Friday, July 24, 2015

One time I went to Chiloé- an archipelago right off the coast of Chile

With all the trips I have taken from Chile, I've found that there were two types: The kind where you go to a place knowing that you will be doing A, seeing B, and eating C. You have plans, tours and restaurants in mind and typically these trips are to the more toursity areas of the world. The second kind of trip is the kind where you go with the bare minimum about the town- you know how to get there, that you have a plane ticket/bus ticket, a hostal reservation and a suitcase in hand. 
Maybe you wrote down the names of the Plazas in town, a museum or two and a pretty view you should check out. The truth is there probably wasn't TOO much to do in these towns, but nevertheless they were enjoyable and full of unexpected events and unforseeable delights. This is basically how my trips to La Serena, Puerto Varas, Montevideo and now Chiloé went. Like I said they were great- but one of the biggest reasons that I went was to get out of Santiago and to enjoy some of the varying landscape Chile has to offer. I mean we've got the desert in the north, beaches and mountains running along both borders and the beautiful, lush but cold southern region. 
Chiloé falls under the cold but enchanting category. Like I said before, it is made up of an archipelago of many islands (some big and inhabited, some small and essentially just wildlife and forrest). 
My friend Hannah and I decided that one of our last weekends in Chile we should visit the hyped about Chiloé to see the Palafitos (houses on stilts on the waterfront of the islands)
eat some good seafood, and enjoy the beauty of southern Chile. And we did! 

One day we went to a market of handicrafts (because doesn't every south American city have on- and I ALWAYS buy way too much), 
we visited many churches (the area is famous for its abundance of ancient wooden churches)

another day we hopped on a bus that then hopped on a ferry that we were about 80% certain would take us to an island we had googled the night before. It did indeed take us to Lemuy Island, but we soon found out that in low season this island is virtually uninhabited (but still beautiful!) and inhospitable (only one restaurant was open- the lady who ran it served as the hostess, waiter and chef- and the food was kinda awful...but we survived(; ). 
Luckily the trip redeemed itself through the vistas from the bus rides and the heladeria that was on the street corner in the main plaza. I told Hannah that I would have been happy just hopping on a bus each day to wherever it was going and just looking out the window because no matter where you were- it was lovely- and there wasn't much else to do anyways! haha
We enjoyed many coffee breaks (I have now decided that this is the best way to travel- get coffee and a dessert at around 3pm in the afternoon), 
I enjoyed ice cream every single day (per usual) and we got our aforementioned pics with the palafitos. One night we watched the Copa America game with the locals in a nice little bar (Chile won- duh!) and the last day we got to go horsebackriding (in the rain- bummer)

 in Chiloé's national park. It was only like 40 USD (upside) but I do wish we had gotten to go during high season when the flauna was in bloom and maybe it was a little warmer (downside). 
The horses were great (tired- but responsive and did their job) and Hannah had a ball (she had never really been horsebackriding and was dying to go). 
Even though we seemed to get the gringo treatment at some restaurants- they would tell us that they only had certain things available and then we would see them deliver it to another table- this actually happened twice!- we found two gems- one had delicious pizza and the other had tasty sammies on homemade bread. Unfortunately my leftovers from the pizza place somehow got thrown away...even though we were the only guests in the hotel- but my main man/hotel worker felt so bad that we reimbursed me for the lost I just went a bought myself a delicious sammie instead. 
So as you can see from my random assortment of anecdotes, it was a great trip- and even though it's been a while- I couldn't leave it without a re-cap

