Thursday, December 24, 2009

---> V Región

I'm still catching up on all the things I have yet to write. But first let me say, Merry Christmas to everyone all over the world. It's not quite Christmas day here in NZ yet.

Christmas tree and cousins

In the first week of December we went to San Pedro, a small village in the fifth region of Chile, the region above Santiago. Unlike the desert, it was green and full of flowers. I ha never seen so many flowers in my life in an establishement. We visited a town called Limache and the air was scented with flowers and every single street had tall shady trees. Amazingly beautiful.

My favourite city we visited while we were there though, was Valparaíso. It's one of the most turistical Chilean cities and I didn't feel like I was the only foreigner. The city of Valpo it built on very steep big hills. To get to soe houses you have to walk practically horizontally. There are funiculars too but I'd say that the natives there must have very strong legs.

There was a tonne of graffitti there, but unlike the gangster markings and all that jazz, practically every patch of graffitti there was like a work of art. Imagine long flights of stairs with tall houses on both sides, and the walls full of graffitti.


One of my favourites, a piece of art for the Mapuche Indians.

San Pedro is about a 40 minute car/train ride from Valpo. The first day that we visited, we went in the car, but my host parents had to return to Copiapó to work, so us four kids stayed with my host grandma to spend more time in the V region. The second day that we went to Valpo, we took two buses and a train to get there and went to the house of the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. His house was four stories high, and each story was filled with interesting objects. His collection of bottles, interesting works of art and other collections of things. 

In San Pedro, I saw for the first time a Chilean rodeo. It's not the style of rodeo when the cow has to be killed. Instead, there are two cowboy (actually they are more like men) who ride horses with spurs and traditional chilean clothes. The aim is to get the little calf to bang against a cushioned part in the moon shaped arena. Points are given according to how well it collides with the wall. At first I was disgusted, but the aim isn't to injure the poor little calf, and although I'm sure they get a jolly good fright and that isn't a good thing, they get taken away in less than a minute and a new calf gets bought in. A relatively humane rodeo.

Waiting to fight

Anyway, I only have time for a short post. A Merry Christmas to everyone reading this and I'll be in touch.

Take care,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

---> Off with a blast of reggaeton

The life of an exchange student is never dull. In between a week in Punta Arenas and a week in Quillota, there was still time to fit in being the date for a friend of a friend to a graduation ceremony.

Let's go a few months back. While visiting my friend Cony after having sushi in town for lunch, she commented that she had a friend that needed an 'invite' for the Cuartos (year thirteen/seventh form/senior) graduation dinner, and if I would be interested. Never one to give up an oppurtunity, I said why not, and didn't hear anything of it until my second day in Punta Arenas. She phoned me to ask if I was still interest. I had two days in Copiapó before going to Quillota, which was time to meet him and go to the graduation, so another, sure why not? And I organised to meet him before the dinner.

On Friday afternoon we met and now we are engaged. Kidding! No shakespearian sonnets and shooting stars, although it was nice to meet new people and he was a nice, albeit shy guy. Being around shy people generally brings out the chatterbox side of me, I wanted to keep the awkward turtles to a minimun. He accompanied my into Falabella (department store) to get a new phone after we talked over ice cream (yum, chilean ice cream) and then off home to get ready.

Luckily earlier in the day I had bought some high heels to wear - I did not own any high heels up until then! My host sister was very excited to do my hair and make up, but I ended up doing the make up myself because time was running out. Instead of buying a new dress, I wore one I bought from New Zealand, with a bought black shawl and my new high heels. (A complete transformation from stripy fisherman pants, baggy AFS tee shirt and messy hair!)

Ta da!

Roses, what a way to win a girl's heart! I'm relieved my dress was blue and white and not red - red roses carry a specific meaning. 

His mum was waiting in a car outside my house, we drove to their house first, got into a taxi and then went to pick up Cony and her mum, then onto the school, where the event would be held.

When we arrived, there was a lot of lining up outside (people in the school foyer had to check the entry tickets). It was amazing seeing some of the people I know from that school completely transformed, everyone looked stunning and handsome. I was even more stunned when we entered the school grounds. The dinner was in a ginormous tent (think 120 students, plus two parents and a date, it had to be big!) with tables set up, a space to dance, balloons floating from the centre of every table, and waiters carrying drinks. Alcoholic drinks to. This was a school event in Chile, remember. (But the chilean attitude towards drinking is generally very different than the NZ one).

Chile's Next Top Model! Cony is on my right.

After the headmistress gave her speech, everyone started to dig in. It was a bit dumb that we couldn't choose who to sit with at the tables, I feel sorry for those families who got paired up who didn't get along well. The mums at my table kept up a pretty good conversation though. After the meal the dancing started. Students, parents and even teachers were up there dancing. 

Embarrassing moment: discovering your host mum is taking pictures of you dancing with your date! Papparrazzi much!

At the start the music was mostly cumbia (which the oldies prefer over reggaeton) but after most of the adults left, there was a lot of reggaeton, however there came a really cool part when the DJ put on music from Grease and everyone was dancing 50's style. It was awesome! I had until 3.30am which was when my host brother (it was his grad dinner too) would call a taxi. The dancing at that point was getting really motivated and the music really good too. Although I think any more time in high heels and I would have been unable to walk!

It wa a really fun night though, and I'm glad to have been able to go to a Chilean style ball/graduation!

Friday, December 11, 2009

---> Photoblog: Punta Arenas

I'm happy - could finally put the photos I took in Punta Arenas on my computer. So I'll do what is called a bit of a photoblog, since I have already written a bit about my stay in the southernmost city in the world.

