Sunday, March 13, 2011

Back to Where I Started But in a Different Place

When I arrived in Buenos Aires I told you that I wished the taxi ride would take forever because as long as I was in the taxi, I didn't have to face the unknown ahead of me. I imagine when I take the taxi to the airport today I will also be wishing that the taxi ride will take forever because when it arrives at the airport, it means my time in South America is over. I'm so ready to come home and at the same time I'm not ready at all. Sometimes I feel like I need more time.

I can't explain to you how I feel right now. It's not a good feeling. One theme for me here has been the idea of temporary relationships. I already knew this but it has been confirmed that I crave long term, deep relationships. It has been so fun meeting new people. I haven't held anything back with them. I have given myself (and in so doing I have learned more how to be myself). The drawback is that usually the outcome is having to let them go eventually. Sometimes after a day, sometimes after a week and sometimes after 5 weeks. There have been a few people that it really hurts to let go. I wouldn't trade it, but....

Another theme was language. I am proud to say that I spent my last night in Chile with a Chilean family with whom I spoke Spanish for over 5 hours. One more way my world has opened. I feel so thankful to speak this language, even at the broken level that I am still speaking it. Its such an amazing feeling. Mis amigos (gringos o latinos) que hablan español, espero que vayan a hablar conmigo en español!!

Living in a different country always changes you. I experienced it in the Czech Republic and I have definitely experienced it here. It isn´t always mind blowing or instantaneous. The changes may be visible to others or not, but they are there. I thank all the people who bought me journals and encouraged me to blog. Both outlets have helped me to process what I have experienced here. As I sat on the beach yesterday contemplating, my mind whirled with all the experiences and all the thoughts and feelings and desires for the future and all the realizations I have made. Even though Im going back to my same physical location, I really hope I don't go back to same place I was before. There is a better place waiting for me when I get back.

On my way now to have one last lunch with friends that I met in Buenos Aires. Lots of lasts in the last few days. I'm thankful for the lasts because it means there were firsts!

Besos and abrazos to all those I met along the way and have to leave behind. I really do hope to see some of you again! And to my long termers, see you stateside!! (I will be expecting kisses from you all. Thats the South American way!! One good thing we could learn from them.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gringos, Americanization and Paying it Forward

Growing up in Arizona, being called a gringa was somewhat of an insult coming from the mouths of Mexican school children on the playground. So you can imagine my discomfort at being called a gringa here. (Did I talk about this in a previous blog? Days are running together) However, I have been reassured that it means nothing derogatory here. Its just an adjectives for people from the United States (Estadounidence is quite a mouthful to get out when you are talking about people. It really is much easier to say gringo or gringa). I even saw a sign for an American style sandwich it was called Lomito Gringo or something like that.

Jaime, who I told you about before, the slave driver as his girl friend and I like to call him (aprovecha Kelly! Take advadange of your time here!), invited me (pushed me, but thanks for that Jaime) to come to Santiago, which I did. It was so amazing. I spent the entire weekend speaking in Spanish with him and his girlfriend (who is American, and would you believe it, it was way easier to speak Spanish with her!) and exploring the city of Santiago. If you go to Santiago, in much of the urban areas you can't even tell that you are in South America (or at least the image that most of us picture when we think of South America, which Valparaiso fits perfectly with its corregated steel and colorful walls). It also might be the cleanest and most peaceful extremely large city I have ever seen. Thats not really the Americanization of South America that I am referring to in the title though. It really was on the outskirts of Viña del Mar where they are starting to build cookie cutter suburban houses. Its such a shame. The character is completely lost. To be honest though, they do look much more comfortable to live in than the corregated shacks. Come on Viña, at least paint them different colors.

So I said I had to pay forward what Jaime did for me and my opportunity came quicker than I imagined. This weekend, hours before I had to depart for Santiago I discovered that my host family was going to be almost double for the last week what it had been. I scrambled to find a hostel right before I left and here I am at Che Lagarto hostel in Viña del Mar. Well, the first night I met a bunch of really cool people. One is Michael from New Zealand, who yes, has an awesome accent which I like to copy from time to time. I offered to go to Valparaiso with him since he hadnt been. He was a stitch to be around and I pretty much couldnt stop laughing the whole time. We had the best ice cream and coffees ever and we decided I deserved an award for being the best tour guide ever. Two other guys are the 18 year old Canadians who were gonna leave Chile without going to Valpo! I told them I would take them if they wanted and they immediately said yes. (They had been sitting around the hostel a lot). They were a kick too, and gave me a little ego boost by flirting with me. And they made me laugh with their poop jokes and other typical 18 year old vulgarities. Fun times.

6 more days. Hard to believe. Not sure how I feel, but I am looking forward to coming home.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Language Bloopers, A Funny Character and Good Luck!

