Blogger: Elisa Espinosa
Location: Valparaiso, Chile
Blogger: Elisa Espinosa
Location: Valparaiso, Chile
Hola from Santiago!
Wow, Friday was a big day. I had my goodbyes in Valparaiso, traveling and settling in to Santiago, and going to the Avril Lavigne concert all in one day…no wonder that I slept until 11:30 today, haha! (That could also have something to do with the fact that I have my own room with an incredibly comfortable bed here…not really missing the YMCA at all!).
You know how I said that my goodbye in Valparaiso wasn´t really hitting home in my last post? Well wow, yesterday it definitely did. I went to go serve for my last day at the soup kitchen, and we had brought gifts for our friends there. Giving the gifts and being able to thank them was really great, but then they opened the doors to the dining room and all the people were there with a little snack buffet set out to thank us. I was SO surprised, let the waterworks begin. Especially when Mauricio gave this speech about our time and work here that was one of the kindest things I´ve ever heard. It was the perfect send-off, even though it was definitely hard to have the fact set in that I may never see these people again…or at least not for awhile…and that I was leaving my beautiful Valparaiso! 🙁
But…luckily Santiago has been pretty awesome!!! We are staying for free in the apartment of a family friend of Levi, and she is so nice and has a BEAUTIFUL apartment, it has it’s own personal elevator that goes up to her door, how cool is that?!?! Here’s the highlights of my time in Santiago:
TOP 5 SITES:
1. Cerro Santa Lucia y San Cristobal
Sorry Valparaiso, but hands down the coolest acensor (elevator) I´ve experienced was on Cerro SanCristobal, it was HUGE, like an amusement park ride and the views from the top were incredible. Both hills are filled with nature trails, tourist and craft shops, cafes, cool old buildings and castles, and San Cristobal has a GIANT statue of the Virgin Mary you can hike up to, it was awesome.
2. La Moneda and surrounding area
Government buildings…I´m a nerd 🙂 But it´s really pretty and La Moneda is the presidential palace which was bombed during the 1973 military coup, Salvador Allende, the president, died inside. After studying it for so long, it was quite the experience to actually see. All the museums were free on Sunday, so I went to the history museum which had his broken glasses that were taken from La Moneda after the bombing…chilling
3. Parque de la Paz (Park for Peace)
This park sits on the old site of Villa Grimaldi, the main torture and detention center used during the Pinochet dictatorship. It was destroyed in the last year of the dictatorship to conceal evidence, but since it has been turned into a national monument, and it was an incredible and emotional experience to visit. I´ve studied Chile during the Cold War quite a bit, and my human rights class in Spanish had a whole unit on Villa Grimaldi. The park is a mix of sculptures, memory walls with names and pictures, and reconstructions of building based on survivors accounts. The descriptions of the atrocities that happened there, mixed with actually seeing what the cells were like, and then walking through the rose garden with the names and faces of the tortured and killed, makes this an emotional experience, but I´m so glad I went, it was an important thing for me to do, and I think an important thing for Chile that this park is here now.
4. Mercado Central
Huge fish market that´s also filled with seafood restaurants….I saw octopus! And countless other really weird sea creatures! And ate delicious fresh fish! It´s a cool experience 🙂
5. Patio Bellavista
Bellavista is party central in Santiago, and Patio Bellavista was my favorite spot. It´s filled with tons of beautiful craft stalls and tourist shops on the outside, all the walls and floors are mosaics, and the whole plaza is filled with bars and restaurants…and lots of happy hour promotions 🙂 Live music and performances go on every night, and discotecas are on all the surrounding streets, you can´t be bored spending a night there.
TOP 5 MOMENTS
1. Luke eating sea urchin
Hands down, funniest/most terrorizing thing I´ve seen in awhile. Luke really has wanted to try octopus, but for some reason the markets just sell it and restaurants weren´t making it. SO, he went for sea urchin. Which ended up coming in a ice-cold soup. Being the brave man he is, he still tried it, only to find that it was also completely raw and DIGUSTING! I thought he was going to puke. And the waiter kept trying to get him to eat more…..jajajajajaja, so awful…but my fish was good! ;D
2. Avril Lavigne concert!!!
Haha, this was so much fun. We heard about the concert in Valpo, it was on our last day of work, and tickets were only $40…so we decided it would be a fun way to celebrate being done…I mean, how random is it to say you saw Avril Lavigne perform in Santiago?! And she sang Complicated and Sk8ter Boi….and all the Chileans knew every word….my life is complete 😉
3. Cooking in a nice kitchen!
We decided to cook dinner for the woman whose apartment we are staying in last night, and it was a surprise to me how nice it felt to cook! The kitchen at the Y sucked, to be blunt, so I rarely made anything, and the process was never fun. But whipping up pasta and chicken in a gorgeous, clean kitchen and having a long Chilean dinner at good old 9pm was pretty great 🙂
4. Splurging on typical Chilean food for dinner.
I tried Pastel de Choclo for the first time (corn cake). It comes in a black stone bowl and I got it vegetarian, so it´s this yummy cooked sweet corn, that´s crusty on top, soupy in the middle and filled with veggies….SO YUMMY! That plus wine, pisco sour and arroz con leche was heaven 🙂
5. WORST MOMENT = OUR BUS TO ARGENTINA WAS CANCELED DUE TO SNOW IN THE MOUNTAINS!!! 🙁 We got a full refund for tomorrow morning, so cross your fingers that we can leave tomorrow! On the bright side, I would have never seen Cerro San Cristobal or Parque de la Paz if I wasn´t stuck here today, and those were two of my favorite spots…so we´ll focus on the silver lining 🙂 Hopefully, the next time I write will be from Buenos Aires, chao!
THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT VALPARAISO, CHILE
THINGS I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT VALPARAISO, CHILE (gotta be honest, right?!)
‘WOW. It’s my last day in Valparaso,Chile. This is weird. It’s definitely not sinking in yet…and I don’t think it will for awhile. It’s just not a definitive goodbye, seeing as I’m off tomorrow to Santiago to see Avril Lavigne in concert (yup…you heard right…how hilarious is that?!?!?! Tickets are so cheap here, WOOOO!) and then off to Buenos Aires for 5 days and then La Paz for a week. So it’s not like my adventures in South America are ending, and I am SO excited to travel and actually be on vacation all the time…so the fact that I’m leaving Valpo just isn’t stinging as much!
But I’ve had some really great last moments here. I’ve been racing around to see the touristy places that I just haven’t gotten around too, and I went to this awesome museum in Vina del Mar that had tons of artifacts and information on the history of the Mapuche Indians, the indigenous people here in Chile, and Easter Island, they even had a real Moai statue from Easter Island outside! I took a day trip to visit Isla Negra, one of Pablo Neruda’s houses, and it was incredible! I was just geeked out to see the house of one of my favorite poets…but I didn’t realize it was going to be so beautiful! And of course, this is the one time I leave my camera in my room, UGH! But he built his house on the cliff overlooking the ocean, with an amazing, rocky beach below. I never knew that he was a collector as well, but his house is filled with collections of anything to do with sailing, things from Chile’s history and indigenous people and just random collections, like glass table feet and pipes! Getting to drink coffee while overlooking the ocean on Pablo Neruda’s porch, and then going to lay a flower on his grave? Priceless 🙂 That same weekend we took another day trip with the Curso de Lideres youth group here at the YMCA to travel up the mountains in search of….SNOW! All the Chileans were ECSTATIC for snow, most of them had never seen it before, how lucky are they?! (haha, I hate cold!) So even though I was not as enamored with the snow, it was pretty funny to see their reactions, and the mountains were incredibly beautiful.
Speaking of great last moments, I just got back from an epic goodbye party thrown by Mauricio, the director of the center we work at in Las Cañas, in which we trekked out to Laguna Verde, these absolutely GORGEOUS cliffs and beach and waterfalls, and pitched tents to camp for the night…in the middle of winter…bahahahahaha 🙂 But it was so much fun! Our tent was on the top of this huge cliff that overlooked the ocean and we hiked down it the next day in order to spend time at the beach. We also ventured to see a small waterfall, which was one of the more treacherous hikes of my life (if any Hope Church AT hikers are reading this, my trail experiences served me well!). There was pretty much no trail, just mud, rocks, thorns and rivers to cross…madness! But really fun 🙂 The best part for me was getting to roast hot dogs and make smores over the fire, it felt like summer! (Ok, I was wearing 3 shirts, a hoodie, a sweatshirt, scarf, coat, 2 pairs of leggings and two pairs of sweatpants….but still!). Our Chilean friends had never had smores before, and graham crackers don’t exist here…so Johnna found some sweet, square cookies and we went with it! I thought they were delicious, I miss making smores with my family in our backyard firepit so much!
I’m going off to serve at the soup kitchen for the last time this afternoon, preparing myself for tears….the people who work at Las Cañas have really become my family here, they crack me up, have seen me cry, give me advice and are just wonderful friends. I’m gonna miss them a ton. Plus, I’m sad to leave the soup kitchen. I love having my English students tell me “Thank you Mees (how they pronounce “Miss” :D), this looks good!” when I serve them food and I love that I know so many faces by this point and receive hugs and greetings wherever I walk in the center. It’s been a gradual goodbye process, from center to center and program to program…but this is really it…still not hitting home! :-/
I’m doing 2 posts today before leaving, so check out the next one too! I should have internet this weekend in Santiago, and the hostel we’re staying at in Buenos Aires is supposed to have wi-fi, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep blogging as I’m traveling, but it’s going to be a little more up in the air from now on. Wish me luck on my travels, I can’t wait!
Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite subject: FOOD!
Last year part of the money the group paid to the YMCA was to have a cook who made them dinner each night, but they changed things up this year and now they are reimbursing us up to what we pay each month to buy groceries and cook ourselves or go out to eat…it’s a sweet deal! I’m definitely focusing on the going out to eat more than the cooking, hehe 🙂
TOP 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT EATING IN CHILE
1. NO TACOS. NO BURRITOS
Surprised?! I was! Turns out that’s Mexican food, and Chileans aren’t big fans of it. I have only found one restaurant with tacos here and one with fajitas. I have found none with burritos. It makes me want to cry!!
