10 May 2015

Hola hola!

Hello readers!

While everyone else just finished up their school year (including graduating, for some!), I'm still here in Chile and am in the middle of midterms!

That means you get another whole two months of updates from me!

My program ends two months from today- July 10. My dad and sister are coming down the next day and I'm going to show them around Valpo for a few days before heading off to Peru with them to see Cusco and Machu Picchu.

But until then, I'm busy with school and travel and everything else I'm doing while I'm here. Right now, it's midterms. Last week I had an essay in my culture/communication class worth 30% of my grade, and two days later I had a presentation in the same class worth 40% of my grade- which was a little bit stressful, because we've had very few other graded things throughout the semester. But both went well and now the worst of it is over!

On top of that, I have a test on Tuesday in my contemporary history class that's pretty much our first real graded assignment of the semester. I'm pretty stressed about it, but am well on my way with studying.

That's one of the biggest differences I've noticed between school here and in LC. Even though the bulk of my grade in my LC classes has been from my tests and essays, most professors also give readings and smaller assignments almost every class to help keep you on track in your learning and to add to what you talk about in class. Here, you go to class and occasionally have a test or project that's worth a large section of your grade, and rarely is there other work. My history class has had a lot of readings, but it's also all gringos and taught more similarly to what I'm used to. My culture/communication class is somewhere in between- we generally have about one reading outside of class for every three classes, plus our big presentation and the occasional essay. A little bit further down the spectrum is my "urban spaces" art class, where we have readings and assignments but have yet to see any grades on any of them. I have absolutely no idea what my grade is. It's really stressing me out, but based on how laid back everyone is, I don't think it should be. Then, on the complete other end of the spectrum, is my camping techniques/outdoor education class. We have never had homework. Half the students didn't show up until a month and a half into the semester. Everything that happens in that class is ridiculous.

This past weekend I went camping with that class. It was pretty fun, though kind of weird. We met near a plaza in Viña to load our backpacks into the trunk of one of our professor's cars, then all took a bus to a weird camp thing about 30 minutes north of the city in Con Con (also spelled Concón- I've seen it both ways and still don't know if one is "correct"). I think it may have been someone's private property? I'm not sure, but there was a house (with people in it) right next to where we set up our tents. We had a bunch of "lessons" (how to set up a tent, how to pack a backpack, etc) as well as downtime to go kayaking and arranged periods to play group games in.

Most of the games were typical (like where you sit in a circle and make a beat and each person has a number and you have to keep the rhythm going while calling each other's numbers and responding when your own is called), but we did a "team building" game this morning that involved us strapping one of our classmates into a harness and lowering her from a tree branch to grab some candy from the ground... which would have been fine if it was, you know, safe, but we had to tie the knots and figure out the belay system all on our own (with now prior knowledge for most of us) and it could have easily turned out badly. Which it didn't, but, you get my point.

What else made this trip "weird," you might ask? For one, it was for a class where we learn things such as "leave no trace," yet our professors were stomping through the plants and off the trail everywhere we went. Plus there were a bunch of small things- all of the groups independently decided to make pasta for lunch and tacos for dinner. We had a class about using the stars to determine what direction we were facing and my professor picked up semi-dried animal poop and arranged it to show us where the stars were. My tentmates decided to not stake out our rain fly (which is one of the steps of setting up a tent) and we still got full marks on our "tent grade." One group somehow forgot to bring a tent, and food. A guy forgot shoes. Everything was just kind of weird.

It was fun, though, and I feel like I have a few more Chilean friends now.

Besides that, I've been up to various other things! Like visiting Mendoza last weekend, which is a city on the Argentine side of the Andes. It was beautiful. We visited four wineries, went to some hot springs, and got to drive across the Andes- twice!

one of the wineries
A bridge by the hot springs
driving through the mountains
We also had a party last week to inaugurate my program's new building downtown. They held it on the roof of the building at sunset- it was gorgeous. They served us cocktails and hor d'oeuvres and everything felt really fancy.
the view from the roof of the building
That's all I have for this week. Please email me at rekidder@lclark.edu if you have any questions about anything!