Friday, May 29, 2009

---> Gracias, ¡Listos!

Before I left for Chile, my friends from my Spanish class at school gave me a present. It was a book of memories basically . . . all the good times we'd had in Spanish class over the past years. Without ¡Listos!, I don't know where I'd be with my Spanish. Those weekly irregular verb tests, writing practices that we did, were all made easier, gracias to our ¡Listos!
Of course, being given just the plain textbook is a bit boring. So instead of an actual textbook - because stealing is bad, and the books belong to my school in NZ - they photocopied all the pages that would come in handy for me.

This is the inside cover, with the school stamp, and a photo of my Spanish buddies after our Spanish exam.

The additional bit of writing outlined in green says 'When I finish in the university, I want to marry and have a family. A divorce is sometimes necessary. I have experience.' 

This is the section where we learnt how to read, write, listen and speak about drug dependancy. Drugs however, are a big no-no. Salchichas locas, no necesito eso!

Around some of the pages, they practiced their Spanish writing. 

My host brother finds this part hilarious . . .

And of course I have to live with the possiblity I might get ill . . . 

On the right, are the different forms of the verb, we even had a song to remember them.

The back cover. 

Without my ¡Listos!, I don't know where I'd be. So a huge shout out to my Spanish buddies for this!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

---> February 26th, 2009

The 26th of February was the last day of normality for me. The last day I would speak only English, the last day I would have a breakfast of (actually I forgot what I did have for breakfast), the last day I would see my mum, dad and siblings for 11 months, the last day I would lead only one life. 

Once I got off the plane in Santiago, I was plunged, unreadily, into the world that would be my home for almost a year. I say unreadily because my only regret is that I didn't spend as much time with my friends and family as I should have before I left. But once I arrived in Chile I began to lead a life that to my family and friends back home, is new, exciting, different, perhaps a dream life even. I don't know. A life they could only imagine about.

Now I have been leading this life for three months. A typical Chilean life, that the other 16 million people in this country lead. I go to school, do chores, socialise with friends, try doing homework, and live as part of a Chilean family. Through these three months I know I have changed. I don't mean changed as in my personality as much (Nic: Anita's crazy but we love her. Sound true enough?) But now things that concerned me, and where I want to go in my life has changed. If I had lived these three months in New Zealand like a normal Kiwi, I know I wouldn't have become as worldly, and enriched as I have become in Chile. 

I wouldn't have seen poverty, I wouldn't have felt so isolated, I wouldn't have learnt so much about myself if I hadn't chosen to do an exchange. 

I used to love a book about a boy with cancer who had a notebook that would take him to a different world if he fell asleep thinking of that world. In that different world he lead a life full of danger and mystery, while back in his own world he was bedridden and fading away. He got to experience two worlds in one lifetime, but eventually had to give up on one world.

I am a bit like that boy (except I'm not a boy, and I'm healthy). My life here is something surreal at times. I have moments when I think 'whoa, I'm in Chile!' But the thought that I'll have to return home also scares me. I'm happy with both the places I live, Chile and New Zealand. They're different, in obvious and subtle ways. But they're both Home.

Communication has become easier. After three months, conversational Spanish is pretty much understandable, and I can contribute to a conversation, as well as understand more without having to translate. And that does make life SO much easier!

Friends are friends, not people who are interested in the Foreign Exchange Student. I know now they are friends with me because they actually like me, not because I'm new and interesting!

Family is family. I feel like less of an outsider, although at times I do still feel like an outsider, but that's only natural becuase they have been a family for years and years and I have been in the family for three months! 

I've learnt to be more patient. That if I wait it out, it will be okay in the end. And if it's not ok, it's not the end. I've learnt what makes me happiest can also be what causes the most pain. I've learnt to go with the flow and not worry about where that might take me. I've learnt that I can put my full trust in some people because I can't not do that. I've learnt that even if I try my best, it might not show, and to cope with that when it doesn't. I've learnt to be more self-sufficient, think more for myself, and be more independant. I've learnt that in these three months I've changed more than I have expected, and am happy with where I am now. 

