Family Update!

Today, my “host nephew” is one week old! In my last post, I was waiting to hear from my family that he had been born. Nicolás (or Nico, as we’ve already shortened it) weighed in at 3.4 kilograms and 50 centimeters long (not that I have much of a concept of the metric system for that to have any meaning to me), and arrived just in time for lunch on Saturday.

On Sunday I spent nearly the entire day with my host family at la clínica, meeting the baby and gushing over him and Juli, talking with other relatives who came with flowers, balloons, and other gifts, and playing with Mati.

Everyone was worried how Mati would take to having a new baby in the house, seeing as she perfectly fits her nickname “Princesa”, but so far, so good! The night he was born she came to sleep at our house and was telling me all about Nico and showing me how big he is and imitating how he cried. On Sunday, she kept telling everyone to look at him, would give him kisses and pat him on the back, and bring her toys over to him, saying “Here, baby, I let you borrow this for the week!” It was pretty adorable. Hopefully she will keep acting that way toward him, since little brothers are the greatest!

The past week, then, has obviously been pretty hectic for mi familia chilena, but we are all happy about the newest member!

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Babybabybaby!

As I am writing this, my host sister Juliana is in the hospital waiting for the arrival of her second child! My other host sister woke me up this morning (ok, ok…at 11 am. No judgments, it’s Saturday! :P ) to tell me that they were leaving for the hospital and that there was food for me in the oven.

Juli found out right before I got here in February that she was pregnant, and everyone in mi familia chilena has been very excited ever since. Juli and her husband have a daughter, Matilde, who is two and a half. I think I have mentioned it before in my blog, but my host mom takes care of her most days (or did, before Juli left work on maternity leave two weeks ago). Mati is my host parents’ first grandchild and they absolutely love her to death. Although they were over the moon when we found out that the new baby was going to be a boy, I think they were a little nervous since they only have daughters and a granddaughter…and therefore not much experience with little boys. Sin embargo, Gloria loves babies more than anything and has been so anxious for the arrival of little Nicolás (she told me one Sunday that “I went to Mass, but I didn’t pay attention because the girl in front of me had a baby and I was making faces and trying to play with it the whole time…”).

It’s really touching how much my host family has included me in this experience. Before settling on “Nicolás” they asked me if I had any suggestions for baby names, or opinions on ones they were considering. When Juli had a baby shower (which is still called “baby shower” in Spanish) a few weeks ago, she invited me. I am not exactly the type who loves being around babies and little kids a lot, but from being a part of this family, I have shared in the excitement about this new little life coming into the world. I am eagerly waiting for a phone call or text message from them with details!

"Las chicas" en el baby shower

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“Well, that was easier than I expected”

This week, I was faced with two “firsts”: my first exam in a Chilean university, and my first interview in Chile (for my internship this semester). Fortunately, both went very well and were much easier than I had anticipated!

As I mentioned in my last post, I had trouble accessing the reading material for my exam due to problems with the online student system. On Thursday, I finally got copies of the four articles to read. I was a little (*a lot) nervous about preparing for this exam, since I had no prior experience taking tests in the universities here, and also because the shortest of the articles was 30 pages long. Por lo tanto, I buckled down and spent the majority of my weekend holed up in a Starbucks with a large cup of coffee, a highlighter, and mi amiga Ashleigh (a fellow Wofford student who I am so glad I have gotten to know while we are both here! You should check out her blog, too!). It was a struggle, but I managed to get through all 200-some pages before Tuesday morning. Ironically, the hardest part of the exam was not taking it nor preparing for it, but rather getting to school to take it! Tuesday morning was miserably cold and gray, and I left my house at my normal time to get the bus that I always take to get to PUC. I waited and waited and waited some more, but the bus never came. De verdad, every other morning it has come at the same exact time, but that day I don’t know what went wrong. I started to panic, naturally, since exam day is the last day I want to be late to class, and finally I saw a taxi coming. I ran across a few lanes of (stopped) traffic to snag it and get a ride to the metro station, where I continued on to campus. I got to the classroom about five minutes late, just as the professor was arriving, so that was alright…but there were no seats left, so I had to sit at the professor’s desk in front of all my 80-some classmates. Just a little embarrassing! On the bright side, the exam was very straight-forward and not nearly as detail-oriented as I had feared it would be, so hopefully I did well!