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


There are some things I haven't told you. Some things you probably don't want and don't need to know. Because typically ignorance is bliss. But in this case I'm being selfish and making this my public journal, and a way to remember my experiences for a long time. So if you are over the age of 70 or have had a previous experience with anxiety about my safety in Chile, skip to the sappy part about me leaving Chile....or just know that I survived so all the things I did in the past were a-okay. 
Confession- once I got in a cab that didn't have a meter
I got in that cab with my drunk friend who insisted that he would pay once we realized there was no meter and that we should probably find another cab. But no- he insisted it would be fine and that he would pay. When we arrive at our destination he realizes he has no money- and therefore I pay for the 10 dollar taxi (in retrospect this would have been cheap for how long the drive was- but you have to take into account what about to say to counter that point...). I paid with a 10.000 bill (20 bucks) and he gave me back a 5.000. All was fine- I wasn't kidnapped, robbed of my cell phone and credit cards or anything like that. 
BUT, the next day when I went to pay for my bus ticket, the lady looks at me with a raised eyebrow and tells me that the 5.000 I am trying to use is fake. counterfeit. not accepted. 
She GIVES ME BACK the counterfeit money (I still have it- but I am really not sure why she was going to let that one stay in circulation..) and I am thoroughly embarrassed and angry that the cab driver essentially robbed me of ten extra dollars and that my friend owed me big time. 
Confession- I never told you that once when I was riding a bus and really had to pee (what else is new) so I used their bathroom; which turned out to lack any lighting, and therefore I peed in the pitch black darkness in what I prayed was the toilet (and that the lid was not closed) and threw my toilet paper out the open window- oops. 
Confession- I have been to this heladería five times in the past three weeks. They know my name. I have convinced my favorite lady who works there to break the rules and let me order three flavors instead of the two that all other patrons must finally decide upon. I am quite the charmer eh?
Confession- almost every single time I plugged in my computer charger to the outlet it would spark...oops
Confession- one of the things I will most in Chile is the liquor to soft drink ratio here in Chile....let's just say its more than 1:1
Confession- Actually I will probably miss the price you can find for a pretty damn good bottle of red wine. 5 dollars!? Please somebody find me this steal in the states...
Confession- On the subject of alcohol...I have come home slightly drunk before only to be interrogated (this is an exaggeration- she was merely making small talk- but when you are tipsy, questions in spanish are hard) by Mama and I just played it cool. Another time she came down to the kitchen at 2am when I had just gotten back from a party and was making myself a bowl 
Confession- I haven't cried yet. I've been holding it in. I'll probably get an aneurism or something because I've heard it's bad for your mental health to hold back the tears. But when Mama comes in and asks if she can help me pack, or when I'm swiping my metro card and the person behind me is in a hurry and I get hit by a wave of emotion or when I order my final starbucks coffee and realize that I will never come back to this campus again- these moments are just not ideal for getting weepy. I can't cry because it will probably turn into an ordeal and I just don't like being stared at more than I already am. 
Confession- When Danielle finally gets here I will probably cry. a lot. 

so I just realized I never posted this...I didn't cry when she came, but I did have a meltdown a little later in the game; but its all good now.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Vamos chilenos

Before I start my combined post of all of my Copa America are some of my favorite chilean chants:

"Chi-Chi-Chi, le-le-le, VIVA CHILE!"

"Vamos, vamos chilenos, esta noche tenemos que ganar" // "Let's go, let's go chilenos, tonight we have to win!"

"yo soy chileno, es un sentimiento, no puedo para" // 
"I am chilean, it's a sentiment, and I can't stop"