I've learnt that life is for living, that I have to take every moment as it comes, embrace life, live if to the full and not have any regrets.

I've learnt that time goes faster that I ever imagined, and that if these three months have passed, I only have eight left, and I have to carry on making the most of every minute.

Monday, May 25, 2009

---> Coquimbo/La Serena

On Thursday morning we all piled into the jeep and headed south for five hours to the cities of La Serena and Coquimbo, which are two cities about 15 minutes away from each other (except they're practically joined). The drive there was fairly uneventful. It was a little frustrating at the start when my host family explained to me we were driving on the alternative road that trucks use to transport dangerous goods, because they can't drive through the cities, and I wanted to ask what kind of dangerous goods, but couldn't think of the spanish and they repeated the same thing (that I already knew) 3 times instead. At times like that you just accept that being an exchange student has its downsides - communication in this case. But finally I clicked that unlike in NZ, where the trucks can drive through the cities, sulfuric acid is a lot more dangerous than milk. And the sulfuric acid is for the mines in the north. 

Day 1:
We arrived in Coquimbo at about 2pm, just in time for lunch! We stayed with my host grandparents, the parents of my host dad. With them lived my host uncle, and my host aunt. My younger host sister told me that every time they come to Coquimbo, there are always home made empanadas waiting, and she was right! So we had lunch. Their apartment was on top of a hairdressing studio, and it was a big apartment. There was even a rooftop terrace! 
The apartment

My host parents used to live in Coquimbo, so after lunch and relaxing - everyone always has some 'quiet time' after lunch, my host dad took us kids (3 host siblings, me, and older host sis's boyfriend) on a tour of downtown Coquimbo. The whole 3 days we were there it was very foggy and damp. Unlike Copaipó, Coquimbo is hilly. It is a port city, so it's not as rich as La Serena. Downtown there was a little plaza, with a fountain, and at the port part, two statues which I thought were Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but were actually just statues or English things, because it was a port city and an important port for the English. Lots of the people there were blonder and had blue eyes, because of English ancestry. For onces we ate cerviche, which is a seafood dish with onions and spices. We also had a custard pie and apple pie that we bought from the supermarket for onces, which were both yummy, of course! Then we went to La Serena to see a movie, but the tickets were sold out, so we hung out in the huge mall instead.

Day 2: (Friday)
After breakfast, I went with my host mum to downtown Coquimbo because she needed to buy something for the classes that she teaches. The population of Coquimbo is about 400,00, therefore there are a lot more shops than in Copiapó. A lot of the architecture is very British inspired too, and the buildings are taller than in Copiapó. We got back in time for lunch, which was at 2pm. This time lunch was cerviche and empanadas, which I can never complain about! After lunch we went to La Serena because my host sibs wanted to see X-Men: Wolverine, and there is no cinema in Copiapó. Luckily for me, it was in english with Spanish subtitles! After that we had something to eat in the mall. The La Serena mall is huge and fancy, but we stayed in the food court part. Chilean fast food is churrasco, which is like a hamburger, except with real meat and avocado, tomato, mayonaise, and the buns are proper bread. There's completos, which are hot dogs with tomato, avocado and mayonaise, lots of ice cream shops, and the usual KFC and McDonalds. But I think it's a lot nicer than the kind of take outs we have in NZ! The we walked around the centre of La Serena, saw a cathedral (La Serena has about 40 churches) and a market there.

Day 3: 
My host dad gave us a little tiki-tour of Coquimbo, where he grew up. First of all we went to the port, to the fish market. I was a little bit worried about going there, as I had a little bit of a sore tummy, and the smell of fish is a little bit unpleasant when you have a sore tummy. But it was ok. I mean it still smelt like fish but my sore tummy went away thank goodness! The fish market had an indoor part and an outdoor part. Us kids walked through the indoor part, where there were stalls selling all types of sea food, and some in ready to eat plastic cups. There were a few eateries, with people showing menus and trying to get customers. It was packed too, like a can of sardines!
Fish market

Restaurant in the indoor part of the fish market
After the fish market part, there was a proper market, the kind that sells earrings, scarves, bags, jewellery, minerals, glassware, you name it. I noticed a lot of the prices were cheaper than in Copiapó - I bought a scarf which would have costed $15 in the Copiapó market, for a mere $6 in Coquimbo. The day was grey and cloudy, but we still got a good view over the port and across the bay to La Serena.
Me at the port
A sign I found quite funny!

