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.
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? :)