Wednesday, December 30, 2009

where did the time go?

It is almost January. I mean basically it is January, can you believe tomorrow is New Year´s Eve?! I remember Tessa telling me before I left that January is when you start to feel really adjusted and the best part of the exchange begins. I also remember thinking I would never make it to January, well who woulduh thunk. Forgive my absence from my blog, but really it is a good sign when I don´t have time to write for more than a means I´m keeping busy doing lots of cool stuff. Like traveling! I´ve been in and out of Talca so much lately, and missing lots of school, which I didn´t mind. But now that school´s out for the summer, so I don´t have that to worry about. However it does make it harder to keep in touch with my school friends. I haven´t talked to most of them since the beginning of December...

On the 26th Alexis came with her mom and sister to visit! It was so nice to see Alexis. At the same time it was so strange, like my two worlds had come together suddenly and I didn´t know what to make of it- it was bizarre. That night we went to see Luna Nueva (New Moon) with some of my school friends. The subtitles here have errors in them- I think Chile should demand better quality in their movies because some of the things I read on the screen were completely not what the actors were saying. The next day I went with Alexis and her family to Constitución, a city on the coast about an hour and a half from Talca. I was all ready to organize everything, but of course I should have know that Chilean hospitality ended up making it so that I didn´t have to do anything. I was half irked because I had been excited about proving I could manage by myself, but half relieved too. My host mom´s colleague took us to the bus station, helped us buy tickets, and saw us off. Another colleague in Constitución picked us up from the station and missed work just to show us around the city! We met his younger brother as well, who was very nice, and invited us back to ride horse on the beach and go ATVing on the sand dunes. I´ll definitely have to take him up on that! It was a beautiful city- the coast is spectacular with huge rocks and black sand beaches. We had seafood for lunch, of course. It was enormous, we barely got through half of it.

At the end of November/first week of December I went with my host grandma and Chanel to stay with my grandma´s sister and husband in La Serena, a city nine hours north of us by bus. It is a beautiful city sitting on a huge stretch of beach. I think Teresa and Jaime (my host-great aunt and uncle) technically live in the sister city of Coquimbo, but we spent time in both. Their apartment was a delightful 100 meters from the beach, so we went a lot. Hanging out with a bunch of Chilean old people sound boring? Not quite. As far as my experience has been, the old people in Chile are the coolest. Maybe the fun-loving gene skips every other generation, because the parents can be kinda lame but the grandparents are just as much partiers as the teens, which I find amusing. By any means it was a fun 10 days. We went to see a huge statue of a pirate that they say hid his ship and his pirate-mateys in the cove once upon a time. He may have been a handsome pirate, I don´t know, because his face was covered in that substance birds like to make, but the view was spectacular. One of the days we went with Tia Tere and Adriana, my grandma, to La Valle de Elqui, which is a gorgeous valley famous for pisco. So of course we had to tour one of the factories that makes the best. It was just Chanel and I with a huge group of French tourists plus their French guide, which was fun. It was exciting that I understood some of what he said just from hearing the similarities to Spanish. We also stopped at a huge dam that blocks the Elqui River. I was wearing a skirt. Bad choice. Marilyn Monroe would have been proud, the wind was insane- hence the huge metal sculpture built by schoolkids that makes an eerie whistling noise when the wind is strong, which is basically nonstop. On our way back home we stopped by the road where the river is close and Chanel and I went swimming! It was so much fun. Especially trying to get changed into dry clothes next to the highway with truckers driving by... One day Chanel and I went and saw Luna Nueva again, another day we all went along with Pady, Tia Tere´s nephew who´s our age, to see 2012. That movie scared the crap out of me. It´s pretty different seeing a movie about the end of the world when you´re in a country where the climate´s going beserk. Every single night we were there, we played kareoka until about 2 in the morning. Kareoka (know I´m spelling that wrong) is a Chilean card game a little like rummy which I´ve become addicted to. Tia Tere almost always won, but I got some good games in there as well. Hard to beat the natives at their own game. We met some Canadians! They were staying with friends in the same apartment building. I bet for the exchange students living in Santiago it´s not such a big deal to see foreignors, but for me at least, it is a novelty. Talca does not have foreignors. It is not a tourist attraction- it is not on the coast, it is not the mountains, it doesn´t have skiing, or museums, or shopping, and even its own residents regard it as generally an ugly city. I don´t actually think it´s ugly, but the point being that apart from the three other exchange students, I sometimes feel like the only non-Chilean in all of Talca. I still haven´t gotten used to the staring, whistling, and calls of ¨chica! chica!.¨ I am not the shiest person, but I like to blend in, so staring makes me really uncomfortable. On top of that I brought my American mindset that guys whistling at girls is not flattering (as it is viewed here), but rude and degrading. On the other hand, some guys make idiots of themselves trying to get my attention, and I just pretend I don´t understand and then laugh and laugh and laugh. So there is a plus side to everything.
But ANYWAY I´ve digressed considerably. When we got back to Talca life was calm. My host sister´s whole grade, plus their families, came over for an asado for the end of the school year. Chanel and I hid in my host mom´s room for a while until everything that Sandy and Walter pounded into my head about being a good, sociable exchange student guilted me into going out to face the masses of people I didn´t know who I had to kiss.
I went back to school for the last week of classes. It was a completely useless week, which was fun. Grades had already been handed in, so why we even had class was a mystery to me. But it was fun. For instance during one math class we built towers out of blocks for an hour, one of which was taller than I am.
That Saturday we (Emily, Matt, and I) drove with our RYE counselor Eduardo and his wife Susanna to Santiago to meet the other exchange students from all over District 4340 to start the craziness of the south trip. It was an incredible trip. We went to Puerto Mont (some exchange students swam in the Strait of Magellan), Puerto Natales (I kissed the bronze toe just like Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel), and then three days in Torres del Paine National Park. The next time y´all have a little extra money and a little extra time, don´t even think about it. Just go to Torres del Paine National Park. I promise to post pictures soon if you haven´t seen them already on facebook. I went running with a bunch of other exchange students, after which we swam in a glacial river (you read right, I, the coldest person to ever have been born in a northern state, swam in a glacial river). It was the kind of water that left you gasping. The cold mountain wind felt warm in comparison after we got out... but the run back to the hotel warmed us up nicely. There are only about two hotels in the middle of a huge flat area completely ringed by mountains, and the ¨Cuernos¨ directly in view from the hotel room window. The wildness and beauty of this place was indescribable. We went horseback-riding (I went twice), biking, swam in the river again, and we had a dance party where I learned German ghetto dancing. Of course we Americans had to break out Crank That just to show the Europeans what cultural sophistication really is. Ehem...joking aside I´ve noticed that Americans have a substantial inferiority complex when it comes to people from other countries, especially Europe. It´s hard not to when you realize that the language stererotype about Americans is totally true. Almost all of the Europeans had great English, on top of learning Spanish. For some of them it was actually easier to speak in English than in Spanish, so we just spoke English with them a lot, which made me feel guilty as hell. I want to learn at least three languages; I feel like my self-respect as an American would raise considerably.
We went on two boat rides to see glaciers. The second one was eight hours on the boat, so we passed the time playing cards and inflicting pain on Jakob through this seriously violent game that I didn´t completely understand that it had to do with either smashing, pinching, or knuckling the hand of the loser depending on the card that came up. During that ride we got to drink coca cola with ice from the glaciar, yumm. We were all severely sleep-deprived by the time it came to fly back to Santiago, but I didn´t want it to be over. I felt so close to all these people after just a week, and had so many interesting conversations. I´m glad I went on this trip because now I have a bunch of friends in the Santiago area to visit over the summer.

