Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why spanish is hard.

Yes, I admit it: I'm a failed blogger. I had all these goals before coming about all the incredible things I would show to the hoards of people who read my blog, and basically, it hasn't exactly worked out. The thing is, when you're in another country on exchange, you only have 5 months or a year or 6 weeks in the summer or whatever it is to enjoy your time, and this time should be spent doing things besides blogging. Even so, I'll try to keep a little more updated in the next 3 weeks, because I have some fun things planned and this makes it super easy to share.

However, the theme of today is the spanish language. I feel like after 4+ months in a spanish speaking country, I am expert enough to share my feelings about the language and speaking and reading and learning and everything. So let's get started!

Coming down, a lot of people told me, "spanish, how easy! you'll learn it super fast, it's a super easy language, blah blah blah". And yes, I acknowledge (spelling?) that it's probably an easier language to learn than some (arabic, russian, thai, to name a few), but learning a new language in general is ridiculously hard, and every single exchange student has to know that before coming down. I had 4 full years in school of spanish, and upon arriving, I was basically lost. It took about a month to feel confident enough to have a one on one conversation and by about 4 months, I could participate in a group conversation of 6 people or so. But more than that, or when I'm tired, I still have trouble understanding.

On the speaking front, I've obviously improved, especially with my vocabulary, but grammar still haunts me. It's complicated! When you write a language it's a lot easier because you have the time to think and plan each sentence, but while talking you have to form the sentence super quickly and say it while it's still relevant in the conversation. Do you know how hard that is? Of course it's easier to comprehend someone else talking, because you only have to understand every word in 3 or so, but to respond coherently is way different.

The other thing I want to say is that english is DEFINITELY difficult. The verb forms are pretty straightforward but with tons of exceptions, there's some tricky prepositions and such, but I think the thing most difficult is that the pronunciation isn't straightforward. In spanish, the "a" always sounds the same, every word, every time. In english, you don't know if it's an "ehh" sound, an "ahh" sound, an "aehh" sound....I could go on forever, practically.

So now I will start my list of all the hard things about Spanish:

  • Usted/ Tu
In spanish, there's a different form of speaking when speaking with "respect". I still have trouble with it--when talking with the teachers I have to practically scream at myself in my head "don't forget to use the "usted" form!". I've embarassed myself multiple times addressing people with the "tu" form when I should have used "usted", but for the most part, people are super understanding and helpful. 
  • Generos!
In spanish, every single noun has a "genero": masculine or feminine. In general, the words that end in "a" are feminine, and the words that end in "o" are masculine, but there are billions of exceptions and what about the words that don't end in O or A? So besides remembering which "the" form to use, you have to remember which "a" form to use (i.e, I want a grape) AND with adjectives, you have to use the right form too! It get's more complicated than that too, which I'll try to explain to everyone.

If someone asks me, "which apple do you want?", apple is feminine (manzana). But if I want to say, I want the red one (i.e, not saying the subject directly), I have to say "Quiero la roja". That means I have to remember to use "la" AND "rojA", because we're talking about a manzanA. Every single time, you have to remember what you're talking about so that you use the correct form! Do you know how hard that is?
  • Subjunctive
There's this separate verb for in spanish called subjunctive that doesn't really exist in english, and you have to learn all the places to use it. This is the part of spanish that I'm just starting to approach, 4 months after arriving. I don't care what you folks at home say, but we never really learned how to use subjunctive in class. This means that complicated sentences are practically impossible to say, so I usually just say them in a simpler (is that a word) tense and my friends correct me. 

"I hoped it would rain but it didn't." Esperaba que blahblahblah some subjunctive period.

 "If I would have had a bird when I was little, I would have named him Lorenzo". No idea how to say that. Not sure if I'd ever need to say that, though... 

  • Imperfect/Preterit
Two forms of past--long term and short term. Sure, there's rules, and I learned them, but I never really know which is better, so I just use one or the other. I feel like this is something that you pick up just by hearing spanish every day, so let's hope that I've improved! 

