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.