The Final Countdown

Less than 3 weeks remain until I leave my Santiago summer dreamland and return to the winter wonderland of Wisconsin. What does this mean for my blog post writing? It has pretty much taken the back burner as I try to cram as many things into my last days here as I can: finishing essays and final assignments for my classes, visiting the places in Santiago I just never managed to see, taking my final trips around Chile, and trying to spend as much time as possible with all the people I have become close to in the past 5 months.  But still, there are a ton of stories and funny experiences I want to share with everyone, so here goes! List form seems the most appropriate since most of these thoughts have absolutely nothing to do with each other…..

Things I have been up to in the past few weeks:

1. I took a weekend trip to Pucón (a touristy city in the South of Chile where all the Chileans go on vacation) with my friends Kelly and Sarah.

Highlights:

-I went white-water rafting for the first time in my life! At one point, we came to a waterfall that was so huge it was not safe to raft over, so the guide brought the raft down using a cable. Then to get back into the raft, we had to jump from a really high cliff into the rapids below! Only in Chile would this type of thing not even be mentioned in the description of the rafting trip….

-We also got to go ‘canopying’, which translates to zip-lining I am pretty sure! There is nothing as amazing as gliding through the air through some of the most beautiful areas of the world- right next to the mountains and volcanoes, and over rivers!

-Our hostel had a pretty awesome selection of pets: 2 dogs and 2 GOATS!

-We hiked to the top of this mountain that apparently has a lot of trees that are so old, they are just like the ones that were around during the Age of the Dinosaurs! Doesn’t this look like a view from Jurassic Park?

Low points of the trip:

-There was really only 1: During our day-hike to the top of the mountain, we saw 4 of the biggest tarantulas I have ever seen in my life (including zoos). I don’t have a picture because we literally started running as soon as we saw them. I am pretty sure all of us were traumatized for life from this experience… But worth the scare to make it to the top!

2. I have been finishing up with classes and exams. Actually, I am super happy with all my classes I ended up taking in Chile, because not only were they very interesting and helped me make a lot of Chilean friends, they also required a shockingly little amount of work. For example, in one of my classes, there was a final exam, but it was ‘optional’, and the professor actually advised me not to take it because it was more likely to hurt my final grade than help it. But I still had a few exams and final essays and class projects and things like that. This week I have one class and one essay to write, and last week I had one class, but other than that I am literally completely done. And it is only December 3rd. It is going to be a rough transition back to my semester of 17 credits (14 of them science classes) when I get back to Madison…. Good thing I still have Christmas break to prepare myself!

3. I have become FAMOUS! Ok, maybe not quite famous… but I did get to act as an extra in a movie here! The United States director Eli Roth (apparently he is quite famous, I have never heard of him) is filming a movie called ‘The Green Inferno’ in South America, and needed more blond-haired people to be extras! From what I gathered, it is a horror movie where there is a group of people in New York City who travel to South America but their plane crashes in the jungle of Peru, where they encounter a band of cannibals. Quite the thriller, I would say. But anyways, they have already done the jungle filming in some really remote village in Peru, and then decided that it was more convenient and way cheaper to do the New York filming in Santiago instead of actually going back to New York. Because the scene was supposedly taking place in New York, they needed to have a lot of foreigner extras, because all Chileans pretty much look exactly the same, and wouldn’t really resemble an actual crowd in the United States. Hence how I got recruited.

So, when you go to the movie theater in a few months to see this best-selling movie, don’t forget to look for me- I will be that blur walking in the background out the window of the fancy restaurant or the gray splotch of my sweater wayyyy in the back of the restaurant when the 2 main characters are having some type of serious conversation. It was quite strenuous work, I must say, but, hey, somebody has to do it!

I have never been on the set of a movie before, and honestly it was nothing like what I expected. Maybe it was just because we are in Chile, and everything moves quite a bit slower here, but it seemed to take forever just to get anything done! Obviously you have to do multiple takes for every scene, but some of the things the director made a huge fuss over seemed slightly ridiculous- a stray strand of hair, the color of a shirt in the background, or the difference between sparkling water and normal water. The acting crowd also seemed like quite the interesting group. All of the extras were super friendly people, but eccentric would definitely be the best word to describe them. A group of old men that just stood around and talked to each other, an old woman who asked me to take her picture literally ever 5 minutes, and a German-Chilean who had died his hair bright red were all just some of my co-workers…. And many of them did this type of this on a regular basis!

4. My host brother Felipe and I went to the CIEE final good-bye dinner. Delicious food, awesome company, entertainment, and an overall good time!

5. I went camping in Cajón del Maipo (a place about 3 hours away from Santiago) with my friends Caroline and Francisco. Let’s just say it was probably the most scenic place I have ever camped in my life…. But possibly not for long! Because exactly 1 week from today I leave for a week-long camping/ backpacking trip in Torres del Paine national park, known as one of the most beautiful national parks in all of the Americas. Still, Cajón del Maipo ranks pretty highly in terms of beautiful places in Chile! The crazy thing is, we originally were going to hike even farther into the mountains, but the path became really difficult because it was completely covered by snow! Caroline and I also taught our Chilean friend how to make s’mores (our version of a birthday cake!)

6. I finished my volunteering at the colegio because the school year has come to an end. But there is no better way to finish than with a class picture!

Things that still make me laugh about Chile:

1. The fact that the keyboards are so different here- I have finally figured out how the make the @ symbol on the Chilean keyboard, but up until now I have always just had to google ‘at sign’ if I needed it to log into my email or something.

2. The placemat obsession. Chileans always use a placemat when they eat. Always. At first I thought it was just an adult trend, but I have gradually realized that literally everyone here does this. When you eat at the table, you lay out a placemat, even if you are the only one eating. If you are in the house and are not eating at the table, you eat on a big plastic tray which serves as a substitute for the tablecloth, I guess!

3. Baños. The bathrooms here will never cease to amaze me. Here is a tip to anyone who ever plans on traveling to Chile in the future: you should never assume that a public bathroom stall in Chile will have toilet paper in it, because there is a very good likelihood that it won’t. I am not saying that it will be out of toilet paper, just that they never have toilet paper! Turns out most Santiago bathrooms  just have one communal role of toilet paper, and you have to grab it before you go into the stall, or you will regret it!

4. Chileans have a ‘Christmas’ dessert that they love called ‘Torta de Pascua’, which literally means ‘Easter Cake’. Go figure.

5. You seriously can never know what you will find when you walk down the street. Yesterday, I happened to run across some type of hair-cutting extravaganza right in the middle of the side-walk! There was a big group of barbers with official looking hair-cutting bibs and fancy chairs and everything!

6. I have a class called ‘Lenguaje, Sociedad y Discurso’. The professor refers to the class as LSD for short… and apparently has no idea that he has chosen the name of an illegal drug in English as his acronym.

7. I went to go play tennis with a friend the other day at Estadio Nacional (the National Stadium) and it turns out almost all the tennis courts had been taken over as parking for the soccer game that was going on nearby! Just goes to show how big of a deal fútbol is here!

8. I came home one day and we had a new door to the house! Or actually, it was the same door, just redecorated…. Aka it was now covered with wrapping paper!

9. My host family’s maid has a strange obsession with moving my things around and putting them in the most unlikely places. The other Joaquin and I wanted to play cards, but we couldn’t find them anywhere. My host mom called the maid and asked her if she had seen them, and she had. Guess where they were? Why, inside the decorative jug in the living room, of course!

10. The Chileans apparently haven’t figured out whether my street is one-direction or not…. As seen in this picture! These 2 cars literally just sat here like this honking for a full minute before the light changed color and one of them finally moved!

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