Cajón de Maipo, Andes Mountains

I went to  this weekend with two of my friends from church. Cajon de Maipo is a little town located in the Andes mountains about 1 hour north of Santiago. As you first start to ascend these mountains, it looks a little like the Appalachian Mountains. There are trees everywhere and its green. The temperature is only slightly colder than in Santiago. At the end of this part of road, there is a tiny little town with one cross street. We bought and ate delicious empanadas from someone’s carport. Apparently, they have been names the best empanadas in all of the Santiago Metro area.

Leaving this area, the road starts to get significantly steeper and the mountain side turns brown. A large gorge divides the mountains and look surprisingly similar to the Grand Canyon. During this part of the drive, the temperature begins to drop. By the time you reach the next little “town,” which basically consists of a group of roadside stands, the temperature has dropped almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit. From here the land begins to level out some as you approach the dam that stops the water melting from the snow in the spring from flooding Santiago. This huge lake is crystal clear and filled with pure water, so pure that you can drink it. We filled our water bottles up here in the lake.

When we started to drive again, it started snowing and the road started to wind. The next flat plain was at 4,000 meters in altitude or more than 13,000 feet. When we got out of the car we started running because we had been cooped up all day, but quickly found out that our bodies were not used to this much air pressure. Additionally, we opened our water bottles we had filled at the stop before, only to have them explode all over us when opened it. It was snowing heavily when we got there so we searched for something to go sledding on. Eventually we found old potato bags in emergency shelters for hikers. I successfully sledded, this time on ice and not grass, and did not hurt myself. It was overall a super awesome day.

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Sledding Adventures

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Skull of a Goat (We think)

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Me not looking as usual…

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Lower part of Cajón de Maipo

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Lake resulting from the dam

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My friends and I

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Middle Part

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Middle part and dirt hills

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It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF CLASSES! Wofford moved in last weekend and for the first time in the 6 weeks that I’ve been here, most of my friends in the US are back together again. They all live on the same hall now. They share rooms and meals and tailgates. Football is back again, full swing, with a home opener against Furman. We won! My friends started classes yet again with the same professors, in the same building, together once again. Meanwhile, I’ve settled into a routine here, in the other side of the world. I go to class (with Dr. Nuriel’s friend who is awesome!) and do my homework. Last week was one of those weeks. You know the ones, where all your professors decide to give tests and quizzes and presentations the same week. I was tired, exhausted and mentally drained while I subjected myself move in day on Snapchat.

It’s the moments like these that you can’t prepare for. No matter how much you understand the process, nothing is going to take away that feeling. The feeling that you are alone, on the other side of the world, in a new language, in a new culture. This feeling comes and goes. Sometimes it’s worse than others, but the worst part of it, is when you feel left out. Not only are you on the other side of the world, but you can’t go to the tailgate. You don’t have the option to run and talk to your professors that you’ve known for the past 2 or 3 years. You can’t see your best friends in the bathroom or in Burwell.  It’s in these moments that you just want to go home.

But take a step back. You have the opportunity to be on the other side of the world. You are experiencing a different culture, a different language. You have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. These feelings are normal. That doesn’t make them any better, but for me, its gives me the opportunity to rationalize them. Yes, today was terrible. The bus was late. It poured rain. I’m soaked and its 45 degrees here. I have 3 presentations this week. I just want to go home. I want nothing to do with any of this right now. But, today will end and tomorrow will be better.

Personally, my worst day was this past Saturday. After that it got better, but Saturday was awful. I went to church because we had practice for Sunday morning worship. When the band members asked me how I was, I told them I was just tired. Then the guy, who I was teaching the sound board to, asked me again. I proceeded to try to explain (very poorly) my feelings: that I felt at home here, but I just wanted to be with my friends, at the football game or tailgate or moving my stuff back into my dorm. There’s not really one word in Spanish that describes homesickness very well and there’s not a word that describes the feeling of home. While I was discussing this with him, the electric guitarist (I still don’t know if he heard me or not) started playing Sweet Home, Alabama. It made me more homesick, but more conscious that I had friends here, that I had a home here. I still wanted to go home, but I didn’t want to leave so desperately. This was the moment that I realized that everything I’m feeling is completely, 100% normal, and that every one of my classmates is going to or has experienced the exact same thing.

