Thursday, April 30, 2015

Since when are deserts situated at 8,000ft above sea level?

Elevation kills. Actually that's not a scientific fact- but it was painful. Oh the symptoms- I'll spare you the deets but luckily I never puked and I survived to tell the tale so all is good. San Pedro de Atacama is a Chilean desert approximately 7,896 feet above sea level. Some claim it's the driest desert in the world- not sure if that is a scientific fact either but one thing was for sure. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. After Patagonia I never thought I would be able to perceive things as being absolutely pristine and gorgeous because the bar was just set so high there. However- in the best way possible, the bar was set a little higher. The landscapes of Chile cease to amaze me. With a country so thin and long I've encountered the most diverse landscapes- San Pedro included. In total we ventured to the Moon Valley, Death Valley, The Devil's Gorge, the National Flamingo Reserve, The Atacama Salt Flats, and The Tatio Geysers (the highest elevation geysers in the world! but we will get to that shortly....). I think that's all...
The trip started off with a case of Deja Vú- a cold, dark morning journey to the airport at 4am. Good times. Luckily the trip was filled with airplane rides and busing so I don't think I ever actually was in debt to sleep the entire time. The plane ride and bus trip there was uneventful despite the fact that they didn't feed us lunch until 3pm in the afternoon....the horror. Chileans and their eating times. smh (shaking my head). Luckily for us, the food was muy bueno and we actually ended up having every meal at the same place which also coincidentally was in our 'hotel lobby'. They had great pebre and as always we were served three courses at each meal. Delightful(: The best part of the CIEE programed events is the fact that you never really have to buy anything (that never stops me....but they were gifts! possibly for others...possibly for myself). Anywho- here's a fun fact we learned upon our introduction to San Pedro- did you know that the reason the indigenous people of South America (specifically those in higher altitudes) are shorter and slightly stockier (with larger chests and shorter appendages) Guess- 

and then read this: it's because they have evolved to develop larger lungs and require less blood flow to their shorter arms, legs, etc. Isn't that COOL??
Unfortunately for us gringos- specifically this gringa right here- with freakishly large hands, feet, long legs, and all of the above- that means that it is much harder for me to adjust to the altitude (excuses.. I know). In attempt to make these adjustments easier for the group (or so they claimed), the program decided to make some executive decisions about how we would prepare for the altitude changes ahead. Specifically the 8,000 foot climb we would be making one early morning to reach the Tatio Geysers- similar to the geysers in Yellowstone park. For starters they starved us. (lies)- but let's be real, you know I like to embellish this blog- right dad?) The night before we had to wake up in the dark, cold early morning (I am sensing a theme in my chronicles of this trip...) the program dinner included a three course meal with the amount of food suitable to satisfy for a toddler. We started with egg drop soup, then had two teeny tiny pieces of some sort of meat (pork tenderloin perhaps?) served up with some sauteed zucchini and then finished us off with some jello. The program guide warned us not to eat after dinner to prevent altitude sickness/participants from puking all over their nice little tour bus (sorry for the mental picture but obviously this part of the story was memorable for me- ain't nobody got time for a hangry Carly). So what did I do? I went and bought a double scoop ice cream cone, set my alarm and called it a night. Oh and I prayed a little that hunger should  in fact take precedent over listening to the authorities...
Aforementioned Bus
And graciously my prayers were answered- it could have had something to do with the coca leaves I stuck in my mouth (not the tastiest things in the world, taste kinda like...leaves) or maybe I just have an iron stomach, but whatever the case- I made it all the way up to the highest geysers in the world sans puking. 

Success. Unfortunately the real concern then became keeping warm..because second only to being incredibly hungry, I hate being cold more than most things in this world. Now you won't even believe this next part...
Hint- check out some of these people's expressions- and the fact that I'm still wearing my hat..
THE FAMOUS TATIO GEYSERS ARE NOT HOT. That's right. Hot springs, boiling geysers and the accumulation of magma were insufficient in their attempts to maintain a hot spring on the top of this mountain. Despite my gut instinct to avoid removing my clothes and putting on a skimpy bikini in the 20 degree weather, Adventurous (or maybe just peer pressured..) Carly decided to listen to the authorities this time and jump in. oye dios it was cold- okay actually it was just lukewarm, but it was not the hot tub temperature I was willing to strip down for. Dreams crushed. and this time there wasn't any ice cream to console me...
Alright- not that you feel sorry for me here are some of the incredibly beautiful things I saw on the remainder of the trip

So we did a lot of sightseeing, I star gazed one night and saw the milkyway! We also went mountain biking the last day and I learned how to successfully (more or less- the more being that I made it across without crashing and the less being that my bottom half was soaking wet) execute a river crossing in the trail- which were actually much larger and deeper than I had ever attempted.  

And then I ate some llama meat...

Which is cholesterol free apparently! And I'll leave you with those pics. Enjoy(:

Tata for now

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mama please stop throwing away my food in the fridge :(

