Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chancho

Mom and I are headed to Chapod (where I lived for the month of May) in the morning -- there are about a thousand words I could use to describe how excited I am about returning to my amazing family there . . . but let's just sum it up with this:

I think we are going to be eating this big ol' chancho (pig) that arrived a few days before I left last week.



Yup, we are excitied.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How do I even start?

BUENO. . . my program finished today. Most people left on flights home to the USA. This weekend we all presented our projects we have been working on for the last month. My mom comes on Wed to Chile until June 19th. It's a surreal feeling. To be close to the end of this incredible, wild semester. I hope to blog a few more times to try and recap some of the experiences I was able to have. I can't even begin to explain how wonderful my time in Chapod, in the south of Chile in a Mapuche community, with my incredible family was. I worked in the school and had a blast with all the kids. My 13 year old brother there, all my sisters and my parents from Chapod were unbelievable. They made me recognize the importance of conversation and togetherness. My students learned about the world and made maps of chalk outside and were crazy. I watched lots of soccer and a ridiculous but addictive telenovela (soap opera) and had my 13 year old brother explain the parts i didn't understand. I turned in a 42 page research project in spanish -- let's be real, I didn't speak spanish before I got here. Thank you Chile and everyone here for teaching me. People loved me really well in that community. We laughed a lot. And then I came back to Santiago and was welcomed so well. I got to hang out with my amazing peers from my program. Now I am looking forward to sharing the places and people of Chile with my mom and then coming home to the USA. I have a much greater pride in my country after being away from it. It's really great, you know? -- we have a lot of freedom. I will work on writing a more descriptive and eloquent post soon . . . the problem is I am so overwhelmed by all the things I could say and also a little confused sometimes as how to write well in English. I should get on that. Looking forward to seeing people when I get home. Love from Chile!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There´s something about it

There’s something about being here in Chapod, a rural Mapuche (the indigenous people of Chile) community, an hour outside of Temuco (a Chilean city 8 hour south of Santiago, the capital). It’s something about walking with my 13 year old brother in the dark with flashlights with crazy clear skies full of stars above us for fifteen or so minutes by dirt roads and through fences and down a muddy hill and over a bridge to return to our house after watching a Jackie Chan movie at our “cousins” house and talking about what he is going to do next year because the community school ends in eighth grade so he needs to go to the city to continue studying. . . and it’s something about scooping out 3 big spoonfuls of powdered milk and one spoonful of powdered coffee into my mug and filling it with hot water at least 3 times a day even though I have never in my life drunk hot milk nor wanted to. . .and my host mom building a fire outside and letting it die down enough until there is a good amount of hot cinder for her to burying dough in to make “tortilla” – bread – and that digging it up twenty minutes later, dusting it off, and chowing down . . . with jam and butter and peanut butter and nutella (and even banana on top) that my family loves, gifts from the United States. It’s something about attempting to make Quaker oatmeal cookies three times for my family. . . the first 2 times without a recipe . . . and succeeding at making cookies but never succeeding at making cookies that tasted like oatmeal cookies ought to taste.

It’s something really powerful about learning that one of my sister’s was the one and only of her classmates to continue on to University and the very old man with a face full of deeply etched wrinkles in the front row during the church service who just danced and danced – for 2 hours straight, praising God, and playing cards for hours on end . . .a game we decided to call OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH because you have to slap pairs and “sándwiches” and people slap with gusto and our hands ache and ache, but we just slap harder and scream louder and laugh and laugh. There is something so special about sitting at a table with my oldest sister who is a teacher in the local school and married and has a five year old daughter as my second-oldest sister does her homework for her education class and tests out her testing methods on her little niece with the help of her teacher older sister and I get to soak all that up, and get their advice on my project. And there is something about hanging out with a little second grader guy who grew up living with my two older sisters and his mom while my sisters where attending high school in the city and playing UNO and him saying, Tía (“auntie”) . . . tu eres mala tía! (you’re bad, or you’re evil . . . completely in love, not hate) When I play a card that makes him draw a bunch from the draw pile or when I win and he looses because let’s be real he just puts whatever card he feels like and doesn’t follow the rules because he is 8 years old. And my host parents explaining from chairs around the woodstove about how my host brother is not their biological son, but that their oldest daughter was doing her practicum and met my brother and his very young mother and realized that this little boy needed a home and famil, so she asked her mother if she could bring the baby boy to live in their home to be raised as their son. It’s something about seeing how much this son loves and respects his parents and the gift they are to him. There is something about watching one of the families in the community who is hosting the two other students from my program who are here for their projects love my peers so well as they go through an incredibly hard situation as a family caring for their gravely ill mother/grandmother. And there is something about the daughter of this family who accompanied me on the micro/bus into town and helped me find internet and that found me later on a street corner when I had no idea where I was and accompanied me home on the hour bus ride and talked and talked and talked with me. And there is something about not have phone signal nor internet that makes you really appreciate phone signal and internet. And there is something about receiving an encouraging text message all the way from Africa from a kind and loving and dedicated boyfriend when you thought for sure you just weren’t going to be able to hear from him. And there is something about not showering and very cold nights and watching lots and lots of fútbol as Chile prepares to head to South Africa for the world cup.

It’s something about thinking my final project would never get going and then arriving at the school this afternoon and having the students participate with enthusiasm as I had them write and draw what they think/know/believe about the world on big sheets of blank white paper to collect their thoughts before my project so that I can later collect their thoughts after my project . . . and I got to walk around and hear what they had to say and their questions and have my classmate, Tracey turn to me . . . and say, look, we are teaching! In Chile! They are writing about the world! Maggie – this is your dream!” and to take up their work at the end and read everything they had written . . .in lots of misspelled Spanish. And then it is walking home after with the 13 year old brother who was part of my class and to have him ask, how do you think the “class” went? I told him I was excited and felt like people had great ideas and that they were enthusiastic. He said he felt like it went really well and that he liked it. . . but he said, Maggie, sister, you have to always remember that you are the teacher. You are in control. So if people are acting up you just say, cut it out and then they have to cut it out. . . no other option. Believe that you are the teacher. He does not want people goofing off. That’s what he told me. . . I have a “consejero” for my project . . .an advisor. But I already spoke with this advisor about the reality that I have another 13 year old advisor who will be assisting him. And the funny thing is, my advisor is the one who brought this subject up. . . because he knows my brother and his advising potential. It’s something about looking forward to continuing my project and be challenged that it is not going to be easy . . . I am going to use the world cup as a jumping off point and teach about the world . . . .okay, the world cup is taking place in South Africa . . .. where is South Africa? What is it like? What ocean will the soccer team need to cross to arrive in South Africa . . . what does that ocean look like? What countries will be represented in the World Cup? What do the people from Ghana look like? What type of food do the Italians Eat? What language do they speak? What is France famous for? What does the United States look like? And following that up with soccer games outside . . . . Japan versus Brasil, ect

It’s something about waking up to geese honking and roosters cock-a-doodle-doing and sheep baaa-ing and pigs oinking and dogs barking. And it is something about knowing that I am blessed to have this wonderful family here in Chapod, and a wonderful mom and sister who are waiting for me to return at the end of May in Santiago, and a wonderful Argentinean family who put up pictures on facebook and send me e-mails checking in . . . and my beautiful family . . . my parents who met me the day I was born and who have always been 100% with me for 21 years and my always favorite brother and my always favorite sister and all those other great extended grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins I have to return to in June. . . and my mom who is coming to Chile in less than a month! It’s something about all those things and then some. It’s something about that I am even getting to experience any of this at all. Like we say here in Chile, ¿CACHAI? . . . .”You understand? You get me? Do you see what I mean? Can you maybe imagine a little bit what the something I can’t sufficiently describe with words is? It’s a really beautiful something.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Headed to Chapod

Headed out on a night bus back to my rural homestay in Chapod, outside of Temuco, for my final project until the end of May! I will be going into the city a couple times a week to have interent access, so please e-mail me and keep in touch. I am going to be studying/teaching about curriculum that teaches about the history, geography and the cultures of the world. We will see how that plays out/ what that looks like. I'll try and keep you updated along the way. Hopefully I am just going to be hanging out with lots of children and drawing maps and talking about what the ocean looks like, what Africa is . . . ect and collecting their understandings of the world. I am leaving my wonderful family in Santiago, but I am headed to my also wonderful family in Chapod. Good luck to everyone who is taking finals! Peace, Maggie

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Do you remember those t-shirts that say "Life is Good?"


