A Travellerspoint blog

Me Encantan los Fines de Semana

sometimes the only time I remember I'm in Chile

70 °F
View Semester in Chile on marykate.morr's travel map.

Pretty boring week. Not doing homework for 10 days right before the busiest weeks of the semester will do that to a girl. The most exciting part was when a couple of hippies gave me some sort of blessing in the park, and since I was from the US I didn't even have to pay! I couldn't tell if they were trying to rob me because the girl insisted on blessing the inside of every pocket in my backpack (looking for what I was carrying?). When I wouldn't open up my camera case, she got mad that I didn't have faith in her good intentions and pulled out one of her breasts to make some point about how a woman who gives milk can't be untrustworthy. That was the end of our conversation.

The weekend turned out okay though. Yesterday my tandem partner invited me on a hike, and my friend Madeline came along too. We took a short bus north of my house, walked through some sort of outdoor sports complex, and started up the hill. We reached the top of Alto de Naranjo after about three hours of a pretty good uphill, buns-of-steel workout. The view was incredible, just for the fact that we couldn't see anything! Even though we weren't that high (technically still in the foothills), we had climbed above all the clouds, and everything below us was pure white. It was like being in an airplane, but I could take pictures without window glare. There were also some great views of the Andes; some of the mountains will lose all their snow in the next couple of months, but two that we could see have permanent glaciers. Apparently our hill should have still had snow, but I don't know how that works because this winter was supposedly the coldest anyone could remember. My guess is they say that about every winter. We could have continued on to summit the popular Provincia, but it would have been another two hours up and I of course had homework on my mind. I'm generating quite the list of mountains I have to go back to and actually finish.

P1040127.jpg P1040132.jpg P1040142.jpg P1040144.jpg

There were quite a few people on the trail because it's one of the few easily-accessible hikes around Santiago. It's nice to think that the majority of these mountains are relatively untouched, but at the same time it would be great if it were a little easier to find information on trails. I guess that's where my mountaineering tandem partner comes in handy. That, and the times when the trail requires you to climb a fence but doesn't make that obvious. We did have to wait at said fence for a good ten minutes while a massive group of university students piled over one by one. The hike down was not nearly as pretty; visibility remained the same, but due to smog, not clouds.

This morning I had the rare pleasure (complete sarcasm there) of going to a Jumbo, the Chilean version of Wal-Mart. Some of you probably think it could just as easily be a Chilean Target ("they're the same..."), but it had way too many people and made me nervous and uncomfortable, so I'm ruling it a Wal-Mart. The parking lot was actually so massive and crowded that they have an automated lights system that tells you how many spots are available in each lane and points them out. I just wanted a new journal (you can probably tell from the length of my blogs that I fill that thing up pretty quickly), but I was once again faced with the impossibility of finding anything that wasn't made for an 8-year-old. I know plenty a 20-some Chilean with a Hello Kitty backpack, but I couldn't bring myself to follow suit, so I bought a plain school-type notebook that I'll decorate when I get home. While I'm on the office supplies subject, I will also note that Chileans hate black ink. This is a problem since OCD Mary hates blue and red ink and is physically incapable of writing in it. Of course we stood in line forever to pay even though there was only one person in front of us, but I was entertained by a live band playing various musical theater numbers (Well Hello Dolly...).

My host sister just got back from her US trip and I got to hear all about it at lunch today. They made some borderline racist comments (which still shock me every time) but for the most part it was a humorous conversation. And it was the first time I've missed the United States. Of course I've missed my family and friends all along, and I've missed the general concept of a comfort zone, but today I actually missed the US as a country and as my home. I think it was the talk of Northern American breakfast that did it; they don't even have a word for syrup here!

Posted by marykate.morr 15:12 Archived in Chile Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Vacaciones de la Primavera (Dos)

ten days of traveling all over Chile

50 °F
View Semester in Chile on marykate.morr's travel map.

I had to cut this blog into two. The first half is below.

After a nice breakfast of bread, jam, and cereal, we headed about an hour south to Castro, the main city on Chiloé, for the Bicentenial celebrations. We got there before anyone had woken up, so we did our tour of the town before trying to find the party. Castro is famous for its palafitos, houses on stilts floating above the water. We walked along the waterfront until we found another artesian fair; this time I actually made purchases because I found things worth giving as gifts. The South is famous for its wool products, but the guide books don't mention that this wool has a distinct smell. I was worried my wooly gifts were home to some sort of rotting bug colony, but Magaly tells me that's just the natural smell because the wool goes straight from the sheep to the clothes.