How is it that Mama manages to keep broccoli, squash, apples and potatoes until they are moldy and stinky- yet she frequently throws out something I have in the fridge for more than two days. WHY. Bye bye yummy pumpkin/bean/collards pasta thing that I was going to have for lunch today. One day I will understand the logic of Chilean thought processes....
Speaking of mysteries: the mysterious boy in the photos on the wall has been identified. When I was sitting in the car with Mama on the way to La Vega (gigantic, magical fruit and veggie market where she goes every week to purchase our produce for the week) she casually mentioned that she talked to her son on the phone and that he was happy, which in turn made her happy. Her son- this a metaphorical son or an actual son? Is this kid related to Camila or are there two dead beat dads in the picture? Oh the questions I wanted to ask. The funny thing is that if the situation had been reversed I'm sure she would have had no problem asking me a million personal questions- seriously these guys have no filter. Do you have a boyfriend? What does your dad do? Do you have a big house? Who pays for your expensive wine habits? Do you get an allowance? Oye dios mama. I promise I'm not a spoiled rich white girl! (Although that may be up to interpretation...)
Since apparently she had OBVIOUSLY mentioned this son before in the past...I didn't want to act too alarmed and ask too many questions but from the few I did ask, I gathered that he is 33 years old, lives in China and thats about it. What he does, why he is there (actually she did mention something about him switching jobs to make more money- Chileans are slightly fixated on making a lot of money and consumerism- really, it's not just a stereotype I swear- we talked about it in Spanish class) or how long he will be staying there- but now I know that Camila only has only child syndrome, she actually has an older brother!- so really there is no excuse....except for Mama's serious babying habit- alright I think this is turning into a run on sentence so imma stop now(:
In other news, today I went on a 3 hour hike right outside of Santiago, yesterday I FINALLY got my bottle of wine and pretended that I like to socialize. Whenever someone mentions meeting up at Plaza Nuñoa I feel obligated to go because it's only like 15 minutes from my house and in reality most of the bars and other parties everyone wants to go to are so far from my house- therefore when my friend posted on facebook about how her Mama Chilena thinks she is a homebody (it doesn't take much- my Mama is always like don't you have a party or something to go to tonight? lol) I couldn't help but relate and help a girl out by meeting up for drinks in Plaza Nuñoa. Additionally there is an ice cream place that is far too easy to make use of and there is reason #2 for my facade of socialization(; 
Proof of my love
Let's be real- I had to make up for my entire day of me time and "Carly you can treat yourself because you just took an exam and you did great!" This consisted of:
*a 6 dollar ice cream cone- didn't see that price coming...but I don't think they would have liked to see the dine and dash trick...although in a mid sentence thought: here's an interruption/quick story: the first ice cream place I went to had a bunch of flavors and me being me felt the need to try all (4) of them. Upon my last request to try another flavor I was like don't worry- this will be my last one- and he replies- I know, we have a four flavor sample limit! lol, the best is that I didn't even end up liking ANY of their flavors (a lot of flavors here are really sweet, don't have enough chocolate or have too much dulce de leche) and therefore I played the- "I need to think about which flavor I want" card and promptly left to never return...oops
*a winter jacket- because I have become a true chilean and freak out whenever it is 50 degrees outside
*a new watch band- my sport watch band freakishly broke and thus I somehow convinced this watch man to pretty please try and see if he could get ANY watch band to fit my watch face because I was in serious watch withdrawal
and last but not least
*a FABULOUS filet of Salmon that was only mostly overpriced and slightly embarrassing to consume solo. Nevertheless it was all great. Until I decided to top it off with a nice glass of wine- I blame my parents who have no self-control and have yet to Skype me without showing off their full glasses of freshly poured wine. apparently talking to me is chore or something...(; Anywho, I decided to just buy a bottle and called it a night but things didn't exactly go as planned. Upon my suggestion of leaving the house to go buy a bottle of wine real quick (which would have been INCREDIBLY simple) Mama didn't quite react as I thought she would. She, along with Camila and pololo all laughed at me and questioned why I could possibly need to have a glass of wine right that moment. I tried to convince them that I wasn't intending to finish the whole bottle, but that I just wanted one glass.
Caught in the act
Of course I didn't want to do all of this in secret because that would probably have been worse...but let's just say somehow instead of me buying my own bottle of wine- Mama and I ended up splitting one of her mini bottles, like MINI bottles (maybe a 1/4 regular glass per person). Nevertheless I had my drink and she had hers and we watched the news together and all was good until she weirdly and rudely called someone in the middle of our bonding time...I don't GET IT. Another instance of this strange (but potentially not strange in Chilean culture) and rude behavior was when the other day I asked mama if I had enough time to go on a run before she was serving lunch and she said of course! Yet when I returned about 30 minutes later, she and Camila had empty plates and were sitting at the kitchen table- they ate without me....interesante. 
LIVE UPDATE: she thinks I'm an alcoholic/wine addict. she literally just asked me when I was going to have wine. Out of the blue. And I'm like what do you mean when??... I literally responded, if you want me to have wine I will but I don't have plans otherwise (that's right- I got sassy there). Her idea of an acceptable time to have a glass of wine or a beer is possibly once a week- maybe not even that much though. So when I told her that my parents had a glass with dinner every night...yeah um. cultural conflict. 
Back to the grumblings from the week...
This wednesday Hannah and I discovered a sushi place that gives a 50% discount if you pay in cash! Additionally I discovered that chicken sushi is a thing here, cream cheese was in the majority of the rolls and they even had one with CORN! ew
I also bought a plane ticket to Uruguay for May 14-18, I'm going to Viña del Mar next weekend for a night (hopefully it won't be too cold because it's the beach and I've been wanting to go the whole trip!) and Mama informed me that she has to be out of town from next thursday until next monday. This actually doesn't affect me much because I will only be home that sunday and monday. She feels really bad and I'm sure she will leave plenty of food(: 
I'll leave it at that. If you are feeling compassionate, send your thoughts to those in the south of Chile who were affected by the volcano eruption and to those in Nepal who had a massive earthquake. Oye dios. The disasters just keep coming (floods in the north, fires on the beaches and volcano eruption in the south!)


