Sunday, July 20, 2008

Less than 24 hours to go!

The final moments have arrived. I just want to say thank you to everyone who supported me during this amazing experience of my life. I appreciated the cards and care packages, they really meant so much, especially being thousands of miles away. I look forward to seeing everyone when I return. Calls and texts will be very much appreciated, I have missed them the past 5 months.

I had my last night out in Chile last night leading me to go to bed at 3:30 this morning. However I was so anxious I woke up at 9:30. That is the earliest I have woken up in weeks. I still have my last minute packing to do and thank you presents to give. It seems so surreal that I was even in Chile and now that I am leaving. Studying abroad was a goal/dream of mine since high school and now its over. I am so glad I did it and recommend everyone to step out of their comfort zone and do something like this. Living in another country is a challenge itself and speaking/learning another language is quite a defeat. I still don´t know how/why I picked Chile, I dont even remember making the decision that Chile was where I wanted to go but I am so glad I was here. I made great friends, learned great lessons, and had one of the best times of my life...and I am only 20 years old. I feel like I have a lot to look forward to. It really is true...if you put your mind to it, you can do it.

Thanks again for reading my blog and staying in touch. Love you all!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

So close, I can almost taste it

I am in the final stretch now. I leave a week from tomorrow. I still feel like Chile is a dream and I just haven´t woken up yet. I assumed time has stopped and when I return home it will be March 3 and Spring is around the corner. But instead I get to step off the plane in 90% humidity and temperatures in the upper 90´s. This will be far from Spring weather. I am very excited though to sweat instead of shivering. I am tired of being cold, having 2 winters this year was not my idea of delightfulness. And living in a country where central heating does not exist did not cross my mind until I was already living in it.

This past week has been uneventful. The first half was full on Econ. I had a group project for that class and also a final exam, our prof made it easy on us since we took it early and she was so busy she didn´t have time to make us a real exam, instead we had a multiple choice one which I prefered. I don´t know how I did but I felt better about it than the last one I took. I feel like I have to write about school since a lot of adults are reading this and they are concerned with my education :-)

So something rather eventful that happened to me this past week is my laptop is no longer working. Its rather a tragedy for me because I rely so heavily on it for entertainment and communication. Luckily it did happen my last week here when school is over and I only have to wait a week before I talk to everyone at home who I have been talking to online. However since I am on a prepaid cell phone plan here, my friends here and I use facebook to make plans. So thats the only thing that has really been bothering me about not having my laptop. Fortunately, my host sister just got a new laptop so I can still continue my sitting in bed with a laptop. I just can´t do it all day, which is a good thing. Everyone knows I am addicted to the computer, so when I lost mine, its like losing a friend. That sounds so crazy but I hope you know what I mean.

Hope everyone is doing well. I look forward to calling or seeing everyone when I get home. Don´t complain about that heat I am so excited about :-)

Friday, July 4, 2008

No fireworks here

So I have to say it is a bit strange not to celebrate July 4th here, of course it is still July 4th but you know, its not JULY 4th! I really would love to see some fireworks and hot weather. My friends and I were going to have an asado (bbq) and celebrate with some American culture. However the cold gloomy weather and lack of funds stopped us from being traditional Americans on this day. Instead we watched Anchorman. I knew I probably would not like it and I was right. I just don't have an appreciation for that kind of humor. It was nice to see clips of San Diego though.

So not much has been going on. I am now done with 3 out 4 classes. This week I will be done with Econ, probably on Thursday. I still have to do a group project, quiz and final! I finally got to see the Sex and the City movie. When I first found out it was coming out while I was here, I was very sad I wouldn't get to see it but then it finally came here and I went to the pre-showing. I don't know if thats a word but thats how I can translate the Spanish word for it. I was so excited I couldn't help but smile during the first half of it.

Anyways I am a little over 2 weeks from home. I can almost taste it, its so close. I know 2 weeks may seem like a good chunk of time since some people may come to Chile for only 2 weeks. But when I have been here for over 4 months now, 2 weeks seems like a very short time. I can finally say I am ready to go home. I wasn't sure how to get ready for going home but thinking about warm weather, my favorite foods, and seeing my friends and family, I think it is time for me to go home. Also I have ran out of money and need to get back to having some kind of income. My friends are also starting to leave so Chile just won't be the same without them.

Well I thought I would just write a little to let everyone know I am alive and well. Tomorrow I am going to Santiago to do some more sightseeing. It would be sad to live in Chile for 5 months and not really see much of the captial. Hope everyone is having a fun 4th of July!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

One month to go!

