Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Si, cachai. I think I am starting to talk a little bit more like a Chilean. and in my opinion, I've been making leaps and bounds of progress with the language. Still a long way to go, but when I think back to my first day here and how nervous I was (with good reason) I can confidently say progress has been made. I am currently reading a book in spanish and I'm actually understanding it and I am also really enjoying it! It's called Palomita Blanca written by Enrique Lafourcade, a Chilean author. The voice it's written from sounds exactly like a Chilean teenager talking. I think that's why I like it so much, it's very colloquial, easy for me to understand. Plus, I can't help but feel proud of the fact that I am halfway through a book in another language. I think that's pretty cool.

Tonight I went to see a play in San Fernando. Now I would be lying if I said I understood what was going on, because pretty much I had no idea. Well, I understood bits and pieces, and there were a few jokes that I laughed at because I actually got them. But, as plays are, it was very visual so it really didn't matter if you didn't understand the words. I was still able to somewhat follow the plot. And the costuming was really awesome. I don't feel so bad though because my cousin, who studied theater, told me that there were a lot of parts she didn't understand. She was maybe just saying that to make me feel better, but also, the actors spoke VERY fast.

Today I went to Rancagua to apply for a passport finally. I started thinking, what if something happened to someone in my family or something and I had to return to the US for an emergency, well I wouldn't be able to leave the country without a Chilean passport. So I finally went to take care of that and they told me it will be ready on Monday which is amazing to me! These things take 4-6 weeks in the states. How is it that it can be done so quickly here in Chile? I don't really know, but I'm glad. I think it's funny how confused the people who work in these offices are by me. I look Chilean, and then I open my mouth and have an accent, but then I have a carnet, but I say that I was born in the US. They are always like, oh ok you are from the US, but then oh wait, it says here on the computer you are Chilean too? I guess having dual citizenship isn't so common here. But I am always accepted as a Chilean, and that definitely feels good. No one ever says like, oh you weren't born here, you aren't a real Chilean. It's more like oh okay, your dad is American, your mom is Chilean, ok and you are Chilean too. The man I talked to in Rancagua today said I was as "chilean as porotos (beans)." If you are Chilean, this would make sense to you. It means that I am indeed Chilean, which really, by blood I am just as Chilean as I am American. What I'm trying to say is that I really feel accepted here, like I belong here too. And that's a nice feeling, I guess I wasn't really expecting that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

But I'm sicker than you

Here's something I've noticed. When you ask a Chilean person how they are doing, as in the standard "hola, como estás" greeting, you'll get more than just a "I'm good, thank you" that is common in the US. Here in Chile, you get the whole story. Everyone seems to tell everyone everything. My aunt is a good example of this. Lately, whenever she has a client come in and ask her how she's doing, she begins her whole story about how, oh she's not great, because she was really sick to her stomach for a while, and she couldn't eat anything, and she was vomiting, and she had to go to the hospital and now her back is really bothering her and she's really tired but she will keep working anyways, everyday, because what else can you do? This is a quality that is not unique to my family. Today we went to a store to buy a can of peaches and a can of cream, and store lady was kind of walking around slowly with her hand near her stomach groaning occasionally. As she was ringing us up my Tía asked her how she was doing and so began the story, she's been sick for a long time, her stomach hurts, she can't eat anything, she's been to the hospital TWICE! with bruises on the arms as proof, and she thinks she has kidney stones, but she doesn't know, she needs to go to the doctor, but she doesn't have time because she needs to work. Now my aunt also managed to interject her story here, you can imagine what parts and what time, and it seemed to me that neither was really listening to one another, and it almost felt like a competition to see who was feeling worse. I think this is kinda funny. When we got to my cousin's house after the trip to the store she was like oh did you hear the story? I laughed and told her how I thought this was funny because this wouldn't happen often in the states, unless you knew the person. But I've noticed that here, it doesn't matter who it is, but if someone asks you how you are doing, you answer them honestly. Now I have to say, I have a little bit of this quality myself because often times I find myself telling all kinds of stories to people who probably really don't care, but I don't know it's as if the truth, the way I'm really feeling, just finds it's way out of my mouth somehow. Not all Chileans share this trait, but I would definitely say it is common.