  • Por/Para
Two forms for the word "for". WHY, SPANISH? WHY?
  • Speed
Imitate spanish: it's usually a very noise. I finally realized why we always think it's so fast: it legit has less words in each sentence! This makes it harder for two reasons: 1, comprehension needs to take place a lot faster, and 2, to respond at a "native" speed is a lot faster, because the words need to leave your mouth faster. Example:

Spanish: quiero ir al mall (4 words)
English: I want to go to the mall (7 words)

Spanish: ¿Te gustaria ir alla? (4 words)
English: Would you like to go over there? (7 words)

  • Accents
Words have very specific accents. Usually it's on the second to last sylable, but if it's not there, you have to mark it with an accent mark! But there's some crazy rules involved and I never remember what words have accents or not. One of the harder pairs:

memoria (the accent is on the O, second to last sylable, following the rule (un grave))
baterìa (the accent's the wrong way, but the accent is on the I, even though both words end in RIA!)

The truth is, I could go on forever. I adore spanish, and finally feel like it's sinking in, and I can say everything that I want to say or express (with exceptions like politics, but I'm getting better!) but with good grammar? No way. I read people saying sometimes, "Oh, I went to (insert country name here) knowing none of the language and was fluent in 3 months". I'm sorry, I can't believe it. Maybe you could carry on conversations after 3 months, but fluent? I can't believe it. Maybe I'm a wierd failure, but I'm definitely not fluent after 4 whole months including background training! Fluid, maybe. Fluent? No way.

So good luck, all of you future exhangers. Do all you can to learn the language--ask questions, write down vocabulary, and most of all, TALK. Talk to everyone. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, but don't let yourself get down if you're not progressing as fast as you'd like to be. I wanted to be practically fluent after 5 months, and now I know that's not possible, and I've accepted it. I'm going to come back obviously better than before, but I still have a long way to go.

Wow! That was a lot. I hope I didn't scare anyone. But I'm still having a great time and not ready to come back!

Hope you're all doing great, and I'll try to write again super soon,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Three Favorite Things

So I was just chilling at school today talking with my classmates when one of them asked me what my favorite thing about Chile is. And the question, quite frankly, took me by surprise. I mean, I've now passed two thirds point of my exchange, and I never had spent a lot of time thinking about what my favorite thing is. But here's the basic summary of my response.

1. Bread
Pan Batido
This is the first thing that came to my head, which is a little sad, and everyone around laughed. But it's true--one of my favorite things here is the bread. There's two main types: hallulla and pan batido (I think that's what they call it!). And unlike the bread in the states, this bread comes fresh from the baker every two days or so. And it's ridiculously delicious. I eat it WAY too much. I eat a piece for breakfast, a piece for onces (a really light dinner at like 7,8 o'clock) and sometimes a piece after school. I swear to you, it's the reason I weight 4 kilos more than I did three and a half months ago. It's heavenly. It's incredible. Pan de molde (normal, bagged bread) is frowned upon here, for good reason. Who would want bread in a bag when you can have some of the best bread ever baked on the planet?

2. The Mountains
After taking a few seconds to think, I came up with a halfway respecable answer: the mountains. Everyone knows about the Andes, but there's another row of mountains along the coast, and Rancagua happens to be in the valley directly in between the two. I remember driving to Rancagua that first day and just being in awe at the sheer size of these things rising up on either side of the car--it's definitely not something you see in Wisconsin!
Recently, it's been getting colder (duh, it's winter here) but also a little cloudy (just weather wise and also because of pollution). But it rained on Sunday night/Monday morning, which clears everything up quite nicely. So I was walking to the little store outside of school at lunch with some friends on Monday afternoon and I looked up and...I can't even begin to describe it. The sun was at that late afternoon stage so the mountains closer were this rusty brown color, while the taller/farther away mountains were covered, and I mean COVERED in snow! It was beautiful--I had to stop and just stare. Every day I wake up and think of how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful place. I get excited every time I look out a window. I'll try to take some pictures next time I remember.

3. My Classmates
Finally I came up with the real answer. Third time's the charm! My classmates are incredible. They've been helpful from the first week, putting up with my thousands (legit thousands) of questions each and every day. They're curious about my life and share their own culture with me. They invite me to do things, they let me copy the dictation that the teacher is saying too fast for me to write down, they share their last peach slice with me...every single person in that classroom (and the other terceros next door) have only been welcoming. Naturally, there are different degrees of welcomingness, but I've been blessed with an incredible group of 27 other students at school, and I couldn't imagine my exchange without them.