Here are some of my random thoughts for the week since I am procrastinating from doing my homework...

So I will be home exactly one month from today. Am I ready? Yes and no. Why? Its unexplainable.

I posted some graffiti pics. I forgot that when most people think of graffiti, you think of like vandalism. No, these are basically public murals. I have to do a presentation on graffiti next week so I went up in the cerros (hills) of valpo to take some pics. Enjoy.

Next week is going to be crazy with school work! On Monday I have an Econ quiz, Tuesday I have a history final exam, poetry group presentation, graffiti presentation, Wednesday or Thursday is my final presentation for my cultural class, and then 2 poetry papers are due Thursday, one is 5 pages the other is 1 page. So after months of doing no work, I have my work cut out for me this week. I think I like it this way though. Luckily on Thursday I am finished with all of my classes except for Econ. So then in July the first 2 weeks I just have Econ to worry about and can soak up Chile for the last 3 weeks I am here.

I miss having a living room. Well we have one in my apartment here, but in the 4 months I have been here, I have only seen one person sit in it! Its a very formal living room and there is no tv in it. Also since there is no heat except for our little heaters we have in our bedrooms, it is very cold so everyone stays in their rooms with the door shuts. I just think I could get to know my family so much better if we had more opportunites to spend time together. Even if we are just watching tv together, which we can't cause I would find it awkward to sit in their bedroom with them, am I right?

So we have new gringos here for the "summer." I feel like they are coming into my territory, my friends and I like to point them out on the street. You can tell they are new because they just have this lost look on their face. Excuse me if this is all mean, but its just so hard to relate to them because I have been here for 4 months and they are never going to understand Chile in the 5 weeks they are here for. My friends and I were talking and we just have this mindset that when we get home no one is going to understand. The experiences we have had here in Chile have bonded us and that we will never have with anyone else. Don't worry old friends, we still have special bonding times in the past and the future to come :-) (How sappy, I know.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What about class?

So I tell lots of people about my trips but I often hear the questions, "aren't you studying abroad?" and don't you ever go to class? But you have to know I am learning more about life and myself through each day here than I ever would at home in my own comfort zone. But now I will tell you all about my classes so you don't think I am just here getting free credits.

Economics: I am taking Econ to fulfill a Social Science credit. I don't really know how it is a social science credit but I thought it wouldn't be too hard. However, it being in Spanish and all the terms being vocab I never learned, its a little more difficult than I thought. Fortunately my professor is from the U.S. and so her accent isn't hard to understand. She also gives us quizzes in English to help with the vocab. However this Saturday, yes Saturday, we have our first test. We went over some old test questions in class yesterday and I can tell I have a lot of studying to do. The test questions are nothing like the quiz questions or anything we do in class. In class we talk more about the concepts but we aren't taught how to apply them which is what we are supposed to do on the tests. Oh well, all I need is a C.

Poetry: I am usually lost in this class. She talks about a lot of concepts in poetry that I could really care less about. Also I just don't understand poetry or like poetry in any language. So why did I take this class? Well I need a literature class and this had the best times. I know, not the best reasoning but I am pretty useless at 8am or on a Friday when the other literature classes are. Our grade consists of 4 papers and a group presentation. So when I write a paper, I just do more research online instead of relying on class lectures and notes from class. Also my friend Thea is in this class so she pretty much saves me from the boredom that fulfills this class.

History: This class only meets once a week at 8 am but its supposed to count as 3 credits (a normal credit amount for a class). Its the history of Valparaiso but we don't talk about Valparaiso too much. I also have a hard time paying attention at 8 am to a Chilean professor who I have a hard time understanding. I have 1 more class and then our final exam is at the end of June. Wish me luck! Also I have to climb up to this building at 8am!

Chilean Culture and Conversation: This class is my favorite because I usually understand and it seems the most useful. My professor however gets stuck on one thing and just goes with it for weeks. For about a month and a half we have been listening to newscasts and filling in the blanks of the script. Its quite difficult. Chileans speak really really really fast. But its good because we learn new vocabulary and become aware of current events in Chile. However we had a change in pace, yesterday we walked around the hills of Valpo to look at graffiti. I forgot to take my camera but I will go back and take pictures. The graffiti is really good here. However, I don't think its too cool that people just graffiti wherever and think everyone wants to look at it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Is it love?

