Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saturday I ended up back at my school, on the weekend. Not really knowing what my host-parents were telling me I jumped in the car and was dropped off at my school/church... I guess. My host-family and school is Adventist, I don't really know much about the religion but I guess they go to church on Saturday. I ended up sitting in my school cafeteria listening to a lady talking about soy beans and how to make milk, fake meat and other things out of it... in Spanish. It was different to say the least. Then we changed rooms and I listened to some more talking about soy beans, then once that ended I helped to set-up a baby shower. To say my day was random is an understatement. I went back home then returned with my host-mom for the baby shower. They had a few games and one of them you had to give advice, so I gave mine in English. "Interview all of her boyfriends - for fun!" - I'm thinking of you Uncle Paul and dad!

Once the games and prayers were done we were able to talk and eat. I swear everyone ran to the food, you could barely get in to get anything, too funny! At the shower I had been introduced to a man who's an English teacher here, so obviously he was able to translate for me. Then my host-mom made a plan for me to go over to his friends house the next day for lunch.

Before I headed to the lunch I finally went on my first solo walk not to/from school or to the supermarket. I had no idea of where I was going other than I saw the mountains, and headed for them! I walked a good hour out and found this cool looking park but I couldn't find a way to get there without attempting to scale a large barrier or walk near the old men whistling at me. After walking a little bit more I had the feeling to turn around, 2 hours is enough to worry my host-family and I was quite far from my home by then. I have a fairly good sense of direction, I don't need to know street names, just landmarks.

Hey there Andes in the background

Stop signs are always better in foreign languages

After a little time back at home I headed out to meet up with the English teacher, his wife and daughter. We walked to his friends apartment and I was welcomed by some more English speakers. Again it was such a nice break for my head to hear English, but it didn't improve my Spanish. After an amazing meal (vegetarian may I add... mmmm!) we talked for a bit and then watched an English movie with Spanish subtitles. I still read the subtitles to see how similar they were to what was actually going on in the movie. Also everyone who was at the apartment was Adventist, the religion of my host-family and the school I attend. I was able to ask questions about the religion to try and get a grasp of what it was about. Religion is and will always be a touchy subject, but I found their beliefs to be similar of what I know of Jehovah's Witnesses.

I am now in my second week of classes here and I am really liking it! Everyone is so nice, the only bad parts is when it's freezing and there's no sun, like the past two days. Today we had another church service (we have them on Tuesday's) and it was pretty good with upbeat music put on my some of the kids. Although the sermon was lost in translation my attempts at trying to sing the Spanish songs was pretty good. I also had an English test today, and the sad part is that I didn't get perfect because there was a section where you had to get the English verb from the Spanish one... that's just now fair! I've also started to get the hang of taking the micro and am going to and from school by myself now. Tomorrow I have the whole day off due to testing, hopefully the sun will come out again!

Mi colegio

I love attempting tests in Spanish!

Also, another really big part of exchange is homesickness and emotional stress. I really do not want my blog to have a negative tone so I have decided to keep those feelings and experiences out. But it is the ugly truth because exchange truly is like your childhood seesaw, you can be up one minute and then right back down to the bottom again. So things are not always fun, foreign, funny or amusing on exchange, some times life can hit you really hard and the realizations of what you used to have and don't anymore can really get under your skin. It's all in the exchange experience!

11 days until the first Rotary 4340 Inbound meeting!

Friday, August 27, 2010

My mom will appreciate this

It's only necessary to keep up the tradition of the "first day of school photo", especially when I get to wear a fancy uniform!

FYI I get out of school at 2 pm on Fridays instead of 4 pm... me gusta mucho!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


On Tuesday I went back to school and joined a grade 11 class, or also known as 3 Medio. Already having graduated high school in Canada it was a little weird to think that I will be going to school with kids a year younger than I am, and oddly I wasn't nervous at all to start at a new school where I don't know the language. But all the students in my class and the teachers were so welcoming, they even had a little party for me during Math class - although I didn't realize it was for me until the end! School is really, really different from Canada.