That afternoon I had a group interview with an organization called Comparte. Comparte is a non-profit that helps Chilean artisans export their products and increase their productivity while teaching them marketing strategies. In preparation, I had printed out a copy of my résumé in Spanish, dressed up, and researched some information about the organization. I expected that they would ask us lots of questions and want to review our experience. That wasn’t the case. As it turns out, they told us that if we are interested they will “hire” us, no waiting and no problems! The interview only took about 20 minutes total, and they didn’t even ask for my résumé. Regardless, I was impressed with them and what they do. (Here is a link to their website, if anyone is interested in learning more about Comparte: http://comparte.cl/ ) However, I’m not sure if I will be interning there or not. I have another interview this coming week with an engineering firm that started in Australia and has expanded into 14 other countries. If I were to intern there, I would be working in Human Resources and assisting with translations. Depending on how that interview goes and my impression of them, I should know where I will be interning this time next week.

Since I don’t have classes tomorrow or massive amounts of reading to do, I am off to start disfrutando my weekend. ¡Hasta la pasta, compañeros!

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New Semester, New Schedule

This morning, I completed my first full week of classes, and I already know that this new schedule will be quite different from last semester’s! Whereas last semester I only had classes at the IES center (and thus only had to make one round-trip each day), this semester I have classes at IES as well as in Pontificia Universidad Católica (“PUC” or “La Católica”), and I will also have an internship in a third location. The pro about this change is that it makes every day of the week distinct and keeps me on my toes. The con is that I will have to spend a significantly higher amount of dinero on local transportation this semester.

This is what my schedule looks like:

  • Monday:
    • 11:30-1- Service Learning & Internship, IES
    • 2-3:30- Grammar and Stylistics class, IES
  • Tuesday:
    • 10-11:30- Religion course, PUC
    • 3:30-5:45- Human Rights in Latin America, IES
  • Wednesday:
    • 2-3:30- Grammar and Stylistics, IES
  • Thursday:
    • 10-11:30- Religion course, PUC
  • Still up in the air as to exactly when, but will be about 10 hours every week:
    • Internship

 

Next week I have interviews at two different places for internship possibilities. Once it has been decided where I will be working, I will spend wither one full day or two half-days per week there. I am excited to get started with it; I think having something different from typical “class time” will be refreshing and interesting!

My PUC class started on July 31, so I have learned my way (more or less) around the San Joaquín campus by now. I chose to take the course, titled “Marriage, Sexuality, and Family in The Bible and the Catholic Church”, because I am hoping to fulfill my Wofford general education requirement for religion, and I figured taking such a course in a Catholic university was only natural. Surprisingly enough, even though I am not Catholic, I am really enjoying the course! My professor is a theologian, not a priest (many of the religion professors here are priests or nuns), and he is married with grown children, so he has a better perspective on the class. He is in his 60s, and incredibly wise, insightful, and kind…sort of a grandfather figure, if you will (I just want to kiss him on the cheek and bring him a piece of pie!). The only problem is that the reading assignments are posted on the class webpage within the PUC student portal (like myWofford), and since I am an exchange student, there is a delay in getting me into the portal system…and there is a test over the readings on Tuesday. I still am not in the system, but fortunately a Chilean classmate took pity on me and two other gringas and emailed us all of the files we needed. Now, the majority of my weekend will be spent reading and studying to make up for lost time.

My IES classes seem like they will be worthwhile. The professor of the Human Rights class taught a history course that I took last semester. He is wonderful, so I didn’t hesitate in signing up for this new course! My profesora for Grammar and Stylistics is very organized, thoughtful, and intelligent. I am sure I will learn a lot from her.

Once my PUC student portal problems are resolved, I think I will have a great semester ahead of me! For now though, I am going to go bury my head in some reading before taking a study break to go to a get-together for Chilean and exchange students from PUC. ¡Nos vemos!