Soccer All the Time with Everyone

Brother Pato and Sister Julia

Neice and her buddy

Sweet, Right?


Julia off to Construct a Ruka -- a traditional Mapuche home


Eating Homemade Sopapilla and Drinking Mate

Dear Everyone,
I have been a little lax with my blogging. . . in reality, it is because so much is happening that I so desperatly want to express it perfectly that I keep saying . . . Oh I will write about this when I have more time because it was so incredible it deserves to be told well . . . well I have no time to sufficiently express anything because everything is so amazing. It is like me speaking the spanish language . . .sometimes I simply cannot completely express exactly what I want to say . . . which is difficult for me because I study communication. . . what it means to read and write and express. . . in English. So I feel a little ridiculous sometimes . . .which is good for the soul. Let me try to give you a glimpse . . . .

April 5th or so I took an overnight bus from Santiago, Chile to Temuco, Chile . . . a city in the south. We lived in a Mapuche (an indigenous people of Chile . . .and parts of Argentina) community called Chapod for one week. This community is very small, very rural, most people are family . . . and mostly very incredible and wonderful and perfect. I had geese and sheep and cows and pigs and chickens and dogs and one cat in my yard and more importantly, a mom, dad, 2 sisters and a brother that lived inside of my house. To explain the beauty of this situation let me say this: the night I left we had a wonderful dinner and my dad broke out the hymnal and looked up special occasions, farewells, and said, "If anyone would kindly join me, I'd like to sing a song of farwell" . . . and then right before I left before I got on the bus my brother and sisters put me up in the air (picture my face towards the sky and my back facing the earth) and threw me up and down . . . saying "chicle!" "chicle" which means gum as I understand it so I don't know why they said that. . . but it's a celebration thing . . .then after about 17 rounds of hugs I got on the bus and as we drove away my brother and sisters put their hands on the bus window and ran after us. Sidenote: I have a brother, (let me be specific because I have a collection of brothers these days) named Grayson . . .this brother lives in the United States and the same mother birthed us and I think he is pretty cool. He is fifteen. Although I love him and I have always loved him, I didn't come to Chile thinking. . . Oh, it would be really great to have another teenage brother in Chile. Well, I have a brother named Pato who is 13. He is super-cool. He took me to caves and taught me to play trompo -- a national game with a wooden spinning top like gadget. We bonded. We are buds. My sisters attend University during the week in the city and return on the weekends. My dad was one of the teachers in the community school but retired 2 years ago. My mom made homeade bread in the woodstove everyday and heated water for me to bathe. I also had another girl from my program living with me. Julia. Our beds were right next to eachother so we stayed up every night sharing life stories like little girls. I played soccer almost every day -- with kids and dads and moms . . .everyone. You might know that when I was little. . . well really until I was a little older than little. . . I wanted to be "an old fashioned girl" . . . I would turn out the lights and write by candlelight and wear a calico dress my mom made me . . . think Laura Ingalls Wilder. So I absolutly loved this week of my life. My family had a love for eachother and a way of expressing this love that was so pure. The reality is, however, that everything that was "fun" for me is life there. . . .it's a life full of hard, hard work without the commodities I am used to and take for granted . . . internet, hot water, lots of books in the house. . . . I could go on and on about this week of my life forever and ever. . . . but the good thing is I am hoping/planning on returning here for my last month of my program to do my final research/project. I haven't told my family in Chapod yet . . . hopefully they will be a quarter as excited as I am! More stories later.



Now I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina. What a change of pace. This too is an incredible, but COMPLETLY distinct experience. Before I arrived here I kind of thought . . . I hope my family isn't wonderful because it is already going to be hard enough to say goodbye to my amazing families in Santiago and Chapod. Guess what-- they are wonderful. My sister and her boyfriend are tango dancers and I have now been to 3 tango classes. . . I think this will be a new lifelong passion . . .I already talked with Joshua about taking classes with me when I get home! He's all for it. My mom and dad are great and have incredible conversation and cook incredible food and teach me so much. I also live with 2 other students studying abroad . . . Laura, from Switzerland and Mats from Sweden (but was born in MEMPHIS, Tennessee of all places. . . small world). So you can imagine our dinner conversation . . . we usually start dinner around 10 and finish talking and cleaning up aroud 1, 1:30 AM. BEAUTIFUL. One of my goals in life is to live a life full of long dinners. One day I was standing in the kitchen with my Argentinian mother as my sister from Switzerland whose first language is German sat at the kitchen table reading outloud in Spanish the history of Las Madres in Argentina . . . .these women are mothers whose children "dissappeared" during the dictatorship . . . 30,000 people disappeared under the final dictatorship of Argentina. Crazy. Everyne lost someone. These women have been uniting since the days of the dictatorship to call attention to this atrocity and to fight for the causes their children didn't have the chance to. They have marched every Thursday at 3:30 PM in Plaza de Mayo in front of La Casa Rosada for 33 years! We talked with one of the mothers, Juanita last Tuesday and marched with them last Thursday. Talk about a powerful exprience. It's one thing to read about, it's another to watch a 96 year old women walk with a photo of her daughter she lost to the dictatorship around her neck. All the mothers wear white scarfs on their heads to identify themselves . . . this tradition first started by wearing one of their lost child´s cloth diapers from their childhood. Google this history. It will break your heart and make you stronger.

Other cultural activities I have done in the past week: tango dancing, went to a drum circle show, gone to incredible street markets, the Bellas Artes National museum, wandered these amazing streets and discovered cafes and restaurants and clothing stores and art galleries. It's a dream really. I can't even express how much culture and how much there is to do in this magical city. You really must visit. The Spanish is distinct . . . there is differnt pronunciation than in Chile and many words used in Chile are not used here. . . so I'm transitioning. All double L's in Chile are like y's. . . here they are jahhh o something like this. For example: Cay-A is street in Chile. Cay-J is street in Argentina.

I am still loving it here. I am missing people something aweful, of course, but I do believe that I am learning an unincredible amount that is going to stay with me forever and ever. My appetite to know the world has been wet. . .or rather, drenched. Anybody want to travel?? I am all for it. I am being challenged and amazed and misunderstood and questioned and encouraged and . . . . .

Thanks for reading my world wind month update . . . hopefully more details and pictures later. I have, however, elected to spend my last month in a place without internet. . . but I plan to go into the city a couple times a week to conduct interviews, use the internet, ect. I am really excited about my project . . . I realize that many of the children of the Community of Chapod may not know what the ocean looks like or what is Africa or what people look like in China. . . I am hoping to do some kind of praticum teaching about the world and collecting written work of what the kids in the school think about the world in an effort to encourage the appreciation of their culture, La Mapuche, as important and special and distinct in the world.