Today we went to San Vicente to visit my Tío Enrique and I have to say I am definitely impressed with how clean and well taken care of that town is. I never really noticed when I was younger. We took the bus there, an experience which I enjoyed because I love looking out the window. Once again I found myself marveling at how beautiful the Chilean countryside is. Some hills seem to be covered with lush, green velvet, others are peppered with small trees that seem to defy gravity with the direction of their growth. I saw field after field of farm land, some lined with young trees filling out with budding flowers, others boasting straight lines of crops and other bushes. The grass everywhere is covered in little orange and yellow flowers with small dots of purple. We passed a number of fruit stands, most of them appearing to be left unattended. I am just continually amazed by all the growth I see, so many different plants, trees, flowers, everything; and spring is only just beginning.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Me siento mucho mejor

Thankfully, I am feeling much better and today I was able to eat normally. I may have overdid it a bit with the galletas (cookies), but after a couple days of eating things like jello and rice, I couldn't help myself. Throughout my sickness, I was given a few different remedies and I have no idea what they were. Some involved herbs, but one was kind of like a hot, jello like substance that you drink like a tea. My mom did warn me about accepting random remedies, but nothing seemed too extreme. My dad told me a story about how when he was living here he was once really sick and they called up a witch doctor who did things like place hot stones on his chest. People do like to play doctor here though, every person who found out I was sick offered up their own diagnosis of the cause. I'm glad I'm feeling better because I was getting bored from lying around so much.

Yesterday I did feel well enough to go to La Quinta and teach a movement class at the Special Education School. It ended up being a lot of fun. I worked with a group of about 12 girls (and I'm relieved that they were all girls because the boys were all over the place and very physical, I'm not sure I would have been able to keep their attention). They were all teenagers and two of them were in wheel chairs. I had prepared something very simple as I wasn't sure what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised by how open they were to the activities. However, a few of them were a bit disappointed that we didn't dance to reggaeton, a couple of them started chanting "reggaeton" at one point which reminded me how the Dazzling Dolphins used to sometimes chant "Pump it Up" and it drove me crazy. I tried my best to explain to them that it is possible to dance to music other than reggaeton. For the most part though, I think everyone really enjoyed themselves. One of the best moments happened at the end when I was having everyone show me how they were feeling with a movement, and one girl who's movement is greatly restricted (but she did some wonderful dancing with her face and her hands) showed me a huge smile. Everyone who worked there was super nice and they told me I was welcome back anytime. I definitely plan to continue going once a week.

I'm planning a trip to Santiago this coming week so that should be good. We've also started planning my mom's big birthday party which is just three weeks away, so I'm getting excited for that. It will be so great to see my parents and hopefully I will get to do some traveling with them too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Two updates:
1. I've finally had to give in to being sick. Not sure if it's the traveler's curse I'm facing, or maybe it was something I ate, but last night I spent a large portion of my time in the bathroom. I've also had a fever come and go. I'm still not feeling great and I can't really eat anything. So my plan for the day is just to rest.
2. I just felt my first earthquake since being here. It's wasn't super strong but I definitely felt it and what was weirder was seeing things move around. I was lying down just looking at my bottle of water thinking about pouring more into my glass when it started shaking quite a bit. It was brief, I came out of my room and my Tia and I stood in the hallway when we felt some movement again, briefly. Apparently the epicenter was in the region I live in and they are saying now that the magnitude was about 5.3. CNN Chile tells me that in Rancagua (the nearest city, about half an hour a way) it was a 5 on the Richter scale.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The puzzle pieces falling into place.

I can see my life starting to take shape. Now I'm starting to worry a little if I'm going to have too much to do! This morning my Tía and I went all around Rengo and put up my fliers for teaching private English lessons. People were very nice about letting up put them up around different shops and such. Now I just have to wait and see how that goes. Plus I already have three children who need help with their English homework.

Also, as I think I've mentioned before my Tía Elvira brought me a bunch of vegetables to plant in the backyard of my abuelito's house. I was planning on doing that today, but I'm not feeling so well, I'm achy and had a little bit of a fever. My mom told me she's not surprised I'm not feeling well considering my life the past several days, and I'm not surprised either. I have spent most of the day resting, I'll go to bed early tonight, and I'm sure I will feel better tomorrow. I hope tomorrow I can start planting, I am very excited about that.

