The last few weeks spent in Chile were filled with various emotions; stress from school, boredom because many students had returned home, and sadness because I'm going to miss my host family and Viña del Mar so much. My time spent in Chile was incredible, and again I have grown so much and learned a lot about myself and the culture. Hannah left to return back to Colorado on Nov. 24th, so I spent the last two weeks of my stay alone with our host family. It felt a little lonely without Hannah around in the house, especially at meals. Thankfully Jada and Olivia were still around and I was able to hang with them and eat some empanadas. Because I had around 10 days left without classes, I chose to go to Santiago alone for 3 days. I rented an AirBnB and booked a cooking class, it was really nice to explore the city by myself. I even treated myself to a couple nice meals of pastas, wine, and dessert. In the cooking class I learned how to make Pisco Sour, Pebre, Ceviche, Pastel de Choclo, Pino Empanadas, and a wine meringue dessert. I am now in Mar del Plata, Argentina for two weeks. I have two really good friends that live here with their parents, I met them when I was studying abroad in Spain during high school. It will be so nice to see them again and catch up because I haven't seen them for over three years.
I'm so lucky to have had my parents visit for two weeks, we were able to travel around together and I am so excited they saw a little bit of Chile! I met them in Santiago at their hotel late on Tuesday night because I had class until around 7:00. It was exciting to see them and when I arrived they were already enjoying some of the Chilean culture (wine and empanadas). It was a very relaxed reunion compared to three years ago when I met them in Madrid after eight months apart. Although, on the bus ride to Santiago I felt nervous and anxious to see them. It was so good to catch up with them and be in their company, it was also so nice to have a hot shower! We spent a couple of days in Santiago wandering a few of the bohemian neighborhoods and visiting the typical tourists spots. However, I was eager to move on from the capital city because in my opinion there isn't a lot to see and the smog cloud makes it difficult to see the surrounding mountains. We then picked up our rental car and headed for Valle Nevado because my dad really wanted to see a ski area in the Andes. Even though it is off season right now we were able to go all the way up to the base and grab a beer with a pretty view. The drive took us about an hour and a half from Santiago and the road was extremely questionable, it made Berthoud Pass look easy. As planned, we started our journey down South to Chiloé which is an island in the southern part of Chile and is the main island in the archipelago. It's about a 14 hour drive if you do it all in one stretch on the main Pan-American Highway, however we decided to break it up into a couple days that way we could see more as we traveled. We stopped at Laura Hartwig vineyard in Santa Cruza, which is Chile's largest wine region. Since we stopped there in the late morning we weren't able to get a full tour, but we did a few tastings. Some of my favorite sites and towns along the way in the Lake District were Villarica, Puerto Varas, Frutillar, and Valdivia. This region is filled with lakes, rivers, and luscious plants - so beautiful and green, I loved the South of Chile so much. We stayed the night in Frutillar and we really really enjoyed our time in this small town. We were a little bummed by the weather because the clouds hid the volcano and we weren't able to see it. After about three days we made it to the island of Chiloé which required a beautiful 30 minute ferry ride, but we were able to just drive our car right on to the ferry. We spent around four days in Chiloé and the weather allowed us to explore the National Park and a hike to Muelle de las Almas. We then took our road trip back north in order to make it to Viña del Mar to have lunch with my host parents. My parents loved Valparaiso and couldn't believe how all the homes and buildings are built on steep hills. It was so fun having them here, I was reminded of the amazing time we had traveling together in Spain and Portugal. I hope that I will be able to travel with the two of them more in the future. Love you guys xx
Weeks 10 & 11
A bunch of the girls here went to Peru to hike Machu Picchu for about 10 days, but unfortunately I wasn't able to make the trek mainly for financial reasons and school complications. So, Hannah, Cayley and I decided to make our own trip to Mendoza, Argentina. We were able to travel by bus because it's only about an 8 hour drive. We planned to go for only 4 days (3 nights) which was actually perfect timing because it's a fairly laid back town. We traveled overnight on the way there, which was actually kind of a mess because the Chile/Argentina border customs took 4 hours. However, it was pretty cool to be crossing borders in the middle of the Andes Mountains, I just wish it wasn't at 2:00 in the morning. We stayed at a really cute AirB&B, it was a separate apartment in very kind couple's house and it was located in the best central area. The weather was amazing the whole time we were there, we were able to walk around in shorts and t-shirts after sunset. The food is absolutely unreal in Argentina, something I miss a lot to be honest. We had great pasta, steak, risotto, and of course, wine. We were able to take a tour of both an olive garden/olive oil factory and a vineyard. Seeing how olive oil is produced is super interesting, the entire olive is put in including the pit. We also visited Bodegas Lopez which is a beautiful vineyard just outside of Mendoza, and we were even able to do a tasting. I'm really happy we planned this trip because it was a super laid back weekend filled with good food and good company. Some may have heard about the scary happening with my host mom, but she is feeling much better now and doing well. Reminder to tell your moms that you love them, and to also be up to date on your CPR trainings! In other news, my parents come on October 23 and I'm VERY excited to see them and travel around Chile with them!