So I have been in Chile for a little over 3 months now and I still love it. However, I am not sure what I love. Do I love being in a place where until 3 months no one had ever met me and I could be truly who I am, almost start over my life in a way? Or do I love living in a big city and being able to walk everywhere?

Ok so I am just going to make list of things I love and you can tell me if its love for Chile or just loving the abroad life.

In Chile I love...

*walking out of the house wearing whatever I want and I know no one cares. No body really cares about their image here and its so comforting. No one cares about other people, but in a good way. I don't feel I am being judged at all, everyone has their own style.
*my host mom and practicing my spanish with her. She is so patient while I fumble with the different spanish tenses.
*going out here. Now I haven't gone out much at home like to bars and clubs because I am not 21 yet. However, I always have a good time when I go out. I love dancing, and there are plenty of clubs to keep me entertained every weekend. Also the clubs stay open till like 4 or 5, much different than in the states.
*taking trips. At home I go on like 2 trips a year or something. Its so much fun to change my location every few weekends. But I do know its because I had money for this and school isn't as serious at home. But it makes me think about all the places I want to go now
*there is ice cream everywhere and its cheap too!
*the ocean being less than 10 blocks from my house. Last night I just walked to the beach to see the sunset over the ocean and it was so nice to hear the ocean. Also the road that goes to school goes by the ocean and its so great to see it everyday.
*my friends here are so great! Now most of them are gringos but I have so much fun with them. I am going to miss them terribly when I go back home.
*reggaeton, its like their version of rap music here. I can dance to it all night long!
*the pda (public display of affection); i actually like it now. At first it was weird to see it everywhere, on the streets, at school, on the bus, every bench, the clubs, bars. But I think its nice now, to see people display their affection for each other and not care what other people think. I rather see people loving on each other than hatin, you know?

Now don't get me wrong, there are things I miss about the states but as I look at my countdown that says 45 days till home I get really sad. However it is possible that as I get closer to July 20, I will be more excited about going back to life in the states. Its just that I have built a whole new life here and I have to leave it and go back to a life that has not been held still, everyone at home continued with their lives. I have changed and I am sure people at home have changed. Its going to be unfamiliar territory when I arrive home which is ironic, don't ya think?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Completely Unexpected

So this is going to be a long one just to warn you...

Well this trip was my longest, but unintentionally. Thea, Colleen, Marina, and I went to Mendoza on Wednesday May 14th. We had heard great things about this small city across the border in Argentina. You had to go through the Andes to get there. We went there at night so we can save time during the say. So I didn't get to see any of the Andes which I was sad about. They woke us up at 3:00 am for Customs. We were there for 2 hours, I have no idea why. Anyways we arrived Thursday morning around 8:30 and checked in to our hostel and then went off exploring the city. We found many cute stores that we returned to over and over. Finally I set on 2 purses, but together they cost like $18. They aren't the best quality, but definitely cute. So after lunch we noticed the city was dead. They take their siestas seriously in this city. No stores were open so we decided we will nap too. This repeated itself almost every day we were there.

On Friday we did a bikes and wine tour. This included riding a bike to a bunch of wineries that were "close" together. We rented the bikes for half of a day so we had to rush to each winery we wanted to see. They all had red wine, which if you remember from the wine festival, is not my favorite. It was nice to be out in the country and away from the city.

On Saturday we continued our shopping until the stores closed on us. In the afternoon Colleen went paragliding and Marina became sick with some kind of food poisoning. So Thea and I went to this really pretty park and ended up at the Mendoza Zoo. This was a very entertaining experience. We have such great stories from it. The first is that we saw cute little animals in their cages, hear some animal getting kinda angry. So we walk around the corner and there is a lion behind a chain linked fence cage. Then we see a man sticking his fingers through the cage. Thea was quite uncomfortable so we fled before we were eaten alive. There was also many animals not in best mental state I believe. Here is a video of animal going out of his mind. I found it quite hilarious.

So then Saturday night Thea became sick, with the same throwing up mess Marina had. Colleen and I were scared we were next but we never got sick. Sunday morning we were all set to leave, headed to the bus station and when we got there we were turned away. The pass through the Andes was closed. We thought oh no big deal, we will go the next day. Slowly, I mean slowly, it became Wednesday and we were still in Mendoza. We were all quite depressed about this. Then Wednesday we made a decision to go to Chile the long way...

