Thursday, November 4, 2010

---> Video finally uploaded!

I have finally managed to upload the video of my exchange to YouTube. Check it out! :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Los 33

It's beenall over the news now, that a group of 33 miners frmo the mine San Jose are trapped in an underground shaft, 700m below surface. Funnily enough, this is where I lived last year. (Not in the mine, but in Copiapo.)
They have now been trapped for nearly three weeks, underground, without sunlight. Mining experts expect that they will be there until Christmas.
My host dad, who is a safety officer at an American-owned mine, was called in to be a temporary safety officer for two weeks, because the previous one left in disgrace.
As you can image, for this to happen the conditions would have had to have been pretty bad. It's true; I have visited Chilean owned mines and my host dad's mine and they are completely difference. My heart goes out to all the workers who spend a day underground in dangerous circumstances, day in, day out, get paid very little and stay in rickety lodgings. Most of all, often they are the only source of income for their family, and now that 33 miners are trapped, there will be 33 families going without, especially since the mining company is now going under.
Let's hope for a soon and safe rescue of 'Los 33', whose only way to communicate with those above ground is thruogh a 15cm tube.
Fuerza mineros!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


As lots will probably know by know, there has been a massive 8.8 ricter scale earthquake in Chile, in the Bio Bio region. It shook almost all of Chile, the power and water in Copiapo was cut and they felt it strongly, almost 1000km north.

When it happened, the AFS Santiago Orientation was taking place, the one I attended a year ago. My hearts go out to all the worried families, but a recent message from AFS Chile says that all students are safe and well.

Several Chilean seaside towns have disapeard under the sea due to the surge of water. Friends have been affected.

Host families of some of my exchange friends have had their homes destroyed. As well as over 1.5 milllion other people. It was in one the most populated region of Chile.

I've spoken to other exchange students, we all feel so helpless. My heart go out to everyone affected. I want to do something. It's awful. Think of them, pray for them, do whatever you can.

Monday, February 1, 2010

---> Adios

Well now I've been back from Chile for just over two weeks. It's strange coming back . . .

My last few days (well weeks, or I could say months) were by far was the time of my life. When you've mastered the language, the culture and the customs, living as an exchange student in another country is simply brilliant. I can't describe it. Not a day passed when I didn't do anything. Basically the days of December and January passed like this: wake up (late...), have something to eat, help out in the house (clean up etc), have lunch, clean up, go out, arrive back to have supper (or not arrive back, it depends what it is that I'm doing), go out again, arrive back home late. Being back in NZ and not being able to go out like I did in Chile is hard. But then again, it's a cultural thing. While in NZ dinner is the main meal of the day, in Chile it's lunch, so after the main family meal everyone is pretty much free to do what they like (as long as it's ok with my family, of course. But going out was never a problem if I advised where I was going to go, who with and what times.) The convenience of having taxis and buses pass outside my home made going out easy.

The hardest thing about being back is definitely missing the life you had in your host country. I miss like crazy my host family, who welcomed me into Chile with open arms (I still remember clearly my first day - as soon as we arrived home, we started to look for my host sister's missing pet turtle). I miss my friends, I miss the other exchangers, I miss Copiapó, I miss speaking spanish, I miss Chilean school.

So in January we had an AFS farewell for the 4 exchangers leaving Copiapó. They gave us a special present. Hoodies with the Chilean national flower and the names of our host family members embroidered on it. Which was kind of funny, since us AFSers had also ordered hoodies with our nicknames and the emblem of Chile on it to be done.
Our Hoodies

I had a farewell party. Some of my best friends (the ones who could make it and had permission) came to my beach house, along with all of my host siblings, and my host brother's girlfriend and her cousin. Then suddenly we were more - friends from school, friend's of a friends - we went to the actual beach to party, to be with Giulia and her friends, but it seemed like a lot more people had heard about a party, and it could get dangerous, so we returned back to my beach house.
Best friends

On my last night my family did a special supper for me. My other host sister made a powerpoint about my year in Chile, which was nice and sad. On my last day, we all woke up after little sleep to go to the bus station to say goodbye to the German. After, Krista and Giulia came back to my house, to have breakfast with my host family and me. My younger host sister gave me a present, a necklace of a one peso coin from Chile. My host mum gave me my Christmas present, a book with the song lyrics of songs from Latin America, which she had compiled herself, and three CDs with all the songs on. Lots of memories.