I guess the news of the moment for me is that I´m switching houses really soon- next Wednesday. I´m really divided about it, which is what most exchange students say. I´m actually a lot sadder about leaving than I thought I would be. Like my tearducts are more active than normal... my host mom and grandma have already come dangerously close to crying in front of me, so I´m kind of dreading the actual day I leave, I´m going to be a wreck. It´s ironic because I had a period where I liked my family, but I kind of wanted to switch- I was envious of Emily and Matt with their families in the city who let them go to discos, etc., but then I got used to the idea of being out here in the country and realized that I didn´t actually care about missing out on all that, that´s not what this year is about. So now when I´m perfectly happy being here, I´m moving into the city! Funny how life works. My new family consists of my host parents and two host sisters and a host brother. All my siblings are in college or older, but one of my host sisters still lives at home (woo-hoo, college parties haha). She is taking me to Easter Island in January and my new host mom tells me we´re also going to Iquique in the North and to a lake region in the south. Sounds good to me! I had actually had a bunch of ideas for things to do this summer because I didn´t want to be bored. Looks like I don´t have that problem anymore! I have a bad feeling that this experience is just going to start going faster and faster than it already has been and before I know it I´ll be on the plane back. I used to measure the time in months (wow, one whole month, two months, three) but now a month is so short and goes by so fast. Now a month feels like nothing! It scares me. Anyway some of these great plans are volunteering at the theater here in Talca (they actually had the Harlem Gospel Choir here in October, how random is that??), joining Chilean Scouts, visiting tons of people, throwing an American party for my class, going to the Beyonce concert in Santiago with Chanel and other exchangers, going to Fantisilandia with school friends (roller coaster park in Santiago), and planning a trip to Peru, among other things. I actually did go to a Scouts meeting with Emily and Chanel. It was a lot of fun, and had many comical moments in which we had no idea what was going on. We stood with them while they did their scout salute and raised the flags, then talked and I taught them the heads, shoulders, knees, and toes song in Spanish that I learned in school (never got why), we played a game with a hankerchief, then we had to leave.

Christmas here was extremely uneventful. Here they open presents at midnight on Christmas instead of in the morning but we were all so tired that we ended up opening presents at 10:45 and going to bed before it was even actually Christmas. It felt distinctly un-festive. But it was nice to exchange gifts with my family- they seemed to like theirs. And the Christmas Eve dinner was nice. They eat turkey for Christmas so I guess it made up for me missing Thanksgiving. But the next day, actual Christmas day, was like any other day. I spent a good bit of it cleaning my bathroom and room.

My family´s coming to visit soon! I´m super excited, and in natural Chilean fashion have nothing planned yet for what to do with them when they get here. Actually I´m kind of nervous for Tessa to hear my spanish. Aaaaa. Then again even some Mexicans reportedly have trouble understanding Chilean spanish, so maybe she´ll actually need my help translating, but I kinda doubt it. Though the other day I was in the car with Chanel and her host mom and a guy from Spain came on the radio and said a little blurb. After he was done I was thinking, wow that was so much easier to understand than the people here, I understood everything he said, it was so clear! Do you know what Chanel´s host mom said? ¨Jeez I didn´t understand anything that guy said.¨ I don´t know if you know, but CHILEAN SPANISH IS FREAKIN HARD!

So all´s swell here, the normal mix of everything fun and crazy and difficult. I´ve been going to bed way too late and sleeping til noon, be proud of my Chileanness. I do feel really Chilean though. Using the micro doesn´t phase me anymore, I don´t get lost anymore and I know which micro to take for how long and in which direction. It´s a good feeling. My host parents are actually letting me go to Santiago alone for a going away party for the southern-hemisphere exchange students who are leaving soon. This is monumental people.

Happy holidays to all and Happy New Year! Que lo pasen bien, cuidense mucho y besos para todos! Les quiero mucho!

Friday, November 20, 2009

life`s good

Learning Spanish has it´s ups and downs like every aspect of an exchange, which is my explanation for why this entry is much more positive on the language front. I am happy to report that I have crawled out of my black hole of umm...Spanish speaker´s block, and into the light of ¨wow, maybe I can become fluent after all.¨ I love when something Spanish pops out of my mouth and I realize afterwards that yes, it was correct, and yes, I didn`t have to think about it! I love it when I can only remember the name for something in Spanish. I love using Chilean slang! I love when one of my friends speed-talks a story to another friend and then looks at me and asks if I understood and I can honestly say yes!