Colleen's birthday was May 24th and Marina's birthday is May 26th so they had a big birthday party planned on Saturday, May 24th. We needed to get back by then so we decided to pay some money and take a bus down South through Argentina and then back up North through Chile to Santiago. It was suppose to be around 30 hours, key word is suppose. So Wednesday, May 21st at 6:30 pm we left Mendoza. The next morning we woke up around 8am stopped on the road. In front of us was the police not letting us pass. Up ahead there were workers on strike (funny (but not) because our school had been on strike for like a month) and they were setting stuff on fire so it was not safe for us to pass. So our bus drivers finally decided after 7 hours of sitting there that we should find a new way which included dirt roads. Finally we were back on our way to Santiago. But then the next morning I woke up at a Shell gas station around 6 am hearing the bus driver talking (in spanish of course) but i didn't really comprehend anything since I was half awake. So I was like we are probably just here for  gas and bathroom since the bus bathroom was getting nasty. I go to use the bathroom, buy a drink and then my friends tell me the two ways to get to Santiago both have bridges that are flooded or destroyed by the heavy rain they had that week. The pic to the left here is showing where the bridge has been broken off of. Anyways...we were less than 3 hours away from Santiago!!! I was like you have got to be kidding me!!! So we hung out in the shell station, having all the junk food we could possibly blow our money on. Then around noon we finally had a plan. We would have to drive to the bridge, walk across and then another bus would pick us up on the other side. That sounds a lot more simple than it was. We had to wait at the bridge for about 2 hours for the other bus to come. After we crossed the bridge we took a van to find our bus in the traffic. Finally we get on our way around 330. Got to Santiago, bought our tickets for Vina at the bus terminal,run to the gate and missed our bus by like a minute. Why would the man sell me tickets for a bus I couldn't get to in time? So we stay in a long line to change our tickets and I know this isn't that big of a deal but after  having all the issues we did, we just wanted it to be simple. Luckily after we got on our bus to Vina, everything was good. I do want to note the bus from Mendoza to Santiago did not have the semicama (semi bed) which includes a platform for your legs to rest and the bus from Vina to Santiago did (1 hour and a half ride) Also on our 50 hour bus ride we were served one meal when we were told we would get all meals for while we were "suppose" to be on the bus. Luckily we stopped at gas stations they had those edible sandwiches. And we didn't have blankets or pillows!!! How dare they? Again fortunately I had my amazing neck pillow so I could get some sleep. And now I have this story to tell...

Buenos Aires 4/30/08- 5/4/08

So in the beginning of the month I went to Buenos Aires with my friend Kira. This was the one place I really wanted to visit while I was in South America. I have to say I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. However, I feel like I needed more time to explore the city and all of its glory. The city is so big that in 4 days you cover very little ground. A big part of life of this city is eating out and shopping, which we did. It was very different than Chile. I have to say as an ignorant American, I assume South America is like the United States and each country is just like a different state. Of course that is not true. Argentina is very different. People say its more European, but I have never been to Europe so I cannot make that call. The spanish was usually easier to understand unless they threw in their funny accent by making the "sha" sound in the place of the "ll" sound. I know I might be confusing you so here is an example. Instead of saying "ella" it sounds like "esha" Get it? Anyways the bus system was very different from Chile as well. I guess you could say I had a bit of cultural shock, as in I expected everything to be like Chile. The buses there have specific bus stops and they wont just pick you up or drop you off wherever you want. My friend and I were shocked when we waved our hand and the bus continued driving by. I think I explained to you, the bus drivers here work on commission so you can just hail a bus wherever you are. You also have to exact change, however Argentina is on shortage of change. So we tried to avoid buses and take the metro or cheap taxis. So yeah we just walked around, shopping, and went out to eat and to bars for most of the time we were there. Hopefully I will make it back one day to see more.

PS to Chick-fil-a workers and fans: Look what I saw in a street market in Buenos Aires. I was in shock, seriously my jaw dropped. I wanted to buy it but decided to save my money :-)

Where did the time go?

Wow, I have been slack. I really do want to write about every event that happens here but to sit down and do it is easier said than done for some reason. So I am going to retrace my steps back till the beginning of May and then do separate entries for my few trips. But in this entry I am just going to do the stuff going around Valparaiso and Vina.

