Un Nuevo Principio (A new beginning)

Well folks, this is it- I’m down to my final hours in Chile. If you find that hard to believe, you are absolutely not alone. This semester has flown by so quickly!

Many people say that one of the toughest things about going abroad is coming back home, and I think they might be right. It’s a bit of a bittersweet, internal tug of war- on one hand you are excited to finally see the family and friends you left behind, but on the other you are reluctant to leave the place that has been your home for the past 5 months. It’s the beautiful yet cruel paradox that comes with living in other places: you get to call multiple places “home,” but you can never truly be completely and 100% home again because home is no longer defined as a single place. As you travel to different parts of the world you begin to open your mind, heart and soul to that place with a profundity you never thought possible, so today I’m finding myself going home yet leaving home simultaneously.

When you go abroad, you of course expect to have a bit of culture shock in the beginning, and people will tell you to keep an open mind and be patient with yourself and others. Really, this advice rings true when you transition back in to American life as well. When you’re going back home, your time of adjustment and transition is far from over. To make the transition the least painful as I can, I am definitely going to strive to have patience and understanding when I go back. I know that things that I never questioned before may seem strange to me now, and the feeling of unfamiliarty that I had when I first came here will possibly return when what was once familiar to me now seems “foreign.”

Even though leaving Chile will be hard, I refuse to think of this as “the end,” but instead a new beginning. I have had so many memorable experiences here- some were wonderfully exciting and others were painfully difficult, but they all have taught me so much about life and myself. So even though technically this is “the end” of my time abroad, it’s also the beginning as I get to go back and utilize all the skills and lessons I’ve learned in my time here, from things like how to adapt to any situation, or the knowledge that when going to an heladería, always go for the double scoop of ice cream no matter how full you think you are.

All in all, this has been the adventure of a lifetime. Looking back, I would have never been able to guess how much this experience would really mean to me. From the beautiful triumphs to the countless mistakes, I would not change a single thing. I’ve seen the magnificent beauty of this country, made amazing friends, and learned what it means to truly live.

Because I still refuse to think of this as a final goodbye, I’ll refrain from saying “ciao” and instead say “Hasta luego, Chile.” It’s been an incredible ride.

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The “study” in Study Abroad

You know those times when you think you have it all together, just barely but you’re definitely all there, and then all of a sudden something comes out of nowhere and suddenly you aren’t quite sure how you’ll manage it all?

Everyone experiences this from time to time, and I learned about 2 weeks ago that being abroad really doesn’t make you immune to these unexpected obstacles. So without giving too much personal detail, let’s just say that this happened, and with finals looming in the horizon I wasn’t sure how I would do it all, but like any dilemma you analyze the situation, organize a plan, and get it done. Since I had some unexpected things to deal with, I haven’t been able to blog for quite a while so I’ll do my best to give a good recap now!

First off, I’M FREE! Last week I had all of my finals, presentations, essays and projects due which means that now I have nothing to focus on except fully enjoying Santiago (yippee!!). Taking all of my classes in spanish has definitely been a challenge. I’ve heard so many people say that abroad classes are such a breeze, but to be honest I had to work pretty hard to do well. Especially at the beginning, the language barrier is quite an adjustment- you have to listen to your professors lecture in Spanish all day (which if you think it’s difficult to stay focused in a normal class, I promise it takes so much more effort to not zone out when the professor is speaking in Spanish for the full 2 hours), you have to do all your homework and assignments in Spanish, but even more, the part that really took some time for me, was to learn to truly process/analyze information and think critically in Spanish. All that being said, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to take classes here! Not going to lie, sometimes they really annoyed me because I just wanted to focus on traveling and exploring, but I’ve realized that being abroad isn’t just about seeing new places. It’s also an amazing opportunity to learn. Beyond the actual material I learned in my classes, I’ve learned that I can adapt to new challenges, like having to participate in a Spanish mock trial or holding my own in an ethical debate. I never thought I would say this, but maybe those classes that I thought were just a distraction from the “real” abroad experience were actually valuable, too. I know this goes against what most people say about going abroad, “don’t study too much- enjoy your time there,” and they’re right too, because you will learn SO much outside of the classroom, but I’ve realized that you can’t discredit the things you learn and the skills you build from challenging yourself to perform in a new country on an academic level either.

All that being said, I have had some truly incredible experiences this semester, like traveling up north to the Atacama Desert:

Atacama Desert

Observatory in the Atacama Desert- SO cool!

