A Day in Gringolandia

So, my second round of midterms is in full swing. That’s right, as all of the students in the Northern Hemisphere are finishing up their semesters, the Southern Hemispheric system of higher education is still going strong. In the past two weeks, I’ve written part of a group paper for my Geography of Latin America class, researched for my group project in my linguistics class called Spanish of America, gone on a field trip to El Mercado Central, the main fish market in Santiago, with a partner for our project for our Chilean folklore class (Chilean professors are crazy about group projects…yippee), and taken a midterm in my Quechua Language and Culture class.

Side note: Quechua is the language of the Quechua people in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile and Argentina and was the official language of the Inca Empire. With 16 million speakers, it’s the third most spoken language in South America after Spanish and Portuguese. Ñoqa Loretta kashani. Imayna kashanki? – I’m Loretta. How are you? (Cool! Right?!)

I digress. Seeing as how I’ve come to the cruel realization that studying is an integral part of the study abroad experience, my time spent scaling volcanoes has been limited. Bummer.

However, that doesn’t mean the adventures have ended. Along with realizing that studying is a requirement while studying abroad, I have also realized that every day in a foreign country communicating in a different language is an adventure. With this in mind, I have decided to guide you through a day in the life of a gringa in Chile.

06:20 – Pull myself out of bed

06:21 – Put on six more layers of clothing because, although it may be 70 degrees during the day in winter in Santiago, it can also be 42 degrees at night. With no central heating in the majority of Chilean homes, the stylish alpaca wool mittens I purchased on a whim (and because I have a new fascination with camelids) become something of a uniform for my morning routine.

06:45 – Showered, teeth brushed, and warmly clothed, stumble into the kitchen to heat up the oatmeal (known as Quaker in Chile and pronounced like quack-air by my host mother. The first morning she offered it to me I thought I’d be eating crackers for breakfast or, I don’t know, maybe a duck) my host mother has prepared for me

07:00 – Leave my house and start walking to the bus stop

07:10 – After darting across four lanes of rush-hour traffic, board the bus to take me to the metro

07:25 – Play the shameless gringa card and make a pit stop at Starbucks (for those of you who just cringed, I’m sorry, but sometimes instant Nescafé just doesn’t cut it)

07:50 – Elbow and claw my way onto the metro (Rush hour on the metro in Santiago is not unlike the running of the bulls in Pamplona if, at the end of the run, you find yourself in a sardine can)

08:25 – Peel my face from the window of the metro, untangle my limbs from the mass of humanity that is continuing on and get off the metro

08:30 – Quechua class

10:00 – Chilean folklore class

11:30 – Brave public transportation again to return home for lunch

12:00 – Assure the man selling DVDs on the bus that I do not need to own a copy of Mark Anthony in concert

12:01 – Feel proud of myself because the previous interaction was in Spanish

12:20 – Arrive home

12:45 – Scarf down a three course meal while my host mother scolds me for leaving the house with my hair wet because I will get a cold

14:00 – Brace myself for having to use public transportation for the third time to go to my volunteer position at a local high school (I’m volunteering with the English Opens Doors Program. The program, which is sponsored by the Chilean Ministry of Education and the United Nations Development Fund, puts native English speakers into English classes to encourage the students to use English in class.)

15:00 – Begin English class at Liceo Carmela Carvajal de Prat, an all-girls secondary school

15:15 – Assure the 13 year-old girls in my class that I do not personally know Joe Jonas or any of the other Jonas brothers. Though I do give in and tell them that Hannah Montana and I go way back.

16:20 – Discuss the merits of the Spanish translation of Twilight with another student (She had lent me her copy of Crepúsculo or Twilight en español)

17:20 – Notice that I’m being followed by three stray dogs on my walk home from the bus stop

17:23 – Assure the dogs that, while they are very cute, I don’t think my host mother would appreciate the “but they followed me home so can we keep them?” proposal

17:24 – Realize that I’m talking to dogs

17:25 – Feel proud of myself that, even though my sanity seems questionable at this point after my dog discourse, at least it was in Spanish

17:30 – Arrive home

17:45 – “Do homework” while chatting with friends on three different continents on Skype

21:15 – Eat another three course meal while my host mother asks me if every boy that I mention is my boyfriend, when I’m planning on getting married, and if I plan on giving up my job when I have children

00:00 – Pass out on my bed

00:02 – Recall that I don’t want to wake up with frost bite

00:03 – Put on three more layers of clothing, including alpaca mittens

00:05 – Sleep

About Loretta Devery

Loretta Devery is a junior in the College from Richboro, PA, majoring in Spanish with (potentially) a Certificate in Latin American Studies. She is very excited to be spending the spring 2009 semester in Santiago, Chile and having the opportunity to experience fall and winter twice in the same year while missing out on spring altogether. Thanks to Chile’s geographic diversity and temperate climate, however, she is looking forward to both skiing in the Andes (or at least learning to ski at some point in her life) and visiting beach towns along the coast (with her SPF 85 sunscreen).
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