2. They are OBSESSED with salt.
Every single restaurant table has a huge salt shaker on it and usually no pepper to go with it. They put salt on EVERYTHING and lots of it! Salads don’t have dressing, just oil or lemon juice and tons of salt. One of my friends keeps salt packets in his coat pocket. I don’t even know how to describe the obsession, but it is hilarious. Also, almost nothing is spicy here. That was a big surprise for me too. Know why nothing is spicy?!…because they use salt to flavor everything!!!! Taco seasoning can only be found in a tiny space in the ethnic section of the grocery store…gotta love it 🙂
This was recommended to me for my first meal and Chile, and wow is it good. Basically, a chorillana is a heart attack on a plate. It is a plate of thick, greasy, salty French fries, with one or two fried eggs and your choice of meat, (traditionally it is sliced hot dog, but I like it more with chicken) and then fried onions to top it off. Most restaurants make them only in portions for two people to share and they are HUMONGOUS!!! (portion sizes here are usually really big, but this is big even for Chile).
4. Eating Schedule
Let’s journey back in time to Anna’s first full day in Chile. She sat down for lunch, not that hungry, and just had something small, don’t remember what, but a normal American lunch. 6 pm rolls around and she asks when they are going to have dinner and is told “around 9’oclock”…what?! Well that’s a little weird, but she can wait…9 o’clock comes and she is handed a small jelly sandwich…hmmmmm. Luckily, now I know better, haha 🙂 The Chilean eating schedule goes like this, they “tomar desayuno” (literally, “to drink breakfast”), which is only a bit of bread, usually with manjar (see #7) or butter, and this is accompanied by tea or coffee. The focus of breakfast is the tea or coffee, some don’t even eat, that’s why it’s called “drinking breakfast”. Lunch is between 1-3 usually (they can’t believe that in the U.S. I eat at chapel break between 11-11:50 (they always tell me TAN TEMPRANO! “THAT’S SO EARLY!”) And lunch is the big meal of the day, so you have to load up on food there. A lot of restaurants are open from 12-4 and then close until 7 or 8…which is so different! I was a waitress for 4 years, and 11-2 was our busy time for lunch, we’d only keep one waitress on between 2-4:30 (and restaurants are packed during this time here) and 5-7 was our busy dinner time…and the restaurants are closed here then! Dinner is either small or non-existent. Instead, they have “onces” (which I have no idea why it’s called “onces”, because that means eleven…but they have onces around 6-7…weird). Onces consists of tea or coffee with small sandwiches or pastries or cookies. And there you have it! Very different, but I’m more used to it now.
5. Bland Carbohydrates Anyone?
The Chilean diet is carbohydrate-filled (see #10 for more). Breakfast mainly consists of bread. Humongous sandwhiches are everywhere. See # 8 for snack foods: what do they consist of? BREAD! Plus, they love, love, love potatoes. Mashed potatoes, huge portions of French fries, roasted potatoes, they love it (and of course flavoring it with lots of salt). Panderías and pastelerías (bread and pastry shops) are everywhere selling bread and pastries…ok, so I’ve beat the point to death that they love bread 🙂 But in general the diet is just more bland, with lots of carbohydrates, and I’ve even found that the chips and cookies here aren’t as rich as in the U.S. Seriously, I bought a bag of cheetos once, and the flavoring is much lighter colored and not nearly as strong, sadness!
Chocolate rules the dessert scene in the United States, and chocolate is certainly still big here…but manjar definitely comes first. Manjar is “dulce de leche” or caramel-flavored sweetened condensed milk…I don’t really know how to describe..but it is GOOD. And super addicting. And super bad for you…winner 🙂 Chileans put it in everything! Seriously, in every single thing at pastelerias and panderias there is at least a tiny bit of manjar…it’s like they are nervous to make something without manjar, ha 🙂 You can buy it in jars to spread on things (they don’t make peanut butter and jelly here, they saw me making it once and thought it was so weird! But manjar sandwiches?! Of course!) I’m pretty sure all us gringos have our own jar in our rooms at this point, I’m definitely brining a big jar home! But still, for me chocolate will always take the cake!
7. Pisco Sour and Terremotos
Remember how Chile is known for its wine? Well, Chilean wine on its own is amazing, but terremotos make Chilean wine a dream come true. A terremoto (which means “earthquake”) consists of a type of Chilean wine called pipeño, which is really sweet, and then they scoop ice cream on top and serve it in a 1L pitcher…YUM! I can’t decide between this and pisco sour for my favorite. Pisco sour consists of pisco (which I just looked up, and it is defined as a “white brandy made from muscat grapes”..there you have it), lemon juice and sugar and sometimes egg whites (which sounds weird I know), but I think it is SO good! It’s a great mix of sweet and sour and lots of places have it in different flavors, mango and kiwi are my favorite. Oh, and if you’re in Chile, make sure you don’t attribute the invention of pisco sour to the Peruvians…unless you’re looking to start a fight, ha. Chile and Peru both claim to have invented the drink and look on it with national pride…but obviously it was Chile! 😉
8. Anyone Want a Snack?!
Fast food in Chile: Chileans may say they don’t eat dinner, but street carts and fast food places are jam-packed at night, here are 4 of the favorite offerings:
Completos These are a big deal in Chile, Chileans LOVE THEM! Basically, it’s a huge hot dog that is COVERED in condiments (by the way, Chileans love condiments…to an extreme degree…it’s crazy). Normal completes have palta, which is mashed avocado spread, tons of mayo and chopped tomatoes. You can also get tons of varieties, like quesopletos (just cheese filled, no hot dog) or papapletos (filled with French fries instead of hot dog).
