Chile: Going Native

I’m a terrible blogger. Terrible. It’s been a month since I last blogged and I’ve had so many adventures.

Last semester, when Chile was but a faraway thought in my mind, Croft made us all take a predeparture class. I don’t know what I was expecting “predeparture” to be, but it was about 4 hours of a Psychology professor telling us repeatedly that sometimes, studying abroad was really going to suck. I didn’t retain much more than “sometimes you are going to hate the whole place!” but another thing that stuck with me was when she explained that study abroad can be an emotional rollercoaster. For the first half, you are constantly worried and scared and lost and trying desperately just to get the hang of things. Once you finally do become adjusted, it’s another struggle to realize that you are coming home soon. It’s too early in my trip for me to tell you if I’m starting to become anxious by my impending return date, but I can definitely verify that the first two months has been like climbing a very steep hill.

Today I have been in Chile for exactly 8 weeks, about halfway through my stay. During my first week in Chile, all I wanted was to get to this point. I wanted my classes to stabilize, my spanish to improve, and knowledge of the city to expand. I have finally managed all three, and it’s been a gradual and arduous process, but one that has been filled with daily excitement. I am so happy to be here, and even happier that I still have two months left.

I remember the exact moment that I felt like I was an honest-to-god resident of Viña del Mar, the picturesque suburb to Valparaiso, where my school is located. It was 5AM on a monday morning, and I had just gotten back from a weekend trip to La Serena. The trip itself was a beautiful disaster, as most of the big activities we wanted to do either fell through or were canceled, but the city itself was breathtaking enough to make it worth it. When we got back, I wanted nothing more than to crawl into my own, clean bed. We arrived at the bus terminal in Viña, and after realizing that no one else was going in the same direction as I was, I walked down to the main plaza and took a taxi colectivo to my street. The last time I took a trip, I forked over about $15 to take a taxi directly from my door to the Valparaiso bus station because I 1) didn’t know there was a bus station in Viña, a mere 7 minutes from my house and 2) I was too intimidated by the thought of carrying my small suitcase on the “micro,” or large municipal bus. I had mastered the transportation system, and thus, I could finally call myself a resident!

I have found that the best way to stay positive and excited about my situation is to remind myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My classes aren’t very hard, so I’m not distracted by schoolwork. I live between the mountains and the sea, so there is always something beautiful to look at. I’ll never be able to come back to Chile in quite the same capacity, so I have to make the most of it while I can.

On my walk home every day, I pass a large “detour” sign that diverts traffic away from the construction on our street. Normally, I wouldn’t pay it any mind, but last week I noticed that there was some graffiti on it. It says, in block letters, “usted está aquí” or “you are here.” It was a powerful and poignant reminder. Yes, I am here, so there’s no point in worrying about what everyone is doing at home. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to live in two places at once, but seeing that sign on the way home always helps.

And now for the pictures so you can all be jealous of my Latin American adventures

ImageThese are solar ovens in La Serena. They cook food using only the sun, and it was crazy-delicious

ImageThis is the best of the 123232808 pictures I took out of the window of the bus into Pisco del Elqui, the valley between the mountains La Serena.

ImageAnd lastly, this is the view from my room. You read that right. My room. I get to see this every night as the sun goes down and it makes me elated to have the privilege to live and study here



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