Thursday, April 23, 2015

It's not always rainbows and butterflys....'s COMPROMISE that moves us along"- Maroon 5

That's right folks. If you have been reading with your +2.00 reading glasses (I'm looking at you daddykins!) then you know that the study abroad experience ain't always sunshine and happiness. The only reason I bring that up is because lately I have been seeing a lot of my friends post their blogs on facebook and upon skimming a few of them, it appears that they have become quite skilled at selecting only the best moments they have experienced thus far. Not to say that's not what you should be telling your friends and family....but it just seems like this blog would be quite bland without my occasional rant about the metro, mama or the heat. So thanks for reading- and enjoying my serious struggles, triumphs and laughable life in Chile. 
So this post won't be too elaborate because I have a "solemne" tomorrow. Yes- solemn is the translation of solemne, and upon looking that one up I became slightly nervous to take perhaps the equivalent of a "serious" (test). Let's go with that. Taking it to the next level- I also found out (luckily before I showed up to my 8:30am class) that classes during this week are cancelled so that we can study. Yuup- that sounds pretty serious to me. WISH ME LUCK because I have 5-6 open ended essay questions to respond to in spanish tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. Did I mention that tomorrow will be a friday? TGIF

In other news- I am back on Mama's good side. Exhibit A: she bought me more yogurt mid week. gasp. please note that mid-week grocery trips are a rarity due to her work schedule. Exhibit B: she has become slightly annoyed by the amount of time Camila spends with her pololo and therefore has diverted her love to me. SUCESS (just kidding- I don't think I could ever break the mother-daughter bond they got goin on) but still. Mama's mood has improved significantly and she has been quite amable. 
With regards to my edu-macation- I continue to show up to my ceramics class (now I realize that on Chilean time this means you should arrive around 9am for your 8:30am art class- its a shame this doesn't apply to my international relations class...sigh) my spanish class has just been approved as a Pass/Fail credit (happy dance) and for my other class that I rarely mention- because we haven't had it in oh I don't know- ONE WHOLE MONTH- yesterday I found out that the professor is on sick leave which comes as news just a week after the students of our "facultad" have ended their strike (we didn't have class when they were protesting). Apparently he is seriously ill and who knows when we will have class again- maybe they will just give the gringos credit for trying. I mean, being a gringo ain't easy and I need at least an elective credit. OYE. 
And last but not least on Carly's list of random thoughts that she should blog about is the fact that I have mastered the art of popping popcorn on the stove (apparently Camila never made the connection between popcorn kernels and popcorn...not sure where she thought popcorn came from..) I have fallen in love with fresh chilean bread and pebre (remember- it's that pico de gallo type tomato dip they serve with the bread) and I have gotten used to planning an hour for my transit time. Do you know what these things mean? It means that I could see myself comfortably living here for a while. And although that is obviously not happening- ahem- medical school- i think this is a big step for me because a few weeks ago I couldn't rid my brain of the reoccurring thought that although I was enjoying Chile- it would just be so much easier to live in the states- in my little comfort zone with green grass, coffee ice cream (a rarity here),  wheat bread (no one likes it), spinach (iceburg lettuce just doesn't make much of a salad), almond milk, chobani, oh I could go on...PS. anyone else notice that essentially all the things I miss most are food....Bueller?  
Anywho- the moral of the story is that while I miss somethings, in the grand scheme of things I think my life has become normalized, I feel confident and happy here and I'm glad to be able to say that. 
Also a random note about the bread is that my friend says that the reason no one is fat here is because even though everyone eats so much white bread- the bread here is free of preservatives (it gets hard in like 3 days tops)- and therefore not as bad for you (even though it pains me that it is all white flour bread). I eat SO MUCH more bread here than I would in the states (I would say that not a day passes that I don't have a sandwich or two..) -partially out of necessity and but mostly because it SMELLS and tastes so frickin' good. Yeah. Imma miss that cheap, delicious, fresh white bread when I return. Maybe I'll have to perfect mom's non-knead beer bread. Nom Nom.

until next time- a San Pedro de Atacama excursion recap is coming your way! xoxo

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Patagonia: The Sequel: The Wind, Mud and Glaciers Galore

Friday morning we woke up bright DARK and early. In the southern most part of the globe the sun ceases to rise until approximately 8:00am- talk about having a problem getting out of bed- I couldn't even find my way to the bathroom! (serious Carly problems here). After convincing myself that I could not hike in the same clothes that I would be wearing to bed that night (and all the nights after that....gotta keep them dry and cleanish!) I painfully removed all of my clothes in the freezing cold and put on 4 new layers of protection. Secondly Sophie and I had to reason with ourselves that the monkey-esque noises coming from outside our tent could in no way actually be monkeys- right? It had to be a bird or something because the instructional video we watched did not mention this potential danger....and therefore we must be safe...
We proceeded to chow down on cold oats, peanut butter and pita. SO MUCH PEANUT BUTTER. We packed up our tent, did some jumping jacks and breathed hot air on our numb fingers and then got the heck out of that snowy campsite and onto the next. The atmosphere rapidly changed from an eerie snow covered forrest to a cloudy (but slowly becoming clear) blue sky that began to reveal the mountains we had just camped in. It was an incredible sight to see and furthermore- the weather started to warm up!