Empanadas Who has an addiction to cheese empanadas? This girl! Empanadas are all over, just like completos. There are lots of “Fabricas de Empanadas” where you can grab one quick to go, and standard fillings are cheese, chicken, seafood, and beef. But I like getting them at sit-down restaurants more, they’re usually crispier and really hot, YUM! Also, I just found a place that makes really unique empanadas, like basil, tomato and cheese, goat cheese paired with different things and manjar with pineapple (which is WAY too good)
Sopaipilla Also love these. All the main streets and plazas have tons of little street carts making and selling these fresh. It’s a circle of fried dough and the dough includes pumpkin mixed in it, which makes is slighty sweet. You can put mustard or ketchup or mayo on it, or this Chilean mixture called “pebre” which consists of onion, tomato, garlic, and herbs (they set this down with bread at almost every restaurant). But I just like them plain! And for only $100 pesos per sopaipilla (about 20 cents!), it’s one delicious deal.
Oh my papas fritas… You think that Americans have an addiction to French fries?! YOU HAVEN’T SEEN CHILE! The portion sizes here are INSANE! Be warned, you ask for a small portion of papas fritas and you will add least be delivered a full plate full, if not more. And they are the greasiest, saltiest, freshest fries ever…por qué Chile, por qué?!?!
Chileans love a good sandwich (the word is the same too :D). And their sandwiches are HUMONGOUS! Barros luco is Levi’s favorite (beef and cheese, grilled on a big white bun) and they have sandwiches in every combination you can imagine, always piled to the sky with enormous amounts of condiments, but the Guatón is the king of all sandwiches. A guatón is basically a giant sandwhich. It has layers, so there isn’t just a bun on the outsides, but buns inside to divide the layers. I have only seen them served, never witnessed one eaten…but it is a feat to be proud of. And I am proud to say that Luke Easterday did indeed finish one…I cannot witness to have seen it, but Erica and Johnna can…but I can witness to how much his stomach hurt afterwards 😉
10. Te y Café y Jugo (Tea and Coffee and Juice)
Tea and coffee is everywhere here. Lots of restaurants offer deals with sandwhiches, completes and chorillanas that include a drink and it’s usually a choice between tea, coffee and juice. I think it’s really funny to offer tea with these huge fast food options, but everyone does it! Chileans tend to prefer tea over coffee and almost always have it with breakfast and onces.
Chilean coffee, to be blunt, is gonna be disappointing to an American. They definitely don’t have the same coffee culture that we do. Restaurants with a good selection of lattes do exist, but sizes are small and it’s not as rich. Be warned that if you just order coffee, you will often be served a cup of hot water with a packet of instant coffee…yuck. Finding a Starbucks in Vina del Mar, the next town over, was a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL day 🙂
Chile has made me addicted to fruit juice. They don’t just do apple and orange juice here, they have every possible kind, blueberry, peach, strawberry, banana, kiwi, SO GOOD! Plus, almost every restaurant also offers “jugo natural”, which is freshly squeezed juice mixed in with sugar and water and it is absolutely heavenly. It’s rich and pulpy, but also very light because of the water and it comes in big, pretty glasses with fruit on the rim, so you feel special for ordering it 😉 Plus, it’s usually pretty cheap! This is another thing I am definitely going to miss.
So there you have it! And now I’m hungry…cheese empanada anyone?!
I just got back from a lovely get-away in Santa Cruz, and am gonna take some time to write about it before my busy life in Valparaiso starts up again! (Also, Chile just beat Peru 1-0 with a goal in the 92nd minute to take the highest standing in Group C….VAMOS! VAMOS CHILENOS! QUE ESTA NOCHE, TENEMOS A GANAR!!!! Just had to throw that out there :D)
I feel really lucky to have this internship, but I will admit that at times I am jealous of the exchange students here, because they have so much more flexibility in their schedules and way more time to travel. One of my friends put all his classes Tues-Thurs so that he would have a full 4 day weekend to travel if he wanted to, but I work Mon-Fri and then have youth group until 1:30/2 on Saturdays, so that makes traveling anywhere far away next to impossible! Now I really can’t complain, because I’m going to have almost 2.5 weeks of traveling to end my time here, but I was feeling antsy and ready to just get away for a little bit, and Colegio going on vacation gave me the perfect opportunity for a mini-vacation. Monday and Tuesdays I work at Colegio, so that gave me lots of free time this week, therefore I rearranged my 2 English classes on Monday to be on Wednesday and Thursday instead for this week. That gave me Sunday, Monday and Tuesday until my class at 3:30 to jet away for a bit, and I’ve really wanted to visit a winery here…luckily the most famous wine valley in Chile, the Colchagua Valley, is only about 4 hours away! Chile is known for it’s wine and has really built up wine tourism and Santa Cruz is right outside of the Colchagua Valley. I bought a great guidebook before coming here that had recommendations on wineries to visits and hotels to stay at and I was able to find a vineyard named Viu Manent that offered an hour long tour in a horse-drawn carriage of the fields and processing plant, a chance to taste wine in process and a tasting of four wines to wrap things up for only $30 and a gorgeous little bed and breakfast for only $25 a night….how perfect is that?!
