Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lesson of the Day: Never try to return something in Chile

Saturday I finally got to check another thing off my "to do list" - I climbed Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago. I met-up with my exchange friend Jo-Ellen and her Chilean amiga and we headed to the cerro. We took the road trail up to the top, and it was stinking hot out that day. Sure we could have started earlier, but why not go at 12 when the suns out! We were hoping to go the pools that are part way up the hill... but those weren't open (darn it). We finally made it to the top, saw the Virgin Mary, saw all the smog covering Santiago, and were able to see the beautiful city that we can say that we live in. It's quite weird, I still haven't gotten that shock of "I'm living in Chile, this is my life!! What?!" But once I was at the top it was just like "Cool - this is my city, I live here"... no intense realizations, but maybe I've already passed that point and haven't noticed. After some mote con huesillo we decided to take the trolley car down the side of the hill (another thing off the list!) I want to climb the cerro again but next time really hike it. I'm talking off-paved trail/perhaps trespassing/trekking up the side of it! And plus I forgot my dear Traveling Gnome!

Nos ♥ Santiago!

Smoggy Santiago from the top of Cerro San Cristobal

Ok and now to the title of this post...
On Sunday I met-up with Emily and we had some lunch then went shopping. At one of the big department stores here (not mentioning any names.... Paris) we found lots of good deals and these watches that were 1/2 off - so we bought them. Then we realized that they were full price because we didn't have the "store card." After having many problems with the somewhat in-knowledgeable salesperson we went to another salesperson to return our watches. It took a lot of waiting, and waiting, and then explaining our problem, then waiting, then following a person to another level, waiting, getting official papers and paperwork done for returning the item including our ID cards, then going back upstairs, signing the official forms... all in all it took over 30 minutes to finally return a little item. Now, I'm no professional or anything, but after working in a big chain department store in Canada this kind of thing should NOT be very difficult! Anyways just yet another experience in Chile, and I may boycott going into the store for a while now.

Only in Chile

Today is the last day of November, I only have 3 more days of school, and I leave for Patagonia on my Rotary trip in 5 days! Things are starting to go really fast... its crazy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beavertale Round 1

'Tis the season for a Beavertale! No not the delicious pastry, not the tail of our national animal, but the summary of the first 3rd of every Outbounds' exchange in district 7080.

It's already crazy to see the first three months gone just like that, and having to report on what we've been doing, I mean... I've been here almost 100 days now!

So here we go, my Beavertale for you. I'm not able to have a direct link so I'll post the whole thing here (mind you it's lengthy), but you can check out the rest of the 7080 Beavertales and my lovely picture out at...
>Youth Exchange 7080

Chile, my new home. A land rich of diversity, culture, geography, liveliness, and a true sense of unity. My first three months living in this great country have truly been a whirlwind of adventure and a lot of learning. Arriving on a cool mid-August day nearing the end of the Chilean winter, I had little idea of what my life was about to become. So far my time here has been challenging, difficult, frustrating and yet so satisfying and enjoyable at the same time! I have experienced things I would have never thought I would, and have already learned so much about the language, the culture, and myself. The little quirks of Chile make me smile every day, and it’s amazing how you can adopt a country as your own and in return the people adopt you as well. My time here has been short but already I have had many adventures and stories that I will remember for a long time.

Here in Chile I am living in the capital, Santiago, with a population of almost 6 million people. Coming from a small village in Canada I have slowly started to turn into a city girl! There is a fairly good public transit system here and I am the fondest of the metro that covers the entire underground of the city. It is generally safe and easy to take, even for a gringa like me! The city is so unique with its many different comunas to live in, the different traditions and aspects that set them apart and make them unique. The best part about living in Santiago is that there seems to always be a view of the great Andes Mountain range. They seem to peak-out everywhere and after a rainy night the smog has cleared and the snow-capped wonders are so bright and majestic. I can’t help but constantly admire these wondrous formations; they make you feel so small and yet so grateful to be living amidst them.

