Sunday, March 29, 2009

---> Not better or worse, just different

Being in a different country, with a different culture, one is bound to notice the things that are different from how they are at home. As an exchange student, I have learnt to notice these differences without passing judgement as to whether it is a good difference or a bad difference, it is, and will always be, just different. 
So here are some of the different things about Chile:
-The meals - small breakfast, large lunch (eg, dinner in NZ), and a snack at about 9pm called Onces (Spanish for 11, although it's not eaten that late.
This is a special onces, some yummy pastries

-Public transport. There are Micros and Colectivos. Micros are buses, they follow a fixed route, but at any one time, there will be quite a few micros on that route. They are really cheap, about $0.80 for my route. They are dirty, pack in as many people as possible, and really hot. Colectivos are similar to taxis, except they follow a fixed route too, and normally have 5 people in a fie seater car. They're black, with a number on a thing on the roof. Cheap too, $1.50NZD. And you don't wear seatbelts. To signal a micro or colectivo, you stand on the side of the road and hold out your index finger. There's no fixed stopping place.

-Food comes in bags. No mayonaisse jar, or ketchup bottle, most condiment are in bags with a little screw thing in the side. 

-Normally bread is either these little roll things, call Maraquet, which are oval, or round shaped, with fork holes in the top, and there are like layers of bread, so it is easy to split it in half, and put it on a contraption to toast over the stove

-Here, in Copiapo, since the nearest farms are hundreds of kilometres away, all the milk is UHT, and taste like processed cheese to me. (So I never have just a straight glass of milk

-When students enter late to a classroom, most people wolf-whistle and make kissing noises

-This also happens when I go for a bike ride with my sisters, and workmen drive past. The name for them is 'Hawties', Spanish for Hawke. It's basically someone who hits on a lot of people

-The plugs (for electrical appliances) have three holes, lined up, and no on/off switch, you just unplug everything when you're not using it.

-The light switches are long, and sideways

-Toilet paper is never flushed, you always put it in a bin beside the loo, as the plumbing system can't handle it

-Driving is on the right hand side of the road

-Driving is crazy, and there are quite often policemen to signal traffic. Traffic occasionally stops at pedestrian crossings, but normally you just walk out when there are no cars coming and pray that the ones that do come, stop for you

-Policemen wear green, and police cars are green

-In some shops, instead of queuing, you take a ticket from a red metal dispenser on the wall, and wait for the number on your ticket to come up on a red screen above the till. 

-There are stray dogs everywhere, some are really cute and fluffy, and some are huge German Shephards

-On Saturdays and Fridays, everyone stays up really really late

-Being late is normal, except for school, when if you are late, this person writes down your name and class if you are a senior, and lets the little kids walk right through (they don't take a reason, like when I was late once because the traffic lights had broken, and traffic was really bad. I thought it was really unfair that I was put in the same basket as someone who had simply slept in.

-All school books are spiral bound, and made from graph paper. 

-After lunch, everyone brushes their teeth, and reapplies makeup (well not the boys)

-After PE, we all shower

-In PE, we do heaps of stretches and running, no games.

-Shoes are worn at all times, inside and outside the home

-Jeans are really cool here, not the plain styles like in NZ

-Nobody texts. I have not sent a single text since arriving here. 

-To greet someone, it's a kiss on their right cheek. Some people hug too, and guys just shake hands

-Even though it's against the rules, pretty much every student takes a MP3/cellphone with MP3 to school, wears makeup, and talks during class. I have not seen anyone with an iPod, however.

-We stay in the same classroom for all our subjects, the teachers change instead.

-At lunctime in school, students can return home, or they can take a lunch to school in a Chili-bin thing, in little plastic containers, or their parents take them their lunch at lunchtime, or they get a hot lunch from the cafeteria

-A lot of smoking (but luckily noone in my host family). Teenagers smoke at parties

-All houses have gates, and in the centre of town, have bars over the windows too. Some fences have spikes/barbed wire on top.

-Furniture is not pushed up against the walls because of the Chilean Recluse Spider, which on Wednesday night, I found right next to my bed, on the wall next to where my head would have been. Even scarier is that most people get bitten when sleeping. It's fatal too.