I persuaded Luke to accompany me on my adventure, so we first took a 1.5 hour bus ride Sunday morning to Santiago, because no buses connect to Santa Cruz from Valparaiso (the city is small, it’s just on the map because of wine tourism) and from there we had a 3.5 hour ride into Santa Cruz. It’s really popular and common to travel by Greyhound-type bus from city to city and internationally in South America, the bus terminals are humongous and chaotic, with buses between Valparaíso and Santiago every 15 minutes, craziness!! The ride itself was gorgeous, the ceros (hills) of Valparaíso are beautiful, but you can’t see the huge mountain ranges from Valpo, and they were beautiful to see on the bus. Plus it was just interesting to see how different cities look, I’m so used to houses balancing precariously on hills, it was weird to see flat, more ordered neighborhoods!
After arriving we found our hostal, and even though the guidebook had said it was wonderful, I was a bit anxious…until I stepped inside our room and saw my clean, puffy white bedspread, two fluffed pillows and collapsed onto perhaps the comfiest mattress ever…and there wasn’t a bunkbed with flea-filled blankets in sight, THANK THE LORD!!!! Seriously, the vacation would have been worth it for just that bed. The staff were so kind and friendly and it just kept getting better when they gave us a yummy breakfast each morning and the shower was PRIVATE (no naked Chilean women by me!!!). About 2 hours in it hit us how quiet it was in the hostal…it was lovely. I love Valparaíso, but it is busy and loud and chaotic all day and all night and living in the YMCA with pumping techno music and people talking and walking around you all the time just adds to the mayhem. To be able to collapse on my own bed and just read in quiet was so calming 🙂
But we did somehow leave the peace of the hostal and venture out to Viu Manent on Monday. We walked down a beautiful country road to reach the visitor’s center and were greeted by one of the friendliest staffs I’ve ever met, I love that about Chile! I’d asked for the tour in English, just because I wanted to be able to understand absolutely everything and know nothing about wine-making, haha! But it turned out to be a really funny mix of Spanish and English, they were teasing us before the tour that our Spanish was too good to ask for the English tour (which was a very nice compliment to receive :D), but while we did take the tour in English, we had all our side conversations in Spanish, so our guide would forget to switch back to English for the tour, until I didn’t understand a word and asked about it and then he would seamlessly slide back into English…it was great 🙂 Sadly, it’s not summer, so the vines weren’t filled with grapes, but it was still beautiful and I loved the horse-drawn carriage! Visiting the processing plant was really interesting too, we got to try two different wines right from the humongous containers and hear about all the steps that go into making the wine, I never knew how complicated it was! And then the tasting was just delicious…Luke and I took our time with that…and then decided we needed some food in our bellies, haha 🙂 So we decided to splurge at the winery restaurant, and I am SO GLAD that we did, because that had to be one of the best meals I’ve had in a LONG time. I had the most perfect salmon (obviously not better than yours Dad, don’t fret…well maybe I’m being nice, hehe) and grilled vegetables and a tres leches flan, a typical Chilean dessert, to finish things off. We ended up spending about 4 hours at that winery, just relaxing, walking the vineyard, eating, drinking, and feeling pampered for the first time in awhile, it was so wonderful…writing about it makes me want to go back!!
Coming back we were surprised to find out that Santa Cruz has the largest private museum in Chile. The Colchagua Wine Valley was developed by Carlos Cardoen, a major arms dealer that couldn’t return to the U.S. because the US Customs Service put a $500,000 price on his head due to some shady deals with Iraq…weird, right?!?! So he settled in Santa Cruz, poured his money into vineyards and into collecting valuable historical objects. And now his son has started a foundation that runs the museum that houses and expands his collection! I loved the museum, I could look at the artifacts all day…even though reading all the info started to make my head hurt, too much Spanish!! Finally, to wrap up a great day, we decided to be super-winos and buy some wine and cheese (I still get a kick out of being able to buy wine here, I always am worried they are going to card me, haha!) and kick back with a movie on those amazingly comfortable beds of ours. Lame? Perhaps. Perfectly relaxing and wonderful? Definitely 🙂
So all in all, it was very sad to have to leave and return to reality this morning…until I realized that my reality is living in Chile! And got to return to the crazy Chilean soccer scene and my students and work here. I only have 10 more days left in Valparaíso…I can’t even fathom that…it’s crazy!! And I have way to many places here and in Vina del Mar on my “To See” list, so it’s going to be a jam-packed last few days! So I’m going to enjoy my last few days in Valpo to the fullest, even though it was exactly what I needed to get away for awhile…thank you so much Santa Cruz, te amo!!!