Terminal Tur-Bus Copiapó is a place of many memories. Arriving to Copiapó and getting off the bus, there were a million posibilites ahead of me. How my school would be, how my family would be, how my friends would be, how my year and my life would be. I was a bundle of nerves. As the year passed I returned to the bus terminal to go to an AFS orientation, the AFS north Chile tour and a short term exchange to Punta Arenas. Each time there was posibility and adventure. Arriving back was like arriving back home. But the last time I was at the bus terminal I hated it. When would be the next time I'd get back? Who knows. In the car going to the bus terminal I recieved a phone call from the Brazilian. 'Anita, I'm not going' she said. 'What? You have to go' I replied. 'I can't go, I don't want to leave.' She said. All through my last few days in Copiapó I had managed to only shed a few tears. At her words, the reality of what was about to happen hit me. My eyes watered up, but I was unable to cry. We arrived at the bus terminal, and my friends were there to see me off. Hugs, giving of presents and taking photos. Suddenly my host mum said, 'Anita, the bus is leaving!' That was when the tears started flowly, as if they were going to flood the dry river Copiapó has. The bus that I had to go on was pulling out. I had to get on, yes or yes. The Brazilian and the Italian weren't on either. We were all unprepared to do the inevitable, which was actually leave for good. My host family went to the door of the bus and I hugged everyone - or did I? My memory is hazy. We borded the bus.... climbed upstairs. Me, Ananda and Giulia. Dumped our bags on the seats and stood there, hugging and crying. We couldn't believe it was over for good. Then it was to the airport. The other exchangers were arriving all through the day, and when the other NZer arrived, it was funny to see we were both wearing Chilean football tees, and stripy pants. The first group to leave were the Italians, which means Adios to Giulia. (At the airport with us was another AFS from Copiapó, Krista from Finland, who is in Chile for another semester. She also was in Santiago on holiday, and her and her host sister came to see us off.) We cryed when Giulia left. Then Ananda left... then much later, it was my turn to leave. I rang all members of my host family to say goodbye. Tears came. Then saying goodbye to Krista and her host sister...... it was the hardest goodbye I had ever said. She was the last person who I was close with in Chile who I had to say goodbye to. Saying goodbye is horrible.... I don't like airports or bus terminals.

Luckily on the flight to NZ I slept a lot. I was so tired, in the last 3 days I think I had slept about 8 hours. It was shock arriving to Auckland airport. I was home . . . did I want to be? After waiting a few hours at the airport to wait for the flight to NP, I boarded my plane. During the flight I shed a few tears. Now I was really home and I wanted to be in Chile. But when I could see a group of people standing in th airport, and it was a big group, it wasn't so bad. My family and friends were all there. It was an emotional moment and more tears were shed. My exchange year was over.

It feels strange to be back. Things have changed, and at the same time they haven't. It's like waking up from a dream and everyone is a year older. I feel older and . . . more confident. Living in a different country and not knowing how to speak the language, the culture and customs, then mastering that, makes one feel like there's nothing they can't do. It's like a self confidence boost, and also a new way of looking at the world. An understanding of why things are the way they are, and not looking at how they should change. I've never felt more open minded. Also, to be an exchange student, it's important to be open minded, perseverant, accepting and adaptable. I can't express that more. But doing an exchange extends and enriches those qualities. Being back you can see that - even if you'd rather stay in your host country. Chileans are extremely patriotic, but when they asked me if I liked Copiapó, and I replied with a yes, why looked at me strangely and asked why. My answer was always, because it's Chile. Although they may not like where they live, they love their country. I was lucky; I loved both.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

---> Don't dream it's over

My room is a mess, my head is a mess, my thoughts are a mess and I leave tomorrow.

This is the part of my life that overtakes anything hard that I have had to pass through in my life. Today I farewelled two of my closest friends here, maybe forever. I couldn't cry, the reality of what will happen tomorrow at 9.20 at night still hasn't sunk in fully.

Do you know what it's like to sit with your two absolute best friends, and think that maybe you'll see them again soon, maybe not. The friends that have gone through the same experience as you, that you have bonded with in the 6 months you have known them, to a point that you're unseperable. I really can't write, the tears are falling steadily now.

It's life.

I have been blessed to have had a wonderful host family, that always supported me and loved me, sisters who were like my best friends and an older brother who told me off if I wore a top that showed too much chest. The stupid things we did together, like when Ade and I were awake on a bus at 2am holding our breath until the bus reached more than 100kmph and the beeper went off. All the good memories, but now they're in the past. And the two suitcases sitting on the floor of my room are the future.