Can you find me? I'm in red.

So there you go, my three favorite things. I could go on and on and on about things I like in Chile but that'd take too long and I have to go back to school to take a physics test. Wish me luck!

Thinking of all of you,

P.S. Whoa! I think it just temblored--a mini-earthquake. There was a 5.4 one on Sunday morning. I get really excited by them, as long as no one dies. It's just something I've never experienced. The windows were shaking really really loud and I was getting frustrated since the noise woke me up, but then I realized it was a tremor and I felt better. Don't worry though, we had an earthquake drill at school last week so I know what to do if a big one hits!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


As a lowly outbound sitting in front of my computer back in Wisconsin reading the AFS blog website, one of the things I really disliked was reading about the orientations in each country with the other exchange students. I always thought, "why is this so exciting?". However, my mindset has completely been changed after my first AFS orientation here in Chile. I can't even begin to describe how incredible it was, but I'll do my best here to try to explain the epic-ness of an AFS orientation.

My orientation was the kids from near Santiago, and we all met up in Santiago in a religious monastery sort of thing. There was 20 of us in total, and one of the funniest things about it was that 11 of the 20 kids spoke German as their native language, and 9 who spoke a language that wasn't German (i.e. English (me and my friend Parker), Swedish, Thai, French, Danish and Icelandic.) So it ended up being a lot of German, which was actually fun. Now I can say the 4 most important things that an exchanger should know before going to their new country in German:
  • Yes
  • No
  • I don't know
  • I don't understand
But actually, everyone should learn those before leaving. When people ask you a question, that should also be the order of responses when you try to answer if you don't understand. Ask any exchange student. It's true.

 I also know "I don't like sushi", but that's not something essential to know when you go on exchange.

The kids at the orientation were a mix of year long students who arrived last August, year long students who arrived last February (with me), and semester students who arrived in February (like me!). The whole point of this camp was just to make sure we're still doing fine--not too many problems with school, host families, life in general. But no one would want to spend a whole weekend in Santiago doing orientation activities, so we also went and saw some of the classic sights in Santiago--Cerros Santa Lucia and San Cristobol, went on a tour of El Mercurio (a national newspaper here), met with the sub-mayor of one of the wealthiest areas in Santiago, and took the metro. A lot. I like the metro. Here are some photos of some of the things we did:

Parker (New Hampshire) and me at Santa Lucia

Me, Laura (the Swiss exchange student in my class) and Parker with part of Santiago in the background

At the top of Santa Lucia (after hundreds of stairs!) with Lucas (Germany)

The pollution in Santiago makes for incredible sunsets
At Cerro San Cristobol

 So that was fun. When we weren't out exploring Santiago, we were doing said orientation activities (which varied in excitingness) and just talked with eachother. And that's why these orientations are so great.

The other exchange students immediately understand you. They speak not-perfect Spanish with you and understand your feelings about leaving Chile and can relate to the problems with your least favorite teacher. They dance bad Cueca and Salsa with you (yes, we had a Cueca (national dance of Chile) lesson at the orientation and it was an epic fail) and you can stay up until 2 or even 4 in the morning (oops!) talking with them. They teach your their original language and you teach them yours. After 3 nights together, it feels like you're a family and have known eachother forever, but you really haven't. It's crazy.

So Sunday afternoon, we all had to say goodbye. We hugged and promised to meet up somewhere in the world, someday. Everyone has invitations to everyone else's host communities. And then we all got on our respective busses and went back to our host families.

It was great seeing my family again, especially because Alex (dad) is back from his job in Antofagasta for a couple weeks so the family is complete again. It was great seeing my classmates and getting back into the swing of things, especially with my Spanish, which seems to have reached a little bit of a breakthrough (knock on wood!). But I'll never forget those other exchange students. They're incredible. They're what makes AFS so great.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I know, I had a little lapse there in my blogging, but I have an exciting thing for you this fine weekend: Alianzas! From what I can tell, the vast majority of high schools in Chile put on this thing called an Alianza. I had a lot of trouble finding a good translation for it when I was talking to friends and family until I had a conversation with my English teacher, and she pointed out that it was a lot like a field day. So then: an Alianza is sort of like a field day with competitions between the grades, and it was last Saturday.