Next up on the tour was to see the statue of the Mirador, which is William Drake, looking out over the bay. (The statue is on a hill). A lot of the landscape in Coquimbo is similar to that of Copiapó, it has huge rocky, sandy hills (albeit with more plants than in Copiapó), and a more humid climate, (Wikipedia lies, when it says precipitation is sparse). 
The Mirador
View of the bay from the Mirador lookout. And a cannon
After getting a bit lost driving on a big hill in the poor part of Coquimbo, we made it to the biggest tourist attraction in Coquimbo, the Cross of the Third Millenium.
The cross as seen from the port
It's a religious structure, and at the base is a church, and a papal museum. We had a look in the (small) museum, but then went up the cross in a lift to see the view of the city. The lift went all the way to the cross part of the cross, which was very high. Host dad said it was higher than the statue of Jesus Christ in Brazil.
The cross and I
It also showed a lot of the inequality in Chile. I was standing in a building that had cost millions of dollars to build and attracted rich tourists from around the world (I swear there were Spanish tourists in our little tour group of the museum), yet down below, we could see slum like buildings, right next to this huge expensive monument. I could see people washing clothes in a tub outside of there houses, street dogs, lots of rubbish, and poverty.
For example:
Sign I found funny - 'Ocean Pacific Horizon', 'Photographic zone', 'Keep out place clean', and 'Watch out your children'

Back home for lunch. After lunch I had organised to meet up with my two AFS friends hosted in La Serena/Coquimbo, Nic the Australian and Ines from Austria. We met up in La Serena while my host dad and host sister saw a movie. But there was a bit of a problem with meeting up - I described a church to them as a place to meet, but turns out, La Serena has quite a few churches! So we were waiting in two different places. But we met up in the end, and started to walk down to the beach. About halfway there, Ines got a phone call from Nic's host brother (because he speaks German) to ask when they were going to see a movie. So we decided to walk back to the mall to see the movie. In the line to buy tickets was my host dad and host sister. But the tickets to the movie we wanted to see were sold out, so we went to McCafe and had coffee and talked - us exchangers talk a lot! Then we took a colective to Nic's house, so Nic did a tour of his big house for me, and we hung out, and had onces with his host mum and host brother. After that my host dad picked me up and we went back to Coquimbo.

Day 4:
In the morning, we visited the property my host parents own in La Serena, then went to a cake shop to buy cakes for lunch, had lunch, and packed the car to return to Copiapó. We go back at about 9pm yesterday. 

I don't have school today because the teachers are on strike.

Just a small thing:
To leave a comment, write the comment, type the letters from the box into that box thing, then write your email address and password in the other boxes. I think that's how it's done, because you don't need a blogger account to leave a comment.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

---> This is NZ | Yeah Right

Yesterday I went to a place that was definitely nothing like New Zealand. It is a national park in the Atacama Region of Chile called Pan de Azúcar, or Sugar Bread.

Two false facts about the desert.
1. It's boring
2. It's hot

1. The scenery was amazing. At first it was just desert, but then we were driving through this coastal town and to get there the road was literally built on the most jagged rocks I have ever seen. Luckily the road was a nice safe looking one. The rocks weren't. 