The antics of me and my friends. Bunking class to sit and talk, and hiding when the inspector came. (Sorry AFS, I promise it didn't happen often). Drawing on my legs in class, taking stupid funny photos and eating pizza at friend's houses. Looking after my tipsy friends, who were very economic drinkers. Nearly having our money robbed by gypsies.

The exchange students, the best friends I've ever had. Singing reggaeton in every place we go. The mall, the plaza, department stores, living rooms, taxis, AFS meetings, parties. Teasing each other about who we kissed at parties. Drinking tea. Drinking tequila and pisco, vodka and rum, beer and cherry liqueur. Pushing each other into pools. It's so hard to say goodbye to that. I can't accept that it WILL be gone. 

It's like that whole side of my life has died. 

I'm a different person now. I want with all my heart to be able to stay here, but there's something special about being an exchange student and there is a kind of magic in knowing you have a year and only a year in a certain place. It gives one a new perspecive on life. The hard times are extremely hard, yes, but the good  times and SO AMAZINGLY GOOD.

With that, I'll get back to packing my life in two suitcases.

Monday, January 4, 2010

---> A Chilean Christmas

I have now passed Christmas and New Year without writing one splodge of an update, and since I have time (which is a very rare thing) I will spill out a few letters.

In Chile, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th December, not the 25th. It's called Nochebuena. The general shindig that happens is the family goes to a mass, then returns home to eat a special dinner and open presents. Santa Claus is more a western tradition. He didn't visit my house, but I am sure that in a few younger families he does visit. 

In my family, we helped in the afternoon prepare the food. Salad, this potato thing that was sliced pototatoes cooked in the oven with cream and cheese on top, and a meat casserolle. (I must say, I am having cravings for a huge Christmas ham right now!) The food was all prepared when we went to a mass, at 10pm. The mass was a bit long, but I got distraced by the adorable Chilean kids dressed in pretty dress (occaissonaly with angel wings) that buzzed around the church. Kids don't want to sit still for 1 1/2 hours.

When we got home, the food was nearly finished, and we ate. Oh, and opened a bottle of Champagne. Champagne with pineapple ice cream. Even my host sister of 14 years had a glass. After the meal, it was straight to openening the presents. I got some nice presents, my favourite of which was a scrapbook my other host sister made for me, of photos and memories of my year in Chile, with two CDs of songs. After all the present opening and talking, we went to bed at 4am.

The week leading up to New Year also passed extremely fast. On the 26th was the birthday party of Krista's host sister. Great party. Didn't know a lot of the people but made some new friends. Then on the 28th we met up with the some of the same people from the party for a tequila night. Why do they put worms in tequila?

New Year in Chile was epic. Again it is celebrated on the day before. The same thing - dinner, champagne. But this time, instead of going to a mass, we went to see the firework show. Once we returned to the house, I was so tired I actually went to bed. For one hour, because at 1.30am, a friend phoned to say she was outside my house. I slowly got up, changed clothes and put on make up, then went outside and we waited for other friends to arrive. At 2am, we walked down the road to the biggest, craziest New Years party in the world. I was there until 7.30am. Basically all of the youth in Copiapó that can go to this party, go to this party. There are three stages, one VIP (no thanks), one general taste - reggaeton, cumbia and a pisque of electronic, and one electronic stage. We arrived and everyone greeted a million people, it was crazy. Then the dancing, dancing for 5 hours... yup. It was an epic party.

So that's pretty much whats that happs here in Copiapó. 

My bus to Santiago leaves at 21.15 on the 10th of January. I arrive there at 8.05am on the 11 January.
My flight to Auckland leaves at 23.10 on the 11th January. I arrive there at 4am on the 13 January.
My flight to my own city departs at 7.10am on the 13th January. I arrive there at 7.50am on the 13 January.

Those are the dates that I never wanted to know. I might have been so homesick at the start of my exchange, I still remember when I had spent a week in Chile and one year seemed like such a long stretch of time to be away from home. But I knew I was returning home. I don't know when I'll come back to Chile. It's indefinite. I want to stay, at least for the summer. Even in these last few weeks I have made so many new friends and have spent every day doing something fun and different, with new friends and old ones. To suddenly be separated from those friends, and the family that I love, will be, definitely, the hardest thing I will have to do in my life. But like we say here 'así es la vida'.