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Gap Year Abroad

9 posts from October 2013

10/28/2013

Con Una Sonrisa

Elevando sueños, construyendo oportunidades (Lifting dreams, constructing opportunities). That’s the motto of one of the volunteer organizations I’m working with throughout this semester: ADAPTA Chile. I don’t know much about the logistics of the program, but from what I understand, ADAPTA was founded and is still run by a group of university students. They’re original purpose was to help kids with down syndrome go surfing, but now it has spread to all sorts of discapacidades and a variety of sports, such as kayaking, slacklining, trekking, and of course, surfing still. The best part (well besides all the smiles of the students of course) is that as monitors, we’re expected to have just as much fun!

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Learning how to sit on a slackline with the help of Tommy (on my right) and Jean-Pierre (on my left)

All of us GAP students went through a couple training sessions, and now almost every weekend, we work with other university monitors and different groups of about 10 students, some returning veterans and others new faces. We begin with a quick warm up, a game and then a group stretch. Then we break up into smaller groups, usually one or two monitors per student, and off we go, either hiking around a lake, hopping onto a surfboard, or walking, kneeling, sitting, jumping etc on a slackline. I’ve gone on a couple of hikes with a six year old boy named Vincent and his twin brother. Vincent has more energy than everybody else combined, a short attention span, and the cutest cheeks, and a good majority of the time when we’re not walking, the other monitor and I are taking turns playing catch the run away child! At one of the slacklining sessions, a girl named Rosalina approached me and said that my shoes were beautiful; we’ve been buddies ever since. I’ve particularly enjoyed working/hanging out with her because throughout the past couple of practices, she’s gone from holding the hands of two monitors while shakingly walking across the line, to confidently striding forwards and backwards with the help of only one finger (a feat some of us have yet to accomplish…). And one week she brought me a bag of Chilean candy.

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The bros. (photo credit-Maggie)

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Rosalina and I (and the notorious shoes..) Also, notice the landscape. Not too bad of a view, eh? 

When we first discovered that we were going to work with ADAPTA on the weekends as our mandatory volunteer organization, I was slightly disappointed because, like the other students, I had been looking forward to traveling on our three day weekends (our classes were specifically scheduled with the intention of giving us an extra day to explore). Then, the first several times brought about mixed feelings, because although the organization seemed like a good idea, I didn’t feel like I was contributing much; in addition to the language barrier (times 100000 when you’re talking to children with ADHD or vocal impairments…), I didn’t know the students well enough to interact with them or help them to push their boundaries in a comfortable way.

However, sticking with it paid off. I truly love ADAPTA now, and like almost all the volunteering experiences I’ve had, has become more than just me giving; it’s a two way relationship. Whenever I teach something, I learn something in return. When I help a 7 year old hold a pencil correctly to draw a cloud, he teaches me the word nube. When I’m patient, giving quiet motivation to the extremely nervous slackliner, they’re even more patient, doing their best to communicate with some crazy extranjera. One time, Jean-Pierre, one of the other monitors, told me to hop up onto the slackline, and I walked across holding on to only the shoulders of one of the students walking in front of me, also on the slackline (if that makes sense..). According to society, she’s handicapped, and here in Chile, I’m an obvious gringa, but as we were walking together, trusting each other completely, depending on only the other to keep from falling off, we were very much the same. When we made it, our smiles were mirror reflections, and let me tell you, there is little in this world that is better than a genuine whoop of glee and an enormous smile.

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And the end of every session, there's a group picture. And everytime they say, "One, Two, Three, ADAPTA!" 

When I was walking home one afternoon, I ran into one of the other monitors from ADAPTA who's also a could-have-been pro parasailer and a local clown. He was heading the same direction, so we walked and talked for a while (He taught me about this insane sport that he partakes in where people race down the extremely steep, skinny, curvy, pot-hole filled, dangerous streets in Vaplaraiso on their bikes!). But anyways, right before I turned off onto my street, he said, “No te olvides, la mejor forma ver la vida es con una sonrisa.”  (Don't forget, the best way to look at life is with a smile). To me, that's what ADAPTA is all about. The concept is simple, it's pure, it's true, and it's something we can all learn from. 

1378584_523066927785334_1181331896_nThe latest surf session (photo credit ADAPTA) 

Diferencias

 

“Okay, we are different it's true. And I don't like to do all the things that you do. But here's one thing to think through, You're a lot like me and I'm a lot like you!” Robert Alan Silverstein

 

I came to Chile knowing that there were going to be cultural differences because that is part of going abroad wherever you are in the world! Here is a list of some of the differences between Chilean and US culture that I have noticed. Some I was more or less expecting and others were more of a shock...

  • When walking down the street and you make eye contact with a stranger, there is no form of acknowledgement, including a smile.
  • Lunch is the big meal of the day, not dinner.
  • When at the dinner table and food is served you don’t have to wait for everyone to sit down to start eating.
  • Scheduling and punctuality are not super important.
  • When meeting someone or every time you say hello or goodbye you give a kiss on the cheek. 
  • There are soo many stray dogs in the streets.
  • Restaurants charge for water.
  • And when ordering water at a restaurant you have to specify if it’s “sin”(without) or “con”(with) gas(bubbles). Chileans don’t typically drink a lot of water with meals though.
  • You have to pay to use the bathrooms in public.
  • When in the supermarket line you need to stand very close to the person in front, otherwise someone will come up and stand in front of you. 
  • It is normal for a house to have huge iron gates around it. 
  • They eat soo much bread. 
  • Chileans rarely eat peanut butter.
  • Recycling is just becoming a concept in Chile. There are no recycle bins inside, but on the streets they have huge structures where you can dump your bottles. 
  • The buses or micros have no schedule.
  • They have avocados coming out of their ears.
  • Chilean Spanish is super hard to understand because Chileans use a lot of slang for example “Cachai” which means “get it? or “yanno?” And po, which I still am not exactly sure what it translates to in English but they use it a lot after sí like “sí po”. There are so many more slang words but those are two of the main ones.    
  • Chileans use a lot of salt compared to what I’m used it. A typical salad is lettuce, palta (avocado), lemon juice and then a ton of salt. I’m lucky my host mom doesn’t put the salt on before serving because my family loves their salt!   
  • It is common to live with your parents until you are done with university.
  • Chileans use military time…and even after 3 months I still get confused.
  • Most Chilean families, no matter what their economic status is, will have a maid or nana. I have one, Anita, who comes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and apart from cleaning the house, she cooks delicious lunches! 
  • There is so much PDA! No matter where you are walking through the park, on the beach, waiting to cross the street, on a micro you can always spot a couple passionately making out right in front of you.
  • The gap between public and private schools here is a lot greater than in the States.
  • Tipping: you do tip your waiter/waitress at a restaurant and you do tip the people who bag your groceries at the grocery store but you do not tip taxi drivers.

