Madeline: parecida pero nueva

Jaime is taking me to the airport in less than an hour: at long last, here are my reflections on my study abroad experience as a whole. Before I came to Chile, everyone had an opinion about what my time abroad would be like. Although the most common prediction was that I would have the time of my life and never want to leave, as July 12 approached I was pretty much terrified. As only a few people know, I truly had to convince myself to be excited. I knew that I had no choice but to go, and the fact that I thought about it in those terms shows how nervous I was. I also knew that I was a brat for thinking about it in those terms because I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to travel and live abroad. So I was conflicted, but overall not super into it despite the excitement I faked to most people. Instead of feeling lucky that my semester-long program was a full 5 months instead of the usual 3 or so, I dreaded leaving everyone and everything familiar for what felt like forever.

Oh, little newly-21-year-old Madeline. Little did she know. The funny thing is that my abroad experience has been prototypical in a broad sense. People talk about the study abroad curve: when you first arrive, it’s a peak because everything is new and exciting. Then a few weeks to a month in, stuff gets hard and you miss home. Then things gradually curve upward until you are enjoying life. Then time flies and you’re sad to leave again. Yep. That was/is me.

I have to admit that for a time, things were miserable. I wouldn’t want to go through that period again. Prior to my departure people expressed concern about the fact that I would be dealing with a breakup from a long-term relationship during my transition abroad, and they were right to worry. It was a double-whammy made all the worse by the fact that I was away from my entire support system. I couldn’t exactly send an email to someone that just said, “I’m sad and lonely” every time that was the case. There was nothing else to say and nothing anybody could have said to fix it via email or video chat. I needed company and a hug and people who understood me, and I had none of those things. That said, thanks to all who were there for me when I need them.

These rather depressing circumstances led to the first change in Madeline: a new confidence. I’m lucky to be able to say that the month-long period I just described was one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with in my young life, and I did it on my own. I was my own #1 support system. I knew time would heal me post-breakup, but things here were tough independent of that situation. As y’all read in my post “Un experimento en la independencia” from September 1, I went into troubleshooting mode. I didn’t sit on my butt and feel sorry for myself. Okay maybe a tiny bit, but overall I got up and started making changes to improve my life here.

I cannot explain how good it feels to have reached this point of being truly happy in Chile especially after what I went through. Sure, it would have been nice to have a fairy-tale abroad experience from the beginning, but I’m all the happier knowing that I got through the tough times. I now know that I can deal with most things that come my way. Especially since I did it on my own this time, I know everything will be so much easier once I’m back in the wonderful net of Nashville and Georgetown family that has formed around me over the last 21 years.

In a way, the second big change is the opposite of the first: through trial and error Spanish, I have learned to deal with looking like an idiot. Despite years of Spanish in high school and college, I would certainly not have called myself fluent on July 13 when I arrived in Santiago. Only those of you who have lived abroad will truly understand this, but trying to do daily tasks in a second language just makes you feel like a big dummy. The smallest tasks become high-stress, highly embarrassing hurdles that must be avoided or begrudgingly overcome. At the beginning I would have chosen to sit through a class lecture in Spanish rather than order at a coffee shop or go to the grocery store.

My Spanish isn’t perfect, but it’s a TON better – especially as a result of my time with Chileans over these last two months. I am thinking and dreaming in Spanish, and I am able to express myself way better than I could before. Still, those small tasks can be nerve-wracking. I’ve learned to just throw myself out there, even if I walk away feeling dumb. I don’t do it every time — on a bad day, avoid-mode is necessary. But I’ve definitely gotten better at throwing myself out there. My one remaining frustration as far as language is that my accent is just not all there; or rather, it is way-too-much there. The second I open my mouth, Chileans know that I’m not Chilean nor is Spanish my first language. I sometimes get frustrated by my accent, but Rodrigo has said that even in the last two months he has noticed a marked improvement in my ease of speaking and accent. The whole language-acquisition experience has made me understand on a deeper level that I don’t know much. I’m just a little baby 21-year-old who really hasn’t experienced anything yet.

Finally, the simplest change: food. I LOVE vegetables. I still dislike mushrooms and olives, and I don’t love beets, but throw any other veggie at me and I’ll eat it with pleasure. I’ll try any new dish provided it’s vegetarian. I like spicy food. Basically I am a much more fun dinner companion. I will also be coming home with some delish recipes courtesy of Tona.

For the last 5 months I have been on my own in a way that I never had been before. Sure, I went to Georgetown knowing essentially no one, but I fell into a relationship and good friendships so quickly that it didn’t count. In Santiago I have also found family and friends whom I truly love, but I started out as just Madeline. I could make the experience what I wanted it to be, and it turned out to be great. I am incredibly happy in the life I have created for myself here. In a way, I don’t want to leave it, but I am also incredibly excited to come home.

Thanks to those who have made it this far with me. I can’t wait to see you!

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Fútbol y San Cristóbal

My last few days in Santiago have been jam-packed since the moment I got off the bus from el Quisco on Friday evening. It was strange to think at dinner that night that it would be one of the last times I sat down with both Jaime and Tona. Saturday was packed. In the morning I met up with Hannah to continue on our souvenir/gift shopping rampage. We went to two artisan markets that have some great stuff and just snapped pics of the city as we walked.

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Católica’s main building on the left, Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center on the right

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Another shot of the main building at Católica

Then I met up with Rodrigo to finally go to a professional fútbol game! As I’ve written, Jaime and Tona are fans of la Universidad de Chile team and Rodrigo is a fan of Colo Colo. Since I knew I wanted to go to a game and always appreciate having Rodrigo as my Chilean guide, I had to switch allegiances for the day. He and Max have said since the first night I met them (when I bet in favor of la U and against Colo Colo) that they would change my team loyalty, but I’m still not ready to call myself a full-fledged albo (Colo Colo fan) yet. They played La Serena, a team they had easily beat the previous week, so it was a relatively small game – but the atmosphere was crazy. Starting an hour before fans overtook the metro, singing and banging on the inside of some of the train cars.

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Rodrigo and I sat in the cordillera section with our backs to the mountains because the big gallery section can get a little crazy. At first Hannah was going to come to the game too, and Rodrigo wasn’t sure he wanted to bring two extranjeras into the chaos especially with Hannah’s blonde hair calling attention to us.