-There are slums. Not extremely bad ones, but definitely quite a few poorer districts where I live
Poorer houses painted bright colours

-Well, my school uniform is different from my one in NZ! I don't normally wear the vest, but it is normally quite cold in the mornings.
-On PE days, everyone wears the school tracksuit to school, during PE, and after (but changes socks, underwear and the PE top.

-Water is heated by a Calefont (Kelly-font). You have to turn it one before showering, which means using a match to light this thing, then turning a switch and holding it in place for about 15 seconds.

-Since my school is a music school, the Band I am in (it's a marching band) is hardcore. There are heaps of clarinets, brass instruments, like horns, tubas, euphoniums, there are all the different kinds of saxophones, quite a few bassoons (in Spanish, fagots!) and of course, flutes! And we have to learn music of by heart, and march. And I am a little bit worried about learning music of by heart and marching to it, but yes, it's different!

-Dishes are washed by running them under the tap, and using a cloth and a bit of dishwashing liquid. Then they are rinsed so there is no foam on them. We don't have a dishwasher. (or a clothes dryer)

So that's the end of the differences, now it's time for an update about my weekend!

On Friday, after school (which finished at 1pm) me and my host sister decided to do a bit of baking, and ended up making two things from NZ, Anzac biscuits, and Louise Cake. Both went down really well, and I managed to explain the history of Anzac biscuits in Spanish! (It's amazing the sorts of things about NZ I have explained - from Anzac biscuits, to netball, to ACC and OSH, to the Haka, what Kiwis are.) Things I never thought I'd explain!

So here we are making Anzac Biscuits:

And last night (Saturday), I went to a concert of the band Los Llacos. (Spanish for the tool that miners use, it's like a hammer, and I can't remember the name - pick?) It's a band of traditional music from the Copiapó region, and it was amazing. It was indoors, in a proper theatre. The bad was playing, and behind them on a screen, images were projected. It was traditional music, but there were contemporary instruments like a saxophone, drumkit, electric guitar and modern flute, as well as a rain stick, pan pipes, and a bamboo whistle thing. Lots of people in the audience were taking photos with flashes too. 
My younger host sister had a few friends come, and my family asked if I wanted to invite the other new exchangers, but Connor and Fabian were in La Serena, so it was me and Ananda. And Mum, you should be proud of me for organising something over the telephone (as opposed to texting), and in another language!
Some of the words of the songs I could understand, or get the general idea from, like the song about the resistance of the Mapuche (native people to Chile) when the Spaniards came. It was really a great show.
The band on stage

After the show, one of the members of the band was outside, and my host parents were talking to him, so Ananda (the Brazilian exchanger) and I got a photo with him, underneath the banner. I also managed to do a bit of promotion for Womad - it would be amazing if they could come there next year, I was listening to the band and imagining how great they would be at Womad (I thought of the concert as my own mini-Womand, since I couldn't be there this year.)

Me, the guy from Los Llacos, and Ananda, underneath the poster for the band

After that, we went outside, where there is a beautiful plaza, which is a memorial for the hereos of the war between Chile and Bolivia-Peru, in the 19th centry. there was a statue, and a gorgeous mosaic on the ground. My host dad told Ananda and I about the mosaic and the statues, and I was pleased to note that I also knew a bit about it from my history class at school!
In front of the statue

In front of the Catholic church in Copiapó.
In the beautiful plaza

On Thursday it was my one month anniversary of being in Chile. It's amazing how quickly time has flown by. When I first arrived, I was really quite homesick (although I didn't blog about it). The next 11 months looked very far away for me, and at school I was fighting back tears several times every day. (I discovered that fake-yawning helps disguise that). 
Exchange isn't meant to be easy, and my first few weeks here were the hardest so far. One day, I was feeling homesick at reakfast, and when my host mum asked me what was wrong, and if I missed NZ, I began to cry. But I have such a lovely host family, my host mum gave me a long cuddle and said comforting things, my host sisters and dad hugged me, and my host sister wiped my eyes. Since then, my homesickness has got better, and I definitely feel like I'm becoming accostumed (sorry, I'm forgetting how to spell) to the culture, developing a routine, and becoming part of my host family.  In this past month I have learnt a lot about myself, I've learnt to be patient, I've had absolutely no idea what is going on, and just gone with the flow, I've felt really isolated at school from the language barrier (and that is an ongoing thing), but after 11 months, I (hopefully) will be a more mature person, and I know it will be worth it. 
There is the reality, when new things become familiar, and when your imagination of what your host country will be like, is no longer imagination but reality. 

