So I have been here for a little over a month now, living the life of a Chilean… kind of. I have been going to classes, riding the metro, and checking out all the “comunas,” or neighborhoods that Santiago has. However, I still do not feel very Chilean because I don’t have many Chilean friends! One thing I didn’t really know about Chileans before I got here is that they are shy. No one talks to each other on the metro, you don’t make friends with someone at school by sitting next to them, and you definitely do not make friends by going to Miércoles Po, a weekly party in Santiago for “gringos,” or foreigners. However, I have been fortunate enough to have met two really cool Chilean guys who worked at a hostel nearby where I stayed for my first couple of days in Santiago. Also, I joined a club at my university, the Catholic University of Chile, the second best school in South America, where I get to speak with a Chilean who wants to improve their English so we converse in both Spanish and English at least once a week. I met him yesterday and he was so cool! He is not like most of the other Chileans I have met here, our first encounter was him telling me we could talk in a minute, he just had to finish counting up the votes for a poll they had if they should have a march (or strike, I’m not really sure, I should have asked more) for education, pretty cool. We then proceeded to hang around his “school,” the faculty of Sociology, and drink a typical Chilean drink, warm red wine with oranges, right on campus! That was a big shock to me because that would definitely not be allowed to happen outside of say, Bascom Hall, on a Thursday afternoon. The drinking age is 18 here so I have noticed a lot of policies are very relaxed in regards to drinking.
During my month here I have noticed a lot of cultural and just day-to-day differences from my life in the U.S. Some are good and I really enjoy them, such as the fact my host mom does my laundry for me and makes my bed. Others are just more shocking and something I have to get used to, like how many (~95%) bathrooms do not offer toilet paper, you have to buy it if you want to use it. One week ago I also went on my first excursion with my program, CIEE. We visited Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, as well as a few small towns as well, “pueblos.” My favorite part of the trip was walking around Valparaíso, a city of about 300,000 people located right on the Pacific Ocean. Visually, it is stunning! Full of colorful houses literally stacked right on top of each other. I wasn’t able to snap any pictures that really do the city justice, so I would recommend googling it or coming here and visiting me and I will take you! While on this excursion I was able to come within 4 feet of sea lions hanging out on a buoy in the Pacific ocean, learn about a Chilean traditional dance “la cueca” and see it performed by various Chileans, and see the absolute coolest street art and graffiti ever created!
I am still adjusting to living here but I don’t feel homesick at all! Sometimes I get a little lonely because my host mom and sister aren’t home very much; my host mom is a teacher and leaves really early in the morning and comes back late, around 8 or 9, and my host sister has 3 jobs so she has a lot on her plate. But when I feel lonely I Skype friends and family from back home or ask one of my friends from here to do something. Other times I go to Lider (a chain of stores similar to Walmart and actually owned by Walmart I think, they sell Great Value products!) or Starbucks and feel more at home. The best part of Santiago I think though is that there are always people out! I live pretty close to the heart of Santiago so whenever I walk out of my apartment there are people walking by. Because it is such a big city (~6.5 million people) the public transportation system is really convenient too. I live 3 blocks from a metro station and one block from a bus stop. It takes me about 10 minutes to get to one of my classes and the others are at a campus called San Joaquín, which is about 30 minutes away via metro. Some people in my program need to leave an hour and a half before their class!
My mom is cooking me lunch right now (fried potatoes, vegetables, and white bread –there is always bread here!) so I will cut this blog post off and try to write another again soon!
Chao pescado (Chilean equivalent to see you later alligator)!