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Fans in the gallery as the players were coming out onto the field. The atmosphere at the game was crazy, and I was really glad to finally be able to experience it. The fans literally never stopped singing during the game, and two guys beat enormous drums throughout as well.

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Players. Colo Colo won 3-1!

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“Yo soy un albo porque mi papá lo es.” As the most popular team in Chile (over 50% identify as albos), being a Colo Colo fan is a tradition that is passed down from parents to their kids.

After the game I passed by San Joaquín for the last time, then we went to Bella Vista to have a drink. We ended up running into a few people Rodrigo knows which was a fun surprise. After some dancing – my last time going to a discotec in Santiago – I hopped on the bus at the Baquedano stop. Just 30 seconds into my ride when the bus was still stopped in Plaza Italia, someone threw a rock through the window of my micro, shattering the glass.

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Broken window on the right side close to where the guy is sitting. I was standing across from the window when the rock was thrown, and a little bit of shattered glass sprayed on my legs. I only ended up with a small scrape, but it bled down my leg during the rest of the ride. A guy asked me if I was okay, and when he picked up on the fact that I wasn’t Chilean from my accent he and another guy became all the more concerned about my wellbeing. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but Chileans are fascinated by foreigners, especially foreign girls. The Miércoles Po events on Wednesday nights are insanely popular among Chileans for a couple of reasons. First, as you can guess a lot of our culture in North America makes it down to Chile, so that is a point of fascination. Second, girls from the U.S. dance “bien pegado” which basically means close, which is very different from the reserved style of Chilean girls. I hadn’t noticed the way Chilean girls dance, but Rodrigo pointed it out to me that they really don’t touch the other person even for a moment. So the Chilean guys do a lot of work on the dance floor, which is fun and very much unlike guys from the U.S. Back to the main story here: those two guys on the bus asked me about 3 times each if I was okay and one offered me a bandaid. It usually works out to be a foreign girl!

The next day I woke up way too early to finally do the #1 tourist activity in Santiago. Most newcomers to Santiago climb el cerro San Cristóbal right away, but I never did it with people in my program at the beginning and never got around to it in the middle. It’s the second highest point in Santiago and has an incredible view of the city.

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Rodrigo and I climbed up early Sunday to beat the heat, but it was still HOT.

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The massive statue of the Virgin that sits at the top and is visible from many points throughout the city.

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At the top

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Church

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Candle I lit for Grandad at the top

After that I came home for lunch with Jaime and Tona and gave them their gifts, which I think they really liked. Tona also gave me very pretty earrings with the Chilean national flower on them and a bracelet. In the early evening I went over to Rodrigo’s house to have dinner with his family and say goodbye. They have been very welcoming to me, so it was sad to say goodbye. But necessary – I leave tomorrow evening at 10:30! So crazy. I have started the process of packing and feel pretty good on souvenirs/gifts, but I know I will find a bunch of last-minute things to do. Can’t believe I’ll be in the states in just about 51 hours!!

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El Quisco

Before I tell you about my spontaneous trip to the beach, I have two updates regarding language acquisition. My mind has officially switched over to at least a timeshare between Spanish and English, and I have two stories to prove it.

On our first night in Puerto Natales, Marguerite and I were cooking dinner in our hostel when Dor and Daniel, who would later become our hiking buddies, came in to do the same. Dor asked me if the stove was lit, and I responded to him in Spanish. He expressed confusion, so I said about 3 times that yes, the stove was lit. About a minute later, he approached me again asking if I spoke English. It turned out that he doesn’t speak a word of Spanish… I protested, assuming that his first question to me had been in Spanish because of course if he’d asked in English I would have responded in English. But he had never spoken to me in Spanish. He spoke in English, and I responded in Spanish without thinking twice and without even realizing it.

This past Sunday, after I got back from Patagonia, Hannah came over to watch a movie and ended up spending the night because the metro had closed by the time it ended. In the morning she told me that I had sleep talked in Spanish during the night! People always say that dreaming in a second language is a good sign of fluency, but up to that point I hadn’t remembered a specific dream to know if it was in Spanish or not. But I’m a big sleep talker, and obviously if I was speaking in Spanish I was dreaming in Spanish. Great realizations in my last month that have given me confidence that my Spanish has improved markedly.

So, onto the beach. I had wanted to go back to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar one more time before leaving, but it didn’t end up working out : ( instead we went to el Quisco, which is a little town about 1.5 hours from Santiago. We crammed 7 people (Priscilla, Max, Seba, Risa, Hannah, Rodrigo + moi) into a cabin intended for 6 and had a great weekend.

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Newly arrived: Rodrigo, Seba, Max, and Priscilla. Wednesday afternoon we decided to “rest for half an hour before going to the beach” and ended up all falling asleep. Oops. When we woke up we walked to the center of town to stock up, and that night we ended up staying in and playing Presidents, a card game that I learned at Richland years ago and introduced to the group… obsession would be a good way to describe their reception of it. We ended up going to bed a little past 7 a.m. Yep, when Chileans look at the clock at say, 3 a.m., it’s still an early night. The next morning we walked back into town to get groceries and so that I could finish registering for classes at my assigned time. I’m guessing it was the first time ever that a Georgetown student has registered for classes in an internet cafe in the tiny town of el Quisco, Chile. Pretty cool.

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We made a big lunch on Thursday, yet again “took a short siesta,” then went down to the beach.

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Unfortunately cloudy : (

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But still pretty

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Way better than Lau, huh?

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Rocky

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With Hannah and Rodrigo

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That night we ended up staying in the cabin again because there just isn’t that much to do as far as nightlife in el Quiso, and this time I went to bed a whole hour earlier at 6 a.m. This “morning” (read: afternoon) we had tomato soup then headed back to Santiago. I do wish the weather had been nicer for some more beach hanging out/tanning, but we had a great group and a ton of fun. My next and last 3 days in Santiago are packed – can’t wait for them, but also don’t want them to go as fast as I know they will! I have to say, I am getting excited to come home. 5 months is a long time. More than anything at this point it’s weird to think about leaving this life for my other one, leaving summer for winter, and flushing toilet paper down the toilet again. Confused? Read the “El normal” page. Shameless self-promotion.