A special shout-out to Jessica and Chad who got married today . . .and to the Buono family. I sure wish I could have been there and know that it was so very special. I love you!

Another shoutout to my dear friend, Cristina. I remember you and am encouraged by you today and always.

Un beso y un abrazo fuerte a todos,
Maggie

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tía Mar-ga-rit

I had the privelege of observing in a basic school (preK-8) here in Santiago -- 4 times to date. I have so much to share and so little time. More stories later. . ..but for now a quick summary and some pictures from my day in Pre-Kindergarten. Let's just say I get to go to elementary school -- that should sum up how fantastic it is. The kids ask me all sorts of ridiculous and wonderful things. . .


Here's a tiny taste: My first day at this school, I observed 5th grade. After introducing myself as from the United States, I took a seat in an empty desk. The boy in front of me turned around and enthusiastically said, "Are there more McDonald's there?" and promptly offered me a Jonas Brothers sticker. Oh, America. I get to jump rope at recess and play tag and watch the pre-Kinder teacher get on all fours and demonstate how to walk like a cat and then the students have to mimic this manuever themselves -- some slither like snakes instead of strutting like cats. In basic school (K-8) teachers are called "Tia" meaning, aunt. I am Tia Mar-ga-rit. The kids don't understand who I am if I am not a student and I am not a new teacher. They have decided I must be someone's (in their school) mom. I assure them (and you) that I am not. They are simply bewildered as to who I could be --but, notwithstanding, they want to talk to me and talk to me. I get stories about scars and burns, what other countries kids immigrated from, and even kids who beg me to let them show me how to fart with their armpits (in the middle of the teacher teaching). Everyday when I leave the school I get at least 20 kisses on the cheek -- often leaving crums of their previously consumed snack on my face. It's glorious. More soon.



(Note: all these pictures are from Pre-Kinder. )



This little guy did not want a picture of himself, but of his easter egg. He was very proud.

















Pre-Kinders coloring Easter Eggs!





The teacher was Amazing -- so engaging.







Above: Dancing up a storm. Check out the kid in the forground with the big smile .
He was just loving this.



Below: An easter bunny that was hopping around the Pre-Kinder class!











Below: Diligently working on their easter egg coloring projects -- check out the backpacks -- Barbie, Tinkerbell, Disney Princess, and Hannah Montanta. The little guy in this photo even had a Spiderman backpack that he just had to show me.








Sweet, yeah?









Everyone jumping up at once when the teacher asks for volunteers to practice walking like a kitty cat.






The teacher encouraging the students along as they practice walking like cats.

















Thursday, March 18, 2010

La Monce


I am getting to know more Chileans! A couple of weekends ago I visited a Children's Home in Santiago after being invited by a friend on my program, Cassandra, whose mom (host-mom) volunteers at the home. This is were I fell in love with La Monce (see above). I am definitly going to have to return. La Monce and I blew bubbles, played with play-dough, and practiced colors. We started with blue. After that, everything was blue. Ha. I helped her climb up onto the playground were she commenced to wave at everyone below and say "Hola" and laugh for a good 25 minutes. One of the volunteers started calling her "Hola" instead of "La Monce." Ella es super-linda y super-simpatica. (Really pretty and kind -- sorry, I don't know how to do accents on the blog so spanish words are tough). I adored her/adore her still. Cassandra's Chilean host mom was a really good example of how to interact with the kids -- she just hugged them and kissed them and told them they were so so beautiful, or so so handsome. That's what they need--- plain old affection. They were all under 5 years old or so! Definitly one of my most special couple of hours in Chile so far. Thanks, Cassandra!
Today I started my observations in a Chilean Basic School -- grades K-8. In the first class I visited -- 7th grade Natural Sciences, after I introduced myself the boy sitting in front of me turned around and asked me if there were more McDonalds in the United States than in Chile. I told him that, yeah, there were. Then he proceeded to offer me a Jonas Brother sticker! Oh, America -- are we more than McDonalds and Jonas Brothers? I like to think so. I am glad to start delving into the hands-on part of this adventure. After classes, my program invited students studying English at the university we have classes in to a bar where we hung out -- we spoke Spanish and they responded in English. Great practice, lots of fun, and I made some new Chilean friends. Tommorrow is a party for my program director's 50th birthday and his 25th wedding anniversary -- so he invited all of us to his house!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hiking en Las Cascadas Animas


So, a few friends and I traveled by bus for 2 hours (for about $2.50 each round trip) to hike to Las Cascadas Animas. We followed up this breathtaking hike by walking down the highway a bit to an artisan shop . . . really a tent in a couple's front yard where they sold crafts and the husband played guitar and sang. The artisan recommened this great restaurant -- a one room wooden building with maybe 6 tables and 4 choices of meals . . . amazing homecooked Chilean meals. An ideal way to spend a Saturday -- just saying.





Yep, I get to see this. amazing.








American friends and our wonderful Chilean guide, Gabriel.






El Rio.











Santiago: The Views

My favorite little street -- between my friend's house and the bus stop. These pictures cannot do justice to the incredible views of the Andes and Cordillera Mountains. . . with the naked eye it looks like they are close enough to just walk right up them . . .


The view from the living room window of my Chilean Family's apartment. Amazing, Amazing, Amazing. I get to see this everyday!


Another view from the same window.

And another. . .



The view from my Chilean homestay brother and his girfriend's apartment, where we stayed after the earthquake . . .














Pictures: "El Mar" (The Sea) -Alogorrobo, Chile

1) Above: Rocks in the Pacific!

2) Below: First Day in Algorrobo,Chile for program orientation! My first time seeing the Pacific Ocean!


3) View from our fifth floor window where we stayed for 2 nights! This was the definite plus -- the negative: we carried all our luggage for 3 month and multiple seasons up to the fifth floor up steep stairs.

4) Window boxes on a home on the walk from Chilean Poet Paul Neruda's house back to the hotel.



5) View from Paul Neruda's Home. Nice, right?


When my whole world is shaking




After the earthquake, Sat Feb 27th, I was lying in bed listening to the trusty Ipod. A song came on that I've heard many times before, "Your Hands" by JJ Heller. Maybe the song is a little cheesy, but she has a really beautiful voice and a powerful message. The thing is though, it had never been as powerful as in that moment . ...
Listening to it is really the only way to go: check it out for free by going to lala.com, then in the search box, type "JJ Heller Your Hands" and when the song comes up, click "play."

Lyrics:

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
That you would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh, Lord before these feet of mine
Oh, Lord before these feet of mine

When my whole world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost and hurt,
I know you hate to see me cry,
One day you will set all things right

When my whole world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

Your hands that shape the world
Are holding me, they hold me still . . .

Life of Pi

I started reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel (I highly suggest it). I am only a little ways into it, but Martel has this way of ordering his words and telling stories that is really incredible, so, I thought I'd share:

(Note: The main character is named after a swimming pool in France: Piscine Molitor Patel.)

"My name isn't the end of the story about my name. When your name is Bob no one asks you, "How do you spell that?" Not so with Piscine Molitor Patel.
Some thought it was P. Singh and that I was a Sikh, and they wondered why I wasn't wearing a turban.
In my university days I visited Montreal one night with some friends. It fell to me to order pizzas one night. I couldn't bear to have yet another French speaker guffawing at my name, so when the man on the phone asked, "Can I 'ave your name?" I said, I am who I am." Half an hour later two pizzs arrived for Ian Holihan."
It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names. Witness Simon who is called Peter, Matthew also known as Levi, Nathaniel who is also Bartholomew, Judas, not Iscariot, who took the name Thaddeus, Simeon who went by Niger, Saul who became Paul.

