Chao and Hello

They say this experience is a roller coaster and honestly right now I can’t even tell you where I am on it. Today marks my third to last day in Chile, my home for the past 4 months. Time has flown and I can’t imagine that I’ve been here for so long. We have our farewell dinner tomorrow night and our final debriefing.

There is a part of me that is ecstatic to leave, to have all my comfort back. I am so excited to sleep in my own bed and play with my dog. I can’t wait to eat all the food I’ve been craving for the past few months, the apples and apple cider and Olive Garden, all of the comforts I have known my entire life. I AM READY TO BE NORMAL AGAIN! I’m sick of people staring at me in the streets, gawking at my blonde braids. I am sick of people whistling at me in the street. I am sick of cars blowing their horns at me. I am sick of people telling me “hello” in English and then turning around and talking about me in Spanish. I just want to scream at them that I understand. I want people to not treat me like I am incompetent, like I don’t speak their language. I want to be in a place where they just assume I speak their language. I want to walk down the street and not have cars literally stop. I want to walk in peace knowing that men won’t stick their entire head out of the window to look at mean, like a dog to steak. I want to be more than that weird gringa walking around. I never realized how lucky we are to live in the United States where people don’t think anything of seeing someone of another skin color. They don’t stop to take pictures of them. We live in such a diverse world, that diversity is normal. That’s a blessing.

But there is that other part of me, that part that I’ve been procrastinating acknowledging. Leaving is something so tangible, so physical, so obvious, that I think you don’t realize how much it is going to affect you until you’re in it. I’ve made my home here for the past 4 months; I’ve developed relationship with my host family. These friends I’ve made have been my entire life. I have talked to them all day, face to face or texting, for what feels like forever. I can’t imagine not having them close so that when I get mad we can go buy boxes of strawberries off the street and eat them all in a park playing soccer. I can’t imagine what it will be like to not have practice or rehearsal with the band for youth group or Sunday morning at church. All the practices I have made normal for me, will all change Friday night. These friends have been my life line when I was homesick or crying, my support when I almost flooded my host family’s department, and my go to dancers when I want to go out. They are the ones I have cooked with, had food fights with, played soccer with, worshiped with, cried with, and to think that after Friday I don’t know if I’ll see them again in person. Of course, we’ll keep in contact but being separated by half the world is different than two metro stops. This weekend my youth group gave me a notebook with letters from each of them written in it. I cried.

That seems to be a common theme lately in my life. I don’t know to cry or to laugh. I am so excited to go back and everything about it; I just don’t want to leave all my friends. They also say re-immersion is the worst part of all of this process. For that, I am slightly scared to go home. The moral of the story is that I have no idea what I’m feeling. I don’t understand why leaving a home I’ve known for 4 months is so much harder than leaving a home I’ve known all my life ever was.

P.S. Also, low key not ready to leave springtime and the abundance of fresh fruit.

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Classes are so easy abroad… NOT

I think everyone kind of has a misconception about classes abroad. Of course, Wofford told me they would be pretty similar to classes at Wofford and my friends told me they were a joke. Let me give you some insight into my week last week, as I sleep the entire day away today. I take a relatively light course load here, only four classes, two of which are 4 hours because they involve an out of class experience. I chose to do service learning and hospital observation in addition to my two other Spanish classes. Let’s start last Friday, I had a field trip and a presentation that day. Then, Monday I had a reflective essay and series of questions due. I had to email 3 different people and make new contacts. Then I had to summarize their responses and answer the questions about them. In my Spanish class, we had a guest speaker. Tuesday, I had sort of an exit interview with my service learning and worked 12 hours, yes, 12. It was a long day and I was exhausted afterwards. Wednesday I had 5 hours of class and 2 tests, one of which was outside of normal class time, after my 5 hours of class that day. I asked to take it that morning and my professor let me. Thursday, I had a presentation or debate kind of thing after being at the hospital most of the day observing (which was awesome, we went to the psych ward). Friday, we had another field trip and a debate. I then had to submit my essay on the guest speaker from Monday’s class and the movie we had to watch over the weekend. Sunday, I had an essay due, but thankfully she changed the date to Friday. All of this is to say that classes abroad aren’t a cakewalk. This wasn’t an average week, but it wasn’t much more work either. Even with all of the work, I still love all of my classes.

Our professors are really understanding and willing to work with you but you do have to ask. Now I’m not saying that all classes abroad are this hard. My Santiago program just welcomed some other IES students from a traveling program and they hit culture shock, hard and fast. Apparently in wherever they came from, professors cancel class all the time and they don’t have presentations or much work at all. That isn’t the case in Santiago, but generally, especially in Spanish classes, as long as you are talking in Spanish they let you go off on tangents. I remember one class, in particular, that we talked about the new Syrian refugees that Chile just accepted. My professor is teaching them Spanish and its really difficult because some don’t know how to read or write and none of them know how to write the alphabet (they speak Arabic, which doesn’t use A, B, C). This class we didn’t cover much material at all, but our homework didn’t change. Their priorities are slightly different than at Wofford, but the workload is not nothing. It is a little less, don’t worry, and they understand that people want to travel, but it isn’t nothing. Atleast not here. I don’t have any pictures of me studying, but hey, who wants to take them.