First of all, for all the shopaholics reading this blog, since Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in the world, and it has a mall, what does that make the mall? Why, the southermost mall in the world, of course. I did a bit of shopping there about bought some shorts, a tee shirt and a cardigan. It wasn't a particularly big mall, mainly consisting of the well know chilean department stores (LaPolar, Ripley (my favourite), Falabella and Lider (supermarket).

On my first say in Punta Arenas, Ashleigh and Kate, two AFs friends who live there, took me downtown to the plaza, where it is a touristy thing to kiss the Indian's foot, which means that you will return to Punta Arenas. Here I am licking his foot (not really actually licking it, that would be gross).

My favourite part of the trip was visiting the Torres del Paine. On the road there, there just happened to be some flamingos bathing in a lake. I love how I can be in northern Chile and see flamingos, then be in the southernmost city in Chile and there are still flamingos!

This was one of the first views of the Torres, when we stopped to *cough* take photos.

Although it doesn't look so blue in the picture, this is the Blue Lake. In reality, although the day was cloudy, the lake was an amazing saphire blue.

It was incredibly windy when we got out of the tour van to walk for a bit. I mean INCREDIBLY WINDY! We literally had to hunch over with our backs to the wind to avoid being blown away.

Here's the blue lake again, this time way more blue. There was an island there, with a hotel on the island. Perfect for honeymoons! It was stunning.

Crossing a bridge over the lake, you can almost see the towers through the clouds.

The next stop was the glacier. We walked for one and a half hours to a look out, over the lake Grey to the glacier. I was wearing about 7 tops and a scarf, and it wasn't a cold walk, but when we got the lookout the wind picked up and I was very glad to be wearing so many clothes!

The other bit of glacier which is not seen in the photo is guilty of cutting my finger.

Bits of glacier look out to it's mummy.

The last part of the trip was a stop by at a giant cave, La Cueva de Milodón.  It was gigantic! In ancient times, the giant ground sloths (sloths, think Sid from Ice Age) lived there. Now, it's more of a tourist attraciton but there is still the occassional fox.

The next day, we went to the ski club of Punta Arenas, which is way to close to the city. In the little lodge, there was a map of South America, and to the right of Antonia's finger is where Punta Arenas is.

Although the ski fields were shut (not ski season), there were walking tracks open and we went for a walk in the alpine forest, where my cellphone rests to this day.

Here's a photo for my day, the Punta Arenas Andean Club.

In the afternoon, we went to a penguin colony. It was a beautiful view, over the Magallanes straight to snow capped mountains. It was the season of the penguins returning to their caves, and there were hundreds of penguins hooting and looking for there homes, coming in from the sea.

Here are some penguins entering from the sea.
And the lone flamingo, which is weird to see as they always are in groups.

Take care,

Friday, December 4, 2009

---> Punta Arenas

Sorry, this blog will be another blog without photos as my computer has become incredibly slow at uploading!

Last week I went to visit the city of Punta Arenas, which is the southernmost city in the world. It is so far south that it got dark at about 10pm at night and stayed dark until 5am. A very different landscape from Copiapó as well - more green than I had seen in a long time, with snowy mountains in the background and lots of beautiful clouds.

I discovered the reason why connections you make with other people are so important. A few years ago, a Chilean family lived in my town in NZ for just under a year, and I got to know them a little bit. I was a naughty girl and didn't get back in touch with them until after I was in Chile, which was a great surprise because they had no idea I would be doing a year long exchange. Since I couldn't go on the south tour with AFS, they helped me organise a short term exchange, and where to go? Punta Arenas. I got in touch with the family again and they said they would be delighted to have me.  So when I arrived in Punta Arenas, there was Teresa and Victoria (Mother and daughter) waiting for me in the airport. During my stay there the whole family was more than welcoming and I had a great time with them.

I had the opportunity to visit Torres del Paine  - which any Google Image search will bring up amazing pictures of an incredibly beautiful place on this earth. (Which is why my computer won't let me upload the photos!) I also went on a mountain hike (cellphone stayed on the mountain) and saw a penguin colony, as well as catch up with my exchanger friend who lives there, and another AFSer.

Back to school, and I had two days left before I finished at school - today was my last day at school, although I havn't really felt it sink in.

Anyway, better go, as I am heading into town to eat sushi with the other exchangers!


Monday, November 23, 2009

---> Twelve lives

Weekend, a great word that brings out millions of possibilities. 'I can't wait for it to be the weekend!' 'What are you doing this weekend?' 'Did you have a good weekend?' It's a word of hope, the awaited two days after five days pass before.

What you do in the weekend is important. Whether it's spending all day surfing the internet (which for any exchange student I don't recomend), going into town with friends, partying until five in the morning, it's what's fun that counts.

So the first crucial part of the weekend is Friday night. This is the make or break night. Plans on Friday? Good. It means you have a life (or at least, you have a life if you live in Chile.) It doesn't matter whether it's going out for coffee with friends in the afternoon, watching movies with the fam, or playing football in the street. The best thing to do obviously, in Chile, is to party.

School dance? Hey, that could be a Friday night. So instead of having a dance at Thursday night from 7pm to 9pm in the school hall, rule strictly no alcohol or smoking, let's turn the tables to how things are in Chile. First of all, a dance on THURSDAY? Ridiculo! Not in Chile, that's for sure. It has to be Friday. Second of all, starting at 7pm in the afternoon, how silly. Doors shut at 11pm, and finishing at 2am. (And absolutely noone enters before 11pm, then all of a sudden the groups crowded on the street rush to enter). The no-alcohol rule . . . well, when the parents drop us off at 10.30pm, and there's a bottle store round the corner, there will be students there, buying. Ciggarrettes, too. Smoking inside is ok, but also going outside to smoke it fine. Welcome to Chile.

