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