After 3 days of treacherous rain, and minimal activity, it’s a perfect time to reflect on my first few weeks abroad. The first 20 days of my adventures abroad have been amazing and have revolved around a few different things; friendly Chilean people, new friends, public transportation, bread, and rain!
Before I left for Vina Del Mar, Chile I was warned of the many creepy, cat calling, “gringo” preying people that I would encounter on a daily basis and I was told how to handle those situations, but to my surprise I have been completely shocked by the love and positivity of most all of the Chilean people I have met. My first encounter with a Chilean native was shortly after I arrived in the Santiago airport after several hours of traveling. I was told by my program manager that the airport was a very stressful place and to ignore anyone trying to give me a ride. I was to find Joel Gonzales, and he would get me to my home stay. That was not as easy as it seemed. As a little blonde haired “gringo” (what all Chileans call white people) walking through the airport with 2 large suitcases and a heavy backpack it was not easy to find Mr. Gonzales in the crowd of easily 60 people holding signs and trying to find their groups. I stayed calm but eventually the stress and not knowing Spanish as well as I had hoped lead to a few tears rolling down my face. The sweetest Chilean lady came up to me immediately hugging me and offering her help… this is when I knew that I was going to be ok here. Long story short I made it to where I was supposed to be and my first interaction with a native was the most positive experience I could have hoped for.
Joel, our driver, a sweet man that works for the University, drove all of us to our home stays and I met my family for the first time around 2:30 p.m. exactly 24 hours after I left the Minneapolis airport. They welcomed me with love and comfort which was more than I could have asked for. I live with my Mamá Andrea, my Papá Hernan and my two host sisters Andreita (Tita) and Belén and a sweet golden retriever, Linda. I am beyond thankful to have been placed with this family! They are unbelievably hospitable, caring and welcoming in every single way. My host Mom has made my cultural transformation so smooth and I am forever grateful for the way this family has taken me in as their own. My host family does know some English but I am trying my best to speak to them in Spanish as often as possible. Picking it up has not been as easy as I thought but I can get around just fine. I need to work on my conversational Spanish skills and I hope to soon have deeper and more meaningful conversations in Spanish. With School starting up a few weeks ago and having 2 Spanish classes in my schedule, my speaking has improved every day.
I have become friends with everyone in my group of North Americans and have even befriended a few Chilean students. I was so lucky to have my friend Dani here when I arrived. Dani and I are friends from college and we live in the same town back home. She was so great to have for my first few weeks in Chile and I am so thankful I had her to show me around and help with the transition period. I have already made a few travel plans with some girls in my group. We have planned a trip to the northern most city in Chile called Arica as well as a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru. I am so excited for both of these up coming travels! A few of my favorite adventures so far have been visiting the famous clock (Reloj de Flores) in Viña Del Mar and witnessing countless beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
I have never experienced public transportation like I have here. Everywhere I go and anything I do requires me to take a “micro” also known as a bus. It is about 400 Chilean pesos for each ride which is about 60c…very cheap! Riding the bus also requires me to explore my neighborhood a little bit and get acclimated with my immediate and non immediate surroundings. I have come to find that my neighborhood is a nice, safe, place to live that is the perfect distance out from the main town and the ocean. I live about 25 mins from my school and my bus ride is almost entirely right on the ocean with a beautiful view. Public transportation has proven to be a cheap and helpful way of travel.
Chileans eat a ton of bread! Their meal times are a little different than in the U.S.. Breakfast is not a common meal and sometimes only consists of tea or coffee. Lunch is the main meal of the day and is usually served around 2-3 p.m. and is usually some sort of protein along with bread of course. Dinner is very light and is usually referred to as “once,” this usually takes place around 8 or 9 p.m.. For “once” we usually have bread with an assortment of different toppings: cheese, salami, ham, jam, honey, or avocado which is a very popular vegetable in Chile that is also very cheap… I love avocados!
It has been raining for the past 4 days. It started late Wednesday night, and it is now Sunday and it was so bad that they canceled school because of a “red alert” on Thursday. I am not quite sure what that means and to me it is absolutely crazy that they canceled school because of rain, but hey I’m not complaining. Apparently the city is not prepared to handle large amounts of rain and that became very obvious in the past 48 hours as streets have been closed down because of flooding and buildings and businesses close to the ocean have been destroyed because of immensely large waves! My host family and I took a trip down to the ocean which is about 2 miles from my house, and we saw the damage that the weather had done and it was alarming!
Overall these past few weeks have been full of adventure, adjustment, and excitement. I have cherished every moment and I am excited to be settled in and to see what the next 4 months has to offer.