 

I’m sure as I go about my daily life and travel the country, I will continue to see similarities and differences between cultures, but that is one of the things that makes studying abroad so fascinating, educational and eye-opening! 

Ciao for now! 

10/20/2013

A Week in the Life

"The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities" Stephen R. Covey 

The weeks here have been flying by, and it’s absolutely crazy to think that I am more than halfway through my time here in Chile! I’ve developed a weekly schedule, which keeps me really busy everyday and I love it.  So here we go, a week in the life: 

Mondays I wake up around 9:30, get ready, leave the apartment, walk to the main street, Libertad, and wait for bus 412 to come. The buses here have no schedule so sometimes I could be waiting 2 minutes and sometimes I could be waiting 10 minutes, you really never know. I flag down the bus, hop on, hand the bus driver my 360 Chilean pesos, (Don’t freak, the conversion from US dollars to Chilean pesos is approximately 1 dollar = 500 Chilean pesos) and find an empty seat on the bus. After about a 20-minute bus ride I arrive at the Paul Harris school, which is where I volunteer as a teacher’s helper in 5-8th grade English classes. I do different things when I’m there. Sometimes the teacher, Ms. Nataly has the volunteers read an excerpt in English as the kids fill in the blanks or work with the kids as they read through their books and pick out words they don’t know, or have trouble pronouncing. Whatever I do I love being there and working with the kids. They all are really sweet and have a lot of energy which makes every day fun and exciting!  

After volunteering I take the bus back to La Moñtana, which is the name of the street my school is on, and go to my first class of the week, “Chilean Culture and Communications”.  So far we have studied the differences between US and Chilean culture and values and different places in Chile, including Viña’s neighbor Valparaiso, the capital, Santiago, and Pucón, which is in the south and where I will be going in November! We have also studied “las Fiestas Patrias”, the Chilean independence week, the history of the mines in Chile, where we watched the movie “Subterra”, and now we are studying famous Chileans, including Isabel Allende, a novelist, Violeta Parra, a famous folklore guitarist and arpilleras (textile art) artist, and of course Pablo Neruda. One day we read one of his famous poems from his “Viente Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada, or “Twenty Love Poems: And a Song of Despair”. In this class there are 3 US students and 3 German students so after we read the poem in Spanish, we then read it once in English, and then once in German! I really love having the German girls in the class because it gives another perspective. So instead of just comparing US customs and cultures, we can compare German, US and Chilean customs and cultures, which makes the class so much more interesting.

After that class I head over to the CIEE office for my CIEE culture class with the six other gap students. This class is centered around Chilean culture. We started talking about the differences between Chilean and US culture and then moved into focusing on different parts of Chilean culture and looking at different ways of expression. We’ve taken a couple of field trips through this class including heading into Valpo to a photography studio where we got to see the process of developing photos in a dark room!

After the CIEE class I usually have about two hours where I either hang out at the CIEE office drinking tea, eating fruit and chatting with the other students hanging out, or I just head home. At 7:30 I walk over to the Saint Dominic school and swim for an hour among the local swimmers. After that I go home and enjoy “once”, or dinner, with my mom, brother and sister.

Tuesday mornings are my day to sleep in! My first class doesn’t start until 12:20 so I wake up, make myself a cup of tea and some oatmeal with honey and banana, (it’s my new fav breakfast here) and then just hang out at home straightening up my room, meditating, or finishing up homework before heading to school.

My first class on Tuesday is my Spanish grammar class, which isn’t necessarily my most interesting class, but totally helps with my progression in Spanish. I have lunch at school and then at 2:00 I have my second class of the day, “Chilean Culture and Communications”. After classes I sometimes head to a park and hang out with friends or head home to work on homework or to relax for a bit.

At 6:30 I head over to one of my favorite places in Viña, the Savittar yoga studio! I absolutely love the time I spend at the yoga studio. My teacher Carolina is amazing and I’m learning a ton of new vocab because the class is taught in Spanish! Also there is something so soothing about having the class taught in Spanish. Even when I don’t completely understand everything, it is still easy to relax and unwind.  

The rest of my night is similar to Monday night. I go home, have “once” with the fam, do some homework and go to sleep. 

Again on Wednesday I am pretty lucky because my first class doesn’t start until 11:00. I wake up, eat breakfast and walk to school for my two classes. Then at 2:00 I head home and enjoy a delicious lunch with my mom and sometimes my siblings, depending on the day.

At 5:30 I take a bus to “las salinas”, or the marine base, to volunteer at the pool teaching kids how to swim! I spend the first hour in the pool working with 6-8 year olds on blowing bubbles, kicking on their back, floating and becoming comfortable swimming alone. It is a challenge to communicate with these kids and use my Spanish to teach them how to swim. It’s also really fun because it reminds me of my summer swim team; no matter where you are 7 year olds will be 7 year olds, full of energy and a little rambunctious!

After the little kids leave, I get to do some swimming myself! I jump into practice with the older kids, running through different sprint sets and working out with them, which I love!  

Being active is so important to me so even though it took some time to find the right fit, I am so incredibly happy I’ve found places where I can participate in activities that I love and keep me busy and active! 

Thursday is my longest day as I wake up at 7:30, head to Paul Harris for volunteering, then to UVM for classes until 5:30. I have my two regular classes, grammar and “Chilean Culture and Communications”, plus another class with just the CIEE gap students called Service Learning. We talk about different topics including our volunteering jobs, the education system in Chile and now disabilities. This class is really long, but our teacher does a good job at keeping us engaged in the topic so we get the most out of the class.

After a long day of classes it always feels so great to head to the yoga studio for a Thursday night class where I get to relax and unwind.

Fridays I don’t have any classes, which is so nice. I love having three day weekends! But we do occasionally have field trips through our CIEE culture class. For example we recently took a trip into Valpo to visit “La Sebastiana”, Pablo Neruda’s house, and to explore Valpo, looking at the different street art. 

Saturday and Sundays are spent volunteering and just hanging out with family and friends. The third program I volunteer with is an organization called Adapta, where I volunteer to teach children with special needs outdoor sports, such as surfing or slacklining. So far the weather hasn’t been warm enough to go surfing, but I’m excited because next week we will be able to finally go surfing! 

That’s basically my week in Viña. Busy but fun! I really love it and I look forward to each new activity everyday!

Apart from my busy life here in Viña I am also really excited to continue to travel. Anna and I are planning a trip to La Serena, north of Viña, which is where we will spend Halloween!  And as I mentioned earlier a bunch of friends and I are taking a trip south to Pucón, which I am also really excited about!

Ciao for now! 