So as you know my school has been on strike. But did I tell you about the students taking over the buildings? In spanish its called a Toma. So my interpretation of a toma is students sleep and stay in the building and not let anyone in to make sure classes are not going on. Its pretty absurd and a mess for us foreign exchange students who are still having our classes. I have 4 classes, 3 of them only have foreign students in them so those have still been taking place. Anyways back to the "toma"... A couple of weeks ago the students took over the main building of the university, there was supposed to be an agreement that the students would never take that building. They did not keep their agreement I suppose I should say. I had to use a back entrance and go up some staircase I never knew about to get into the Study Abroad office which is like my home base. Each day I had to wonder around the streets to find an entrance to find my relocated class. Also I went into the main building and I had to give them my student id and then stand in line to get it back when I left. The students were running this whole things, telling me to stand in line up against the wall. I was quite offended thinking they could speak to me like this as I would like to be seen as their peer. Anyways its all over now, thank goodness! Everything is back to normal, or as normal Chile can be. It has been raining since yesterday afternoon and there are gigantic puddles everywhere. They do not have a very efficient drain system so parts of the streets and the dips (there are many) in the sidewalks are flooded. My feet remain cold and wet for the rest of the day. Tomorrow I plan on investing in rain boots...

PS- Don't forget to check out the links to see all of my pictures.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

que pasa

So when I looked at the date of my last entry, I thought April 9th wasn't that long ago. Then I look at today's date and was shocked to see over 10 days have passed. Well I have stopped traveling for a few weeks so I feel like not much is going on but I actually do have things to share.

First off there was a student strike last week. Students strike against not going to class because the bus fare is supposed to go up. We now pay about 30 cents, and they want to raise it about 50 cents. Thats a pretty big increase, I think. I even realized that at home in north carolina, students can ride buses for free, even the one that goes from raleigh to chapel hill and durham. So I thought I didn't have classes, but then I ended up having some of them since they are full of exchange students. I don't really want to further explain because this lack of communication is just one thing that frustrates me. This is a picture of the main building of my university.

Next up we have the celebration of my host parents' wedding anniversary. They are celebrating 20 years this Wednesday. However they celebrate it a little bit differently. Every year they have a little gathering with family and friends. I went with my host parents because I wanted to meet their family and see how Chileans celebrate this event. I was good for the first hour, meeting people and listening to conversation. I want to note the previous night I had gotten about 5 hours of sleep. So I had a pisco sour and then I wanted to just go to bed. The party started at 9:30. We didn't eat dinner till midnight!!! My host mom told me the party would be over early. We didn't get home till 2:30 in the morning!! That is early for me if I was out at the bar or club but I thought that was a little late for my host parents that go to bed around midnight I believe. Anyways, everyone was really nice. Its a custom here to kiss each other on the cheek when you greet someone and its so nice because it feels so welcoming when you meet new people. So it was hard to keep up with all the different conversations in Spanish. Then people started getting a little drunk and it was even harder to understand what was going on. My host parents kept telling me they were telling jokes. Also, my host parents received presents; 2 boxes of chocolates, set of orange sheets, and a set of 4 plates. I am glad I went but if I had known what I was getting myself into, I would have probably passed.

Well I guess thats all for now...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of the Ordinary

So I went to Patagonia last week to go backpacking in the Torres del Paine National Park. The whole week I was thinking, what did I get myself into? First of all, I have never been backpacking. And then also, I don't like hiking, I am very out of shape, and camping isn't my favorite activity. However it turned out to be a good experience. I really wanted to travel to this part of the country so I sacrificed my comfort to see some amazing views. Here is what six girls and I did day by day...

It took 7 buses, 4 minibuses (vans), 2 airplanes, 1 ferry and 27 miles of hiking to cover all the ground we did.

Tuesday April 1: Flew out of Santiago to Punta Arenas. Did grocery shopping there, got lunch, took 3 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales. Stayed in a hostel and rented our camping gear.

Wednesday April 2:
Took a 2 1/2 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales to the Torres del Paine National Park entrance. Then we had to wait for the ferry. We had about an hour to wait and that is when I met a NC State graduate and 2 people from Cary, NC. What a coincidence! We even later met them on the trail the next day. The ferry cost about $25 for a 45 min bus ride. I thought that was outrageous after already paying a park entrance fee. When we got to the other side of the lake we set up camp. Then we started on our first hike of the week. Less than 30 minutes of hiking and I already felt out of breath and did not want to continue. But then the thought of seeing a glacier kept me going. The hills were really hard for me, I could not catch my breath a lot and felt like I was having a slight panic attack when I approached a hill. About 4 hours later we finally arrived at the lookout for Glacier Grey. It was a great view, something we all describe as National Geographic like. We followed tradition and had whiskey and glacier ice. I had 2 sips because whiskey is just gross. After enjoying the glacier's view we knew we had to get going because it was going to get dark soon. Luckily we got through the hard part of the trail before dark but then we had to hike for a couple of hours in the dark. All I could think about was this lady who had gotten killed my a puma. I kept my thoughts to myself so I wouldn't scare the other girls. Finally we arrived back to the campsite right after the "kitchen" closed. Peanut butter crackers fulfilled as dinner and then to bed we went. It was hard to sleep, I actually was really hot and even slept on top of my sleeping bag. I also had a fear of rats because I could hear them getting into our bags but I was too scared to look.