First day- pre-snow
Everything looked like a winter wonderland after the snow! So beautiful(:
On this day in particular we hiked 14.9 miles from the snowcapped mountains, past two lakes, a valley and many streams. It took us about 6 hours total and the elephant in the room for that day was whether or not we should carry on and hike another 2.5 hours after our 6 hour endeavor. Oye. My feet and shoulders said no, but the prospect of free camping vs. paid (a mere 12 dollars per person!) seemed to create some debate about whether or not we should march on...Thank goodness I was in the majority because I don't think I could have taken another step.(our peak mileage) When we finally reached the Refugio of Los Cuernos I chowed down on my tuna, pita, peanut butter and then proceeded to buy a snickers bar. Mmmm...sweet nostalgia. That night we were fortunate enough to camp on platforms- that's where the 12 dollars was worth it!- we also had the opportunity to take a hot shower and use indoor bathrooms our entire stay- I opted out of the shower experience- not because I wanted to smell, but more because I couldn't imagine myself getting wet in this windy and cold climate- it just wasn't worth it to me. This night we were also able to cook in a building instead of a shelter so it was much warmer and we even had a table where we got to play cards.
I resisted the urge to buy a glass of wine (it was so easy to get a beer or bottle of wine at the refugios!) and I stuck to our delicious feast of pasta (approximately 15 servings were devoured by the 7 of us). I actually kept a wee bit of my pasta and had some for lunch the next day- as to not tire myself of peanut butter and bread all day everyday. I added some tuna to it the next day and mmmm. so good. 
On that note- the note of food that is- let me tell you a little something about the prevalence of rats in this national park. Apparently on our first night- when it was snowing and sub-zero (maybe- that's what it felt like but don't quote me on that!)- our ignorance to the possibility of rats eating our food didn't harm us one bit. However- on this night- we actually made the revelation that the rats in the park would chew through our tents if we had food in our backpacks. The suggestion was to put all your food in a bag and then tie it to a try. Now this maybe seem simple enough- but- when you add the wind factor to this equation- there is no way in heck that those bags would have stayed in the trees because we could barely keep our tents on the ground with that fierce wind, let alone a wimpy bag of crackers and canned tuna. 
Our tent!!
Alas- nice people exist in Chile too and a girl that was staying inside the refugio offered to let us store our food in her room. Yay for friends! I cannot even imagine what would have happened if A) the rats had chewed a hole in our tent and then we had to pay the rental place... and B) if they had ruined all our food supplies and then we STARVED. An irrational conclusion I know- but let's just say there was a constant thought process on my mind about food and when my next meal was due to the intense amount of effort I was exerting all day EREDAY. 
Side note- check out this trash bag swag :D
Thats me in the purple(:
Alas we set off the next morning to our third and final campsite. Although it was quite brisk in the morning, the day turned out to be nice, clear and sunny. We got to go out to the coast line of one of the lakes, Lago Nordenskjold (no I did not make that name up...) and take some really pretty pictures of the sunrise- these pics will be on facebook shortly I swear! The only remarkable things I can remember about this hike were the extreme winds, serious mud and my face-to-earth incident. Yeah- that's Carly speak for- I got blown off a 'bridge' type thing and fell into the marsh. All was good though- when I saw bridge I really just mean a handrail-less collection of wood planks that keep you from sinking into the swamp land. The wind was so strong that when I was walking along these wooden planks I just blew right over! It was probably the best time to get blown over though because previously we had endured strong winds along the coastline as we were treading carefully on some gravel trails that were exposed to the mountainside. Ow- ain't nobody got time to get blown over in those parts. Additionally I remember passing through a large valley filled with burnt tree trunks from a forest fire that apparently went down in January. The trees almost looked as if they had been spray painted with silver, but we determined as a group that their weird coloration and appearance must have been the result of the fire damage. Anywho- After we had fully encircled an entire mountain and walked so far that we were now facing an entirely different lake, 15. 2 miles later, we were at Campamento Torres Grande (I'm pretty sure that's the name). And you would not even believe what made this refugio/campsite so special....not the 4.000 peso camping charge (so cheap!) and not the fact that they sold Almond snickers...but the fact that they had a bar, a TV and a satellite dish that was streaming the Final Four game against Wisconsin and Kentucky. Let me tell you something- I thought Jack was going to cry tears of joy when he heard that one. Who would have thought- in the middle of complete isolation- that we would be watching the NCAA Basketball tournament. Unreal. 
The next morning- our final day in the park!- we woke up as early as possible (granted it was only around 7am due to the time the sunrises), packed up all of our stuff for the catamaran ride (kind of like a ferry) and headed towards the glacier lookout as fast as we could. The map estimated it would take approximately an hour and a half to reach the lookout and we barely had just that amount of time. We half job-half speed walked our way to the glacier and were met with sweet success! It was totally worth it- even if we were only able to marvel in it's beauty for 5 minutes before we sprinted back...
So this is the famous Lago Grey and then behind it you can see the glacier. A glacier is really just when the lake becomes frozen and starts to cover the mountain with a blanket of ice. I actually saw my first glacier in India- but in my opinion this one was much cooler because the real beauty of the scenery was due to the reflection of the mountain on the lake. ¡Que Linda! 
So the last mileage statistic was 12.6 miles (not too shabby!) and that was bulk of our trip in the national park.
We boarded an overpriced catamarran- 30 USD for a 30 minute ride across the lake!- and arrived at a bus stop where we then took a 2 hour bus to Puerto Natales- where we once again stayed in the lovely hostel of Erratic Rock. 
The first thing I did was take a hot shower, and then of course I texted my mother to tell her I was alive- priorities though(;
That night we FEASTED. Hamburgers- what typical Americans we are right? Actually now that I saw that I think that Chileans may actually consume more hotdogs and hamburgers than Americans. I don't know why I haven't seen more obese Chileans but I was told it may have something to do with the quality of their bread...seriously though! Someone told me that since they don't put preservatives in their bread and they buy it fresh (it goes bad after like 3 days but they sell it everywhere so it's not really a problem) their bread is actually better for you than the white bread we have in the states. Granted I would LOVE some 12 grain bread up in here, I'm also happy that I don't have to eat Wonder bread. Back to the story...
So we all ordered a hamburger and then everyone except me ordered a local beer (that tastes like a BLUEBERRY!- I actually probably could have finished that beer in particular) but since you all know how much I adore my dear wine- I went with a classy glass of red grape juice(: 
Funny story about the burgers though- when we all got ours and realized that they were approximately the size of our brains and then some (lovely reference point eh?)- my one friend turned to me and said- "I dare you to finish it"- oh girl. You didn't even have to dare me. I demolished that thing. Granted I didn't order an appetizer (what noobs my friends are for ruining their appetite before the big prize!) but nevertheless i took that burger down like a house of cards. Maybe I didn't eat all of the bread (the burger was about 2/3 the size of the bun) but I did eat every morsel of beef, tomato, avocado and lettuce. and it was GLORIOUS (sorry I keep screaming at you people- I'm just excited). Let's just say the challenger of my bet barely finished 1/2 of her burger...mmhmm. Only the boys and I finished our burgers(; so take that! For your viewing pleasure- (I am holding a quarter of the burger in my hand, this is real life I promise). 

