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.


  1. How about touring the Virginia countryside with the Expedition packed full of kids and "Enya" looped as though purposefully qued up for the moment?!! A beautiful, memorable touring moment...and we did eventually get "there". Thanks for another smash of sharing, am loving your stories! love, mop