Sunday, February 27, 2011

So long summer...

It's that time of year again, back to school... yeah... I'm entering into grade 12, or 4 Medio, one more time! This will be my 2nd time re-entering high school after I've graduated... what?! My last two weeks of summer have been kind of busy. I took spanish lessons to help brush up and improve as I had time before heading back into school. The school was really great organizing events and more opportunities to practice and learn. I've also met some really nice people who I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. It just so happens that there's 4 girls from the school living in a Chilean families house just 2 blocks away from me, and my Mama happens to be really good friends with the family! Anyways it's been fun meeting some more "exchange students" and going out doing things like salsa dancing - or my interpretation of it!

It's quite scary to see how fast summer went by, those 2 1/2 months just disappeared - I don't even want to imagine what the rest of my exchange will be like! Summer was great and really nice being in the southern hemisphere as the northern hemisphere exchangers don't get summer vacation! But in all honestly I'm looking forward to going back to school, see all my classmates again, this time being able to understand and speak more spanish, and hopefully looking forward to spending more time with my Chilean friends. But I am already dreading having to wake-up at 6:30 am... after being used to not falling asleep until the wee hours of the day.

P.S. I made Kraft Dinner for the first time in over 6 months... it was like a little piece of home, that good old fake bright orange cheese powder!

At the salsateca - Brasil, Brasil, Canada, Sweden

A bit windy at the top of Santa Lucia

Crazy Texans

Well I'm off to get my backpack packed and my uniform out and ready!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beavertale Round 2

Here's my second Beavertale for my district back home. If you actually read my blog then nothing should be new news! Again to check-out the other Outbounds Beavertale's go to...
Yeah there's no direct link, sorry!

¿Donde se fue el tiempo? Here I am, already six months through my Exchange and I still cannot fathom how fast the time just seems to fly by. Some days it seems as if I have just arrived, still discovering new things and new words. But yet at other instances, it seems as if I’ve lived here forever, seeing this country as my own and feeling a part of the Chilean culture. These past six months have taught me many things and have opened my eyes up to new ideas, opportunities, and ways of life. Every day is still an adventure and there’s always something new to discover and learn, I’m just taking things day by day and enjoying them while I’m still here!

At the start of December I ended my school year here early to go with Rotary to the “end of the world” otherwise known as Patagonia. I had travelled to a part of Patagonia in Argentina with my class but this was much more different and spectacular! About 50 excited and energy-filled exchange students flew to Punta Arenas (known as the world’s most Southern city), as we started on our “fully-epic” trip! We spent the first day in Punta Arenas, kissed the toe of the Indian statue to bring good luck and to return to Punta Arenas, and then headed to a penguin sanctuary. Seeing these tiny creatures was one of many highlights of the trip. Coming from Canada you never think that you’ll have the chance to see these adorable birds in the wild! We also spent four days in Torres del Paine National Park. All I have to say is – WOW! The well-known granite spires were breathtaking surrounded by blue-green glacial lakes and rocky green mountains covered with Patagonian flowers. From bearing the cold and swimming in a glacial-water river, taking an 8 hour boat ride, seeing glaciers, horseback riding in the open Patagonian terrain, and the many memories and near-sleepless nights, this trip was truly amazing! I can say for sure that I have never seen a more beautiful and breathtaking place in my life! The Chilean Patagonia is truly a magical and inspiring landscape!

Sun, shorts, and the beach... this was my Christmas. In Chile they celebrate Christmas on the 24th. My host-family is a little different as we didn’t get together with family for the holiday although my older host-brother did come home from university in Argentina. On the day of the 24th it was a relaxed day at home and we started to eat our Christmas dinner around 10:30 pm, which was not quite the feast as you would have in Canada. At midnight everyone ripped open their presents as we said our “Feliz Navidad’s”. On the 25th my family and I headed to a small town near the coast where I met one of my uncles. After we had lunch together, we headed to the beach, Viña del Mar. Never would I have ever imagined that I would be putting my bare feet into the Pacific Ocean on Christmas day!