P1030991.jpg P1030994.jpg P1030998.jpg P1040001.jpg P1040003.jpg

At the end of our tour, we were drawn towards a group of traditionally dressed men on horses, only to realize that we were at the back of the town parade. We headed towards the plaza just in time to see the last bit of cueca dancing that was the start of the parade. After that, we mostly saw the various armed forces of the town walk around the plaza. I couldn't believe how many firemen such a small city had, and at one point they decided that it was a good idea to turn on the sirens of every fire truck all at once. I was going just about as crazy as the dogs. After the parade (and after letting a Chilean take a picture of us with his wife), we moved to the center of the plaza to watch some more cueca and listen to the live band. Delicious treats were purchased, and we then headed to a very American-style restaurant for lunch. I got nachos that ended up just being chips and guacamole and did not make for a happy stomach the rest of the day. After lunch, the Iglesia San Francisco was open so we got to check out the famous head-to-toe wooden architecture. There are hundreds of wooden churches scattered across Chiloé.

P1040016.jpg P1040033.jpg P1040045.jpg P1040056.jpg P1040065.jpg P1040072.jpg

I was a little disappointed with the Bicentenario celebrations. They've been talking about this since I arrived (and I'm sure before; some plans were in the works for over 5 years), and I guess I just expected all day dancing and singing in the plaza. Instead, after just a few hours, people pretty much cleared out, probably to go spend time with their families. How dare they not stay and entertain me. With nothing much else to do, we hopped on a short bus/boat ride to Achao, another town with basically the same feel as all the rest. The main attraction, the church, was closed, and when we asked someone what we should do his response was that we had come to the most boring place on earth. It certainly wasn't bumping, but it was nice to play on the beach and walk around looking at the shingle houses (in lots of shapes and colors). We met up with two other CIEE students traveling in Chiloé for the week for a seafood dinner; I went with a nice avocado and chicken salad. Some people went to a fonda that night, which is the typical Chilean party during Fiestas Patrias with food, alcohol, and dancing, but I was sleepy and stayed in. Our hostel in Castro, El Torre de Babel, was the worst of the bunch but still not too shabby. There were a lot of people trying to use only two bathrooms with no soap or toilet paper, though, and the rooms smelled let wet dog.

P1040075.jpg P1040084.jpg P1040086.jpg P1040088.jpg P1040091.jpg

Sunday morning we caught the early bus back to Puerto Montt, entertained a man who could not get over the presence of gringas, woke up our friendly hostel owner one more time, left our bags, and headed to Puerto Varas, a German settlement on Lake Llanquihue. During Germany's troubles with the World Wars, Chile was underpopulated so Pedro Montt offered free land to any German that would settle here. Now the South has multiple towns with extraordinary German influence; Puerto Varas made me feel more like I was in the Alps than in Chile. We had all expected an actual bus station, so when there wasn't one we just stayed on the bus until two miles out of town everyone turned around to look at us and the bus driver asked us where we were trying to go. Luckily, the walk back was along the lake and beautiful. We found a tent filled with food and music and spent a while sampling various treats, then walked up a hill to look at the German-style town church. My host dad and the tourism office had suggested we go see some waterfalls at the base of the volcano, but it ended up not working out. We waited forty minutes for the bus, and what we were told would take twenty minutes ended up taking an hour. When we finally got there, we stepped off the bus only to realize that the trail had closed about ten minutes before, so we literally crossed the street and hoped right on the bus going the other direction. This was probably my biggest disappointment of the trip, because the spot looked gorgeous and we didn't have time to make up for it by hopping in some new guy's trailer. But, we had a nice final dinner and then dessert in the town before heading back to Puerto Montt to sleep.

P1040107.jpg P1040113.jpg P1040121.jpg P1040122.jpg P1040126.jpg

Before heading to bed, we tried unsuccessfully to order pizza and to explain to the hostel owner why cold pizza was a good option for a bus ride when all the grocery stores were closed. She apparently didn't hate us, because she invited us all out with her and her friend. All but one of us declined the option and headed to bed. The next morning, after another lovely breakfast of toast and eggs, we got on our last and longest bus: 15 hours to Santiago. It was supposed to only be 13, but everyone was returning to the city from their Independence Day travels and there were quite a few traffic jams (tacos, as they're called here). I loved the trip just as much as I thought I would. I slept a little in the morning, got some good journaling/post card writing done, and spent a good many hours staring out the window watching the country slip by. It's a beautiful beautiful place, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of how blessed I am to be here. The highway pretty much ran through people's backyards, so I got to see a lot of country folk just working and playing and living, contributing even more to the romantic vision I have of rural life.

