Ready To Go Home, Not Ready To Leave

I have been thinking about a lot of things lately. I know, my profundity amazes me sometimes. Yet with less than two weeks before I fly back to America to face my 21st birthday and senior year of college [both of which I have long awaited, neither of which I’m confident I will survive], I can’t help but feel melancholy as the nostalgia for this trip begins to set in. It is important to note that as I’m writing this it is dark and rainy, and I am sitting on my bed with the electric blanket on high as I exhale tiny white puffs of smoke and sip my tea, and in this situation melancholy kind of comes with the territory. By tomorrow morning I will no doubt be back in full Chilean YOLO mode, stoked for the first important World Cup game on Friday [Chile vs. Australia] and maybe more so for the World Cup themed Ssssssaint Jueeeves on, well, jueves.

I understand that I haven’t updated this blog in an excessively long time, but I was just out trying to live life and get engaged in the world around me and stuff [sidenote: this is also what I told myself when I accidently shattered my iphone and became utterly useless in the aspect of communication – still sorry about that one Mom and Dad]. Anyway, here’s the short list of cool things I’ve done, visited, seen, eaten, and a bunch of other applicable verbs since the last time I wrote about Chile.

 Peru: The Supertramping Delinquents [Myself, Camille, Beatrice, and Kaitlin – not a group of infamous prison escapees as the name might suggest] traveled to Peru in May to fulfill lifelong dreams of visiting world famous Incan city Machu Picchu. We laughed, we cried, we slept on the floor of the Lima airport, but thanks to Bea’s meticulous planning everything went according to schedule and we actually made it. Even at 6 am on the off-season, the area just outside of the entrance gates resembled an attraction at Disney world [although the line for the Harry Potter Hogwarts ride was much longer because PRIORITIES]. Admittedly once we got inside we went a little bit #selfie [see: my facebook profile photo] but we also stopped to admire and contemplate the magnificence and otherworldly beauty emanating from the impossibly intricate city. It may lose points with some people for being a tourist hotspot, but it was truly and sincerely one of the most incredible things I could ever have hoped to experience firsthand. In the afternoon we hiked down the mountain [thankfully not up in the morning, three months of Chilean empanadas, pastries, and bread is really catching up with me]. Other highlights of Peru include bartering in the Cuzco markets and overpaying for a photo with a llama in a Peruvian hat.

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San Pedro de Atacama: As I was typing the name, I accidently spelled it Sand Pedro, incorrect but not inaccurate. San Pedro boasts of its mars-like landscape, salt flats dotted with colorful flamingos, and numerous adventure opportunities in the driest desert IN THE WORLD. I’m sure all of those things are there, but I was a bit distracted by the sandstorms, windstorms, rain, and snow. Perhaps it would be more aptly named the most extreme desert in the world. Experiences here include biking directly into a sandstorm [it didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time, although I was still finding sand in my pockets/lungs two weeks later], stargazing in the middle of the desert [shout out to Camille for pointing out the Southern Cross, Mars, and how insignificant we are compared to the vastness of the universe, f’real], and having a snowball fight in the middle of the street while singing Christmas carols [and then trying to finish all the alcohol we overbought with drinking games at the hostal]. We didn’t get to follow our planned itinerary, but given all that went wrong that weekend I think we managed to make the best of every situation, and for that I’m grateful for the group of nerds I get to share these memories with.

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Buenos Aires: This past weekend was our last group trip to Buenos F*cking Aires, as was emblazoned on many a tourist souvenir we passed by. This city rules. When we weren’t tourist-ing [to the Casa Rosada, Recoleta Cemetery, Caminito, San Telmo, and Palermo] we were eating – big surprise. In fact, the way I look at sightseeing is a way to burn off your last meal so that you can eat more [judge me if you will, I’ll be eating another prime Argentinian steak while you do]. We also went to a Tango show on Friday night [dinner included of course], which was actually worth every penny and made me wish that I had been put in dance classes as a kid [not mad, Mom and Dad, just uncoordinated]. Leaving BA was not easy [literally] because we hit turbulence over the Andes on the flight back and several people recounted the story of the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes in the 70’s and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Obviously this flight had a less morbid ending, and we arrived safely in Chile by Sunday mid-afternoon.

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I chose to come to Chile simply because I didn’t want to study in Spain, and it has been the best decision I ever made. The people I’ve met [in the Arizona group, at the University, and in this country] are some of the greatest, weirdest, best people I know, and it is thanks to them that I have not for one second regretted my decision to study in Chile.

There is so much I am going to miss about this country when I return to the US, but the best part about leaving is that I can look forward to coming back.

Much love to everyone involved in making this trip the incredible adventure that it has been.

Ciao!