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“Yes, I’m here for a year!”

Just in case someone besides my parents and my roommate is reading this and doesn’t already know, I am currently studying abroad in Santiago de Chile for a second semester. I arrived here in February, and will be here until December (although I was fortunate enough to be able to return to the United States in July to visit my family and friends in Ohio). Many people here as well as in the US have asked me questions regarding this, such as:

“Why are you going abroad for almost a whole year?”

“Why did you want to stay in the same place for two semesters? Why not study in a different place the second semester?”

“Don’t you miss home?”

…and “How do your parents feel about you doing this, young lady??”

 

I have been faced with these questions many times, so I thought it would be a good idea to address them in a blog entry.

First, I knew even before I started my freshman year at Wofford that I wanted to study abroad a significant amount of time. In fact, the ample opportunities and support that the Office of International Programs offers largely influenced my decision to come to Wofford in the first place.

Having lived in Viña del Mar, Chile, for the month of January during my freshman year was like a “preview” of study abroad for me; I fell in love with this country and knew I needed to come back. Thus, coming back for two consecutive semesters was a no-brainer; I knew I would be happy here and not suffer from demasiado culture shock. What’s more, I wanted to be in the same place for the entire year so that I could have some continuity. I figured that, that way, the second semester I could really focus on getting better at Spanish rather than spending time getting to know the city (how to get around, small cultural nuances, taboos, locating myself, etc.). So far, I think that I was right about that—this semester I feel much more comfortable in my surroundings. It was a little shocking to me how much coming back to Santiago from the US a few weeks ago felt like coming “home” …but that is another blog entry.

Speaking of home (nice segway into answering the next question, no?), to be perfectly honest I do miss it despite all the fun I’m having here. Wofford is about a nine-hour drive from my parents’ house in central Ohio, so I am used to being far away and unable to visit often. However, before this experience, the longest I had ever been away was two or three months. Four and a half months is significantly longer, so I did feel pangs of homesickness from time to time. Thank goodness for Facebook and Skype, since with them I could at least communicate with friends and family in another hemisphere! Being so far away for so long really made me appreciate my family and friends, though. My trip to Ohio in July was fantastic; I arrived so full of love and appreciation for them all, and had so much fun running around with my friends and spending time with my family. As hard as it was for me to say good-bye to my first semester in Santiago, it was equally hard to leave my family after two and a half weeks, despite how eager I was to get back to Santiago, which has become another home for me.

As far as my parents’ thoughts on my being here are concerned, coming here was not an easy journey. My mother was upset four years ago when I was looking into colleges out-of-state, so obviously the idea of me moving to another continent for ten months did not go over so well. Slowly but surely they came around, and although it’s not easy for them, I think that now they are just happy that I am happy here. Additionally, it comforts them that I am living with a family who has been so warm and welcoming and always looks out for me. I am hoping that some of my family can come visit me sometime this semester so that I can share with them a little of my life here, but we will see!

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A New Chapter… sort of.

Without having written even a single sentence, I already know that this will be my most challenging blog entry yet (perhaps that is why I have put off writing it for so long??). I don’t want to call it a “farewell post” since I am now beginning my second semester here in Santiago and therefore not saying my good-byes to this country yet; however, I feel that it is necessary to have a commemorative post to reflect on my first semester here.

My expectations for this experience were very high when I applied for the IES Santiago Calendar Year program last September. By the time January rolled around, though, and I had already moved out of Wofford and said a teary good-bye to my beloved roommate (who also studied abroad in the spring), some personal circumstances had changed and some fear had set in to the point that I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go anymore. With such a mindset, it goes without saying that my expectations at that point were pretty low. Regardless, I stuck with my decision, and got on the plane to go establish a new home 5,000 miles away from my “normal life”…and I can say with complete conviction that it was the best decision I have ever made.

Chileans, Germans, and Americans celebrating a birthday juntos

In the past five months, I have learned a lot about the language, customs, history, politics, people, and culture of Chile and the Andean region, both in and out of the classroom. Through travelling all over Chile and seeing firsthand the beautiful, diverse landscape it boasts, I have met incredible people from all over the world: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Peru, Scotland, Switzerland, and various states in the US. Each trip and each person taught me something new and gave me insight into new perspectives, be it about history, relationships, politics, or just life in general.