I have some other good news. My cousin just told me that she talked to the Director of the Special Education school in La Quinta (nearby small town) and they want me to come this Friday to start teaching a creative dance class to the students. I am super excited about that!! I haven't really done anything with dance in a long time so it's going to feel so wonderful. Plus I love teaching improv, or "creative movement" as I like to call it. I mean, I'm no expert, but I have done stuff with a group of fourth graders and a group of senior citizens my senior year at Knox, so I'm sure I can pull something off. If any Terp people happen to be reading this and you have any good ideas, please send them my way! Part of my cousin's job in working for the Department of Education in La Quinta is to write like a newsletter documenting different programs and happenings, so she has decided to write about me doing this dance program. I might have her help me some as well because she studied Theater in college, so I'm sure she'd also have good ideas. I think it's definitely going to be a great experience.

So now I have plenty to do and I am very happy about that. I am starting to feel settled and I am feeling more like I actually live here now. I feel so blessed to be able to have another country that I can also call home.

As always, thanks for reading! I am going to leave you with some of my favorite scenery pictures I've taken recently. Chile is a beautiful country and I am kind of obsessed with taking scenery pictures, especially of the mountains and hills. At some point, I will do some more traveling, and there will be many more opportunities to take pictures. Here are some I have so far!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fiestas Patrias

I'm not really sure how to sum up the past four days. I had a great time celebrating Chile's birthday. I went out three nights in a row with cousins, slept very little but I didn't mind, ate and drank a lot of delicious things, experienced la fonda in two towns, saw a parade, fireworks, danced la cueca (even though I didn't actually know what I was doing), had a lot of great conversations, and made lots of wonderful memories with my family. I think the best thing to do is post pictures. I have A LOT of pictures. I will probably continue to post more the next few days.

Beautiful view of la Quinta.

Quinta de Tilcoco's youngest cueca champions.

Getting ready to dance.

Enjoying the dancing.

Dancing la cueca.

Music at la fonda in la Quinta.

Lilita and I at la fonda in Quinta de Tilcoco.

Fuerza mineros. Rengo

Felipe having a great time.

La Fonda in Rengo. We stayed until about 4:30 in the morning.

Tia Julia making bread, I ate at least three pieces of it, delicious.

Tio Memo

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So begins the celebration!

I am ready to celebrate Chile's 200th birthday because now, it's official. Soy Chilena.

This morning I went to see my cousin Felipe dance la cueca at his school. He danced really well! Even though he was definitely embarressed, as most 9 year old boys would be. I tried my best to take pictures, and I tried to crop out some of the heads that got in the way.

I am definitely looking forward to this weekend, I am sure it will be a lot of fun. It is very special to me that I am here to celebrate Chile's bicentennial, a country that I am now a citizen of. I just know that my abuelito is smiling down at me right now, how happy he would be that his gringa granddaughter is now in Chile, learning, living, loving, and celebrating; as a Chilean.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

chile is turning me in to a night person

It's after 2am and I am still awake. This is not like me! At least the United States version of me. But the Chilean version of me definitely stays awake past 10:30. It's just what everyone I know here does, including my cousin's 9 year old son. Even on school nights! And yes, I know that makes me sound lame. But hey, I used to enjoy going to bed early.

Here are some updates:
-I made flyers advertising that I will teach English to individuals or groups. Haven't gotten around to putting them up yet, but there are already a few people interested, just through word of mouth, so that's good!
-My aunt that I live with got really sick yesterday and ended up having to go to the hospital today. Turns out she had some kind of infection, we suspect that some moldy cheese she accidently ate on Friday just might be the culprit. Hopefully she will feel much better after a good nights rest.
- I now feel comfortable enough to go out in the town and do things on my own like go to the bank, buy a cell phone, buy bread. These things are a big deal to me.
-On Wednesday I get to go pick up my carnet (which is a Chilean id card), then I will feel more official as a Chilean.
-Often times when I am introduced to people who are a bit on the older side (meaning they were hanging around in Rengo over 30 years ago), these people know who my parents are and remember their story. Everyone says I have my mom's eyes and the same voice as her. Also, people like to reminisce about my dad's hair in 1978-79 (a large, curly afro).
-Next Saturday in Chile's independence day, the government has officially declared three days of holiday (18th, 19th, and 20th). That means most stores (apart from maybe a few independently owned ones) will be closed for those three days. I keep trying to imagine what would happen if like Wal-mart closed for three days in the states. I think some people would FREAK out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