Estoy en la clase de tecnologia ahora! Technology class at the moment. We don`t do anything in technology, and that is not an exaggeration, hence the blogging during class. When I arrived here 3 months ago they had just been assigned a project where they invent a business and make a presentation on it. We have yet to finish that project. What I find most hilarious is that the teacher just came up behind me while I was reading Tatiana`s blog and instead of getting me in trouble as would have happend in the states, asked me what the Chinese characters on the screen meant. (That leads to another point- a lot of people here assume I am from either China or Japan, and even after I tell that I`ve only been to China once, they assume that I understand Chinese) So translation being that I really love school here! I am so lucky to be here on this exchange, and not just because I`m getting a break on schoolwork ;) I´m having a lot more fun now that I understand enough that I can really be part of my group of friends and have normal Chilean teenager conversations! It´s a good feeling to not be the needy foreign exchange student so much anymore, though those moments definitely still happen. It hurts to just think about saying goodbye to all the amazing people I have met here. Thank you rotary!!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It´s crazy to think that I´ve been here for more than two months. My sense of time here is so confused- on the one hand it feels like I´ve been here for lot longer than two months because everything pre-exchange seems so far away, but on the other hand two and a half months is a long time! And yet another part of me doesn´t even want to think about the clock that´s ticking on this experience. Thinking back to the 7-year-old me who could barely stand to be away at summer camp for a week is amusing, since now I´ve been thousands of miles away from home for 10 weeks functioning in a foreign language. Even after having heard so much about Tessa´s exchange and asking her every question I could think of, I still had no clue about what this exchange would actually be like, and that´s ok. It would defeat the purpose to have all the answers before I arrived.
Life´s been picking up pace because I have something major scheduled almost every week from now until after January. I just got back on Wednesday from a trip to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso with the exchange students from Curicó, a small city about 45 minutes north of us, and Talca, my city. Chanel, her host brothers, Nico and Diego, and I spent the weekend with their aunt in Santiago before joining the exchange students and Rotary to take a bus to Viña. The weekend mainly consisted of contributing money to the Chilean clothing industry and eating good food, neither of which I objected to very much, as you can imagine. Believe it or not, I ate the best sushi of my entire 2 and a half month stay at a food court in Santiago. It was heavenly. And also kind of funny that people stare at me when I eat with chopsticks because most of them have never learned. Chanel´s host aunt, Monica, and some of her nieces took us around. Monica has her own travel agency, a really nice apartment in Santiago within walking distance of some of the best restaurants in the city, 4 pairs of one-thousand-dollar Chanel sunglasses, and has been to more countries than there are recycling bins in Talca. Come to think of it, that comparison may not work because I haven´t actually seen a recycling bin in Talca yet, so I´ll just say that she has traveled a lot. I´m pretty sure the only continent she hasn´t visited is Antarctica. On Sunday she took us all to a huge tourist-travel convention with countless travel agencies and booths and activities. Outside there were trick dirt bikers that drove off a ramp and did flips in the air and nearly made me pass out because it looked like they were going to crash every time. Chanel and I got a picture with one of the guys who is third in the nation or something like that. We were both a head taller than him. We went to meet a famous Chilean athlete- I was a little taken aback when he said ¨oh, una amarilla!¨ (yellow) and started trying to speak to me in what I think was Japanese…I say ¨I think¨ because of course I am not Japanese, do not speak Japanese, and have only been to Asia once in my life. Hmm…though he did tell a pretty amusing story about the first time he visited the States- a friend introduced him to woman and when he went to kiss her on the cheek, like is normal in Chile, she backed up so fast that she fell over. I was watching Twilight here once and my initial reaction to the first scene with Bella and Jacob was ¨jeez that was kind of rude, why didn´t they kiss on the cheek when they said hello?¨ My American coldness is melting! It really is so much less awkward to greet everyone with a kiss than it is to come up to a group of people and just kind of go ¨um hi…¨
On Monday we met the other exchangers in the terminal in Santiago where we all took a bus to Viña del Mar, which is a gorgeous city by the ocean about an hour north of Santiago. We stayed in cabins that belong to the Chilean Navy that are right on the beach and really hard to book, or so we were told, but Ernesto, the Rotarian from Curicó, used to be in the navy haha. They were super nice even without considering the fact that I was expecting something more along the lines of summer camp cabins, not two-bedroom, full bath and kitchen. We ran around on the beach chasing waves and climbed rocks by the ocean until it was time to take the bus into the city after making dinner in the cabins. We managed to get into the movie theater even though it was really late- most of us went to see District 9 (Sector Nueve). The ¨large¨ drink at the movie theater was exactly the size of a ¨small¨ in the U.S.
Tuesday morning Emily (the Emily from Curicó- there are 2 Emily´s and 2 Sarah´s) and I went running on the beach, which was gorgeous. Annie had gotten sick that night- they had to go to the hospital, which was scary, but she was ok. So we hung around the cabins and the beach again, climbed more rocks, and made lunch, and later took the micro into Valparaíso, which is another major city only 15 minutes away from Viña that´s more industrial being a port city. There a Valparaíso Rotarian met us and took us to see Chile´s National Congress. Rotary certainly opens a lot of doors. Public school teachers in Chile have been on strike for weeks, so anyone in a municipal school hasn´t had classes. Not only did we get in right in the middle of the strike when security was extra tight, but we got to sit in on both Legislative branches, Senadores and Diputados, and we got tour, and they didn´t even search us or ask for identification when we came in! We went to relax at the hundreds-of-years-old palace where the Rotary in Valparaíso holds their meetings before we went back to Viña for a barbecue. Wednesday Emily and I went running again, this time barefoot! Sounds idyllic except that the sand was so gritty that we had to keep running in the waves to numb our feet. After we´d checked out of the cabins we took the bus to Valparaíso and took a boat around the harbor, went to lunch, and headed to the bus terminal, which is when I started feeling sick…I don´t know what it is about me and getting ill on trips, but it´s enough to say it wasn´t fun and I feel a lot better now after not having gone to school Thursday or Friday. I´m just grateful for all the American movies that are on all day without commercials here.
I am frustrated with my Spanish. I feel like I´ve hit a standstill. I still can´t understand everything and so it can be hard to insert myself into a conversation and therefore I don´t get enough practice speaking as I´d like. I just want to be fluent, which to me is understanding everyone, having everyone understand me, and being able to fluidly say what I want to communicate. Sometimes it´s hard to remember that I will reach that point.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Ok so I´m finally writing! I´ve been so busy doing so many things...which means that I really needed to write about them but also that I didn´t have the time, it all just snowballed. I suppose the most recent thing is that I went to the beach this weekend, which was a blast because my host family went with Chanel´s family. Her host brothers are so funny. Nico is 14 and Diego is 11 or 12 and they goof off all the time and Chanel and I just laugh at them. Like today during lunch we had lentils, which they are not big fans of, so while Eva (their mom) was turned away Diego started frantically scooping lentils into Nico´s bowl. Anyway...after school on Friday we drove to Pichidangui, which is 5 hours north of Talca. We stayed in the summer house of a tio of my host mom´s, which was like being at camp because it smelled weird and we slept in bunk beds. Also the tio is a character- I loved walking around the house because he has all these clippings up with little jokes. In the kitchen he´d taped up a photo of the president of Chile (Michelle Bachelet) and Obama talking, and written in that la presidenta is saying ¨just imagine, if we had a kid they´d be pretty like me and smart like you¨ and Obama is saying ¨but what if they turned out stupid like you and ugly like me?¨ That is just one example of the machismo in Chile, which, coupled with the homophobia, is the thing that ticks me off the most here. When I went to the Rotary meeting to give my presentation about the U.S. they told me that some of the Rotarians think that women shouldn´t be allowed in the club! Maybe I´ll start a feminist movement in Talca. However my presentation went really well, and it´s always worth it to go to Rotary because the food rocks.