The dancing thing is different in Chile too. It's not just anyone for anywhere, oh no. The strangest thing is that people dance in two lines, a boy on one side with the girl on the other. It's ok to have two girls dancing together, but two boys . . . no way, Jose! The music is Reggaeton, obviously. I just can't get over the fact that they dance in lines! It really does look funny!

And when the dance ends, there's no soft lovey dovey music, the reggaeton just -stops- and every heads outside to wait for parents to take them home, or to move on to another party.

Interesting fact: In Chile, cats have seven lives, and in Europe, 12. In NZ, nine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

---> Lonely sea and the sky

Six girls + one house + a picturesque beach + yo ho ho a bottle of rum. (Or not . . . ) = one amazing weekend!

Caldera is one hour and $3 away from Copiapó and about half the population of Copiapó has a beach house there, including my family. In summer it's the refuge from the hot, still heat of the desert city. It comes alive with parties at night. But at this time of the year, clouds blanket the city and there are fewer people. There are three parts to the Caldera area. Numero uno is Caldera, a port town of about 20,000 people. There's a little beach and obviously a port, plus houses a plaza, restaurants and a smattering of shops. Then a few minutes drive away is  Playa Loreto. There, there is a small diary, the streets are simply sand, and it consists mainly of holiday houses. There's a ciclorama which leads you to Bahia Inglesa, a beautiful beach with turquoise water, white sand. There are shops and cafes, but it's still quite small, although it fills up in summer. These three towns are simply there. The desert merges into the beach and the towns just pop up. The view is quite spectacular.

On Saturday we met at the bus terminal to take the bus to Caldera. Upon arriving, we had lunch at a 'local', which is like a cheap restaurant that sells food, fast-food style. Fried empanadas, hamburgers and the like. I ate churrasco, which is like a hamburger but with thin slices of beef. 

While my host sister and her friend went to buy the food for the night, Krista, me and Sabina went to the bach in Loreto to open everything up and scare away the poisonous spiders. 

Once everyone was back in the house, we figured out how to turn on the gas and electricity and then decided to walk to Bahia Inglesa. Giulia was staying with her host family at the beach and her host sister dropped her off at our bach.

Outside the wind was howling and my awesome stripy pants did not keep me warm! We started to walk the long 40 minute walk to Bahia but gave up when a colectivo came along and squeezed everyone into one car.


It was really cold and windy!

At the Bahia, not much swimming got done because it was so cold, so instead we bought supplies for the night and returned to Loreto.

The food was incredibly yummy, I made fajitas, brownie and potato chips, which was a satisfying meal, while we played cards, ate, and talked.  But after a while we decided to take the party down to the beach, where we rolly-pollied down the sand. Very childish, I know! We took millions of photos. 

Just some of the 1000000000 photos we took at the beach

Giulia's host parents invited us to their bach, so we spent a few hours with olives to eat and little glass of piña colada, playing the grocery game, except this time it was about getting into the bus. 

Then it was the pijama party phase of the night! Although really tired from all the exercise, we still all managed to stay awake to talk until late at night. As girls do!

The next morning passed lazily, we were all asleep until at least 11am, then we breakfasted and cleaned and arranged the house. Then this time we actually did walk to Bahia. We had lunch at Sabina's bach, then went to swim in the freezing water and to see the oyster festival. TV cameras filmed Sabina and Pamela, and today they'll be on the local news station. Unfortunatly by 3pm the festival was pretty much dead and we only got one oyster each. 

Bahia Inglesa

My host dad came to Bahia, then we returned to the bach and packed everything up, then went to Chorillos, a beach a few kilometres south of Bahia. You drive off the highway, over a road made of sand, then get out of the car, walk 15 minutes over rocks, and finally you arrive at a picturesque bay. It was worth the intrepid travel, for sure. There were even grass and plants!


We walked on (and climbed up) rocks for a few more minutes, to be able to sit on a rock on the edge of the rockface, and watch as the waves crashed onto the rocks. Exhilarating, although a little bit scary.

The drive back to Copiapó was a little bit sad as we had all had way too much fun on Saturday night, however we all promised that we would do it again!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

---> There are some things money can't buy . . .

This is my life. Eight months and a bit in Chile, and a bit more. I'd like to stay longer, I really would. It sucks to be trying to plan things on a calender and realising you can't do something that weekend because of blahdy blah, then the next weekend you are going to blahdy blah, the next weekend blahdy blah is going to happen, then boom that weekend you'll be back in your own country.

Two facebook groups pretty much sum up exchange. One is 'being an exchange student is f******* awesome' and the other 'I never wanted to come back from my exchange'. Sorry Mum and Dad. Still don't understand why AFS doesn't do year and a half long exchanges. I'd so be in.

So before I have written about how fricking hard it is when you don't speak the language so well, when you feel isolated, when you are having problems fitting in at school with a group of people who have been friends for all there lives. Gosh there's a lot of things to whine about. Maybe another person would let all that stuff get to them and ditch the whole exchange shenanigans and return home. Then there's the type of exchange when hard times are few and far between and their life rocks from the beginning. I'm the one who suffered in the beginning - language, friends (I generally keep to myself I learnt, but I learnt that when you open up to people things really start to get going), day to day life, got me down and would have me secretly crying in the bathroom before school. Yes it can be bad. But being the internal 'don't panic' optimist I knew that is was a phase and as phases do, it passed. I won't deny the fact it was hard. It was bloody hard and although at times I wish I could have had one of those easy carefree exchanges, the harder the stuff the stronger person you become.