10/14/2013

Try, Try and Try again

TRIED: About a month ago when I was walking home from school, somebody on the street handed me a little flyer advertising the 10th anniversary of the Vina del Mar International Marathon. There was a 10K, a 21K and a full marathon (42K or 26 miles), and it happened to be on the exact same day that my mother in the US would be celebrating her birthday. Partially because I wanted to do something special in honor of her and partially because I’ve wanted to attempt one of these for quite some time now, I decided to sign up for the 21K, my first half marathon. The month went by, and despite the fact that I hadn’t trained as properly as I probably should have, on October 13th, at 5am in the morning, I was at the bus stop, yawning, but feeling ready to run.

Before the sun rose, about 5,000 fellow runners and I met in the town next door to Vina del Mar called Reñaca, and when the miniature cannon went off, off we went. The first part of the race was surprisingly easy because I started off at a comfortable pace, and the wave of people around me pretty much carried me right along. Plus the entire course stretched right alongside the coast of the mar, an incredible view and source of motivation. After a while, the massive block of runners started to disperse as it always does, and one of my best friends here, Dania, met up with me on her bike (she biked the entire race by my side-she’s the best, I know). I was feeling a little bit nervous, but still comfortable and confident overall, that is until I saw the course maker which read 2k. It’s one thing to think about running 13.1 miles. It’s a totally different feeling when you realize you’ve been running for 10 minutes and you still have 19 more kilometers to go...

However, thanks to an incredible amount of support from friends, my faithful biking buddy by my side, and a lot of built up emotion and thoughts to occupy my mind, I finished every single meter of that race without stopping once, and at an almost perfectly consistent pace of 8:19 per mile. My final time was 1:48 minutes which put me in third place in my category, and in addition to two verrrry exhausted legs, I left Reñaca that day with two medals (one for third place and the other for completing the 21K). Sometimes all it takes is traveling to another country to find the confidence to do the things you never would have imagined possible.

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Can you find me?? 

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First time on a podium! 

 

TRYING: I’m not going to lie, waking up before 8am for class is not something I’m always overly thrilled about. However, there’s a silver lining to everything, and thanks to the early beginning, two of my four days of classes have early endings, leaving two afternoons of freedom! Every Tuesday, my friend Dana (the girl from Seattle) and I take advantage and head out to Valparaiso. On our first trip, our mission was to encounter the Museo A Cielo Abierto, something in Valparaiso that we were learning about in our culture class. Although we failed in completing that mission, we were definitely successful in another sense. That afternoon we met a young Chilean student who had studied in France and was more than willing to help us practice our Spanish; we found Pablo Neruda’s house and took a self guided tour; we stumbled upon a small jewelry shop, and chatted with the owner, learning about his craft and also that we could make our own earrings or ring next time we stopped by; we ate some incredible ice cream at a local shop, and we talked and talked and talked.

Another time we met a man who was selling books in the street, and he helped us pick out some basic, but classic reads. We’ve wandered up and down several hills, ducked in and out of all sorts of shops, and eaten LOTs of ice cream. My favorite discovery thus far was this sketchy looking staircase with an amazing mural on the wall. Dana had the idea of finding out where it lead, and so up we went. It turned out to be a meditation and yoga center that had a strong tie to Indian culture (I’m pretty sure they even lead trips to India), and also happened to serve fairly cheap and absolutely delicious food to customers sitting on little pillows on the floor. Not long after we plopped down at the low tables, we were joined by a Chilean student who was getting his PhD in Valparaiso, and for the duration of our vegetarian deliciousness, we chatted away with a complete stranger. Every time we go, we try to do something new, go somewhere we’ve never been and talk to at least one person who we’ve never met before. Oh, and have a blast, but that usually comes naturally. During our excursions, not only have we gotten to learn a little bit more about the city, but we’ve also learned a little bit more about eachother; we have a friendship I’m really excited about and thankful for.

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Dana and I on one of our many wonderful excursions. Love that girl. 
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The dining room of the Indian food place. 

GOING TO TRY: One of my cousins here is part of the Chilean Navy and happens to be a big fan of sailing, off roading, surfing and so much more. One of my running buddies goes surfing often enough that he bought his own wetsuit. One of my volunteering opportunities is helping children with handicaps participate in a handful of outdoor sporting activities, like surfing. One of the beaches not too far from my house is famous for being a great place to learn to surf. One of the best surfers in the world comes to Valparaiso occasionally to work with children, teaching them how to do what he loves best. If you haven’t gotten the hint yet, SURFING is the next activity on my list of activities that tengo ganas de hacer (that I realllllly want to do).

My favorite season is autumn, and I miss the changing leaves, the crunch they make under my bike tires, the perfect sweatshirt and shorts weather, the smell of fresh pumpkin chocolate chip bread, the crisp, clean air, the growing excitement for Thanksgiving, and the million other little parts of fall that make fall fall to me. But it’s hard to be melancholy when here summer is on the way. Eventually my home state will be covered in snow, and I’ll be (hopefully!) at the beach, practicing my newly learned talent: surfing!!

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This was taken at one of my volunteer session with ADAPTA (more to come on them later). Slacklining now, surfing in the future! 

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This is my Chilean cousin Rodrigo (I can't say his name, and he can't say mine.. So we call eachother primo and prima) waiting for a wave on the beach where I'm hoping to go with him sometime.  

 

10/13/2013

Comida

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” Orson Welles

Being in a completely new country the amount of new things that you have to adapt to can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Everything is new from the language, customs, and people, to the schedule, values and environment…but most importantly the food!

Adjusting to the type of food Chileans eat hasn’t been a breeze. The United States is such a melting pot of cultures, so it’s hard to categorize one type of food that is solely known as typical American food. Growing up I was exposed to a wide range of foods from a variety of areas, including Indian, Thailand, China, Mexico and even Ethiopia. That is why I would say the hardest thing to acclimate to is the lack of variety as far as food here. Chilean food is simple, without a lot of spices or a ton of different ingredients in one dish.

I am not a picky eater so there aren’t a lot of specific foods I miss terribly from the States but there are just a couple that come to mind. No worries, the world didn’t come to an end when I got here. Chileans love their sushi, so there are plenty of options on that end. But here it seems very rare to have a big salad as a meal. My family always has lettuce on the table but it is never the main dish. So I'm definitely missing the “big salad” meal and my wonderful Sweetgreen runs with my friends back home. I also really miss hummus. After asking a couple of people Anna and I were told that there was this one place in Viña that made hummus so we went and bought some. Unfortunately I don’t think what we bought would be categorized as hummus in the States. It was just watery mashed up garbanzos, without any sort of flavor, really disappointing. We were able to go to Lider, the big grocery store that has some specialty foods, like peanut butter, that the local grocery stores don’t have, and buy all the ingredients for hummus! I also had a craving for quinoa so one night I decided to make a big quinoa salad with some veggies from the market- tomato, avocado, corn, scallions- and my family loved it! I also made it last night for the small birthday party the CIEE kids had for Maggie, and it was devoured within 10 minutes! 