The Chilean beach reminded me of Oregon except the waves were a lot higher, the water was a lot bluer, and the rocks were freakin huger! Saturday night was the big soccer game between Chile and Columbia. And when I say big I mean big- because Chile won, they´re going to the Mundial in South Africa next summer. Now I´ve never cared in the least about soccer before, but at least in one aspect I have become completely Chileanized- I was just as excited as the real Chileans. So that leads to our fun little patriotic excursion...halfway through the game when Chile was tied and it was still iffy, Nico swore that if Chile won he would swim in the ocean that night, and Chanel and I promised that we would too. Ok swimming in the ocean, what´s the problem with that? Well the Pacific down here, just like in Oregon, is FREEZING! And it was NIGHTTIME! So after Chile won, there we were driving through Pichidangui after dark past the cars full of people yelling and waving Chilean flags and honking up a symphony, and then stripping to our bathing suits on the beach in the dark with our parents standing there huddling against the wind in their COATS mind you, and then running into the water and screaming bloody murder. It was so much fun. Our parents were a lot more concerned than we were about getting us out of there. To tell you the truth the water was so cold that after I got out the wind felt almost warm...
So the majority of the weekend consisted of going from lugar to lugar and thinking that the next place couldn´t be more beautiful than the last and then being proven wrong. At dinner on Saturday Marisa passed around the photo album
that I had given them
of my family and friends to show Chanel´s host parents, and it made me sad.

We´ve had so many activities at school lately. First it was the aniversario of our colegio, which meant of course doing a lot of strange things I didn´t understand. Part of celebrating the aniversario was completing ¨misiones imposibles¨ such as going to the centro and dancing thriller. Random?? Another part of the aniversario was that we were split into ¨alianzas¨ or alliances- there was Hippie, Electronica, and Disco, which was the one I was on, and they competed in tons of different activities. People from each alianza danced and sang in these elaborate self-choreagraphed shows, and on the main day there were a bunch of bizarre competitions that were very entertaining to watch. One consisted of two really long lines of people, one line of each alianza, which competed to see who could pass various vegetables to each other from mouth to mouth. The onion was pretty funny because the layers kept coming apart so by the end of the line they only had this itty bitty onion sliver. I decided to just laugh at how silly it looked instead of thinking about how gross it was. And, of course, what kind of rotary exchange student would I be if I didn´t I did a ¨yincana¨ which is a race in three parts. First part was with segundo medio, my grade, and was against partners from the other alianzas. Miri, a guy in my class, had to run with me on his back toward a bowl full of flour, a little water, and a piece of candy at the bottom that we had to find using only our mouths by taking turns grabbing flour with our mouths and spitting it out onto the ground. I couldn´t help but think, wow, I can´t believe I am thousands of miles away from home taking turns ingesting slobbery flour with some random guy in front of the whole school.
The dance was the climax of the aniversary celebration, and there are only two dances the whole year so it was a big deal. Dress code ranged from pants and heels to floor-length dresses, and was held in our school gym. If you think that sounds lame, I´ll say right now it was a lot cooler than any school dance I´ve ever been to in the states. It was actually inside a pavilion tent thing inside the gym and had a stage with professional dancers who at one point during the night led the whole crowd in a bunch of dances, one being the Cotton Eyed Joe which made Chanel and I really happy. There was also a bar (soda bar), strobes, disco ball, and smoke machine. But probably the thing that made it cooler than the U.S. was that people are such good dancers here! And they dance differently- it´s not obvious at first but since the dance music here is
¨reggeton,¨ all the songs that they dance to have a different beat. Also the dance was from 9 oclock until 2 in the morning, and no one actually shows up at 9 so by the time we got there it was around when the dances in the U.S. would have been ending haha. The night after the dance I went with Chanel, Carolina (our head Rotarian´s daughter), her boyfriend, and an amigo to the disco!! We didn´t get back until almost 5, and then my host mom woke me up at noon to go to a rodeo with Javi and Sole, two friends from school. The rodeo was really neat. The teams consist of two cowboys who get points according to how well they make the cow run around this one area in a circle, and then they chase it around the arena and slam it into a padded wall and get points for where they pin it. I got a lot of stares at the rodeo- I stood out even more than usual at such a little rodeo out in the country. Also my friends were loudly explaining the rules to me and didn´t mind telling people, ¨oh she´s extranjera¨. Thanks guys. The son of the man selling empanadas asked if I could take him back to the U.S. with me haha.

I am happy to say that I´ve read two books in Spanish! And I understood them! One more than the other, but still. I finished the first Harry Potter book in Spanish a while ago, and then this weekend I read the book assigned for my literature class, which was slow-going because it had all this old Spanish that no one uses anymore. Now I´m starting ¨La Ciudad de las Bestias¨ by Isabelle Allende (Chilean author, woohoo). I bought the second Harry Potter book in Spanish but they are crazy expensive here so I´m going to borrow the rest from Pedro Pablo (classmate). Unrelatedly thing that I wanted to write about was that the other day I bought glue from Lider (Walmart in Chile) and I got home and read on the label ¨Prohibited to sell to minors under the age of 18.¨ Gotta love South America.

Next week I´m having friends over to cook Italian food, which I´ve been craving. As well as normal American pizza. Here there is no such thing as just regular cheese and pepperoni, and also the pizzas don´t have tomato sauce. Chanel and I want to throw an American party for our classmates...should be fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Independencia para Chile, freedom for me