(Oh, and if you’re ever in Santa Cruz, I highly recommend staying at Hostal D’Vid and going to Viu Manent, you won’t regret it!!)
DISCLAIMER: I couldn’t post due to site updates, so this post is a bit out-dated…if you are my friend on Facebook, I already posted this as a note, if not, enjoy!
Wow. It’s been way too long since I last posted, and I apologize for that! Now I understand why other travelers say that when you have the most to do and talk about, you have the least time to do so! But I’m going to be super-blogger now to make up for it, so watch out!
And part of the reason that I can be super-blogger is that one of my programs is ending! Weird! The colegio (The Chilean education system is divided into colegio (pre-school-8th grade), secundaria (9th-12th grade, but they call it 1-4) and Universidad (college)) that I work at is going on winter vacation (haha!) this Friday for 2 weeks. They start back up with school on the 24th of July, but my internship ends on July 22…so after tomorrow I’m not going to see my kiddies again 🙁
I have absolutely loved working at the colegio with my 3rd and 5th graders, despite its challenges. As I said, this is a school for kids who have some kind of troubled home, whether it be financial troubles, abuse, neglect, alcohol, etc. I spend 3 days a week in the 3rd grade classroom and it has been such a wonderful opportunity to really develop relationships with these kids and get to know their personalities and needs. But it is also difficult, because you can start to see where these kids are suffering in their lives. Quite a few of them are very, very clingy and attention seeking…which from being a camp counselor last year, I know just happens with kids, but it’s to a level where I wonder how much attention, hugs and love these kids are receiving at home. Many of them jump to violence over small conflicts and seem to find it quite normal to smack someone or hit their head when upset. And overall trying to keep control and teach them to raise their hand and not yell or act out can be pretty exhausting.
But in spite of that, there are really great days too. When they all do well on the quiz, or are actually working quietly. When you can see how excited they are about learning and how they’re almost jumping up and down to be picked and say the answer so you can see how smart they are. Plus, they’re just kids! And they want to have fun and be loved. So that’s why I made my lessons focus on getting them to sing and dance and do artwork and practice English, so that they could have a break from being told to be quiet 🙂
It’s a blessing to me to walk into the school yard and be attacked with my students who want to hug me, help me carry me things, start singing the latest song we learned at me or giving me sweets. It’s difficult to only be in these kids lives for such a short time, but I’ve just tried to give as many hugs, smiles and “good jobs” as I can, answer as many questions about English as possible (haha) and give them some fun songs, dances and projects to remember. ( I’ll post videos of them singing if I can!). And yesterday I came into the class only to be greeted with huge shouts of “Te quiero Tia Anna” (I love you Miss Anna!) and gifts of goodbye cards that they had asked their teacher if they could make in art class.I had made little gifts and cards for them too, each with a small gift from Holland, or Valpo (like mini wooden shoes post cards, lanyards) and I was able to talk the the class and tell them how much they meant to me and how much I loved my time with them (and expressing emotional things is really hard to do in another language!) and I was so proud when I was done that I’d said what I’d wanted to and hadn’t cried…and then the teacher asked if the kids had anything to say to me…and they all started jumping up and down and raising their hands. So one by one, my kiddies stood up and shyly told me that they loved me and what activities of mine they loved the most and that they were going to miss me and then walked up to give me a hug and kiss. I was surviving until little Constanza told me that her one wish is that I was a Chilean so that I could stay with her forever…let the waterworks begin! But it was a wonderful mix of happy and sad tears, I’m so grateful for the experience, but don’t want it to end!
But even with sad goodbyes come new beginnings. I recently found a lovely little Lutheran church (yeah Valpo, you converted me, congrats) in Vina del Mar, the next town over, and they do a caminata (walk) to bring the homeless soup, coffee and sandwiches on Tuesday nights. I went for the first time last night and am so glad that I did. Being a part of a Christian community that is intent on living out their faith and serving others as Jesus served is another blessing for me. I love my church at home, and to feel a part of another church community is something that has really anchored me here and given me peace. We met at 7 pm at the church to prepare the food, had a lovely devotional and time to sing together and then donned some awesome neon yellow coats that have our churches name and the back and headed out to walk the streets! Part of what I’m really grateful for in this internship is that I’m not just a tourist here who sees the touristy, luxurious parts of a country. I get to live right in the center of the city, not in luxurious conditions, but right in the center of restaurants, office buildings, bars, concert halls, be a bus ride away from very rich and orderly Vina del Mar, and then work in really poor communities and see another side of Valparaiso and life in Chile. On this walk I met a woman who was 7 months pregnant but still addicted to drugs and alcohol, a mute man sitting outside a bread store, two old men who were out on street corners playing homemade instruments and many others. It’s really hard for me to be able to talk with these people because of their accents. Accents don’t differ by region in Chile, like in the U.S. Instead, they differ based on class. But I can smile, control and get rid of my own pride by letting the homeless men to kiss me on the cheek to say hello and goodbye and sit with them as they eat, nodding and smiling as the Chileans talk with them J.