-(The first paragraphs of Ch. 5, pg. 25.)

Another quality quote (pg 31 chapter 7): "It was my luck to have a few good teachers in my youth, men and women who came into my dark head and lit a match."

Thank you to all of you who are reading this-- who have been my teachers -- both in school and out. Teaching me about friendship and family and trust and humanity and life and loss. I am thankful for you!

I have been thankful a lot here. (After some pretty scary experiences: 1) earthquake 2) the more than 100 replicas/aftershocks that have ensued since the earthquake 3) A blackout of, not my house, or my barrio, or my city, no, the ENTIRE country of Chile. I was in a metro station about to get on the train with two friends Saturday night right after dark. All the power went out. We held onto eachother, got out of the Metro station and realized it was dark above ground too. We had to walk all the way to my friend's closest house. I thank God I was not alone and that I was NOT on a metro train full of people stuck underground -- can you imagine?? When it happened we were like, really? Is this happening? Really? Turns out this has never happend before in Chile on this scale -- of course, what luck we have! But, alas, I was provided for and I am safe and sound -- sano y salvo. The lights came back on, and all is normal now. Let's just leave it at: I have had lots of moments to examine that life is short and anything can happen at any moment-- like earthquakes and blackouts of countries. )

Like the protagonist of Life of Pi, I also have slight name changes (Maggie is not a real common name in Chile, if you can imagine): I am MaRR-Ga-RIT or Ma-zsh-E or things like that. And I am being changed by the people I meet here, and I know I will continue to be changed by those people I have yet to meet here.








Friday, March 12, 2010

"Besitos"

When I was little and my Aunt Lori would come over to visit she would chase me around and around trying to greet me with a shower (more like a bath) of kisses. From what I remember, I thought that this was weird and disgusting. I remember climbing a cherry tree in my backyard to escape her kisses -- but she just climbed up the tree and kissed me anyways. . . All that to say that in Chile, you greet everyone with besitos -- cheek to cheek with a kiss, only on one side, not both. You also say goodbye in this manner. I like this -- because it breaks down boundaries -- you kind of feel like you know a person after this sort of greeting and that now you can be friends. Handshakes, well, handshakes are stiff and do not break down boundaries between people like "besitos." I may have been that kid who climbed a cherry tree to escape Aunt Lori's kisses -- but I am liking the warmth of the people of Chile. For example, last week, the SIT group (18 students) met up with our director early in the mornng to head to the Red Cross together. Well, when Roberto (the director) arrived, he didn't just greet those near him with besitos or give a friendly, "Good morning." No, he greeted ALL 18 of us, one at a time, with besitos. (I think for guys greeting guys it's a kind of handshake-hug-pat on the back kinda combination.)

I have much, much more to tell and plan to sit down and do so this weekend. Quick Recap: I met up breifly with the lovely Kelly Gillean of Rhodes College who is also studying in Santiago. . . pretty crazy to see a familiar face in this Chilean city! I visted an orphanage last weekend and fell in love with the sweetest little 3ish year old girl, La "Mon-say" and today was a heavy day of visiting Santiago's cemetary and various memorials to those who were killed, tortured and who disappeared during the dictatorship in Chile from 1973-1990. Tragic. Tragic. Tragic. To be at a mass grave where unnamed bodies were dumped and to sit in front of a wall of hundreds of names of people's brothers and mothers and lovers and children and friends who were lost during this time because of the hate of other humans -- I don't think I can really describe or process that. I'll share pictures and stories soon. For now, I encourage you to do some googling on the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. Be prepared to be sickened-- and inspired to believe in peace and realize the need to fight for it. Part of this occured in my first two years of life -- how did I not know anything about this until so recently??? (did I mention that the U.S. had a pretty important role in helping to install the dictator . . . because the president, Salvador Allende, was a socialist? Yep, google that too. I let you make your own opinion.) In Argentina, even more people dissappeared under their dictatorship than in Chile. Anyways. . . .like I said, I need more time to express everything that was today. . . so more soon. Also, lots and lots of really strong "replicas" or, aftershocks, of the earthquake this week. Pretty alarming, but I am still safe and well. It's just a little disconcerting to fall asleep to the whole earth shaking. But, when there is a massive earthquake, the plates have to settle and with this comes a lot of groaning of the earth. It definitly reminds me how very little control I have over my life. Headed out early, early to hopefully see waterfalls and mountains! Peace to you all from beautiful, beautiful Chile!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cookies For Breakfast and la Cruz Roja Chilena


She came up to us and asked if she could ride in the elevator with us. She was on her way to visit her friend on the eighth floor. We live on the sixth floor. She was afraid to ride the elevator alone-- it had just been repaired post-earthquake. Mercedes and I rode with her, of course. When we got to the sixth floor, she asked if we would please ride with her to the eighth floor and then come back to the sixth -- she didn't want to be in that elevator alone at all. She was about 8 or so. Ha.

As we sat in the Plaza Brasil eating ice cream, a tiny puppy kept running up to us and sitting in our laps. His owner, about 6 or so, kept running after him and picking him up and taking him to the other side of the park. He would set the little guy on the ground, and immediately the dog would take off running towards us. This happened about 4 times. Finally, they tied him to a bench with his leash. The park was full of people -- lots and lots of people-- and the puppy kept running away, but only in our direction.

Friday morning, our entire program headed to the Cruz Roja Chilean - The Red Cross -- to sort through clothes and bag them up to send out to earthquake victims. We sorted through clothes -- tossed out the stained and ripped and sorted them into bags --- "mujer/women," "hombre/men," "baby/bebe," "ninos/boys," "ninas/girls," "bufandas/scarfs" ect. Lots and lots of clothes. What the red cross needs now are cleaning supplies, soap, shampoo, flour, oil, milk ect. Some of the clothes we sorted through would be whole boxes of the same pair of jeans or sweaters -- many with the plastic security devices that stores put on clothes so you can't steal them. Hm??? Are theives donating their plunders? At least they are going to a good cause?? It was a bit strange.




Crazy, Crazy story: So after a great evening of dining at "Vacas Gordas" -- literally, "Fat Cows"-- a great place for CARNE -- meat. (our first time navigating a very complicated menu in spanish) we met up with people in a "suberb" of Santiago for ice cream. A few of us are sitting at tables in the sidewalk, about 25 minutes from the Cruz Roja were we had been that morning. All the sudden, one of the girls saw someone she recognized and greeted him with the typical Chilean besitos (kiss on the cheek). We all realized who it was and greeted him as well! It was a Chilean guy that works at Cruz Roja that we had met that very morning and had talked with for a while during a water (and of course cookie) break. He just happens to live near the ice cream shop we happened to be eating at the very same day we happened to volunteer at Cruz Roja. Did I mention that MOST of the population of Chile lives in and around Santiago?? What are the odds?? Crazy. We are hopefully going to Cruz Roja Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

After encountering our Chilean friend, we realized it was really late. I still don't have a functioning phone (hopefully today) and wasn't too keen on the idea of going in a radiotaxi (really very safe) all the way home (30 min) by myself during a week of aftershocks. Also, our very protective, great, father-like program director, Roberto, is really encouraging us, requiring us, really, to be back in our homes by midnight in case of big aftershocks. Smart idea. So, I stayed with my amiga Tracy at her house nearby the ice cream shop. Her host mom pulled out the trundle bed for me and set me up in the living room. The next morning she made us breakfast -- bread, OF COURSE, homeade plum jelly, avacado, and cookies?? What? cookies, for breakfast? ha. I ate a lot of cookies. I felt sick. I am glad we don't eat cookies in my house for breakfast. Her host mom is wonderful and we talked for a while before I headed home. She has hosted students for about 20 years! or something crazy like that. At one point, she hosted 2 students at the same time (for a differnt program) -- a boy and a girl, for two whole years -- they would travel, but always return to stay with her. They ended up falling in love, he proposed to her in their host mother's kitchen and now they are married with children. Wild. Some kind of story.

