Sunday, July 29, 2007

It’s been a lot better for me here in Chile since the last time I wrote. The initial shock of a different world, and the sounds and news faces are all becoming familiar. Anyways, I can always watch American movies on the about 6 English movie stations basic cable has around here; I’m watching The Chronicles of Narnia while writing this.

Unlike the movie it’s definitely not getting any warmer. There is no comfort zone to hope for when you’re walking anywhere in Viña because no place has heating. The cold is still affecting all of the CIEE students. Almost all of us have a cold, cough, headache, or a combination of any. Me, I have a cold and minor cough, so my home stay mom took me to a store and bought me a scarf. She called it her superstitious belief, but she says having the neck and feet warm will ward of any cold.

The past week has been mostly more orientation classes, which get pretty old, especially when they’re about the history of Chile. They serve a purpose, but most of us won’t be talking politics and history while we’re studying and hanging out. In addition to the orientation classes, we also signed up for our classes that start this Wednesday. I don’t have any classes on Friday! Vicky, my home stay mom, said that most of the exchange students use the 3 day weekends to travel, and a lot of us don’t have Friday classes, so people have already started planning trips throughout the semester.

Choosing my classes was a mess because of a time change for one of them, so I had to go back in for another day to fix that up. Here’s the final line-up: The history of the 2Oth century through movies, Spanish communication and culture of Chile, Globalization of Chile-which has a lot of excursions to the surrounding countryside, Literature of Spain, and 2Oth century Latin American History. The only reservation I have for these classes is whether or not I will get credits transferred to IU for taking them. The class periods here go for 1:3O hours with a 1O-15 minute break in the middle. I have 3 periods on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, 1 on Wednesday, and 4 on Thursday. It won’t be horrible because the school schedules a 45min for lunch starting at 2 o’clock.

Yesterday, or Saturday, the previous CIEE student that stayed in my house visited with her boyfriend. He had come down after her semester here and paid for them to travel around Argentina and Bolivia, and some other places for about 3 weeks. They’re leaving for the States tomorrow afternoon. After the family and chatted and looked at all of Abigail’s pictures, she took my and her boyfriend to a stand that sold Completos-a huge hotdog with tons of cheese, avocado dressing, and tomatoes spread all over. I liked it-the bun was really fresh, as is all the bread down here. However, avocado isn’t my forte. The also have empanadas here everywhere-it’s like pizza down here. Some of them even have Manjar, a really sugary spread, with cheese in them. I’ll bring a few jars of Manjar back to the States for everyone to try.

Today, Vicky took me on a tour to the north of Viña, to another two towns called Reñaca and Con Cón. Both of them lie on hills that go straight into the ocean-pretty amazing. We stopped for lunch at an empanada restaurant that the locals around the coastal cities all drive to. I tried one with crab, and it was actually pretty good [No, the restaurant wasn’t heated either]. She then took me to the more well-off neighborhoods in Con Cón and Reñaca to show me housing developments and where she would have liked to live when she had all her kids still growing up… It was nice, though.

Tonight we’re having a big send-off dinner for Abigail and her boyfriend, which should be a really good time and meal.

Also, I’ve started watching the Lost series off of the family computer here. It’s turning out to be a good investment.

¡Hasta Luego!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


If you want to see some pictures, go to these links:

I'll be editing this post sometime soon to put up another link; wasn't letting me upload the last set of pictures. They're from a tour of the two cities given to me by my host mom, Virginia.

The new photo links:

Friday, July 20, 2007

First Post in Chile

My parents and I met at the Indianapolis Airport to send me off to Chile. After we said our goodbyes and I had already gone through the security lines, I learned that storms in Atlanta had caused a ground-stop at their airport. It turned out to be just 40 minutes of waiting time, so I still had more than enough time to eat and get to my connecting flight once I landed in Atlanta.

On the plane I met two other exchange students going to Valparaíso. Daniel was in the seat next to mine, and Kali was just one row behind us. We talked until dinner, but by then it was already close to midnight, so everyone on the plane tried to sleep before the flight attendants began to serve us breakfast about an hour’s time outside of Santiago, Chile, our destination.

The line to get checked into the Chile were pretty long, but the line for the residents of Chile was even longer, and it didn’t move as fast as the foreigners’ either. Our luggage was already going around at the baggage claim when we got to it, and nothing happened at the checkout point where the government of Chile checked our luggage to make sure we weren’t bringing produce or something that would disrupt their fauna.

CIEE met us outside the customs, and we each got a calling card to call our families, but I only got the answering machines for my mom and brother and it would only ring for both my dad’s cell and home number. Once everyone had called their families, we left on a really nice tour bus to our hotel. It was pretty cold and raining all day.

I shared a room with Ben, which was lucky because the first few pairs were able to get a room when we arrived and take showers. The rest had to wait for about 3 hours to start getting rooms.

We stayed in Santiago for two days, and it was mostly filled with tours and CIEE information sessions about what to expect for our semester abroad. It turned out the husband of the director of the Valparaíso program was from Arizona, so he explained some of the finer details about safety and other things to make sure we got the message.

The day we left for Valparaíso was the complete opposite of our first day in that it was sunny not too cloudy, but it was still pretty cold. We road on another tour bus, a little less comfy than the first one, for about 1 and a half hours, passing through tunnels and small towns along the way. It was overcast by the time we arrived at Valparaiso, and there were huge ships docked in its harbor. Both towns, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, are situated in little coves surrounded by hills. The place looks beautiful on a sunny day.

My home stay family turned out to be a very nice family. It’s a 61 year old mom, Virginia, and her 28 year daughter, Vinka. The mom was a Phys. Ed. Teacher for a while, but now she works as a designer, so the apartment has a lot of furniture and knickknacks everywhere. Vinka told me that normal homes in Chile also don’t have the walls painted in colors like there are in my home stay. They’re both extremely laid back and want me to be comfortable. The mom keeps quizzing me about what foods I like and don’t like. They don’t care when I wake up, how long I stay out, when I eat, nothing.

When we’re not at our home stays, CIEE has us at orientation classes. Some of them are about what to expect from the University in terms of teacher sympathy, classroom dynamics, homework, and others are about the culture and history of Chile and Valparaíso/Viña del Mar. After our last meeting on Friday, Virginia picked me up and we walked to a shop where I could exchange some of money for bus fare/calling card/general spending. She then took me to her job to switch out some of the bills for coins and I got to walk home from there.

The city reminded me of an older Bloomington with wider streets. There a few other gringos [just a term to refer to white people instead of just calling them white people] in Viña because it’s a tourist attraction and there a good amount of exchange programs at the local universities. My home stay family doesn’t like how many tourists they get here, which they say will be a lot when it starts to get warmer around September; however, the crowds don’t bother me. You just have to walk fast and be aware of who’s around you to make sure you’re not about to have something snatched out of your backpack or pockets.

Now, some of us are deciding about a trip to the Teatro Municipal to see a piano concert and another one in the planning stages about skiing in the Andes. The bookstores here sell Harry Potter in English, so I plan to go to one with some of the other students and start reading it along with the rest of the world this weekend.

Until next time,