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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Posted by on August 6, 2013

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


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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