But every day will start to go faster and faster, until my year here has ended, and my goal for this year is to Carpe Diem. Time is precious, and I want to make the most of my time here in Chile.

Monday, March 23, 2009

---> The weekend!

I always look forward to weekends. Two days to sleep in and relax, and without the pressure of school.

Unfortunately this weekend was different. 

I had to go to school!

Luckily it was from 8am - 12.50pm, no later. But school on a Saturday . . . well having a two day weekend seems to have become a luxury. The reason my school had to attend classes on Saturday is to make up for the days we'll have off later in the year - 4 terms with 2 week holidays between, another NZ luxury!

But luckily after something not-so-nice came something good - an AFS Copiapó welcome. The first time I had seen the other exchangers in a few weeks. We had to stand up in front of everyone (host families, returnees, and the AFS people) and introduce ourselves. Which would have been easy for me, had it been in English. As soon as I have to talk in front of a group of people in Spanish, my Spanish goes out the window. So I managed to utter 'Hola, soy Anita. Tengo 16 años y soy de Nueva Zealandia. Me encanta Chile y mi familia aquí todo.' Which translates to Hello, I am Anita. I am 16 and from New Zealand. I love Chile and my family here.... um..... That's all. (What I meant by 'that's all' was that's all I can think of, not that's all I love here!)
Me, Fabian, Ananda and Connor

After the introductions was a chance to eat some delicious food, and talk with the other exchangers. One of the returnees spent a year in South Auckland, and it was good to talk to someone who understood all the Kiwi slang!

On Sunday afternoon, I went with my host dad and sisters to Paipote, a small village on the outskirts of Copiapó. There is a giant sand dune there (well, a bit bigger than Back Beach) and we climbed it - no steps! -  an a bit further to get a view of some of Copiapó and take some photos. 

Sisters and I on sand dune

Me on sand dune

The weekend after this up and coming weekend is an orientation in Santiago for us exchangers. Looking forward to it heaps!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

---> A birthday!

On Tuesday it was the 14th birthday of one of my host sisters. 

In the morning I gave her a hug, as did every other member of the family except for my host dad as he works in the mines from Sunday night to Thursday night.

After school we had to walk to the centre of town to buy our tracksuits for PE (yes, we were winter tracksuits here in the desert, for PE!)

But upon returning, the house had been decorated with balloons, a Feliz Cumpleaños banner, the table had been set, and all we had to do was wait for our cousin (who is a student at the university here) to turn up.

Then we ate! Pizza, lollies and cake. My host sister opened her gifts, and it was a very jolly occasion.

All of the kids at the table - Host sister, host sister's boyfriend, host brother's girlfriend, host brother, me, host cousin and the birthday girl

The birthday girl!

And for another little story, I thought I would tell you about some language mistakes I have made while here in Chile. 
Firstly, I was at a mall place with my host sisters (on Tuesday), and there was a poster (luckily, there weren't many people around). I thought I'd read the poster aloud. Couldn't understand any of it, but just to practice speaking. So I read it, and in a loud voice as there weren't that many people. The word I said loudest was 'Pap'. Quite a bit louder than the other words.
As we were walking away, I asked my sisters what 'Pap' meant. Turns out it means the same in Spanish as it does in English. It was a poster for Pap Smears.