So today I finally got to go to the centro...alone! Chanel (the exchange student who is living really close to me with my second host family, and later in the year we will swap) and I were dropped off by her host dad this morning to spend the day shopping and eating. It is frustrating because it is hard to get anywhere without our parents driving us because our houses are pretty far out away from everything. Not that there are a whole lot of places to go in Talca, as my friends at school love to tell me. Chanel and I passed an interesting and educational day of trying to understand the un-understandable and communicate the uncommunicatable (not sure those are words) in a different language while trying to retain a smidgen of self-respect. I have to say that I´m not sure I have any left, however I found that laughing at myself isn´t so terrible. After shopping a bit we looked around and found the Chinese restaurant that my host mom recommended, which is owned by the parents of a classmate of my sister´s. My mom said I should tell them who I am when I got there, so I tried to, but a few things got lost in translation (what a surprise) and the waitresses were all like ¨ want to talk to my boss?¨so I let it drop. But it gets better! Chanel and I didn´t know that you were supposed to come in and just pick a table- we were following the good ole U.S.A. custom of telling them how many people and then the hostess shows you to a table. This meant that the restaurant people assumed we were getting take-out, naturally, and showed us a menu and let us point to what we wanted. So we ordered and sat down and waited...wondering are they going to show us to a table or what? And then a family came in...and walked past us and into the main room...and sat down at a table...oh shit. So for the next several minutes we argued about who was going to suspend all dignity and try to explain to the already amused waitresses that we wanted to eat at the restaurant after we had already ordered takeout. We had a nice little lesson about accepting embarrasment as necessary part of becoming fluent. Chanel learned the lesson better than me because she was the one who gave in and explained to the hostess why we were sitting there giggling and looking panicky. However I must say that eating an egg roll was worth the humiliation of complete bungling gringo ignorance and also of not knowing whether to leave a tip- we ended up having to call Chanel´s Rotarian counselor from the restaurant to ask him. It´s good that shop owners and Chileans in general find our obnoxiously obvious foreigness and language incompetency to be cute and amusing rather than...well, obnoxious. I annoy myself actually. However I have to comfort myself with the truth that no matter how Chilean Chanel and I dress or how perfect our Spanish is we would still get stared out: Chanel is black and I am Asian. To say that we are not the norm in Talca is a gigantic understatement. Oh and Emily, the other exchanger girl in Talca, is blond. We might as well have tattooed American flags on our faces.
What I was told before my exchange is completely true in practice: boredom and tiredness are the enemies of exchange students. When I´m bored, I´m 3 times more likely to be pessimistic about my exchange. When I´m tired, I´m 3 times more likely to be homesick. But I am getting creative about talking myself out of down moments and putting everything in´s all part of the experience. Actually track is the source of the majority of my stressing out, so if I can solve that problem I think I would be happier.
Next week is Chile´s independence day on the 18th. People here are so much more enthusiastic about their country! My experience in the U.S. has been that people only make a big deal of the Fourth of July on the actual 4th of July. Here, the Independence Day is a 1 week+ occasion. Yesterday was a big deal at school, because each curso gets judged on their Chilean decorations and my curso went all out. We decked out the room with 12 foot palm leaves, streamers, balloons, traditional Chilean dresses and saddles and shells and coconuts (for Isla de Pascua), and blasted Chilean Cueca music all day long. I wasn´t surprised when we won out of the whole school, but I was glad! A lot of students participate in different Chilean dances like the Cueca, Pascuense, etc, to be performed next week, and it´s a really big deal. Everyone here has been learning and dancing the cueca since they were little, which is embarrasing for me to say the least. The P.E. teacher took pity on me and said I didn´t have to dance, but not until after I passed a few humiliating minutes of them trying to teach me. I didn´t object to getting to dance with Rodrigo, but the actual dancing part I did object to! Whatever you believe, neither God nor genetics intended for me to be a dancer and with the teacher´s permission I accepted this with considerable relief.
Holy cow, my grandma here is a good cook. She made sopaipillas. I have consumed more than is entirely healthy in the past week...maybe one with breakfast, a couple during the first recreo at school, a couple more during the second recreo... Also she´s making homemade empanadas for the big day next week, and my whole family has been telling me how good they are so I can´t wait. Today was the Saint´s Day for everyone named Maria, which I´d estimate to be about half of the Chilean population. Since that half includes my host mom, we got a manjar cake to celebrate. It doesn´t take much to justify buying a manjar cake, which is just fine with me.
School is fun- it is so different from CSG! It is really relaxed in comparison, though for Chile my school is considered demanding. I try not to look incredulous when people tell me that. The other students here don´t believe me when I tell them how much schoolwork I have in the States. Here they actually have time to hang out during the school week, go out, even get enough sleep, etc. Didn´t do the homework? No big deal, you can just copy it off someone else and the profe probably won´t check it anyway. Prueba you didn´t study for? No problema, you can just use the answers written on your arm! I couldn´t believe it the first time one of my classmates showed me their cheat sheet! The only thing that is more intense than the U.S. is the choir- we won first place in a national competition in another city last week, and we are going to another in Santiago in October that I am excited for.
I would really like to thank Ms. Dickman and Ms. Leonard. Biology and Matematicas are the only classes here that I almost always understand. The biology teacher here takes pleasure in singling me out by asking me bio questions to see if I understand, which is nervewracking. However thanks to biology and Ms. Leonard I´ve known almost all the answers, once I can figure out what he is asking! And in math I´m actually the one explaining things to my classmates because none of them pay attention and they haven´t learned the most basic things so when we have a practice problem to do they are lost. I would probably say that one of the things I miss most about home is knowing what is going on and feeling confident of what I´m supposed to do. Here I almost never am sure of what´s going on and the only thing I´m good at is choir and track.
The stars here are amazing. You can see so many more than in Columbus. I could do with some calmer cows, though. There is one mooing loudly outside my window right now. Also whoever said roosters crow at dawn never lived within a mile of a real one. They don´t crow at dawn, they crow whenever they feel like it, which includes 1 o´clock in the morning or 7 or 3 in the afternoon. My mom here throws things at the birds when they get too loud, which I found really funny. She likes her sleep.

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying America. Take care and carpe diem. Cuidense! Chao!

Making sopaipillas!

A classmate and I demonstrating one of the many reasons I stick out in Chile

Decorating the sala

My host family took me to a lookout point over Talca

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Change of plans

I´m just going to make my blog public because too many people are having problems with their invitations expiring, having to create a login, etc. I´m pretty sure that means you can just forward the link to anyone who might be interested, so please feel free to do so!

What I´ve been up to:
Saturday I had a choir rehearsal at the University of Talca for the competition yesterday. Unfortunately I didn´t end up going because yesterday I was really was not fun! But I slept all day and I feel loads better now, and I was fine to go to school today. Saturday my family and I ate Chilean asado, or barbecue, that my dad made. It was insanely good! Eva and Marisa (my two host moms for the year) thought I got sick because I eat too much (raise your hand if you´re surprised) but I assured her that I just have fast metabolism and I actually ate more in the U.S. than I do here, especially during track and cross country.
Tomorrow I have a choir competition in Concepcion, a larger city by the coast. I am very excited! We get to travel all together by bus.

I am going running now for the first time in months. Wish me luck. I really have no excuse not to because it is a beautiful day here and I have the time and I couldn´t ask for a more picturesque place to run. Mountains, hills, cows, dung, here I come!