We got home late last night and I'm exhausted today, but I can't complain because the trip was great. The people in the South were just as nice as everyone told me they would be, and the landscape was more breathtaking than I could have imagined. I hope to return to fill in all the blanks, but I think the length of this blog is proof that I got to see a whole lot. And, after six days of bus rides, hostels, food, gifts, and random activities, I only spent around $300. Which means I still have money for some new adventures.

Woo! That was a big recap. Sorry, and thank you if you actually made it to this point. I put a lot of pictures in this blog, but you can see all of them from my trip on the right.

In my normal and more studious life, things have been going not great, but pretty good considering the circumstances. I got my first test back (history) and was a little nauseous to see a 4.7 out of 7. The class average was a 5.1, so I'm not way behind, but I'm neither used to nor fond of being below average. But, I talked to the other gringos in the class and it seems like almost everyone hovered around a 4, so I've come to terms with my grade. Plus, it converts to the US grading system as a B, which I feel like is a perfectly acceptable grade in a third-year history class in a language I only sometimes speak. I should be getting another test back tomorrow. It was tough, but I'm pretty sure the TAs are going to go easy on me (one of them made sure that I had written "Exchange Student" on my test before I handed it in). My classes aren't extremely interesting or challenging beyond the language barrier, which is a little disappointing to me but I try to remind myself that my first priority is moving towards fluency and that it might have been too much to try and tackle harder courses in a second language.

It turns out I couldn't have picked two better girls to accidentally make friends with. Paulina and Carla: first-rate Chileans! We eat lunch together Mondays and Wednesdays and sit together in class, and they don't seem to mind my speaking blunders or repeating themselves every once and a while. Even though I had told them I would be out of town, they waited until the weekend I was in the North to do our group project, so my only contribution ended up being some pictures I had torn out of magazines for a collage. Apparently they didn't mind, because we have another project that is supposed to only have two people per group, but while I was scanning the room for a new partner Carla told the professor that would do extra work if she would let me join them for a group of three. I can't tell if they like me (unlikely since I have very little personality in Spanish), are intrigued by me, or just feel sorry for me. Whatever the gringa appeal, I'm enjoying it.

I signed up for a program called Tandem, in which Chilean students are paired with foreigners so that each can practice their second language. I met with my partner just before leaving to Iquique and have made plans meet up with him again for a hike this weekend. His name is Daniel, he's a law student, and I think he's going to be a great resource in a lot of ways. First, that's one more Chilean I know. Second, he is really into mountaineering and I'm hoping he'll take me or at least direct me to some great hikes. And, maybe most importantly, he corrects my Spanish without making me feel stupid. The only problem is that he though I spoke pretty well when we first met, so throughout the conversation he gradually started speeding up to what I assume is his normal pace, and by the end of the hour and a half I had no idea what he was saying. He has so far shown no interest in practicing his English.

It's a little unappealing to think that my big trip for the semester (at least before the very end) has passed, especially since I have quite a bit of homework in these next three weeks. But a little stability is always nice and my bank account definitely thought it was time to come back.

Posted by marykate.morr 20:45 Archived in Chile Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Vacaciones de la Primavera

ten days of traveling all over Chile

50 °F
View Semester in Chile on marykate.morr's travel map.

I think most of you have been forewarned that this will be a long entry. But hopefully entertaining. I actually have to break it into two because I went over the limit.

I just spent the past ten or so days doing almost nothing but traveling. Last last Friday (the 10th), I went with half of my study abroad program on our first of two trips. After less than three hours of sleep, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, made my way to the airport by 5, and took a 6 am flight up to almost the northern boundary of Chile. We landed in Iquique, a port city nestled in between the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama Desert, apparently the driest in the world. We got in around 9 or 10 and in true Chilean fashion went straight to eat; then after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we went to eat again. A guide (whose specialty appeared to be in the sports enjoyed by the locals) took us through the historic part of the city, which is full of architecture that I absolutely loved. Spanish-colonial with lots of wood frames. We passed quickly through a museum about indigenous cultures and life in the desert mines, and ended at the water. Iquique's historic significance was its role in the War of the Pacific--when Chile gained northern territory from Peru and Bolivia--although the famous is one that Chile actually lost.