I wish I had written down every time students said or wrote something funny in English. Its always humorous when you misuse the language. Fortunately I havent said anything like 'estoy excitada' (Which means I'm horny, not excited!!), but I haven´t said anything super funny either. I did say one thing that got me and my host person laughing pretty hard. She asked me why I didn´t bring my laptop and I told her that a lot of people warned me about thieves and I didnt want to wake my computer up. (I confused perder with despertar, lose and wake up). She was like, why would you wake your computer up? huh? haha Another funny thing (Dan and Olga will appreciate this) is the word 'yo'. In Czech 'jo' (pronounced yo) means 'yes'. In Spanish it means 'I'. Many, many times I have found myself saying 'yo' when I mean to say 'sí'! Kelly, do you want to have some ice cream? I! Kelly, can I use the computer now? I! hahaha! All in favor say ay! Ay!

I met a funny character here. He could be a movie character. The crazy/particular father in law, almost like Jerry Seinfeld's dad. He is the father of my male host person, Alejandro. His name is Oscar (even sounds like a movie character name, and hes the kind of guy who you think is super cute if you meet him, but probably a real pain in the neck if you have to deal with him). First things first, I'm really used to using the tú form here, so I botched things up with him by using the familiar tú instead of the formal usted. Eek. Even my female host person, Gise, has to use usted with him and she is the girlfriend of his son!! But, he didn't seem to be too bothered by it. He started talking to me like I was latin american, as if I could remotely understand him. And he´s a cute slow old guy who speaks in a mutter! Impossible to understand!! Haha, but I managed to have a conversation with him with the help of Alejandro. He was asking me who I was travelling with. I said I was travelling alone. He did not like this one bit. He said: Viaja sola? (You travel alone?)I said: Sí. He said: Sola??!!!! I said: Sí, sola. He exclaimed: SOLA?!!!!! He didn´t like that too much. LOL!

One piece of good luck was meeting Jaime. I found a language exchange website and sent off several emails to try and meet people. I only got one response. It turned out to be perfect for me because he has an American girlfriend and doesn´t need to practice English, and someone helped him a lot when he was in the states, so he wants to help people here. He ended up taking me to a zillion different places (hiking, a lake, different lookout points for the city and the beach and to eat famous local food such as mote con huesillos (a sweet drink with a whole dried peach and barley in the bottom) and chorrillanas (french fries with grilled onions, eggs and beef strips on top), yum!) I spoke Spanish almost the whole time. It was a great experience! Now, I have to pay it forward like he did!

I only have two weeks left here. I can hardly believe it. I am ready to come home, but still enjoying the time I have left.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Cultural Curiosities, Beauty, Politics Etc....

I already told you about the street dogs, but one thing that strikes me about them is that they never bother anyone, no one bothers them and they rarely bark. They lay around on the ground, sometimes even really close to outdoor cafes and no one does anything. I was eating my lunch outside one day next to a dog and it didn´t even beg for food. That is more well behaved than some of my friends pets! And these dogs aren´t skinny. Who feeds them? It also strikes me as odd, that there are people who owns dogs as pets, so why don´t these dogs have homes? And, remember when you were a kid and you found a stray animal and you asked your mom if you could keep it? Do the kids do that here? Some of these stray dogs are so cute.

Its fortunate that this city and Buenos Aires as well, do not have a culture of sueing (sp?). Lawyers could get rich here. The solution for a large hole in the ground is to stick a long sharp stick out of it to call your attention to it. If you happen to be really clumsy or just not paying attention, not only will you fall into a hole, but you will impale yourself.

I went to the house of Pablo Neruda in Valparaiso today. The other day I read about his life (in Spanish of course). He is a beloved poet and was a staunch communist. He won the Nobel prize for literature. I found that a little odd considering that that Chinese guy Won a Nobel prize and he was anti communist. Hmmm. Anyway, The house has an amazing view of Valparaiso, which is quite an amazing and breath taking city. He was a bit quirky and one of his famous sayings is this: "the child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost the child that lives in him and will miss him". Sorry for the political commentary here, don´t mean to ruffle anyones feathers, but I just have to say, I find it odd that this man, who has three very nice houses and collects extremely expensive oddities was communist. Am I wrong, or would that not be possible for him were communism a reality in his time? Hmmmmm.

I realized (well actually someone pointed out to me) that this city is known as "the garden city" which explains why almost every single street is tree lined. It really is so pretty here. Yesterday I went to the beach with my new housemate, Danielle from Wisconsin. There wasn´t a cloud in the sky. Everyone was on the beach with their colored umbrellas. For being so busy, it was still incredibly beautiful and relaxing. I miss Denver, but man is it going to be hard to go back in the middle of winter. sigh.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tranquil and Alarming

I use the word tranquil instead of peaceful because its a word I hear used a lot here. They use it to tell you to relax and to describe calm places. It is definitely more tranquil here than in BA, but it can be alarming too.