August was a turning point. Partly because by then was time enough to have got through all the hard stuff, and also with the new exchangers coming life got better. Before August I think I lacked meaningful friendships. With the language barrier those important conversations that you have with friends are harder and some people can get frustrated. Of course it doesn't mean I was a friendless hermit until that month, I had friends, but the level of friendship got deeper after August. We totally have the full out deeply personal conversations now and that's what friendship is about, the fun stuff and the deep stuff. Also in August arrived Giulia and Krista and although we've only known each other three months it could be like thirty years. Three different countries, three different schools, and we still spend heaps of time together. Today I spent hanging out at Krista's then going into town, meeting up with Giulia and getting our hair cut. (That's another story . . . )

Then there's the whole love life. Or lack of it! Yes there are some adorable Chilean boys out there; I get whistled at while out on the street (but that tends to be by old wrinkly scary men which is just plain EW!), and a while (as in 'back in the day') back that I became good friends with but nothing more. It kind of ended suddenly but for the better. It makes me sad to think of all the 'pololos' or 'pololas' that stay behind in Chile while their exchange student other half has to leave. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being single and happy. Better that there's one whole heart than two hearts far apart. And just for the record, just like in every country (except maybe Italy and Brazil) there are ugly guys, nice ones, and handsome ones. Chile varies a bit in that most of them are also short. (Hi Mum and Dad and my aunties and uncles, and AFS and all those other adults reading this and creepy stalker people, sorry for the necessary teenage gossip session!)

Word of advice to other exchange students: don't leave everything to the last two months! Looking at calenders with worried faces isn't nice. And having my mummy email me about plans when I get back just reminds me about how fragile and precious time is. At this rate I'll be an old lady tomorrow!

Hey folks! Please be darlings and leave me a comment. I know you're reading this. 

I miss tasty cheddar cheese and fresh milk. But not too badly. Indian food too. Mum's baking. But only two more months, I Will Survive. 

Peace out.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

----> Andes, officially

For all this time that my blog has been called 'from the land of the long white cloud to the land of the andes', I can now honestly say that I have oficially set foot on the Andes, the longest mountain range in the world. Offical Andean territory. 

I could almost honestly say I have set foot in Argentina, but unfortunatly it was 20 more kilometres away and what we came for was on the Chilean side of the border. But I did meet Argentineans (aside from the gorgeous Argentinean waiter at my second favourite Copiapino cafe). My host dad saw the young lad with red hair and said  v e r y  s l o w l y  'has visto otro vehiculo pasar?' (have you seen another vehicle pass?), thinking that maybe the blond man was a gringo, but when he answered with a heavy Argentine accent we discovered that he, too, spoke Castellano.

Let me give some advice to any future travellers to the Andes. Being in a mountain range, it is high up, therefore cold and extremely windy. Remember to wear suitable clothing, like long pants, warm top layers, a wind breaker and a hat. Despite my broad experience of mountaineering and after school classes about tramping and how it might possibly be cold in the mountains, I came poorly prepared in knee length jeans, which did not give sufficient leg coverage nor protection from the elements that was required.

The first stage of the trip was driving through the desert, which isn't flat as one might think. It's full of huge hills (much like the Awakino gorge, of that size) and rocks and sand, which at times can be quite ugly, especially with litter strewn on the sides of the road, but also can be unspeakably beautiful.

'Cerro' from high up

The second phase of the journey started after we stopped for tinkle time at a small mine. I had previously visited the state of the art mine where my host dad works, with its huge offices, well furnished cateferia, games room, forest with trees grown from the wastewater, and luxurious things like that, but this mine was an old rickety thing. Red paint peeled from the walls, the cafeteria was small and shabby and there was no green. At that time, there were only 20 workers on site.

More driving, after zig-zagging through the tall hills we came of a top plain, where we had to pass through a border control. The road was at times fairly straight, but also could be quite curvy. There was a tribute sign to the Virgen Mary, who a bedraggled traveller saw on his journey which led him to civilization.

It was at some point here when I got my first sight of snow. This landmark is called the Three Crosses, which are three mountain peaks, the first that one will see as they drive along the San Francisco Pass.

Los Tres Cruces

Plains with the Andes in the background

As we got higher up, we started to see ice and a bit of snow. Not enough to cover the ground, but definitely snow. The guy at the border control told us that in the winter the petrol freezes in the cars, and there has to be a heater left on all day and night in the bathrooms so the water in the water pipes doesn't freeze.

After more driving, we came to the Laguna Verde. It was a lake high in the mountains that supposedly is green, but it was more a sky blue-turquoise. However, close to it was a bery green lake, with flamingos!

Laguna Verde, 4328m above sea level

It was at Laguna Verde where we had lunch, in a tent near the thermal pools. The wind was extremely cold and strong. Car doors swung open at a great velocity when the handle was turned. 

The altitude affected all of us, with the air being thinner and all it makes one very tired after a tiny bit of exercise and lack of oxygen can cause headaches and dizzyness, all of which I got. It meant spending a bit of time lying in the car. But the fact that the Andes are a good four hours drive from Copiapó, meant we had time to see the lake, take photos, eat lunch, then we had to start heading back. Luckily I didn't miss much.

The drive back went a lot faster. We stopped at a waterfall where there were these really cute llama like creatures, called Guanacos, which are like a mix between llamas and camels. The river was really cool. It left a ribbon of green in the desert.

We got back to Copiapó reasonably early. After unpacking the car and eating a bit, my host brother set up the data projector to make me  'considerada persona'. This means watching five movies together - The Clockwork Orange, The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings and two more films. We watched the first half of the Clockwork Orange but he saw that I was practically falling asleep so we saved the second half to watch another say.