The other language mistake I made involved me explaining to my host brother, in Spanish, what backstabbing was. I was doing quite a bit of miming to explain myself, and standing in a position that a pirate with a sword might adopt, to mime out someone with a knife, I said 'It's like when someone comes up behind you and stabs you back . . ." and I got the word for knife mixed up with the word for ... "SPOON!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

---> My first party in Chile

Last night I went with my host sister (the one who's the same age as me) to my first Chilean party.

It was the birthday of one of her friends, and as they all go to a different school than me, I knew absolutely no-one, but luckily I'm getting used to that!

I arrived at 10pm (it's normal to be late), and was introduced, talked with the other girls there, learnt how to play Blackjack, with caramel popcorn as chips (as in, betting chips), talked about music with the girls there. 

The music playing was a style called Cumbia, which everyone says is good to dance to. Well, it might be good to dance to, but me, dance? Something I hadn't done in about 3 years . . . But when a guy offered to teach me I decided to give it a go (no, Mum and Dad, this does not mean anything!) It was quite fun and we got into a conga line around the pool. 

One cultural difference I noted was that it's normal to be huggy/touchy with the opposite gender, even if it's just friends. One of the girls I was talking to was lying on a deck chair with her guy friend, then when he left she held the hand of another guy, and there's nothing wrong with that. In NZ it might be considered cheating on your boyfriend, but it's just a friends thing, and it's perfectly acceptable and normal.

There was alcohol and smoking there, but I had neither, but the drinking was responsible drinking, no binging, which would have made me uncomfortable. Everyone had a good time that they will be able to remember!

Some people went for a swim/got thrown into the pool. I tried a cute little mini ice cream, like a Trumpet, but much smaller and the cone was chocolate. We took some photos (not with my camera, I didn't bring it).

It was a good night, and my first 'carrete' in Chile!

Now I have to attempt to do my homework!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

---> Caldera, and my first week at school

Last weekend I went with my host family to a beach resort town called Caldera. It's about 100km from Copiapó, and the drive there is completely through the desert. Because it's through the desert, it basically means the road is dead straight. And literally dead, because all through the highway were memorials for those who had lost their lives on the road. As it's so straight, people speed, and accidents happen. 
The memorials are a Chilean tradition. They're simply not white crosses like there might be in NZ, instead they are beautiful edifices, like little white tiled rooms, I guess you could say. There are fresh flowers and candles around them, and little fences. The sad thing is, on the one hour journey on a straight, reasonably flat desert road, there were about 81 of them.

Caldera itself is a very beautiful seaside town. When we arrived we had lunch at an amazing restaurant, where the interior decor complemented by wrought iron monuments, like the drama faces, and other things. There was also a singer/guitarrist on a level above. The food was good too, but I tried to stay away from the cochroach that came out from under the table! 

The little port at Caldera was gorgeous, and there was a white sandy beach with the town and desert in the background.

At Bahia Inglesa, I kayaked with my host dad, and there, was the biggest oyster farm in the world. It seemed to stretch on for kilometres. The sea was very calm, and there are what I would call massive rocks (but not boulders, more like the rock pools, but smoother) and there was a kiosk on top of one. 

After the kayak, my host sister and I got churros, Chilean donuts. Mine was filled with manjar (dulce de leche/caramel). Yum yum!

Then on Monday was my first day of school. First my host mum and I went to the office, and then a teacher (I think) came and showed me to my classroom. I was looking kind of lost, but a girl invited me to sit next to here, and then some students gathered around and asked so many questions: (in Spanish)
'When did you arrive?'
'Where do you come from?'
'Where do you live here?'
'Who do you live with?'
'What's NZ like?
'What music do you like?'
'Do you have a boyfriend?'
'Do you like Chile?'

Questions like that came at me for the first few days. A teacher arrived at 10am (school start at 8am). The teacher before was sick, and there are no relief teachers. The class decided on the class rep, secretary and other positions. 

For lunchtime, students can either return home or eat at school, and because it takes about 20 mins to return home, I eat at school. I ate my lunch with the same girl who had let me sit with her, but lunchtime was fairly boring, and being bored makes my mind wander to home, and homesickness sets in.