I keep forgetting to upload pictures, but here they are now!

My house

Con mi familia at the airport!

My room, sorry for the mess

New friends! The guys in my class have a reputation for being loud and disruptive. Ha! Bit different coming from CSG! This was the welcome party they threw for me today during History- one of my friends was like "we have a choir rehearsal! Come on!" I totally bought it- we wandered around the school for 15 minutes and she was like "hm I guess we´re not in this room...or this one either...let´s keep looking¨ until we just went back to the classroom and I was so surprised.

My school :) The other day there was a trick basketball presentation in the gymnasium, and after it was over the mascot took off its mask and everone started screaming and jumping up and down and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Then my friend Peggy screamed to me "es un famosa!" Turns out the guy who was in the outfit is an actor on a soap opera and is really famous in Chile. There was literally a mob of girls trying to touch him and take pitcures and get his autograph, and the basketball players had to surround him and push their way out of the gym. It was insane. I nearly got knocked over. But Peggy and I got a picture ;)

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Last night was my first Chilean party! Don´t worry- I´m not hungover. Lucky for me that I think alcohol tastes like cleaning fluid, because here it seems like at least the people that I hang out with obey the drinking laws, not like what Tessa experienced in Argentina. The party was a fiesta de quince (15th birthday) of Nadia, a girl in the grade below me. I hadn´t actually ever met her until the party, but my friends in my curso said I had to come and gave me an invite, so apparently it was acceptable to show up! Fiestas de quince are a really big deal here, but my mom told me that not all families put on a big fiesta. The beginning of the party was pretty much the same as American parties- people standing around awkwardly talking in clumps and not dancing. Then Nadia arrived in her big white dress and everyone clapped. I soon saw for myself that no one is shy about dancing here...except me. I would really like to be able to dance, and I would really like to like to dance, but...I can´t dance (or at least I am not confident that I can dance) and I don´t like to dance either. Despite this I somehow found myself dancing the whole night, because that´s what Chileans do! Everyone was dressed up- it was kind of like a bat mitzah. There was a big cake (multiple big cakes actually) and a DJ and lights and food and a bunch of people sang songs for the birthday girl. I will say that it will be nice when my friends here don´t have to take care of me like they do now because I have no idea what is going on and I don't know most of the people.
One thing that is different here is that no one is shy about their relationships. I know there must be a lot of couples in the U.S., but it seems like there are so many more here because nobody hides it! It´s like there are couples all over the place! I was a little taken aback my first day at school when the girl and guy in the row in front of me were kissing for the whole lesson. Another thing is that the guys are not afraid to dance, and are actually good dancers! The party was from 9 until 2:30 in the morning, so today I slept until 1 in the afternoon, then went to my choir rehearsal at the University of Talca at 3. Phew. I´m exhausted. But it was so nice to sing again, and I love both the songs we are doing. It was a little nerve wracking because after I woke up...uhem, this afternoon, I realized that the songs probably had to be memorized, and since I had only practiced the songs in one reahersal, they were nowhere close to being memorized. Luckily Columbus Children´s Choir saved my butt, and I memorized one in the car on the way to the rehearsal, and the other (since it was in Latin and I´ve sung so much Latin) I could fake the first few times and after that I had it memorized. Another difference- it seems like here no one drinks just water. I brought my water bottle to school and everyone asked me what was in it, and seemed surprised that I drink plain water- the same during the rehearsal today. It seems like I´m just thirstier than everyone here! Also the soccer team that my dad plays on won their game today.
Some of the amazing food I have had here: (yes I know how typical it is of me to devote this much blog space to talking about food)
-these pastry things that are like a cross between a cream puff and a donut
-alfahores (my amigas were quick to tell me that Chilean alfahores are much better than Argentine ones)
-ribs that my mom made that seemed to only be flavoured with salt, but were soooo delicious
-a Chilean dish called parrilladas that has all different types of meat
-palta, ham, and cheese sandwiches
-corn flakes with peach yoghurt
-white tea with sugar, I drink it all the time
-Milo, a drink that is like fortified chocolate milk
-fried cauliflower (seems weird, but it was really good)
-strawberry juice, it is so yummy!
-manjar cake
-much more that I can´t remember at the moment!

I am going to try and start running soon, because getting all these emails from Coach Guy about how the cross country season is going makes me feel lazy. One strange thing is that there seems to be no normal athletic tracks here, at least not normal in the American sense- none of the tracks that I have seen, either at mi colegio or at any of the big universities here, are the synthetic rubber that we have in the U.S. They are all dirt or gravelish material. However I have no excuse for not running where my house is, because it is in the country and would be a beautiful place for a cross country meet. My reason for not having started running already is that my first week has been so filled with activities- starting school was a big time consumer, and also all these processes for getting my Chilean ID, getting registered with the police, etc. It is crazy that I have been here a week. In some ways it feels like I haven´t been here long, but in others it seems like I have been here forever because I have done so many things and learned so much already, and also because my life is so different now that the U.S. seems very faroff and distant, and not in the sense of physical distance.
What the future holds...Monday is the first choir competition, Tuesday is almuerzo/movie with my friends, then another choir competition in Concepcion on Wednesday, then the first official Rotary meeting on Thursday. Tomorrow I´m going to do errands with my parents like getting an adaptor. Oh yes and sleep! I am so tired all the time! I got back so late last night (actually it was early this morning) that I was too tired to write in my journal, so I need to make up for two days. I´ve been writing every day, and I always fill up at least two or three pages, more often 5 or 6 because everything is new and there is so much I want to remember. I hope everyone is doing well and the CSGers are enjoying being back in school! Lots of hugs! Also I would love if you commented...I won´t promise to write back because I´m supposed to be on a communication blackout right now, but I would love to hear from everyone!

