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Gap Year Abroad

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Vamos a La Playa !

Playa Uno: Casa de Primo.

In Spanish, the verb “esperar” means both to hope and to wait and a couple of weeks ago, that’s exactly what I was doing, waiting and hoping for the chance to surf. The weather here has been extremely unusual this spring according to everybody I’ve asked, and unfortunately not in a too sunny, too warm sort of way (there have been a couple of beach days, but they’re few and far between). Tomorrow, I kept telling myself. Tomorrow the sun will come out, and there will be waves, and I’ll go surfing. But this “tomorrow” didn’t seem like it was coming anytime soon, and of course the handful of sunny days were already full of other activities, leaving me esperando. There’s a point though, where you’re done waiting, and even if the conditions are not what you were imagining, no importa, it’s time to give whatever you want to do a shot. That’s what happened to me at least.

And so on a cloudy Saturday morning, mamá, Cata, my abuela and I piled into my family’s little car, and off we went. We drove along the coast for almost two hours (beautiful with all of the fog, but not so beautiful for my easily carsick sister), until we reached la casa de primo. Rodrigo is one of my second cousins here. He’s incredibly outdoorsy and adventurous (loves to surf, four wheel, sail etc), he’s an amazing cueca dancer, and he’s part of the Chilean Navy (which means he passes through Vina almost every week and spends a night on our couch). His family close to the shore, right next to several enormous summer houses of some VERY rich families, and they have access to the same private beach area. It was there I tried out my surf skills for the first time.

Rodrigo y yo heading back in after my first surfing lesson. 

The water was freezing and there weren’t too many waves, but none the less, I had a blast. The first couple times, instead of trying to stand up, I’d just lay on the board as it rushed forwards with the wave (even more fun than it sounds/looks). Then after a while, I made it to my knees, and then to my feet! Professional surfing is not in my future, and based off all the shared laughing, I’m not even at a proficient level, but I at least got to throw on a wet suit, dip my toes in the water, and swallow my fair share of salt.

To and From Beach transportation method. Notice the size of her smile (it's either because she's a happy person in general or because the rest of us had to walk, you choose). Also, don't worry, I got my first four-wheeling experience in too, both on the dirt paths and on the beach sand :) 

This, friends, is what surfers eat before surfing, aka a real Chilean barbeque (un asado). So incredibly delicious. 

Playa DOS: Zapallar

This weekend was a long weekend here because Thursday and Friday were holidays (Thursday being Dia de las Iglesias Evangelicas and Friday being the Dia de Todos los Santos). Halloween happened, but just barely; it’s a baby holiday still, only a couple years old. I saw maybe 10 tricker treaters, a little bit of candy in the store, and a few costumes being sold on the streets, but it’s really nothing in comparison to the normal Halloween festivities (and they don’t have the same pumpkins here, so there isn’t any carving to be done). None the less, I celebrated a little bit with a costume party at one of my friends apartments, and to help the holiday spirit, we made some finger cookies.

  1403626_10152330975298761_147703552_oThe team dressed up. Everything from a Captain America to a Captain Jack, and from an angel to a devil.  


Anyways, back to the beach! On Friday, my mother and I drove to a different beach town (because Chile is long and thin, there are a LOT of beach towns…) where the family of my sister’s friend Karla (the same girl who makes the KILLER lemon pie) has a second house. Although there are other beaches much closer to Vina, the advantages of this one are that there are less people and the shore is splattered with incredible rock formations to scramble up and climb. When Karla’s grandparents first moved to Zappalla, there was only one street. The pueblo isn’t that big now, but it’s expanded quite a bit since then and is now a popular summerhouse town (empty for most of the year, bustling during the summer vacations).

We arrived at around 2:30, ate some lunch, chatted for a solid chunk of time, and then my mother left and drove back to Vina. And thus began my weekend living with a different Chilean family in a different Chilean town.

The first day, Karla and I went for a multi-hour hike along the shore (image above). She's a wise one and fun to talk to, and one day she'd like to trek through New Zealand. When we returned, Karla, her sister, one of their friends, and I flopped onto their couch and made something very similar to a human weave, and although we started off watching television, the end result was much more like a slumber party. After our nap, we had a little once (some bread and cheese), and then, just before midnight, we headed out to a party. It was a very relaxed party, but fun none the less, and I met somebody named Javiar who's really good at making movies and has invited me to see penguins sometime soon!  

The next day was filled with beach bumming, strolls through the city, meeting up with friends, ice cream, family cooking parties, snooze sessions, annnnd...  IMG_0823horseback riding along the beach! It was awfully kind of Karla and her family to welcome me into their house for the weekend. They're one of those families that just works, and I felt honored to be a part of it, even for only a short time.  

In addition to being a wonderful weekend all around, this trip was monumental to me in two other aspects. First of all, remember when I arrived here, I spoke next to nothing. It didn’t take me long to become comfortable blubbering some sort of mix of languages to communicate with my family, but talking with other people was a bit terrifying and really embarrassing. Now jump ahead to this weekend. My mother drove with me, and stayed for lunch yes, but then she left! I spent the entire weekend with a family that I had met maybe two or three times before, and while I didn’t talk as much as I would have had we been speaking English, I was part of the conversation and I was almost always able to communicate what I wanted to say. And I felt comfortable. Confident.

The second is while I was on the micro, watching the trees, the dunes, the little pueblos wiz by the window, I was not thinking, “Time to go back to Vina,” or “I’m ready to be with my host family again.” Instead I was thinking, “I can’t wait to be home.”

Playa Tres: Mi Playa

Just so my beach doesn't feel left out, here's a picture of its shore one sunny afternoon (pre-lunch it's not too crowded, but only because summer hasn't started. After school's out, it's packed!). All our grumbling about the cold must have paid off, because recently it's been much sunnier and much hotter. One afternoon Dana and I threw around a frisbee, cooling off in the cold cold water after. Another day a group of us went to the beach to play in the waves, listen to Nicolas sing and play guitar, and meet an Argentinian (the last part wasn't planned; it just happens sometimes). I've even been to the beach a couple times by myself to read in the sun or "do homework."   IMG_0703

Now you've met the most important beaches in my life these days. This week is busy week, but after that, I'm hoping to spend even more time getting to know my new friend: the mar! 

Two Little Updates...I have now gone surfing a total of TWO times, and the second was ridiculously more successful. There was sunshine. There were waves. I probably ate more salt, and wiped out more, but I also made it onto my feet, into a pretty decent surfing position more times than I can count on my fingers. Not too bad, eh? :)

Also. We still have our five cats (two old ones, two kittens and one itty bitty tiny one who is adorable and orange and eating in the photo below). Plus there's still Uri. And the brand new addition: BIRDIES!



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