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Un tour de Santiago

Despite the fact that I have had no classes and few real obligations, I have somehow been incredibly busy every since I got back from Patagonia. This post will only deal with two days because I just have too many pictures! On Monday Hannah and I had a big day of shopping for souvenirs and gifts, and on Tuesday I finally gave into my tourist status in Santiago with Rodrigo as my guide.

First we went to el Museo de la Memoria, which deals with (is about? has exhibits that display? I forgot how to phrase things in English…) the coup d’état on September 11, 1973 and Pinochet’s dictatorship. I have written a little about the dictatorship in earlier posts, but as a quick reminder, it was characterized by human rights violations; thousands of people were arrested, tortured, and killed, and thousands disappeared, whereabouts still unknown. One exhibit talked about the hundreds of children as young as 2 years old who went missing because their parents were threats to the government.

Basically it was awful in a hundred different ways, but what I still don’t understand is that some Chileans continue to look back on the Pinochet era as a good thing. The dictatorship is a touchy subject, and in general people don’t talk about it. The group of people who support Pinochet (who died in 2006) is small, but they are powerful. For many different reasons that I don’t fully understand and certainly don’t have the time to type out, they remain as elected officials in the senate. Rodrigo said that due to benefitting financial from policies during the dictatorship, his grandfather was a Pinochet supporter. I asked Rodrigo how in the world people can still support Pinochet now that all of his abuses are more than well known, but he is just as clueless as I am as to how those people can believe what they do, and even more confused as to why they remain in power. It’s a mess.

On the note of the dictatorship, I’ll add quickly that this semester I have been part of something called the Junior Year Abroad Network, which is run by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Participants each write 2 letters based on religion, politics, or society of our host countries, and the idea is that we comment on other letters and have an online discussion/community. My second letter deals with the dictatorship, so I thought I’d post the link for my page here for you to read that one or both!

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After the museum we went to lunch at a delicious vegetarian restaurant called “Verde que te quiero verde” then sat in Plaza Brasil for a while to enjoy the nice albeit hot day.

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Then we walked to la Moneda, the building of the executive branch and the place where the coup d’état occurred on 9/11/1973.

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Grass by La Moneda

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The Chilean version of Wall Street

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Next we walked to Plaza de Armas. It was this crowded on a random Tuesday.

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There are always comedians in the plaza putting on shows for tips.

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Weird to think that I’ll be going from this heat to winter in under a week

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The Cathedral in Plaza de Armas

After Plaza de Armas we headed to el Mercado Central and Estación Mapocho, then walked along el Parque Forrestal to the famous Plaza Italia and the Baquedano metro stop. This names don’t mean anything to y’all, but I want to remember them!

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Main building on la Católica’s main campus – didn’t have class there, but it’s pretty so I’ll pretend.

On Wednesday, Priscilla (CIEE girl from last semester who introduced me to all of these people), Max (Prisci’s boyfriend, went to high school with Rodrigo), Seba (another high school friend), Risa (Japanese girl who knows Priscilla from a U de Chile class last semester), Hannah, Rodrigo, and I went to the beach! Next post will include pictures and details. Chau!

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La Patagonia

Day 1: Santiago to Punto Arenas to Puerto Natales
So as I said, Marguerite and I flew out of Santiago at 1:50 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning. Luckily I had gotten a full night’s sleep of 3 hours on Thursday, so I was wonderfully rested and ready to go.

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View on the drive from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

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Happy sheep

We arrived in Puerto Natales and checked into our Hostel, Backpackers’ Kawaskar, which ended up being absolutely perfect. First, the head guy Rafael helped us figure out our plans for the next 2 days in the park. We had tried to make an online reservation for a refugio in the park for Sunday night, but for some reason it didn’t go through online. By the time we made it to Puerto Natales, the refugios were all booked up. It actually ended up working out even better than we planed with the help of Rafa. First of all, the refugios are ridiculously expensive. For a bed frame with no sheets and zero food, one night is $40. Each additional “luxury” jacks up the price — sheets are something like $8, breakfast $10, lunch $12, dinner $15 approximately.

So instead of staying overnight in the park, we bussed in on both Sunday and Monday. The price of staying in the Puerto Natales hostel and bussing in ended up being roughly equivalent if not more economical, and we actually ended up getting to see more of the park.

Day 2: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
On Sunday a van picked us up at 7:30 a.m. and we went with a driver, a guide, and 6 other people on a tour of the western side of the park. Since we officially have our student visas and Chilean ID cards, we only had to pay $8 to get into the park instead of the usual $30, which was exciting and made us feel very Chilean. The sights from the van were incredible, and we stopped a bunch of times to do little 30-45 minute hikes to different destinations.

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Marguerite and me during a stop along the drive

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Most of these pictures won’t require captions

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Animals that are in the llama family

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Laguna Amarga

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Another lake

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Waterfall. This area was INCREDIBLY windy, so I didn’t get too close to the edge.

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Lago Pehoe

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Wouldn’t mind staying in this hotel, but considering the fact that the refugios with a bed and no sheet are $40/night, it’s probably a little out of my price range.

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Chips from Glacier Grey in the distance – nothing compared to the size of the actual glacier

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I have never before seen water as blue as it was down there.

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Our last stop was at a cuevana that was formed during a volcano explosion millions or billions of years ago. Basically the lava met with the glacier and formed a huge cavity, then the water gradually cleaned away the ash… or something like that. I’ll have to look back at my pamphlet.

That night we made pasta (again) and hung out with some of our new hostel friends before going to bed super early to prepare for another 6:15 a.m. wakeup call.

Day 3: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine — hike to the towers
A bus picked us up at 7:30 a.m. again, this time with a ton of people heading to the park for the day or for a few days. Two guys that we had met in our hostel, both 28 and from Israel, were starting the W trail, a 4-day hike that covers the majority of the park. Our hike to the famous towers was the same as their first-day hike, so we decided to stick together. It ended up being great to have some extra company and distraction especially because my butt was killing me post-muscle strain.

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Dor, Marguerite and me about 45 minutes in… had no idea what was waiting for us.

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The 9 kilometer hike up to the torres took us a little over 3 hours with the last hour being pretty much straight uphill (as you can see in this picture) and pretty much navigating through a field of rocks.

