Sunday, May 29, 2011

2 weeks

Wow - I just looked back on my post that I wrote when I had only been in Chile for 2 weeks and here I am... with only 2 weeks left in my exchange. I know I say this a lot but really my exchange went by way to fast. Re-looking at some of my first photos here in Chile I see and know that there has been such a big change since those first few days, weeks, months here. Especially looking at photos of the kids in my class. When I first took those photos with them I had no clue who they were, what their personalities were like, what their life was like. But now they're my family who I unfortunately have to say hasta luego to in a short time.

I've made some of my best friends here, and in such a short span of time we've become so close. I have my best Chilean amigo, amiga, and gringa... they all know who they are, and I couldn't imagine my time here without them. It' amazing how you can travel so far away from your homeland and find people who feel like you've known them all your life. People who you tell them things you may have never told your best friends back home. It's things like this that make it seem impossible to get on that plane back home.

It's only 14 days until I'm on that plane and I'm already starting to turn into an emotional wreck. Sometimes I feel like I could cry instantly - it's the mix of being so excited to go home and see my family, friends, and my familiar world... and then the unimaginable reality that I will no longer be in Chile and never sure of when I can come back. Sometimes exchange feels to unfair in that aspect... I've finally made my life here and your telling me I have to leave?!

As for life lately I've been trying to keep busy busy! On friday I had my last day of school. The night before I had made a cake (delicious Lyndsay-style) for my class. The day was actually quite boring as my classmates had to actually work in their classes. But I was able to get one of my uniform shirts signed by mostly everyone while I was anxiously awaiting to do my Rotary presentation for my class - but I never ended up doing it! For our last class of the day they had organized a goodbye party and ordered sushi and pizza for everyone! After devouring our food and my cake I made a little speech/nervous blab about how much I love my class and that I'll miss them - which is the truth! They've really become my family here, and I can't thank them enough.

Friday night was the birthday party of one of my good exchange friends. A lot of the exchange students came and we made the most out of night dancing and laughing until the sun rose. Unfortunately it was also the last time that us Santiago kids would have the opportunity to see the exchange students who live further south like Curico and Talca. So early in the morning with 3 hours of sleep we had to say our goodbye's and part our ways. The goodbye's don't seem real, I don't know if they ever will. Then on Saturday night I went out with my Chilean friends to celebrate the 18th birthday of one of my friends. It's going to be hard going home and not being able to go and dance in a club, it's so normal now, but the music wouldn't be as good anyways! Oh course my Sunday I'm dead from little sleep but I'm trying to make the most out of the little time I have left, spending one weekend night with exchange students and the other with my Chileans.

a mix of Canada, USA, France and Germany!

So that's where I am, not quite sure what I'll do in my next two weeks but hopefully exploring parts of Santiago, last shopping trips, and hopefully if we get some rain/snow I'll have the chance to go skiing (but that's a big hopefully).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beavertale Round 3

Third and final Rotary Beavertale...

298 days, 18 hours, and 40 minutes. From the time I boarded my plane in Canada until I will board my plane here in Chile to head back to my familiar world. But somewhere in those 298 days this country has become so familiar to me now; the places, the people, the language, the food, the streets, my life. When you start out your exchange you never really think of it coming to an end. Being put into a foreign land not knowing anything, to speaking the language and having friends that feel like you’ve had forever, how can this come to an end? My last months here have passed by so fast and have been the best months of my exchange. Its heart wrenching to know that I only have one more month left of this life, but I have so many memories and stories that I will be able to carry on with me for forever.