With friends at the largest mall in South America

I have gained knowledge, experience, and life lessons as well. One of the biggest takeaways for me is the importance of having balance. There is a picture of a Venn diagram for college students floating around on the internet that says “Sleep, Schoolwork, Social Life: You can only have two.” While at Wofford, it was absolutely relatable. Here, though, I have been able to strike a balance and juggle all three—and I have been happier than ever! After all, education is very important, but what is the point of being in a new country if I’m not going out to seeit and experience all it has to offer? Because of this, I felt much more fulfilled and thus took advantage of my time here: I tried new things, came out of my shell, didn’t stress about the little things, came to appreciate my surroundings and the people around me, and learned so much about myself. Everyone and everything surpassed even my highest hopes once I opened myself up to change and learning.

Goofing around during a layover

I also learned the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. I developed strong friendships with some of the people I met this semester, friendships much deeper than I expected to make. Being in a foreign culture without your friends, family, routine, or even your first language really makes you form stronger bonds with the people you meet in that situation, I think. These people were a home away from home, a support group, a wonderful source of laughter and entertainment, a group of dear friends, and a family to me. A friend once told me when describing a trip he had taken that, “Any place you visit, is only as beautiful as the people you encounter there.” After this past semester, I could not agree more. Chile will always hold a special place in my heart, due largely to the beautiful souls I have met here. Some of these people, fortunately, are still in Santiago. Others, though, returned to the US a few weeks ago…and I already miss them terribly. It was hard going to the IES center, knowing that mis amigos aweonados wouldn’t be there waiting for me, and realizing that I would be starting the “make new friends” process all over again. But, as those friends and I said when we parted a few weeks ago, we were not saying “Adios” but rather “Nos vemos.”I know that this new semester will be different than the last, and that it holds new experiences, new memories, and new people. I wouldn’t trade last semester for the world, and thus I am so happy I have the opportunity to keep living in this city I have come to consider my new home. I am excited to see what all this semester holds in store for me…and this time, I am jumping in without preconceived expectations.

Cena de despedida con mis mejores amigos

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Buena Onda in Buenos Aires

Once we were all done with our academic obligations, nearly all of the people in my program took advantage of the remainder of our time here to travel. Some headed for San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world, located in northern Chile, while others headed to other countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Uruguay. I decided with my three closest friends here to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a week.

Argentina and Chile are right next to each other, but although they are geographically close, they are worlds apart culturally. We were constantly finding ways to compare BA with Santiago; below are some examples:

  • The weather in BA was much more pleasant- it was “sweater weather” most of the days we were there. One day we didn’t need anything heavier than a t-shirt! We only had to wear our coats when we went out at night, and once during the day…un cambio re-bienvenidofrom Santiago (where it is so cold that I can see my own breath right now inside my bedroom).

    A Plaza we visited while exploring the city

  • More diversity. BA struck me as being much less homogenous than Santiago, con respeto athe people themselves as well as the fashion and activities. The city definitely has “flair”, which shines in tango performances (one of which we were lucky enough to see in a basement theater of a cafe).

    Cafe Tortoni, which hosts tango/theater performances in the basement

  • The foooooood! Argentina is known for meat, so we had to go to a steak house one night. Many Argentineans have Italian descent, so there is an abundance of good Italian food and pizza to be found there as well. The diversity I just mentioned also means the presence of ethnic foods, such as Thai, Mexican, Peruvian (SO DELICIOUS!! If you go to BA, I highly recommend the restaurant “Chan Chan”), Sushi, French, Spanish, Arab, Indian, and American locales. After a semester of Chilean food, we were quite appreciative to have food with flavor…and thus basically ate our way through the city (worth every calorie).
  • The architecture. In BA, every other building, if not more, looks like a work of art (that Italian influence coming into play yet again!). We spent a lot of time simply walking around the city, enjoying the scenery and infraestructura. There are also a lot of statues, monuments, and gardens throughout BA, moreso than in Santiago.