On Friday, after going to school at 11am and talking with friends (no classes, because of the strike), I went to a friend's house to have lunch. She has two younger brothers and despite telling me they'll probably ignore me because I'm a girl, they fell to me really well and we had a good old chinwag about girlfriends and this toy called 'go go' (I'm talking about seven and eight year olds here), soccer, where Nes Zealand is, whether I should support NZ or Chile in a soccer game between the two and little things like that. Coni was really surprised that they liked me, one even gave me a lollipop! I guess it shows that I miss my little brother back in NZ. 

After doing a bit of cooking - chocolate peppermint slice, which went down very well - we went to downtown to have an iced chocolate then to a singing competition in her school.

Me and Coni

Something I've learnt about being here - you would be surprised how much you stand out as a foreigner. After my drama class on Wednesday, I was standing outside with my host sister and another classmate. Wearing my navy Canterbury trackpants, sneakers, the sweater that I'm wearing in the above picture (bought from a store here in Chile) and with my hair out, I thought I looked pretty normal. The only thing going against my favour is the fact I'm taller than all of the girls I've met here and a good percentage of the boys.

So standing outside the Casa de Cultura, opposite the plaza, I was. On my left was one of the security guards, and who I thought was a friend, talking. But all of a sudden the 'friend' starts asking which country I was from. He hadn't even heard me speak. I then discovered he was just a typical drunk-off-the-street (but younger than usual) by the disgusting thing he said to me. He even reached out his hand for me to shake and I didn't know what to do . . . so I shook it. Ew! The naivity of gringos. If only I were shorter and darker.

Being a gringa does have its advantages. Now that I can speak and understand Spanish well, it's easy to converse and there's always a topic to talk about - home. People show a lot of interest in what another country is like, what school is like, what the parties are like, what the boys are like, what the food is like, basically a lot of things. I misunderestimated how much and what kind of things about my country I'd be talking about. There are a lot of things that my classmates find strange about where I come from. Sandals are part of the uniform! Single sex schools! Primary schools with mufti! Swimming pools in the schools! The 1/4 acre section! It's funny to see there reactions. And when they ask me 'do you like Chile?' I alway answer with 'sí, me encanta' (yes, I love it.)

Chau for now,

Friday, October 30, 2009

---> Another Fat Student

One of the inside jokes about AFS is that in place of meaning American Field Service is means Another Fat Student. (Side note: I'm sure my english grammar is not funcioning, in place of writing ing I want to write -ando, not to mention all the other little spanish words that my fingers have become accostomed to typing!)

Entonces (there goes another spanish word I use a lot, it means 'so'/'anyway'), those that go on exchange should be prepared to put on weight. It must be because exchangers are so open to trying new food! Yesterday I went into town with Krista and Giulia, other AFSers in Copiapó. What else is there to do in town than eat? We went to our second favourite completo-selling place, a little tiny cafe that sells completo italianos and bought a completo each. At that place they cost 700 pesos, which is a about $2 NZD, and at the más rico completo selling place (actually I think selling place means shop, as I said, my english is as wrecked as Hugh Grant in an action movie) sells completos for 600 pesos, with homemade mayonaise - which reeks of garlic but they are the best completos one will ever eat in their life. Completos del carrito.

Right, now that I've finished with my little completo essay, I'll get on with the story. With Krista and Giulia we smoked (well, I didn't smoke, I think another bad thing about exchange is that if you smoked before you came, you will smoke a lot more on exchange. Poor lungs.) and ordered completos. Then went to the s'mall (because it's a mall but it's small, ha ha) to take out money and recharge money on cell phones and buy perfume and make up, all the little downtown things that I actually had done the week before). After eating the savory completos we all wanted something dulce. Luckily in the mall there is a very delicioso bakery. Bought a cake called 'mil hojas' (1ooo leaves) which, when made well like my abuelita makes it, should have layers of homemade pastry with manjar and chopped nuts, and when made comercially is flaky pastry with a bit of manjar. But this mil hojas really rocked it. I though 'custard square in CHILE!' Because really is was like custard square on steroids. Lots of pastry with manjar in between, then custard, then more pastry and manjar. All for 700 pesos - and it was about twice the size of the NZ custard square. Perfecto!

I think cheap, good and exotic food is definitely the reason for durante-exchange weigh gain. So to really rub salt in the wound, we found a bench in the mall to sit. It was right outside a videogames place 'los gorditos' (the fat people). Justice.

Actually speaking of weight, I arrived to my theatre class on Wednesday and everyone commented on how I looked slimmer. Wow, and just that morning I had gone out for my first (very short) jog. Good to know the results show that fast! By the way, jogging and reggaeton mix so well its like magic. The steady beat of reggaeton encourages the jogger and while running it reminds me of good times in Chile - so I don't have to think about the road works people staring at the chubby gringa running with an iPod that probably costs more than they earn in a month - and because it's in Spanish I can also concentrate on distinguishing the words and widening my vocabularly. Gracias Daddy Yankee, Jadiel, Wisin y Yandel, Blindaje 10 y Makano. 

What has made my (only two so far) jogging sessions possible is that the government in Chile ain't that good and the teachers of public schools are striking because they didn't recieve a payout that was due. So what do students of Liceo de Música do? We go to classes anyway. 

A bit about my school. Three types of school in Chile. Fully private is expensive, top, snobby kids (although that's a bit of a generalisation, because I have met kids from the private schools here and they are nice!). 

Mix of private and public - the government could pay only a little, so the schools are more 'top' because the parents have to pay a lot, or the government could pay a lot more of the fees, so they are less 'top' but still private because the parents have to pay a bit.

Public schools - the only fees that parents have to pay are this weird inscription kind of fee. Normally the kids that go there are from poor families (20% of the chilean population is below the poverty line, and there is a big gap between rich and poor). Some public schools are better than others - depends in which part of the city they are in. But generally they are 'flaite' which means gangster, problems with violence and bad grades. And unlike the other two types the schools are painted in bright colours.