First, tranquility...Im pretty sure all the streets here in Viña del Mar are tree lined, which I absolutely love. The only problem for me is that its not so warm here and the trees cause a lot of shade which makes it colder. If you know me at all, you know this is a bad situation. hahaha.

Im just about a 10-15 minute walk from the beach. Aaahhhhh. Today I took a microbus (which belongs in the alarming category, we will get to that) to another beach that was even more tranquil than the one in Viña. While we were on the beach they were playing Jack Johnson for a while. Double aaaahhhh. On the trip there I got to see the Chilean coastline which is, to use another spanish word, impresionante. I guess you can figure it out, but it means amazing or astonishing. In places, its really rocky and the waves crash violently and the water is deep blue and depending on the sunlight light blue. Impresionante.

I also dont know as many people or have as many opportunities to do things as I did in BA so my life here is slower and more tranquil. Its ok. Im learning to go with whatever comes my way.

Now for alarming. Well, obviously the microbusses are alarming. I told you before the traffic is better here, which is mostly true, but I spoke a little too soon. It is better, but not perfect and the microbusses might just be the scariest form of transportation I have encountered. They are, as the name implies, smallish busses, but the drivers drive them like they are cars. Its nuts, they go soooo fast and I can barely hang on when Im inside one.

Another alarming thing is the number of street dogs here. Some of them lay around like they are dead. However, some are not alarming at all. They look like they could be pets and I have to keep myself from petting them. hahaha.

The last alarming this is the EARTHQUAKE I experienced. First in my life. Thats right. Earthquake. Well, actually, here in earthquake country they have two words. Temblor and Terremoto. A temblor is just a quick tremor of the earth, where a terremoto is a real earthquake and needs to be like 7 on the richter scale, or something like that. So, I experienced a temblor, but it was still freaky. And cool.

School is going ok. I showed up on Thursday at 10 only to be told that my class for the day had been changed to 12. Welcome to South America. And I didn´t find out what school trip I was going on until I was walking to the car for the trip. You really can´t have uncertainty avoidance issues while you are living here. Im doing my best to learn Spanish, but its super hard and I still feel very nervous when speaking and dont understand anything. But I press on.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Chile! :( and :)

As many of you already know, my baggage did not arrive with me in Chile. Hence the sad face. It still has not arrived. And the can't find it. They have no idea where it is. Welcome to South America. haha! Maybe someday I will laugh about it. Right now, sitting here having attended my first day of school without make up on, Im not laughing so much. The woman I am living with (I have a hard time calling her 'my host mom' like the last one, considering she is younger than me)has called them numerous times and the director of the school has as well. Please God, let it just be lost in the mess in Argentina and not stolen!

There is also a sad face because I didn't like it here in Chile when I first arrived. If you remember, I didn´t like it too much in Buenos Aires either at first. What does this say about me? I have a low tolerance for uncertainty (a term I learned in grad school regarding language learning, very apropos for this situation). I guess I knew this about myself, but now its certain. I like to know where I am, what I can eat, how I can get there, what people are saying etc, etc. If I dont, then I dont like it! Thank goodness Im not going anywhere else new, hahaha. I dont know if I could take it.

I still don´t know how to get anywhere really, but I can at least walk places here. My walk to and from school is tree lined. I walked to the beach today too. I think that helped a lot. I saw the ocean. I am walking distance from the ocean. I AM WALKING DISTANCE FROM THE OCEAN. What is not to like about that? I also met other students today, which helps a lot too. (Another thing I knew about myself which has been confirmed, I dont like to do stuff alone generally). There are only two students: One guy from Germany and one guy from...wait for it...Denver! Im really going to miss the girls in BA, but these guys seem pretty cool and we've already made plans to do stuff together. Deep breath! I can relax now.

My host mom Gisela (hahaha I mean the woman I am living with) is really sweet too. She actually has a boyfriend that lives here too, Alejandro, but he left for 7 days right after I arrived. She has helped me a lot regarding the luggage and other things. We went to an outdoor market together yesterday and we ate popcorn and watched a movie together last night. I was a little nervous about my room when I arrived. There is an external sliding lock on the room. Yes, thats right, the room locks from the outside, like you see in the movies with serial killers who lock their victims in small rooms. That is exactly what it looks like. (Don't worry mom and dad, Im sure its fine, haha, Ive slept here two nights now and I've been able to get out each morning). When I arrived and walked into the house, she started speaking to me immediately in English, but I asked her to please speak to me in only Spanish even if it is difficult and she has. The bad part of that is I don't understand all the things that she has told me. hahaha.