P1030537.jpg P1030538.jpg P1030548.jpg P1030552.jpg P1030556.jpg P1030563.jpg P1030579.jpg P1030582.jpg

Some friends and I then headed to the Zofri, a duty-free mall that is Iquique's modern-day claim to fame. It was a pretty uninteresting collection of mostly perfume and electronic stores, but I had to go because Magaly had asked that I bring back some of my host dad's favorite cologne. We then headed out to find a restaurant and ended up asking directions from a chatty old man that insisted that Michigan was the capital of Washington D.C.

I woke up way too early for a vacation on Saturday to go for a run along the beach. I've never been too fond of beaches, but I will admit that running in the sand to the sound of waves is a pretty magnificent way to start a day. The city looked beautiful in the early-morning mist and I made some Chileans' day by giving them the opportunity to make lots of jokes about the crazy blonde gringa running.

P1030589.jpg P1030591.jpg

After breakfast we headed over the sand dunes that border the city and into the desert. Our first stops were Santa Laura, an old nitrate mine, and Humberstone, a mining ghost town. Both were interesting a beautiful in a deserted kind of way. Humberstone had collections of artifacts from the mining families, and looking at things like balls made out of socks and toy guns made out of wire always reminds me that I should live more simply. It's a thought I don't always follow through on but I always enjoy. Next stop was some geoglyphs, rock paintings left by ancient civilizations on the sides of hills. They were pretty impressive, especially when you think about how in tune with the land these groups were to have known without any modern instruments exactly where they could construct the drawings so that the wind wouldn't erode them and they would last for ages. I would have loved it if our guide new a little more about what some of the symbols mean, but I put my imagination right to work to fill in the gaps.

P1030601.jpg P1030611.jpg P1030620.jpg P1030653.jpg P1030655.jpg P1030676.jpg P1030677.jpg P1030683.jpg P1030684.jpg

Our next stop was literally an oasis. Right in the middle of the desert, there are two towns that randomly have enough water under ground to support fruit trees and civilization. We had another great lunch (the restaurants in the North are all super cute), checked into our adorable hotel, and went on the hour-ish walk to see the market in Pica, one of the two oases. I bought some guayava, which is the flavor they use to fill my favorite pastries at the Puerto Rican bakery in Hartford. I had never tried the natural non-goo form of the fruit, and I wasn't too impressed but I'm always happy to help the little old ladies at the stands. We were allowed to pick oranges straight from the trees at our hotel, so I didn't leave Pica completely disappointed in oasis harvests.

P1030692.jpg P1030696.jpg P1030701.jpg

Went for another run the next morning, this time into the other oasis town of Matilla. While I could definitely never live the desert life, I found the vast expanse of this place breathtaking. I came across a sanctuary with a mini-golf-style volcano in it, but it was locked for the day so I never found out exactly what it was. After breakfast, we took a bus up for a quick dip in the hot springs in Pica. The water wasn't actually any warmer than a pool, but it was a beautiful spot and it felt great to swim. With the little time we had left, Madeline, Erica, and I walked down into Matilla to see the church (pretty much the only thing of interest in that tiny place). Churches here are usually filled with tons of statues, most of which seem to be in a great deal of pain, and also lots of fake dead people in glass cases. I'm not sure why that is, but I'd really like to know so if anyone has studied regional Catholicism please send me an email.

P1030718.jpg P1030722.jpg P1030739.jpg P1030744.jpg

Our last stop before heading back to the airport was the pueblo of La Tirana. I think there are some 2000 residents, but once a year more the 200,000 people from multiple countries pack in to celebrate the festival of the Virgen del Carmen. That happens in July, but we got lucky because there was a different festival going on when we arrived, celebrating the various pueblos in the area. We got to see three different traditional dances with great costumes (including kids dressed up as bears to "threaten" the rest of the dancers and throw them off track), and I joined in on a mass dance in the plaza that celebrated unity between the different groups.

P1030752.jpg P1030758.jpg P1030761.jpg

The flight back was uneventful. I'm pretty sure the taxi driver that night ripped me off, but I was the last one to get dropped off and I had never taken a cab here before and it was after midnight so I decided not to challenge him. I made a brief appearance at school for two days, and then packed up and left again Tuesday night.