Ojos de Salar- Atacama Desert

But I also have gotten to do some cool stuff through my classes, like getting unique experiences through my clinical observation class:

Super professional mirror pic

From traveling up and down this country, to the more quiet adventures like having an unforgettable conversation with a hemodialysis patient, there is so much to be thankful for from my time abroad.

Sending well wishes to all of my friends and family back home- have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I may not get to eat turkey on Thursday, but I’ll definitely be mindful of all that I have to be thankful for as well!:)

 

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Faith Hope and Love

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 

One aspect when you go abroad is knowing that things may not be the same when you get back. While you’re off in your own exciting new world, life is still going on back home. You will inevitably miss out on fun events at school, special family gatherings, and new inside jokes among friends. However, one thing I would not, could not ever foresee is finding out that one of my best friends won’t be there when I return.

As I read the scripture above, one that I’ve heard my dear friend Martha recite countless times, I cannot help but think how much she embodied the definition of love.  Martha was never one to seek praise or attention, but rather sought to serve others in her gentle and selfless way. Such a genuine and loyal friend, she was the person I could share anything with and trust not to tell a soul or pass an ounce of judgement. Martha was so loving, hilarious, inclusive, adorably awkward, and beautiful in every sense of the word. Although gone from this world, her spirit still remains in the countless people she managed to profoundly touch in her short life.

Things like this are so difficult to grasp and absolutely impossible to understand, but one thing I have taken away from all of this is that it is truly so important to take advantage of every precious moment. In my opinion one of the best parts of being abroad is living in the mindset that you must grab every opportunity that comes your way and strive to take full advantage of your short time there. But why should this just be a thing when you’re abroad?  These past few days have reminded me that the only moment we truly ever have is right now. I’m serious. You hear things like that all the time and the sayings start to lose meaning, but they are exceptionally true. We must not take a moment for granted, no matter where we are- tell people how much you love them, give plenty of hugs and smiles, and live a life filled to the brim with love and compassion, just as Martha did.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13 

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Trip to Chiloé

Q: How do lambs say “Merry Christmas in Chiloé?”

A: “¡Fleece Navidad!”

hehehehehehe

Okay, sorry for the corny joke (I’m actually not- I’m a total sucker for dumb jokes like that), it was just a silly way for me to start talking about my trip to Chiloé!

Chiloé consists of several islands off the mainland in southern Chile. In contrast to Santiago, there’s lots of greenery, animals (besides the usual dogs and pigeons in Santiago) and fresh air. I took this trip through my IES program, so the best part about this trip was that I had to do absolutely no planning ahead of time! Every detail of the trip had already been thoughtfully planned out by the awesome IES staff, and all I had to do was show up and enjoy.

Getting to Chiloé is a little complicated (another reason I’m glad I went with IES), but after taking a plane, a bus, a ferry, and then bus again, we finally arrived in Puñihuil to eat lunch, play on the beach, and take a boat tour to see PENGUINS!!!

Penguins!

This was my first time seeing penguins just livin’ there real life and not inside a zoo! We also saw some other cool animals on the tour like a little sea otter and plenty of other birds.

Some friends and I on the boat tour

That night we went to a beautiful restaurant where we had a delicious 3 course meal. As college students used to traveling on a budget, none of us were accustomed to eating so well on trips, so we all enjoyed our meals immensely.

Big contrast from the peanut butter and bread I ate for 4 days in Patagonia

There was also a lovely dessert that night- some kind of ice cream with fig and toasted wheat- but I scarfed it down without remembering to take a picture!

The next day was by far my favorite because we got to visit a sheep farm! Talk about animal therapy, the whole day I got to cuddle little lambs, puppies, a llama, and more! We had such a great time spending the day with Don Luis, the owner of the farm, and getting to learn about the animals, the land, and his family.

Lil’ Lambies

so excited to be holding this little guy

getting to know Daniel the Llama

That evening we went to a beautiful beach to enjoy the sunset, and I absolutely got my fill of snapping sunset shots with my camera!

my fellow IES students on the beach

That night we stayed in a gorgeous hostel with floor to ceiling windows that give a magnificent view of Lake Cucao. The best part of the night, though, was stargazing on the dock. There is something magical, inspirational, and very humbling about looking at the stars. Because we were so isolated and the sky was so clear, it was like I could see every single star out there- I even saw a shooting star!

Starry Night

On the last day we went to a beach with wild horses and learned about all the legends and myths of Chiloé. After walking around the beautiful beach and a national park, it was time to head home. We made a quick stop at an artisan fair where I bought some souvenirs, and then we reluctantly left that beautiful island.