So although Liceo de Música is public, is does have the advantage of being a music focused school, which means the students who go there are more 'sensitive' and nicer than students in other public schools. It's true. Not so many 'flaite' and if they are 'flaite' they're not scarily flaite, I'm friends with the ones that would be the most gangster students and they're nice. One of the downsides is that we don't have any sports teams. But the advantages, well...

The teachers are in strike. All of the other public schools aren't doing anything, but Liceo de Música, being a bit different with more motivated and sensitive students, has organised to to classes for those that want to come, every day at 11am (well really later than that, being in Chile). We have one class, done by a student in the final year, then lunch, then another class, then activities. And because of that, in came the news cameras and we got to be on the local news show. (There was a close up of my face in the segment that showed the coming news, how embarrassing!) Here is the video that I took of the news segment when it came on the news. See if you can spot me!

Photos from boredom

Supporting the teachers
Biology class. El Chavez appeared on the news.

Chile love: cheap things. Earrings especially. I have bought so many earrings! But wear to put them? I was in the market with my host mum a few weeks back and came across a man who made trees from wire to hag earrings. Perfecto! Now all my cool little earrings get so be on a tree, plus a few necklaces and butterfly clips. My favourite earrings are my giraffes and a bolivian couple. And this cute tree only cost mil pesos (1000 pesos, or $3.)

How do I pass my free time here? Friday = going to the movies with the exchangers. We saw a movie called Todo Incluido, a family drama made in Chile and México. It was really good, and so were the sour gummis that Fabian the German kept trying to steal from me. Before the movies, we all ate completos at the carrito. The cinema isn't in the centre of town, it's a part of the casino hotel, the tallest building the Copiapó has.

Before going out, with Krista

El Casino

On Saturday I hung out with Krista, went out for icecream with my friend Emily, then on Sunday again we went to see a basquetball game. The days fly by when you're having fun. A day is not a day if I don't go out.

Currently I am reading La Pasión Según Carmela (Passion according to Carmela) by an Argentinia author, Marcos Aguinis. Latino literatura. previously I had read Matilda, Boy Meets Girls (A chic flic by Meg Cabot, but in Spanish) and Twilight (in Spanish), which were all translated into Spanish, and I understood pretty much everything. Now the difference between those and that, is that written originally in Spanish there are phrases and a lot of words I have never come across. It needs concentration. I'm also reading Cronica de un Muerte Anunciada by the famous Gabriel García Márquez. 

I owe my life to the genius who invented dictionairies. Although I am conversant, reading literature (note, literature, not books) is another story. But I need to read and this is a satisfying challenge.

Thanks to Krista, I am in love with a Spanish band, La Quinta Estación (The 5th Season). There's more to spanish music than reggaeton. And the cover album art it so cool. Que Te Quería is one of my favourites.

La llama se apagó   - The call finished
No sé - I don't know
Matamos la ilusión - Let's kill the illusion
Tal vez - Maybe
Y dónde quedo yo - And where does that leave me?
En este mundo sin color - In this world without colours
Sin historias que contarte - Without stories to tell you
Sin saber cómo explicarte. - Not knowing how to explain it to you

Que hoy te veo - That today I see you
Y aunque lo intente no se me olvida - And although I try I can't forget it
Que eras tú el que no creía en las despedidas - That it was you that didn't believe in goodbyes
Que sigo siendo la misma loca que entre tus sábanas se perdía, - That I'm still the same crazy person that got lost in your sheets
Y a fin de cuentas no soy distinta de aquella idiota - And after all I'm not any different from that idiot
Que te quería - That I loved you

No importa como fue - It doesn't matter who it went
ni quién - nor who
Queríamos beber, sin sed. - We wanted to drink, without thirst
Y dónde quedo yo - And where does that leave me
en este mundo sin tu voz - In this world without your voice
ignorando las señales que me llevan a encontrarte - Ignoring the signs that take me to find you

Que hoy te veo
Y aunque lo intente no se me olvida
Que eras tú el que no creía en las despedidas
Que sigo siendo la misma loca que entre tus sábanas se perdía,
Y a fin de cuentas no soy distinta de aquella idiota
Que te quería
Que todavía espera verte sonreír - That still hopes to see you smile
Que todavía espera verse junto a ti - That  still hopes to see herself together with you 

Que hoy te veo
Y aunque lo intente no se me olvida
Que eras tú el que no creía en las despedidas
Que sigo siendo la misma loca que entre tus sábanas se perdía,
Y a fin de cuentas no soy distinta de aquella idiota
Que te quería
Que sigo siendo la misma loca que entre tus sábanas se perdía,
Y a fin de cuentas no soy distinta de aquella idiota
Que te quería

Love that song! So much that I translated it on my blog, ja ja.

Got to go to lunch now. Bye all :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

---> Back in time

Since I havn't had a lot of time to update lately I'm going to skip back to two weekends ago and write about then!

So . . . what did I get up to then?

First things first. Friday night:
I was re reading the email about the AFS activity that was going to happen on Saturday, when I came across a word I did not yet know so I asked my host brother and to my horror, discovered that I meant I had to make a poster about New Zealand. In three hours, but first I had to go into town and buy paper and glitter pens. (The latter being very essential). Frantically I phoned the other exchangers to ask and Krista, from Finland, was already in town looking for the things, so I hopped on board a colectivo and flew downtown. We went to a good stationary shop where the assistant was incredibly helpful and bought all our necessary items, then decided to go and have something to eat while we were in town. 