Also check out these blogs from my rad friends Camille and Kaitlin

P.S. CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE VAMOS CHILE

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Subir-ing and Bajar-ing

This past weekend we boarded a bus Wednesday night in Viña and 12 hours later we arrived at our destination, the adventure capital of Chile. Pucón is a backpacker-fueled haven with small town charm and an adrenaline habit. The four days we spent here were without a doubt the most unreal days of my life and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here are a few of the ups and downs (bad joke) from this weekend:

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Subir: The sign at the adventure tour building stated that only pregnant women and those with breathing problems were not permitted to climb the volcano. Apparently they overestimated the abilities of out of shape, overzealous college kids. They gave us crampons and a pickaxe. I laughed and assumed we probably wouldn’t even need them. WRONG.  It took us about four hours to climb the half glacier, all volcano known as Volcán Villarrica. Villarrica is approximately 9,383 ft, is listed as one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world, and is one of the only ones which you can actually climb to the mouth of the volcano. I may have caused the guides to give us an extra break or two on the way up, and I am now painfully aware that I need to spend more (any) time at the gym. When I finally dragged my body over the last incline to the summit, I was treated to unbelievable views of Argentina on the right, Chile on the left, and the mouth of a steaming volcano to my back. Súper lindaaaa.

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Bajar: I assume the person who invented the method of descent for Villarrica climbed the volcano, got drunk at the top, and then more or less fell down the volcano and thought it was a good idea. At the top they stripped us of our crampons and gave us butt pads along with a piece of plastic that was meant to function as a makeshift sled for the slower sections. From the summit of the volcano to the bottom there were various “slides” (indentations in the snow) where we would sit down, lift our legs off the ground, and rocket down the mountainside. In order to break we had to dig our feet on the ground and jam our pickaxe into the snow. Using this method it still took us probably an hour to make it back to the bottom. In other words they found the most cost efficient, adrenaline-inducing way for us to fall down a mountain. Thoughts during this last part: ciao life!

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Subir: After scaling my version of Everest (súper exaggeration), the only logical thing to do was another hike into the mountains of Pucón, thankfully sin snow. We drove to la Reserva Nacional Villarrica Hualalafquen with our extremely knowledgeable park ranger leading the way. First we found a super rad bridge that I’m fairly sure our guide helped to build back in the day. Then we went on a 15 km hike into the mountains, during which we happened to cross into Argentina before stopping for lunch at a serene lake. Scenes that came to mind during this trek included Lord of the Rings, Lion King, and The Sound of Music. After that our guide took us back to his house/hostal where his mother made us traditional Mapuche bread in the backyard/Mapuche smokehouse. She was an incredible woman, and in typical gringo fashion we told her that we had plans to visit Machu Piccu next month, to which she responded with a tear in her eye that it was an impossible lifelong dream of hers to visit Machu Piccu. I nearly gave her my plane ticket right then and there.

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Bajar: Going for the perfect weekend trifecta, we decided to go rafting on the Trancura River Sunday morning. Seeing as this was legitimate glacier melt, the required gear included wetsuits, water shoes, life vests, and “sexy shorts”. Rafting in Colorado had nothing on this river. During our class 4 rapids adventure on the “alto” course, we battled (see: held on for dear life and screamed like babies) through sections of rapids with names such as el Feo and Purgatorio, and at one point had to hike through the woods and cliff jump into the water because there was a waterfall too large to raft. After every successfully completed section of the river our guide had us put our paddles together and scream ¡CERVESA! in celebration. Then after we crushed the rapids they actually gave us cervesa. I like your style, Pucón.

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We stayed at: Hostal Donde Egidio – Friendly people, a few too many rules, a bit mature for a bunch of 20 somethings

We toured with: Politur – Great dudes, incredibly knowledgeable and experienced with no shortage of sarcasm and sass (pulling out a knife when asked for a bandaid)

We ate at: Latitude 39 – Run by super rad Californians who uprooted to Pucón a few years back and brought spice to Chile. Highly recommended for gringos missing gringo food so hot it makes you cry

Shout out to the cool people I’m traveling with for killin it this weekend and in general. This trip would be nothing without the people I came here with and the ones I’ve met along the way.

¡Ciao Ciao!

 

A little less bags of mayo, a little more Manjar

MORE: I could give you sixteen reasons why I love Chile, but I’m only going to write one because all of them would be manjar. Manjar is a slice of heaven, bought in a jar, served on bread, or oreos, or inside churros, or likely anything under the sun. It’s like the fraternal twin of peanut butter, in that they are quite different, but best when put together.