Weeks 8 & 9
September has been a very busy and crazy month with traveling, homework, projects, and just life in general. Since my last post I went to the Atacama Desert for 5-6 days and it was one of the best trips I have ever taken in my life! If anyone reading this plans to visit Chile in the future, I highly recommend making a trip to the north - its incredible. Because Chile is such a long country, we actually had to fly to the north because it would have taken over a day by bus. We took a 2 hour bus ride to Santiago and then flew from Santiago to Calama. Since we landed pretty late in Calama we stayed the night there and then Madeline and I woke up early to go fetch our rental truck for the week. After getting the truck we headed to San Pedro de Atacama where we spent the rest of our time. We stayed at a cute hostel which worked out pretty well because we were able to come and go with ease and there was a communal kitchen that we cooked our dinners in. I'll post a lot of pictures from this trip because words don't quite do it justice. We did a lot of hiking and exploring which was great because the weather was beautiful while we were there. Getting a rental car was a game changer because we went to places we wanted to go to, when we wanted to go (and I did all of the driving because it was a manual). The town San Pedro itself is really cute, it reminded me a lot of Moab. We hiked around Valle de Muerte ("Valley of the Dead") and Valle de Luna ("Valley of the Moon") - these were both super neat because it felt like you were on a different planet. We made jokes the whole trip about how we felt that a dinosaur would just walk around the corner, but it really felt super prehistoric! We woke up super early one morning to make it to the Geysers del Tatio for sunrise, so beautiful and they're also the highest geysers in the world (about 14,500 ft) !! We visited the national flamingo reserve (I had noooo idea that flamingos natural habitat was the desert), it was so cool to see them in the wild. We also visited Miscanti Lake where we enjoyed some homemade PB&Js. One of my favorite parts of the trip was swimming in the salt lagoon, Laguna Cejar, because we completely floated. My parents and I have talked about visiting the north when they come, so we'll see!
Weeks 6 & 7
I clumped these past two weeks together because I haven't traveled anywhere and haven't had toooo much to talk about! But, there's always stuff to update on! Since visiting Isla Negra and Pablo Neruda's house, I have done some exciting little stuff: (1) I finally found a coffee tumbler/thermous to take coffee to my early morning classes, (2) Hannah and I made cookies, which we burnt, and (3) I've become a little more familiar and comfortable with the bus system, which has terrified me in the past. On September 1st I went to Concon with Madeline, Cayley, Hannah, and Jada and we went back to have lunch at the cute juice bar, I had a frozen smoothie bowl. We walked on the beach and then found a gelato shop, so delicious!! That same night Hannah and I asked if we could have some friends over before going out, it was really fun to play cards and hang out in a calm scene. The next morning I went on a run with Cayley and we picked up our Chilean IDs - I'm an official local! On Monday morning I went to class early and arrived back home for lunch around 11:30. When I got home my host mom was very excited for me to come into the kitchen, because we had puppies!!! One of the many Chihuahuas that we have has been pregnant since Hannah and I arrived, and she finally had 4 little pups. Sadder news is that the runt of the litter isn't doing too well. My host mom has to be with the puppy literally 24/7 to keep it warm and to feed it, it's a full time job. But the puppies have been in this world for a little over a week now, and the runt (Lupita) is doing MUCH better and we think she is going to pull through! Last weekend we stayed here in Viña again, so it was pretty laid back. We visited the Botanic Gardens with our program on Friday - we barbecued, walked around the gardens, and learned the national dance, the Cueca. On Saturday my host mom took Hannah and I to go ride horses in Concon, it was a little underwhelming because they were just trail horses and the trail was pretty short. However, it was still fun! After the ride we took our host mom out to coffee, she loved it. This past week has been the saddest I've felt since arriving. I think I was sad because most of my friends are now abroad in Europe and starting their own adventures (Annie and Ally, I miss you guys so much!). I'm very excited for them to be abroad, however I'm sad to not be there with them. On Sunday it was also my mom's birthday (HBD mommy!) and I think I was sad to not spend that day with her. Tomorrow I leave for my trip to San Pedro de Atacama, more northern in the Atacama Desert, with Hannah, Cayley, Madeline, Gwen & Claire! I'm excited to travel, it's been a few weeks since I've been on a trip somewhere far! Can't wait to post next week about it and show some pictures!