I returned home and started making my poster, frantically because my counsellor was coming by in a few hours to pick me up (I was staying in her house for the weekend as my family went to Coquimbo). She arrived (luckily all my bags were ready!) and we drove to her house, where I finished making the poster and ate a really good alfajor (biscuit with manjar in the middle, coated wth chocolate) and a glass of milk. Then went to bed with the poster finished!

The day started sunny and full of promise. The other jeep-loads of AFS affiliated people arrived to the house of my couseller, (where we had arranged to meet before we drove to Caldera to sell things in the market). Krista arrived but with a really pale face and told me that something horrible had happened. It was such a difference from how she was the day before. I followed her to find out what was wrong and it was so horrible. Her host brother had been in a horrible accident and passed away, her parents had gone to the city where we was studying and her exteneded host family was all at her house. All of us AFs people were really really shocked and upset for her and her family.

We arrived to Caldera and set up the stall for selling clothes and the easels with the posters about our countries.

Me, Giulia, Krista, Fabian and Ananda with our posters

This whole 'selling clothes' thing was to raise money for a national scholarship to send one student on their exchange for free. Us students talked to the people about exchanges and a nice couple from the south of Chile wanted a photo with people from other countries! 

I had fun telling people that The Lord of the Rings was filmed in NZ and The Last Samurai too, and that the latter was filmed a five minute walk from my house! (Yes, I did see Tom Cruise!)

After, we had a barbeque and Fabian had to go for a swim in the freezing cold water as a kind of punishment/dare, due to the fact that his poster was just a little bit smaller and well... with just a little bit less information! 

With Giulia and a girl who's going to France we had a look in the market at Bahia Inglesa, the market there is one of my favourites (even though I love just about any market in Chile!)

We drove back home in time to watch the soccer game in which Chile bet Columbia 4-2 and qualified for the World Cup! Chile is an extremely patriotic country and with my temporary hosts we drove to the centre of town to fly the Chilean flag and honk the horn a lot, which about half the city was doing! It was amazing, everyone was crazy and walking round with the flag, or in the car with their flag, hugging and cheering and shouting 'Chi-Chi-Chi-Le-Le-Le Viva Chile!'

This took quite some time, but while we were in town we decided to watch a movie at the cinema, and watched one called La Nana, which is about the life of a maid in a Chilean household. My counsellor didn't like it but I found it interesting. 

Tacos for lunch! I hadn't realised until then how much I missed mexican food!

After lunch we went to the church to pay our respects to the family of Krista, giving flowers like it is the custom to do, and sitting for a while in the church. It was a sad moment.

After that, I was dropped of at the house of my chapter president to stay for the other night. There were cousins from Santiago visiting and I helped them make an advert for a project they had to do. It involved me saying something like 'spanish spanish spanish OH MY GOD spanish spanish spanish'. It's really funny in Chile when the gringo say 'oh my god' because it is said so much in the Hollywood films, it's like a stereotype.

We were called to have onces right after the video was finished. Completos and torta for onces, yum! Then because this is Chilean and Monday was a holiday, we prepared ourselves (or the younger ones) to go out to a party and that is what we did!

After getting up late (which everyone did that morning!), we ate lunch and then I watched TV for a while with Javiera (the daughter of my chapter president, who went to Denmark) and the we went to the funeral of Marcelo (Krista's host brother).
The funeral was pretty sad, it was such a contrast to Saturday, which was full of laughter and fun. But in exchange you have to really prepare for everything and that's one of the things that can happen. It shouldn't though.

RIP Marcelo

Thursday, October 15, 2009

---> Where I could be now . . .

(In Santiago)

Such a long time since I have done an update! Sorry about that everyone. Today I'm feeling a bit regretful of my general disorganised-ness. I'm not sure whether my life in Chile has influenced it or over seven months of no heavy deadlines (yes I have to meat deadlines but they're not life-or-death the way they would be if I was a real student in my NZ school), but despite being before the deadline in getting my forms in for a tour of the south of Chile with AFS, I've missed out on going as the spaces filled up too fast. 

To rub salt into the wound, I was told I would be contacted if by any chance a space did become clear. Yesterday I was sitting on the micro (crowded, rackety bus but cheap and exchangers like 'cosas baratas' (cheap things) and I received a phone call. My heart thudded with excitement and images rushed into my head of me arriving in Santiago and greeting my AFS friends who thought I wasn't coming. I answered, said '¿Qué? Lo siento, estoy en el micro y no escucho nada?' (What? Sorry, I'm on the bus and I can't hear anything) and the man on the other end of the phone said something then hung up. My stop was two seconds down the roads. I'm not deaf or anything, bus it's so hard to hear when the bus is rattling over the potholes and there are boys rapping two seats behind you in the bus. 

I waiting for about an hour for them to call me back, then finally rang the number only to find out it doesn't exist. That was more than salt being rubbed into the wound, it was lemon juice as well. (Which as a matter of fact, here in Chile, it there's any slices of lemon left over from a salad, you put salt on it and eat the lemon.) Finally I figured out I had to take off the plus sign and the first two digits then call. The phone finally rang - my heart really was pounding! - and suddenly the disapointment sunk in when I discovered that it was Entel PCS, my phone company, that had called me. 

So the four-day process, of getting the papers printed, getting the signature of my AFS chapter president, depositing the money, buying the bus tickets and sending the papers had all been in vain.  Or had it? I went with Giulia, from Italy (and who was lucky enough to be going on the trip) two days that week to try and buy the bus tickets - the first time we didn't buy them because we had underestimated how much they cost (thanks to the bus terminal lady that would have made us pay MORE for bus tickets) - and the second day we bought them and after walked to the town plaza to have an ice cream. Because we're so gorgeous and famous, we have our problems with the paparazzi following us but couldn't avoid them getting a shot of us as we sat down to enjoy our gelatos. The next day we appeared in the social pages of a top Chilean tabloid. Okay, joking. But while we were sitting down talking in the plaza, a photographer from a local paper asked us if he could take our photo. He took our photo then asked for our names (and although I made sure my surname was spelt correctly it was mispelt in the paper and makes me sound incredibly 'flaite' (gangster)).

