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 CopiapĆ³ 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 CopiapĆ³.
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.


Kelly said...

Thanks for this. The things about homesickness and general Chilean differences in culture are what I want to hear about most. I hope you're feeling better, I know it's really hard!

claire said...

Hi, its mum. Great to see the photos! Also -('cos Mums notice these things) a few spelling mistakes! Mayonnaise, hawk, no-one and breakfast! (you left a B off breakfast , in the homesickness paragraph!
love, Mum