On the bright side, here’s the skeleton from the Bodies Exhibit that I used to study for my Medical Spanish Exam

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San Pedro de Atacama

We went to San Pedro de Atacama last weekend and it was so awesome. The town is tiny with little streets. The walls look like they’re made of mud brick. It looks really old but not run down. They say the water up there is not drinkable and its full of minerals so you can’t even cook the bad stuff out. However, we drank the water and nobody got sick from it. The Atacama Desert is the driest in the world, which I think is really cool. When we were up there, we were less than an hour from Brazil driving and about an hour 15 minutes from Argentina.

The thing about a desert that you don’t realize until you’re there is how vast it reaches and how small you feel. Everywhere you look (if you’re outside of town) is just barrenness. There are volcanos and some scattered water pools but other than that its basically shades of brown for as far as you can see. If you look at the pictures you’d think we were on Mars or something. Apparently, NASA thought the same, testing the MARS rover in the Atacama Desert. The other thing about a desert is there are no lights, no human, nothing, just nature. We went to a place called Moon Valley one night and the stars were amazing. The sky was completely full and there were no lights anywhere around us. As we turned another corner making almost a 120 degree turn, you understood why it is called Moon Valley. The picture below explains it better than I can.

The second thing about a desert that I didn’t think of was the impact of a lack of water. Water is world’s best temperature moderator; without it temperature fluctuates immensely. We went sandboarding one day and it was more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were drenched in sweat and the sand was sticking to our sweat. Super gross, right. Then that night after our showers, we put on fresh shorts and went out on the town. This is about 8pm. We make it about 10 steps outside of our hostel before everyone is running back to their room to grab long pants and a jacket. It was probably 50 degrees then. The worst day was when we went to geysers. Basically, theses geysers are like Yellowstone but less geysers and higher in altitude. We didn’t know how high up these geysers are when we left but we had enough sense to bring the warmest clothes we had, probably a sweatshirt, long sleeve t shirt and jeans. We were prepared for 50 degrees during the day. Wrong! The geysers lie at about 14,000 feet above sea level and the temperature was no more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Everyone was so cold and we were numb after about 25 minutes. We all survived and were all happy in the end of the day. Atacama was the favorite place we have visited.

The white stuff you see is not snow; it’s salt!

The Geysers (in spanish pronounced Gee-zers)

This would be the moon… isn’t it super cool!!

Sandboarding- Like most boards it needs wax. PSA: deodorant works better than the candle they give you

There are flamingos in the background

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley)

The amazing sky full of stars

 

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Chilean Independence Day

I know it has been almost a month since September 18, but I am finally starting to settle back down into the routine of things again. The weekend of September 18 is huge in Chile. The only thing it compares to is July 4th. September 18 is the Independence Day of Chile, but they celebrate way more than we do. First, they have these things called Fondas which basically equate to a state fair, except bigger. There is more dancing and more food and less rides, but that depends on where you go. Now in Santiago there are only 8 million people, but there are more than 7 Fondas that I knew about. These Fondas open every year and each have their own reputation. This year September 18th was on a Monday. Both the 18th and the 19th are considered holidays and nobody works, but because of the way it fell this year almost nobody worked the Friday before. The Fondas opened at noon the Friday before the 18th and run until 2 or 3am only to then start up again at noon. People are there all the time.

One of the more typical things for the 18th is to dance Cueca, which is the national dance of Chile. It was adapted from the movements that a farmer does when it is trying to catch a chicken or when chickens are trying to mate. My program took lessons of this dance and like swing, the steps are pretty basic, but there are more than a million turns, spins and body placements that you can use to add style. Also, there is a white handkerchief that you use to dance with. Girls take it between their second and third fingers and move their wrist like a beauty queen wave. Guys use it differently. The best I can describe it is as a rope used to draw the girl into you. After we took lessons, we thought that we should dance at a Fonda. Everyone else was dancing so we figured we’d give it a shot. After about the first song, all of the other people took their seats on the grass once again. We didn’t realize it at the time but a circle formed around us and everyone was taking photos and videos of the “gringos” trying to dance. After about the 4th song, we finally realized that everyone around the dance floor was staring at us. Talk about embarrassing.