So what did we do after we had our sweet victory dinner? Pass out in a food coma? Nope- we had our sweet victory dessert. All I wanted was ice cream while others pursued some Easter candy (it was Easter Sunday after all!). When I asked several Chileans where I could some ice cream on this night I was received with quizzical looks (what else is new) and responses like "it's winter." lol. I finally encountered some ice cream cones in one of those small freezers they have at the minimarkets here. So after a night of hamburgers, dessert, wine and a movie- we went with the Goonies- what a classic (it sounded right to say that, but in reality I've actually never seen it...don't judge)- I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. After the first day of trekking I became a pro at sleeping in any and all conditions (the car alarms and dogs were nothing new and the cold, hard ground proved to be only a small hurdle in my struggle to achieve a beautiful slumber). The next morning we did that bus thing again, arrived in Puntas Arenas- walked on the Strait of Magellan (once again- so close to Antartica!), called ourselves tourists and checked out the number one recommended food stop in Puntas Arenas- it was definitely a local favorite but I would say it was mostly overrated- it was just a sandwich with chorizo and cheese. But in retrospect- they were less than a dollar and made a good snack! It was packed with people so we shouted our orders (picture a diner with only one bar and maybe 9 bar stools) and then ate outside in the beautiful sunshine. In case you were wondering- it was called Kiosko Roca and this is what the sandwiches looked like (they are little, maybe a little bigger than a deck of cards):
That is totally someone else's photo, but you get the drift. After lunch we headed over to a free museum, checked out the local cemetery and then took a cab to the airport. I had my first female cabbie! Other than that I have nothing else remarkable to report- okay I lied- I will mention that the Puntas Arenas airport was less than secure. The security checkpoint consisted of a single x-ray machine, one lady who was 'monitoring' the screen and no need to take off your jacket, shoes or jewelry. Luckily there were no bombs on my plane :D

That is all. xoxo. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Eighth Wonder of the World- Part One

Some may say I'm spontaneous. Or ignorant but adventurous...let me explain
I went to India thinking they spoke Indian (this is embarrassing but all too true) never knowing who Tibetans were besides the obvious fact that they were the people I would be tutoring in English
I chose Tulane under the pretense that it was "far" but not too far from my hometown- I was thinking maybe 6 hours driving, an hourish flying. It wasn't until I google mapped the distance in May of my senior year of high school (after committing to Tulane of course...) that I realized New Orleans was approximately a 10.5 hour drive...
I only knew a few things about Chile when I came to this beautiful country- the most important things obviously- I knew it had many vineyards, was near the coast, they speak spanish, oh and once some miners got trapped underground in Chile for a really long time. Yuup- ignorant little princess right here- I didn't know anything about the culture, the history, the intense dictatorship of Pinochet that many Chileans that I interact with here on a daily basis endured. 
When I described this problem I have with jumping into life decisions without any pretenses to my friend here she actually replied interestingly enough with an alluring response- she said that it's actually great that I am willing to travel and do things without knowing much- I'm not afraid to be outside my comfort zone and experience new things. I kinda liked the sound of that-I'm adventurous- let's go with that. Of course I have continued this trend here...and that's what brings me to the purpose of this post- my INCREDIBLE adventure to the one and only PATAGONIA. It all started when my friends who had been talking about planning a trip to Patagonia asked me if I wanted to join their group. At this point my familiarity with Patagonia included the fact that it must be a big, beautiful mountain because there was a company named after it. I had no idea that Patagonia was a protected natural region where there are valleys, wetlands, lakes, glaciers, mountains and "towers" that are unlike anything else I have ever seen. Nevertheless, approximately 24 hours after I am invited to join this group of my fellow adventurers, I find myself frantically buying a plane ticket to a town that I trust is close to Patagonia (is it a place or a mountain or something? I don't even know) because we soon discover that once one of us buys a plane ticket, the price goes up, and therefore I must put in my credit card information right now and book this trip. Yuup- classic Carly. Purchasing a ticket to a place I have never heard of- Puntas Arenas- looks pretty far- ends up being incredibly close to Antartica too- that's cool. I trust that they have a plan (thank heavens they do) and I just go with the flow from this point. When we all gather to discuss things and the questions fly about what we absolutely want to see and do- I just nod my head when people say things like "Glacier Gray" and "catamarans". Mmmhmm. sounds good to me. I'm sure it's pretty there. Camping? Okay- I was a girl scout once. I think we camped outside. It may have just been in my backyard though, I can't remember *insert laughing out loud emoji here*
Things progress and we are buying food to eat while camping, finding sleeping bags to borrow and assembling tents. Packing of course is the hard part. Packing and I have a bad relationship. There have been fights, tears, changing of know- the usual. So in anticipation of this mental breakdown that is bound to occur if I try to pack alone, I invite my friend Hannah over for dinner so she can sit on my bed and coach me through the process of carefully selecting which things are most important and which things are much too heavy to be carrying around on my back for 4 days. She is a gem and no tears are shed. Albeit there may have been a brief cry seesh previous to this lovely packing experience- something to do with a library fine and the inability to check out my textbook or pay the fine at all....but that's a story for another day. Let's just say that sometimes you have to cry at the wrong moment because the stress just builds over time. And even though I pretend I'm spontaneous 90% of the time, sometimes even I get a little scared. 
Moving on...After about 2 1/2 hours of sleep, I wake up in the dead of the night to hop on my shared "transfer" taxi type thing that is a much cheaper option than getting my own taxi (imagine 60-70 dollars versus 14 dollars). The only downside is that you have to be ready almost 2 hours before you want to be at the airport. Thus for my 6:15am flight I am picked up from my house at 3:05am. I meet everyone at the airport, sleep on the plane and eventually arrive in Puntas Arenas- the town where Magellan passed through on his journey to Antartica. As my friend put it "I could have spat on Antartica!". 
Google informed us that we were there^
We then took a 3 hour bus to another town (actually more northern) called Puerto Natales, which is where most people stay before and after their trek to Torres de Paine (that's right- Patagonia isn't a mountain- it's a region. and in that region is a Natural Park called Torres de Paine- for the iconic "towers" that are in the Park- more on those later). We stayed in the best hostel ever- very crunchy, but clean and super helpful! Plus they had hot showers, breakfast included and homemade peanut butter and bread at that breakfast table. mmmm. That night we got our last minute essentials- Trash Bags! You have to put anything and everything you carry in a trashbag in case it rains, snows, etc. so that your clothes and sleeping bag are dry when you are freezing at the end of the day and need to get warm(ish)- and then we FEASTED. I'm talking a "treat yourself" feast. I ordered sea bass and finished with a slice of cheesecake. YESSSS.
After dinner I proceeded to re-evaluate my entire packing situation. Typical. I was informed that my 32ºF sleeping bag, blanket and sleep liner would be no match for the cold of the park. Being the cold natured person I am- I said where do I sign up for the warmest sleeping bag you have. We also rented sleeping pads to provide that crucial layer of insulation between you and the cold earth (take notes! this is crucial camping advice! :D )  Of course then I had to re-arrange my entire backpack, but it was okay because you could store things at the hostel because otherwise I would have been carrying so many unnecessary things. My backpack was still heavy- here's a rundown of what I packed: two sets of warm clothes (long underwear, one pair of leggings, hiking pants, ski jacket, rain jacket, fleece), wool headband, two pairs of gloves, sleeping bag, canned tuna, a jar of PB, pitas, protein bars, beef jerky, apples, oats, nuts out the wahoo and chocolate(:
Quick note about that beef jerky. Or should I say Ch'arki. Let me clarify- Chilean Beef Jerky is quite different than the Jack Links you can find in the US. 
That is a very accurate picture. Really- it kind looks like a raw hide or something but the truth is that once you put it in your mouth it tastes the same as the beef jerky I'm used to. I'm not going to lie and say the texture isn't slightly hairy and weirdly crumbly. I don't even know what I'm trying to say but just go with it(; And I haven't even told you the best part- when I was trying to find beef jerky in the grocery store- after I finally explained what I was looking for- the nice sales boy tried to convince me to get the other kind of jerky they had. On the label it said Equine. Mhhmm... that's the same Equine synonymous with Equestrian- AKA he was trying to get me to buy the HORSE JERKY! I died- and then told him I had a horse and that I absolutely would not be buying that type. My host mom even insisted that it exquisite when I told her that story- but I just kept shaking my head- no way. 
ANYWHO-The next morning- without much a plan (we actually found that you can't really have a plan when you are trekking throughout the park because you have to be flexible with the weather, what's open, where you can camp, etc.) we boarded another 2 hour bus to the actual park boundaries. We watched an informational session on how not to get put in jail for starting a fire and then we got on one last bus that brought us to one of the bases of the park- 