just living

I've been here just over a week now, I'm feeling pretty well adjusted. Now I am looking for a job or something to do. It could be anything really, there are some possibilities, so we shall see.

For now I mostly spend my days hanging around, reading in spanish, hanging out with family, going for walks. I have the town pretty well figured out at this point, it's pretty small. But I like walking around and just looking. There's a lot to look at. Yesterday I took some more pictures. The colors are great for photographing. And gazing at the mountains in the distance still hasn't gotten old to me.

If nothing else, I can definitely tell my spanish is improving. Each day I feel more confident and I am learning a lot of new words. But oh my goodness, Chileans have a lot of sayings and slang words. Check out this website! I've been using it a little bit to try to learn some of the modismos, but there is no way I can learn all of it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Good things for my mom to read about

Now I wouldn't normally post twice in one day, I am not that obsessive with blogging, however, my parents expressed some concern after reading my last post. And I don't want anyone to worry about me. I was feeling a little bit down because learning a new language is full of ups and downs. But, my day wasn't at all bad. To prove it, here are a few highlights of the good parts:

- It was a good day for delicious food. Empanadas with some kind of soy meat made especially for me by my Tía and she made tortillas (different from Mexican tortillas). Both foods I love.
- I started working on my garden that I am going to plant and take care of. It felt so good to work hard pulling weeds and moving rocks, sticks, and other random things. Now I have bits of dirt stuck in my fingernails, and I really like that.
- It was a beautiful sunny day and I made sure to appreciate it.

So don't worry Mom! I'm doing just fine.


Today I am finding it more difficult to listen. Learning another language is truly exhausting. It requires intense concentration, and I'm really beginning to feel tired. While I can definitely tell I am learning (at least a little bit more each day) it's not easy listening all the time and not always being able to share what I'm thinking. And my family is full of talkers. So I have to do a lot of listening. My dad told me that he picked up good listening skills while learning Spanish, and I can understand how that happens. For the most part I am content with this, but at certain moments, it can be frustrating when I can't come up with the certain words to express a thought. And to be a good listener, you have to show that you are listening, replying with the proper emotion, whether that be laughter, an empathetic sigh, or whatever. But at this moment I feel like I am running out of energy to power these "good listening" skills. I just need to sort of turn my brain off sometimes for a few minutes. Because listening to four or five people speaking Spanish rapidly all at the same time gives me a headache.

Friday, September 3, 2010

riding the wave

Things are moving along quickly here. Faster than I can update on here. But what I can say is that I feel like I have dove right in and I'm following the current.
I don't think I can adequately describe how nice people are here. Chileans are, as one would say in Spanish, bien amoroso. Everyone is affectionate with one another, even the first time you meet someone, they kiss you on the cheek. I feel so comfortable even though I can't fully communicate yet, I feel like I can just relax and be myself. My family has been nothing short of incredible, everyone is so loving and so willing to bend over backwards to help me in any way possible.
I will try to update more later with more concrete descriptions, but now I am going to go see some performance of la cueca (Chile's national dance).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 1

I made it to Chile! After 12 hours of flight time, 5 hours waiting in the airport in Dallas and probably less than two hours of sleep, here I am. It's cold and I'm tired but I really can't complain. It's been great seeing my family. I've pretty much just been coasting through the day, and my head does feel a bit like I'm swimming through many words I don't understand and then some I do. It just takes a lot of concentration.
I'm on my way to Rengo tonight, where I'll be living. I will update more later.
One definite highlight so far: seeing the peaks of the Andes poking through clouds from the plane with a hint of pink and orange in the sky from the sunrise. Gorgeous.