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But there were a lot of beautiful sights to see, and we were incredibly lucky with the weather. The south is rainy and cloudy a majority of the time, and a lot of people who visit the park don’t even get to see the main attraction, the rock towers, because of the clouds.

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But we had zero rain, and while it was a little cloudy when we first arrived at the torres, it gradually cleared up over the hour that we spent there.

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Here are some of the ridiculous number of pictures I took.

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As you can see it got more and more beautiful and sunny!

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But don’t be fooled – it was COLD. Hiking definitely warmed us up, but the second we stopped we were very cold again. I was lucky that Hannah lent me a big warm fleece which saved me the whole week.

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The four of us: Dor, Marguerite, Daniel

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The hike back down felt way longer than the hike up, and with my muscle strain I was not the happiest of campers, but after we dropped the boys off at their refugio Marguerite and I took it slowly down to our bus back into Puerto Natales.

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Happy horses at the end of our hike down

We arrived back at our hostel at around 10:30, exhausted and very happy that we would not have to wake up at 7:30 again the next morning.

Day 4: Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas
After “sleeping in” until 9, Marguerite and I had a relaxed half day in Puerto Natales and then an easy bus ride back down south to Punta Arenas.

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It was a little chilly and cloudy in Puerto Natales, which showed us how lucky we were to have the weather we’d had the two days before in the park.

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We did a little bit of walking around and then headed to Punta Arenas… not a very eventful day, but necessary rest after our big hiking day.

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We arrived in Punta Arenas to our hostel, Blue House I, which smelled like cat pee. But the owner was nice and helpful, although he wore the same t-shirt, “Marihuaneros de Chile,” a play on words of carabineros (the police officers) + marihuana, all 3 days that we saw him. Hopefully he has more than one?

Day 5: Punta Arenas
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We had great luck yet again with the weather as we walked around Punta Arenas. The day we arrived and the day we flew out were both cloudy, but the day we spent there was beautiful and sunny!

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We were told that we should visit a huge cemetery in the city… so we did.

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View of the whole city and the Straits of Magellan from the lookout where we had lunch.

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Cutest puppy – how in the world does he not have a home?! I really wanted to bring him back to Rodrigo’s family but obviously I couldn’t. No room in my suitcase.

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I couldn’t run with Marguerite because of my butt injury, so I sat and read with this view instead… not half bad.

Day 6: Punta Arenas to Santiago
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The next day we had an early afternoon flight back to Santiago! Very strange and sad because I felt like I was flying home but knew I’d be flying back out of Santiago in just under two weeks. This weekend I went out with a lot of Rodrigo’s university friends which was a ton of fun and made me wish I’d met them earlier, but I will just have to take advantage of the time I have left!

Marguerite left Santiago yesterday… it’s the beginning of the end. But Hannah and I are going to do a ton of cultural stuff, shopping, tanning by her rooftop pool, and relaxing for the next 8 days. So excited for my last week here with Hannah and Rodrigo, but equally excited to come home to Nashville and then head back to Georgetown on January 10. Can’t wait to see y’all!!

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Fin de clases y una marcha

I’m officially finished with my academic semester in Chile! The week before my trip to Patagonia (which I will post about later this weekend) was spent doing a joke assignment for my Universidad de Chile class and slowly but surely trudging along with the antique Spanish for my Don Quijote assignment. Not sure how it turned out, but it’s over.

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My classroom building for la Universidad de Chile with the very nice doorman. Even though my class there was a bit on the easy/non-existent side as far as work went, I’m happy to be able to say I studied there.

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A little boy performing outside Starbucks one day when I was studying with Hannah. He is no more than 3 years old — that stroller in the middle? His. Saw him wheeling around in it later. And he was spinning and banging his drum just like the big boy street performers do. Of course these guys made probably double the usual with him carrying his hat around asking for tips.

Not much else notable happened except for on Thanksgiving Day. Although little things have made me sporadically miss home, I truly haven’t been homesick here since about the second month. I have to say, it was tough to be so far away over Thanksgiving.

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Luckily I got to Skype in to the Ann Arbor celebration for a short time on Friday! I didn’t really do anything Thanksgiving-y on Thursday, but it was an interesting day nonetheless. Rodrigo and I met up to go to the Bellas Artes museum because I’ve decided I need to start taking advantage of cultural happenings in Santiago, but we ended up sitting on a bench in the shade instead to enjoy the nice, albeit very hot, day.

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View from our bench. After that, I took advantage of the fact that I had a Chilean guide and finally went to see a student march from close up. We were mostly on the side of the carabineros (police officers) because the Tuesday before I did something funky, no idea when, and strained a muscle in my butt. It hurt from the moment I started my run on Tuesday morning, and instead of going away as I continued running it got worse until I had to stop. Basically I was half limping on Thursday (and still am now thanks to some intense hiking in Patagonia that didn’t give me a chance to rest it), and Rodrigo was afraid that if trouble came our way I wouldn’t be able to flee. A legitimate fear because my test strides were not exactly speedy and definitely painful.

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One thing that has always struck me about these marches, which inevitably become clashes between protestors and carabineros, is the way in which the two sides dress. Coming from the states where police officers drive sedans and wear a basic uniform, to me it seems as if the carabineros are dressed for war. I said this to Rodrigo and at first he protested because it is so normal to him, but in the end he admitted that their gear and vehicles are more war-like than not. The other side, the protestors, always have scarves to put around their mouths and lemons to chew to combat the tear gas. The encapuchados, the trouble-makers, have backpacks with class bottles that they throw at the carabineros.

In this picture you can see that the carabineros are huddled right together even though nothing particular is happening. If they get separated and one or two is on his own, they will be terrorized by the protestors. On the news I saw footage of a carabinero who found himself alone during a march, and he was kicked and punched repeatedly in the body and head by at least half a dozen people. Not an awesome scenario for them, so they stick together.

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These are the three vehicles that the carabineros use during the marches. The front smaller one doesn’t have a specific function as far as I know. The middle one has the water gun, whose very strong stream of water (which definitely hurts on contact) is supposedly intended to calm and disperse the crowds. The back truck currently holds carabineros, or pacos as they are derogatorily called NOT to their faces, but will later hold the people who are arrested for disturbances and violence.

