23 March 2015

A month in!

As of last Wednesday, it has since I left home to come to Valparaíso. I can’t believe it’s been that long, and at the same time, it feels like a lot longer since I’ve seen my friends and family back home.
The month that I’ve been here has definitely had its challenges. I’m still not entirely adapted to the admittedly small (but many) differences between life here and life in the states. It took me weeks to realize that my host mom kept giving me a new napkin whenever I put mine in my lap, because they keep the napkin on the table here (or at least my host family does), and she thought I had lost it. I’m also not used to eating a big meal at 2 PM and not eating a light dinner until 9 or 10. Nor am I used to paying for my ice cream before going to the counter to pick out a flavor, and I’m still thrown off every time someone on the street assumes I’m Chilean and asks me a question really quickly and mumbled. At the same time, I’m adapting. I now expect to tip my grocery baggers, and tell the bus driver my final destination when I get on, and it’s almost automatic to make small-talk in Spanish (which a month ago was very intimidating). If anything, I’ve figured out how to buy ice cream, which I believe is the most important thing you can learn in any country.
I’m finally getting into a routine with my classes, and as of last week, I’m officially registered for everything I want to be in. So, dear readers, here is my schedule:
Monday: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, like I would register for class on Mondays. Free day! Better known as “do all my homework I didn’t do over the weekend day.”
Tuesday: 10:05-11:35: Urban Spaces. This is an art class located in Miraflores, a neighborhood in Viña del Mar that’s (usually) an easy bus ride away (I say “usually” because last week two buses ignored me flagging them down, causing me to wait for 20 minutes before one finally stopped for me). The class is really big and is taught lecture-style. We’re given assignments to complete between classes- this last week we learned about beds and rooms as spaces and had to come up with a representation of our own room, and then we had to share our drawings with the class and explain them a bit.
my drawing, showing my bed here. I drew the curtains mixing in with the sheets for two reasons: my curtains here are really flow-y and are reminiscent of sheets, and it illustrates how everything I learn outside comes into my own space- how I can't leave what I learn outside. I also have the floor plans of each of my rooms- my room here, my room in St. Louis Park, and my room in Portland.
my drawing, showing my bed here. I drew the curtains mixing in with the sheets for two reasons: my curtains here are really flow-y and are reminiscent of sheets, and it illustrates how everything I learn outside comes into my own space- how I can’t leave what I learn outside. I also have the floor plans of each of my rooms- my room here, my room in Minnesota, and my room in Portland.
After this class I take a bus to the main PUCV building in Valparaíso, where I hang out for a couple of hours waiting for my next class.
2-3:30: Chilean Culture and Communication. This is a class through the international student section of the school. All international students have to take a Spanish class, and this is mine. The focus of the class is to learn about Chilean culture and, you guessed it, communication. It meets three times a week, which is more than any of my other classes. We’ve talked some about specific words Chileans use that aren’t used in other parts of the world, the Chilean accent, and Chilean music. My professor starts every class by showing us music by local artists. We’ve also gone on some excursions to the city- one to a pier to observe what we saw looking at the city from the sea, and one last Thursday to look at street art in one of the hills. Some of what we saw follows:
A lot of the art is commissioned by the owners of the buildings, while other pieces of it are left without permission. There’s a huge variety of styles, and some of it is really amazing.
5-7: Modern History and Geography of Chile: This class is directly through CIEE, the program I'm studying abroad through. We meet in a classroom within the CIEE office. We started out talking about the political state of Chile in the 1960's, with Salvador Allende as president. For class tomorrow I have to read a speech he gave to the UN and present an analysis and summary to my peers. I really like the professor for this class, partly because he speaks more clearly than a lot of my professors here, and partly because he's really knowledgable and passionate about the subject.
Wednesdays: 10:05-11:35: I haven’t started this yet, but I’ll be volunteering in an English classroom and helping students practice their English. At the end, I get a certificate from Cambridge!
2-3:30: Chilean Culture and Communication
5:20-6:50: Mapuchan Games. This is another class directly through the university, and I’m honestly not sure why I’m taking it. It’s pretty much a middle school gym class, with the main difference being that all the games we learned are traditional Mapuchan (the local indigenous group) games. It’s definitely interesting, but also really scary. The first week we played Chueca, which is basically floor hockey. Two teams of seven stand in lines facing each other, so that each person has an opponent on the other team. The two people in the middle hit their sticks 3 times before fighting for the (scarily small and hard) ball. Each team is trying to get the ball to go to a goal in opposite directions. Despite directions to not hold the sticks above our waists, my finger was slammed between two sticks at some point while I was trying to get to the ball.
The second game we learned, which we played last week at a local beach, is called Linao. It’s essentially ridiculously intense rugby. Apparently the players would traditionally play it naked (save a loin cloth made of kelp), and greased up for easy escape from the tackles that happen in the game. Each team is trying to get the ball into the other team’s goal, and it’s perfectly fine to tackle, shove, pull, or do anything you can to get the ball from the opposing team. It was kind of scary, but fun to watch other people get so into the game. The name of the game apparently literally translates into “battle for the ball,” and I believe it. At points of the game we had pile ups of a good 15 people, with the poor person holding the ball stuck at the bottom. There were times I was shoved and stepped on as people tried to get past me to get to the ball. It made me miss flag football.
Thursdays: 2-3:30 Chilean Culture and Communcation
Fridays: 4:40-6:10ish: Camping Techniques/Outdoor Education. I’ve only been to one section of this class so far, but it sounds like we’re going to be learning about how to properly camp and teach others how to camp, as well as go on excursions to nearby mountains and stuff. I’m really excited (though a little nervous about the intensity of the excursions, but it should be fine).
Saturdays and Sundays: trips with my host family, exploring the cities with friends, and, coming up…
A TRIP TO PATAGONIA! That’s right, a three days from now I will be on a bus heading to Santiago, where I’ll spend the night before flying out Friday morning to PATAGONIA! I’m super pumped that I’m able to squeeze this in. It’ll be a really busy few days. Our current plan is to stay in Punta Arenas, and take a very long day trip to Torres del Paine (5 hours away, but there are tour companies that do it) on Saturday. On Sunday we’ll hopefully visit a penguin colony (pretty much a lifelong dream of mine), and we’ll come back on Monday. I’m very, very excited.
So there you have it, what my typical week approximately looks like! There are so many random things that happen that there’s no way I can describe what any of my days are really like. Some highlights from the past week include: a guy getting onto one of my buses and live rapping to some reggaeton (which is surprisingly popular here) (and he did it well), a stray dog walking with my class on our excursion to the hills for 90 minutes straight (and another that ran along with my group for 19 km on a biking tour of the city), hearing my host mom make a pun about the lentil soup I was eating (it’s called lenteja- comela o dejala [eat it or leave it {“deja” sounds like “teja,” the second part of the word}]), and getting my host niece really angry at me because she took my watch and I kept asking for it back (picture below).
(she wasn't really mad, but kept making this really cute angry face)
(she wasn’t really mad, but kept making this really cute angry face)
I’m generally enjoying myself, and I’ll continue to say that I’m learning a lot! 
Email me with any questions or funny jokes! rekidder@lclark.edu