For the last month, I’ve been living in Viña del Mar, Chile, which is located just north of Valparaíso. Here are some of my favorite pictures from Viña and Valpo from May:
I lived with a new family in Viña, and they were just as awesome as my Arican family:
We had an Asado (when the whole family comes over to grill out out in the back yard) every other weekend, and they also taught me how to cook lots of Chilean things. One of my favorites was “calzones rotos” which literally translates to “broken underwear” but which actually means “delicious homemade fried dough with powdered sugar on top.” My host sister showed me how to twist the dough into the right shape as my aunt fried them on the stove, and it was great fun.
During the month of May, instead of going to classes every day, I did an independent research project/practicum on the Special Education system in Chile. I went to a school especially for children with intellectual disabilities every morning (the system here is pretty different from that of the U.S.), and walked around to different classrooms as I pleased to observe and talk to the kids and the teachers. The different classes would show me different things they had learned in school: one class sang me songs they had learned in English, one class made me draw every student an American flag to color in for their art class, and one class let me help them make mosaics that they would eventually sell to fundraise for the school. It was SUPER cool, and although I can’t post the pictures of me and the students in my blog, you’ll just have to believe me when I say they were awesome. On my last day, the oldest class even threw me a surprise going-away party. One student distracted me, taking me around the school while the other students got the classroom ready. Then I was blindfolded and lead into the room (after running into the door because I couldn’t see) and everyone wished me a good trip back to Arica and back to the United States. I really did love my time at the school, and it was definitely one of my favorite parts of Chile.
For my project, I also volunteered in a place called the Teletón, which gives free therapy services and more to children here. I had a shift every Tuesday with other volunteers from various universities in Valparaíso, and we all entertained the kids waiting for their appointments with art projects, games and more. It was also cool because I made a whole great group of friends, and we would always go out and do something after we finished our afternoon volunteering shift.
Overall it was a great month, and I was terribly sad to have to leave yesterday. Now I’m in Arica for a few more days to present my research project, and then on Monday I’ll fly home, back to the U.S. A napkin I left on the wall of this awesome coffee shop in Valpo pretty much sums up how I’m feeling about it:
My napkin said, “siempre dejaré un pedacito de mi corazón en este país tan hermoso que se llaman Chile,” which is to say, I will always leave a piece of my heart in this beautiful country they call Chile. Which is the truth because although I think I am ready to go home and see my family and friends again, I wish my study abroad could last forever and that I didn’t have to leave. But that being said, I am so happy that I’ve been able to have so many incredible experiences here and make so many new friends (and new family members). If I were to study abroad all over again, I would not change one thing. (Except maybe I would avoid the empanada I bought on the street that made me super sick for two days, but that’s the only thing.) It’s been a great time.