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In this picture, the carabineros had just sprayed the water gun on the protestors when they were 100% peaceful and doing nothing to disturb the peace. Everyone knows the demonstration will eventually turn into a battle, and the carabineros look for excuses to start setting of tear gas and spraying water. Oftentimes they do it even when nothing has happened, which only incites the crowds more.

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To give you and idea of just how many carabineros show up for these things… about half of the entire population of Chile lives in Santiago, so it obviously has a ton, but I’ve always been amazed by how many crawl out of the woodwork for marches. From our spot here we watched a confrontation between carabineros and a few encapuchados. Basically encapuchados threw BIG rocks and glass bottles while the carabinero trucks sprayed water and set off tear gas.

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After the encapuchados ran out of things to throw, they retreated and the team on horseback went to check out the situation. It’s awful that these horses have to work in conditions like these… the commotion, rocks, glass, and especially the tear gas certainly make normal city conditions, already wrong for horses, even worse. But I thought this picture was pretty cool with the sun setting and the Andes in the background.

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Carabineros post-confrontation. If you are struck by how close we were, another interesting fact: we were far from alone in watching the happenings. Especially before stuff got going, there were a ton of people just milling about waiting for the action to start. I would have thought the average Chilean would get tired of the protests because we all know how they end up, but there is no shortage of interest.

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Damage in the streets post-rocks, bottles, and tear gas. At this point we could definitely feel the effects of the tear gas, and I realized that it was the first Thanksgiving-y thing I’d done all day! Sounds strange, but Kate and I always cut the onions for the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner, trading off as we ball our eyes… and today I cried as well! A liiiiiittle different, but I enjoyed the comparison.

After that confrontation we walked around a little more but didn’t catch much more action other than a group of people setting something on fire. Going to the march was definitely a unique way to spend Thanksgiving and one I won’t forget. I was lucky to have Rodrigo as my guide and lucky to catch this one because chances are I won’t have a chance to see another one before I go. So that was Thursday, and Friday night/Saturday morning at 1:50 a.m. I took off to spend 6 days as close to the edge of the world as I have ever been…

Patagonia post with a TON of pictures coming soon!

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Fútbol y una fiesta de gala

I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting, both because I’m busy and because I haven’t had a huge amount to report until now. My time here has become a life instead of a weird alternate-universe adventure that always has a story. It still sort of is an alternate universe because I’ll have to leave everyone and everything here behind in just under one month, but things here are “normal” now. Four months is definitely long enough to develop a life, and I have.

The last two weeks have been defined by 3 things: soccer, the engineering gala, and school work. I had exams this Wednesday and Thursday – exams I actually did have to study for – but my extracurricular activities for the week show very clearly that school is taking the back burner this semester.

First of all, fútbol: for some strange reason, classification games for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are ALREADY underway, so Chile had two games this past week. The games of la selección (the best Chilean players) are a lot of fun because everyone unites. The 3 professional teams in Santiago – La Universidad de Chile, Colo Colo, and La Católica – are huge rivals and the fans pretty much hate each other. But when Chile plays, everyone is on the same side. Last Friday Chile played Uruguay and lost 4-0… it was a rough game, and I was glad I didn’t end up going to watch it at a bar where the Chileans would be sad/angry/drunk. Part of the problem was that 5 players were suspended from the game for showing up to practice 30 minutes late and drunk… what? And Alexis Sanchez, the star Chilean who now plays for Barcelona, didn’t play because he still wasn’t 100% post-injury.

On Saturday I went to a much less-than-professional fútbol game: a bunch of my new friends have been playing on a team together for years, so on Saturday I went to their weekly game – unfortunately another loss.

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After the game we went to a bar called “Coyote.” Name included only because it’s an opening for something I want to tell y’all: Chileans use a ton of words in English. Oftentimes I think that I don’t know a word in Spanish and ask how to say it only to be told that they also use the English word. One of the guys made up the word “engringización” to describe it. Sometimes they pronounce the words (close to) the same, but other times they pronounce them the way they are spelled. For example, Coyote was pronounced “Co – yo – tay.” I have to actually think about how to pronounce it when I say it to them so they’ll know what I’m talking about – and it’s an English word!

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My girl Hannah. That night most of us ended up going back to Max’s sister’s apartment to sing karaoke then on to Priscilla’s (CIEE girl from last semester) to continue the carrete… and long story short, I got home at 9 a.m. OFFICIALLY CHILEAN! (If you ignore the fact that I ended up falling asleep at Priscilla’s. I barely got any sleep the night before though, gimme a break!)

Anyway, back to fútbol: Chile played again on Tuesday night against Paraguay this time, and WON 2-0! We watched it at Max’s sister Silvana’s apartment again, and afterward we went out to Plaza Italia/Bella Vista to celebrate the win. There really weren’t as many people as I was expecting, probably because it was a Tuesday, but there were a TON of carabineros (police officers) ready for action. I had an exam the next day, but I didn’t want to miss out on this very important cultural experience of going to a bar and drinking beer! But in all seriousness it was neat to be out with everyone yelling for Chile. And my exam went fine, so there!

The less-than-ideal part of the night came when I hopped on the bus at 2 only to realize way too late that it was the wrong bus. I got off right after confirming with the driver that it wasn’t one of my buses, which was a big mistake. I ended up on a very quiet street corner with very little hope of another bus passing by, totally unsure of which way to walk. Not ideal. Few cars were passing, and most that did cat-called me and yelled “te amo.” Luckily I could call one of my new Chilean friends to help me, and Rodrigo told me which way to go then stayed on the phone with me while I walked. After a rather frightening half hour I ended up finding a cab made it home safe… the drive made me realize how far from home I actually was. Lesson learned: 4 months here does NOT make me an expert, and right when get on any bus I should confirm with the driver that the bus passes by Plaza Egaña.

On Wednesday, the night before my 10 a.m. final in my most (only) difficult class, I went to Católica’s gala for the engineering department with Rodrigo. I was slightly nervous about the fact that I wouldn’t know anyone there but him, but his friends are welcoming and nice, and it ended up being a great night.

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It was also very typical Chilean: the gala officially started at 9, and we got there around 10. At that point very few people were there, and they were serving juice and coke. Around 10:30 they started walking around with trays of finger food, pisco sours, and champagne, but the bars didn’t officially open until probably 11:30. By that time it was crowded and there was a mad rush to get some piscolas.