    "La Casa Rosada" at nighttime

  • Prices. Quality restaurants are actually reasonably priced in Buenos Aires, whereas in Santiago they are pricier. Groceries seemed cheaper as well. The biggest price difference was seen in public transportation, though: in BA, it costs about $0.25 to ride the bus, and $0.40 to ride the metro (which they call the “Subte”). In Santiago, it costs between $1.15 and $1.50 depending on the time of day.
  • More tourists.This made me feel more at ease, since we didn’t stand out as much as we do in Santiago. We made new friends from places all over the world, like Brazil, Denmark, England, Scotland, Argentina, Israel, and Germany.

    People buying souvenirs at the giant Feria

However, BA does have its disadvantages. Every day that we were there, there were protests in the street, or a certain group of workers was on strike (such as garbage collectors or bank employees). Many streets were dirty with litter and overflowing dumpsters, and we couldn’t get find an open bank to use the ATM one day when three of us needed it. Our hostel was only a few blocks from Avenida 9 de Julio, which is the widest avenue in the world at 20 lanes across and thus the prime spot for protests. We saw marches and picketing up close and personal, and one day there were people letting off firecrackers in the street. As one Argentine man we talked to told us “Aunque no tengamos tantas libertades, sí que tenemos voz,” (“Although we may not have that many freedoms, we do have a voice”) to explain the Argentinean affinity for protests. There was also an overwhelming amount of political propaganda plastered around the city, mainly about Las Malvinas (the Falkland Islands) and la PresidenteCristina Kirchner.

Tension and resentment over the Falkland Islands

These things were not problematic since we were only there for a week, but I imagine that, were we there for a whole semester, it would have been incredibly frustrating (not to mention that we probably would have needed to be physically rolled out of the country due to massive weight gain). En fin, Buenos Aires is a wonderful tourist city, but I think Santiago is a better city to live in. It was a fantastic trip that gave me a new stamp in my passport, quality time with great people, and unforgettable memories. I would obviamente love to go back to Buenos Aires, but I am glad that I will be returning to Santiago next semester (I leave here tomorrow to visit my family in the US! Eeek!) to continue my year abroad.

Mis mejores amigos y yo juntitos

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Study Abroad: A Parent’s Perspective

One of the questions I was most frequently asked before I embarked on my journey to Santiago was: “How do your parents feel about you going so far away???” With that asunto in mind, and also because I know that my parents troll the Wofford International blogs (mine and others), I figured that there are bound to be other parents out there reading these blogs, concerned about their college students go abroad. Therefore, I asked my dad if he would be interested in writing an entry for my blog to talk about what study abroad is like for parents. Here is his response:

 

Well, my daughter is in the thick of final exams. Time is short, so she is delegating tasks. She knows that I am hovering out in cyberspace eagerly awaiting every one of her Blog entries. This time, she asked me to step up to the plate and contribute some content. Her request is that I write about the Study Abroad experience from a parent’s perspective.

This past semester in Santiago marks my daughter’s second Study Abroad experience. Her first was a month-long trip to Viña Del Mar in Chile during the January term of her freshman year. That was the harder trip for me to handle because it was her first trip so far from home.

I didn’t do myself any favors when, shortly before her departure, we watched a Liam Neeson movie in which a young girl travelling abroad was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Fortunately, things ended well for that character because her Dad (Liam Neeson) was a retired spy. Alas, I am just a scrawny computer programmer.  I reminded my daughter that I am not Liam Neeson and that the most assistance she could count on from me would be a scathing email sent to any evil-doers.  The day of her departure came.  As we walked up to the security checkpoint, a litany of dangers, both real and imagined, danced in my head. With my heart in my throat, I begged my daughter to be careful and hugged her goodbye.

I waited anxiously throughout her month-long sojourn into South America.  I clicked onto her Facebook page far more often than was healthy for either her or me, sifting for clues that would confirm whether she was healthy and happy. All the while, I was ready to leap into action and send that scathing email to any would-be evildoers. Fortunately, I did not have to do so. She had a lovely experience and fell in love with Chile.