The day after Christmas presented another change; this was a change in host-families! I now live in a new comuna called Recoleta which is right beside Cerro San Cristobal and about an hour on public transit from my first house. Living in this new house and neighbourhood I feel like I really am in Chile. The architecture and buildings of this area are much older but I find them so much more beautiful with more culture, character and history behind them. My Mama and Papa are really nice and kind-hearted people and they made me feel welcomed in the home right away. They even spent one night teaching me the cueca, the national dance of Chile, which my host-Papa and I proudly showed off at our next family gathering! I also now have a host-brother and a grandmother who lives in the house but in her own wing. Even though I am far from my school and school friends I think I will enjoy living with this family until the end of my exchange.

After a few days with my new family it was New Years Eve. I went with my family to a beach called Las Cruces where I met a lot of uncles, aunts, and cousins! After watching the sunset over the Pacific for the last time in the year 2010 we started to get our night started! My host-Papa had cooked up a delicious asado and the whole family sat down for a meal at around 10 pm. After dinner the dancing started – music was blaring, anticipation was building, everyone was dancing, then... cinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno... FELIZ AÑO NUEVO! At midnight everyone went around to each family member giving them a kiss, hug, and a “feliz año nuevo” as we watched the fireworks go off in the nearby port city of San Antonio. Here in Chile they have some traditions for the New Year. One is to wear yellow underwear to bring good luck, and another is to eat 12 grapes - each grape representing every month of the year. After all of the hugs were done, on we went with the dancing, and we sure danced the night away! On the first day of the new year I headed out with one of my uncles, cousin, and brother to the “secret point.” This was where I swam in the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever along with attempting to surf! The day was total bliss, sitting on a secluded beach, hearing the Pacific waves crash, breathing in fresh ocean air on January 1st in Chile... this is my life!

This “summer” I’ve had a few opportunities to travel a little bit, especially to the coast. In the middle of January I had a great visit from my Canadian big brother! After a couple of days sightseeing in Santiago and getting him accustomed to a new country we headed to Viña del Mar for two nights along with a day trip to Valparaíso. After exploring the central coast we jumped on a bus to go 7 hours north up to another coast city, La Serena. After having a mishap of getting off in the wrong city, walking around while there were no street names on the streets, we managed to get ourselves to the right city! One day we went on a day trip a couple more hours away to a place called Isla Dama. Here we were able to take a boat out to see this pristine white sand island with aqua waters along with seeing penguins, sea lions, and dolphins! The next night we went to an observatory as the north of Chile is well-known for having some of the clearest skies in the world. As soon as we stepped out of our van and looked up I was in shock, there were so many stars and I have never seen them so bright before! I learned a lot from this trip as I had to plan and book everything by myself along with having to do all the translating and talking. It was really nice having my brother come to visit, but it also seemed a little weird. For him it was just a vacation, while for me this was my life. Mixing my Chilean life and someone from my Canadian life was a weird feeling, but it was fun to show off my new country!

As well, I had the opportunity to spend 4 nights in Valparaíso with my exchange friend, her Canadian mom, and her mom’s friend as we had a girls’ trip to the coast. We had fun exploring some back alleys with beautiful graffiti-esque murals, eating delicious seafood and taking in some sun on the beaches nearby. After those days I hopped on a bus and joined my host-family at another beach a few hours away. After having a relaxing summer day with family we then headed to el campo (the country) where my host-Papa is from. There I had an eye-opening view of another different way of life. My host-Papas parents live on the same plot of land as two of my aunts and their families. There were chickens walking around freely, sheep, grape vines, loud children, people talking with such heavy accents I could barely understand, and delicious home cooked meals! We spent the weekend there and attended a wedding on the Saturday. Unfortunately I didn’t have the experience of witnessing the actual wedding ceremony but I sure did enjoy the dancing as the cousins and I danced until 4 am!