After a few days of running around the city to get proper papers in place I started school right away. Going into my new school I was not nervous at all, something that would have been a nightmare to me in Canada. I had already been known to some of my classmates and teachers and had talked to a few of them prior to me joining the class. Here I am in 3° Medio (grade 11) in a very small Adventist school with grades Pre-Kinder to 4° Medio. Right away I was welcomed into the class with besos (kisses, typical Chilean greeting) from everyone and the fun of communicating in Spanglish began! Since my school is a lot smaller than most Chilean schools my class is a very tight-knit group, and I have been able to find my place in the class with a great group of fun-loving and friendly amigos. I am no longer the gringa or exchange student, I am just another student in the class, the same as everyone else! Schools here also have a lot of spirit, especially for the anniversary of the school. During the anniversary the school is split into Alianzias in which you compete against the others in different competitions and games. There was so much liveliness, cheering, laughter, and smiles all around for the two days of my schools Alianzias. School has become the most helpful tool for learning Spanish because I am constantly surrounded by it day in and day out. I also have supportive friends and teachers who pressure me to learn as fast as I can so that I will be able to communicate as if I were Chilena!

My Spanish has slowly but surely been improving. Coming with no knowledge of Spanish at all I am surprised and proud of how far I have progressed. Although they don’t quite speak Spanish here, instead it’s “Chileano.” Chileans have a tendency to speak at rapid speeds with a lot of slang, along with dropping sounds and letters when they talk. But this also gives an extra challenge to my exchange as I try to pick-up the slang so that I can become Chilean and communicate the same as my friends do! I have also started to notice my English slowly getting worse as I am becoming more accustomed to my new language along with my R’s starting to roll off my tongue more naturally. It’s truly incredible at how at the beginning the impossible task of speaking Spanish is starting to become a reality for me now.

The last few months here in Chile the country has accomplished quite a few milestones. Starting in September, Chile celebrated its Bicentennial Anniversary, 200 years of Independence and great traditions! I headed down south with my family on a 12 hour drive to Temuco where we met-up with some old friends and celebrated the Chilean way. Food is of high importance here and there is never a lack of it. My celebration consisted of delicious empanadas, bread, desserts, typical Chilean dishes, and of course the much beloved Chilean barbeque – the asado! My school also had a celebration for the Bicentennial and each class had to perform a traditional Chilean dance. I dressed up along with the rest of my class and danced in front of the entire school and the parents, again one of those things that would terrify me back home but here it seemed so normal and I had so much fun! In October the whole country came together to watch the rescue of the 33 trapped miners. It was truly amazing to see the spirit and unity throughout the entire process, and when the first miner surfaced I don’t know if there was one person who hasn’t happy and excited to see their country pull through and do the unimaginable!

My Rotary district here is quite large with over 40 exchange students in it from all around the world. My first introduction to Rotary down here was when I had to represent District 7080 and Canada along with a fellow Canadian exchange student as District 7080 in Canada had donated an ambulance here in Chile. It was a day of lots of smiles for photos and feeling quite proud of my District back home for being so proactive and charitable. I also had the opportunity to travel to ocean cities such as Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, and San Antonio on a Rotary weekend with the entire district. It’s truly great to have such a diverse group of exchange students and you always know that someone will be willing to go somewhere, explore, or hangout when given the chance!

When given the ability to travel or see a new part of the country I always jump at the opportunity. My opportunity came when my class took their school trip to Bariloche in a part of Patagonia in Argentina. We also visited the south of Chile including places such as Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt. This was such an amazing experience. Not only were the vistas breathtaking, almost unimaginable and the lakes were so blue and clear. We had the most perfect weather. The opportunity to spend six days with my classmates speaking in Spanish and creating memories was a once in a lifetime opportunity! It was so interesting to travel to Argentina, hear the different accent, see the Swiss influence and get another stamp in my passport. The Chilean part of our trip was also incredible in the Los Lagos (lake) region. In Puerto Varas there are two active volcanoes sitting pretty across the lake just waiting for their moment to erupt, my first sight of a volcano ever! The week truly helped me to integrate more into my life here in Chile and has greatly improved my Spanish and my relationships with friends and teachers.