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It was at el Campus Oriente of la Católica, which is very pretty and a lot older than San Joaquín. The venue was very cool, and there ended up being a ton of people there. And I can’t say I hated the dance floor. It closed down at a little after 4, and I probably could have gone for 2 more hours. Especially because things really got going so late, it ended up feeling too short, but that just shows how much fun it was.

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Rodrigo was a great date, and I didn’t regret for a second my sacrifice of study time and sleep. The next morning I happily turned off my 7 a.m. alarm and thank goodness naturally woke up at 9 to barely make it to my 10 o’clock exam after very little studying. But I had come to every class and done all the readings, so it ended up being okay although definitely not my best display.

Thursday I also had my last Don Quijote class, so I’m officially finished at San Joaquín! Weird/sad feeling, and I’ll probably go back at some point next week to work a little and get some more pictures. With last week’s 2 finals over with, I now only have to worry about re-writing the last chapter of Don Quijote in Shakespearean Spanish (CAN’T WAIT) and doing a weird joke photo compilation assignment for my Universidad de Chile class, which finishes up next Wednesday. Then I’m off to Patagonia on Saturday at 1 a.m.!

So little time here left!!!! I can’t believe I have less than a month. I am so excited to be at home and see all of you dedicated readers, but there is a lot more to be done here, so it’s sad to think about leaving it all behind.

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Amigos chilenos!!

Por fin: amigos chilenos! I have heard people say that one semester of study abroad is not enough because by the time you really start to get comfortable and enjoy life, it’s time to head home. That moment has officially come for me. I feel like I finally have all the major components of a life here, and it’s strange to think about leaving it in just 5 weeks.

As y’all know, my plans for the 5-day weekend were very up in the air. Hannah and I had talked about going to Valparaíso/Viña del Mar or doing some day trips, but the bus tickets were extra expensive or sold out, and basically we just never got organized. We also decided to push back our imaginary trip to Saturday instead of Friday because a great opportunity to meet Chileans presented itself. One of the girls in my class at la Universidad de Chile is a CIEE student from last semester. She doesn’t do any of the events or trips with us because she did it all last semester, but I have gotten to know her from class. We walked out together on Wednesday, and she mentioned that a Chilean guy she has been dating since August was having a BBQ on Friday night.

And she invited me to come! Score. The trick about meeting Chileans is that it just hasn’t happened in class or on campus. Even in the U.S. people don’t generally make their good friends in class, and Chileans themselves admit that they are unlikely to be the one to strike up a conversation. If you get a conversation going with one, they’re friendly and will usually keep it going, but I’m not exactly as outgoing and fearless when speaking Spanish as I am when I’m at home speaking English.

So Hannah and I knew we had to jump on the chance, and it turned out to be totally worth it. Priscilla’s boyfriend’s name is Max, but the BBQ was at his friend Rodrigo’s house. Hannah, another CIEE girl Kaye, Priscilla and I met up with Max then went to the grocery (to get some veggies for the vegetarian) and onto Rodrigo’s house.

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With Hannah, Max, and Kaye. There were about 15 people there total, including Rodrigo’s parents and younger brother, and it was a great group. Matias, the younger brother, is studying to become a chef, so he made me some potatoes to replace the choripan (basically mini sausage hot dogs — people here are obsessed with it).

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With Hannah and Rodrigo. All of the guys there were fans of Colo Colo, one of the three biggest professional soccer teams in Santiago. Jaime and Tona are fans of la Universidad de Chile (no relation to the actual school), so by extension so am I… well despite knowing little about the soccer teams here, I decided to make a bet about the game on Sunday. Anybody surprised that I got into it when people started trash talking me? (To be clear, trash talking me for being a fan of a team I’ve never actually seen play a full game.) So I bet against 3 Colocolinos that the blue would win on Sunday.

Not a bad move because it led to us watching the game together on Sunday! I haven’t been in an intense sports environment since I left home, and it was fun to be around real fans again even though I don’t know all the rules of soccer. U de Chile scored a penalty kick within the first five minutes (apparently the penalty was undeserved), but then Colo Colo scored twice as the game continued, and it appeared they would win. There was a ton of extra time because some Colo Colo fans had been disruptive during the second half, and the guys were intently watching every second even though I thought the outcome was obvious. Well, they were right to be watching because a Colo Colo player ended up scoring a goal on his own goalie in the last minute of play… rough. Even though it ended up being a tie at 2-2, it might as well have been a loss for Colo Colo because they were so close to winning. And a goal made by your own player is just an awful way to go down.

This is way too much soccer talk for the blog, but basically the outcome was a liiiitle painful. I can trash talk with the best of them, even on behalf of a team I don’t know well, but when it comes down to it they LOVE Colo Colo. And I just don’t care much about Chilean soccer. But they were good sports about it, and the bet money went to dinner for everyone before going out. And it was sooo fun to watch the game with them and then have a chill night out speaking all Spanish!

One of the luckiest parts of meeting these new friends is that Rodrigo happens to go to la Católica. I met up with him for lunch on Wednesday (which was our first day of class for the week — so weird!), and we ended up sitting with 2 of his friends. I think hanging out with all of the guys from the BBQ will be a great way to meet a ton more people. With Chileans, all you need is one connection and they’re super friendly and nice. Now I finally have my connection, and I’m very excited.

So now that I have told y’all about my new Chilean friends, I’ll backtrack a bit and tell about my Thursday night, which was the closest thing I had to a Halloween celebration. Chile fought Halloween for a long time, and only in recent years has it officially arrived. Apparently some kids go trick or treating, and I heard about some Halloween parties for people my age, but it’s nothing compared to the U.S.

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On Thursday I went out with Natalie, Yereem and Hannah to a Halloween-themed party that ended up being super lame. Hannah and I ditched the devil ears and looked normal for our next location, but Yereem and Natalie remained zombies. Natalie had these really scary white contacts; I could barely look at her.

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With Hannah, wearing the light-up devil ears we purchased for $1 during our shopping excursion earlier that day.