Usually, the Alianzas are held twice a year, and like I said, are a competition. In my school, the school is split into two: one half is on the team of the Cuartos (senior year equivalent) and the other have is the Terceros (junior year, my grade!). Some of the competitions this year included eating spaghetti, making a dress out of recycled materials, blowing ping pong balls from one cup filled with water to another, impersonating Lady Gaga...the list goes on. But every year there are two things that are the same: a competition to decorate the gym, and a 10 minute or so choreographed dance.

Each group picked a theme, and because of me, my grade decided that our theme was to be "USA". That's sort of awkward! But it had a really key color group that made decorating fantastic.

We spent the entire week leading up to the Alianza at school after classes blowing up balloons, painting banners, and learning the dances. I can't tell you how many red, white, and blue balloons I blew up and tied together, but by the end, everything looked fantastic. We had a New York skyline and everything.

One of the weirder things about the USA theme was that it made me really aware of the stereotypes everyone has towards the US. A lot of people think that the only places worth visiting are California, New York, and Miami, that we treat Obama as a god figure...everyone is appalled that I've never been to Las Vegas. It was sort of weird. I've never been that much of a patriotic person, but by the end of the week, EVERYONE was fired up to represent the US at the Alianza--a lot of them more than I was!

After the week of preparing that I was talking about, we stayed at school until 10 on Friday to decorate before going to a classmate's house to practice the dances even more. After a full week of school, that was pretty exhausting, but I ended up learning most of them to perform the following day.

Saturday, I woke up at 7 (that's earlier than I wake up for school here!) to go BACK to school to put the final touches on everything, and before we knew it, it was 9 and time to perform the dance! The "dance" isn't a very good way to describe what we had to do--it had to be a medley of songs that told a story relating to the theme, and it was worth a BUNCH of points in the competition so it was super important that we did a good job. And lucky for all of you, someone recorded it and put it on youtube so you all can watch us/me!

So there you go. Go watch it. In case you can't find me, I'm the only one that's a normal height and light hair. I'm wearing a red shirt and jean shorts.

But overall, it went really well, and all the dances "left" me (me salieron in spanish, and I can't think of a way to say that in English). The rest of the morning was spent watching the other Alianza perform, cheering during the competitions, and chatting in the bleachers.

Finally, at about 1, the Alianza was over, and they said the scores: 14500 to 16500 points. We thought we had lost--there was some drama earlier in the week regarding point values and we weren't looking too good. But then they announced it: we had won! Everyone was screaming, jumping up and down, and some people were crying. It was quite the happy environment.

After that, the place was trashed, so we spent some time cleaning up before I finally got to head home and lay down for a bit. That night, we went to a different classmate's house to celebrate, which was really fun. It was an exhausting weekend but completely worth it--all the hard work everyone, including me, put in made me really feel like part of the Terceros, which is a great feeling.

What else is new in my life? I officially passed the halfway mark last week, which completely freaked me out. I'm feeling a lot more confident about my Spanish but still have days where I feel like I can't say anything. I officially grew out of a pair of pants, it's getting colder, and life is getting more and more "normal" here every day. It's crazy. I can't adequately describe to you the emotions you feel on one of these exchanges, especially because it changes practically every minute. But overall, everything is incredible. I'm doing so many fun things, like participating in the Alianza. It's a blast.

And to wrap it up, I wanted to announce the birth of my child, "501 Spanish Verbs". He has a stroller and everything!

Haha, or should i say "jaja", like they say here. I joke with my friends that when I carry it around it's just a sign that says "Hey, I'm a foreigner!", not that I'm not obvious enough already. He's quite helpful, though--for all of you potential exchangers out there: GO TO YOUR COUNTRY WITH A VERY GOOD DICTIONARY. That's key--I don't know how people could forget one! Also, if Barron's offers a "501 ______ Verbs" in the language, I'd really reccomend getting it. It's super helpful to have the verb forms just laid out in front of you when you're confused about something.

Hope you're all still doing well and enjoying the great weather up north. It's just getting colder and colder here....