The culture and the people here are so refreshing and different. There is never a dull moment wherever you are. The culture and traditions thrive strongly here as Chileans are proud of their heritage. Although I have only been here for a few months, time has flown by. As another month passes I am constantly looking forward to the “what next” as my adventure continues here in Chile!

There are sometimes no words in either English or Spanish to express how thankful I am to have this opportunity and amazing experience. Thank you Rotary District 7080 and everyone else who has supported me in my desire to have this great opportunity and live 11 great months in a country that I can now consider home!

Disfruta la vida


Thursday, November 18, 2010

18th Birthday/Mi Cumple

"Feliz Cumpleaños!" - that was the first thing I was greeted with when I arrived at school Monday morning. As soon as I was walking toward the group of classmates near my classroom all the girls got big grins then surrounded me in a circle and started to sing "Feliz Cumpleaños" and then after "Happy Birthday!" Then all the hugs and kisses after from everyone. All day I had people coming up to me, from different grades, some I've barely talked to but still they gave me a "Feliz Cumpleaños" and a kiss. At lunch my classmates broke into song again for me - they're so cute, I love them!

The night before my birthday my host-mom had told me that my friends had planned a surprise party for me the next day after school. I was a little disappointed that I knew about it but she didn't want me to feel sad on my birthday, but it's good because I would had made sure I had plans anyways! So all throughout the day I saw my friends whispering to each other, and then two of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to the mall with them after school to look at iPod accessories... one guy was almost laughing when he asked me, it was a little obvious but I went for it with enthusiasm pretending to know nothing. So after wondering around the mall for a while I got a "Vamos(let's go)"... so I asked where... and all I got was another "Vamos!" Starting to walk towards the exit and to the street closest to my house all of a sudden my 4 best girlfriends walk-by carrying a birthday balloon - cover blown. I finally admitted to the guys that I knew all about the party and they were kinda irked that I didn't say anything and had to make them make-up a stupid plan to distract me. So we hung out for a while, got some ice cream then walked back to my house to give some more time.

I know your jealous of my hat

Back at home I was greeted with a surprise from my Chilean chicas, host-mom, and Titi (lady who comes every other day to clean/family friend). We had completos (hot dogs) and then some torta (birthday cake). I was then sang 3 different versions of happy birthday (Religious, Spanish, English) and then had 3 wishes - I always that it was only 1! After making up my mind of what my 3 wishes were I blew-out my candles and then SPLAT - I had my face pushed into my cake! This is a Chilean tradition, but the birthday person's face in the cake. Needles to say I had some frosting up my nose and a face-print in my cake!

The gang: Simon, Marimar, Cony, Daniel, Barbara, Nicole

This is what friends are for!

It's weird having a birthday in another country, another thing that kinda makes it not really feel real that your technically another year older. Also I feel like I've matured so much, even before arriving in Chile, and now being here for 3 months I've matured and changed more than I think I can really realize.

I've also been expecting a lovely package from Canada for quite a while now... I really hope those stories of people actually stealing parcels isn't true!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fotos de mi viaje

Bariloche, Argentina!

My traveling Gnome even made an appearance!

Plaza Italia in Bariloche, not to be confused with the REAL Plaza Italia in Providencia, Santiago!

Hot Spring pool

Volcano Osorno

Puerto Varas

Payback on the boys!

Frutillar, Chile

Back in Santiago

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Argentina, the south of Chile, and my amazing classmates!