This weekend was pretty lame because I ended up getting food poisoning on Friday afternoon. It was NOT Tona’s food, and afterward I told her (half joking, half serious) that never again will I eat out of the house. I have done it less than a dozen times since I’ve been here, and look what happens! Marguerite and Hannah came and saved me from the bathroom where I was emptying the entire contents of my stomach, and it ended up working out okay because we had planned to do a movie night anyway. On Saturday we met up to go shopping, and it was definitely the hottest day we’ve had here. The sun is way stronger here than anywhere in the U.S. — summer must be brutal!

Now I have to do school work………. and I actually have work, which I’m not accustomed to this semester. I have talked to other people who are abroad about this, but I am going to have a serious reality check when I go back to Georgetown in January. I’m already having a mini-reality check this week; Chilean classes are majorly backloaded, so all of the work is starting to pile up. My finals are all in the next 3 weeks before I leave for Patagonia at 1 a.m. on Saturday the 26th (cheapest flight, yuck). So I’ve got to get cracking! Chau, lectores.

P.S. Happy belated 81st birthday to Nashville Granddad! Excited to be home for a Sunday night supper in December.

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Casi noviembre

I can’t believe that October is almost over; it flew by just like my mom always says it does. No big updates, but I do have a few little things to share along with some pictures.

The most exciting part of this week was Tona’s birthday on Tuesday, so on Monday night I made my first baking attempt in Chile! It can be tricky because a) ovens don’t have temperature markers and b) chocolate is so expensive. But I made a successful batch of blonde brownies with M&Ms on top that spelled out Tona’s name.

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Jaime being goofy. Baked goods are less common here, and Tona doesn’t bake at all, so it was a nice treat for everyone.

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Great picture of mis padres! It already makes me sad to think about leaving them. Unlike leaving people from home, I really don’t know when I’ll see them again. They have been a huge part of the overall success of my experience here. More to come re: intense reflections on my experience, don’t worry!

On Tuesday night, Tona’s actual birthday, Maite, Rodrigo, Vicente, Pato (basically family, stayed in his apartment in Valpo), and Vivian (Pato’s polola) came over to celebrate.

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Poppin’ champagne. Jaime put on the radio in the background and the music happened to be pop (Hoyas, read: Thirds) circa freshman year of college. It was weird. But we had some delish food and good company! It can still be hard for me to jump into the conversation, but this time it was largely because they were talking about topics that I’m not as familiar with like politics in Chile. Other than a few words I don’t know, I followed the whole conversation! Chilean Spanish at full speed!

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My present for Tona — I crossed out cumpleaños, which literally-speaking references the passing of years, because Tona said once, “Yo no cumplo años” which basically means that she doesn’t get older. Everyone got a kick out of my use of anniversary instead (ha! the gringa made a funny joke in Spanish!). After I brought chocolate back from Mendoza, Tona mentioned offhand that she likes the combination of chocolate + whiskey, so I made a mental note because I had already been wondering a month in advance what in the world I would get for her birthday. Jaime was especially excited when he saw the whiskey. I wanted to get Jack for a little Tennessee lovin’, but it was ridiculously expensive so I settled for whatever this is.

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Birthday girl with her cake

On Thursday morning when I woke up at 6:45 to finally go through the process of getting my student visa. A few minutes after I woke up, Jaime left for work; Monday – Saturday he works starting at 7 a.m. Rough. Anyway, I was unable to get my student visa in the U.S. because the FBI took two months to officially certify that I have no criminal record. I entered with a tourist visa and applied for a student one during my first month here; in order to be able to go in and out of the country, they gave me papers saying that I had applied. Sometimes the process takes so long that people receive their visas just before they leave, but for us it was a bit shorter. We had 3 steps — first immigration, then international police, then some other place — but now that I have less than a month of class left, I’m legally studying in Chile! The visa lasts 5 months from the date issued, so technically I could stay in the country until March 27. I think I’ll come back anyway to see all you folks.

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Found a “discreet” setting on my camera, so I snapped some pictures of daily life for y’all without looking too much like a tourist! This is one of the metro trains on the blue line where I live. The green line that I take to San Joaquín is significantly more rink-a-dink.

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The nice thing about my commute to San Joaquín is the view of the Andes. Sometimes they’re hidden by smog or the crowds on the metro, but still nice to have.

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One of the stations along the green line. In general, the metro is clean and efficient. I don’t mind the commute as much anymore, and it’s probably good that I got used to it while studying abroad when I literally had no other choice. In the future I most likely won’t have the location luck that defined the first 20 years of my life.

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Random view of Ernesto Hevia, my street, mountains just visible in the background. My house is on the left side. Random exciting news: Tona and Maite went to an information session on composts last weekend, so we now have a little compost! Further proof that I could not have gotten luckier with my host family.

Final update: yesterday Hannah and I went shopping at Estación Central, and when I exited the metro I immediately knew that the area had recently been tear gassed. No idea why because nothing appeared to be happening, but my throat immediately hurt and then tears started running down my face. I mention it because it reminded me to give y’all an update on the student protests. On October 7/8 there was a plebecito nacional in which all citizens had the opportunity to vote on the education movement. The students turned in the results to the government that same week. As far as I know they were never publicly announced, but Jaime and Tona said there is no doubt that a majority of people sided with the students. It has become increasingly obvious that despite a lot of talk, Piñera’s government is not interested in negotiating with the students or making any changes to the system.

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Around the time of the plebecito, there were several big marches. As always things became violent and some protestors forced the evacuation of this TranSantiago bus and burned it. (I didn’t actually take this picture.) La Universidad de Chile along with a ton of other universities and lower schools throughout the country have now lost almost a whole semester, and it’s hard to say what will happen with the movement. Neither side is budging.

Strange mix of information, but that was my week! Now I’m on day 1 of my 5-day weekend. Not quite sure where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but seguro que I’ll have good pictures and stories for the next post! Hasta luego.

P.S. This has nothing to do with my study abroad experience, but Farm Sanctuary is currently having the first conference to end factory farming in D.C. I am incredibly bummed to miss it especially because it’s in one of my cities, but I have been following it via Twitter (#EndFactoryFarming). They showed this video, and I’m trying to get it out there on all of my networks. Please watch it when you have a few minutes.

