end of classes and the start of my three-week summer break
11.15.2010 - 11.23.2010 85 °F
Although I technically have to attend two hours and forty minutes of class this week, my presence is basically all that is required so I am considering myself on break. Woo hoo! I have three weeks of carefree enjoyment left in Chile, and then a six-week Christmas break back home, so I am feeling pretty great right now. My end of semester was actually much easier than October because I somehow picked four classes that all had their work concentrated around midterms. I did have to take two tests last week, but one of them ended up being a three-minute chat about Lewis and Clark instead of the fifteen-minute terrifyingly difficult oral exam I was expecting. I don't mind that I put in all the time studying because I like reminding myself of everything I learned at one point, but I am a little bitter about the professor tricking us because I skipped the Harry Potter premier. Which, by the way, came out a day earlier here than it did in the US (doesn't make sense, right?).
To the surprise of my Chilean family, I somehow managed to survive until my host parents came back from Easter Island Wednesday night. I had a little sleepover Tuesday night to keep me from getting too lonely, and to pawn off all the food that was still left in the fridge. That second part led to a nasty revelation. Two of my friends working as a team had a difficult time finishing the plate of vegetable mash--the plate that constitutes my normal portion, minus the salad and dessert I am also given daily. All this time, I had been assuming that everyone was being fed the same massive amounts of food, giving myself a little peace of mind as my weight gradually started going up. Turns out I was very very wrong. In Chile, we call that a truco (trick).
Along with classes, my volunteering also came to an end this week. I got a little overwhelmed studying and decided to skip the last meeting, but I did go at the beginning to say goodbye to everyone. I didn't do much to help out in that group, but I'm really glad I was a part of it. The adults I worked with took me in like I was their host student, asking me questions, bringing me gifts, and wanting to take lots of pictures with me. When I said goodbye, they all seemed genuinely sad to see me go and shared lots of kind words and life advice. I know there was an element of intrigue at play, but I think the main reason everyone took such an interest in me was excitement at the chance to share their country with a foreigner. Chile gets so little attention in the world so any exposure is a big deal. During the miner rescue, instead of saying how great it was that the men were being saved, many people were talking about how great it was that Chile had made international news; a phrase from Obama's speech after the rescue, "Do it the Chilean way," has become just short of the national motto and is quoted all the time to remind everyone of the country's fifteen minutes of fame. Whatever their motive, the people I volunteered with succeeded in making Chile feel like home, if only a temporary one.
While most of my friends still have finals in the next two weeks, Thursday marked the last day of actual classes. To celebrate, my friend Allison threw an asado at her house, complete with my favorites, choripan (sausage links in rolls) and avocado-rice. Friday night we decided to do the oh-so-cultural activity of bowling. Bowling alleys here are all in malls, so I finally made it to Alto Las Condes; my host mom walks there almost every day and asks me almost as often why I haven't gone yet, so I'm glad that now she can stop worrying about my getting the full Santiago experience. Christmas decorations have started to spring up, but even with a giant Christmas tree in the mall and Santa's sleigh, I can't embrace the coming of the holidays when I am sweating in a tank top and skirt. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Christmas album has also mysteriously disappeared from my iTunes, so I don't even have Colorado Christmas to help me get into the spirit. Bowling, as you might have guessed, doesn't really vary between countries. We did have to figure out our shoe sizes (I'm a size 38) and convince the worker that our feet really were that big (most shoe stores here don't even carry above a size seven).
Saturday I participated in Santiago's big 10k race. You might think that would mean an early morning, because sane race planners try and beat the heat. Not the case here in Chile. Nope, even though we've been having eighty-degree days, somebody thought it would be best to set the race for five o'clock in the afternoon. Just as I had expected, the race was extremely unpleasant. After the first five kilometers, I was completely spent and had to talk a walking-breathing break every kilometer after that. I was pretty concentrated on not dying so I stopped paying attention to pacing, and accidentally cut a minute off of each of my splits; while I'm sure that didn't help the crappy feeling throughout my body, it did make up for the walking and I crossed the finish line with a time of 50 minutes, 58 seconds. I was pretty shocked and confused. My only other 10k time was 51:14 and I was expecting to be coming in far far behind that; they kept advertising a surprise for after the race, and I was convinced for a while that it was going to be an announcement that the route was actually shorter than it was supposed to be. Before and after the race was fun, especially since all 12,000 runners had to wear the highlighter yellow race shirt and because I love the feeling of being a part of something that big (40 countries represented!), but the run itself was the most unpleasant I've ever had. On top of the heat, there was no music along the route and not too many people cheering us on, and it was hard to keep spirits up with everyone around me cussing about how miserable we all were. I'm still really glad I did it, though, mainly because the shirt is sweet. And two friends came to cheer me on so that was great.
