13 April 2015

Observations

I think part of the beauty of a study abroad experience like mine is the simplicity of it- my day to day life consists of living with a family in Chile. That means that although I don’t have thrilling adventure after adventure, I do get to know the ins and outs of life here, and get to become comfortable in the nuances of living in Chile as a foreigner.
Here are some quick observations and stories from the last couple of weeks:
1) A few days ago I saw ten dogs all crossing the street at the same time. I counted. There were ten. I was waiting on one side of the street for the light to turn green, and directly across from me stood ten dogs, and maybe two people. As soon as the light turned, all ten dogs trotted across the street, weaving between me and the other people crossing the other way. All ten made it safely across. The dogs here are seen as a nuisance by much of the population, but I kind of love them.
2) Last week I went to Ruby Tuesday with a few friends. I’ve never even been to a Ruby Tuesday in the US, but we were all craving hot wings and were about ready to ride two hours on a bus to Santiago to get some, before finding out there was a Ruby Tuesday in Viña that had them. Our waiter definitely hated us. We all got combinations of hot wings and buffalo chicken tenders, as well as fries, drinks (it was happy hour!), and dessert. We also all spent way too much money. It was probably worth it.
at Ruby Tuesday- you might spot some LC faces in there!
3) My host family got a bunny. His name is Pascual and he likes to cuddle.
cuddling with Pascual
4) I think I dreamt in Spanish, but then I also dreamt that I was telling someone that I dreamt in Spanish right afterwards, so I’m not sure.
5) I’m not sure my Spanish is getting better, but my English is definitely getting worse. I keep putting my order in the wrong words.
6) It’s still really hard for me to speak in Spanish in conversational settings. Put me in a classroom and I’ll say super profound things, but put me around a dinner table and I’ll say two words in the hour and a half that we’re sitting there. I can definitely understand way more now than I could a month and a half ago, but by the time I formulate something to add to the conversation, the topic has shifted. Add to this that I’m normally a pretty introverted person, and it’s a surprise I manage to talk at all.
7) Today I rode a micro (the local bus) home that was fuller than any micro I’ve been on thus far. To add to it, elderly people kept getting on at each stop. It’s polite (as it is in the US) to offer your seat to an elderly person if there are no other seats, but that was nearly impossible twenty minutes into the ride because there was literally no space to move around the people standing in the aisles in order to make space for others to take your seat. I was stressed.
8) The other day in class I accidentally pronounced “Putaendo” (a small town in Chile that was the location of a story we read) wrong, putting the emphasis in such a way that it made it sound like I was swearing in Spanish, and my professor laughed for like a whole minute straight.
9) Sometimes I say things that I know are grammatically correct and still get blank stares from people. It's stressful because I'm doing the best I can, and accents are something you can only control so much.
10) Last week, there was a national empanada day in the US. I celebrated by trying to find an empanada before class, but due to time constraints we ended up going to the stand in the back of Jumbo, a supermarket (and an experience) right next to the main building of campus. I had the first disappointing empanada of my time here. But I also had my first egg roll of my time here. It was probably worth it.
11) I think I have turned into an ice cream cone. It was probably worth it.
12) My host family’s dog (Benito) will follow me for blocks and blocks, whenever I walk anywhere. I like him a lot.
Benito likes to stick his head through the window
13) I’ve been feeling a lot of homesickness for both Portland and Minneapolis, and it's hard knowing that as soon as I get back to the States, I’ll probably feel that for here, too. I wish it was easier to focus on where you are and not on where you could be.
14) It’s also hard to focus on being here when I’m talking with both of my advisor’s about doing theses and am registering for classes, but I think I’ve finally figured out my plan for next year, and that’s a good feeling. A few nights ago my host parents really sweetly started giving me advice for thesis topics and telling me about all of the environmental issues here. I can't realistically use any of the topics (because they don't have the depth that the department looks for), but it was really sweet and definitely helped me brainstorm. I feel so much love from them, and it's a good feeling.
15) On Good Friday I went to an orchestra/choir concert in the chapel of my university, which is Catholic. All the music was performed by students, and was really beautiful. I think we were the only students there. I tripped on the kneeling benches because I have very little experience walking in Catholic chapels, but it was a cool experience.
16) Easter candy doesn’t go on sale the day after Easter in Jumbo the same way it goes on sale at grocery stores in the US. I bought some anyway.
17) I’m slightly worried about coming back to the US lactose intolerant because all the milk I have here is lactose free, but I think I eat enough ice cream that I’ll be okay.
18) Two of my classes have been talking about Chilean history, especially that of the 60s/70s/80s (from when Allende [the first socialist democratically elected as president in the world] was elected, to the military coup that overthrew Allende and resulted in his death, and the Pinochet dictatorship that followed). Really horrible things happened, and really horrible things were supported by the US, and it’s making me think about my role as a US American in the world, and why the US education system doesn’t teach much about these things (especially before college).
19) I’ve been hearing a lot of US news via social media, and I’m curious how much of it I’m not hearing, and how much of the Chilean news I am hearing is news in the US. Do people in the US know about the floods in northern Chile right now? Do they know about the volcano, or the fire that happened here a few weeks ago? Do they know about the corruption scandal surrounding Michelle Bachelet’s son? Likewise, what is happening in the US besides people announcing their candidacy for president and the drought in California? I feel pretty out of the loop, but it definitely puts perspective on the news I've heard in the US versus what is going on in the broader world.
20) I rode the metro the other day. It was very clean and quiet.
21) I have found the perfect empanada- actually, two in one day! It's been a mission of mine since I got here, but all of the empanadas I'd had were honestly a little disappointing. Not these two! I'll need to make sure to go back.
22) I’ll never not love living by the ocean. The other day, it was the same color as the sky. The clouds were all flat on the bottom and were at the same level as each other and it looked like they were rising up out of the water on the horizon.
23) I went to a wine festival last weekend. It was really fun- it was half like a block party for the small town it was in, and half like a wine tasting. There were lots of kids running around, people demonstrating the national dance (the cueca), and lots of people drinking wine.
the square where the wine festival was held in Casablanca
24) I’ve gotten used to Chilean money. It’s very colorful and each bill is a different size. Each bill also has a person’s portrait on one side, and a landscape on the other. One of the bills has Gabriela Mistral, a female poet, pictured. I think that’s really cool. I’ve also gotten really good at converting between pesos and USD based on a gut feeling. Brains are cool. Today I estimated that 30,000 pesos is about $45 (it’s $48) on a gut feeling.
25) Last weekend I wandered around Cerro Barón with a friend. It turned out to be a mostly residential hill, and we got a few glares from people sitting in front of their houses. Eventually we stumbled across a soccer game and we sat and watched it for about half an hour. We were basically the only people in the stands. We almost witnessed a fight on the field, but it was broken up. It was oddly therapeutic.
I could go on! Everything is still great here; I just need to remember to keep focusing on the details and finding beauty in the small things. As should everyone all the time!
If you have any questions about my time here, LC, or anything else, email me at rekidder@lclark.edu! And to those of you hearing back from schools around right now, I hope you're figuring everything out and feeling the support you need. My number one piece of advice is to go with your gut, and don't worry about asking too many questions!
Rebecca