Oh so famous

I'm on the left, Giulia on the right. Social pages of  El Diario de Atacama

The plaza is definitely one of my favourite places in Copiapó, I love how in Chile there are many areas for 'social gatherings'. There are little plazas in nearly every neighbourhood and between the two lanes of some roads, there are footpaths in between with grass and trees on both sides and benches to sit on. 

But back to the plaza, frecuenctally there are markets on, there's the 'normal' market and at times another market on the other side of the plaza. Both markets sell the same sort of things, earrings (I have an earring fetish!), scarves, bags, fanny packs, chocolate, tee shirts, necklaces and bracelets, hats, books and much, much more. I spent a while at the plaza last week talking to a Mapuche (the indigenous people of Chile) about what the symbols on the earrings meant and the south of Chile.  That day, as well as Mapuche earrings, I also bought a bag, because my AFS NZ backpack is simply huge and apparently I have knocked someone with it on the bus (how embarrassing!). So I love the markets and the plazas here, that's for sure.

Anyway, speaking of plazas, that's where I'm heading in a few minutes, so chao! (Yes, it's ciao in Italiano, but in Chile we also say chao. Adios sounds so . . . formal, for this relaxed country!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

---> Time's a loaded gun

Seven months into my Chilean exchange and I think the only thing that still hasn't met the (very few) expectations I had before I came is that my hair has not grown nearly quite long enough just yet! (Chilean girls have long hair in general - my hair was chin level when I arrived!)

I think a good analogy for an exchange is that it's like a show in the theatre. The first part of a show is always the rehearsing - learning the lines, where to go on stage, what else will be happening while you're performing and those kind of things. The second part is knowing what to expect and performing, everything in synch. Which means, the first half of the exchange is learning the language (or getting a good mastery of it), becoming accustomed to the culture and day to day life and making friends. Then comes the second half, which is easier than the first half because most of the hard work is done, and you now know what to exepect, understand what is happening and can communicate well to other people what you want. 

It's also the best half of the exchange, but that is bittersweet because time goes by fast when you're having fun. 

Extra, extra! Exhange advice section-
One of the aspects I like most about where I am now is having true friends, who I can communicate well with. I am really going to miss them - the first few months can be so isolatin because although people try to include you, you can never laugh along with the jokes knowing what the joke is actually about, whereas now it's possible to tell jokes yourself. Communication is the big thing, it's possible to have another level of friendship, because I can talk to my friends about more serious things, and they too confide in me, because they know I actually understand what is being said. It's probably the most rewarding part of exchange, when the friendships become more profound and meaningful. (Unfortunately it makes it harder to leave too!)

There are so many rewarding things about going on an exchange, it's an oppurtunity not to miss. To know that you are capable of making such strong friendships despite not understanding well the language for the first few months actually really rocks. I love the 'moments' I share with my friends and gosh to think I only have so much time left to spend time with them. 

And although I'm talking here about friendships becoming stronger, there are still new friendships forming. In classes, if for some reason people sit in other places I'll probably end up talking to some other classmates, and that means I'll greet them too when I see them, which means we'll probably talk more, and viola! more friendships formed! There's absolutely no way of knowing how many potential friends one has in the world, I've learned. 

I still laugh about the day (during the school anniversary) when hardly anyone came to one class (civics) and because it's an elective, there were kids from the other third grade class there. All of the friends I normally sit with had chosen not to come to class, as well as about half of the class. So what did we spend the class doing? Hiding in boxes and sellotaping bags to chairs . . .  good times!

With (some) of my awesome friends

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

---> 18th September

Last week every single house flew the Chilean flag, cars put flags on their bonnets and way too much meat was barbecued.

Last week lots of Cueca was danced, empanadas were eaten and reggaeton was played.

Last week was the 199th anniversary of Chile's independance from Spain, and being the patriotic country it is, it sure was celebrated!

On the Wednesday there were activities at school, traditional dances from Rapa Nui (easter island), Mapuche dances (the native inhabitants of Chile), Cueca, and a lot more.

A lot of people, especially the younger ones, came to school in traditional costume, which for girls is either a colourful patterned dress and white socks, or a long black skirt, white blouse and black jacket, and for men is black trousers and jacket, hat, poncho, boots and spurs and shin guards (my host sister also wasn't lying when she said that the guys look exquite in their 'huaso' clothes).

School festivities

At a large park in Copiapó was a colection of stages, where different groups supposedly played traditional music, which sounded a lot more like Cumbia (tropical) to me, and people danced, there was a market and traditional food stalls.

So what are some of the traditional Chilean 18th September foods?
-First, empanadas, a meat turnover. 
-Choripan, which is Chorizo sausage in a bread roll. 
-Churrasca, thin bread rounds cooked on a barbecue.
-Ferros, meat skewers with capsicum and onion.
-Mote con Huesillos, which is barley with a syrup and rehydrated peach (sounds strange but it's yummy)

That's all I can think of for now, but so much barbecued meat shouldn't be eaten in one day! 

In my family, we celebrated my driving two hours south to my uncle and aunt's in Vallenar, where, like every family in Chile, we had a barbecue, with lots of yummy food and salads, a typical family get together, making the skewers together, sharing a meal and sharing laughs. It went well.

Also, another interesting fact is that it is illegal NOT to fly the Chilean flag from your house on the 18th!