me over. She pointed to the desk which had some writing on it and asked, "Is this a swear word?". It read, "I'm a GLEEk". (I nearly collapsed with excitement). I struggled to explain the nature of the word and the concept of GLEE fandom. She stared blankly at me, then asked if I was talking about some type of gang. If my love for showtunes and absurd plotlines makes me a hoodlum, I don't want to be straightened out. Viva Glee!

3) I asked my co-teacher if I could bring some treats for the girls on my birthday next week, like a small piece of chocolate for each one. She said that would be fine but a bit odd because usually here in Chile, when it's your birthday, people give YOU presents rather than the other way around. I tried to explain that it's the same in the US and then confused myself and now I'm not sure why we bring things for other people on our birthdays. Perhaps we want to go Hobbit style? Or perhaps my subconscious wants to bribe the girls into bonding with me?

Shout-out goes to Ayesha Saied for a) giving me a shout out in her blog and b) because I ate Kuchen (sp?) today and thought of you and your German adventure. Hope all is well!



P.S. I will be travelling the next two weekends to Mendoza, Argentina and to San Pedro de Atacama (Chilean Northern Desert) and will only be in Santiago for 2 days in between. I'll try to update between the two but if not, here's fair warning for the rather long hiatus to come.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Ten (Chilean) Commandments

Hey all,

Those of you who have studied spanish know that there are 7 or 8 ways to conjugate verbs depending on who is speaking, who they are talking about and the tense they are using. Mandatos (commands) have remained to be a challenge for me as a) there are different rules for a positive or negative command and b) I'm very uncomfortable ordering people around. Coming from a culture where we say "could you please..." or "if you wouldn't mind/if it's not too much trouble" before asking for something, it seems rather abrasive and rude to say Damelo (Give me that).

Yet here it's part of the everyday dialect and adding polite phrases before a command seems excessive, especially when nobody really cares if you use them or not. Well, at times, I wish someone would ask me if I wanted juice before ordering me to drink it (Bebelo!) but I have to accept that it's a cultural norm here and that it's ok to say no. (I need to work on this skill otherwise my stomach is going to kill me before the six months are up).

Anyways, below is a list of daily mandatos which I hear, receive and, despite my discomfort, have begun to incorporate into my vocabulary.

1. Come (Eat!) Something I hear way too often in my house and continues to bother me. I will eat when my body needs food thank you and one portion is enough, I don't need three. I'm no Joey Chestnut (although I certainly felt like him during the bicentenario...sooo many hotdogs)

2. Ven (Come!) Don't know about the rest of you, but I immediately associate this with calling a dog.

3. Pasame (Pass me the...!) Almost always used during meal times, however, ironically, it is usually followed by por favor (please) and a nice smile.

4. Fijate (Focus! Pay attention!) Often used by my professor in my south american history class. It definitely snaps me to attention and keeps me focused on the topic at hand.

5. Toma (Drink! and almost always associated with alcohol) Something I'll probably hear way too much when I turn 21 in less than 2 weeks...

6. Pruebalo (Try it!) Last week during lunch, we had salad with what can only be described as an appalling piece of meat on top. It was some sort of cold cut which was pink with spots in the middle and a prominent layer of fat laced around it. When I asked the name and origen of this mystery meat, my family just said "Pruebalo" and then later joked that the meat was from the day's freshest roadkill. I didn't laugh. It could have been true.

7. Espera (Wait!) One of the few ways to get people to listen to me, especially in a group. But after using it, I always feel empowered...perhaps commands aren't so bad after all??

8. Mira (Look!) similar use to Espera

9. Oye (Hey!) Often times a filler or transition word, still getting used to using this word although, I'll admit, when I'm frustrated or tired, Hey! just flies out of my mouth. Oops!

10. Cuidate (Be Careful!) Although it can be used as a warning, it's also a normal, if not nice thing to say when bidding people goodbye. At first, I wanted to respond with "Thanks but I'm a responsible adult and can take care of myself and don't make idiotic decisions" now I just gracias, igual! (thanks, you too) and carry on with my day.

I'll admit, at times I'm rather bothered by being ordered around in this manner. I feel like people are treating me like a child just when I've begun to feel more adult than ever. But I keep telling myself that I have to accept 2 things: a) mandatos are part of the language and culture and b) people my age are not considered adults here as they all still live with their parents rather than moving out at the age of 18. My belief in myself and my capabilities as a grown up will have to suffice.

Shout-out goes to all my Chi Omega ladies. Hope the classic goes well today and tons of money has been raised for the Make A Wish foundation!