where it says H (Hotel Las Torres). Although the initial weather conditions were cloudy, raining and downright depressing, we embarked our journey in the direction of the famous "Torres". We hiked for about 2 hours to the first refugio along the trail. Refugios are indoor areas that you can pay to stay in but they are much more expensive that paying to camp. You can hang out in these areas if you buy something, so we stopped for lunch and purchased a few things to satisfy the guys working there and then took advantage of the bathrooms (with TP!) and the nice warm stove. At this point it was snowing and we were climbing in elevation at a rapid pace. It turned out that our first day was actually the steepest climb we did the whole time. Additionally it was snowing essentially the whole time- it started off as sleet and quickly turned to snow. The cherry on top was the fact that this was my day to carry the tent. Lovely. Nevertheless we pushed on to the next campsite where we figured we would be staying for the night. Unfortunately we had heard that the lookout for the Torres was closed due to weather conditions but we still pushed on in the hopes of potentially still seeing some incredible views (although it is virtually impossible to see anything that is less than incredible in the park- even if the sky is cloudy). Through the snow and cold we pushed on and FINALLY made it to the campsite. The worst thing about the way the park is laid out is the fact that once you leave one campsite/refugio to go to the next one you are met with the fact that you cannot see anything in your path for the next 1-4 hours. It's almost like you have no destination and it can be really discouraging when you feel like you should have arrived hours ago. The only gauge of distance we had was the estimated times they print on the park map- which were pretty realistic, but still varied due to stopping and such. When we got to the campsite we signed in (this one was free! yay!) and began to clear off some areas to set up our tents while it was SNOWING.
We really roughed it the first day. And while in retrospect was the perfect way to do it, that did not make it an easier for any of us to be optimistic about what we had gotten ourselves into. The first day of hiking we covered about 10.5 miles- according to my fitbit- but unfortunately we really didn't have a view of much due to the snow and clouds. We made it up to the point on the map that says Campamento Torres. 
I leave you with the pathetic yet hilarious account of our first dinner. Oh the noobs we were (noobs=newbies). Not only was one of our camping cookers broken, but we also were unaware of how to use the can opener on the swiss army knife we had. Thankfully the campground "guard" took pity on us and let us use his camping cooker. We set up shop and started boiling water for the rice we brought and then I began to read the directions on the bag. Cooking time- 45 minutes. WHY DID WE BUY BROWN RICE- were we trying to be healthy or something??! Surprisingly I had no part in that....gasp. I was the one who purchased the pasta that cooked in 8 minutes. You win some and you lose some.
Here's how dinner went down- we had two camping cookers (we had one functional one and then the guard's cooker) along with two pots cans. I believe that I could equate the capacity of these puny pots with the amount of food that you fill one can of soup with. Yuup. We were struggle busing hard core. I knew it was bad when I couldn't feel my toes in my wool socks and hiking boots at about the same time in which the rice was approximately 30 minutes from being done. The other great debacle of the night? Our can opening technique- knife to can
That would be the knife-to-can technique- I was holding my beloved chocolate and Ari was pretending to be warm and happy
DANGEROUS- I know. I survived Grandad- don't worry(;
Luckily I only found one small piece of metal in my tupperware supper of green beans, chickpeas and rice. Additionally we tried to be semi-gourmet and served up some powdered asparagus and tomato soup with our (crunchy) rice. Everything tasted delicious and I actually became fond of the semi-cooked crunchy rice. Who likes soft rice anyways..
We finished cooking and cleaning asap and ran to our tents while it was STILL snowing. After painfully removing all my clothes and putting on dry wool long underwear, sweatpants, my ski jacket and zipping myself up (almost all the way) in my sub-zero temperature sleeping bag I pretended I wasn't cold, moved so that I was up against Sophie for some body heat and drifted off to sleep (kinda). Although I had dreams about my toes falling off- maybe dramatic, but they were quite numb all night long and I was scared!- I SURVIVED CAMPING IN THE SNOW. 

