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.