Viña del Mar is much calmer than Buenos Aires and the driving is just like in the states (with the exception of one really crazy microbus driver the other day). People seem to drive the speed limit and stay in their lanes and there is not nearly as much honking as in BA. The drivers will even stop for pedestrians who are just waiting on the side of the street. You are lucky in BA if they stop for you while you are in the middle of the street! hahaha. It is also much cooler here. Actually (Karen, shut it)it can be cold and I actually have had to wear a sweatshirt. (Luckily I had that in my backpack and not in the suitcase) I also think that there is no hope of me blending in here in Chile. In BA there were more European looking people and if I didn´t have my backpack you couldnt tell, but here everyone has dark hair and dark skin. In addtion, as far as I can tell, the other students and I from the school are probably some of the very few extranjeros (foreigners) here.

Anyway I finished the title with a smiley face and that is how I feel now. Im adjusting and I think I can get used to tree lined streets, the ocean and the calmer culture here in Viña.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is It Really Almost Time To Go?

I can´t believe I'm leaving Buenos Aires on Saturday and at the same time it feels like a year ago when I arrived. I have to say that it has been far beyond my expectations. If Chile is half as good as Buenos Aires has been then wow! (Of course I hope its just as good or better, but I have found its better to keep expectations low).

Its been a little while since I wrote so here are a few of the highlights of my last week or so.

Spanglish-I have gone three times. Each time its a little different and I meet different people. I went out a few days ago with a guy I met there for a langauge exchange. We had dinner at this really crazy restaurant (which I didnt take any pictures of (gah!) and talked back and forth in Spanish and English for 2 hours. It was really great. Im hoping to see him one more time. I went on Saturday and met a whole group of people from different countries including Argentina. We all went out for pizza after. One guy Juan (born in Argentina but raised in Holland), a brazilian girl and I talked a lot. He invited us to do something another day. She had to leave, but I went to Tigre with him. It was amazing. Its a river delta. We took a water bus and he talked to a local and found this really amazing place that we had to walk through the delta (and the water) to get to. If you are on FB check out the pics.(When I post them) Its amazing. Spanglish is the one thing that has pushed me the most. I have to go by myself usually and I have to speak Spanish. It has been really good for me.

The hostel-I wasnt sure what I was going to do this last week. Maybe travel around, maybe take more Spanish classes, but I decided to go to a hostel I heard about and just have fun in BA. I left my host family on Saturday morning for the hostel. I was actually a little nervous because even though it came highly recommended I didnt know what it was going to be like. It was a great decision. The first day I met Juliana from Brazil. We went to the Japonese garden together and the rose garden. Then we went to Spanglish together. I met a French guy named Oliver and I went with him and Juliana to a very cool drum show in this crazy worn down warehouse looking place. Its gritty in a cool way. I met 2 girls from Sweden and 1 girl from Holland and they invited me to a milonga. Its a local gathering where people dance tango and other traditional dances. It was completely local and so amazing to see how people knew the steps to all these dances. The dutch girl is really tall and blond so all th old guys kept asking her to dance. It was pretty funny.

My old friends-I still see my friends from the school. On Sunday Carley (the Canadian) and Frederick (the German) and I went to the neighborhood called La Boca (the mouth, basically its a poor port neighborhood) where they have this little touristy place called Caminito. Its a street of brightly colored houses. All the locals warned us not to walk there as it is only safe in the touristy area, so we took a bus. We are all a little afraid of the buses because there are so many of them and a lot of them take you outside of the city. However, I got very clear directions from a local and we made it with out any problems. We ate lunch, got serenaded at the restaurant and saw a little tango dancing. We all remarked on how well things have worked out.

There are so many things that have happened I can't tell them all. I will tell you one last story. We went to an estancia (a ranch) for a lunch (it was a parilla, they grilled lots of meat). They started stuffing us full of food and drinks the moment we arrived. They had a traditional music and dance show during lunch. Later in the day they had a gaucho show (cowboys and horses basically). Before the show 2 gauchos offered me and another girl a ride. So we rode (those pictures are on FB) with them. My gaucho (Oswaldo) told me I was pretty and asked me to marry him! Ah, latin men. Later one of the games was to catch a ring on a small stick while riding their horse very fast. If they catch it, they can offer it to a girl. If the girl accepts the ring she gives the gaucho a kiss, if not then she has to kiss the horse. The first guy offered it to one of the girls with me and she kissed the horse. My guy actually got it too and he didnt forget me, haha. He came and offered it to me. I went ahead and kissed him. Don´t faint people, it was a cheek kiss.

I love the culture here. It is so colorful and warm. I hope Chile is as well.