PS: Shout out to Grandma, I'm glad someone's still reading this thing! A letter will be in the mail in the next week.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Weekend in Chile

I recently realized that no one really knows how I spend my free time. In general, I do a lot of the same things I do in the States--eat, sleep, do homework, and hang out with my friends (yep, I have friends!). But this weekend was full of fun things, so I've decided to give a play-by-play so you can all see how I spend my time!

Friday: I get out of school at 2:30 which is nice and early. I just chilled during the afternoon and went to spinning at the gym at 8:30 with my sister and her friend. The spinning instructor's name is Antonio, and to be honest, I have a little crush. (We've never talked, though).
When we got out of spinning and after I did my planks (I'm trying to stay in shape a bit here...) we took our showers and then Paula (sister) and Valeria (friend) started talking about the party at one of the other schools downtown. Paula really wanted to go, but no one would go with her, but we mutually decided in about 15 minutes to go! Why not? We all said.

So Paula and I came home (Valeria's family was going to pick us up a little later), had a snack, and got dressed. We got picked up at 11, a normal time for going out, danced and hung out, and got picked up at 1 ("early" because we had things to do the next day at school). Valeria and I even got in one of the pictures that the people who put on the party take, which was quite the accomplishment. It's a horrible picture of me, but here it is:

So we got home at around 1:20 and I was absolutely exhausted so I went right to bed.

Saturday: My alarm went off bright and early at 8:15, more than three hours earlier than my normal wake up time on a Saturday. But I had to go to Dia Del Libro at school, or Book Day! Let's just say it was pretty un-epic. The math and humanities kids had booths, but me, a science kid, didn't, so I alternated my time between the other two groups, socializing and just hanging out.

Dia Del Libro ended at 1, and after that I went to McDonald's with three classmates. I know, it's pathetic, but they like it a lot and being the American that I am they assume I eat it all the time. A secret? I can't remember the last time I had a hamburger at McDonald's, but I had one on Saturday, and it was delicious. I had a lot of fun with them, just hanging out and eating--after nine weeks here it's really rewarding to be able to participate in a normal conversation with classmates, gossiping, laughing, and just hanging out.

Javiera and me with our hamburgers
After McDonald's, we were planning on going over to another classmate's house to work on a history project, but had some time to burn so we went over to a plaza nearby and played on the playground (which I've definitely done in the States too). It was a nice day (it's been starting to get a little cold) so it was wonderful to just sit outside and enjoy the weather. 

 At three we headed over to the classmate's house to "work on history" but we ended up watching a soccer game (University of Chile vs. Colo Colo. U of Chile won in like the last five minutes and one of the boys was super upset the rest of the afternoon). So we didn't get too much work done, but it was fun!

At 7ish, the boys left, and the girls stayed back to have Onces (which is like a teatime but dinner too). It's usually tea or coffee and bread with some sort of topping. At 9, we went over to another classmate's house for a get together where ate snack food and just sat around talking. I was exhausted by then, but participated in the conversation when I could, and felt happy curled up next to the fire with my classmate's cat in my lap.

Javiera's mom came to pick us up at midnight, and I got home about 12:20. After such a long day, I went straight to bed again, waking up at 11:30 the next morning. Now that's more like it!

Sunday: After waking up, I caught up on my journalling, and decided to go to the gym about 12:25 (it closes at 2 on Sundays). But being the very intelligent person that I am, I forgot that it was "Dia del Trabajador" or Worker's day (May Day). I walk into the gym parking lot and the guard stopped me and said "Where are you going?". "To the gym?" I responded, and he told me it was closed for Dia del Trabajador. I felt a little sad but I was proud for having that whole entire conversation in Spanish without asking him to repeat himself. I even called him "usted" which is a problem I've been having lately!

Anyways, I headed back home, did homework, ate lunch, watched some TV, did some more homework, and skyped with my family and a few friends (Sunday night is usually my skype time). I ended the weekend watching my favorite TV show "Mi Nombre Es" where Chileans dress up as celebrity singers and sing and get judged about how close they are in appearance and voice. It's quite entertaining. Last week was Miley Cyrus, and I had to take a picture she looked so similar.
HOW SCARY IS THAT!??! I was screaming to my host brother in the other room (watching the same program) I was so excited.

But there you go--just an average weekend in Chile! I'm still enjoying myself ridiculously and my English is falling apart. It's crazy that in two weeks I'm halfway done with this crazy trip. I'm having the time of my life. I really am.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

to school!