One more stamp in my passport, one more country that I will have to go back and explore more

On Sunday I showed up bright and early at the Santiago airport and joined-up with my classmates and got ready to depart for our "Gira de Estudio." But first we got our long awaited for poleron (hoodie that you'll see in all my pictures!) that had all our our names/nicknames on the back - I was even able to get a little maple leaf beside my name, Canadian pride all day, everyday! While waiting to check our baggage I noticed two ladies with Mountain Equipment Co-op gear... knowing its a Canadian brand and finally seeing a little Canadian puffin on a bag I stopped them and asked where they were from. They were both from Vancouver, but the one lady actually knew where Ayr was, and had been through it a couple of times! Woah small world! I'm getting in a habit of talking to random gringos here now. We flew from Santiago to Osorno (in Chile) then took a bus over into Argentina. It was a lot different than traveling to the states because we had to give papers (I had to get an exit stamp) on our way out of Chile, then stop again once in Argentina. On the way to Bariloche I started to notice the architecture styles, I was thinking Austrian or Swiss. As it turned out Bariloche has a HUGE Swiss influence, little flags and mountain dogs, and I can't forget all the chocolate shops! Once at the hotel we were able to hangout, then went for a walk in the night - it was really cold because there's a lake right there and with the wind...!

Monday we took a bus tour to see different parts of the surrounding area of Bariloche. The best was when we took a chairlift up a hill and had a magnificent view of the lakes and mountains... truly breathtaking, I couldn't stop snapping photos! After the tour we returned to the main tourist part and did some shopping, then went to a chocolate factory. At night we convinced our chaperons to go to a discotheque, we were the only ones there on a Monday night - but we made it fun!

Tuesday we went out into the country to a place called "Tom Wellsley." I don't really know how to explain it but they had games set-up, and horseback riding (really strange experience because the horses seemed to be trained on where to go and not pay attention to the rider), and then we also had competitions against a school from Argentina (I think they cheated at some... as I was told by some classmates).

Wednesday we we up early and left the hotel to travel back into Chile. It was a weird feeling but once I crossed the border I felt like I was "home" again. Similar to when I travel in the US then return home. We went to a National park with hot springs and also had lunch there. It was fun to go on the really hot water, then attempt to go into the freezing river, then back into the hot springs. After the swimming we headed to Puerto Varas. I really liked this city, it had a German influence to it, although it was VERY touristy. There was a big clear-water lake and across from the city were two active volcanoes - my first time seeing a real volcano!

Thursday we drove to Saltos Rio Petrohue where there were these waterfalls and turquoise water! We were able to take a jet-boat out closer to the falls so I did - my group had a good time humming the theme song to Titanic, and since no one knew the english words I just had to start singing! After we drove to another lake close by, I'm not sure what was extremely special about it but I think if it wasn't overcast I could tell. After we then drove to Puerto Montt for lunch and then did some shopping (Christmas shopping!) in a feria. After returning to the hotel in Puerto Varas I headed out to go exploring with the girls in my room. Then all of a sudden we got a phone call saying the guys had gotten into our room. So we ran back to find our clean room totally overturned... literally the beds were EVERYWHERE! The girls all got together for some payback but first we needed outfits. So we all headed down to the feria and bought the same hats, then put on some war paint and we were ready to go! I'm still not sure what the plan was but we ended up kidnapping two guys! After dinner we were given awards for the trip - I won Miss. Participativa and got a lovely toilet paper sash (it's so going on my Rotary jacket!). After the awards we had free time, along with some Spanish karaoke!

Friday we got up early and packed and were ready to go... except our plane got canceled! We ended up having a much later flight so we had the whole day! I went down to hangout at the beach with a bunch of my classmates, then we all headed to Frutillar (another very heavy German influence.) We then had to finally head to the airport in Puerto Montt and leave the beautiful south.

I can't truly explain how happy I am to have had the opportunity to go on the trip with my classmates. Not only were there beautiful vistas but I was able to bond and become closer with my friends and companeros! I would strongly suggest for any future exchange students to go on a trip like this if they have the chance with their classmates. Also spending 6 days of only Spanish or the option of not talking has greatly helped me. After returning back to my home I am now finding it difficult to think in english and writing for long periods is also getting difficult. I'm slowly starting the lose my grammar and am constantly forgetting english words! Although my Spanish vocabulary is still limited and speaking is the hardest I am starting to say things as they come to my mind in Spanish.

Blogger is being really weird and I can't seem to upload photos, so I'll have another post with just photos!