Wild horses on the beach

Chiloé was definitely an unforgettable trip! The more I visit different places in Chile, the more I am in awe of the diverse beauty this country has to offer. I can’t say it enough that I am so thankful to have these opportunities. Big shout out to my awesome parents- thanks for letting your daughter wander around South America for 5 months, I am absolutely having the time of my life.

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¡Viva Chile! -Celebrating “18″

So I’m really behind on blogging! I’m sorry! I reached that inevitable point where I was taken over by all the traveling and things going on in Santiago along with the mountain of schoolwork that seemed to have come out of nowhere!

So rewind to about 2 weeks ago (yeah- really, really behind on this- sorry!) to Chile’s Independence Day Celebrations referred to here as “Dieciocho”  (“eighteen” in Spanish). September 18th is Chile’s official Independence Day, but the celebrations go on long after that (in fact my street still has all the flags hanging from the street lights for the holiday). During the “18″ holidays, there are huge fairs in parks all over Santiago with great music, shows, dancing, artisan crafts, and lots and lots of FOOOOD. I ate so much. Maybe I went a little overboard, but I knew I may never get to experience this holiday again, so I wanted to take full advantage and try as many things as I could.

(this is about to digress into a food blog…)

My first mote con huesillo

One of the first new things I tried during the holiday is mote con huesillo. It’s a sweet drink (non-alcholic, mom and dad) that has chunks of dried peaches and husked wheat floating around. The actual drink itself tastes similar to drinking the syrup from canned peaches- a bit sweet for my taste, but probably very refreshing during the summer (which is when Chileans usually drink it).

sopaipilla with pebre

One of my all-time Chilean favorites is without a doubt the sopaipilla (pronounced so- pie- peeya). This fried piece of heaven is made out of some kind of pumpkin dough and is sold on many of the streets of Santiago. Top it off with pebre,  a fresh salsa similar to pico de gallo and the results are magical.

On the left is my host mom and sister making the anticucho and on the right is the finished product

One thing about Chileans- they love their meat. The anticucho is a skewer with meat, onions, and peppers… but mostly just meat. My host mom, sister, and I made some to celebrate “18.” Not too much to describe about these- it’s basically meat on a stick. (but very yummy meat on a stick, I should add).

Celebrating “18″ in typical Chilean style

And last but not least, I can’t talk about “18″ without mentioning the terremoto (Spanish for “earthquake”). This (not quite so non-alcoholic) drink is a staple at every “18″ celebration. It has a questionable mixture of liquids going on, BUT it does contain a scoop of pineapple ice cream on top, so I think that can possibly qualify it as more of a dessert. When dealing with the terremoto it is definitely best to just have one, or else you’ll start feeling like there’s an earthquake going on around you and you’ll be feeling the aftershocks all during the next day (*don’t worry mom and dad that’s just what I’ve been told!!!)

All in all, my dieciocho experience was a great one. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience many aspects of Chilean culture, like this video I took of a Chinchinero, a one-man-band performer that plays several instruments while dancing.

Chinchinero

I also got to hear a famous Chilean group, the Cuatro Cuartos, perform and I absolutely loved it! The show was packed and I had to stand on the back of a park bench to see, but it was so worth it.

Cuatro Cuartos

Since I’m so behind, I plan on writing another post very soon- so be looking out for an update on my trip to Chiloé!

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Journeying to “El fin del mundo”

Aaahhhh, Patagonia- where to begin?

To be honest, I have been putting off writing this blog for a few days now because I know that nothing I write will do the place justice.

Throughout my life, I have been really lucky to have opportunities to travel to different places- some near and some very far. All of my travels have left unique and lasting impressions on me, but I must say that out of all the places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, Patagonia must be the most beautiful piece of earth I have ever had the fortune of seeing.

This statement may seem dramatic, and maybe you’re thinking, “Alana, are you sure you mean to say that?”

My response?

-Yes. yes yes yes yes yes.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself- let me explain the trip:

Last week, my friends and I packed our belongings in a book bag, grabbed sleeping bags, and set out for our 5 day adventure to the “end of the world.” I think several people (including myself at moments) had doubts about our sanity, I mean 5 girls with very little experience with something like this just packing up and heading 1400 miles south? The majority of the time without showers, electricity, heating, or running water? Yeah sounds a little insane, especially considering that September in Patagonia is known to be extremely rainy, windy, and cold.
However, as I looked out at Torres del Paine, sun beaming with lovely 54 degree weather, I knew that going there was one of the best decisions I would make while studying abroad.