I live a half of a kilometer from my school, Colegio Ingles Saint John, and walk there every morning. I took some pictures on my way there recently so you can see what my walk to school looks like!

It's different in a lot of ways--in Wisconsin, it takes me about 25 minutes to walk to school (walking very, very slowly) and is about a mile away. Here, I leave some days at 7:57 to get to school by 8 (I have to walk SUPER fast but I usually make it in time). I really enjoy living so close!

So without further ado, here's the tour!

NOTE: It's not actually this light in the mornings anymore--daylight savings doesn't start until May 7th or something like that, so it's pretty dark in the mornings. I took these pictures on a Saturday when I had to go to school for an extracurricular activity (look at me, getting involved!).

Here's the house across the street that you see as you leave the front gate. The pink is a recent addition.

You turn to the left and walk down Los Coligues (my street), until you reach the far intersection.

Here's that intersection I was talking about. You turn to the left here.

Here's the view facing left:

If you look in the previous picture, you can see a sports court in the distance. You walk to the sports court and turn right before it into an alleyway sort of thing. 

Here's the alleyway. You walk down to the end....

Halfway there! 

We've made it to the intersection! You're looking to the left in this picture. See the white building in the center of the picture? That's the church next to my school (no affilation).

The white building on the left side of this picture is that church I was talking about. And the building next to it is my school! You just walk down this sidewalk 100 feet and the entrance is right there. We made it!

And here are some bonus pictures of my life!

My favorite local office supply store, which is convienently across the street from my school.

 My casita :) It's really starting to feel like home, which is a crazy feeling. Every house has that gate in front.
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One day recently, the sky was clear for the first time in awhile and all of a sudden I looked up and saw the mountains and they were covered in SNOW! It was breathtaking. I tried to take a picture, but it didn't turn out very well, but here it is anyways. If you look closely you can see the mountains in the distance! I hear it very rarely snows in Rancagua but an hour or so into the mountains there's snow. I love being near the mountains. It's gorgous. I can't begin to describe it.

What else is new? Everything is starting to feel normal. I can communicate relatively well (with horrible grammar but people understand). I've improved tons and tons and tons. School is going fine, I use the exchange student excuse to get out of history and psychology tests occasionally but I fully participate in the rest of the classes and even get better grades on the tests than the Chileans sometimes! It's starting to get chilly here, I weighed myself recently and gained 3 kilos in seven weeks, I recieved two letters on Wednesday, which absolutely made my day.... (I think I'll do a post about the mail sometime in the near future). The Calefont (hot water heater) broke on Thursday so I showered with a pot of hot water we heated on the stove, which made me feel very rustic, but they fixed it yesterday. I'm really enjoying myself. It's ridiculously hard, but ridiculously rewarding as well.

That's all for now. I have to go do some math homework and study for biology. But I mentioned letters and I'd love to recieve one from any of you! Email me if you need to know my address. (Plus, if I recieve a letter, you're probably going to get one back!).


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Milk and Milo

I'm from Wisconsin, the milk and cheese state. So coming here, the change in milk was a big shock. It comes in boxes (I knew that before coming, but still), isn't refrigerated until it's opened, and tastes....strange. It's hard to describe, but it tastes gross enough that you can't drink it plain. So I drink it with Milo!

What's Milo? you might ask. It's basically hot chocolate mix. You mix it into the milk and it tastes good. Probably because it's chocolate. I drink Milo in the mornings with breakfast with hot milk and usually a glass when i come home from school.

This blog post will be a detailed summary of how to heat up the milk and add Milo. Okay, it's not super difficult, but it's a part of my life here. And this blog is supposed to be about the random details in my life, right?

1. Pour the milk-from-a-box into a cup to measure how much to heat up.

 2. Pour the milk into the pot used to heat up milk.

3. Use a match (yes, another match!) to light the stove to heat up the milk.

NOTE: I keep meaning to ask about the matches--there only seems to be one brand--"Copihue". Is it a monopoly or something? But they are very nice matches. We have quite the collection.