Kirsten’s experience in Vina made it a lot easier for my wife and me to agree when she began lobbying to return to Chile for a second, longer trip. I was not nearly as fearful and my daughter’s excitement about returning to Chile was contagious.

The second trip posed many logistical problems simply because it was to be of a much longer duration. My daughter has already written of the Byzantine paperwork process, so I won’t repeat those gory details. What my daughter has not written of are some of the personal hurdles that she had to clear in order to make this second trip a reality.  She had a health scare which necessitated multiple trips to out-of-town specialists with ominous sounding titles. To be frank, this was scarier for us than any Liam Neeson movie. Up until a month before her departure, it was not clear that she’d be able to go (all’s well, thankfully). Then, with a week to go before her departure to Santiago, she and I were in a car wreck. We were out running errands when somebody ran a red light and crashed into our car. Everybody walked away, albeit with some stiffness and soreness. However, our car was a total loss.

Between the health scare and the car wreck, a curious thing happened. I no longer had any fear about my daughter being far from home. It dawned on me that being “home” was no guarantee for health or well-being. In fact, crazy as it sounds, I was eager to pack her off to Chile that second time because I figured that it just had to be safer for her than Ohio!

As it happened, Kirsten’s trip to Santiago has been everything she dreamed of and everything we hoped for.  She has met students from all over the world and has made lots of friends. She is living with a very kind and loving Host family who treat her like a daughter. She has seen parts of the world that I’ve only read about. She is learning lots of things about herself and about the world around her.  My wife and I miss her. However, every time we hear from her, whether via her Blog entries or the occasional Skype session, we can see that she is happy, content, and full of life. She is all the richer for having had this experience and I know that we were right to have let her go.

Everybody says that Studying Abroad is a life changing experience. They are right.  For those students that are contemplating a trip abroad, I advise you to go. For those parents with such a student, try to find a way to help them to go. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Finals Week is a big locura.

The end of classes really snuck up on me! I cannot believe how fast this semester has gone by. I in no way felt like it was time to be studying for finals, but alas it was/is, as finals started in IES last week.

On Wednesday, I had a normal lecture followed by an oral exam and then a normal class. Thursday’s agenda included a lecture followed by a written exam. I spent Friday morning taking another written exam, and in the afternoon I worked on a group video project with two buenas amigas of mine. Over the weekend, I had three take-home essays to do as the final for one class, with a fourth one to work on that is due tomorrow. My Monday schedule included two “farewell” classes in which we got together one last time with the profesora to talk about what we’ve learned this semester and to despedirnos over treats and music. Tuesday I was supposed to have an in-class final essay, but due to some personal reasons I had it rescheduled for this Friday, on which day I have another “farewell” class. Today I had a “farewell” class and then got together with my partner to polish up our winner of an ensayo to turn in tomorrow (although we took a break to go to zumba class in the afternoon).

It has been a pretty hectic week with everything going on! On top of school stuff, I got really sick on Thursday, and kept getting worse until I finally took a turn for the better on Sunday morning. I had a fever, chills, a cough, a stomachache, and a pounding headache, and I felt nauseous and dizzy to the point where I could barely walk. I wanted to be working on my essays, but all I could manage to do on Saturday was sleep. I was still a bit out of it when I did the majority of my writing on Sunday, so hopefully my grades won’t be too terrible! My host family was so wonderful and took great care of me, constantly checking on me, bringing me tea, and seeing if I needed anything at all. I am so grateful to have them! I didn’t want to go to the doctor to confirm it, but I think I had a head cold and then got either food poisoning or the flu on top of it. According to my host mom, I got sick because I “always wear such little shoes!” and I “need to wear boots! Why don’t you have any boots? If you had boots you wouldn’t get cold or sick!” …Apparently we will just be ignoring the possibility that I got sick because 1) it is cold outside and inside, or 2) an old man sneezed literally in my face on the micro last week (unpleasant micro experience #5001 for me this semester). Por lo tanto, I have been given a mission of buying some boots for myself this week. Perhaps I can find some cute ones and call it a necessary expenditure as well as a reward for surviving finals? ;) Wish me luck!