Tonight we are going to have a celebration for my host mom's birthday that was on Monday. I think we are going to make sushi -- pronounced "SEWWCHEY" here. Fun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Not lost, just touring."

I am often told I have a horrible sense of direction. In defense, I convince myself that I have incredible sense of direction. I should realize the importance of being honest with myself. [Side story: When I was somewhere between 10 or 12, my grandfather, unfamiliar with my town, was taking me to soccer practice. I was giving him directions. He would ask, "a left here, at this light, maggie?" and I would respond, "right!" (meaning, "correct, please do take a left here because that is the way to soccer practice") -- but he heard me say "right" so he would quickly turn the wheel the opposite direction and take a right. We got there, eventually, after lots of "right" turns.) It was a fiasco that he still reminds me of. ] Anyways, I love this city. I fell like I can say this honestly because I spent hours walking it today. First, in the morning, when I walked to school by myself for the first time (note: of all 18 students I live closest to the the building where my program is (only 5 blocks or so). . . other people spend an hour on a combination of metros, micros (buses) and walking) -- I, well, I went the wrong way. For a while. All but one arrived before me. Now I know the way to school -- by multiple routes. On my way home, after a day of class, visiting a sick friend in the program in the hospital, and exploring the city with a friend, I got a bit turned around again. She gave me quality directions as to how to ride the metro and get off at the correct spot, ect. The problem way, I was a bit confused as to where this stop is in relation to my house -- hey, I had never taken the metro alone before, okay? Like my mom always says, "I wasn't lost, I was touring!" In between these bouts of confusions -- I spent probably 3 more hours walking exploring the city intentionally. I am definitly worn out. All this walking is good because there is a lot of bread here. And I'm talking a lot. "Pan" (bread) for breakfast, for lunch, for once (like tea) and for dinner. Gotta cut back, you know what I'm saying? And bread doesn't come sliced in a bag (though I'm sure you could buy it that way in the supermarkets here) . . . you buy it (rolls and tiny loafs) by the bagful every other day or so. It is "fresca, cachai?" -- "fresh, you understand?"

After arriving late to class to meet the other students, we together went through a workshop with a Chilean psycologist to process life during and post the earthquake. Got to know eachother better and then everybody hugged everybody (seriously). I mean, it could of moved you to tears. Then we had spanish class. I am excited for these classes because you actually use them. I learned all these new ways of saying things, and when I got home with my family, I said them. That is what it is all about, yeah?

The most beautiful part of my day was exploring the city with a friend. We tried to go to this famous park with this MASSIVE hill -- like an Andes Mountain peak in the middle of the city with stairs wrapping around it-- that you climb and then are able to have a beautiful beautiful view of the city on a clear day. Problem: earthquake. The stairs were not open for use. So, we walked around the park of lovers -- seriously -- in Chile, in parks, there are lovers everywhere. And dogs. Lots and lots of stray dogs. Just chilling, asleep on their side, totally relaxed, an inch away from a four lain main road. Also, lots of worker dogs. There are armed guards in the parks and plazas and many of them have dogs on leashes. Worker dogs. Lots of German Shepherds. At the base of the park, there are lots and lots of artisan shops. I needed a bag for my books, because backpacks are a bit of a target for pickpocketers -- don't worry, I have a beautiful, inexpensive typical Chilean Mapuche shoulder bag now. Love it. Also, I scouted out LOTS of gifts. I decided I better wait a while to buy them --- so be nice to me and maybe I'll pick one out for you. Ha. I really didn't expect markets like that in the city of Santiago -- but I sure hoped for them. And, they exist. We continued our walk into a district called "Bellas Artes" literally, the Beautiful Arts district. We found a little corner cafe full of beautiful art, the cafe lived up to the districts reputation, and I had a brownie and a strawberry juice -- literally, strawberrys squished up in a cup. Some quality food, some quality conversation and we paid. Then talked with one of the waiters. He lived in San Francisco until he was six, so he spoke a little english. We told him his english was good, but then continued in spanish. Good guy.

I have spent the night doing my first packet of spanish homework and talking with family here and at home in the states. Of course, I ate . . . I ate a cheese sandwich (2) which I thought was my dinner. BUT, 20 minutes later I was being served dinner -- pasta with "salsa," lettuce, tomato and beets. My first experience with beets -- mom, you would be proud. Not my favorite. I tried to eat most of them. But my host mom explained if I don't like it, I shouldn't eat it. Then she began to prepare my lunch for tomorrow -- don't pity me. Lunch is a big deal here. The main meal. I have rice, chicken, and "squash" to bring in my little lunchbox to school. What a throwback.

We all laugh about squash. It's called Zapallo Italiano here, but my first day my host sister and the host brother's girlfriend were asking me to explain "squash" to them -- because they have it planted in their facebook farm game. I tried to describe it to them and they decided they must not have this vegetable in Chile. Finally, when they got the zapallo italiano out of the fridge to prepare for dinner, I explained -- this is SQUASH. So now, the main english word of our house is "squash". Ha. It's funnier if you are here, I think.

Mostly, I like getting to know people here. It's like the first semester of college (Leigh, I know you are going to disagree with what I'm about to say . . . ) you get a fresh start and get to know all new people and build new relationships. I really enjoy this process-- the process of understanding someone's story. My favorite part of this experience has been conversations -- over meals with my host family, when my entire host family was perched on one bed with our eyes peeled to the news after the earthquake, on walks with other people in my program, in between classes, on the beach during orientation. So, so quality.

And, this, my friends, is my first semi-normal day in Chile (minus the psycologist). I am liking normal.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Earthquakes, Listening, and College Entrance Essays

So, another girl in my program explained to me today that the worst thing you can do in an earthquake is run down the stairs. The stairs are the most dangerous to be. She's from San Francisco, California-- she would know. Supposedly, the latest earthquake research after Haiti is that in the event of a quake it is best to stay near a bed, because if the room falls, it will fall on the bed and not on the person. Something like this. Well, in the midst of the crazy shaking of an actual earthquake -- escape from the sixth floor seemed like a really idea. It's interesting how, in reality, so much calamity can be prevented if people know about dangers ahead of time. After a major earthquake in 1985 that caused much destruction, Santiago imposed strict building codes to withstand earthquakes. In Chile the death toll after the "terremoto" has reached more than 700. Yet, in Haiti, the earthquake, "weaker" than the one that occured here, the death toll is more than 200,000. The difference is that Haiti is the most impoverished country in our hemphisphere, and Chile has arguably, or not, the strongest economy in South America. It comes down to money, doesn't it?? Those without end up be those COMPLETELY without -- without life, without shelter, without water, without food. So, Chilean is faring incredibly in comparison with Haiti, but there is still much loss and hurt. And I promise after a stay here, even in a stable Chilean family, you would realize just how much we have in the United States. I mean, I live in a dorm room and I have crazy amounts of dishes and art and clothes and books and electronics . . .