The food at these Fondas is very similar to fair food. They have Anticuchos which are basically kabobs with onion, bread (duh, this is Chile), and whatever type of meat you want. Our group thought the name “meats on a stick” was much more fitting. The other classic food is empanadas de pino which are delicious. They also have Choripan which when you separate the words is sausage bread. It literally is a grilled piece of sausage inside a hotdog bun. As Chile has a drinking culture similar to the US, they sell Terremotos for very cheap. Terremotos are classic for the 18th. A Terremoto consists of pineapple ice-cream with grenadine and a type of fermented white wine. Its name comes from the feeling you get when you drink one, a little bit shaky.

Typical Dance of the Northern Region

We also had a celebration and dance at my Pre-K

Attempting to dance Cueca at the Hospital Fonda for cancer patients that were unable to leave to go to a real Fonda

Anticucho, Meats on a Stick, Kabobs, whatever you call it

My friends and I at a Fonda!

 

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Home away from home

Everyone told me that living with a host family would be the most amazing experience I would have in Chile. I figured they would be right, but it wasn’t until last night that I fully realized that. A host family is the best way to adapt to a culture. You talk Spanish to them and even if they speak English they know better than to let you speak English. Of course, if you need it, they will help you with a word. You can try original Chilean foods at the convenience of your own home. I have friends that live alone in Chile and they don’t enjoy it. It is always nice to have a family and a home. If you think about it, even when we live at Wofford, we live with someone else. We have people on our hall. We have a sense of community. There is always someone you trust close by. For some of these friends that is what they feel they lack. I got really lucky. I have a host sister who is my exact same age and my host brother is 3 years older than me. It’s nice having friends who live with me and are going through similar social situations. It also helps with homesickness and FOMO (Fear of missing out). Your host siblings are usually close by and you can talk to them or laugh or do something other than sit in your room alone. They also have the best advice on fun things to do.

I know I had doubts when I first came here about how I would adapt to living with a mom again. I didn’t really know if I needed to ask for permission to go out or tell her when I got home, if I got home late. I thought they just called them your host mom because that’s the simplest way to set up a “family”. They say mom and everyone thinks of cooking and cleaning and helping. Its true; your host mom provides meals and cleans your room and clothes.  I never realized she would care so much. If someone in your program is mean, your mom backs you up. If two professors give an assignment on the same day, she backs you up in the injustice that has been done to you. When you get mad, she gets mad. When you’re happy, she’s happy. In my program, we discovered very quickly that host moms will go to bat for you. They will yell at the rude guys screaming catcalls at you and jump back on the rude guy in the store. They tell you to call anytime, if you need anything. They mean it. They don’t just say it just to say it.

Every time before you leave the house you get the typical mom commands: “bring a jacket, be careful, remember this and remember that. Do you have your keys? Do you need anything? Did you eat?” She cares for you like her children. And sometimes she’s right about the jacket and when you’re freezing cold, you just hear “I told you so” playing in your head. While she doesn’t care if you go out, she does want to know where you are, mostly because she’s interested in your life. I always text her when I get home but you don’t have to. When there is an earthquake in the middle of the night, she comes in your room to make sure you aren’t scared and that you’re okay. I think I understand a little more, looking back at my 3 months here, why they call host moms host MOMS. It’s not because of the role they play, it’s because of the emotional attachment you develop with them. You are part of the family, while your own family is miles and miles away.

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Southernmost City in the World

Punta Arenas calls itself the southernmost city in the world and the only road signs leading out of the city read “the end of the world, turn right.” While it may not be at the end of the world, it is certainly very close. I am sure many of you know of Patagonia the brand, the jacket company with those iconic mountains in the logo. These mountains actually exist and we hiked up one. The first day we were there, we took a tour and got a pretty hefty discount on our pack entrance fee because of our visa. Riding in the bus was awesome because we could see so much more of the park than when we were trekking. Also, it was raining and super cold because it is barely spring here. The second day was, by far, the most interesting. We got to the base of hike and saw the sign. 10 kilometers and a change in altitude of 900. And so we thought that this hike would be long but fairly flat. We could do it. We knew ahead of time that it was going to be 10 hours but we could do it way faster than that. To travel 10 kilometers in 10 hours is basically nothing. This is where we make our first mistake. It is 10 hours, there and back and therefore also 20 kilometers because the hike measurements measure one way, not both. Second, if you notice the sign says 10 kilometers and 900 so we, being Americans, naturally assumed it meant feet. 900 feet is not that much of a change, however when you convert feet to meters you multiply by 3.28 which equates 900 meters to 2953 feet. That change is hard, especially when the last half kilometer, you gain 300 meters of altitude. This produces a 60% average incline and you aren’t walking it. To ensure that you feel the complete and awesome power of these mountains, add 3 feet of snow and cliff on one side of the 2-foot-wide path. It was quite the adventure but we all made it out alive. While I can sit here and tell you all about it, I think pictures do a much better job.

These are Pumas and our professor said she would give us an A if we got a picture with one. She did not give us an A…

These are a member of the llama family and have poisonous spit

 

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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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