So you already heard about the first round game with Chile-Ecuador where I went to a random bar with my chilean friends and stormed the plaza for the true Chilean experience. I watched game two from Mama's bed with Camila and Mama while Mama hid her face behind a pillow because she was SO NERVOUS that she couldn't even watch haha. Another game I watch at a viewing party at the university with my friend Emily- because yes, the university sponsors activities that involve chanting, getting rowdy, drinking and watching the futbol game on a projected screen(; But one of the best games I saw was in the stadium right here in my little community of Nuñoa! (Luckily the stadium was within walking distance because if there is one thing I have learned about watching the Copa America's that you CANNOT get a taxi, bus, or any form of transport back to your house afterwards so you better either 1. walk as far as you can until you get tired and pray that the bus will eventually come (this happened once), 2. wait for a taxi for about an hour (also happened of course) or you plant yourself close enough to home that you can walk off the victory). 
So Hannah and I got dropped off at the Estadio Nacional at around 5:30 under the impression that we would be hanging out with her host fam until the game started because they also had two tickets, but in true gringo fashion apparently we had misunderstood those apparent plans because we were dropped at the curb and Ciao Ciao for us. At first we thought that we could kill time by sipping a pre-game beer but alas, Chileans actually enforce the no alcohol at soccer games rule EVEN OUTSIDE of the stadium. There were no bars within like 5 blocks and the only restaurant we found couldn't serve us alcohol (even though they had it) so close to the game.
Instead of fueling our inner chilean spirit with booze, we spent the next 3 hours exploring the section of the stadium we had seats for (they only let you into your section and all the sections are disconnected- including the concessions and stuff so you can't walk around very far) and then planting ourselves in some of the best seats in the section...because in typical Chilean fashion- most people didn't arrive til about 7ish.

In the meantime we took selfies, scouted out our food options (coke, hotdogs and hamburgers- and this is when I argue with Mama when she tries to tell me that there is more fast food and unhealthy food in the US...mmmhmm). By the time the game started everyone was PUMPED sans alcohol. That's right peeps alcohol is not the key to having fun. They sang the national anthem- a flag went over our heads for that one, because apparently since there is no flag pole in the stadium they just cover one section of the stands with the flag
There it is! Right over our heads it went and the Chileans screamed their anthem from the top of their lungs. Much louder than in the states and EVERYONE sings. 
They gave us these green cards to hold up during the Bolivian national anthem because in the past people in the stands would boo during the opposing team's anthem. This actually worked quite well! Another thing they apparently do to keep the tensions to a minimum is not showing the replays. I did not like this at all because then if you missed something you were just sol. Additionally they didn't have a score board or timer which was just weird...

They game went by so quick and by the end we had scored five goals while Bolivia finished with a big fat zero. I guess we picked a good game(: Afterwards we walked a ways to a restaurant that serves phenomenal pizza (muy expensive but worth it) that is just 5 blocks short from my house. We started the post-game feast with one pizza thinking that it would be enough for the two of us. I mean it was 12"...
But after finishing a bottle of wine (hey- a bottle is way cheaper than ordering one glass a piece and then realizing you want just a teensy bit more..) we realized that instead of dessert we would be ordering another pizza please. The first one had chicken, mushrooms and a ton of onions while the second was like ham and peppers or something mouth watering delicious. We closed up that shop after they delivered our second pizza, we finished the bottle and got the heck out so that we could sleep and they could clean up(; Keepin' classy here in Santi
So part two of this post is about the most recent- MOST EPIC Chilean game. The semi-finals took place while I was in Chiloé so I'll leave my recap of that game for another post. Meanwhile the final game in which Chile won the Copa America took place last Saturday on July 4th. We played Argentina and let me just start off by prefacing with the fact that Argentina and Chile have some slight rivalries going on (but honestly- ever Latin American country seems to have some beef against every other country in this continent). Another thing you should know is that Argentina is freaking good. Their player "Messi" is known worldwide as being like the best player ever and I will admit he is pretty amazing. 
So when this game started at 5pm in the afternoon, I'm sitting there in this room with a bunch of my friends sitting in these chairs facing a projector screen holding my huge ass cup of beer thinking, man I hope we win but I really just don't know if it will happen. That was me doubting Chile- please reprimand me for that one when I get back because man was I wrong. 
The beer bottle was like 500mL i believe- so way more beer than I have ever drank in my life- but it was free with admission
So after we went into overtime, played for 2 hours straight (commercials are not a thing during soccer games), and then proceeded to win (if you want a detailed recap or a video of Alexis Sanchez (aka sexy Chilean player who I am in love with along with all chilean girls...) and his winning penalty kick and then his victory run around the field without his shirt...I actually highly recommend google searching that one <3) I stormed the streets with the rest of Chile. I kid you not. Those bar doors busted open and everyone spilled out into the streets and headed for Plaza Italia. All the streets were filled with honking cars, flags streaming past and people sticking their heads out the windows yelling VIVA CHILE.
Here are some of my friend's pics- because I didn't want to lose my phone so I didn't bring it