I have been very blessed. Today my SIT program reunited. We sat around the table eating pizza (talk about comfort food . . . it was DOMINOS, nonetheless) and listening to each person recount their experience. Some people were very calm and unshaken. Others, less calm, and more shaken. One chica was talking with her boyfriend on skype when the earthquake happened. I think we are having an earthquake she said to him -- to the boyfrind that was sitting comfortably in the United States. WEEEEEEEE ARE HAVING AN EARTHQUAKE!!! and then the internet cut off. Poor, poor guy. We decided he was probably the first person in America to know about Chile's quake. Can you imagine?? Having to call her parents in the middle of the night, ect??? I think he is pretty thankful for that gal right about now. I live in the center of Santiago, but many of my peers live in houses 40 min to an hour outside the capital. Some of them lost much -- all their dishes fell the the floor, tables shattered, all the furniture in the floor . . . but all have their lives. Some were definitly struggling and emotionally shattered by this experience. Others live in homestays whose parents have brothers or mothers or nephews in La Concepcion -- one of the cities most effected by the quake -- a city in ruins -- where people have lost everything. They have as of yet been unable to contact their relatives. Imagine the stress and emotion in those homes. I think I got so caught up in being safe that I forgot that an earthquake is not a little deal, and it is affecting a lot of people. I always get caught up in what is right around me -- the people I love, the places I frequent, the causes I care about. For now, we are taking it day by day. Giving time for people to process and heal and evalating how we can love this country well.

We also did more normal things (how I love NORMAL things these days), like taking placement tests for spanish class -- oral "tests" where you simply sat with the two professors and talked with them in Spanish about whatever they asked. I don't know which level I will be in-- I think it will be good if I am in the lower level so I can build a really strong foundation. No matter what, I am learning SO much spanish. I think so, anyways. ha. When something like the earthquake here happens, it requires families to stay in their homes and be together -- so I have had lots of opportunites to both listen and speak. And the best part is that I am learning to be quick to listen and slow o speak -- something I always struggle with because I love to talk. It is so important to listen to peoples words, it is how you understand humanity. I am forced to listen more here -- because I have to in order to understand. I love that everything is so tangible here -- learning a new language, and getting to use it! Today Mercedes, my host mom, walked me to class, and afterwards I walked with some of my peers around the city and back to my house. At first it was a group of like 10 of us -- gringos. Talk about CONSPICIOUS. This was definitly not ideal. We love eachtoher, but best not to wander around cites in groups of 10 with backpacks and cameras and guidebooks to Chile, ha. We split into smaller groups of 3 or so.

I realize more everyday how much I am because of the people I've known and know. I remember my cheesy, but I guess effective, college essay about being the person I am because of those I have encountered in my journey of life. The essay question was a trite one: who is your biggest influence? How can that be one person??? It went something like. . . "I am the Mississppi child, I am . . . . " But, really, no matter how cheesy, it's so true. So many people have built me into the person I am, and I am nothing without them. Thank you for the outpouring of love and encouragment over e-mail, facebook, and blog in the wake of this earthquake. It also makes me thankful for the opportunity ahead --- to cultivate relationships with Chilenos. It's beautiful because it's not like stealing -- when you build a relationship you don't take part of the person away from them, leaving them empty, but, hopefully, it can be mutual, and you can gift eachother, share, a part of yourselves, the best part, and both move forward stronger because you have crossed paths. You know?? I think that if I was writing that same college entrance essay today, there would be no way I could stay within the 2 page double-spaced limit. Are you kidding? I'd have to say "I am that friend, and that friend, and that friend, this professor, and that rolemodel, and that stranger I saw on the street in Santiago and the mom of _____ and my mom and the grandmother of __________and the . . . . I would fill in your names, but like I said, it would be a very, very long list. Extensive, in fact.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Update

Update: The SIT (my program) team, Rossanna, Roberto y Elena came and visited each student. They are not going to tire until they know everyone is well. They are awesome. Know that the news, both here, and in the USA is very strong. The news programs are showing the clips of the places that have suffered the most damage. Don't be alarmed and nervous because of what you see in the news. Yes, there is catastrophe -- ecspecially in the lost lives. There will continue to be aftershocks for at least a week -- but we can expect this so it's way less scary that waking up in the middle of the night to a massive earthquake. Alll of the SIT ids will hopefully all reunite in our "Casa de SIT" on Monday.


Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

I am in the apartment of the son of my homestay mom and his girlfriend -- it is on the 4th floor and not the 6th in a stable building. Valeria is a singer, and she is playing the guitar and singing. She is from Argentina and this is her first earthquake too -- she is nervous, but well.

La Gente de Chile

Not really side note, but MAIN note: While I am safe and sound, not everyone in Chile is so blessed. Pray for the hurting and those who have lost much -- including people they loved. I am just one person in this very big and very beautiful country.

thanks!

thanks for all your thoughts and prayers! sorry for your worries! I was able to call my family and Joshua in Africa (who didn't even really know). All is well.

Safe and Sound in Santiago

Hello All,
I am writing this in the hopes that I will have internet and can send it soon. All is well here. I am safe in my family's apartment. What is tearing me up is that news of the earthquake, "el terremoto," is probably reaching you before I am able to reach you. I have tried to call via cell phone and land line -- but interanational calls are not working--nor is the internet. I woke up in the middle of the night with my host mom and sister holding eachother at the door of the apartment screaming MargaRITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT, Maggggggggggggggggggie! Thanks be to God that I either was sleeping with my glasses on (unlikely) or I was able to grab them. I always thought I was paranoid for sleeping with my glasses -- but I sure am thankful now. That would have been horrible if I not only did not know what was going on nor understand much of the shouting AND I couldn't see. (If you don't know I have HORRIBLE vision). We live on the sixth floor and the whole building was shaking and glass was breaking all around us as we ran down the stairs. We ran to the plaza, trying to get away from the buildings and trees (which are always all around you in a city of 15 million people). At some point we headed back towards the apartments and my family told me to stand there and not move while my sister ran upstairs to see if they left the door open and get shoes and blankets because it was very cold and we needed to wait outside for the aftershocks (turns out the door was locked and we didnt' have a key). My host mother's 31 year old son, Andres, and his novia, Valeria, rode on their motorcyle from another part of town and somehow in all the craziness and all the people, found us not 10 minutes after the initial earthquake happened. Really, they found me standing by the stairs, but luckily, I had met Valeria the day before and we recognized eachother and quickly embraced as Chileans do (she is actually from Argentina, but has a Chilean mother and lives here now). I met Andres for the first time and then we all headed. We all just stayed together on the playground in the plaza and eventually Andres returned by motorcylce to his apartment and brought back a key to our apartment, coats for everyone, flipflops for everyone, water, and peaches.

There was no time to be afraid -- the earthquake happened and then we just had to run. No time to think about it. Finally, after a couple of hours, when it started to get light, we returned to our apartment. SIT has handled everything so well. Elena, the homestay coordinator, called me shortly after we returned to our apartment to check in and see if I was okay and to let me know that they were doing everything they could to contact our parents but had been unable to as of yet. I later fell asleep from being just overwhelmed, but turns out that Roberto, the SIT director, has personally come to the house to check on me. He was going from house to house -- to check on all 18 of us --- some students live an hour from me!