Another new beginning is getting my travel plans set for my last 2 weeks here! The Y gives us the last week as a vacation week, so we are done July 22 and Levi and Erica are leaving July 28. Luke and I elected to stay longer because we want to travel and Luke has a friend in Bolivia who was an exchange student at his high school that he wants to visit. So we’ve all been talking and the plan is to head up to Santiago for a weekend, then Luke and I will leave for Buenos Aires (AH!!!! I’M SO EXCITED!) by bus, spend about 5 days there and then fly up to La Paz, Bolivia for my last week! It’s going to be very weird to say goodbye to my life and friends here and then have more than 2 weeks left in South America, but feel so incredibly lucky to have the chance to visit these places…even typing it I can’t believe that it’s actually going to happen!!
I’ll write again soon, hopefully on the blog site! Off to watch the Copa America now, Chile vs. Uruguay…CHI CHI CHI! LE LE LE! VIVA CHILE!!!!
I’m working on a couple longer posts, but I wanted to give a quick update on the Festival de San Pedro that happened this weekend! There are always surprises in Chile, especially because people don’t like to tell you about upcoming events in advance! So on Friday we learned that there was going to be a festival and parades and boat display on Sunday and a vacation day with no school or work on Monday, que bakan! (awesome!)
And the celebration on Sunday was SO cool, I had no idea what to expect, but we went to the main harbor and there were tons of people there….but nothing happening…but all the boats were decorated with flowers and little flags, so that was pretty to see…and just as we were getting bored and thinking of going to a restaurant, this loud marching band music starts up and a huge parade comes our way! And this was no Tulip Time parade, this was a Chilean parade for sure, because it was all music and dancing! There were tons of different dancing groups, each wearing the traditional clothing for the type of dance that they were performing, and personal little marching bands to follow each group of dancers. Mixed in were banners and images and mini floats of the Virgin Mary, San Pedro and other saints. San Pedro is the patron saint of fisherman, therefore since Valparaiso is the most important port city in Chile and a has a huge shipping and fishing industry, Valparaiso throws one heck of a party on this day 🙂
The best part was that once the parade was finished and passed us, we started walking after the dancers down the parade route, trying to mimic there dance moves, and once we had them down started dancing behind the last marching band with the same moves that the real dancers were doing, in the parade route, baha!! People started laughing and taking pictures of us along with the dancers and yelling “gringas miren aca! Aca!” (White girls, look over here!”…I was with two of my friends who are from France and a Chilena 🙂 ). It was hilarious, we were dancing like that for a good 20 minutes until the real dancers finally ended, and then on our way back to the harbor, another parade started up! More dancing!
Then today we had a lovely free day to sleep in and then headed out to the sand dunes at Con Con, a city close to Vina del Mar, very touristy (you can tell because there was a McDonalds, Starbucks and Burger King and huge condo buildings along the beach 😀 ). The dunes were so beautiful! So I spent my afternoon hiking, eating our picnic lunch of bananas, turkey and cheese sandwiches, peach juice (I’m addicted to juice because of Chile, they have every possible flavor and stands all over that squeeze it for you fresh, SO GOOD!), and our dessert of oreos and peanut butter, and finally watching the puesta del sol (sunset) over the ocean…life is good!
So there’s my holiday update! I return to work tomorrow, but this upcoming weekend we’re going to celebrate the 4th of July with our Chilean friends by having a good ol’ American cookout! Too bad fireworks are illegal here… 🙁
Chao amigos! Besitos!
Alrighty, I know I said in my last post that I was going to write about night-life and I had a post almost finished and then my computer got stolen…yeah…awesome. So I don’t really feel like writing it all over again and getting mad remembering about the computer-stealing fiasco! Therefore, I’m gonna write about Chilean culture…it won’t be a textbook promise 🙂 After living here for a month I’m certainly not an expert, but there are some really obvious cultural differences here, and most of them are pretty funny! So here we go:
In the U.S. if you’re going to say hi to someone or a group, you wave at everyone as you walk by, handshake if it’s more formal or hug if you’re friends, right? Well here, to say hello you say “Hola” and then press your cheek to the other person’s cheek and kiss the air (or if you’re a teenage boy, you not so discreetly plant a kiss right on my cheek…nice). This happens between men and women and between women, men just shake hands, and you add a hug into the mix if you’re good friends. To say goodbye is the same thing, but you say “Chao” and kind of feel like you’re Italian. (They look at you funny if you say “Adios” too!) The thing that cracks me up is that you MUST greet and say goodbye to every single person individually. My favorite example of this is in youth group, when I enter the room and have to go around and kiss 50 Chileans on the cheek…and if I miss one they point it out and I’m automatically super rude! I’m really bad with remembering this when I say goodbye to groups of people, I’ll just say “Chao!” wave and start to walk off, and then realize how rude I’m being!
Chileans love to joke that they don’t speak Spanish, they speak Chilean. I didn’t know this before I came here, but it turns out that Chile has a reputation for REALLY difficult to understand Spanish…and I can now verify that reputation whole-heartedly! The first thing that makes speaking “Chilean” so difficult is that they speak incredibly fast! Native Spanish-speakers in general seem to speak really quickly to me, but Chileans talk fast even for native speakers, it’s insane! Chileans also love to use slang, so they have tons of words that don’t make sense anywhere but Chile. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Poh: Chileans add the sound “poh” onto any word they please. It’s most common with “si”, so a lot of times Chileans respond with “sipo!” to questions. I’ve found that in conversations between friends or with some kind of passionate topic/emotion, they start slipping poh into at least one word every sentence, it can make things really hard to follow at first! But I love trying to use it now, and it cracks them up when I do, they love that I’m becoming a chilena J
Bakán: this is kind of like “awesome”, they use it to describe anything that was cool or fun or interesting, que bakán, no?!