Thursday April 2: We woke up to find some ramen eaten by the rats. Oh well, we had like 15 more bags of it. We started on another hike, this time actually backpacking with our stuff. The weather also too a big change and it was windy and rainy. No fun! We had to walk through a river that had flooded. It was the coldest water I have ever had to step in. There were also lots of rocks on the bottom so it was extra painful. We took our shoes and socks off so we could have dry feet for the rest of the day. It took us about 3 hours to get to the other campsite but when I got there I just wanted to be warm and dry. I decided to stay behind at camp instead of going on another hike. It was a good decision, I must say.

Friday April 3: We had all day to get to the next campsite but it took 7 hours plus stopping for lunch and breaks (which i need very often). It wasn't too hard but just a really long day. Luckily my friend Kelin and I have the same pace so I never found myself alone while hiking which was a wonderful motivation. The campsite we stayed at Friday night was really nice because it was the only one where we could have a fire. The past two days had been pretty cold so this was a nice feature.

Saturday April 4: Three girls left at 4:30 am to go on a hike before our bus left in the afternoon. I was not about to go on an optional hike at 4:30 in the morning. Instead the other 4 of us had a nice time around the campfire; the part of camping I enjoy. We left the park, returned our equipment in Puerto Natales and then went to Punta Arenas to stay for the night. The hostel in Punta Arenas was a very authentic hostel but it did have the NCAA tournament on which was very exciting for me because I have missed March Madness this year.

Sunday April 5:
We checked out of the hostel and explore Punta Arenas until our flight at 3:00. There were vendors all set up in the plaza and I went a little crazy with buying things and presents for people at home. I just love those hand craft markets, they have things I won't be able to find anywhere else in the world. We arrived in Santiago and then got a bus to Vina del Mar which was easier to say than do. Finally I arrived in my "warm" and homey apt at 11:30 at night. It was a long week and trip but definitely worth the experiences and sites I saw.

So thats just me rambling and not proofreading. I just wanted to get my thoughts out before I forget.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Send me mail!

Mail is always exciting to me but it is even better when I am thousands of miles away from home. Here is my address:

Katie Rehder
c/o Rossy Gutierrez
2 Oriente 610 Depto 12
Vina del Mar, Chile

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Random Observations

So I have been here for 3 1/2 weeks and there are some things that I have observed that I would like to share:

1) Many people wear shirts with English words on them. I saw this boy that was probably about 9 years old and his shirt said, "I'll give you the ride of your life." Does he understand what that implies?

2) Lays American Cut potato chips are soooo much better here than in the states! I eat them as often as possible. I don't know what the difference is, some people say they have less salt here but I don't care, they are amazing!

3) Car Alarms! So even more people have car alarms or more people break into cars here, I am not sure which it is. Probably both.

3) Micro. There is lots to say about micros. Micros are the city buses. First off, I believe the drivers are working off commission. So the more people they pick up, the more money they make. This can be good and bad. So you can get on the bus pretty much wherever, just flag them down. Usually they are pretty good about stopping where you want as well. However, the other day I went an extra 2 blocks which isn't usual. The bus drivers take advantage of students because we get discounted rates. It cost about 35 cents (US) for students. The drivers weave in and out of lanes. I would feel comfortable driving in this city if it wasn't for them. Also, if there aren't many people on the micro then the driver will go slower and sit at stoplights waiting for people. It is quite annoying when I am in a hurry or just want to be "home" already! Riding the micro is just an experience in itself, just wait till 5 in the morning :-)

4) So I have trouble understanding my family's ways. So my host mom moderately cleans the apartment quite often. Every day everyone's room is cleaned and beds are made. Laundry is done like 3 times a week. Clean clothes show up folded on my bed or put away in my closet if I am not here. My host mom goes to the gym in the morning usually, cleans, cooks lunch, and then tutors in the afternoon. Then my host dad works somewhere, still haven't figured that out, and then is a professor in the evenings. Sometimes he doesn't get home till like 9. Also, sometimes he takes the car, sometimes not. Then we have a maid that comes every 3 weeks and does like a deep clean. The kind of cleaning that we have like every other year at my house. She was here for almost 12 hours last time. My host dad usually is waited on from my host mom. Then he will leave his dishes on the counter. Its just so old fashion. However, when my host mom wanted to watch a movie on tv, he cooked (heated leftovers in the microwave) dinner for me. So I guess it is balanced? It is just really common to have maids here. There are so many people trying to make money in any way possible.