March started off with my second Rotary trip, this time to the North of Chile. The first couple of days we spent up in La Serena and Valle de Elqui which are only about 7 hours north of Santiago. One night we stayed in the Valley at an accommodation with an observatory. I’ve already seen the amazing stars in Chile but the sky was fully illuminated with no moon, the Milky Way galaxy visible, planet Saturn evident through the telescope, and the mountains of the valley framed the sky as if you were staring straight up into a glorious painting. For the whole trip we travelled by bus and had two nights onboard. After our first night onboard we woke-up to a drastic change of scenery. We stopped in Antofagasta and saw la mano de Dios (hand of God), and then straddled the Tropic of Capricorn while we continued on towards San Pedro de Atacama in the Atacama Desert. When we went on a horseback ride in San Pedro I was amazed to see all the mountains and volcanoes in the distance; I didn’t expect to see so many volcanoes. During our days spent in San Pedro de Atacama we went to the Salar de Atacama (a salt field) with flamingos, Valle de la Muerte, and Valle de la Luna where it literally looked like you could have been on the moon! The next morning we woke-up at 4:30 am to take a long and bumpy bus ride up to the Geysers del Tatio (4,320 meters above sea level). On our way back down we stopped in a few small villages where we sampled llama meat and were attacked by locals with water balloons! We then travelled to our last city, Arica, which is at the very north of Chile boarding Peru. After a day of travelling up 4,500 meters to a volcano we received news of the earthquake that hit Japan and that the coast of Chile was under a tsunami warning – and we were right on the coast! Luckily nothing happened to Chile other than a few big waves although we were ready to evacuate if needed. It’s safe to say we clocked-in quite a few kilometres in those 10 days!

March brought the reality of back to school and all the joys of the Chilean school system. I was a little worried of going back into school as I wasn’t sure how far I had progressed with my Spanish and hadn’t seen many of my school friends over the summer. But the truth is this year has been so much better! I’m able to follow along in class, understand my friends’ conversations and hearing the many “Lyndsay, hablas espaƱol!!” at the start really made me feel comfortable again. I feel like I talk the most fluent and most comfortably with my school friends. I think it’s because I’ve known them since my first week here and that I’ve grown to feel as if I’ve always been in that class. The school days are still long but now being in 4° Medio we get to leave a bit earlier as most of my classmates are in Preuniversitario (Pre-university). My poor classmates have to attend school for the regular hours and then go to their Preuniversitarios after for a few hours where they study intensively for the PSU test (Chilean SAT) in November that will determine which university they will attend next year.

I’ve also been filling in some of my free-time now after school by joining a university field hockey team here in Santiago. By chance, and my host-mom asking if I could practice with them for a few minutes, the coach invited me to join the team! I’m training with the field hockey team from the Universidad Diego Portales. I’m not able to play in the actual games since I’m not registered as a student. But it’s been great finally playing a sport again that I love and hanging out with my new group of field hockey friends. I mean, one day for practice we had a kung-fu class – now that was interesting!

In April came another holiday – Pascua/Easter. My family and I left on Good Friday to go to the campo with my host-dad’s family. Out of all the un-rainy days there are in central-Chile it seemed to just pour down as we were driving. We arrived to a lot of mud and cooler than normal temperatures. We spent our days baking calzones rotos (literal translation – torn underwear) which are small fried dough pastries, and three kinds of mouth-watering empanadas! The older cousins and I even went out to a disco one night – I didn’t believe my cousin at first when she said there was one out there! It was such a weird feeling having Easter in autumn. When it warmed-up it felt as if it could be warm Thanksgiving Day instead of a crisp spring Easter day. My season senses have been so mixed-up this year.

Lorana! In May I had the most amazing opportunity to travel to Easter Island/Isla de Pascua/Rapa Nui on my final Rotary trip! I fell in love with the island and everything about it. We flew almost 4,000 kilometres into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and we arrived on the small, humid, and magical island of Rapa Nui. The sky was a brilliant blue, the many green covered volcanoes were so vivid, and the air was as clean as could be. We visited many places to look at the Moais (the famous rock statues on the island), learned about the culture and traditions, and even took a horseback ride up to the highest point on the island. Up there you could see the tiny island below you, and in the distance, for 360°, was pure ocean. No land in sight for miles! It was such a cool experience to know how far away and secluded you are from everything else that you know in the world. We also experienced some of the most bi-polar weather on the island. One minute it would be sunny with barely a cloud in the sky and then it would be pouring rain on you the next. We experienced the change in weather as we were hiking up to a crater. Of course we weren’t expecting the rain, and then suddenly we were poured on. After it had stopped, and we were on our way down again, the rain came harder than before and a river appeared on our path where there wasn’t one before! This was one of the funniest memories: A whole bunch of foreign kids having fun in the rain as we were all slipping and sliding in the mud, soaking wet. The whole feel to the trip was so relaxed – a true island vibe. But the best part of it was being with some of the best people ever, the exchange students!