Chao! Que estes bien!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This is just the beginning... :D

Hola a todos! Estoy muy alegre decir que estoy en Chile!
Already it feels strange to write in English. My host family (Tia Marisa, Jorge, Adriana, y Fran) only speaks Spanish, which is good. Because of this I am improving so fast! When I arrived I had to ask them to repeat things a lot and to speak more slowly. Now I can usually understand what they and my amigas are saying, and I can even sometimes understand what they are saying when they are´nt talking to me (aka talking at the normal breakneck pace). All those travel books were right, Chileans speak the fastest. However, it is exciting that I can understand! My understanding is progressing faster than my speaking, but I am speaking much better and every day I learn a ton of new words. I have my pocket dictionary and also a little cuaderno that my mom bought me to write new words in. My friends and also Marisa and Eva (my 2nd host mom) have taught Chanel and me all the Chilean swear words/insults. Chanel lives with my second host family, and halfway through the year we will swap- we live really close to each other.
The flight felt like it took forever and also no time at all. I was glad to be sitting with Benny and Elizabeth, also estudiantes de intercambio. I think I got maybe 2 1/2 hours of sleep that night on the plane. Going out to meet my host family was crazy. There were 18 of us exchange students arriving at the same time, so you can imagine the number of people waiting for us. I saw my sister, Fran, with a sign saying ¨WELCOME SARA!!!¨and ran over and hugged my whole family. I couldn´t have asked for better people to be my Chilean family. Tia Marisa, mi madre, is so kind, and my sister is unbelievably helpful. My first day I went around the whole house with her labeling everything. My room looks pretty funny because on the walls there are pieces of masking tape that say ¨muralla¨or ¨interruptor¨or ¨el closet¨. My grandma is also very nice, and funny. She jokes that she speaks English really well, and she actually knows a good amount of words. My dad is very funny too, kind of like my U.S.A. dad... ;) He is a professor of educacion fisica en the Universidad Catolica, and he runs in the mornings when he has time. My first day we took a drive through Santiago, ate breakfast at a really good restaurante, and then drove the 3 hours to Talca. I am in avocado heaven. For my very first Chilean meal, the breakfast, I had a palta sandwich. YUM. We have avocado (palta) with almost every meal. Lunch is the biggest meal here, and for dinner we have palta-ham-cheese sandwiches (what could be better?) and dessert-ish things. Breakfast is good too. Why on earth don´t we eat our cereal with yoghurt in the U.S.? It makes so much more sense. Corn flakes + milk = bland soggy mush. Corn flakes + peach yogur = perfect crunchy tasty deliciousness. There hasn´t been a food yet that I haven´t liked.
I am so lucky- the exchange students in Talca are a really great group and we get along so well! Matthew and Emily go to different colegios, and Chanel y yo go to the same colegio but different classes. Here sophomore year is segundo medio, and there is segundo medio B and segundo medio A. I am in the curso ¨segundo medio B¨. The curso stays in the same sala (classroom) and the profes change classes, except when we have to go someplace special like the biology lab or the music room. I like this system because it means we have really long breaks in between classes but we have nowhere to go, so we can just talk and hang out. My class is really fun. Mis amigas are sooo nice, and everyone is obsessed with asking me the following: do you have a boyfriend? Have you had a boyfriend before? Who do you like in the colegio? Do you think a boy in our class is cute? When I answered yes to the last one, they went into an uproar and now they are trying to get me to say who. It is very funny, because when they ask I pretend that I don´t understand the question, and they tried to explain it a few times before they realized that I actually knew exactly what they were asking, and then they just laughed and asked more. There is a big group of students that I hang out with right now, but especially Javi and Peggy. Peggy is very funny and she helps me understand what the teachers are saying. Javi is the polola (girlfriend) of my host brother, who I didn´t get to meet because he left for his exchange in Idaho a couple weeks before I came. She is also very nice. So far I´ve only understood one whole class- matematicas, and that was because a) math is the same in any language and b) I´ve already studied what the teacher was talking about with Ms. Dickman. Yay for geometry! Now I know how to say slope in Spanish. The uniform in my colegio is either the school sweatpants and a sweatshirt or a jumper with a polo shirt and sweater. My jumper is going to be ready Lunes, so this whole week I´ve been wearing what feels like pijamas. People tell me that I am famous in the colegio already. Yikes! It is unnerving to be stared at so much by people I don´t know, but I guess also an ego booster, which is actually really nice because adjusting to not being a good student because I have no idea what the teacher is saying doesn´t do wonders for my confidence.
Some things I´ve noticed:
-Here, the buildings are all jumbled together. There is a Lider right next to my high school, which is Chile´s Walmart, and the University in Talca is practically right on top of a gas station.
-The feel of the classroom is so different. The students shout and talk and laugh while the profe is teaching, and in general are pretty crazy. Also they cheat on the quizzes and copy each other´s homework.
-The Andes are incredible. It is so amazing to be able to look out the front window of my house and see these jagged snowy mountains on the horizon like something out of the Lord of the Rings.
-The people here are so much easier going. Things will happen that I know would stress out Americans or make them mad, like a fender bender, but here they just laugh and tell everyone the good story. It is so nice.
-There is graffiti on almost every possible surface.
-Another thing: what? obeying traffic laws? why on earth would you do that? My dad drives like a madman. It´s frightening.

It is pretty chilly here because I´m coming from 90 degree summer weather, but really it´s not that cold, like in the 50´s. However some people wear coats as if Antartica is moving north! There´s this awesome invention here that I want to take home with me: hot water bags to warm up the bed at night. Again, why don´t we have this in the U.S.? It´s made out of some plastic or rubber, and each night my mom or grandma fills it will hot water, and it´s like a modern version of the ember bed warmers. Today was one of the first days that it was sunny. In the mornings there is always a lot of fog. Yesterday there was so much that we couldn´t see more than 30 feet in any direction. I live in the country, but Talca is very small so we are only a few minutes drive from the city. My family doesn´t own any farm animals, but there are farmers around us who do, so we drive within feet of the cows and horses each morning on the way to school, and when the cows moo outside I can feel the vibration in my room. My family has one dog and one cat named Toto- I told my family about the Wizard of Oz.
I am already singing in the choir in mi colegio. It is actually a very good coro- they´ve won first place multiple times in the Chilean competitions. We are singing a song in Portugues and one in Latin and both are very fun to sing. I have a rehearsal this Saturday and then the next competition is on Monday, then Thursday there is another competition in a different city, Concepcion. Next Tuesday my new friends are taking me to eat Chinese food (Chilean Chinese food, que bueno!) and to show me around Talca and see a movie. :)

Already my days have a pattern: I wake up at 6:30 to take a shower and dry my hair, then I eat breakfast with Fran and Jorge drives us to school. Some days I have three classes and school lets out at 1, other days I have classes in the mornings, then a big break, then classes in the afternoon until 6. I actually haven´t been present for a lot of my classes. A couple days ago I left class to help the 6th form profe to teach English to my sister´s class, yesterday I missed class to get my Chilean ID, and today I missed almost all of math because the school dean wanted to introduce me to the profe of track, and I stayed with him for a good while watching his class with the little kids. The little kids here are so cute! Then on my way back I ran into the choir teacher, and she wanted to talk to me for a while, so by the time I got back to my classroom there was nobody in it, and my backpack was gone too, so I wandered around the school for a while looking for them until I finally found them in the math room- Peggy had brought my backpack with her. Phew! After school, if it´s a short day, I go home to eat lunch and then write in my journal while my family takes naps, then we go do whatever errands we need to do, then come back home, eat dinner (which is really light), and then go to bed. Today was my first day with the morning and afternoon schedule. I stayed at school and ate the lunch my mom packed with Javi and a guy whose name I don´t remember. Most of the names that people tell me I don´t remember. Yikes! I´m really glad I started school on Tuesday instead of this coming Monday like I was going to. Otherwise I would be very bored without friends!

