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.