That one is from the newspaper- but I was there and it was real(:
We sang some chants, jumped up and down, threw confetti, took pictures, tried not to get robbed, ran away from the tear gas and enjoyed the show. Did you read that right- i said TEAR GAS. That was part two of the night. Part one was drink your beer, lose your voice, chant your heart out and cover your eyes while Chile executes their penalty kicks. Then came the screaming, jumping up and down and more chanting. After searching high and low for an open restaurant (only the crazies would be crazy enough to let us/ the mob of Chile in) we finally found a place that was open. But apparently that was just our first hurdle because after I tried to order about 4 things on the menu, none of them were available. The best was when the waitress told me that I couldn't have my salmon (she came back after I ordered) because the filets of salmon were too frozen. Come on lady, where is your dignity lol- you should have just said that I needed to order something else. 
Part two started once I paid for my eight dollar ice cream, sixteen dollar mojito (on top of the outrageous price it had like zero alcohol) and we fled a bar before they could charge us a cover for the live show that was about to start. Penniless and ready to dance my two friends and I started walking towards a club. We walked the wrong direction. Next thing ya know there are kids (maybe in their twenties, but with their maturity level I have no shame in calling them children...) pulling those stakes with the nice little municipal ads on them out of the ground and throwing them into the street. Glass bottles are shattering and the police are there on the scene with riot gear- I'm talking shields, helmets and battons. For some reason these kids just get even more riled up when the police arrive (not sure why they were even called to the scene because everything was fine and dandy until then) and they are calling for reinforcements. Obviously at this point we are walking the opposite direction and as we pass about 30 police cars, vans and tanks (okay that last one might be a lie but hey they were speeding by so you never know!- i might have missed it) with flashing lights sirens and apparently TEAR GAS. We try to escape the coughing, crying and burning of our throats in try in every direction but it appears that people are coming from all directions towards us with their faces or shirts over their mouth and noses. Joy. the carabineros have apparently spread that poison as if it they were Hansel and Gretl marking their passage. We decide to just book it in the direction along the main road that will eventually lead us to a main area that probably has some clubs. At this point we passed through the "let's just go home" phase to the "aw screw it, it's not like we will be able to get a cab anyways" phase and thus we found ourselves about a mile down the road at a club that once again robbed us that night with their cover of 10 bucks and their coat check fee of 2 dollah. At this point I am relying on my friend to pay for an Uber (google it friends) on her phone because I am straight out of the 40 dollars I had budgeted for the night. We danced, celebrated and finally went to sleep knowing that this great country WON THE COPA AMERICA for the first time ever. and on top of that we deserved it. Viva Alexis(:


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

En Toma \\ the takeover

Universidad Diego Portales has been "en toma" ie: taken over for like three weeks now (can I also mention that I HATE spanish keyboards because it just took me way too long to locate the stupid quotation marks and right now every single word I have typed thus far is underlined in those annoying little red squiqqly lines because these words are in english and thus unrecognized by the spanish spell check- also there goes my spelling so forgive me please- just for this post). 
Don't ask me what that means because I'm actually not sure...but this was at the entrance of UDP
I found out that being "en toma" is actually different than being "en paro" because taking something over includes giving ultimatums and canceling class indefinately while being "en paro" is more of a temporary call for changing conditions or requests. So my fellow Chilean students, PAYING students (this is a private university) are refusing to go to class for the last month of the semester all for the cause of something that maybe one half of the student population could explain to you if you asked. Most students really have no idea what they are protesting, they just go along with it, sleep in, drink more and skip class. How productive right? The cherry on top is that yesterday after the teachers and administration tried to meet up with the students in charge and talk about their demands and how they could move forward towards a solution, the only thing that was confirmed was that the student population would continue their takeover (I know it sounds silly but takeover is actually the most accurate english word I can think of; they have literally put chairs up against the doors to the school, blocking the entrances and classrooms. In fact, since they are paying students, the security guards that typically stand at the entrances have to listen to the students when they tell them not to let anyone in.) Furthermore, while only 10% of the students showed up to this nice little negotation meeting, and less than half of that said population voted in favor of continuing with their protest, the school has to accpet their wishes because for some silly reason there can be no shadow of a doubt and it would have to be a unanimous vote or something like that for things to change. Loco I tell you. These kids have parents paying for their educations and yet they refuse to go for silly ideas like arguing the fact that a higher education should be free (for a failed model of this just look at Germany where people are capitalizing on the free education system and staying in school until they are 30) and that they should have a say in the way the classes are taught and structured. When my Chilean friend tried to expalin the later to me, it took all my will not to laugh about this absurd proposal. "You mean you want to choose the format of your tests, the lectures and how the teacher schedules the semester? Who do you think you are..." But to him it seemed perfectly reasonable.
One last thing that the students have been protesting within their individual facultades (departments) is the repression they have encountered amidst their peaceful protests. I'm pretty sure I mentioned on here how a boy from U. Catolica (see below picture; also side note- they are lucky he was attractive because his face makes for a great attention grabber...just saying) was knocked down by these giant, powerful hoses the police use during the protests. Although there are many stories, upon further review the government did find that the police were much closer than the legal limit to the students when they started spraying students with the hoses (I think I heard something about 6 vs. 10 feet- which is almost half the distance if you think about it..). And yes you may say the students provoked it but the optimist in me has heard my friends who have participated in these events (chileans of course) who suggest that typically the protests only turn violence after the police do things like spraying down a 20 year student who was then sent to the hospital and suffered severe head trauma....Anywho- there's another side of the story you can ponder of your morning coffee. Rodrigo was apparently a normal, respected student at La Catolica and so when he was hospitalized and severely injured the students at this university, where I was taking classes took it hard. I heard that he is doing better now but when it first happened it was looking bad for his health..

In other news when I was looking at my blogging notes I realized there were a few anecdotes I had written down about my trip to La Serena from the last post. One night we decided to go shopping when a little girl came up to me and asked where I was from. When I said I was from the US she got so excited and told me that I was the first person she had ever met from there and then proceeded to call her mother over to come talk to me. She was only 14 years old but she confidently told me that one day she would be going to the United States to study and that she was one of the hardest workers in her class because she desperately wanted to learn english. Her ideas about the US and everyone from there were just about the sweetest and most naive (probably misguided because she had quite optimistic ideas about us) things I had ever heard but nevertheless it made my heart melt a little because I hoped to God that she was able to find what she was looking for and that she would truly make it there one day.
Yet another beautiful soul we encountered that weekend was our tour guide for the Pisco Distillery of Mistral who gave us (me and my 4 friends who went to La Serena with me) a HUGE compliment. She said that at first she thought that we would all only speak english and pretend to understand her speel about how Pisco is made, the history of the facilities and such. She said a lot of times when she gives a tour in spanish the gringos just kind of nod and pretend they understand but she can tell that they have no idea what she is saying in spanish. On the contrary she said that she was surprised to see that we actually easily understood and even had questions (mmmhmmm snap judgements...). While it may sound silly that this is such a big deal for us gringos- the truth is when Mama or the store clerk or whomever decides to stop listening to me and bring over a english speaking employee (this happens all the time- and the sad thing is that most of the time these Chileans don't even try to listen to what I say, they just hear my accent and assume I have no clue what I'm talking about) it really hurts your ego. It's like I've been here for four months now, I'm pretty confident that I can get by with my spanish and honestly that was no easy task. It is NOT easy to speak another language when you learned it when you were already in high school. The truth is that I have days where I feel like I am doing great and can have conversations, but then there are days where I don't understand a single word that comes out of Mama's mouth (especially when it's early in the morning and she wants to have full, enthusiastic conversations...). ANYWHO- the moral of the story is that it is really hurtful when people do or say things like that because I feel like I try really hard and it's frustrating when people can't take a minute to reciprocate my attempts to communicate and just assume that I'm just another gringo...When someone compliments your spanish in Chile either you know they are lying and probably hitting on you or you feel amazing inside for just that one moment because you feel like you really have achieved something!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pirate's Booty