 

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A big part of Chilean culture is centered around food. Like I’ve mentioned before, meal times are spent with the family. Everyone gets together to catch up, talk, laugh and eat. The meal times are different from the typical United States’ meals. Breakfast is pretty much the same, except on weekends there is no big breakfast like there might be in the States. But here lunch is the big get together meal followed by dinner or “once”, which is usually just tea, coffee and some bread with avocado, cold cuts and cheese.

As far as food in general I really thought I would be eating a lot more fish since we are right on the coast, but that hasn’t exactly been the case. For protein my family eats a lot of chicken or beef. And as you can probably guess to go with that protein we eat a lot of rice and potatoes. But aside from that I’ve had some really delicious soups with lentils or garbanzo beans.

One thing I love about Chile is the fruit and veggies! Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a big fruit and vegetable market (feria de frutas y verdudas), which is where all the locals come to sell their fruit and vegetables. In my house there is a big bowl that is always filled with apples, oranges, bananas, kiwis, and, of course, avocados! I’ve also been enjoying different vegetables such as beets (remolacha) and artichokes (alcachofa), which I wasn’t necessarily a fan of in the States!

I’ve tried some new delicious typical Chilean dishes here as well!

Of course a classic is the empanada. An empanada is simply a typical pasty, stuffed with a variety of different foods, which can include meats, fish, cheese and/or vegetables. The typical empanada here is called Empanada de Pino, which is filled with ground meat, onions, raisins, hard boiled egg, and an olive. I’ve been told that in Concón, two towns over from Viña, there are the best shrimp empanadas, so I look forward to heading over there sometime soon to do some sand boarding on the dunes and afterwards grabbing a warm shrimp empanada! 

Empanada_carnePhoto Cred to dateungusto27yess.blogspot

Another typical Chilean dish I’ve had is called Charquicán. It is a stew-like dish filled with potatoes, squash or pumpkin, onions, corn and peas and sometimes served with a fried egg on top. I think of it as the closets thing the Chileans have to curry but it really doesn’t have any spicy kick to it. It’s a really wonderful comfort food that packs a lot of veggies in one bite!  

1280327399856_fPhoto cred to Fotolog 

A typical soup served in Chile is called Cazuela. The soup consists of a liquid broth filled with either rice or noodles, (when my mom made it we had ABC noodles!) and big chunks of corn, potato, squash and a type of meat. A very filling meal! 

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Photo cred to Gourmet 

The next typical Chilean dish is called Chorrillana and from my understanding this dish is more like an activity than just another meal to eat. It reminds me of the Vermonster from Ben and Jerrys. You are supposed to get a big group together and head out to a restaurant to eat it. It is a huge plate of French fries, topped with slices of meat, onions and eggs, something I would hope not just one person could finish. I haven’t tried it and don’t really have a strong urge to…. but I just thought I would mention it because it is part of the culture! 

Chorrillana_del_J_CruzPhoto cred to Wikipedia.org 

Another typical Chilean “street food” is the Completo. This is just like a hot dog but on top of the ketchup and mustard the Chileans add chopped tomatoes, onions, avocado and A LOT of mayonnaise. Yeah, don’t ask me….but they love it! 

ItalianoPhoto cred to The Clinic Online 

Lastly, my favorite new dish that I’ve tried here has been Pastel de Choclo. Pastel de Choclo is a super typical dish served at the campos. It’s made in one of those clay bowls, (made in Pomaire) and is a layering of ground meat, onions, strips of chicken, hard boiled egg, olive, and then on top sweet mashed up corn. The dish is baked in clay bowls so the top forms a wonderful golden crust. I love corn so naturally this has been my favorite new dish I’ve had here so far! I was so happy yesterday when my mom said she was making it for lunch. It takes awhile to prepare but it is so worth it! 

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The Pastel de Choclo we had in Pomaire, soo good!! 

I love trying new things, and I'm sure that as I continue to explore Chile I'll find more delicious foods to taste everywhere I go!

Ciao for now! 

The Desert!

The driest hot desert in the entire world. Where some weather stations have NEVER received rain. Perhaps also the oldest desert on Earth as well. Used for filming Mars scenes, and often compared to the surface of the moon. Composed of mostly salt lakes, sand and felsic lava. One of the top three tourist locations in all of Chile. The Atacama Desert!!

For our prepaid excursion, the seven of us GAP students adventured to the North of Chile to a tiny, almost exclusively tourism driven town named San Pedro, located in the Atacama Desert. The week leading up to our trip, I heard countless promises that what I would see would be like nothing I’d ever seen before; I understand now why. Because we’re not allowed to miss school (technically), we were limited to a three day trip, and although we only saw a fraction of what the desert has to offer, what we did see was incredible. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves (well, with some commentary thrown in for good measure).

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When I woke up from a pleasant plan ride nap, this is what I saw. On Friday, at around 4 am in the morning, a CIEE van picked us each up from our houses and shuttled us to the Santiago airport (a fun flash back moment as it was the same airport at which we arrived in Chile oh so long ago). From there we went through an extremely relaxed security process (didn’t even have to empty out the water bottles, and taking off shoes was an unheard of concept), boarded a small plane, and headed off to Calama. There, another van was awaiting us, and after checking in at our hotel, off we went to explore the desert!



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From right to left: Glen. Marcia. Luis. Glen and Marcia both work for CIEE (and they’re married). We had gotten to know them a little bit throughout the semester as they are part of the teaching staff of one of our classes, but on this trip, we learned a whole lot more. They’re great. And then there’s Luis, our tour guide for the weekend. This photo was taken at our first vista stop, at Valle Luna (because in the valley, walking around, it looks an awful lot like the surface of the moon). The drive there was an adventure on its own because our van was not, in my opinion, equipped for off roading we were doing (there were several moments when we thought we were going over the edge).



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Another important member of our travel group and my friend Maggie at the same valley. The little guy’s name is David. He’s the son of Marcia and Glen, bilingual, and often was the center of attention on our trip. The first day he greeted us with the biggest smile and a “hello STUdents” in his funky, mixed accent, and from that moment on, he made us all laugh on a regular basis, many times dragging one of us (usually Maggie actually), towards a hotel room saying, “You’re going to Jayy-ull!”

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After sufficient photos were taken, we drove to another vista of the same valley to get a different perspective. This is Tommy modeling on the edge of the cliff (something that made Luis verrrry nervous). The white you see in on the top of the mountains is snow. The white you see below is all SALT.  