I love my host family though. Anytime I mention some kind of food I like, they go and buy it. My host mom bought me big earrings because she knew I liked them. She also told me I was special and different from the other girls they have had and I almost cried. I hope to get to know them better and stay in touch when I leave.

5) PDA (Public Display of Affection): Wow, so many teenagers are all over each other sucking each others faces all down the street. My theory for why is, kids don't move out of their parents' house until they get married so they have no where else to make out? Its just kind of disturbing when the couple in front of you close the window curtain and are probably just riding the micro for some "privacy"?

6) Like I said, people try to make money any way they can. Many people board the micro with some kind of product. The strangest I have seen were band-aids. They walk up and down the aisle once in case anyone wants to buy a band-aid at that exact moment. Another way to make some pocket change is to help people back out of a parking space onto a street. When my family and I went to church a man tied down cardboard to people's car on the front and rear window to block the sun. Then when we went to get in the car, he takes it off and you give him money.

7) Smoking is pretty big here. People say its a lot cheaper so more people do it. Even if it was free, I would not smoke. Also, a pack of cigarettes has pictures of yellow teeth and damaged gums to show you what happens after smoking. I don't think its working...

Keep the emails & comments coming. Feel free to come down and visit :-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Lake Tahoe of Chile: Pucon

So this past weekend we went to Pucon which is a beautiful yet touristy town. They have many outdoor activities revolving around the beautiful countryside, rivers, lakes, volcanoes, and mountains. We took a 12 hour bus ride Wednesday night and arrived Thursday morning around 8 in Pucon. We checked in to our hostel and was immediately given many options of activities to fill the 3 days we were there. We did white water rafting on Thursday. It was a lot of fun and semi scary. I seemed to have lost my adventure side over the past few years. We had to jump off this cliff into the river and I really didn't want to but I had to get back to the raft. Its hard for me to trust my safety and life with the guides I just met. My mom keeps reminding me the safety regulations are a lot looser here so now I am on edge about how safe I really am when I put my life in other people's hands. Anyways we finished our rafting trip with a pisco sour (pisco is the brandy made here in chile). Friday morning we woke up before sunrise to get ready to hike the volcano. As we were driving up to the base of the volcano I kept wanting to back out but felt the pressure that i shouldn't. Of course hiking a volcano sounds very cool, but it also sounds very unlike something I would enjoy. Having the gas mask in my back pack and seeing the ice picks we may have to use was just really making me question my decision. Well when we got to the base of the volcano the guides said it was really cloudy at top and it would be really windy, making it hard to summit. So we decided to wait another day so the weather would be better. I took this as a second chance and backed out. I decided there was something else I would want to put my money towards and enjoy more. I signed up for horseback riding! So on Friday we walked around the town of Pucon and heard more English than I have heard the whole time I have been here. So Saturday morning my friends woke up early again and went up to the volcano base. My horseback riding wasn't until the afternoon so I went down to the lake to write in my journal. As I was there I got a call that the volcano had rejected my friends again, this time because it was so windy at the base they couldn't even stand. So this just wasn't a good weekend for the volcano climb. So me and my friend Thea ended up going horseback riding which was very fun and beautiful and then the other girls went on a hike in national park. We were all so sore after Saturdays activities and our 12 hour bus ride Saturday night. So we didn't get to do everything we wanted but overall it was a great trip. We may even return!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vino anyone?