I really should be packing. I HAVE 10 DAYS LEFT IN CHILE. holey smokes. therefore- to distract myself I am going to try to make up for lost time and reflect on the lovely trips I've had in Chile that I have failed to account for. Starting with La Serena. That is the name of the port city I visited approximately a month ago. oops. La Serena is known as being a historical pirate fort and is located in Northern Chile. While packing I associated this fact (north=closer to the ecuador=warmer than Santiago) with the optimistic idea that I should pack clothes for a sunny, breezy beach town. Yeah okay there was a beach there but unfortunately that beachy, humid air knows how to hold in the cold. 
La Serena is located right next to the magical distilleries that are spread amongst Valle Elqui. During our trip there we visited two Pisco Distilleries that heat and distill wine Walter White style. First up was Capel, which is know as being the cheapest pisco in Chile. Although it's not bad- it's not good either. I would equate it to the Crown Rousse or Smirnoff of Vodka. The true reveal of just how cheap this alcohol is was when the tour guide told us that they keep the first hours' worth of the distilled liquid that comes out of the distillation process and make it into their mixed drinks that they sell in grocery stores (like pre-made Pisco Sours and Pina Coladas) while the second Distillery we toured said that in their distillation process they reserve this same liquid (made during the first few hours- the impure stuff) and sell it to Pharmacies to make rubbing alcohol and antiseptics. Mmmmhmmm. Let's just say that I may be buying Mistral Pisco now over Capel. 

Other highlights from this trip included walking around taking pictures of everything, eating delicious sushi and ceviche, watching the sunset on the beach, trying many types of Pisco and enjoying our vacay with some nice red wine and cards(; Because I'm lazy and way behind I'll let the pictures (with an occasional caption) do the talking:
The first day included lots of pictures, plazas, churches, etc.
The main church- in the city of churches!
There was a random Chinese garden that was beautiful!
Hannah decided that since we paid 2 dollars to get in that we could explore...and pull the samurai sword out of it's case...oops
For lunch we had Papaya Sours- kinda like Pisco sours, but Papaya instead of Lemon/Lime (I forgot to take a pic obviously)
The first night we feasted on DELICIOUS sushi and ceviche
This was our  hostal- a teeny kitchen, grainy coffee and bread for breakfast! What else is new(;
On this day we were supposed to sail off a see some penguins but you can't always get what you want....
Apparently the port was closed due to weather so we got a partial refund on our tour
They took us to a beach to take photos and walk around
At least it was pretty!
No penguins, but we did end up seeing foxes later..

and a nice little desert landscape
FOXES! People stopped on the side of the road to feed them bread but our tour guide actually said that was really bad because now the foxes have stopped eating the mice that destroy the cactuses...they were quite docile and adapted to people though
The third day we found the lighthouse and the beach
and beach dogs of course!
All together now(:

Lunch before our pisco tasting- don't want to get drunk on an empty stomach(;
Valle Elqui was beautiful (haven't seen many ugly things in this country really..)
At the Mistral distillery we tasted expensive pisco, even more expensive pisco, a cheaper variety and a desert wine/pisco respectively
The last day we found an old military fort that the Spainards built to protect the city from Pirates!