Six friends and I took an all-night bus down South to Chile's lake district. This past week was the Bicentennial in Chile ("Independence Day" was Saturday the 18th) and almost every school but mine didn't have class, so we decided to skip as well. Magaly had told me my teachers would cancel class, which didn't happen, but I don't think I missed much and if I did it was worth it. The bus ride went by so quickly, and was actually pretty comfortable because we were on a double-decker bus with seats that turned into semi-beds. I only got about five hours of sleep in total, but once the sun was up I just couldn't close my eyes. The South is very rainy, which means very very green, but a different kind of green than in Oregon and Washington. Most of the farmland was mint colored, or kind of the color of that fake grass you put in Easter baskets. Whatever it was, it was beautiful.

Our first stop was Pucón, which looks like a typical mountain resort town. Cute cabin-like buildings and lots of tourism offices. Our hostel (my first ever), Ecole, was adorable and much more like a hotel than a $16-a-night dorm. We dropped of our stuff and headed into town to get some food. We tried to head to the national park, but we had been told the wrong time and missed it by half an hour, so we took a different bus to Lake Caragua. The driver gave us very broad directions about how to hike to the Ojos de Caragua (we had no idea what that meant at the time), but after a while of walking along the shore we still had not found the so-called trail. We did run into a herd of sheep that were trying to go exactly where we were headed and ended up chasing us down the beach for a frightening couple of minutes, and then came across some drugged-up hippies playing an eerily steady drumbeat. I'm thinking the drum was what made the sheep turn vicious. When we reached a river, we decided that was the sign we should turn back to make sure we didn't miss the last bus back to town. We got off about half-way down to see the Ojos, and I'm really glad we did. Turns out Ojos means waterfall and lagoon, both of which were gorgeous. I could've stayed at that lagoon for a good long while.

P1030782.jpg P1030780.jpg P1030784.jpg
P1030808.jpg P1030810.jpg P1030817.jpg P1030821.jpg P1030824.jpg

Day two we woke up early early to try and climb Volcán Villarica. The French employees of the company told us that conditions were clear, but when we got to the base everything was covered in fog and it was completely whiteout. The guides had to cancel the trip because it would've been unsafe, and we wouldn't have been able to see anything anyway. I was fairly disappointed, especially because I was looking forward to the two-hour slide down, but it was fun to all of a sudden be in snow and I saved about 100 bucks.

P1030831.jpg P1030836.jpg P1030837.jpg

As a Plan B we decided to head over to Villarica, a lake town that usually has great views of the volcano. Not this day. We were a little nervous when we arrived because two shop owners told us the only thing to do was skip rocks, but the day actually turned into a great adventure that made up for the volcano letdown. We wanted to check out a famous farm, so we went into the municipality building to ask for directions. The lady helping me all of a sudden got on her phone, and when she hung up she instructed me that the group would walk to her house, leave our backpacks, and then go with a man who would be our guide to a different farm in the area. It seemed a little sketchy, but we had nothing else to do and she seemed official (she was carrying a flag for the Independence Day celebrations) so we went along with her plan. After about 5 minutes in her house, Jose Ramón pulled up and told us that for $10 he'll be our tour guide, so we piled into the back of his trailer, sat ourselves on his shovels and wood, and hoped that we weren't about to become the story behind some new horror movie. We couldn't really see out of the two small, dirty windows in the back, but my friend Erica waved her hand at the cars behind us so that if we disappeared maybe somebody would have seen where we were headed.

P1030848.jpg P1030854.jpg

As you can tell by the fact that I'm writing this, Jose Ramón was not a criminal. He was actually the proud owner of a stunning piece of farmland, which was our first stop on his tour. We walked around the property a bit, admiring the views and listening to his poetic "reflections" on life. Stop number two was a cheese shop ran by a Mapuche (one of Chile's indigenous groups) woman with five cows. Instead of walking back to the entrance, Jose Ramón opted for the shortcut and helped us all climb through two barbed wire fences (he actually had to lift each the girls over one of them). The woman was extremely nice, even though I felt like we were somehow intruders, and told us a bit about how her mini-business runs. We bought a wheel of Edam cheese, which we later ate in a bus station; it was incredible and I hope it makes its way to Santiago markets. Back on Jose Ramón's farm, we had just missed the birth of a cow but got to see the little guy learning to walk and another little guy getting castrated (which he didn't seem to mind at all). There was only one horse around so we didn't get to ride, but I did get to climb up for a photo-op.