Pololo/polola: this means novio/novia (boyfriend/girlfriend), but it also signifies that the relationship is quite serious, if I’m understanding correctly. Try saying it, it’s such a funny word! Oh, and “pololear” means “to date”.
Cachai/cache: Cachai is used in place of “entiendes?” (you understand?). I need to take a video of someone saying it, it’s a word with bounce and force, I love it! And if you understand you respond with “cache!”. Chileans slip “cachai” on the end of tons of sentences, speeches are littered with it! Cachai?
Wena choro/pollo!: This is a greeting between friends, choro is a chilenismo for “amigo” (friend). Pollo literally means “chicken”, but calling someone a pollo is like calling them stupid. But Chileans love insulting their friends, it’s honestly like you’re real friends once you start trading insults all the time, I almost feel good once I’m in insult battles b/c I know I’m in, ha! But don’t say “wena pollo” to someone who isn’t a friend, they’ll get mad! But between friends it’ll always get a laugh 🙂
WOW. This was definitely the most evident cultural difference right away. CHILEANS LOVE PDA! SO MUCH! My first night in Chile we went to a restaurant and I looked over at the table next to me, only to find a couple making-out (and it was riding the PG/PG-13 line)! I let out a little gasp and my friend Susana looked over to ask what was wrong, so I nodded my head over at the couple…and she looked so confused! I tried to explain that this level of PDA was not normal in the U.S., especially not in a nice restaurant, and she couldn’t understand it! In her words, “Anna, love is beautiful, why hide it?!”…so there you have it, the Chilean belief that fuels their PDA J But be warned, if you’re walking around Valparaíso, you will find couples making out on almost every park bench, at the traffic light waiting to cross the street, in front of you in line, everywhere! They even do it when out with other people! Just last night I was out with some friends at a bar, two of whom are dating, and they just started kissing, during a conversation, with people sitting on either side of them…and everyone continues on as if nothing is happening! They might tease them a bit, but no one is uncomfortable! Except me! I’ll admit, I’m not surprised at the PDA because Chileans are so comfortable with touch in general. Friends hug and touch all the time here, personal bubbles are very small or non-existent! Oh, PDA, gotta love it 😉
4. Super Talkative and Friendly!
Chileans are very, very friendly, which I love, it’s really helpful when you’re a stranger in a foreign country! Living in the YMCA there are always tons of people around and it’s quite normal for a stranger to strike up a conversation with me while I’m on my laptop, walking up the stairs, sitting in the kitchen or even when I’m getting dressed in the locker room or taking a shower (still not used to that whole stranger shower conversation thing…)! I think this may happen more often because I’m a gringa, and this tends to fascinate people (also, I so easily stick out, I’m so white, ah! I need to be home and able to tan!), but I’ve also seen this happen a lot between Chileans, as a whole they’re just much more comfortable and laid back with touch and meeting new people. Chileans keep the conversation going for a long time too, when you sit down for a meal I’ve learned that you need to be prepared to sit for a good hour once everyone is done eating in order to just sit and talk and laugh. I love that, it works well for a talkative extrovert like me
5. Aggressively Kind
This is a term that Erica and I decided on to describe how Chileans treat us, and each other. Chileans are hospitable almost to a fault. When you’re invited over to someone’s house they will ask you what you want to drink and if you want more or something they don’t have at least 10 times and keep insisting that you eat more and won’t let you help prepare or serve or clean anything at all! It’s very sweet, you feel like a queen J It’s hard to explain the aggressive part, but the best way I can think to describe it is that Chileans are very sure that they know what is best for you and will not take no for an answer! So if they think it’s too cold outside and you need more clothes, nothing is happening until you put more clothes on! With food, I get second helpings or they at the least look very confused and disappointed if I repeatedly refuse something…or just give me another drink anyways J When I was sick and they decided I needed bedrest, then there was NO leaving the Y, no matter what I said! And if you say “no” to anything, they rarely take it seriously, I think they think you’re kidding…ah, I hope this makes sense, it can be both really wonderful (the kindness) and really frustrating (the aggressive-ness)!
Ok, there’s lots more to say, but this is really long already, so I’ll have Chilean culture part 2 later! As for life here, things are good! I love teaching my classes, singing with the kids and getting cooking lessons in the soup kitchen , and I never run out of places to explore here…life is good 🙂 I taught the third graders for an hour and a half all by myself today (that was one of the most obvious indicators I’ve had at how much my Spanish is improving, YAY!) and it was so much fun! I taught them “This is the Day” in Spanish and English and motions to go along with it, and then we made clay models of the beautiful things that the Lord has made, like we were singing about…so much fun 🙂 I have some pictures, I’ll put them in soon! Off to a concert now, besos!