My exchange has been a constant up and down ride the entire year. I’ve felt so many emotions in such a short period of time and yet I’ve grown so much from it. From having my highest of highs, to my lowest of lows, exchange and Chile have truly shaped me into the person that I have become today. But it’s not only the experiences and life lessons that shape you it’s also the amazing people and friends who have come into your life along the way.

My exchange student family - It’s so strange to look-back on our very first day-trip together where we were all new “doe-eyed” exchange students in this foreign land called Chile. But now we call this country home. We know how to get around it better than some locals, we now speak the language, we know where to go to carretear, we are always there when another exchange student needs help or someone to hangout with, and most importantly we’ve found a place to call home and a new family from all over the world! I’ve made some of the best memories during my time here with my exchange friends. Even though we come from so many countries, different walks of life, and are all our individual persons, we have an unbreakable bond as exchange students. I will never forget the incredible people who I have shared my year with, and the most hilarious and special moments we’ve had together!

Mis amigos chilenos – the people who have gone through my exchange with me from the start to the finish. They’ve seen me at my worst when I arrived not able to say a word, to now at my hilarious attempt to be as Chilean as I can be! From going on our class trip to the south and Argentina to celebrating everyone’s 18th birthdays, I am truly going to miss my Chilean friends and class. Some days I feel like I’ve known them forever, especially my group of close friends that I’ve made. It seems so surreal that in a month I won’t be able to greet them with a kiss every morning, hear about the latest news in their lives, or dance, sing, and laugh like the crazy people that we are! But I know I’ll always be a part of my class as their Gringa, la Lyndsay.

With only four weeks left it’s hard to imagine how fast my exchange has gone by. I’ve learned so much and have grown a lot as a person in just these short 10 months. I’m not sure who I’ll be when I return back home or if a difference will even been seen by my family. But I’ve experienced so many things in just a short period of time. My exchange has been the best, worst, happiest, loneliest, most exciting, most difficult, most interesting, and life building year of my life. I see beauty in this life and country everyday – I wouldn’t trade my exchange for anything!

Thank you to everyone who has made this amazing year happen for me. To my supportive family in Canada, the Rotarians of District 7080, and my Chilean family and friends you have all made a difference in one girl’s life.

Un beso,


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Isla de Pascua Photos

Half carved out Moai

After our soaking wet trek back down the hill


O Canada!

7 Moai facing the ocean

They painted all of our faces with tribal designs

The top of the island

Our friend/bus driver Jimmy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Easter Island/Isla de Pascua/Rapa Nui

In whichever language you prefer this island has captured my heart.

We stepped off the plane on the 4th of May to a humid but yet clean-air filled island. I'm not accustomed to humidity anymore so it was such a shocker at first. We picked-up up bags in an airport that could be described as an shoe box and then were greeted with beautiful tropical flower necklaces. We then headed to our hotel (finally only one hotel for the whole trip), where Rotary was really nice and allowed us to choose our own rooms - a room with 6 other of my good friends... needless to say we had the best/party room!

On our first full day of the trip we went to go Moai-spotting (Moai are the rock figures that Easter Island is known for). At our second location we were already starting to witness the bi-polar weather the island had to offer -rain, sun, rain, sun. As we were starting our small hike up to see a lagoon we got rained on hard. People were slipping, falling, getting muddy and wet. By the time we made it up it had stopped raining. But on our way back down we got poured on! A river appeared where there had not been a river before... and everyone was absolutely drenched after! I really enjoyed being soaked like that, the weather never bothered me on the island because it was warm enough and the whole atmosphere just made it fun! As we were driving to another spot we drove into rain, but it was only raining on one side of the bus and not the other! We then saw the most famous 15 Moai altogether, before it started to rain again and I ran with my camera to the bus. After we went to "el ombligo" (belly button) which is a magnetic rock, or something - when you put a compass over the middle it just spins in circles... how the Rapa Nui figured out this special spot or rock is such a mystery! After being soaked all day long we went to the sand beach on the island. The water was warm and clear, the sand was white, and there were palm trees and Moai in eyesight - such a relaxing place!