 

“Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low, only hate the road when you’re missing home” –Passenger, Let Her Go

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Some of the kids at my preschool playing dress up- a Lion

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Some of the kids at my preschool playing dress up- Superman

 

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Matthew 4:4, Pan and Food

“But he answered, ‘it is written “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’” Matthew 4:4

Bread. Bread. Bread. It’s everywhere, literally. Look on a single block in Santiago and you can find more then 3 panaderías, places that specialize in selling bread (pan). In one of my rants to my friends back home she told me that she is “99% convinced the rest of the world believes the Bible is wrong about man NOT living by bread alone.”

It’s a staple in Chile followed closely by potatoes and avocados. The Hass avocado, that is sold in supermarkets in the US, is exported from Chile. But back to the bread. Chileans eat bread with everything, for breakfast, lunch, once and dinner. Breakfast consists of pan with manjar or a syrupy sweet jelly. Manjar is basically caramel with more of a buttery consistency, lying somewhere between dulce de leche and peanut butter. Lunch alternates between avocado pizza, quesadillas or just a sandwich with the obligatory avocado and mayonnaise. Once is basically snack time with cake and the same food you had for breakfast. Dinner is simple meat or pasta with a healthy side of bread. For bar food, they have Chorrillana which consists of eggs, fried onions and sausage slices heaped over a plate of french-fries. Its a little odd but really good! Check out these pretty cool pictures of dishes, mostly taken by Madison Evans because I’m more concerned about eating the food.

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Chorillana

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Quesadilla and guacamole, aka bread and avocado

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Pizza

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Once, with a sandwich and tea

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Hannah and I enjoying a Mote con Huesillo atop Cerro San Cristobal. This very sweet drink consists of wheat shreds and a peach topped with a cinnamon sugar water mixture

Additionally, my friend and I cooked for our host families this week. You never realize how many words you take for granted until you try to cook in a different language. It’s really hard to explain what utensils you need, in a foreign language, with eggs and raw fish all over your hands. Hannah and I attempted to cook crab cakes. In our attempts to explain what type of pan we needed to Hannah’s host mom, we ended up with something quite similar to a pot. She insisted that this was what we needed and as we cooked the crab cakes they fell apart. In the end, we had a very large crab cake that didn’t exactly stick together. We made sweet tea, of course, and fried rice. We bought a box of mac and cheese from the store that didn’t have cheese. There was no mac n cheese for dinner. For dessert we made puppy chow, the classic, messy snack. Our families seemed to enjoy the meal and I learned the difference between pot and pan in Spanish.

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Chile Hit by Massive 5.6 Magnitude Earthquake- Reports of Buildings Shaking in Santiago… USA, Families Panic

Last night we experienced what most people consider to be an earthquake. With a magnitude of 5.6 and an epicenter in the heart of Santiago, this “temblor” rattled everyone awake at 3am. But if you know anything about Spanish you will realize that “temblor” is not “terremoto” and therefore not translated as “earthquake”. The word used to describe last night’s events is different for good reason: it wasn’t considered an earthquake. Chile lies on a fault line and experiences more than 6 seismic events every day. All houses are “earthquake proof” meaning they can withstand the ground shaking up to a 9 on the Richter Scale. In Chile, seismic activity is not considered to be an earthquake until it reaches an 8 on the Richer Scale. However, an earthquake of the same level as last night would have completely destroyed almost any city in the USA. But here in Chile, we do things a little differently. Here is a comprehensive list of how to experience an earthquake like a Chilean.

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Stand up- If you can physically stand up and stay that way for 30 seconds or so, it is NOT and earthquake. If you cannot physically stand up because the ground is shaking too much, it is probably an earthquake
  3. If not an earthquake, calmly wait for shaking to cease and resume daily activities aka sleeping, walking, eating
  4. If you determine that it is an earthquake
    1. DO NOT PANIC!!!!
    2. Open the nearest door
    3. If in the street, walk to the middle if possible
    4. If in a building, know that it will not fall (only 2 fell in the entire country with a 8.8 earthquake in 2010 with that technology)
    5. Know that power may fail- this is normal, do not worry
  5. Regardless of whether it is an earthquake or not, if near the water, MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND. Shaking earth = shaking water = tsunami!
  6. Preferably before you lose cell service, tell your parents! They see headlines like the ones listed above and freak out when you’re fine. You just went back to sleep after it.