Lago Pehoé in Torres del Paine National Park

As we spent our days hiking, exploring glaciers, and taking in the beauty surrounding us, I think we all gained a deeper appreciation of the magnificent beauty this world has to offer. Throughout my time there, I snapped hundreds of pictures with my camera, desperate to hang on to the moment forever, but realizing that no matter how hard I tried, no photograph could truly capture the unparalleled magic of this place. Regardless, here are some pictures I took in my pursuit to capture the uncapturable.

Taken on the first day in the park

 

Glacier Grey

tasting ice from the glacier!

Going to Patagonia was so much more than just seeing a beautiful place. It was leaving the noise and chaos of the world for a few days, it was redefining our definition of beauty, and it was pure, peaceful bliss.

 

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Weekend in Viña del Mar

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

-Nelson Mandela

This past weekend, I returned to beautiful Viña del Mar, Chile to get a change of scenery, breathe the ocean air and, most importantly, reconnect with the dear family I stayed with during interim of my freshman year. Walking around the streets surrounding my old host stay was surreal. When I left Viña a few years back, I knew there was a good chance I would never see that place again. Getting the opportunity to return to a place I love so much and be with people that mean so much to me was such a wonderful blessing.

My Viña del Mar family

Spending time in Viña was interesting because everything was the same- just as perfect as I remembered it, yet it felt very different.  Spending so much time in Santiago, I saw Viña in a different light this time around. I found myself constantly comparing the cities (which really isn’t fair because they are both awesome cities but so so different). I noticed things about Viña during this one weekend that I never even realized when I was there for almost a month the first time. So instead of rambling and drawing lengthy conclusions I’ll sum it up as this: Viña del Mar is still beautiful and amazing and hasn’t changed much, but I certainly have.

While I was in Viña, I got the awesome chance to learn some of the “Cueca” from my host mom there. La cueca is Chile’s national dance. In this traditional dance, the dancers have panuelos, or handkerchiefs that they spin around as they dance. With Chile’s independence day approaching (Sept 18), I am hoping to know the basics of the dance so I can participate in some of the festivities. However, as you can see from this video I still have quite a bit of work before I reach Cueca-superstar-status…

 

Learning the Cueca

My friends and I also took a class to learn the cueca, so if you are wondering what it’s actually supposed to look like, here’s a video of our instructors dancing…

La Cueca

(sorry- the room was really dark so the quality of this video is pretty bad!)

Even though none of us are very good, learning the dance has been a really fun way to further immerse ourselves in Chile’s rich culture.

Jenn, Kim, and I attempting to dance “La Cueca”

My trip to Viña has kicked off what will be a series of travels to different places! In just two days I am heading way down to the end of the earth to explore Patagonia! After that, I return for Chile’s infamous Independence Day celebrations, then I’m off to Chiloe, and then next month the Atacama desert! That being said, check back in next time for (what I hope will be) some exciting updates  :)

 

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Dirty Little Secret

I’ve come to find that the study abroad experience has a dirty little secret. Maybe it won’t come as a surprise to some, but I feel that it’s something they leave out of all those colorful pamphlets.

If you’re like me, when you think of the term “study abroad” you get the image of a student eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel Tower, reading a book on a gondola in Venice, or maybe throwing up the peace sign at the Great Wall of China. Many have the idea that studying abroad will be one crazy adventure after the next, with every day filled to the brim with exotic, wild happenings.

What they don’t tell you on the study abroad flyers is that although you will have more than your fair share of exciting new experiences, you will eventually, at some point or another, get into a routine and begin to live a normal life. You’ll have classes, presentations, tests, and essays.  You’ll stay up late doing homework that you put off all weekend. You’ll make trips to the groceries or devote almost half a day to doing laundry.