4. While the milk is heating up, grab the Milo from the shelf next to the stove.

5. When the milk is at the desired temperature, turn off the stove!

6. Pour the milk back into the cup and add 3-4 spoonfuls of Milo.

 7. Stir the milk and Milo until Milo is evenly distributed.

8. Drink!

So now you know. On weekdays, my mom usually heats the milk up for me, so I can sleep a little more. It's very nice to drink something hot in the mornings now that it's getting colder.

I'm home sick today, which is why I'm posting at 11:00 my time. It's just a cold, but I thought it'd be better to stay home and not be miserable at school and get other people sick. I'm going to practice my vocab words again, look up chess and soccer vocab words, and try to find survivor online (CBS doesn't let me watch in Chile.)

Okay, I hope you are all having a fantatsic Wednesday!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Reading is a part of my life. It's importance changes regularly, usually dependent on the amount of homework I have, but the entire Niewold family have always been big readers. So, naturally, I have continued that here.

I brought two books in English and one in Spanish: Twighlight and Catch-22 in English, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azcaban in Spanish (thanks Libby!). I finished Twighlight in a day, am slowly getting through Catch-22 (it's complicated!) and Harry Potter ends up being about a chapter a week, because I have to look up so many words.

However, when I went to the Rodeo (yes, my camera battery died, so I don't have pictures) I met my friend Belen's 10 year old sister Rosario, and we really hit it off. Much to my surprise, the following Monday Belen shows up to school with a little bag full of beginning spanish chapter books! Rosario had put together a collection for me. How cute is that?

These books have big print, about 60 pages, and the occasional picture. On the back, they say "Desde 8 Años", or 8 years and up. And they are just perfect for me! I usually only have to look up a word a page or so and I can follow the plot. They're short enough to keep my attention. I'm so glad Rosario was nice enough to let me borrow them--it's a great activity for Spanish and History classes, since I feel like I'm learning while reading Spanish, but it's something to do in the two classes where I understand nothing.

Reading at school
So far, I've read two: "Siri and Mateo", a story of two youngsters who turn into a cat and a dog respectively when adults aren't looking, and "De carta en carta", about a grandfather and his grandson that are in a fight so they write letters to eachother instead of talking, but they don't know how to read and write so they enlist the help of a writer to write the letters. I haven't finished that one yet. I'll let you know how it ends... suspenseful, huh?

Vocab list for Siri and Mateo
For every book I read (for Harry Potter it's every chapter I read) I make a list of all the new vocab words in a notebook. I bet I remember about a tenth of the words I look up, but looking back on the pages of vocab words makes me realize that I am, in fact, improving my spanish, and it's something to show for reading these books.

For all those potential exchange students out there: I'd really reccomend reading in the new language, however basic it has to be, and keep track of all the words you're looking up. It's a really rewarding activity, and I feel like every time I'm exposed to another word in Spanish I'm more likely to remember it. Once I look up a word and remember the meaning, that's when I can start to understand it in conversation, and after that is when I can start to use it.

What else? I'm doing really well overall. Paula and I are enjoying attending the local gym and my pants are starting to fit less snugly, thank goodness. We went to Aerobics (Baile Entretenido in Spanish--direct translation is "Entertaining Dance") and it was ridiculously fun and ridiculous. My English is continuing to fail me, especially my spelling, so sorry for any typos. I'm still awaiting my package from my family, but I know it's out there somewhere in the world.

Well, off to do English homework, of all things (I have to do the definitions in Spanish), catch up on my journaling, and probably watch some MTV (in English) or Discovery Kids (in Spanish). It's cloudy for the second time since I've been here which makes it start to feel like winter. I hear Madison is having a great day weather-wise. Oh well. I'm in Chile!


PS: I just checked the specifications on the camera battery charger, and it turns out I just need an adaptor, not a transformer! It was great news, since adaptors are a lot cheaper and easier to find. I should have some non-ipod pictures soon, which is good!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hot Water

I've been waiting to write this blog post for awhile, and it can't wait any longer. I just think this is super cool. So here goes!

One thing I didn't realize I took for granted in the States was hot water. It would come out of the shower. It would come out of the sink when I washed my face in the morning. It would be easily accessible for washing dishes. When I got here, that all changed. We have to turn on the hot water here, and turn it off when we're done, with a machine called a Calefont.