Churro con manjar = I can die happy now

Churro con manjar = I can die happy now

LESS: On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mayo, well known amongst the American population. Only in Chile, it is bought from the store in a bag, which is really off-putting for some reason. On top of that, one completo is served with more Mayonnaise than one person need eat in a lifetime. For those wondering, completos are hot dogs on steroids, generally served with avocado//palta, tomatoes, and LOTS of mayo, all wrapped up in a bun twice the size of the average human skull.

Completos - yes, the white is mayo

Completos – yes, the white is mayo

MORE: $4 red wine that puts the Trader Joes Chilean wine to shame (sorry mom). When buying wine here the main idea is to ask for “bueno y barato” – good and cheap. That strategy hasn’t let me down yet, and the owners of most botillerias (I am now a regular at my favorite – La Bicyclette) agree that it is nearly impossible to go wrong with wine here.

Nothing compares to cheap Chilean wine, the sunset, and a beachfront balcony

Nothing compares to cheap Chilean wine, the sunset, and a beachfront balcony

LESS: Perros calles – street dogs. At first seeing dogs all over the place was exciting, but 0.3 seconds after that it became a super depressing part of my day. These dogs are much more street smart than myself, but seeing a dog bite at the tires of a moving vehicle will never not make my stomach turn. These are some of the friendliest dogs I’ve ever encountered; a handsome German shepherd walked me all the way home from Starbucks last night before continuing on his nightly rounds. #ayudalosperroscalles

Dear Chile,

You are magnificent

And strange

And foreign

And wonderful

But stop with the mayo

Love,

The girl who just attempted to play the title of this post off of a Fall Out Boy song from ten years ago and failed miserably

Ps. I stole pics from Bea and Kaitlin for this one, so don’t sue me guys. Check out Kaitlin’s blog at http://corellphotography.wordpress.com

Adjustment//Ajuste

Adjustment (n.) adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose; harmony achieved by modification or change of position

The view of Valpo from la casa de Pablo Neruda

The view of Valpo from la casa de Pablo Neruda

 Viña is a rad place to own a vacation home, and I don’t feel premature in saying that Valparaíso may possibly be my spirit city – living on the ocean has been a dream of mine since as far back as I can remember. The scenic beaches, colorful street art, and friendly people have made it seem less like I’m living 5,270 miles away from home, and more like I’m on a temporary vacation in southern California. I am in fact, at this very moment, writing this post from the only Starbucks in Viña del Mar, with a view of the ocean and yet another gorgeous sunset on the horizon. With that in mind, it has been fairly easy for me thus far to gloss over the details of my new life in South America. This is by no means a list of complaints or grievances, merely a few observations of what has become my new reality.

Incredible art seen on the streets of Valpo

Incredible art seen on the streets of Valpo

I wouldn’t call what I’m feeling culture shock so much as situational shock. My main problem has been adjusting to the family life. Coming in, I had prepared myself for what I imagined a Latin family to be: loud, social, and close-knit. My host family placement does not quite fit my imaginary criteria. They are wonderful, but in a reserved way which requires me to put myself out there more often than I am invited to participate in conversation. As a shy person attempting a new language, this is terrifying (tonight I asked my host mom to set the table, as opposed to asking if I could help set the table. It got weird). Additionally, I am accustomed to a large amount of freedom in my life, so being required to let host mom know if I’ll be home for lunch the night before, or even that I’m just stepping out for coffee, has been a strain on my independent streak. However, I have a feeling that this will work itself out as my communication skills improve and what is currently foreign to my sensibilities becomes my norm.

My street art boyfriends

My street art boyfriends

Taking into consideration everything happening in my life at the moment, I have decided to take these annoyances as a blessing. It is so simple to dismiss the good in the face of something less than desirable, to let something new and strange become frightening and intimidating. Therein lies the beauty of travel. I am not here to experience Chile in the same way I would spring break in Cabo. The cultural differences, miscommunications, and potentially harsh realities are what differentiate vacations from experiences, and I would choose the latter every time. I choose to adjust.

Valpo Love

Valpo Love

Huge shout out/photo cred to Kaitlin Correll for following us around with a camera all the time. Everyone should check out more of her photos and blog posts at http://corellphotography.wordpress.com

Está bien

So I’ve been in Chile for four days now, and a lot has happened. This is my third attempt at writing this post, due to some inner battle I’m having between wanting to share my adventures with my friends and family, and being a person who generally shares very little. So, in the spirit of compromise, I am going to summarize what I consider to be noteworthy points of my trip thus far, without treading into mind-numbing detail.

