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!