There's more to come- don't fret. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

My last page of notes I have saved to blog about...

So these blog posts are becoming more random as we progress- sorry about that. I feel like I'm at the point in my study abroad where my spanish is decent, I have re-taught myself how to do homework and my mama no longer hides her passive aggressive nature....lolz. Oh mama. She has a habit of repeating her stories over and over *cough dad* and most of them include life lessons about how not to be a bad host student (make sure you compliment her food and don't stay in your room the whole semester...) and others include her summary of what it means to be a host mom (clean the house, wash the clothes, cook- things that she insists she does spectacularly...). Last but not least she just got off the phone with her mother (my abuelita you could say) and spent the last ten minutes complaining about how I just mentioned that the peanut butter jar was almost empty...eek! I don't know where the line is apparently....She bought it for me the first time so I just figured I would mention it- but we shall see! Of course I have no problem buying my own peanut butter too..The thing is- when she then came down to the kitchen and started talking to me she was all smiles- oye dios. These Chileans and their cooped up emotions- I guess we all need to vent.
On the flip side- my mentor- a Universidad de Chile student that was assigned to me- Andrea, is the bomb dot com. We meet last week over dinner and she was incredibly friendly and happy to help me practice my Spanish. She also rolls her own cigarettes- so there's that. She claims that if she rolls them then she know's what's in them, ie: no nicotine (not sure I believe that's how it works...but then again I don't know much about tobacco). I knew she was a keeper because she also agreed to have our first meet up at a pizza place that got rave reviews on Trip Advisor (so of course I knew it HAD to be good). Nom Nom!
Her first impression of me via facebook? I must really like wine and sports because that basically sums up the contents of my facebook photo library- very accurate eh. Maybe I should start putting down my glass of wine before posing for all facebook-possible pics (said no one ever..)

I'll leave you with a summary of my recent bus ride companions- so far I've had the lady that talks to herself, the students that walk on the bus like they own it- and somehow talk their ways out of paying (like way more than "that one time"), additionally I've had the overly-nice grandmas that stand up out of their seat claiming that they are getting off soon- and then proceed to remain on the bus even after I hop off- and my favorite- the lady that asked for my bag and then proceeded to hold it in her lap for me (so she could watch it and no one would pickpocket my stuff) the entire bus ride while I stood squished up against the hand rail. Oh the bus- what great friends you introduce me too...

GET READY for the PATAGONIA POST! It's coming folks(:


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Before I forget all the very important details- The Caleu Post!

My apologies for the wait- I hope the anticipation did not kill anyone(;
Lets start from the very beginning- it's a very good place to start (Sound of Music Reference here!)
So Hannah and I decided that we needed a weekend away, and when I started looking for day trips I realized that most of the touristy destinations would probably require a weekend away. However, I stumbled upon a hidden gem (I think we can call it a gem...but I'll leave that up to you to decide when you hear the deets..), called the Nacional Parque de Campaña. Online they showed beautiful views, nice hiking trails, the works. It appeared as though there were a few hostels in the surrounding area, but of course, with our last minute travel decision most of them were booked. Quick note on that one- *spoiler alert* This hostel booking website also said that Hostel Caleu "only had one room remaining to book!" as if you needed to rapidly find your credit card and reserve the room before the millions of other tourists would snatch your overnight getaway right out of your hands. On the other hand...when we arrived- it was PLAIN AS DAY that there was not a soul staying in this hostel. For heaven's sake, when pulled up to the hostel and got out of the taxi, we found a lady who appeared to be running the show- and get this- she knew Hannah's name. Do you think she knows all of the names of her customers? I think so- mostly because she has one every once in a blue moon! Therefore I highly doubt Hannah and I's frantic facebook messaging back and forth was necessary...

Back to the deets- So after calling the hostel- failing to communicate my questions with my scratchy man voice (my throat is always so dry here!), crappy chilean phone and sub-par spanish conversational skills....I meandered on over to my host mom's room to beg for help. 3 phone calls later we determined that the Hostel in fact does exist (the address online literally gave a street name- a street that does not exist on any map I checked- and of course, without a street number), that there were alleged buses to this hostel and that it was- and I quote- "easy to get to once you arrive in Caleu." 
I kept asking Hannah if she was sure we should book the reservation (there was a cancellation policy of course...) because we really were going to have to wing it if we were going to try to locate this place. Her response? "This is going to be so fun!" and "Let's do it!". Thank you Hannah, for your valuable thoughts. We did even have a street address for heavens sake! But I kept calm and carried on...
I mean how could you resist her optimism...

So the next morning- following my FAVORITE 8:30am FRIDAY class (if you are not sensing some sarcasm here you need to re-evaluate things)- Hannah and I met up at the Metro station where you can catch a bus to virtually any city in Chile....except Caleu of course. After some discussion we determined that we need to first take a bus to Til-Tíl (the accent is important! without it people cannot help you locate the city you need to go to- correct- they cannot infer that Til-Til and Til-Tíl are the same place...).