I had been told school finished at 5.30pm, but for my class it finishes at 4pm, so I had to wait until I could call my host mum. Luckily some other friendly girls noticed me looking lost, and kindly kept me company until I could be picked up. They took me to see the flute teacher to organise lessons, let me copy out the timetable and showed me a bit of the school. It was great.

On Tuesday some more people invited me to sit with them, so I got to know more people, and had lunch with them, which I couldn't really follow their conversation, but it was a much more lively lunchtime than on Monday. 

I can't understand any of my classes, except Physics and Maths, as I've already done them at home. My classes are: Physics, Biology, Maths, English, Spanish, PE, Music Theory, Philosophy, Audiovisual Communication, Civics, and Language and Society. And one more, that I can't remember.

All of my classes except one are in the same room, and the seats here ar horribly uncomfortable. Between each class, there's either a 10 minute recreo (2 in the morning) or a break while we wait for the teacher to arrive, then race to the classroom before she/he shuts the door. 

Each lunchtime I liked better and better, and I think that my understanding of Spanish has improved. After everyone finishes their lunch (that has either been brought with them in the morning, or delivered by a parent at lunch), we all go to the bathroom and do what the sign tells us, which is brush our teeth. And the girls all re-apply their makeup as well. 

The uniform is a white polo, or a white blouse with a navy and red tye. And a vest or a jersey. A navy skirt with lots of pleats, above the knee, for girls, and grey trousers for the boys. Navy socks, and black shoes. For PE, it's navy tracksuit pants, and the school sweater. Earrings, necklaces and bracelets appear to be allowed as well. 

Most of my classmates are really friendly, but there are a few that just keep to themselves and aren't bothered with a new student (I don't mind), and they invite me to sit with them, stand with them during breaks, and show me around the school. To greet friends, you give them a kiss on the cheek, or the boys just shake hands (I think). It's considered rude not to do that. 

And now here are some photos:

A train track statue at Caldera (sorry it's not rotated)

In the Atacama desert, on the way to Caldera

My first empanada! With Ananda, from Brazil

In the Atacam desert with my host sisters

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

---> The first few days (+ photos!)

Yesterday was my first full day in Chile, and there was plenty to do!
I was woken up early, because I had to register my visa. When Andrea and I arrived at the Policia de Investigaciones, all the other new exchangers were there, and it was great to see them again. We waited for ages, but eventually we were one by one, taken into an office, where we had to hand in our passport, and the person there typed some things from it into the computer, then took a photo of me, and printed out 2 copies. I had no problems with my visa, but unfortunately Ananda did, and couldn't go on to get her CARNET (Chilean ID card).

The rest of us piled into Alvaro's car (Connor's host brother, and a volunteer) and drove to the civil (?) office to apply for our carnet. Instead of lining up, you take a number out of a roll from a red dispenser, and when that number appears on the screen over your booth, you take your turn. (This is quite common here). So instead of waiting around, at first we went outside and talked, but Connor was hungry, so we walked to a cafe to get something to eat. The food here is great, and toast (which we all ordered) isn't just thin slices of bread, it's a huge bread roll, with avocado, cheese and ham, or jam. Yum! After our snack we walked back, but Fabian's host mum was there and had parked downtown, so we piled into her car and drove back to the civil registry, where our numbers were still not near to coming up (even though this had taken the good part of an hour).

Finally my number came up on the screen, and I went with Andrea to apply for my CARNET. You have to have your passport, documents that show your visa has been registered, and it cost 40050 pesos (about $12 NZD). After that, we took a colectivo home. A colectivo is like a taxi, but it follows a route, and you try to get as many people in as possible. No seatbelts!

We had lunch once we arrived home, and after lunch Valeria and Pablo and I went round the house, writing down the words for things in Spanish, and I would write the English. Surprisingly, we did this for quite a while! The Chilean accent is quite strong, so even when I know the word, it sounds different, which is another reason we wrote things down.