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Another short van ride away, we arrived at an old salt mine. This is a photo of one of the natural rock formations called, “The Three Ladies.” Anna, Elena and I did our best to imitate the rock girls, interpreting how we pleased. (The other rock formation on the left doesn’t have a name, but I think it sort of looks like a broken heart…) Also, notice the color of the sky. It was so blue, so pure blue.

 


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With the help of Luis, we each brought back a chunk of ground salt from San Pedro. Here is Tommy demonstrating how delicious the salt was (we all licked the ground that day..). Apparently it’s some of the best salt in the world, and I’m excited to try cooking with it sometime soon!

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The two pictures above are two different types of salt formations, the first being more ice like and the second being more stalagmite like (the salt mine had both). From what I understood, when the extremely salty ground water rises to the surface, it quickly evaporates, leaving the salt behind in little, fragile peaks. Every time we stepped, it sounded like crunching leaves, as our weight crushed the little pillars. So much salt!!

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Our next stop was Valle de Muerte (Chile has a Death Valley too!). Here we went on two hikes. The first, we were careful to follow a premarked path as to preserve the perfection in the sand dunes. We followed the trail up to the top, snapping pictures of the amazing landscape the entire way. I went barefoot, at first because I didn’t want to get sand in my shoes, but then later because the sand was incredibly soft and felt amazing on my feet. Being a desert and all, you’d think the sand would be unbearably hot, but it wasn’t. While we were there at least, the mornings were sweatshirt weather, around lunch time (1-3) it was t-shirt and still sweating hot, and then by the time the sun was setting, it was back to being cold.

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Our second hike was a bit more adventurous and a lot longer. I loved it. We trekked through the dunes, and because there were no other footprints in sight, and because the landscape was so new and bizarre, it felt as if we were the first people in the world to discover such a treasure. Unreal. We hiked through caves, climbed on the rocks, and ran down the sandy dunes as fast as our legs could possibly carry us, occasionally wiping out completely. It was like a gigantic playground for teenagers, and it just so happened to be picture perfect as well. We had spent the hottest part of the day eating an extremely drawn out, three course meal (fresh zucchini soup and salad, main dish of stirfry like veggies and pasta, and an jiggly flan-like dessert), so the sun was warm but not threatening, and the sky, goodness, it stretched on forever, perfectly blue. Like a mother duck, Luis lead us through the desert, occasionally having to stop, count heads, and search for the missing duckling (because more often than not, one of us was not in sight).



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But he liked us enough, because as a special treat, he instructed the driver to take us to his favorite place to watch the sunset. I’m a sunset lover through and through, and this was one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. There’s something about the vastness of a desert, the colors of the mountains from the sun’s last rays contrasting with the consistency of the blue sky, the change in temperature to a brisk chill, and the enduring silence that makes it mysterious, melancholy, romantic, beautiful. Truly, my photos do not do the real experience justice. When we finally went back to the hotel that night, we were all exhausted and fell asleep almost instantly. It’s crazy how much you can do in one day sometimes (especially compared to how little you can do during other days..), and Friday was definitely a bussssssy day.

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Flamingos! We saw three different types of flamingos in the Atacama desert Saturday: The Andeam Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo and the James Flamingo (there are only five types in the whole world-fun fact). On the bus ride to the reserve, Luis spent the entire hour drive teaching us about the birds (Glen calls him a walking encyclopedia and for a good reason). Luis has studied more than 6 different majors, ranging from biology to campo medicine, and he’s San Pedro’s longest active guide, so he knows the region better than the back of his hand.

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After the reserve, we went to a town named Toconao, named so because it means both place of stone and something similar to our concept of a ghost town. It was tiny, and like San Pedro, centered around tourism. There were tons of little shops selling the traditional touristy items, and because Luis knows everybody, we were able to meet one of the artisans and talk to her about her life. We also met some llamas, which apparently are quite delicious to eat and come in the form of llama empanadas (fun to say). I did not get the chance to try one this time though.

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Our exciting excursion for the afternoon was to go to Leguna Cejar, which is a sink hole in the the desert with a salt concentration ranging from 5% to 28%. Thanks to all that salt, and a little bit of physics, we were able to float with our hands and our feet above the surface, and watching Anna try to dive was an entertaining experience. As long as you didn’t lick your lips or have annnny cuts, it was a blast. The water was freezing, but like usual, once your body became numb, it was more pleasant in the water than in the wind. Elena and I stayed in extra long, and at one point, we were the only people in the entire lake like body of water! When we got out, we all had white crusty salt on our faces, and similar decorations on our legs. Anna’s hair had streaks of salt that made her sloppy bun look like that of an 80 year old. The beach too was made up of even more salt, rather than traditional sand. So much salt.

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That night (and then again Sunday morning), we were invited to Luis’s house/campground in order to learn about (and then make) pottery! In addition to being a tourguide, a campground host, a father of 6 children and a volunteer organizer, helping 30 teenagers with handicaps become integrated into society, he also happens to be a pottery expert, and has his work in the prestigious art store in San Pedro. No big deal. He gathers his own clay from the desert, prepares it in a special way and then creates beautiful vases with faces. We got to work with the sparkling mud, making our own creations, and I believe he’s even going to send us our final projects after they’ve been fired. We spent a solid two hours working diligently. And right before we had to go, Luis gave a demonstration of how he makes his basic vase. In three minutes. He’s really quite the talented guy.

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As we were driving to the airport Sunday afternoon, it became evident how little of the desert we actually saw. If I get the chance, I would absolutely love to go back. But if not, that's alright too, because I had an absolute blast this time :) 

 

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10/10/2013

San Pedro de Atacama

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius 

 I am a total water girl, so I would have never thought that I would enjoy my desert experience as much as I did in the driest place on earth! 

This past weekend was the big CIEE gap year student trip to San Pedro de Atacama, the desert! I decided to sleep over at Anna’s house the night before we left which probably wasn’t the best idea because we stayed up talking, so we got two hours of sleep, at most. On Friday morning we woke up at 3:30, got dressed, made some tea, and waited for the van to pick us up. The plane ride there was uneventful, as we all passed out right when we got to our seats. 

Once we landed in Calama we met our tour guide for the weekend, Luis. Luis is one of the most fascinating people I have met since I’ve been in Chile. He told us that in college he studied everything from philosophy to history to even rural medicine! Also aside from Spanish he knows three other indigenous languages from different countries in South America. This guy is incredible! If there was anyone you want to show you around San Pedro, it is Luis. He has been a tour guide in San Pedro for 33 years so he knows all the special places to go to, so even though we were only there for 3 days he was able to keep us on a tight schedule to make sure we saw the highlights of the area. It was also funny how when we were walking through town there were always at least 3 people Luis would stop and shake hands with or give a wave to. It sometimes seemed like we were with the father of San Pedro.