Que tengan una buena semana!

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What’s that in my mouth? Oh, it’s my foot…

It gives me such vergüenza to write this, but since I want to share an honest, full, account of my abroad experience through my blog, I present to you “Kirsten and the Pickpocket: a Tale of Some Woe and Lots of Learning” (title still a work in progress).

Last weekend, I headed out to a discoteca with some friends for a bit of dancing, Latin American music, and conversation with Chileans. We went to one that we have been to at least five times before, so we know the area very well and have never known of anyone having safety issues there.

By the time we decided to call it a night, it had gotten late and cold. We were walking on the sidewalk in a group of four (una gringa and un gringo in front, and me with un amigo chileno behind), looking for taxis. Although, as I mentioned in my recent post, I always always ALWAYS hold onto my purse and keep it right up against me, I let it *just this once* hang off my shoulder so that I could zip up my jacket (as I said, it was cold!). I figured it was alright, since my Chilean friend and I were walking with our arms linked with my purse in between us, and it would only be for a second…but I was mistaken. All of a sudden, I felt a hard jerk on my shoulder. I whipped my head around to see what was going on, and I see un chico joven about my age with my purse in his hand right behind me, starting to sprint away. I was too shocked to even move, but the two boys threw their jackets at me and started chasing off after him, whilst reprimanding and cursing him in Spanish and Portuguese. Then another Chilean friend of ours, who, as it turns out, had been about 50 feet behind us, joined in on the chase. Mi amiga y yo started running too, so as not to lose them (my concern was that everyone was safe, not for my things). One of the boys quickly caught up to the ladrón, who got scared as the 6”2’ gringo closed in on him, and he threw my purse to the ground and kept running. I picked my purse up to take inventory, as it were, and fortunately my house keys, Chilean ID, money, and tarjeta BIP! (for using public transportation) were all still there! All he had taken was my cell phone (a cheap, prepaid one that I bought when I lived in Viña, with only $3 of minutes left on it) and my gum (…Question mark?).

The two Chileans kept pursuing the thief, which made me incredibly worried, especially since all I had lost was my phone. I was so relieved when we saw them about 20 minutes later and they were alright! They told us that they had kept chasing him because he had also robbed the friend who had been walking behind us, who hadn’t realized it until he saw ese cabro snatch my purse. They had caught him (and the cuts on one of their knuckles indicated that they did a little more than catch him), but that he had already managed to hide my phone and my friend’s iPhone somewhere. We confirmed that everyone was alright, and parted ways.

En resumen, I was SUUUUPER lucky; the only loss incurred for me was my cell phone, and my friend gave me his extra one to use. My Chilean friend is sans iPhone, but he had the GPS on and is currently working with his phone company to see if they can track it. Furthermore, los chicos weren’t hurt when they chased after the thief—doing that is not recommendable since you never know if they have “partners in crime” (literally) waiting nearby or if they have a concealed weapon, although I am grateful in this instance that they did and he therefore didn’t get away with any of my important things.

Entonces, moral of the story: You can never be too careful. Ladies, it is a good idea to wear your purse under your jacket, and probably even better than just holding onto it. Everyone, really pay attention to your surroundings: in front, left, right, and behind. Stay in groups (including Chileans whenever possible, so as not to stand out too much). Don’t carry more money than necessary with you when you go out (I don’t ever bring more than $25 with me, and leave my credit card at home unless I know I need to make a larger purchase). Don’t put said money all in one place; split it up between your wallet, a good pocket, inside your shoe, or whatever works for you. I was very fortunate in this instance, but usually this is not the case (a girl I know here was pickpocketed on the metro today and lost her digital camera, por ejemplo). Be observant, and be smart, and learn from my experience.

…but other than that, things have been going well! I am feeling rather squirrelly at the moment with final exams and projects for the next week and a half, but I am quite content and enjoying planning a trip with some great friends once our tests are over. For now though, it is back to studying for me! ¡Chao, amigos!

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