 

In other news, we toured some pretty cool places and did some pretty cool things during orientation.

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Colorful flowers in winter? To make sure this area still had colors, they switched out flowers for your average cabbages!

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Most of the group at the tallest tower in Latin America

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Madison and I in Valpo

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Bienvenido

I started packing 9 days before my trip for two reasons: a) I knew I was taking night shift the next week and b) I hate procrastinating. I submitted all my papers to international programs way ahead of time and I had filled out of most of my application to this program before Interim ended. It is critical to note here that Wofford doesn’t begin to accept applications until the middle of February, but that was irrelevant to me. The real reason I am telling you this is so you can fully appreciate my emotional turmoil when, 10 days prior to my departure, the visa office informs me that they do not have my visa application or any paperwork that they confirmed receipt of 5 weeks prior. Being on night shift, I was sleeping during the exact hours that the visa office is open so I pulled my first all-nighter of college to call the visa office (over and over). Great story, I know. After sending them ALL my documents again, I managed to have my visa and passport in my hand 6 days prior to my departure.

Oddly enough after receiving my visa, most of my major stressors went away. I have traveled abroad extensively in my life (some of you may have heard of my weekend getaway to Beijing, China last summer) and have no fear of flying. I usually sleep on planes so I’m not usually jet lagged and there is no time change. I’m going down a few days early with my mom. I know I can pack everything I need and flying with my mom gets me a free 70lb weight limit instead of a 50lb. My biggest fear was the language and as my brother so nicely pointed out to me “at this point, its sink or swim.” He was right and I don’t think my professors would have allowed me to come down here if I was going to sink.

It really wasn’t until the morning we left that I panicked. I woke up at 9 that morning and started putting the rest of my clothes in my suitcase and the fear sunk in. I hate being late, more than anything in the world. What if my host family is not prompt? I emailed my host mom that day and she responded in 2 hours and 48 minutes. What are their greetings like? What if I can’t speak? What about linguistic breakdown? What if I don’t even make it through customs? What if the visa office forgot to do something? What if I get sick of the food there? You get the picture and the more I stressed about leaving, the more irrational my questions became.

To remedy my horrendously stressful, panicked day, I decided I would play with my dog. I should probably tell you that I am super allergic to him but have been taking shots for 2 years to develop immunity to those allergens. Sometimes I still react. That afternoon, I reacted, and because I don’t learn from my mistakes and love my dog, I continued reacting throughout the afternoon. A dose of Benadryl, another antihistamine and a shower later I was much calmer. I got dressed and went to dinner with my family who then dropped me, and my mom, off at the airport.

From there, we walked through the Delta priority line (thanks, Mom) to the incredibly short TSA precheck line (thanks, Naval Academy), to the gate. From there, we boarded our direct flight to Santiago and I slept the entire way there (until my mom woke me up for breakfast). Most of my Spanish came back to me as we cleared immigration and my visa went through without a problem. Six incredibly cute, but non-pet-able dogs made a of couple ecstatic laps around our bags and we cleared customs. We got in a taxi and made our way to the hotel. Since our room wasn’t ready they offered to hold our bags while we wandered around the town.

In our adventuring in Chile today I learned:

  1. I am practically the only blonde in all of Chile and stand out distinctly
  2. The stores here are almost exactly the same as the US- Lacoste, American Eagle, Clarks, Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Laura Ashley and many more
  3. Finding an authentic local restaurant at a mall is very difficult unless you consider P.F.Chang’s, TGI Friday’s, Tony Roma’s, Starbucks or McDonald’s one
  4. You can’t buy a SIM card for use for multiple months without a Chilean ID, which I will get in a week
  5. The rules for where your pet can go to the bathroom are just as strict
  6. The rush hour here is like that of Atlanta except motorcyclists are a little bit crazier
  7. Santiago is so much like an American city that it is nicknamed Sanhattan after New York’s Manhattan

Sunrise over the Andes Mountains coming into Santiago

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View of Santiago, Chile and the Andes Mountains

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“This is not a restroom for your pet”

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