The first place in the park where we stopped to take photos (we as in the 4WD convoy of people who my host dad works with) was mountains mountains mountains GREEN! And I was so excited to see green again!
The mountains were amazing, the weren't particularly big as in what we would call mountains (and they weren't the Andes either, in case you're wondering), but it was a massive range of them. About the same size as the hills by Urenui /Uruti, when you're driving to Aukland.
So after the hills, it was not hilly, but uneven ground and covered in cacti! There wasn't any road, we were just driving on a track that previous jeeps had left. The cacti were big (for me) and it was misty and you could see the mountains in the background. I think I actually really let out a sigh of awe that day, the scenery was so dramatic and amazing.
Host sisters by a cactus.
We stopped again because it was spectacular, the road going into the mountains. These photographs really do it no justice.
At one point was a very, very, very high cliff, with the sea at the bottom, and it was like desert, desert desert, sea, mist, and nothing. Surreal.
At the 'beach' you couldn't swim, it was so rocky, but it was where we had a typicaly Chilean lunch of seafood and meat stew, cooked over a fire, and sausages and bread rolls. Instead of each family taking their own picnic, everyone brought some food, and we all pitched in at the tables preparing it and cooking it. 
This is the sausages and bread being cooked

Me eating lunch. It wasn't cold, the jacket was to stop me getting sunburnt. And the beer wasn't mine. Those round thangs are potatoes baked in earth

A fox we saw (the only wildlife we saw in the park. No llamas, unfortunately)
Host family and the Grunt Wagon

After we returned to the place where the other families had camped, we had tea and biscuits (I tried Happy Chirimoya flavour, which were like wine biscuits with a chirimoya and orange filling), the group of us was invited to have tea at the place of one of the families that lives there (I think). In any case, it's rude to refuse, so we all drove the short distance there, where not only was there tea, but the little girls (the daughters of collegues of my host dads, nobody actually seemed to have any sons) were rolling out dough to make empanadas, and there was also fish, sopaipillas (fried bread dough) and rice. I wasn't hungry so was satisfied with just an empanada. It's a Chilean custom to invite people over to have tea but actually have a proper meal! While the adults were talking, I sat on one of the sofas outside, and in another sofa was a little girl called Sofia pressing the on and off switch on the torch. So I sat next to her and started talking to her, and then got out my camera so we could press more buttons. But what are cameras for, but taking photos? So we took some photos. More girls gathered round (all young, about 3-5yrs) and I showed them photos on my iPod of my dog and the beach, and they  tried to imitate the 'peace' sign. All were absolultely adorable, although it was hard to understand baby spanish talk!

At one stage I was telling Sofia that when I was a little girl, I used to have blonde hair.
She looked at me in shock, and said, incredibly surprised 'What happened?'
Her mum was on the sofa then too, and we were both in fits of laughter! Cutest thing ever! I do miss being around younguns', eg the kids I babysit in NZ and my little brother. But I got a big enough dose of warm fuzzies to tide me over for a while.

The gorgeous Sofia (showing off her Winnie the Pooh top)
Me and the girls. Guiliana, on the right, was 5 and the most well behaved, sweet little girl I have ever met!
Monsi, in the middle, reminded me of my cousin Annabel (especially her hair!)

And finally, we returned to Copiapó VERY late. Here's a photo of the sunset in the camping place. 

Friday, also, was the Day of the Student, so instead of normal classes there were class competitions for singing and dancing. It was also my first day back after two days off, and I was greeted extra enthusiastically, which was really nice. School also started later, and so I got a bit of a sleep in too! 
After that, I went out with my friends to have lunch, so we went to the supermarket and bought pizza and soft drinks, then got back and ate it, and after played Pictionary. The pictionary game was hilarious! Instead of drawing, we mimed the things, and one of the things I had to mime was Tractor! It was a really fun day, and a nice break from normal classes. I also felt more like a part of a group of friends, rather than The Exchange Student. 
Playing pictionary. Cony, Me, Nicole, Andrea and Nicole
But everyone was like 'whoooaaa' when I said something really fast, something random like 'I think the doll is a girl'. It was a funny moment, we were actually discussing the gender of a doll. My spanish is at the level when I am translating in my head less and less and just automatically knowing what the words mean. I have managed to make another mistake - I wanted to jokingly say 'I'm going to marry a chilean' but instead said 'I'm going to hunt chileans'. So watch out! 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

---> My house (in the middle of the street)