But you know what? I think that it’s not a bad thing. I think that the adrenaline-filled adventures are awesome (and I just booked my ticket to visit Patagonia!!!). I also, however, think that sometimes it’s the little moments, the small everyday victories that shape our experiences.  Sometimes, it takes those quiet, unassuming times to truly process and internalize the beauty of the world around you.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing two sweet Wofford friends that stopped in Santiago before beginning a semester in Arica, Chile. I had the best time catching up and showing them around the city I love so much. As I walked around with them, explaining a few of the little idiosyncrasies of Chileans and showing them around some of my favorite streets, it hit me just how much this past month has impacted me.  For the first time since I’ve been here, I realized how much more comfortable, confident, and at home I felt in this city that seemed so big and confusing a few weeks ago. In my time thus far, I never had some cataclysmic moment where I have thought “Yes! I know what I am doing here!” (and I know I will never be able to say that with 100% honesty). Instead, my growing confidence in this city has been a gradual accumulation of those little moments- getting the courage to navigate the public transportation alone, figuring out the layout and system at the grocery store, finally getting more accustomed to the perplexing Chilean accent, and the times where I let myself pause and take it all in.

So for my friends studying abroad both now or in the future, here’s to those beautiful little moments that truly shape our abroad experiences- from laughing over a cup of tea with your host mom, surviving your first oral presentation in a foreign country, or those instances when you allow yourself to slow down and appreciate just how much you’re learning.

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If you never did, you should…

…These things are fun, and fun is good.

I believe this silly Dr. Seuss quote actually packs a lot of truth. For the past week, or really since I’ve gotten here, I’ve gotten to do so many new things. Not only do these experiences help me learn something new, question something old, and allow me to grow, it has also been rejuvenating, invigorating, and, to put it plainly, a whole lot of fun.

With a good bit of free time on our hands, some friends and I decided to take a hike up Cerro San Cristobál, one of the tallest hills in the city. We took the wrong path to the top, so what should have been an hour hike turned into a 2.5 hour hike, but definitely vale la pena (so worth it) because the views at the top were spectacular.

At the top of Cerro San Cristobál with my friends Julia and Jenn

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Before classes started, I also took a trip to Pomaire, Chile, a small town that is famous for it’s pottery and huge empanadas. Instead of taking the time to properly plan out this venture, my friends and I decided to just show up at the bus terminal and figure it out as we go along (obviously not the best idea, but a little spontaneity can sometimes make room for a whole lot of adventure, as we’d soon find out). We get on a bus that we think may take us to Pomaire, confirm with the bus driver that we are on the right bus, and set off on the 1.5 hour drive. However, we were surprised and very confused when the bus driver randomly stops on the side of the highway after about an hour, looks at us and tells us if we are going to Pomaire we should get of the bus here….on the side of the road…in the middle of nowhere. I tried to ask him to explain, but he just rattled some very quick explanation in Spanish that I didn’t understand, kicked us off the bus, and drove off. Below are some pictures to give you an idea of where he left us.

At the side of the road

Stranded…

Okay, so for my mom and dad who I know are reading this and thinking “WHAT?!?!?!” please don’t worry- all’s well that ends well, right? As we started walking and looking for road signs, billboards, or anything that would give us a clue as to where we were supposed to be going, we saw a rickety old city bus bumping down the road. Looking like complete tourists/idiots, we ran towards the bus, arms waving, screaming for the bus to please wait. Thankfully, it was indeed on it’s way to Pomaire, so we were now back on track.

The town of Pomaire was amazing, full of color, and a refreshing break from being in a big city. The streets are lined with people selling handmade pottery, scarves, hats, jewelry, and much more. We had so much fun going through all the little shops, but the highlight of the day was definitely learning how to make pottery from a sassy Chilean man on the side of the road. He kept on laughing at us and making fun of our Spanish, but he also let us keep the pottery we made along with some of his own, much better look pottery!

Fun fact, my pinky fingers stick out pretty much at all times.

 

Final product!

I had so much fun during these final excursions before classes started! However as you may have noticed, I just said “before classes started,” as in my classes did in fact start this past week. I only have classes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, but getting back into school mode, especially when all my classes are in Spanish, has been an adjustment. It’s hard to tell right now if my classes will be hard or not (seriously hoping they won’t be too bad), but I’ll keep y’all updated!

Okay, now I know this blog post is already too long, but I can’t end it without talking about my 21st birthday (which happened to coincide with the first day of classes… of course). Being in a country where turning 21 is not any more special than turning 19 or 20, with people I have only known for a few weeks, and away from my family and friends back home, I will admit that I had extremely low expectations for it. However, thanks to my family and friends back home and my new family and friends here, I actually had one of the best birthdays! My host mom told me she wanted to have a little get together for my 21st at her house with my whole Chilean fam and a few good friends.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t all this:

 

My host mom being cute and me being awkward about all the attention

Spending my birthday in Chile is something I will always remember. A million thanks to everyone who made the day so special  :)

And with that, I will finally wrap up this unbearably long blog. From going on trips, to taking all new Spanish classes, to celebrating my birthday in Chile, I continue to have so much fun experiencing new things.