First of all I now wear a uniform, something I have never done throughout 13 years of public school. On the first day we started off with English, we just read over some irregular verbs and I corrected pronunciation while everyone in the class did their own thing. Then we had Math/a party and then a church service/powerpoint presentation on evolution. Sometimes I understand the topics my class should be talking about like same-sex marriage/adoption and evolution vs. creation, or even some biology and anthropology since I've already learned about it. I really wish that I could understand and speak the language because I want to give my opinion as well. Another thing I'm not used to is breaks in between classes, again in Canada we had 5 minutes to get to each class and then one hour for lunch, and here it's like having recess again multiple times and I never know when! In the afternoon we had other classes like Linguaje (Spanish), and I can't really remember the others now because..., well..., I don't really do anything in the class, I just try to understand and communicate with my classmates! Another difference which is so surprising to me is how relaxed and lax school is. Everyone is always talking, walking around, changing seats, answering cell phone calls, just doing whatever and the teacher doesn't care. It's quite funny and makes for good entertainment and fun for me because everyone tries to ask me questions and I either try to respond in broken Spanglish, say "yo no se" or "no entiendo", or look for help from the few students in my class that know some English. Some of the most popular questions that I've been asked are "do you have a pololo? (boyfriend)", "what kind of music do you like?", "what sports do you play?", the usual teenager stuff but its hard to respond when you have to explain obscure sports like cheerleading and field hockey. I've also had a lot of compliments on my eyes and hair and I'm now used to having my hair being touched randomly, it's really weird standing out so much at school but again it doesn't bother me as much as standing out on the metro.

Speaking of the metro I rode it by myself for the first time today! Ok, it may have just been to the next stop over but still... I did it! Three girls from my class thought I wasn't going to be able to do it so they walked into the metro with me and made sure I went to the ride side - so sweet! I met up with a friend and we went to the big mall again and went ice skating. Something I never thought I would do in Chile, and may not do again. I swear the ice wasn't "Zamboni-ed" in a few days and the skates made you slip all over the ice, but since I'm Canadian and all, I was one of the best skaters there, not bragging or anything.

I'll be posting pictures soon of my uniform, I still don't have my falda (skirt) yet and I've been wearing my "gangster-chic" gym uniform, baggy comfy sweatpants and all!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

How many Exchange Students does it take to build a house?

Only 3, plus some Rotarians and volunteers!
That is exactly what I did on my first Saturday In Chile. I got dropped off at my counselors house and meet the other exchange student who is hosted by my club, Hannah from the US. We then drove out to Talagente to work on a Rotary project, rebuilding a house that was destroyed by the earthquake. There we met up with another exchange student, Connor also from the US, and Cristobal once again. At first we really didn't do to much, especially for the girls... to much machismo. But eventually we got into it because I don't like watching other people work, I want to be in on the action and do something! The day was full of fun, good-will, bromas (jokes), and the other exchange students trying to teach me some Spanish. I think I understand the concepts and how to use the Chileno words of "cachai" and "po" now! But all in all it was a great day and I'm starting to understand why everyone says that the best memories are when you spend time with the other exchange students.

The other day I went downtown Santiago to get my visa registered by the police so that I can get my Chilean identity card. On the way we met a nice girl who has been studying law in the US and she was trying to go to the same place. On the way she was explaining to me how there are so many Peruvians in Chile and how the Chileans don't like them. It sounded like they were calling them "Piranhas" and I had to laugh, it sounded so mean! After the police we took the metro back to our metro station then headed to another comuna "La Reina" to get my card. Ended up, we couldn't get it. The police typed my name wrong on the sheet they gave me, they left out one of my middle names. I've been having a lot of trouble with forms and such as people can't seem to understand I have two middle names, it doesn't matter if its my mom's last name. So we'll be doing the whole thing again tomorrow, and since I also don't have my uniform yet I have to wait until Tuesday now to start school.

For lunch, which is the largest meal of the day, I had my first empanada! Empanada's are bread pastry filled with meat, egg, olives, cheese and other things that make them delicious! I went with my host-dad and waited in line to get them... and they were worth it!

Today I went to a really Americanized mall, it was kinda weird because it felt like I was back in North America with all the "gringos" like Burger King, Subway, and other food places. Plus, we found a clothing store called "Canadienne" filled with heavy coats and sweaters, because that's all that we wear up in the great white north. I also found out that not only the Chileans call white foreigners gringos but it refers to anyone not from their country, so Brazilian, Colombian, whoever.

Things that I notice:
Driving is crazy - loco!
I know every exchange student to Chile says this but it's true! So what there's a speed bump or red stoplight a few hundred meters in front of you, let's still go full speed then stop right before we have to! Roundabouts are like a free-for all, if the pedestrian light is flashing either stop before someone runs you over or run for your life, lots of cars are scratched, I swear a bus was almost going to hit my car and my host-mom didn't even flinch and I was freaking out inside, just overall everything I learned in drivers training is pretty much not enforced.