After about an hour on the bus people start getting off at what appears to be random destinations. This often happens here- buses turn into public taxi rides and there are rarely definite bus stops. Therefore it took Hannah and I a while to realize that we needed to get off the bus before the driver took us all the way back to Santiago. Luckily we were able to communicate that we needed to be dropped off at the "Bus Terminal" (terminal is a very loose term) where another bus could then take us to Caleu. Because you know- that bus must exist if the lady on the phone says so...
We hop off the bus and land smack dab in the middle of an incredibly rural town "center". 
Upon taking 10 steps, potentially looking around one time (we did NOT even look lost at this point) people began to ask what we needed. No worries folks- we got this- we know what we are doing- all we need is the bus stop. Someone responded that a bus runs on the road to our right and thus we stood on the sidewalk and proceeded to wait aimlessly for the potential next bus to pass. 
Next thing you know a mail man approaches us (yes a mail man...) and once again asks us what we need- (as if gringos always need help! sheesh) We tell him that we need to go to Caleu- and his reaction? He chuckles to himself, asks us to repeat and then says- "lol, you should just go back to Santiago because there ain't no bus to Caleu from here" Use your imagination here because that is a rough- but accurate- translation (; Swell. Not losing too much hope (but still a considerable amount) we proceed to walk toward an official looking building. At this point Hannah may have lost all hope- she left me to communicate our serious struggle in Spanish while she gave me the deer in the headlights look. For those of you who don't know Hannah- please note that when it comes to spanish skills- she is way better at pretending she understands what people are saying and proceeding to promptly respond in a manner that would lead you to believe she knows her spanish well. Thus- when she left all the talking to me- well, I was utterly confused. Luckily my need based spanish kicked in and I kept my cool for the both of us. Upon entering and explaining our predicament once more we finally get ourselves somewhere. These nice people have attempted to call the hostel for us and after some slight research on the Internet on their computer they find out that we need to take a cab and that against all odds- once again- the hostel is REAL. 
Skipping the gory details- lets just say we arrive 45 minutes later! SUCCESS=

Not only does the lady know Hannah's name, additionally, when we ask about when breakfast starts she responds "Whenever you come to the restaurant". Lolz- our own private hostel. Maybe there really was only one room left...because there is only one room in the hostel!   
We explore the grounds and find both signs that say "do not eat the fruit" and a plethora of beautiful fruit trees- that we proceed to eat off of....don't act surprised- how could you resist!

I swear- I only stole one! (of each....)
We then proceeded to embark on the next CRUCIAL step to our wellbeing and happiness- wine of course. And we must've had the luck of the Irish (she does have red hair...and I got some freckles!) because the one building in the small town of Caleu just so happened to be a mini-market, that happened to become open once we arrived (gringo perks!) and most importantly HAD a box of cheap wine. I'm talking three dollars for 1 L of red wine...that's right- slightly more than one bottle- perfect for the two of us to enjoy our night(:
Oh the night....after relaxing by the pool and doing some light reading/homework we made dinner in our little mini-kitchenette. 
Hannah brought pasta for us to cook so we feasted on some spirals and tomato sauce that resembled ketchup (red sauce does not exist here...apparently the Italian immigrants don't trust Chileans with their secret recipes...they can't make pizza correctly either!).
I have stolen all these photos of Hannah- in the midst of our chaos she was able to document our adventure!
Above all- of course. The town made an executive decision to shut off the power. Maybe there just weren't enough citizens in the area to incentivize the continued electricity or maybe the only social servant of the town fell asleep on the job...all i know is that were lucky that the electricity did not pertain to our gas stove cooking! Ironically enough, the one time that having a TV would come in handy (lets just say that there are limited amount of things we could do to entertain ourselves in the isolation of Caleu) and the one time that I have actually been around a TV- the TV didn't work. Nevertheless Hannah and I politely requested some Chilean cards (fun fact: not the same! there aren't kings, queens or jacks, just numbers 1-12). We played go fish while feeling slightly tipsy but incredibly entertained- read: when else would go fish be sufficiently entertaining? Thus the wine was a necessary aliment....
We fell asleep at a nice early hour of 10pm, chatting the night away and laughing at the absurdity of our situation. We woke up the next morning and informed María (let's call her María..because honestly her accent was so thick that neither Hannah nor I could figure out what to call her) that we were awake and would love some breakfast. She served us a tasty meal of eggs, fresh bread, jam and juice. Accordingly we received a quizzical look when we requested black coffee- but by now I'm used to the disbelief of American customs. 
We went on to pay 2.000 pesos to enter the "Parque" which consisted of a hill- yuup- they called the elevated areas of hiking here "Cerros" which translates to "hill". This particular hill was called "Cerro Ruble" and I am quite sure that we were one of 5 people to climb it that weekend. The trail started off simple enough, sandy and winding around the mountainside. Two hours later it became more of a trek- there were multiple 'trails' and an increasingly steep path up to the top. We never made it- not that I could really tell you what that would constitute- but nevertheless we enjoy some incredible views of the mountains and valley (and apparently some of the mountains we saw were the Andes all the way in Argentina!). 
Somehow we also proceeded to finish all the pasta we made despite me initial suggestion that we would never finish 5 servings of pasta....hiking makes you hungry! We safely and happily returned back down the hill, requested María to call a cab for us (only a minor struggle...) and hopped in the car for one heck of a political debate. The cab driver decided to ask for our thoughts on his passionate assertions about Chile and the corrupt nature of the system. Let's just say at the point I just smiled and said sometimes bad things just happen...and I'm sorry if you think the US sticks it's nose in erebody's business....We paid and somehow managed to get dropped off at a bus bench where quite literally 2 minutes later a bus to Santiago promptly pulled up to the curb. Sweet victory I tell you(: 
Oh come on- we deserved that wine!
The cherry on top....when I finally made it home to my sweet abode in Nuñoa, there was homemade pizza in the oven. ¡Qué Linda!