Weeks 4 & 5
Unfortunately I haven't traveled anywhere far outside of Viña del Mar in the past two weeks, but it has been nice to discover parts of Chile closer to where I live here. Two weeks ago (week 4 here in Chile) after going to class Monday and Tuesday we visited the mall. The mall here is actually pretty large and it was fun to walk around and see new stores. On Saturday (August 18th) we all went to a soccer game together, it was just the local team in Viña del Mar but it was fun! It was outside and pretty cold that night, I told my mom that I felt like I was back at one of my high school football games. Last week I went to class again, pretty uneventful, however my host dad did pack me some mac n cheese for class one day and it made me very very happy. Today I had a group presentation in my Marketing I class with the locals, so I spent a lot of time invested in that this week. I was super nervous to go to my first group meeting because I was the only exchange student in my group. However, everyone in my group was very kind to me and acknowledged that I don't speak a lot of Spanish. I presented earlier today and it went OK... halfway through my part the professor stopped me and asked "Ok who can understand what she is saying?", and two people raised their hands. So she gave me her microphone and told me to start over - I wanted to walk out of the room, I was so embarrassed. On Friday night I went to dinner with Cayley, Hannah, Madeline, and Gwen, we tried out a new tapas restaurant. It was excellent! I got a tapa with tomato toast and the Spanish ham, I was happy because it reminded me of my time in Spain. On Saturday we all went on an excursion with our program to Isla Negra, which is a town about an hour and a half south on the coast. There we toured one of Pablo Neruda's homes, it was so beautiful.. We then went to Pomaire for lunch, where they are known for their 1 kilo empanadas! Pretty successful, laid-back two weeks here in Chile :)
Off to a great school year here in Chile, I received a 1.7 on my first Marketing quiz and a passing grade would have been a 4 on the grading scale of 1-7. "It's okay, thats a small grade in the big picture" said my Chilean marketing partner as he flipped his 100% quiz grade over. Hopefully I can receive a higher number next week! Many of the DU kids here went to Valle de Elqui, more north near the Atacama, for the weekend. However, Cayley and I decided to spend the week here taking it easy. We watched the sunset at the pier on Wednesday and that evening we met up with some friends from DU visiting from Argentina. On Thursday we showed them around Valparaiso and toured around the coast on the metro - I enjoy the metro a LOT more than the crazy bus system. You wave to catch the bus and then you have about 3 seconds to get on the bus and get your money out. Then the bus drivers start to take off and give you your change all while driving a manual, the metro feels less stressful. The BEST part of this week was Friday night when Cayley and I accompanied my host mom and her friends to their weekly trip to the salsa bar. Cayley and I were both in ripped jeans and vans, while my host mom was dressed beautifully in heels. Not to mention that they are all amazing salsa dancers, Cayley and I have a long way to go to catch up to them. Then on Saturday a group of us went to Concón and spent the day there, however it was pretty cold. We ate lunch at a cute little juice bar, it was really good! We finished the weekend off by watching another beautiful sunset at the sand dunes there. Easy week here in Viña, not a lot to tell so I thought I would share some things that have surprised/intrigued me about living in South America. While driving throughout the city you will notice little crosswalk shows, this is what I call them. While stopped at a red light someone will hop in front of your car and perform a little show (juggling, standing on stilts, hula-hooping, or all three at once) - it's entertaining and truly like nothing I have ever seen before. I'll try to get a video one day and post it! Also, at the crosswalks there are people that walk through the rows of car offering windshield cleaning, squeegee and soap in hand, of course for a little change.