If there’s something that would define Chile it would be music and dancing. These two things are in the hearts and souls of every Chilean. There’s always music playing, in my house, on the street, in the public buses and I just don’t know how I will be able to go home and not have the familiar sounds of my now much beloved Spanish music. I find myself dancing all the time or humming along to the beats of my favourite Spanish songs. I’ve truly learned to embrace dancing into my life whether it’s at family get-togethers or a night out at a discotheque with my friends – it’s the new Latina in me!

With every passing month here it’s hard to face the fact that I will have to return back to Canada at some point. Everything here feels so normal now. I’m no longer noticing things that stand out, now I’m embracing the things that make this country so unique and I love it! I no longer feel as if I am the gringa who doesn’t know how to get places, can’t speak the language, use slang words, or is afraid or self-conscience when constantly being stared or whistled at in public. I see myself as more Chilean now, and even get a little frustrated when store vendors assume I don’t know how to speak Spanish or that I’m a tourist – I actually enjoy helping the poor lost-looking tourists here! Even though at times life can still be quite hard and lonely there are always the moments and memories that I think to myself how much I love Chile!

As for now I’m going try and make the most out of my last two weeks of summer vacation and then it’s back into school, which honestly I am looking forward to as I get to see all my Chilean friends again! Thank you Rotary District 7080 and my host-club of Cambridge North for this opportunity to be living this life that I am now!

Besitos desde el otro lado de del ecuador


Friday, February 18, 2011

Summer as of lately...

Just as the temperatures are starting to get just a tiny bit cooler at night it's hard to believe my Chilean summer is almost over! I've been slacking as of lately in the blog, and even journal-ing daily events.. but hey, it's summer!

On the 6th of February I was invited to go to Valparaiso with Emily, her Canadian mom, and her mom's friend for 4 nights. We stayed in a lovely little hotel on Cerro Conception which was such an old building but with a brilliant rooftop view over the city and harbor. In the days Emily and I headed to Viña del Mar and also to Reñaca (known as the young and "hip" beach.. but not quite on a Tuesday!) We also made the best out of the nightlife in Viña on Monday and Tuesday even randomly visiting the casino to check it out and we met up with two friends from Santiago one night. After a few days of taking in sun and eating delicious seafood Emily and I hopped on a bus on the night of the 9th as I had to go and meet-up with my host-family at another beach and she had to return to her summer host-family in another beach as well.

After spending a much needed relaxing day on the beach in Las Cruces with my family we left on Friday morning to go to el campo or the country. Here is where my host-dad is from and his parents, and two sisters still live on the same piece of land. Now coming from Ayr and seeing a lot of rural Ontario in my short lifetime I have never experienced country like this before or even as one of my Chilean cousins said "este es campo, campo!" There were chickens running around freely, a stray kitten, sheep, baby chicks, grape vines growing so naturally and the family and their houses were so close together. The days at the campo may had passed slow but the kids were able to do something at night at least. On Friday night the cousins and I went to go and see the final soccer game for the 18-30 local age group. After the game they had an tent set-up for a dance. After waiting around for a bit deciding if we should stay or not, waiting for the music to be good I decided to say, "hey... let's just go in!!", I mean why stand around doing nothing? There were people of all ages in there and we had fun. Although after not sleeping so well for a week I was pretty tired by 2 am and just wanted to go home. Eventually my host-parents came and picked us all up and I was so relieved!

On Saturday night was the wedding of one of my host-Papa's cousins. I didn't get to go to the main wedding part but I sure had fun at the reception. In Chile they have a tradition at weddings where in one wedding cake the tie string to different small plastic objects (usually things such as a wedding ring, baby, cupid arrow, etc.) Being a single lady I was able to pull out one of the strings and what did I get... a baby! My host-family laughed because this isn't the first time that I've pulled a baby out of a wedding cake as I did the same thing when my host-Mama put together a mock-wedding for one of my aunt and uncle's anniversary! I seriously love receptions at weddings, and really just dancing overall now! I danced the night away with my cousins and we got home around 4 am.

Today the 18th also marks 6 months since I've arrived here... where has the time gone?!