The view from my friend's apartment overlooking a park and the beach

The view from my friend’s apartment overlooking a park and the beach

Mi familia: I am living with my host mother Paulina and her twenty year old daughter Katrina. She has another daughter, Leila, who is currently in Santiago, and I’m not sure when she is coming back because Paulina sometimes speaks faster than I understand. She is very kind and generally extremely patient with me. She also cooks breakfast and lunch for me every day, and is practically upset for me when I miss a meal. She would cook dinner, but lunch happens around five pm and so far has been large enough to fill me up all night. Katrina, or Katy (Kah-tee), is studying to be a veterinarian and has a boyfriend whose name escapes me but is quite nice. We haven’t spent much time together, but she did drive me up and down some pretty San Franciscan-like hills in an older stick shift with relative ease, so she seems pretty rad. Rounding out mi familia are two dogs, Jafife (Ha-Fee-Fay) the sassy maltese and Elda the sweet labrador. They currently love me because both girls are gone for the rest of the week and apparently I’m the next best thing. I can live with it.

They absolutely refused to pose for the camera at the same time

They absolutely refused to pose for the camera at the same time

La Universidad: This semester I am attending La Universidad Adolfo Ibanez in Vina del Mar. The campus is modern, private, and well-kept, and is framed by stunningly gorgeous views of the colorful hills and sparkling bay waters of neighboring Valparaiso. The school itself is situated on a hill about ten minutes from the flat city center of Vina. Conveniently for me, the bus stop for school is only two short blocks away from my apartment, located on the edge of a small yet scenic plaza that is home to a beautiful public library and El Museo Fonck, the designated meeting point of my group. In short, I really don’t mind having to hang out around campus during the week.

View of Valparaiso from UAI

View of Valparaiso from UAI

UAI Campus

UAI Campus

The Experience: It has been exceptionally difficult for me to put this transition in my life into words. I am experiencing so many new feelings and emotions in such short periods of time that by the time I finish writing, I have to delete everything because my opinion has changed. So instead, every time I get overwhelmed, confused, or anxious, I have decided to take a quick step back and realize that one wrong interpretation or ill-placed “si” is not going to make or break my trip. It also helps (to quote zombieland) to enjoy the little things. The first time I paid the exact correct amount of pesos was worth a mini celebration. Finding the only Starbucks in Vina and ordering a drink that reminded me of home and that good coffee still exists (damn nescafé) turned my whole day around. Living in the moment makes every moment after just a bit more manageable.

Extras: Most notably, temblores y terremotos. On Sunday, our first night, there was a tremor (temblor) around midnight. Of course, I sleep like a log and did not know about it until Monday morning. Not one to miss out on the fun, I happened to be wide awake Tuesday morning at 7 am to experience our second tremor in three days, somewhere on the scale of a 5.7. In other words, my bed shook violently for about thirty seconds, my life flashed before my eyes, and Paulina barely acknowledged it when she made me breakfast. Life goes on. Not to be outdone in the department of terrifying realities, our student advisor mentioned that earthquakes and tremors tend send poisonous aranas (spiders) crawling out of their dark crevices. His exact words on the subject? “To be safe, I kill anything smaller than a rabbit”. Quite reassuring.

Finally, while I am already picking up more Spanish and I am understanding more every day, my survival at this point is reliant upon the words “Si”, “No”, and “Está bien”.

The Arizona group at el Reloj de Flores in Central Vina del Mar

The Arizona group at el Reloj de Flores in Central Vina del Mar

Hopefully I will be able to post more often now that I am on campus during the week. This post is late because the wifi in my apartment is not the greatest, but I promise I will be updating still!

Hasta luego!

Preparation

My flight leaves in 4 days. I’ve been waiting for two months for my departure date to arrive, and now that it’s essentially breathing down my neck, I’m scared. Nervous to begin again, in a new city, with new people, who speak a language I have studied for 7 years and yet never truly been able to speak. For a moment I feel like a freshman again, traveling across the country to attend a school where I had exactly zero friends, and where I had to immerse myself in a culture completely unlike the one I had grown up in (because yes, U of A does have its own culture). But that’s where the excitement comes from. Time and time again, I have found myself in situations I never could have imagined being a part of, surrounded by people whom I likely would not have the pleasure of knowing had I not chosen to step outside of my comfort zone. So as intimidating as I imagine it will be to live with a strange family in a foreign country, I don’t think I will ever be more ready for this adventure than I am right now.

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Now for the facts. I am flying out of Chicago on March 1st, and after a brief stop in Miami, I will arrive in Santiago, Chile on March 2nd. Then myself and nine other students from Arizona will take a bus from Santiago to Viña del Mar, where we will meet our families and begin our four month semester abroad. From the information I’ve received about mi familia chileña, a wonderful mother and her two daughters have opened their home to me. They also have una perrita maltés (a dog, WOO!).

Well, now that I’ve written a post on preparation, I should probably get to packing (procrastination, yikes).

Next time I will be writing from Chile.

Hasta próxima vez!