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Temuco

Late Sunday night I got back from Temuco, a city about an hour flight south of Santiago. CIEE took our feedback from Iquique into account, and luckily the schedule this time was much more reasonable. On Thursday evening after our arrival we had a nice, albeit chilly dinner at the hotel and went to bed for an early wakeup on Friday. First stop was a Mapuche woman’s home and farm outside the city. The south of Chile is home to the Mapuche tribe, one of the country’s largest indigenous groups. Just like indigenous groups in many parts of the world, they were treated poorly during the Spanish conquest and continue to be discriminated against today.

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Cows and babies on the farm. I was particularly interested in the Mapuche world vision, which is very different from the western one. Our trip leader Claudio explained it as a difference between ownership and belonging. We generally think that land is a possession that can be bought and sold. For Mapuches, it’s about pertenencia, or belonging. When they live on a piece of land, they belong to that land. When they raise animals or plant crops, they plant what they need without much surplus because it is not their right to demand more from the earth.

Claudio explained to us that without understanding this way of living, people can interpret it negatively. For instance if outsiders were to visit a Mapuche village and see people having a conversation during the day rather than planting and harvesting a large crop, they might call them lazy. Just like Native Americans in the U.S., Mapuches have been negatively stereotyped as poor and lazy.

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The female wooden figure leaning against the tree in this picture represents the Mapuche tribe because a woman is always the spiritual leader and thus the leader of ceremonies and the herbal doctor. When someone gets sick, the doctor starts by treating their psychological state, which is always an indicator of health. Mapuche herbal medicines have been recognized by western medicine, and Claudio pointed out to us that when we have gotten sick in Santiago, our mamás have offered us herbal remedies that come from the Mapuche learning. When I had strep, Tona fed me ~3 herbal drinks every 6 hours.

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The woman who invited us into her home. Her mother, who was a good friend of Claudio’s for many years, died about a week ago. She is wearing the traditional Mapuche coins and headdress.

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After learning these facts and others from Claudio (pictured standing), we went into a hut to have a delicious midmorning snack. Sopaipillas are yet another one of Chile’s awesome bread products (closest pictured item on the red tablecloth). I’ve had them a number of times in Santiago, but they were even more delicious in Temuco. There is a stand outside of San Joaquín’s metro where you can buy a sopaipilla for 100 pesos, or about 20 cents… hard to resist, but definitely necessary to resist.

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After that we continued down the road, first to a market and next to a Mapuche school where we volunteered for the rest of the afternoon. I started out peeling potatoes that became a delicious stew for lunch (food page from this trip is a must-see), but our main task was to help cement a new patio for the school. The kids were happy to have us there mostly because we brought along the makings for s’mores.

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Helping a little girl roast her marshmellow. The kids were so excited that they pretty much just stuck their marshmellows directly into the fire, so I was constantly calling out “sopla!” which means blow. After lunch I subbed in to help with laying the cement. I started out as the apprentice of one of the men at the school. We weren’t chatty, but I just watched and imitated everything he did.

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When the director of CIEE Patricio switched with the real expert, I became the “expert.” Pictured is our handiwork. My knees didn’t love the constant crouching, but it was fun to contribute. Luckily Patricio and I were both perfectionists about getting it as smooth as possible. Unfortunately we didn’t get to finish the whole patio, but we made a dent in their workload.

After that we headed back into Temuco for dinner. Saturday was another full day. First we went to a park right near our hotel where we hiked up to the top for a great view and a talk from a nature conservation worker at the park.

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On the path

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View from the top

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The man who spoke to us was a cool guy because of how much he loves the forest and the animals. After a talk inside, he brought us outside to sit and enjoy the day for a few minutes. He also introduced us to the trees –actually presented us to an oak tree and spoke on behalf of the tree. At the end he said, “Lo defendemos no con armas sino con amor.”

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Next we continued our drive to the coast, first stopping for lunch and some time to buy souvenirs at a market. As usual I got some awesome loot, perhaps even for some of you lucky readers. Then we went on to a sort of random outdoor exhibit of trains.

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But it was fun to be outside, climb on some trains, and as usual enjoy a great view. We arrived at our final destination on the coast in time for me to go on an afternoon run in perfect weather with Marguerite.

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Then the whole group hiked up to the top of a hill to enjoy the sunset. View from the top with Marguerite and Hannah.

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Franco from CIEE and Claudio, our trip leader.

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Pupper I met at the top

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Watching the sunset. Marguerite and I were hot right after our run, but the temperature plummeted with the setting sun and we ended up being freezing. My unhappy knees begrudgingly got me back down the hill for dinner and a not hot but at least warm shower.

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Sunday was a day for some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen so far in Chile. As you’ve already seen, Temuco is incredibly lush and green because it rains so often, but we were incredibly lucky to have a sunny weekend without a hint of rain.

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Group shot in front of a lake. Temuco and the small towns where we spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday are at the northernmost part of the lake region in southern Chile.

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Next we went to a Mapuche village where we got to learn more about life as a Mapuche. View walking up to the village.

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First we had an artesanal workshop where three women shows us the entire process of making knitwear, from dying the wool using different plants, to making it into yarn, to knitting it on the loom.

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A horse with a pretty good life

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Leader of the pueblo

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Then we had a dialogue with the Mapuches of the village. We learned that at least in that particular town, they really do feel as if they are a Mapuche nation separate from the nation of Chile. They have their own language (Mapudungun), their own customs, their own laws, and their own way of life.

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Happy sheep

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I thought this picture would be interesting for y’all to see because of the mixture of traditional Mapuche garb with a gap sweatshirt and baseball cap. Someone asked about the ways in which Mapuches pass on the tradition and appreciation for their culture to younger generations, and a boy answered that his culture is important to him (not exactly a big chatter at the age of 14). Kids at least in this village grow up speaking Mapudungun in addition to Spanish, and Mapuche elementary and middle schools pass on traditions.

After that we had a delicious lentil dish for lunch (the whole meal was vegan, and everyone loved it!) and hopped on the bus to go back to the airport.

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Final views before we got back on the bus.

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It was a great trip overall — the perfect mix of activities and free time, fun and learning, and as always great food.

Now I have 4 days of class then a 5-day weekend… not sure of my exact plans yet, but stay tuned!

P.S. Happy birthday to my big brother Tom all the way from Santiago to St. Petersburg!! You’re not allowed to be 23 because that means I’m old, too. But I love you!

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