I never actually found out what the surprise was because I had to be at my host cousin's confirmation by seven and I was about a thirty minute walk away. My host mother was supposed to bring a bag of nice clothes for me to change into before the mass, but she forgot them, so I had the great pleasure of walking into a fancy ceremony sweaty in a highlighter yellow top. Because being the only blonde wouldn't have drawn enough stares. In true Chilean fashion, the ceremony started forty minutes late and was incredibly disorganized. After the sun set it got pretty cold (it was an outdoor ceremony) and the microphones weren't loud enough to hear anything, so my host mom decided we were going to leave early. I felt kind of bad because my host cousin hadn't even walked across the stage yet, but I don't have much say in these things. We all met up at my host aunt's house for a big dinner; I was exhausted by this point but also extremely content because I felt like such a part of the family, loved and all.
I almost missed the chance to go to a Chilean soccer game. It was something I had wanted to do while down here, but since I'm not exactly a fan of the sport it was never on the top of my list. But with time running out, my friends and I have started to make lists of all things Chilean we still need to do or see, and a soccer game was on everyone's to-do. We even got lucky; the Sunday game we could all make it to was between two of the three major teams, La Chile and La Catolica. Colo Colo is probably the most famous, and I think the best, followed by the two we saw. It's kind of an interesting system, because the two teams are named after Santiago's two main universities, they aren't actually associated with the schools anymore and allegiances have nothing to do with alma maters. The day started out pretty intense and overwhelming, but we all left happy and without wounds. At the confirmation party the night before, I had asked my cousin if I could borrow a jersey from him; while he happily obliged, the rest of my family started lecturing me that wearing a jersey would result in my getting stabbed. Even though I would be sitting in the La Chile section, before and after the game I would be fair game to any La Catolica fan. Since I was going to be in a large group, my family gave in, but I was given strict instruction to take the jersey off before leaving the stadium after the game, especially if my team won. So I was already a little nervous going into it. Tensions rose on the short walk from my friends house to the stadium; we received about ten times the normal amount of gringa attention and the police presence was pretty intimidating as they tried to keep fans from the two teams separated and people without tickets at least two blocks away. We had to wait outside for the whole group to show up, which basically made us sitting ducks for the masses of rowdy soccer fans passing by; it also made us targets for a nasty thief who snatched a ticket from my friend's hand and ran off. Since we were clearly out of our element, the caribineros (police) did their best to watch over us (at one point we had a guard and his muzzled German Shepherd standing in front of us telling the crowd to keep walking); that is, when they weren't chasing a man down with sticks raised and rabid dogs released. Luckily, we managed to find an illegal but legitimate ticket in our section to replace the stolen one, so after maybe seven layers of security screening we finally made it into the stadium and things calmed down. Like I said, I don't really watch soccer, so I wasn't too interested in the game, but there was plenty to distract me. The fans literally sang the entire time, a number of people managed to sneak flares into the game, toilet paper rolls were thrown onto the field at various points, and when my side scored the main section unrolled a giant jersey over their heads. La Chile ended up losing the game, which meant my side was more likely to start fights, so after the game we had to stay seated--enforced by lines of heavily padded police officers--until the other half of the stadium had been cleared off the grounds and about five blocks away. Without the distraction of the game, the attention turned back to us, but since I walked away without a knife wound I was satisfied.
I have plenty of free time now, but my friends are mostly busy studying and I should be busy figuring out plans for my mom's arrival on Friday. I am obviously more than excited for her to come, but it's a little bittersweet since I know when she leaves I will have only a few days left. Recently I've been getting a little emotional thinking about leaving this place. But I guess it's silly to think about that before I have to.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!