So today and yesterday I havn't been at school because I've got a bit of a cold and am doing everything possible to get better, which means lots of bed rest, drinking lots of water, wearing warm clothes, socks and getting early nights (none of which I would do in NZ when I get colds, but the Kiwi 'she'll be right' attitude doesn't apply to me when I'm in Chile and should obey my host mum's wishes for me to not contaminate everyone else in the house and recover in time for Friday, when we will be going to the Pan de Azucar  with a group from my host dad's work. The other reason is if I have to go to the doctor (it's a cold, only a bit of a cough, a headache, runny nose, nothing serious) I have been told I will get an Injection. So in NZ, people give injections in the arm. No problem (although injections for colds, that's new). A month back I was talking to my Aussie friend, who was too sick to come to the one-month orientation, and he was telling me how horrible it was to be so unwell in a foreign country. What made it so horrible? Injections. With a Capital I. Because, in Chile, you see, they don't inject into your upper arm. Oh no. They inject into your buttock. So that's why I am trying to get rid of my pesky cold.
So while I was home alone yesterday I whipped out my camera and took a few photos of my casa. The only parts I didn't take photos of were the bedrooms of other family members and bathrooms (Chilean toilets are pretty much exactly the same in NZ)

My house, in the middle of the street. All houses in Chile have fences
Me in front of the house. There's a roundabout at the end of the street with a little park in it
The back of the house. My room on the left
The front door
Room at the back of the house. It's what I'd call an 'Utility Room'
The study
Lounge. Dining room table on the bottom left
Laundry. The door leads out to a tiny courtyard where the washing is hung
Kitchen. We use a water filter because the tap water has a flavour. Most Chilean families don't have dishwashers (or dryers, in Copiapó, because it's sunny all the time, except at night and when it's misty)

Other part of the kitchen, with the door I got my fingers jammed in on Sunday
Upstairs little corridoor. Forgot to rotate
My room, my desk on the left, host sister's on the right. That's my closet, and notice there's no curtains. Well that thing on my desk is the curtains to be velcroed up. 
My corner of the room. There's a hairdryer on my shelves, because I have to dry my hair. The NZ flag takes pride of place above my bed. The rubbish bin is actually a beer cooler, for the Chilean beer Cristal. Havn't tried it.
The backyard, from my room. In the corner is a little waterfall. In the bottom left hand corner is the barbecue
What am I having cravings for at the moment? Spaghetti and cheese on toast. Marmite and cheese on toast. Mince and cheese on toast. Tasty cheddar cheese. Curry (without cheese). Fresh milk. My doggie. Sneakily taking bits of my Dad's secret supply of lollies. Mum's baking. The beach. Fellow Kiwis. NZ music (which I'm currently listening to on youtube, to celebrate NZ music month). Biking down my street with my coat, scarf, gloves and hat under my helmet and being snuggly while my ears feel like they have frostbite. Driving. The mountain beside the sea. People who I've known for nearly all my life. Sheep. 

These are also the things I would most like to share with a person who is foreign to NZ. Being an exchange student and experiencing something new in another country has made me realise how much I would love to be a host sister to an AFSer and show them New Zealand. And although I'm missing the things I listed above, I'll be able to come back to them. So it's a missing feeling, but not a sad feeling. 

There are things I tell my classmates about NZ and they are absolutely shocked by. For example, my school in Chile goes from primary to high school, and is mixed. So imagine their surprise when I said my school in NZ is a high school, with 1300 girls. And they were in awe at the fact we wear sandals in the summer terms, because here (in the desert) it's shoes and socks all year round (and trousers for the boys). 

My school in NZ has a cafeteria, (-forgot the word to put in here-) referred to as The Caff. Where they sell pies, cordon bleu's, pizzas, muffins, drinks (but not fizzy ones), biscuits, yoghurt, fruit, sammies, potatoe tops, noodles, soup, panini's... etc. So if you need a bought lunch you buy one or two things, a panini and a cookie for example.

Here in Chile, if you buy a lunch from the school kiosk, it comes on a tray with little sections. Rice and chicken in a sauce, chopped lettuce, beetroot and lemon to put on it. A bread roll. A little cup of juice. (And if you get the slightly more expensive one, a dessert like jelly or flan). Cheaper than a NZ caff lunch would be too. 

Well that's all folks,
until next time :)