The Chileans love pop. Especially coke, and it's really cheap like $1.70 for 2 L. Also they have some weird sizes, why would you want 1 L when you can have 1.5 L, or why a regular 2 L when you can have 2.5 L or even a big ol' 3 L. I guess options is a good thing to have! Children also drink quite a bit of pop, even really young ones.

"V"'s sound like "B"'s and I think I repeated "veinte" (twenty) at least 30x with my host-dad to get the pronunciation correct, but I still sound "American", I can't help it!

Stray dogs outnumber homeless people. It's really quite sad, I'm such a dog person and here there are so many stray dogs I just want to pet them all but you wouldn't dare.

The way in which you greet someone by kissing them on the cheek is so much better than the cold-handshake or awkward hello. I might have to bring this back to Canada, it seriously puts everyone on the same level because you kiss them if you know the person, have never met them, or if they are a authority figure.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Gringa has arrived!

I have finally been in Chile for over 24 hours. I don't know why but it has felt like at least a few days.
My flight was quite good, I flew out late Tuesday night and arrived mid-morning in Chile. Since the flight was overnight I had approx 3-4 hours of sleep on-and-off, and when the flight attendants served dinner at 3 am lets just say it didn't help with my inability to sleep. I sat beside a lovely Argentinian lady who spoke little English, a glimpse into my immediate future life in Chile, but we were able to have some conversation with the little bit of each language that we knew.

Clad in my Rotary jacket I only ran into one Rebound while waiting at immigrations. I got through security and customs easy enough (I guess you have to declare maple syrup? Well I didn't!) and there was mi mama Chileana, Alexia, and two other ladies waiting for me. With a hug and a kiss on the cheek (usual greeting) we were off. The one lady is a mother of a boy in my class, she speaks fluent English which was a help for those first culture shocked moments.

First sight of the Andes from the ground - WOW!! I think I have a thing for mountains, they are just so big, and everywhere! We drove through downtown Santiago, Provindencia and then Las Condes ( the comuna de Santiago that I will be staying in). I can't quite compare Santiago, it somewhat reminds me of Los Angeles and a bit of Toronto.. but not really at all, it's just Santiago!

Once we got to the house something that I most definably noticed were the gates. A gate to enter into the one area in which 3-4 houses are, and then a gate at my house, and then bars on my windows - I feel safe... I guess. Mi casa is very modest, quite small which is understandable in a city, very different from my house in Canada. As I have told some people before there is no central heating. So it might feel nice outside but inside is freezing, but I have found a spot on my bed where the sun shines in and is quite warm!

Can you guess a Canadian lives there?

I spent the day trying to have conversations with Alexia. We tried our best with my limited Spanish and lets just say my English-Spanish dictionary has been put to good use! I showed her my photobooks from my life in Canada along with a map of Ontario and Canada and explained to her where my family lives and where I have travelled. I arrived in time for lunch, and then around 5-6 pm we had "once", which is like crackers, cookies, tea, and coffee. Alexia knew that I was looking quite tired but I managed to stay up until 8 pm then headed to bed. I guess in that time my host-dad came home and I missed seeing him!

After about 9 hours of sleep I was ready for my first full day in Chile. I had breakfast with Alexia - tea/instant coffee(i opted out of the instant stuff), cereal but with yogurt, and some hard bread with turkey... different. After a freezing shower I gave Alexia her Canadian gifts - I don't think she knows what to do with the maple syrup!

Then she helped me learn numbers and how to count. I counted up to 131 all by myself before i got to tired of counting. Then we headed to the supermarket to pick up a few things
-eggs are in cartons on regular shelves, not refrigerated
-pan (bread) and fruit is picked, put into bags, and then weighed by clerks and given a sticker according to weight
-cereal boxes are obnoxiously covered with graphics, I'm talking Shrek staring you down, futbal players kicking a massive soccer ball at you, way to much for the eyes
-booze is in a massive aisle as if you were buying rice or other food
-milk was no where in sight... maybe I didn't notice it or we didn't go down the aisle

Once back to the house we had lunch and I was so tired from translating and using my brain a lot so I went for a siesta. After maybe 10 minutes my cell phone started to ring. I answered it not knowing what to say and it was my friend Cristobal the past Chilean Inbound who was in Waterloo last year! Getting him to talk to my host-mom we were able to meet-up just down the main street at the one mall. It was so crazy to see him, knowing that to me he is like Canada, but now... I am in his country! We took the metro (subway) and it was so nice. Toronto subway looks so run down and disgusting, they should take a hint from the Chileans! We went to his grandparents apartment in Las Condes in a really nice part. His grandma spoke quite good English so she would ask things in English and I would reply the best I could in Spanish and fill in the blanks with English. After some conversation we had "té" which like once was milk, tea, cookies, and bread with avocado - mmmmm! We had to leave around 5:30 pm because it was getting dark, and you don't travel in the dark in Santiago. Went back through the metro and were early before my host mom came to pick me up so we went into the mall. Many different stores, but Cristobal helped me to try and convert the prices so I should know how much I am paying.