P1030858.jpg P1030874.jpg P1030870.jpg P1030881.jpg P1030894.jpg P1030902.jpg P1030906.jpg P1030912.jpg P1030913.jpg

After the farm we drove to a small brewery run by a Chilean of Belgian descent. While the fermentation process doesn't interest me all that much, the brewery was really impressive because the owner had designed and built almost all of the equipment himself. "Lamentably," he lacked a machine to put on the labels, so after all the sophisticated technological processes, he had to glue each one on by hand; he said that was his next project. If you ever see Crater beer, give them guy some support.

P1030914.jpg P1030915.jpg

We made it back to Villarica alive, and all of our stuff was still waiting for us. Two other Chileans in the house got quite the show, as the saw seven gringos fall out of a trailer, walk into the house, grab backpacks, say thank you, and leave. We got a quick sandwich and ice cream for dinner and then headed to the bus stop for a 6-hour ride further south to Puerto Montt. We arrived at our hostel, Rocco Backpacker, around 1 am; not only did we have to wake up the owner to let us in, but we also had to request an 8 am breakfast. This trip was not about rest. The hostel looked a little iffy from the outside, as did Puerto Montt as a whole in the middle of the night, but the inside was warm, comfortable, and clean, and we all got hot showers. We were expecting bread and jam for breakfast, but the owner actually got up and made us all french toast with fruit. I liked her a lot; she had a cute hippie-look going on and didn't kick us out for refusing to let her sleep.

We hopped on yet another bus that morning to go to Chiloé, an island off of northern Patagonia. This was an interesting bus ride because we had to take a ferry across to the island. We had all expected to get off the bus and board the ferry, but the bus actually just pulled right onto the boat and were were able to stay in our seats the whole way across. Our first stop in Chiloé was Ancud. We were a little lost trying to find the hostel, but this adorably sweet woman noticed the confused look on our faces and offered to walk us there. On the way, she took us by the plaza and had us stop in front of each of the statues of Chilote mythological creatures to read about their legends. Once again, we walked into another great hostel, Mundo Nuevo. This one was a bit cabin-like with a great view of the water.

P1030918.jpg P1030922.jpg P1030924.jpg

Our Ancud adventure was a trip to the pinguinería (penguin land). We took taxis, which proved to be the little engines that could. I was already impressed by their handling of some pretty rocky unpaved roads, but then we continued right onto the beach, through some decently deep channels, and right up to the boat. (We actually met some girls the next night who happened to be eating lunch on this beach and took pictures of our taxis driving along because they found it just as strange and comical as we did.) Then we later barreled up some rocks to get to an empanada restaurant. All of this in a stick shift. Impressive.

The drive to the penguins was thirty minutes of one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my life. Chiloé is made up of rolling hills of all different shades of green, trees, open range for cows and sheep, and yellow flowers everywhere. I really wish I was more poetic and could even begin to describe this place, but hopefully my pictures do it a little bit of justice. All I can say is that over all the rocks and through the water, that cab ride was extremely peaceful.

P1030929.jpg P1030961.jpg P1030963.jpg

After being wheeled out into the ocean on a cart, we loaded onto someone's boat and headed out around some rocks to see the penguins. They start arriving in September, but since it is still early there were only a few to be seen. Still a great experience, and the boat ride was plenty of fun on its own. I'd love to come back in December when the rocks are apparently swarming with little tuxedo birds. This particular location is where the southern Magellan penguins meet up with the northern Humboldt penguins for the spring.

P1030933.jpg P1030939.jpg P1030941.jpg P1030943.jpg P1030948.jpg P1030955.jpg

For the rest of the night, we walked around Ancud. We went to the artesian fair (there's one of these in every town and yet it always seems like have to go), checked out the old fort (I actually learned in class today about how Chiloé was an important strategic defense point for the Spanish before Chile gained independence), tried unsuccessfully to eat in someone's house (it was listed in the guidebook but they were closed), maneuvered our way through the chaos of three supermarkets (they were closing at 7 that night and wouldn't reopen until Tuesday because of the Independence Day weekend), and finally ended the night at a curanto restaurant. Curanto is a famous dish in Chiloé but no level of wanting to be cultured could have got me to order that. It's a massive plate of shellfish and various meats, plus a soup that is supposedly an aphrodisiac (the sign in the restaurant said "Helping people have good sex since 1826). I'm actually missing out on all of the typical meals here, because they all involve fish (I guess we were on an island). There was randomly a Colorado license plate on the wall; it's a small world sometimes.

P1030967.jpg P1030973.jpg P1030976.jpg P1030981.jpg P1030985.jpg

Posted by marykate.morr 18:22 Archived in Chile Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Un Sabor de Historia

living the traditions of the 19th century

0 °F
View Semester in Chile on marykate.morr's travel map.