After we met Luis at the airport we began our hour long drive to San Pedro. On the way we stopped at two points which overlooked beautiful valleys, Valle de la Luna (which we would be walking through later) and Valle de la Muerte.

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Once we got to our hotel we unpacked and then headed into town for some lunch. When I think of the word pueblo I think of a town exactly like San Pedro. The streets were incredibly narrow with one story, adobe-style buildings. San Pedro is very touristy town so behind each door was either a tourist agency, small gift shop or restaurant. Here is a picture to give you a better idea of the town. 


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After lunch we drove to Valle de la Luna and hiked around, desert style! I live in Washington, DC so there is no such thing as desert anywhere near and I have never been to a desert anywhere in the world. The landscape was so completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. No matter where you are, walking through Valle de la Luna, floating in the salt lakes, or just driving around, if you look out across the terrain, there is no form of civilization anywhere in sight! I’m so used to the crowded, busy city of DC and now Viña, so it was such a pleasant shock to be surrounded by nothing. I believe the desert illustrates how beautiful simplicity is. Even though I was in the driest place on earth I still felt so refreshed being in such a still, stunning, serene, environment. 


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We walked around Valle de la Luna from sand dune to sand dune, snapping an endless amount of pictures. Of course my camera broke after our first stop, so a lot of the following pictures come from my ever so lovely friend, Anna. 


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When we got back to the hotel we all took showers and headed out to dinner. After dinner we were all exhausted from our long day of travels and adventure, so we immediately passed out when we got back to the hotel.  

The next day we woke up and headed to a flamingo reserve where we walked along a flat terrain filled with salt. The flamingos weren’t that vibrant, stereotypical, pink color that you imagine flamingos to be. But we still had a lot of fun pretending to be flamingos, striking silly poses standing on one leg, while someone snapped a picture. 


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After that we headed to a pueblo called Toconao, where we met this 74 year old woman who had been living there her whole life, making different artisanal crafts out of alpaca wool. Here is a picture of what she uses to make all the different hats, ponchos, scarves and socks!


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After buying some souvenirs we headed back to San Pedro and had a delicious lunch, which included wonderful squash soup (sopa zapallo) and some yummy fruit juice. 


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After lunch we put on our swimsuits and headed to Laguna Cejar, the salt lake! It was really windy at the salty beach and there were a lot of people just wading around the shore. But there was no way the 7 of us just going to get our feet wet. Swimming, well more like floating, around in the salt lake was such a cool experience. The salt concentration in the water is so high you don’t have to move your arms and legs and your head and feet will remain above the surface of the water. It was a really odd feeling for someone like me, a lifelong swimmer who is so used to treading water, to not have to move around at all…it really felt too easy. After we stayed in the water long enough that our skin and faces were completely covered with salt, we got out, ran to our towels, and headed back to the van.


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That night we walked into town, ate a delicious 3 course meal and then headed back to the hotel exhausted from the full day of activities.

Aside from being a tour guide and the coolest guy around, Luis is also a ceramist! Sunday morning he invited us all to his house to try our hand at clay pot making! After a short demonstration by Luis, who of course made it look so easy, he helped us each create our own masterpiece and I was really proud of the flower vase and little jewelry box I made. Luckily Luis said he would fire our pottery and send them to Viña since we had to leave that day. He also had month year old adorable kittens that we had fun holding and playing with!


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Besos!
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After saying a very sad goodbye to Luis we climbed into the van and drove through the desert back to the airport. The trip back was uneventful but long so I was happy just to get back to my house in Viña, make a cup of tea, and head to bed early. 

I really enjoyed my time in the desert; it was the perfect mix of short, sweet, and simple!

Ciao for now! 

10/04/2013

The Village

The ultimate paradox of being an exchange student is that while you’re growing up, maturing faster than you ever knew was possible, and becoming independent in countless aspects, you’re simultaneously reverting back to being a child in others. For me, this is especially true in the world of communication. There’s so much I’ve learned, I’ve experienced, I’ve witnessed, that I want to share and to express, but alas I can barely speak and understand at a five year old’s level. However, fortunately for me, I am not alone here. It takes a village to raise a child as they say, and five year old me has exactly that here to help me along the road. Welcome to my village! IMG_0087
Really, I have the most attractive friends. We spend a lot of time together, relaxing, grunting, occasionally flopping into the ocean, and the best part is, we understand eachother flawlessly; there's none of this language barrier nonesense. I'm hoping when summer finally comes (because it IS coming), I'll see these guys even more. 

Up next: My family. My mother, Monica, is in every way a mother to me. For example, yesterday was a long day, a tiring day, and a day where I felt as if my level of Spanish was going nowhere (a universal experience when learning another language), and when I finally got home, I was low on energy and self confidence. She immediately noticed something was wrong, so she sat me down in the kitchen, made me some hot tea with lemon, and gave me a mother talk. At the end, she concluded with the promise that as my mother, she is here to support me in times of difficulty, to celebrate with me in times of success, to listen to me when I need to talk, and to love me throughout the entire wild ride that we call life. I love her. She's also one of the strongest women I know, and despite everything she’s been through and going through now, she still maintains a practically flawless, cheerful disposition, one like which I aspire to have one day. She works in the nearby city of Concon doing some sort of complicated paper work for the oil refinery, but she's usually home for lunch which I really like. IMG_0825Four reasons this photo is perfect: 1. It's family love, mother and daughter. 2. We're in her bed. That's something that's completely normal here that I was not used to when I first arrived. Chileans spend a lot of time in their bed rooms, particularly in the bed of their parents, and when company comes over, there's no shame in inviting them into the bedroom as well. 3. FOOD. Siempre comida. We are always eating here, and I'm super excited because it's strawberry season. My mom has promised me I'm going to be sick of them; ha, let her try! 4. I'm wearing her scarf. My mom in the US and I share scarves, and my mother and I in Chile share scarves (although I have less to offer in return here..). What's mine is yours, what's yours is mine. We really do live like a family. 

My sister’s name is Catalina, but we all call her Cata. She’s fifteen, and in many ways reminds me of my brother back home: wise beyond her years, smarter than most her age, passionate about reading, introverted, and my best friend in Chile. If it wasn’t for her...gosh I can’t even imagine. Especially in the first couple of days, and even now, her infinite patience with me is incredible, and I can always count on her to help me with everything from the daily language struggles to my lack of suitable footwear. We watch movies, cook unusual foods together, wander around the city, have really slow but wonderful conversations, and basically live the sibling life. There have been multiple nights where Cata, some tea, the cookie jar and I have our own little party. Also, she LOVES cats. Today we had a snow fight with those fascinatingly horrible packaging peanuts; I haven’t cleaned my room since so every time I enter, squuiiiish. 