I have officially been in Chile for a little over two weeks and I feel very comfortable and in my element here. I have completed a full week of classes, which is actually just Mondays and Tuesdays for me. I'm taking Marketing (with the local students), Human Rights in Chile, International Business, and an Advanced Spanish Grammar class. My Marketing class is going to be a little difficult because it is in Spanish with the local Chilean students, but Madeline and I are confident and try our hardest when we are in class. My other three classes are in English and shouldn't be too hard. Our school is very interesting and cool, the architecture is very modern and it is located high on a hill so the view of the city is amazing. The school itself is very small, there are under 2,000 undergrads, but that makes it easy to get around and the class sizes are nice and small. Only having classes two days a week means the weekend starts early and I have time to travel and explore. On Friday a few of us went skiing and Ski Portillo! It was one of my favorite days, absolutely beautiful and breathtaking (check out the photos!). We were able to go through a third party that arranged the whole day for us for a reallllyyy good price; tickets, transportation, equipment. The mountain was about a 2.5 hour drive from Viña del Mar, so it was an early morning. The drive there was filled with amazing views, Chile really does have a lot to offer. Once we arrived to the mountain I couldn't even believe that I was there - in the Andes!! We were very eager to get on the mountain and we skied all day. We took our lunch break at the top of the mountain at a little restaurant/cafe, the view from the top was unreal. I wish we were closer to the mountains here because I would go skiing a lot. We're thinking El Colorado might have to be next on the list :) I was pretty tired for the rest of the weekend because of the long ski day, and my legs burned! On Saturday night we celebrated a friend's birthday from DU, it was super fun getting together with all the students! Then, to wrap up the weekend Hannah and I went to a small little surf village with our host mom and her boyfriend. It was really cute, reminded me a lot of Costa Rica - Hannah and I have already talked about going back once it gets a little warmer!
I made it to Chile! There were a few tears at the airport while saying my goodbyes, but all the travel went very well! I arrived to Santiago on Saturday evening and made it through customs without issue! I was pretty tired upon arrival but was able to find my hotel shuttle driver and make it to the hotel in time to see everyone before they headed off to bed. The hotel, "Rent-A-Home", was interesting, more of an apartment that Hannah and I vacated for a few days. There are many DU kids going through the same program that I am and there is a good sized group from Gonzaga as well. Different from my last trip abroad, of course, because it is so comforting to see familiar faces. I have already become so close with the other students just in this first week. We spent Sunday through Tuesday in Santiago getting to know the city a little better and touring around. It's a huge city, I looked forward to coming to a smaller community here in Viña del Mar. However, it was very fun to see some of the historical and popular sites in the capital city. We were able to visit "La Moneda", which is the White House of Chile and the building itself shows how much Chile has grown from previous leaders. They also have had a female president, for two terms! Touring this site was one of my favorite things we did in Santiago alongside the vineyard and wine tasting. On Tuesday before heading west we were able to tour one of the oldest vineyards in South America, Cousiño Macul. We also did a little bit of tasting there too, which was a nice touch! I arrived to my host family's house on Tuesday night and they were very welcoming. They have been nothing but amazing and I am beyond grateful to be in good hands, as many of you could have already guessed this. There is a host mom, host dad, and a host sister who is 26, she has been very helpful with getting settled in because she speaks English very well. Our host dad does all of the cooking (he packs us lunch every single day!) and cleaning while our host mother works Monday-Saturday. With the other students and the program we have toured both Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, however I am still not comfortable with the bus system yet (the driving is nuts!). We also had an orientation at the school, the building and architecture is very very modern compared to most parts of the city. I'm slowly settling in here, although it will take more time to be fully comfortable. So far everyone I have met has been very nice and I enjoy waving to the sweet street pups. Of course I miss the essentials - like my parents, peanut butter, and central heating, but I have enjoyed my time here so much. I start school on Monday so I will be sure to update how that goes in next week's post!