I have read that earth tremors are common in Chile, but this is the first earthquake since 1985. I know that it the earthquake was higher on the richter scale than haiti, but do not be worried, because the construction here is very sound and only very old buildings have collapsed. Most everything is standing. Also, the government has already responded and has a plan to address the emergency -- and there is food available in the stores, ect. This is defintly a new experience and part of history --- a challenge a bit bigger than arriving in Santiago alone or not understanding every word of spanish. But, take heart that I am well taken care of. I stood in the dark with people screaming and crying all around me, but my host mom, Mercedes, kept her hija, Catalina, under one wing of her bathrobe and her hija nueva -- "new daughter, me" under the other wing. Todo esta bien en Santiago. No te preocupes. All is well in Santiago. Do not worry.

As everything was happening I was just praying that you all wouldn't find out before I could contact you. But I knew that my mom probably knew before it even happened and that my Bumpa, who wakes up at three in the morning, had probably already heard. And Joshua, all the way in Africa, I hope you are at your homestay this Saturday afternoon without TV or any and do not find out before I call you. And I hope all your college people sleep in very, very late. I love you all very much and I am thankful to have people who are concerned for me -- but please don't freak out. [Jami, I am thinking about when you had your accident and Sarah and I got to the trauma room and you told us to call you mom and let her know the bad news (which of course she already knew and was rushing there as fast as possible) but to tell her not to freak out. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment to see you!!) I hope this news is broken lightly and you know that I am in the hands of someone much greater than myself.

Always, Always,Always,
Safe in Santiago,
Maggie

From the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe:

Lucy: Is He quite safe?
Beaver: Who said anything about safe? 'Course He isn't safe. But he is GOOD.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

SIT, Students, Stairs and Spanish

(I wrote this two days ago, so much has happened since): I didn't oversleep -- I was so, so worried I would and then miss meeting my group! I didn't even wake up in the middle of the night to worry about not waking up. I was feeling so independent and so thankful for Holiday Inns. They even had complimentary buffet breakfast - did I mention I was thankful for Holiday Inn?? Thank Ma for choosing that hotel for me, and dad -- thanks for taveling a lot and earning points -- we miss you lots and it's crazy, but sure love these Holiday Inn points of yours! I went across to the airport at 7 AM to meet my group and after 2 very kind guys trying to help me -- except I didn't know where I was headed -- I was just looking for someone with a "SIT" sign somewhere in the Santiago airport, maybe near a coffee shop. How descriptive, no? After going up and down the levator a few times. . . (yes, I found the elevator this time). I was walking and kinda looked behind me, and then Rosana was hugging me and Robeto was kissy my cheek and at that point I figured I had found them. I was about the 5th person there, so we sat down and had coffee, water and mosas (sweet breads). I think the people on my program are very kind and tired and very well traveled. We then drove tow hours to the Pacific Ocean. It's beautiful -- I've never seen the Pacific Ocean. We are in Algarrobo -- a vacation town. It is summer vacation for Chilean students -- school starts the 1st of March. Staying at Hotel Pacifico for two nights. We eat and eat and eat. Breafast, tea with sweets, lunch, desert, cocktails and appetizers (empanadas) . . . followed directly by dinner. . . and then desert. Wow.

A couple of girls and I walked on the beach and saw adorable children, some laughing and some throwing tantrums. We had a welcome lecture, and then a name game -- everything in Spanish. Todo en espanol. This is a very good thing. Let's be real, I love learning and this experience is so tangible. I couldn't say that one minute ago, now I know how to say it kinda moments. Rossanna y Roberto, the directors, speak slowly and clearly for us to understand. They want us to know that Chile is a country of contradicitons -- a beautiful country, but one with many contradicitons -- the poor and the rich, those with opportunities and those without. Also, we must remember that thier doors are always open very wide and that they are here to support us and build relationships with us. I found out I will be living in Santiago Centro-- dead center of the city, supposedly. I'll be where it's happening.

In the evening of our first day together, we went to the Pablo Nuruda's primary residence. Nuruda is a famous poet of Chile -- in reality, he is one of the most famous poets of the 20th century. He was also a politician -- with communist leanings. When he died in 1973 (the same month as Pinochet took over as dictator) Pinochet denied permission for his funeral to be a public event-- but, people took to the streets and this marked the first public protest against the dictatorship. His house was crazy, and wonderful . . . collections of glass, ships in bottles, statues, African masks -- and oh, an entire room of seashells. Most rooms just seem like exhibits -- but that's not because it is now a museum, that's how he had the home. The coolest part was an incredible floor to ceiling stone abstract art mosaic his artist friend made him. Any artist friends out there who want to make me an incredible floor to ceiling mosaic of rock fireplace in my future home?? Let me know.

2 more points: Stairs and Spanish

Stairs: Remember my story about day 1-- carrying my bags DOWN 3 flights of stiars (yes, I'm still sore) --turns out we are on the 5th floor of the hotel and there is not an elevator (but there is an incredible view). So, I carried my luggage UP. However, the twist is that I have friends now. So, they helped me and I helped them -- "un equipo" -- a team.

Spanish: I am very thankful that Iam understanding Roberto y Rosanna very well. Carlos o Carlo is in charge of academics I think, yet I cannot yet understand him. . . and I could only sort of understand our bus driver who was in a headed debate about the new president who will be inaguarated in March and the state of the education system -- way interesting. Roberto has tow sons -- Rodrigo, 20, and Benjamin, 7. Rodrigo sat next to me at dinner-- and I asked him if he and Benjamin are good friends-- he assures me they are.I also asked him where his favorite place is in Chille. He told me a name that I cannot remeber, but it is about 2 hours from Santiago and it has some of the clearest skies in the world. It is very romantic and mysterious . . . there is a good energy there he told me. I must go. [Note: maybe the skies are so clear because there is a whole in the ozone over a big chucnk of Chile -- how comforting. I am going to wear sunscreen.

This is a gift. I can't believe I am here. Oh, I have a 25 page paper to research and write in the last 4 weeks of the program. All in Spanish, of course -- ALRIGHT. ha.

*I am copying this out of my notebook in my new room in the apartment of my new family . . . so I have lots more stories coming soon.

Un abrazo ("a hug") a todos,
Maggie

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A GIFT!

I only have a couple of minutes --- but being here is a GIFT. Right now I am in a town on the Pacific Ocean for orientation until tomorrow where I meet my family-- Mercedes and her daughter, Catalina who is I think 25? I meet them TOMORROW. What? It's true. I am one of two students who doesn't need to use the metro to get to school everyday -- it is closer for me to walk there than to walk to the metro! Walking to school everyday sounds wonderful. I may be out of touch for a while before I get settled in in Santiago. Everyone is wonderful. The staff is increible. Before I even saw them in the airport, Rossanna was hugging me and Roberto was kissing me on the cheek. They studied our pictures ahead of time so they could recognize us. ha. So very welcoming. They speak slowly for us now so that we can understand -- but everything is always and only in Spanish. I am going to learn a lot a lot. Will share more later. Must go. Much amor a todos!! Did I mention it's like 70 degrees and for the first time I have seen the pacific ocean???