“If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”

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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

So sorry for the over-used Queen lyric, but really- I feel like I’m living a dream… nobody pinch me!

I’ve been in Santiago for almost two weeks now- How is that even possible?! In a sense I feel like the days are flying by and it’s as if I’ve just arrived, yet, simultaneously, I already feel so deeply connected with this place.

For one thing, I’ve gained a much better sense of my surroundings, I’ve (sort of) mastered the public transportation system, and I am now the proud owner (okay, renter) of my very own (okay, not actually my own, per-say) bike. The way it works, for 2 thousand pesos (less than $4 US dollars) a month, I can rent a city bike from 7:30am to 8:30pm. I’ve never been one to ride a bike around Wofford because I’ve always thought those “bike kids” were in too much of a rush (slow your roll, this is a small, quiet campus) and liable to run me over at any given passing. However, maybe they’re on to something because I absolutely love riding bikes here. It’s much faster than walking, it’s cheaper than taking a bus or metro, and it’s fun!

 

too excited about this bike

Now last time I left a blog post, I had just gotten back from a day trip to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. Spending only a day in those beautiful cities was like seeing a preview for an amazing movie and then realizing that you’ll absolutely have to come back to fully enjoy and experience it when the time is right.  Somehow, I had managed to forget, just a tiny bit, how spectacular those cities are, but with a renewed love for those places, I must return for a longer time at some point(s) this semester. From my first taste of Viña and Valpo during my freshman interim, to returning now as a senior in college, the day was peppered with some serious deja-vu. I couldn’t help but feel a bit as if my college career was, in a sense, coming full circle (in the least cheesy way possible)- reflecting on my time in Chile when I was 18, how my time at Wofford has shaped me, and the person I am today: fundamentally the same in some important ways, but also different in others, with many experiences to draw upon that 18 year-old Alana just didn’t have when she was in Viña.  I think an important difference this time around is that I feel much more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I used to be so worried when speaking Spanish about making a mistake or saying something wrong, but now I don’t mind talking in Spanish all the time with my host family because I really want to learn all I can- both linguistically and culturally. This doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes when speaking (it happens all. the. time. – for example, when talking about  my little sister Emily to my host mom, I accidentally called her my daughter and only realized the error when she gave me a strange look… yeah, embarrassing- ). However, I am now a lot more comfortable with messing up, not always knowing everything, and using this as motivation to keep on learning.

View from Pablo Neruda’s House in Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso

Up until last Wednesday I was in orientation everyday, which was lonnggggg (the day usually went from 9 to 6), but informative and helpful. I learned a lot of the cultural do’s and dont’s, history of Chile, and lots of chilenismos (terms unique to Chile) that I like to pull out when I’m trying to impress my host family or trick them into thinking I know what I’m talking about.

Ever since last Thursday, however, I’ve had loads of free time, and despite battling an awful cold, I’ve gotten to do and see some really neat things. I witnessed some kind of parade late at night in the streets of Bella Vista (link below)

Nightlife in BellaVista

I went to a fantastic jazz concert with some friends (another link below)

Jazz Concert

Woke up on Sunday morning to discover an awesome festival going on in the plaza right outside of my apartment.  There was zumba dancing, Cueca performances (La cueca is Chile’s national dance), acrobats, an inflatable bounce house, street vendors, and free fruit and cookies (!!!). Below is a video of some of the zumba dancing, an adorable shot of my host mom, and my completely awkward failed-selfie-attempt towards the end. Enjoy.

Party in the Plaza

And here’s another video the adorable kids dancing the cueca at the festival

Kids dancing the Cueca

La Cueca

I also went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (their national art museum) which was a total thrill for my dorky, museum-loving self.

A painting of Santiago… told you this city is big

There was also a bizarre exhibit going on in front of the museum. It was a large tunnel that about 20 people get locked into at a time. While in there, it is completely pitch black most of the time, with strange, often loud noises and occasional images appearing. I was honestly pretty creeped out the whole time I was in there, but it was definitely a new experience.

Strangest exhibit ever

 

Entering tunnel of doom

I don’t expect these awesome, dream-like adventures to stop any time soon, because I don’t have any classes until August 12th, and one of my classes actually doesn’t start until August 23rd, so I have plenty of free time to explore and experience new things.

What will I do with this week off before classes start? Tune in next time to find out!

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