Once my host mum arrived back from work, she drove me back into town to meet up with the other exchangers in Copiapó, which Dominique, an Austrian who has been here for 6 months already, organised. There were about 10 of us, and 4 were newbies. We met at a hotdog/burger place, and I had a hot dog with avocado and tomato. The food here is amazingly good! After we ate something, we then went to the Plaza and talked, then to the shops (really crowded at 7pm!), then to another plaza to talk. The students who have been here for half a year seem so old and wise to us youngun's, and in 6 months, I guess we will be like that to the half year arrivals! 

My host mum picked me up at about 8:30, and we returned home, watched TV, and I explained when we wear sandals for the school uniform (in Spanish!) and about terms and national exams here.

And at last, some long awaited photos! 

activities on the 1st day of orientation

Ashleigh, Nic, Tamika, Chris, Me, Stu and Stephanie (Kiwis and Aussies) in the girls' room

In front of the orientation place, you can see the mountains in the background

My orientation group
Analisa, Ashleigh, Stephanie, Lexi, Stu, Allie, Alvaro (volunteer), Molly, Chris, Emily, Me, Erica and Leah

The Kiwis - Stu, Stephanie, Chris, Ashleigh and I

(This is at the NP airport, but you can see my cool AFS tee shirt!)

Sela and I
Brazil, France, Finland, Finland, Denmark and Finland

Sunday, March 1, 2009

---> Here I am

I'm in Copiapo now, so if I don't fall asleep, I'll try to update on everything that I possibly can!

Airport and plane ride
The farewell at NP airport was sad. I was so glad some of my friends could make it. When the voice came over the intercom that it was time for me to board, it was so sudden and 'this-is-it-esque'. I cried. 

The plane ride to Santiago was VERY long, 12 hours I think, and I got my first taste of culture shock when some Chilean ladies spoke to me in rapid Spanish that I should change seats so I could sit next to Ashleigh (one of the other NZers). I watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona and tried to sleep. 

Arriving in Santiago, we were all hot and tired ( 4am in NZ, 12pm in Santiago). The airport security was pretty lax. If you had something to declare it was pretty much 'we don't care, just go'.

Orientation was great. The NZers were the first to arrive, and all the other countries arrived the next day. We got there and were ushered straight into lunch, which appeared to be a plate of lettuce, tomato and a piece of ham. We all thought (the five NZers) that is was such a nice, light snack after the plane ride. Not so. Ten minutes later a plate of chicken and chips was brought in, then after that, rock melon for desert. We all talked to the volunteers, then rested and talked until it was a reasonable time to go to bed (after supper).

The next day at orientation all the other students arrived. The nationalities represented were
and I think that's it.

The day they arrived was reserved just for hanging out, so we played cards, hung out in the courtyard, talked, the Scandinavians had a 'Techo-party", we played some games etc.

The next day was full on orientation, where we learnt about Chile and exchange rules, Chilean youth culture, that sort of thing. Each orientation group consisted of about 12 students, and there were 78 of us in total. The orientation site was very Catholic, with crosses and chapels and figures of Jesus. There were also lovely maids, who spoke no English, but I managed to converse with in the kitchen when Stephanie (NZ) needed a knife to cut the tie on her suitcase with. Everyone got on really well, and we had a big photo shoot at the end. Then after dinner I packed my suitcase and went to the bus terminal with some other students catching overnight buses. 

Bus ride
The 10 hour bus drive to Copiapó was in a bus like a 1st class airplane. The roads were so straight, and there were some toll booths along the way. I did sleep a bit. Outside the window, there was nothing but desert, with scrub, some small slums, and sand hills. The other students going to Copiapó are a girl from Brazil,  and boys from the USA and Germany.

Arrival and host family
Copiapo is hot, let me say that. Hot and dusty. There is a dried up river, and we are surrounded by sand hills. A person from AFS was there to meet us at the bus terminal, and so were our host families. 

I went back to my host familys' house and had something to eat for brunch, then went to bed. So far my host family has been great. They are all very helpful and my host mum is very supportive. I couldn't get through to an international call to call my parents for some reason, so we went to the neighbour's and used their Skype. It was fantastic to hear my parent's voices, I miss them a lot already.

Tomorrow my host parents are working, so my host siblings and I are going into town to get my Chilean ID and my residency sorted. 

Adios everyone!