Sunday, March 27, 2011

one month.

Plaza
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.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Video Update--Uniform!

 One of the most popular questions I recieve is about my uniform. Here's a video tour of it! (Yes, this has been posted on facebook already, so for those of you that are facebook friends with me, youve already seen it.) But there should be another brand-new post before the end of the week about something yet to be determined!

Note about the video: I can't figure out how to cut the beginning, so I ramble a bit, but posting videos is pretty cool, huh?
video


All and all, I'm doing very well, and it's hard to believe I've already been in Chile for more than 3 weeks. Diego and I went to the Chilean FBI and Registro Civil (kind of like a combination of the DMV and Secretary of State, I think) to register my visa this morning, so I'm not at risk of being an illegal immigrant anymore!

My spanish is improving every day, and I have wonderful classmates that have made such a great effort to include me in everything. I have my first test tomorrow (in English, so I'm not especially worried) but I also have Chemistry and Psychology later this week. Speaking of which, I should probably go "study" for those tests, so I'll wrap it up. Oh, and happy fall/spring!

PS: OBAMA'S HERE! All day I was hoping he would make a side trip to Rancagua to visit me. Unfortunately, my wish did not come true. Oh well!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cumpleaños!

Well, as some of you know, it was my birthday on the 27th of Feburary, my first full day with my host family, and the first anniversary of the 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile last year. Despite all the pressure, it was definitely a great first day.

The night of the 26th, we stayed up until way past midnight (i now know that that is a normal time to stay up until in Chile, which is different from my life in the US). I was getting ready for bed and right at midnight the whole family came over (I was taking out my contacts) and gave me a hug and a kiss and a new wallet! For those of you who don't know me, I lost my wallet two weeks before I left, which was very traumatic, so it was an incredible coincedence that I recieved one for my birthday :). Then I went to sleep and slept for more than twelve hours, and it felt wonderful. In the US, I can barely sleep past 8:30 normally, but every day of the weekend here I've slept until at least 11. I think all the thinking in spanish really wears me out.

After I woke up, Diego, Paula, and I walked over to the "portal" (shopping center) to look around. We went to a store so that Diego could look at TVs and ended up buying some chocolate that we all ate together in a birthday celebration.

After that, Lorena and Alex drove up. I guess everyone else knew what was going on, but in classic exchange student fashion, I had no idea. I remembered that Lorena had asked me to pack my swimsuit into a bag and that we were going swimming in the mountains, but I thought it would be much later! Either way, they picked us up and off we went. We drove recklessly for about 45 minutes on alternating dirt and asphalt roads into the mountains until we arrived to the park, i'll have to call it.

The area had two old buildings with canopies, picnic tables, grills, and a pool, all in a little spot a little up from the base in the mountains nearby. Alex and Lorena got out the things for my first asado, or barbeque. I was so excited! We sat and drank fanta, swatted at flies, talked, and ate some delicious meat, rice, and veggies. Everyone is right when they say Chile has incredible meat--I'm not even a big meat-lover but this stuff is delicious.

When we were there, the Chilean equivalent of Smokey Bear showed up! He was a beaver, and I made sure to get a picture with him. I also got a lot of "don't start forest fire" leaflets and pins. They just wouldn't stop giving them to me!

After that, we walked up one of the other mountains nearby (okay, it wasn't quite a mountain, it was a hill) where there was a cross that someone had put there (this is all I got out of the conversation). I was in my birkenstocks, so it was a little rough, but we made it. There were cacti, behives, shrubbery, and AMAZING views of the surrounding mountains. The picture doesn't do it justice. I feel so lucky to be in such a beautiful place.



 
Hot and sweaty, we made our way back down the "mountain side" and Paula and I changed into our swimsuits and took a dip. Swimming outside on February 27th? I think that's the only time that's every happened.

When we came home, we had a little birthday celebration with cake and conversation. It was a great end of the day, and a great birthday overall. Thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes. It was definitely a birthday I'll never forget.

PS: My blog was featured on the AFS blog website at www.afsblog.org! It's on the left hand side a few down now. Go check it out--I guess I'm a writer, huh, Ma? :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Santiago!

So on Tuesday night, we headed to the airport and went through security and all that stuff (I'm not sure if I've already talked about that on this blog, but we did normal airport stuff). AFS got us there super early (we arrived at seven thirty for a 11:25 flight). But we made it to our terminal and most of us changed into sweatpants (but we had to keep on our very attractive AFS shirts. It was our "uniform" they said).

The 8 Americans
The flight was how you'd expect a 8 hour flight to be. I had never flown that long in my life, so it was exciting, but also super uncomfortable and hard to sleep. I think i ended up getting about three hours of sleep. I was sitting next to a exchange student in college, and we had a nice chat about Chile when we weren't sleeping. He was going to Viña del Mar for the second time, which i hear is super beautiful.

We arrived at 10 local time, went through immigration, got our luggage, and headed towards customs. They took away my dried cranberries (i should have known!). After that, we walked through this crowd of people and found a guy with an AFS sign, who took us to some seats where we waited for a bunch more students. Suddenly, there were these random people dancing Cueca next to us! Cueca is the national dance of Chile. It was super unexpected and strange that it was in the airport, but fun to watch.


Orientation Site
We took a bus to our orientation site--this monestary sort of building that i guess monks go to during certain times of the year to pray. It was super beautiful and old with so many pretty plants and things. The company was great too--it's incredible that you can become such good friends with people in such a short amount of time. We did lots of orientation activities with incredible volunteers, danced, chilled in the sun, and slept.


On Saturday afternoon, my family came to pick me up! They came earlier than expected, and when I saw them I cried. They're super nice though and we had a nice ride back to Rancagua (very quickly in car not following very many tradtional road rules. Oh well, that's Chile!). I understand most everything when someone is talking directly to me but when they are talking to eachother I understand nothing. I've been able to communicate all right, but it's still hard sometimes. They are a wonderful family though and have been so welcoming.

Diego, Paula, me, Lorena, and Alex















I start school tomorrow, which is nerve-wracking but exciting. I'll make a post about my birthday celebrations soon (my birthday was on Sunday). But I'm doing great, and although this isn't the most organized blog post, at least I'm writing!