Cristobal y yo

After coming back to the house we talked some more and had a phone call from Mia Tere (Maria the lady who speaks English), she helped to translate as I have to figure out information for my school trip in November. My host-dad arrived home around 9 pm and I finally got to meet him. Teo is the president of my host Rotary club. I was finally able to give him his gifts, he loves the tie... maybe. We then had what seemed like another té, I haven't figured out meals yet! We then spent the night trying to communicate, fighting over what a moose is called in Spanish (he thinks its a donkey or a bull... no it's just... a Canadian moose!), and I showed him my maps and then helped him with an English insurance form for my host brother on exchange in Kentucky.

So pretty much my life in a nutshell is a lot of Spanglish, smiling, nodding, and laughing because I can't understand and it's pretty funny right now because I'm horrible at Spanish. I'm sorry if my grammar is getting a lot worse already, or I'm missing words. I am so tempted to write the Spanish words that I know because that is how I am talking, and I am so tired/my head hurts from thinking and having to translate so much.

Much love from South of the equator
Lynn-say (as the Chileans call me)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gate 173

It's the day, and it's just about time.
Decked out in my red Rotary blazer I am finally at Pearson Airport awaiting my boarding time for my flight!
All the preparations and goodbyes are done and there is truly no turning back now - not that I would ever want to!
I've had some great last days in Canada but I am ready to start my next 11-12 months in a new country. This will obviously be my last post from Canada and I hope to have some exciting stories and things to write about upon my arrival and first week in Chile. I'm sure it'll be a whirlwind and very exciting.


You know your an exchange student when

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One week!

One week. Seven days. Siete dias.
It's hard to imagine that these last few days left in Canada have finally arrived. It's been about nine months since I was accepted into RYE and the last few months have flown by. I've spent my summer working, seeing old and new friends, family vacations and getting prepared for my exchange. I've finally started the dreaded task of packing, ok not really, so far I've only managed to put all my Canadian loot into one suitcase, which is now half full! My friends and family know that I'm not a very good packer, or that I tend to forget things (like my whole entire suitcase) but I'm determined to pack as light as I possibly can!

Some of the 4340 Inbounds have already started to arrive in Chile and I'm sure ready to join them! Also the 7080 group of Outbounds is slowly starting to dwindle in numbers as we're all slowly taking our turn to depart to our host countries and turn into those crazy Inbounds!

I'm lucky enough to have a host mom who loves to chat and also a host brother who has now arrived in the US on his exchange. It's great being able to talk with them every other day or so, even though I am still translating pretty much all of the Spanish, but I'm working on my Spanglish! I also found out about a month ago that I will be traveling with my class on their school trip to a bit of the South of Chile and Argentina!! Although this means another trip to the consulate to have a form signed so that I can exit and re-enter Chile. It's really too bad that my birthday is only a few days after the trip, or else being 18 I wouldn't need the form. Todo esto está bien!

I've also been busy trying to get things that I will need for my school uniform, after 13 years of public school I finally have to wear a uniform! Since I'll be arriving in winter I was told by my host mom that I need to have a navy blue parka. I don't think the Chilean version of a parka is the same as a Canadian version because I am not headed to the Arctic, or the Antarctic! But still, it's VERY difficult to find a winter coat in the middle of summer! I really can't wait to wear my ugly uniform, this will be funny!

As my days are numbered in Canada it seems as if I'm starting to have some "lasts", but really I'll be back in 11-12 months, I can go without driving, real maple syrup, my dog, spring-rolls from Red Basil or Tim Horton's for a year! It's just the simple comforts of home and Canada that I know I will slowly start to miss while I'm abroad.

Having only seven days left it doesn't seem real, packing for a whole year doesn't seem real, and the day of my departure will probably not seem real, more like a dream that I've had many times but this time it will be in real life and I'll be ready to start my adventure!

My special little piece of Canada, Georgian Bay