The Calefont chills in the kitchen. Every time you want hot water (to take a shower, mostly) you go into the kitchen and light it. Yep, light it. With matches. That's probably the reason I like it so much--if I shower every day (which I usually do), I get to light a match every day too, and those of you that know me well know that I enjoy lighting matches (in a controlled environment of course).

So here's the steps to light our Calefont:

1. Turn yellow knob on bottom pipe
2. Turn grey knob on the Calefont to "encender" (to light) and push it in
3. Light match
4. Stick match into hole in the Calefont until the gas catches fire
5. Wait 15 seconds with grey knob pushed in (in reality, you only need to wait seven or eight seconds)
6. Turn grey knob to "Maximo"
7. Go take your shower/ use hot water!

When you're done:

1. Turn grey knob back to "apogado" (off)
2. Turn yellow knob back to original position
3. Go do other exciting Chilean things

I mean, this is obviously a hassle sometimes too. It's not worth it to light the Calefont to wash your hands/wash your face in the morning, so I do that with cold water, which probably will get pretty brutal as the weather cools down. But I think it's really cool. I don't know how it works exactly in the US but I assume that turning on the hot water automatically turns on the hot water heater which is why it takes a couple seconds for the water to heat up.

The other cool thing is that we keep all the gas on site! I really hope i get to see a gas delivery because the barrels (?) of gas are enormous.

That's all for now: I'm going to a rodeo this afternoon (as a cultural experience) so I'll probably blog about that sometime, if my camera battery lasts long enough. No one wants to read a blog without pictures.

I hope everyone is still alive. I hear it snowed yesterday. That stinks :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

one month.

So here it is: the promised blog post.

Last weekend, I went to downtown Rancagua with two classmates to buy an apron for Chemistry class. It's only about a ten minute collectivo ride from my house (a collectivo is like a taxi but with a set route. It costs about a dollar). It was really fun--the main street was packed, which was quite a contrast to when I went downtown today to withdraw money. My host dad says that Sundays (today) everyone sleeps and Saturdays (last week) is when everyone goes out and shops.

 After we found a nice apron for me to use, we headed up to the main plaza. Rancagua is one of the oldest cities in Chile, and the site of the 1814 "Battle of Rancagua" during Chile's fight for independence. Unfortunately, the Chileans lost in Rancagua, and I'm not quite sure why it's so famous nonetheless, but the government has spent a lot of energy keeping the old parts of Rancagua nice for the historical value.

Just off the square is an old church! I remember seeing pictures of this on Wikipedia when I first found out where I was staying in Chile. However, the pictures on Wikipedia were yellow! I asked about it, and it turns out the two towers fell down in the earthquake last year so the church had to be rebuilt and they repainted it red. It's a gorgous church though, and I'd love to go inside next time I'm downtown. I've been talking with the other exchange student in my class (from Switzerland) and someday soon we'd like to go down and be tourists for the day.

 Off of the plaza, there was this little shop, and we walked in intending to get drinks, but it turns out it was an empanada shop! Empanadas are pockets of bread with fillings. There are lots of different types of fillings--meat, cheese, veggies, all that good stuff. They're a traditional Chilean food, and I hadn't had one yet, so my compañeras insisted that we all get some. I got the traditional "flavor": pino, which is meat, onions, raisins, and olives. Then the fold the filling up into a thin bread, sort of, and usually deep fry  them (but this one was baked, I think). All in all, it was delicious. They say that there is another shop with a bunch of different obscure varieties of empanadas (sort of like Ian's Pizza in Madison, I think, but with empanadas).

On a different note, Friday was my "one month in Chile" anniversary. It's incredible how fast it's gone. My spanish is improving tremendously, both speaking and comprehension, but I still have a long way to go. I'm really happy to be here though--I've been blessed with a great, understanding family, helpful, nice, classmates, and I've been doing so much better than I ever expected to do here. We'll see what the next four months bring, but if the first month is any representation, it looks like I'll be having a lot of fun.

I think that's all for now. I feel like my english is just falling apart--I can still speak it, but writing and typing are just horrible, so I'm sorry if it's not perfect gramatically. The hard part is that my spanish is still pretty bad so I can't really do anything! Haha.

And to wrap it up: I saw this sign in the grocery store and laughed out loud. I think the pictures are hysterical. But maybe it's just me.