Monday, February 22, 2010

Santiago Airport, Holiday Inn, Labrador Retrievers and Fat Feet

I must admit I didn't given any thought to this before departing for Chile, but I do remember hearing that your feet may swell while flying? Well, upon arrival in Santiago, after flying through the night and sleeping less than three hours, I couldn't get my sandals on. My mind flashed back to the summer after my senior year when I went to a Braves baseball game in Atlanta and forgot my shoes (it happens, ok?) My trusty friend, Ben, bailed me out by producing a pair of men's size 10 or 11 sneakers from his trunk that he had been fishing (and standing in a pond) in that day. So, without a better option, I slopped through Atlanta and into the stadium in wet, muddy shoes. I was thinking how UN-ideal it would be to arrive in immigrations/customs in Chile barefoot. BUT, I managed to get my sandals on and winced a lot, got some blisters, and made it through. (Analogy: I hope that even when things are difficult and painful here, like my fat feet in my not fat shoes, I can still be just as excited about carrying on with the adventure as I was about arriving in Chile even with painful feet) . . . I have much more to post but I lost it all and now my computer is dying and I can't plug it in . . . so more soon!! LOVE to all. -maggie

I'll try and get more in before it dies. . .

When you arrive in Chile, if you are an American, Canadian, Mexican, English or Albanian, you have to pay an entry fee. Well, most of my cash wasn't accepted because it was too "torn" and "worn"--word to the wise: bring crispy cash when going abroad! I knew this and planned ahead for the cash I was going to exchange, but didn't think about it for my tax. Opps! Kinda defeating. I guess that cash will never experience the life of a Chilean Peso. I arrived at baggage claim and noticed a yellow Labrador retriever in a vest, and then I noticed another, then another -- they were worker dogs, sniffing away. Very cool. I really, really did think I had not been superfluous in my packing, but OH how heavy my luggage was! [and IS!]. I found a place to sit and just tried to get un-overwhelmed enough to figure out how to find my hotel. I asked for directions, and I understood the lady (speaking Spanish), but I was so tired that when she stopped talking, I completely forgot what she said-- I am pretty sure I went in the opposite direction of what she told me, but I was too embarrassed to go back and pass her on my way. The only elevator I could find was under repair by men hanging from the ceiling by harnesses, so I went down three flights of stairs -- with my backpack, computer bag, very large duffel, and small duffel. They were skinny stairs that spiraled down. Let's just say that even 8 plus hours later my arms are aching. Not a pretty sight. The BEAUTIFUL thing is that my hotel is basically connected to the airport -- just across the crosswalk from the main terminal -- gotta love that. I was not feling up to discerning which taxi to take, making my first transaction in Chilean pesos to pay them, ect. I do love a challenge, but that one was just not appealing (I just wanted to sleep!). They let me check in 5 hours early, again, beautiful. I got to my room, figured out internet, showered, slept for about 3-4 hours (I made myself), washed clothes in the sink, unpacked and repacked - trying to make everything more compact and maybe miraculously lighter??

After not having eaten anything since 6 AM, I decided to forgo the hotel restaurant, so very expensive, and head back to the airport for food -- also expensive. I ate a ham and cheese tortilla with guacamole, and, yes, Bumpa, I got bottled water. [Side note: I at at the one restaurant I could find which turned out to be a buffet and cafe -- a really delicious all you eat with asparagus and watermelon and deserts galore buffet -- Tempation. But, it was about 16 American dollars, so I stood strong and said no to that goodness and enjoyed my tortilla. When I got back to my room I realized I left my very kind waitress a pretty poor tip, but I really did mean to leave a good 10 to 15 percent. Math, especially in a new currency where things go by the thousands a lot of the time, is not my strong point. My mom called my hotel room phone from skype which was an exciting surprise. When the phone range, I didn't know if I should answer, because I have heard the whole don't talk to strangers thing sometime or another, and as of now, I know not a single soul in this nation, but then I remembered I am 21 years old for goodness sakes and answered the phone. Ha. Good thing. Well tonight I am going to get some sleep so I can meet my group early tomorrow morning. I received an e-mail from my program leaders and it was signed "Un Abrazo, Rosanna Y Roberto" ("A hug"). I think they are going to be kind because they like hugging.

I have been very grateful for this day to recover from not sleeping and shoer before meething new people, ect. However, I am also very excited to meet my group and start orientation. I'm feeling a need for some orienting right about now.

The sun came up shortly before we landed and I was able to see the Andes mountains rising out of the clouds. It was so, so great. I have officially again decided that God is a really great artist and I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of His world. I have also decided, that while I am very grateful for this opportunity to travel and learn by myself, and I am certain I am going to meet great people-- I am thinking I have been given so many incredible relationships, and I definitly want a buddy on my next big adventure. If nothing else, I could sleep better on the plane if I wasn't worried about knocking into the person next to me, ect.

So, so far, so good. Incredibly overwhelmeing. I have never felt so American, so obvious and so English speaking - and I haven't even left the international airport! Though there have been a few small challenges, I am grateful to be here and look forward to the many more (probably much more intense) and incredible expereinces to come. Thank you for the encouraging e-mails. (And, Amanda, thank you for your letter that made me cry before the plane even took off. Your words were ones that I needed to hear and didn't even know I needed to hear). Mucho Amor a todos. I wouldn't be here without you! -Maggie

The Andes in the Sky




Here are pictures from the window of my plane as we were arriving in Santiago. BEAUTIFUL. And. . . I hadn't even arrived yet!














test post from Chile. I'm here safely and having trouble posting! Love to all!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pre-Departure

From the introduction to Santiago (where I will be for at least the first 5 weeks of the semester) of Lonely Planet's guide to Chile and Easter Island, pg. 76:

"The rest of Chile does a roaring trade in life-changing views and earth-shattering experiences. In the capital, pleasures are more measured. Think diverse dining, walks in parks, kicking nightlife, low-key hiking and skiing on its outskirts, and an independent cultural scene that's slowly blossoming. And for all Santiago's differences with its Latino neighbors, it still has its fair share of fin-de-siecle townhouses and colonial mansions, hectic food markets, steaming steet-side snack stands, mass demonstrations and hordes of fanataical futbol fans, all overlooked by the stark peaks of the Andes."

Diverse dining? Hiking? Hectic food markets? Fanatical futbol fans? And the Andes mountains?Yes, please! !


I leave tomorrow for Santiago, Chile, and I am, stoked, to say the least, yet I am also overwhelmed and a bit nervous. I know that I will look back on this time of preparation and realize I had no idea of the adventure I was about to embark on, the people I was about to meet, or the incredible life-lessons I was about to learn. What I do know is that I am so grateful for this opportunity and for everyone who has prepared me to set out.

Thanks to mi familia, mis amigos increibles, Rhodes College and her professors y everyone who has inspired this journey and loved me well. I have always so enjoyed hearing about other people's adventures abroad: Jami in Oman, Sarah in Spain, Joshua in Uganda, Leigh in Europe, Natalie, Amanda and Lori in Thailand, Claire in Egypt and France, Dean in Turkey, Allison in Sicily and Lyndsay and John in . . . . CHILE! I've learned so much from their adventures, and look forward to my own. I consider myself a fairly open-minded person, however, I realize that is probably far from the truth. . . and I look forward (mostly) to having my perspectives shattered a bit and put back together into stronger understandings of the world and of humanity. I know I will return forever changed. I will be studying "Comparative Education and Social Change," and I love, love education so I am certain the program is going to be facinating for me -- and, my hope is, that I have choosen a program where I can run into and hangout with lots of little Chilean and Argentinian children. That would be ideal. As far as the Spanish language goes, I am going to hope for the best and recognize this as a time for God to teach me about inadequacy. I'll try to think back to my days with my wonderful high school spanish teacher, Mr. Zamore, Rhodes' Pettinaroli and Fernandez, and be inspired.

I plan/hope to update my blog on a regular basis, and hopefully next time will have more than an exerpt from a guide book to offer up.

Love to all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Test post.