My sister told me after I had taught her class that her classmates say I am nice and that I smile a lot. I realized this is true- I smile a lot here! I am happy.
I am going to bed now. Tomorrow is Friday! Viernes!
Chao! Cuidate! Estoy contenta.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Can't Think of a Title Because The English Language Doesn't Have Words For This

Strreeetch. The sound? I'm growing already.
I leave for the airport in a few minutes. I saw Robin and Jamie off this morning. Every time I remember what I'm about to do it feels like my lungs constrict, and I seesaw between out-of-my-mind excited and nauseated with panic. Right now, anyway, I am calm. I can hear every heartbeat in my ears, but I am ready to go. I'm exhausted by all the goodbyes and tired of always looking ahead. I am ready to live now.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


13 hours of driving, an amazing Thai meal, and one huge Chicago-style pizza later, and I have my visa as of 9:15 this morning. The rest of the day I was riding the exchange student high, having checked off one of the last tasks standing between me and Chile save actually getting on the right planes at the right times.

The Chilean Consulate certainly looked a lot more impressive in my head than it did in real life. After driving to Chicago on Wednesday we had the whole afternoon to go swimming at the Lake Michigan beach, browse Michigan Avenue (without actually buying anything), and eat at a divine Thai restaurant. I have realized that great food is one of the few things I need to be happy, which is why Chicago and I became such good buddies in the space of 24 hours. We went to scope out the Consulate the night before the appointment, which was a lot more difficult than it should have been and we only found it because my cousin Carlin spotted a U.S. flag and a Chilean flag hanging from a nondescript brick industrial building. But go to the second floor of that building and there you'll find a mini Chilean oasis complete with a picture of the Chilean president (who is a woman, how cool is that?), a Spanish edition of the Chicago newspaper, and yes- real Chileans! All I had to do was get fingerprinted and then a very formal woman gave me back my passport with the visa inside and a whole packet of official sealed papers, without even asking for my I.D. It was crazy easy, even though the whole time I was freaking out that they would ban me from entering Chile because my Spanish isn't great or because I forgot to keep my hands on the table when the woman was talking to me (which I read in a travel book is rude), and then frantically pulled them out from under the table when I remembered belatedly. The woman asked me if I spoke Spanish, the answer to which I had thought about before I came (in my head it was very charming- and in Spanish too), which of course came out in real time as "um- a little". Very suave.
Enjoy the pictures! I leave 1 week from tomorrow!

Visa! Looked very nice in my passport :)

The Consulate

Another bit of news is that I got my itinerary, on my birthday no less, which is one of the best presents I could think of. I leave August 21st at 5:45 for Atlanta, then I board an overnight plane to Santiago where I arrive the next morning August 22nd. :D

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ohio-Erie Conference at Otterbein July 2009

So last weekend was the 3-day, 2-night conference for the whole of the Ohio-Erie rotary youth exchange district, which goes from a tiny part of Canada all the way down to North Carolina.
There are so many parts of the exchange experience that are hard to describe, maybe impossible; what it's like to be around other exchange students is one of them. We could go up to each other and become instant friends from 2 minutes of conversation. Highlights: the talent show- it was spectacular, and the night of the pizza/dance party. I want to give a shoutout to the other two awesome Chile outbounds that I met (ANNA and BENNY BECKER). Benny, I will never tire of saying your full name. Anna, yay for 't' not 'd'- hope that makes sense ;)

So I officially have less than 12 days left in my own home before I leave, since I am gone for vacation until August 11 and even when I get back from Oregon I will have to leave to go to the consulate in Chicago. I have started packing. What a scary thing to say.

Pic of Talca, my city-

Thursday, July 9, 2009


So I thought now's a good time as ever to start my blog because when I get to Chile my head will probably be too full of spanish to think about writing :D
I've finally finished my part of the visa process, many thanks to my dad who was willing to drive me to a lot of government agencies and sit in a lot of waiting rooms with a lot of sketchy people in order to get a lot of official-looking papers. So now
all of those papers are floating around somewhere either in the mail or maybe in the bureaucracy of the Chilean Consulate in Chicago. If my year abroad wasn't worth a thousand times more than the headaches and temporary blindness from squinting at so much fine print, then I would have thrown the HIV tests, the FBI background checks, and the certificate of a certificate of a certifying signature in the trash a long time ago...good thing I didn't, because it all worked out! My departure window is August 17 to the 24th, but I've been told that I am probably flying out on the 21st.
My city is Talca, Chile; it's about 150 miles south of Santiago, the capital. The picture is of my first host family (I am probably going to have a total of 2 families througout the year). My mom's name is Marisa, Dad is Jorge, brother is Koke (nickname), sister is Fran and I will have a host grandma too! I've been emailing with them in Spanish since I know that my mom at least doesn't speak English and they are incredibly kind and thoughtful. I can't wait to meet them!!!! and I feel a lot less nervous knowing my host family before I arrive. It is also reassuring that for the most part I can understand everything in their emails and I can also write back without too much help from Tessa! ;)
My host dad is a professor at one of the local universities, my mom is a forestry engineer, and my host siblings go to Colegio Montessori, which is the school that I will be attending- they have uniforms too so that at least won't be different coming from CSG haha. The temperature in Chile is around freezing right now so those of you who know how much I like the cold should be laughing right now.
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me and asked me about Chile and told me that they think what I'm doing is really cool!! Needless to say, I am very excited.

*something I thought might be good to include in my first post- for anyone who doesn't know much about the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and what an exchange year is like, here is your chance to find out. I've heard it described as the best and hardest year of your life and I'm really not trying to be dramatic! It is not a "trip" or a "vacation"- it is an entire year of immersing yourself in another culture and living life as they do. So if you ask me a question like "how is Chile?" it is about as vague as asking "how is your life?" and you will probably get just as vague an answer. Regardless I would really love to be able to stay in touch with everybody during my year- hence the blog!