On Friday we drove-up to the Rano Kau volcano crater which was so beautiful. Again as we were walking around the crater we were rained on. But not before I was able to pick and eat a natural growing guava fruit! Also on this part of the island is a smaller island where there used to be a competition for the ruler of the island way way back in the day. I won't go into the story but it ends with the first man to swim to a small island with an egg. After lunch we went to a Jardin Infital (preschool) to play with young kids and give them balloons and snacks.

Saturday we saw things like where the buns for the moai came from (the special rock), a naturally made lava cave where there's a banana plantation, and the 7 Moai that face outwards to the ocean - all others face inland. In our free time around the small town we were picked up by our friend/bus driver in his "off-duty" truck. Driving around the island in the back of a pick-up truck, waving the the cops,waving to our Rotarians, a bunch of exchange students just singing and taking in the wind... uhh island life!

Sunday we took a 3-4 hour horseback ride up to the highest point on the island. After a very slow start with my horse we were finally able to jog and gallop with our horses out in the open rolling hills. Everything was so stunning, there's just so much greenery and untouched land on the island. At the very top of the highest volcano all you could see for 360 degrees was the ocean. Below you was the entire small island and then in the distance was just ocean, ocean and ocean! Not one spec of land in sight - you were truly far away from everything and everyone! We then finished our trip by spending the rest of the day at the beach again swimming, working on getting a tan, playing soccer/water sports, and the trip-ly cheerleading photo.

This trip was the most amazing trip I've been on, and especially out of the Rotary trips that I've gone on here. The Rotarians gave us full respect, trust, and privacy - actually treating us as real people which really improved the whole mood to the trip and actually being interested to talking with us.

Personally I think the most beautiful place in Chile is Patagonia but Easter Island had such a simple beauty to it. The endless number of green covered volcanoes and hills, the black volcanic rock at the shores, the bright blue sky, clear Pacific waters, the beautiful tropical flowers, the mystical and interesting Moai, and the overall island feel. I truly love the island, it was actually a little hard to leave as I jokingly (but I would have) ran back towards the airport away from the plane. It was for sure a trip of a life time and I would return back there in a heartbeat!


Monday, May 2, 2011

41 days...

It's official, I now know when I'll be heading back to to the Great-White North, and it's coming faster than I want it to. I'll be leaving Chile on June 12th and arriving in Toronto on June 13th bright and early. That only gives me six more weeks in this beautiful country... not enough time, not enough.

These last two months especially I've really felt at home here. Like I've really fit in, and found my place here in this big city. I've also gotten so much closer with my Chilean friends which was a huge challenge in the beginning, but now I don't know how I can leave them now. There are going to be a lot of difficult goodbye's coming at me soon. As much as I don't like going to school I love the time that I have with my classmates. Even if I'm sitting with people and not talking, just listening I enjoy every minute of it and the atmosphere that I'm surrounded in - even though my school looks quite feo.

There's so much that I'll know that I will miss about living here. But there's also that feeling inside of me that knows, "Yep... I could go back home now." Sometimes I feel like I've exhausted this city, gone so many places, made a lot of memories, met a lot of people, and so much more. You can only live in the dream-world of exchange for so long, and then it's back to reality. But don't get me wrong, I am truly excited to see my family, friends, house, eat my favourite foods, drive, have my own family rules, and have my small-town life again.

But while I'm reflecting on the little time I have left here I'm also gearing up to head to Easter Island/Isla de Pascua/Rapa Nui on Wednesday on my third and final Rotary trip! Also tomorrow I'll be meeting two girls at the airport, who were my bosses when I did Ontario Rangers and now we'll be co-workers this summer, as their traveling and volunteering here. Maybe I'll be lucky and do the "Santiago tour" once again - hmmmm 4 times now??

And on a side note - finally I'm 18 and can vote in elections, but yet I miss the Federal Election!

Photos from the past week's birthday activities of Cony and David