This past weekend 4 girls and I traveled to Santa Cruz for a wine festival. We took 3 charter buses and 1 micro (city bus) to get there. We left at 9:30 Friday morning (after we had gotten home at 5 am that morning) and arrived in Santa Cruz around 4:00 pm. If we had a direct bus from here it would have taken about 3 hours. Needless to say, it felt like a very long day. We stayed at a cute bed and breakfast. I really felt like the owners were taking care of us which is very comforting when you find yourself in a town you know nothing about in a country you have only been in for 2 weeks. We were starving when we got there so they immediately made us lunch which I thought was really nice of them. We went to the festival on Saturday and Sunday. There were about 15-20 wine vendors and then maybe 10 vendors selling pretty expensive things. It was probably all handmade so that is why the purse I wanted cost over $40. The one thing that was cheap was trying the wine; $8 for a wine glass and 5 tastes. After my 6 tastes (i forgot to give my ticket to one vendor), I decided I am definitely a white wine drinker, and my reasoning isn't that great. I don't love wine, but if I am going to drink it, I need it to be cold. I also liked the rose wine. We returned on Sunday at about 9:30 at night. It was a full weekend. I am glad I only have one class on Monday so I can recover and catch up on everything else. Happy St.Patrick's Day everyone!! I am wearing my green shirt, unlike the rest of this country!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lost in translation

So I would like to tell you about my Sunday. The whole day I kept thinking, this is an experience of confusion that doesn't happen to you at home. So on Saturday my host parents told me we were going on a trip to Los Andes and we were leaving at 9:30 and we would be back around 5, it would be a 2 hour car ride there. Now to me that means we are going to see the mountains, the Andes. They also said we were going to church though. So I am wondering how we are going to see the Andes and go to church and be back by 5? Well we left Sunday morning and arrived in this huge dirt parking lot around 11:30. I have no idea where we are. I see the Andes from a distance though (or I assume the tall mountains with snow on them are the Andes) So then we are on this "campus" with bathrooms, a couple of stores, restaurant, and an ice cream stand where we got a morning snack. Then I see a church and I finally understand that we are going to church now, but at home church is over at 12 so I was still a little off. The church had different times for services and we were going to the one started at 12:30. So my host mom and I went to sit down and my host dad went to light a candle for my host sister. My host mom said they only were going to church this time because my host sister started college on Monday, she said they usually never go to mass though. So there are so many people that my host dad and sister have to sit somewhere else, which I found a little strange. I would have thought my host mom would made sure to save them seats. Maybe you aren't allowed to save seats here? Anyways I went to a Catholic Mass in Spanish. I am glad I had been to Mass once before in my life (thank you Jill) so I knew a little about what was going on. After Mass I knew we were going to eat lunch so I was pretty excited about eating in a restaurant, I haven't really since I have been here. So we arrived at Jumbo which is like a Super Wal-mart. They said we are going to eat in the restaurant here because it is really fast and there aren't many people there after church. So then when we finish eating, we return home. I was totally confused about the whole day until we returned home. I have no idea why we went to church there, maybe they wanted to show me the countryside of Chile? I asked if they always go to that church and they said no they go to one here in the city too. So I know the story isn't that good but the whole day I just had this feeling that I never have at home because I always know what is going on and can easily ask what we are doing. I am definitely learning how to be more flexible and easy going, but thats pretty much because I don't have much control here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chilly in Chile

It got a little bit colder today. We went to the beach but I stayed in my 3/4 length shirt and jeans. So my days have gotten better since the last post. Each day is easier which gives me hope for the next 5 months. I have been pretty spoiled by my host mom. She cooks 3 meals a day for me, does my laundry, and cleans my room every day. I even make my bed and she will remake it! She asks me what kind of food I like and she will go and buy it. She is currently on a hunt for peanut butter. I feel very comfortable in my room with American channels with shows in English, including my favorites: Friends, Grey's Anatomy, and The OC! I have met many nice other exchange students and we hang out after orientation which has taken place all of this week. We start classes on Monday so hopefully that will go well. Their class schedule is very different than ours. They have a system like periods, so like period 1-2 is 8:15-9:45. Also they have many different buildings in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. They are about a 20 min bus ride from each other so you can't have classes back to back if they are in different cities. If it sounds confusing, trust me it is. Anyways, they have some forest fires but I believe they help create the most beautiful sunsets.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

El Primer Dia

So I am finally in Chile. I really thought it would never come, just how I think graduation from college still isn't every going to come. Everything went smoothly. I only had 4 hours of sleep(which was on an airplane so it wasn't even good sleep) last night but I am not really tired now, just still in shock that I am here to stay for 5 months. I think with the holding back tears all day and initial feeling of anti-excitement about being away for 5 months hints to me that the Peace Corps is not a good idea for post graduation plans. I think I will stick with looking into Americorps. My host family is really nice: mom, dad, and 18 yr old daughter. They understand my Spanish isn't great and work with me to understand what they are saying. Here is a pic of my room ; Jonas says it looks like something I would decorate myself.