Chile got cold again this week and I got sick. I would complain, but it gave me a great reason to sleep ten hours every night and skip my runs in the early-morning dark.

I accidentally made Chilean friends this week. We have a group project in one of my classes and the two girls I'm with had told me that we would work on it Wednesday after class. So when class ended I went and stood next to the girls while they packed up, then followed them as they left. When one of the girls noticed me she asked if I wanted to get lunch. That made sense, it's no good to work on an empty stomach. We take a turn into the library and one of the girls hands me a book. I'm not sure what to do with it, but when she checks out her book I decide I'm supposed to check mine out too. Turns out it'll help me study for the test coming up, but I didn't figure that out until later. After lunch, I continue following them cluelessly but I notice we're walking towards the subway...Oh, are you guys leaving? Yea, are you not? Nope. Then why were you following us? Just kidding, they didn't ask me that but I'm sure by that point they were thinking it. They apparently had no intention of working on the project, which makes me the weird gringa who stood silently next to the Chileans until they invited me to lunch. The gringa who checked out a book without knowing why. The gringa that walked halfway to the subway even though she needed to stay on campus. Oops! Luckily I don't think the girls caught on to just how confused I was the whole hour and half we were together, and it was really friendly of them to invite me to lunch and help me find test-prep materials.

As of Friday I have officially ridden on every subway line! There are only four so it doesn't sound like much of an accomplishment, but it sure felt like one. Some friends and I went to Club Hípcio, a fancy pants horse track from 1869. The architecture was stunning (to add to the beauty, the stands face the mountains), and I was feeling like quite the elitist. That feeling only lasted until we got to the entrance, where we were informed exactly where we were not allowed to go. From our commoners seats, we could only really see the cool-down portion, but I only bet 200 pesos (about fifty cents) so I wasn't too invested in the race. I've never been to a horse race before (I made the rookie mistake of trying to photograph the horses as they walked by and was scolded for almost breaking their focus); it was pretty fun to watch how excited and intense the crowd gets, and I like imagining how wealthy the owners are when they come out of the fancy section to take pictures with their first-place horse. I thought some of the horses looked too skinny, but my host mother assured me the animals are never mistreated. And Magaly knows everything.

P1030475.jpg P1030492.jpg P1030494.jpg

That night I also had a wonderful reunion with my dear friend Mexican food. We shared a pile of nachos with beans, cheese, guacamole, and the key to all things delicious, grease. The restaurant was really cute with typical Mexican-restaurant paintings and table settings and what not, nicely complemented by temporary Chilean decorations everywhere since Fiestas Patrias (Chilean Independence Day) are coming up.

P1030498.jpg P1030499.jpg

Chileans love them some independence. We've still got two weeks to go, but I've noticed a lot of flags hanging on houses and in stores, the crazy people that sell things in the middle of the street have changed their inventory from candy to patriotic gear, and it's a topic of conversation at least twice a day. I got my first taste of celebrations today; my host niece's school had a carnival (potato sack races are still going strong in Chile) and a presentation of traditional Chilean dances. All the kids dressed up in fabulous Chilean garb and performed either the cueca (the national dance), a dance from the North, or one from the South. Don't tell my family, but while my niece was great, the three-year-olds really stole the show. It was a wonderful way to spend a morning, and I got to dance my first cueca with my host sister's step father. I was told I danced it almost perfect, but I was at a disadvantage because I didn't have a scarf to wave around, which is key.

P1030509.jpg P1030512.jpg P1030513.jpg P1030516.jpg P1030522.jpg P1030523.jpg P1030526.jpg

Afterwards, the family continued on to a roast. So much meat! I had eaten an massive empanada at the performance and wasn't hungry at all; it took some maneuvering but I eventually convinced my host mom that I didn't need anything more than some sides by saying I wanted to save room for her dessert. Which meant eating two slices of torta, but if I'm going to overeat here I prefer it to be with sweets.

Last night my friend Madeline invited me to a "Gringa Party" with a very friendly girl she had met on the metro. The party was actually with Chileans; the name simply implies that US-style drinking games will be played. Turns out the reason beer pong and flip cup haven't caught on here is because Chileans refuse to listen to directions if they take more than a minute. I think last night was the first time I've seen a Chilean be impatient. The party was a lot of fun, and only one person called us boring when we left at 2 am. It also gave us Madeline and I a great opportunity to do some problem solving as we tried to keep from getting lost making our way out of the neighborhood.