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Currently her hair is what we've described as sandwhich purple, because the top of her head is quite purple as are the tips, but the middle section is lacking sufficient dye. She's a confident one (normal is boring she once explained), and I love her smile and style. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted an older brother. Here in Chile, I have just that. His name is Christian, and he is 24 years old, studying to become a veterinarian, living at home (which is the normal here for many college students), used to have crazy hair, and is definitely is brother like. There’s this game we have in which one person makes the okay hand symbol and if the other person sees it, they get punched. There are a couple other rules, but they’re not worth explaining. I’ve spent several nights hanging out with him and his friends, and when we go out, he’s an excellent protective brother. He, like Cata, knows a solid amount of english and is helpful when I’m searching for a word, but unlike Cata, he prefers to not slow down his rapid spew of Spanish or enunciate his words more than necessary, which is both annoying and helpful at the same time (although probably more helpful in the long run).

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This photo was taken during our make shift band concert. It's very, very Christian, especially the look he was giving me when I snapped the photo. 

Beyond my immediate family, there’s my extended family. I’ve made empanadas with my abuela, discussed Chilean politics with one of my uncles, ate ice cream with my twin cousins, gone out with my second cousin, and just this past week, I met the ENTIRE extended family. They’re all incredibly welcoming people, and despite my low level of spanish, they were excited to talk with me and interact with me. They also have officially all invited me back to their houses whenever I want, which is something I hope to take advantage of in the future, as I would love to get to know them more and perhaps go surfing! Really, they’re great.

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These are ALL my cousins here (and me!)

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This is one of my casi primos (literal translate almost cousin, aka second cousin). He stopped by one afternoon for a scrumptious salmon meal and a little bit of live music. (He's studying theater and works as a chef)

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Another relationship in which language barriers don't exist. We got along wonderfully! Although playing with him reminded me of my little cousins back in the states who are probably growing up awfully fast while I'm here.. 

Then there’s my running family, mi equipo. Through a series of connections and emails, I found a group of runners, most of which are university age, that meet several times a week to train. It’s an extremely relaxed atmosphere which I like, and I enjoy being the gringa of the team. Plus, they are wonderful, WONDERFUL people. They’ve welcomed me into their community, and helped me along step by step, occasionally explaining the workout four or five times or coming to pick me up from the metro station so I don’t get lost. We’ve ran one race together, and I got to wear a Nike Chile Run jersey! They also were the first to introduce me to terremotos (the drink named after earthquakes and for a good reason), completos (low quality hot dogs with tons of tomatoes, onions, avocado, mayo and ketchup), and drinking jenga. Joining the team is definitely the best decision I’ve made here thus far.

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PARTY together :) 

One of the benefits about going abroad through a program like CIEE is the connection and support that comes along with it. There are seven of us GAP kids, and I think that although we all have different personalities and backgrounds, we all have something bigger in common; it takes a certain type of person to partake in an adventure like this. It’s comforting to have friends who are going through similar situations, and we all have eachother when we need a cheering up or a second opinion on culture bizarreness. Then there are the 40+ CIEE college kids who, although are studying at a different university here, are still very much part of my village. In addition to being friendly people, they are more than willing to share their insight on both living independently and traveling independently that they’ve gained in their years of college. And of course, the organization CIEE itself has its own assets. We have group excursions (like the Campana hike or photography studio), cookies and coffee in a comforting and always inviting office/study/library/computer room/balcony space, and a web support from the people who work there.

IMG_0339Some GAP friends in La Serena! Hazel (one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet). Tommy (hilarious and guaranteed to tell you exactly what he is thinking). Maggie (always willing to share her amazing adventures and down for everything)IMG_0618Other GAP friends at La Campana! Elena (definitely the mother of the group, responsible, caring, and prepared for whatever comes her way). Anna (our friendly, giggling friend who almost always has her mate drink). And me.  

 

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More GAP! (photo credit-Maggie) Simon (a true lover of adventure and everything climbing) And the boy climbing, Andrew, is a gap year student as well, just not through CIEE. 

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This is Nicolas, one of the college CIEE kids who also happens to practically be my neighbor. He took my backpack on it's first adventure in South America last week when he went to Machu Picchu, and this weekend, I'll be wearing his hat. It's nice to have someone who's got your back (and a converter) when you need it. 

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Gloria! One of the people who works at the CIEE office. We've spent a lot of time together recently trying to set up one of my volunteer projects, and throughout the process, I've learned a couple of fun spanish phrases. Saca la mochila de tu cabeza (get rid of the backpack in your head) means more or less, don't worry, throw away your troubles! 

So if I’m not only studying with other gap students, and I’m obviously not in basic spanish classes with Chileans, who then are my classmates? Even more intercambios! (exchange students). In my class, there are six Americans and four students from Germany, but at UVM, there are also students from France, Austria, Mexico, and Spain. I definitely have not met them all, but everybody who I have talked to has been great, and I've made some very close friends.  620736_10151511023361486_1963112601_oThis is from when we went to Santiago, and it was on this trip that Maggie and I met two Spanish boys who we later cooked scones with. 

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(photo credit-Hannah) This is Dana, one of my best friends in Chile. We spend every Tuesday together, usually exploring Valparaiso. She has an incredible sense of curiosity that has gotten us into some cool situations and places. We're on opposite ends of the college spectrum (she having just graduated, and me having yet to start), but we get along really well, and I'm excited to see where else our adventures will take us!

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Edvin and I in Santiago. He is from Finland, studying medicine there, really enjoying surfing here, and is my Tuesday morning hill concuring buddy. We speak in English together, and through our conversations, I've learned a lot about Finnish culture. Moose burgers are a thing. 

The best thing about Chile, in my opinion, are the Chileans. Every day, on my way to school, the metro man smiles and waves to me (he works in the booth where you can charge more money onto your card). The friendly elderly couple who owns the used book store on the main street in Vina know me by name and always have suggestions for what should be my next piece of classic literature (for those under the age of 10...). Dana and I discovered one of the only libraries within miles after the woman sitting next to us at a concert started up a conversation with us, and another time we met a student from Santiago who was working on his PhD here when we joined us for a casual (and delicious) Indian style lunch. I met two students at a bar the first week I was here, and they’ve taken me out a couple of times since, introducing my friend and I to the best local bars and their friends as well. People here know how to make you feel welcome, and these are only a few of the examples of how Chileans have gone out of their way to introduce me to their culture, help me with the foreign language, and even just make me smile.

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Angelo, Sebastian and I on one of our bar excursions. Amen for their patience in conversation... 

And then of course there’s everybody back home in the United States. I may be the furthest I’ve even been from home, but that doesn’t stop the incredible amount of love and support I’ve received. I love getting updates about how the college experience is treating my friends, and the occasional hi, hope you’re doing well letter makes my day every time. Because speaking English is not something I should be doing all that often, I don’t get to talk to family and friends as much as I would like, but I treasure every opportunity I get. There are little things here that remind me of people and places back in the US, and I love that. Words like gunwale, places like sand dunes, activites like push ups, drinks like mate. To me, one of the most essential parts of traveling is having a home to eventually return to; it's what separates a viaje, an adventure, from just wandering.  IMG_2680My family in the US. Oh how I love them. It's hard sometimes, especially to not be there for your brother's first day of high school, or your mother's birthday, and I miss our family dinner time when we shared our day to day experiences, but they have been amazingly supportive nonetheless. We get to skype every Sunday, and for that, I am hugely greatful. 

 

Finally, there’s Uri (remember him?). We’re still pals. Yes I’ve had to drag myself out of my cozy bed to let him inside or outside and other times we’ve fought over who gets the best spot on the couch, but I must admit, I love being greeted by his ecstatic bouncing when I’m coming home. Also, a little update on that metaphor I mentioned oh so long ago about the dog circling around before laying down. IMG_0823

Today is the start of month number three (I can’t believe it either...!). Although there are still new surprises every day, I am much more familiar with my surroundings than when I first arrived (duh), and I’ve started to establish a bit of a routine. However, I definitely don’t feel ready to lay down. I’m too stubborn to admit that I’m experiencing culture shock (and in all honesty I don’t think it’s quite that level), but this week was a bit more rough. It was week three of this annoying, and seemingly endless cold, and because it gets worse before it gets better, I’ve spent several nights coughing instead of sleeping (trust me, sleep is essential when you’re living somewhere where you don’t speak the language). I also was forced to learn an important lesson this week. One of the reasons I took this gap year was to learn how to disfruitar (relax), but fun fact, no matter where you go in the world, time is the same, and it’s just as elusive. But I survived of course (much thanks to my village :) ), and although there will still be times of trouble in my future, at least I’m this much stronger and more prepared. So, I’m still sniffing my newish home out, loving almost every minute of it, and looking forward to my trip this weekend to the DRIEST DESERT in the world!

And there you have it, my village. I've learned you should never underestimate the influence you have in other people's lives, and I owe much of my happiness to these people. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And thanks for reading!  

10/01/2013

Santiago/Pomaire

"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear religion and avoid the people,  you might better stay at home."  James Michener

This weekend my friend Anna and I decided to take a trip to Santiago, the capital of Chile! Buses from Viña to Santiago run about every fifteen minutes, so on Friday Anna and I met at the bus station, bought an 8 dollar ticket to Santiago, and within 15 minutes were on our way! We arrived in Santiago around 5:00 pm and took the metro to where we would be staying. My aunt has friends who are living in Santiago and they were nice enough to let Anna and me stay for the weekend! We got to the apartment and settled in before heading out for dinner in the Santa Lucia area.  Living in Valparaíso, which is a port city, I thought we would be eating a lot more fish. But so far we really haven’t eaten much fish here so we were both thrilled when Cheryl and Ron, my aunt's friends, took us to this quaint restaurant that had some really tasty fish dishes! After dinner we walked around a little and happened upon a fun art exhibit that was in the street! We also made our way to the Plaza de Armas, which is the main plaza in Santiago, before heading back to the apartment for a warm cup of blueberry tea before heading to bed!

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The art exhibit right in the middle of the street! Photo cred to Anna  

The next day we decided to check out the fresh fruit and veggie markets as well as the always smelly fresh fish market! The markets are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before! Really, my senses were on overdrive. Endless amounts of colorful, fresh produce, herbs, meat, fish, grains, you name it, they've got it in the market. We dodged through the crowded aisles as each person is on their own grocery shop mission. Our mission, aside from experiencing the markets and getting some fruit (both familiar and unfamiliar), was to get a nice piece of fresh fish for dinner. Of course with the vast amount of choices, this mission was more than easy to complete. 

Some pictures from the markets 

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Aceitunas (Olives)
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Fruta Seca (Dried Fruit) 
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Granos(Grains) 

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Pescado(Fish) 

After the markets we decided to explore some of the classic places in Santiago. We walked to Plaza de Armas, which was hopping! We walked around and enjoyed a puppet show as well as some live music! 

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"Mira un tiburón!" ("Look a shark!") 
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We then made our way over to the Bellavista area. We had lunch in the Patio Bellavista, which is a cute area with a lot of shops and restaurants! 

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After lunch we headed to Cerro San Cristóbal, where we decided to take the funicular (an outside elevator) up the hill where we saw a beautiful view of Santiago! 

View from the funicular 

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View from the top!  CIMG1211

After that we wandered and made our way back home. Once home we enjoyed a wonderful dinner that included the fish we bought from the market as well as a fruit I had never had before called a guanabana. The guanabana tasted tropical, like a mild pineapple mixed with coconut, and had a pear-like texture.1377343_10202190569029173_2128333763_n

The next day Anna and I woke up to a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. It was the perfect taste of home! We then walked up Cerro Santa Lucía. We wandered around the top exploring different areas and taking pictures. We even ran into another Placa de Darwin! 

 

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After that Cheryl and Ron had the fabulous idea of heading to the little town of Pomaire, known for their clay dishes! So we hopped in the car and drove about an hour until we arrived at Pomaire. When we got there we were all hungry so our first stop was lunch! We sat down at a traditional restaurant and had a typical Chilean meal, pastel de choclo and all!

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Pastel de Choclo! 

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Enormous meat platter! 

After lunch we sauntered from store to store admiring the unique handmade crafts. In one ceramics store, we even saw a man working on a pottery wheel creating a pot!

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After that we bought a Mote con Huesillo and headed back to Santiago. Mote con Huesillo is a traditional Chilean drink made with mote, which is a type of wheat or barley and huesillos, which are dried peaches! The drink was actually quite good, not too sweet and very refreshing!

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Photo cred to "joeskitchen.com" 

Once we got back to Santiago, Cheryl and Ron dropped us off at the bus station. Anna and I bought tickets back to Viña, and within a half an hour we were on the bus, waving goodbye to Santiago.

One thing I learned from the weekend is that Santiago is huge! I for sure didn’t get to see all of the city but I am glad I still got a taste of what the capital is like!

Up next, San Pedro de Atacama! Next weekend is the big CIEE gap group trip to San Pedro de Atacama. I am very excited to leave the central region of Chile and explore the north for a bit!

Ciao for now! 

 

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