My host sister is off to the States this week, and I can't wait to hear what she has to say. Hopefully good things, so if you happen to see two Chileans walking about make sure to be nice to them!

Posted by marykate.morr 07:33 Archived in Chile Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Una Semana Calma (y Aburrida)

with more school than I want...

65 °F
View Semester in Chile on marykate.morr's travel map.

I had my first not-very-exciting week. Bummer. A lot of people (including me) have had tests, so I guess we all remembered that we need to act like students occasionally. I did a lot of studying and not a lot of sleeping for most of the week. The good thing is, the only hard part about my classes is that they're in Spanish. Otherwise they would be high-school level. I tried not to choose too easy of classes and most of the students are in their 3rd or 4th year, but I suppose just like everything else Chile takes its time with school. Most university students stay in school for 6 or 7 years, taking almost nothing but classes in their major. That might explain why I find that my professors usually choose one point to make each class and make it for the entire 80 minutes. I'm not complaining; it's actually nice to know that if I can't understand something early on it'll be repeated in every way possible for about an hour. I usually catch on by the end of the class. Actually, I understand my professors pretty well now, but I still find it near impossible to understand the students. Although all the other Chileans usually start side conversations whenever someone raises their hand so I guess the consensus is that only what the teacher says matters. I do have one professor that talks unfairly quietly and loves to face the board; he's tough, but his very detailed Power Points make up for it.

I've started participating in class too! That was my big accomplishment for this week, and the third time I did it my cheeks didn't even turn bright red.

One of my classes, Confronting Poverty, has a social-learning component, so I am now working with a university group called Precursors. Seven other students and I hold a three-hour class every week in which we help about 40 adults for poorer sections of the city develop plans for micro-businesses. Some of them already have a business but are struggling, some just think they want to start one. We've only had the introductory session, but I think I'm going to like it and it's a little different than the volunteer work I usually do. We each have a small group to work with, but I'm paired up with another Chilean since my communication skills are not yet at the teaching-about-business level.

The group doesn't meet till Wednesday nights, but it's a two-hour ordeal to get to and from campus so I just hung out on campus all afternoon. I had to order 500 pages of photocopies so I certainly had things to occupy my time. I was forced into the library for the first time (for those of you that don't know, even though I'm a huge nerd I hate studying in campus libraries) and found another strange Chilean set-up. You're not allowed to take your backpack inside, so you have to get everything you need out, lock up the bag in an old wooden locker, and carry around a giant wooden keychain. The most annoying part is when you need to leave the library just real quick; the alarm goes off if you are carrying the key, so you have to pick up your backpack only to lock it up again five minutes later.

Today a couple friends and I got up early and went on a hike with a group called El Montanista. They plan weekly outings with free transportation, which is really handy because a $1 metro ride only takes you so far. The hike was beautiful, tons of green forest and a river with small waterfalls running alongside. Once again, a random stray decided to join the group and guide us to the top; I know all the homeless pets is a problem but there are some advantages, especially since I don't like my host family's tiny little dog and he would never make it up a mountain. There is a scarcity of information on hiking in the Andes, so I'm really happy to have found this group, but next time I think I'm going to try the medium hike (they have three levels); the "family" group was about thirty strong and we had to stop every twenty minutes to wait for everyone to catch up.

P1030432.jpg P1030445.jpg P1030451.jpg P1030453.jpg P1030463.jpg P1030469.jpg

Most of my language frustrations have passed, but every once in a while they come back and get me. Last Sunday my host sister asked me if there was any food I had tried that I didn't like, and I mentioned that I wouldn't mind eating less chicken. It's good chicken, but I'm not used to eating meat seven days a week and it's starting to disgust me. For the first time in my life, I'm seriously considering becoming a vegetarian; I just don't know that I'd be able to get enough of all those things meat has in it if I gave it up. (I probably would since I imagine you get more than enough of everything when your meals are the size of three or four portions.) I was really just trying to imply that I would prefer the delicious vegetable mashes more often, but I think my host mom took it to mean I hate chicken and have been unhappy with what she's fed me for the last six weeks. I haven't eaten chicken since. I feel really bad and hope she doesn't think she's been a bad mother, and I don't even have the satisfaction of having gotten what I wanted; now I just eat red meat every night.

I also learned witches are good luck; that's why I have halloween decorations in my room.

Posted by marykate.morr 18:34 Archived in Chile Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 21) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 »