November142013

And it just Keeps Getting Better

Hello everyone!!!! I hope that you are all well and have gotten to experience a portion of my Chilean adventures along with me through this blog. As of today, I officially have one month in Chile. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I remember when I first arrived how scared I was; how hard it was to live with a family I had never known, to feel so alone in a world where no one could understand me and I rarely understood anyone else. I remember when I would leave with my family and had no idea where we were going. I remember sitting in my room wondering if I would ever meet people and wondering why God had wanted me to come to Chile. It’s incredible how time both creates and clarifies a life and how my 3.5 months in Chile have changed, clarified, and created so many characteristics within my very being.

I have learned so much about this country. The people here are distinct. Although they are generally happy and willing to chat, they are also reserved and slow to share their stories. At first I found it hard to make friends as my language barrier and differences in ways of being made it difficult to connect. However, now I am so glad I made an effort to connect with the reserved yet truly loving people of Chile!! I have been so blessed with all who I have had the opportunity to meet here. They have blessed me with their friendships, time, and happy spirits. It has also been incredibly interesting to be in Chile during the time of their presidential elections (this Sunday). I have had the opportunity to learn so much about this country through viewing and talking to my friends, professors and family about how they want Chile to change. Chile is still functioning under the constitution of their ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, the students are fighting for the right of a free education (kindergarten costs each family about $800 per month), only 40% of Chilean workers are working under a contract… this includes teachers and many professional workers!! All of these facts make this country in this time a very interesting place. I want to learn, love, and travel here more!! I am truly sad to be leaving here so soon. I can’t believe that my first month I was wishing my time away and now only wish I could stay a little longer to spend time with my friends, my Chilean family, and this mysteriously enchanting place.

I have been so blessed thank you for all your prayers and best wishes from back home. To wrap up how blessed I’ve been I’d like to recount the story of my birthday in Chile which took place yesterday! In August I remember trying to accept the fact that having my 21st birthday in Chile may not be everything I imagined as I thought I probably wouldn’t have the ability to tell anyone it was my birthday. However, al final this was not the case. In the morning I went to school and was greeted with hugs and kisses from everyone I saw at my university. In the afternoon a few friends and I went to the beach (as it has been in the high 70s and 80s all week) and later to a bar to have drinks. I was more than content with these simple plans and figured I had past the birthday well in Chile and therefore, had no regrets when my friends accompanied me to my house after only being out for a few hours. However, when I arrived to my house I walked in to find my mom and my 12 closest friends in Chile from Chile, Mexico, Germany, and the U.S. all in my living room! It was the best and most incredible surprise ever that was all organized by my host sister and mom! I hadn’t realized how much I had truly come to love Chile and the people I’ve met here until that moment. Through reflecting now I can now see how much these people have come to love me as well and shaped me as an adult and citizen of this world! After the most “genial” birthday surprise and a night of being “super contenta,” I can finally say that Chile has become a home in my heart. I can’t wait to see you all in a month, however, I will always love and miss my Chile. Good thing I still have a month!!!!

 

October302013

Aloha all! Having not updated this blog in a few weeks, I thought I would add a few fun pictures from the lake. A group of friends and I went to this Laguna last Sunday to spend the day in the sun and nature (and mostly to just get out of the city). It was wonderful! As you may be able to surmise one of my friends is a photographer and, therefore, took all the pictures you can see above. Overall, we passed the day well with guitar playing and songs, conversations, and as always learning new words. The most interesting part of this process is that a lot of Spanish words do not exist in English and visa versa. For instance, the words ”random” and “awkward” simply do not exist. Therefore, when having a conversation it is always a challenging yet fun to play the words search game to try describe exactly what I want to say.

The blondie you see in the picture is my partner in crime Elisabet. She and I were the “gringas” for the day with the Chileans even though she is from Germany.The tarantula that you see above is harmless so have no fear! But wow it was a little odd to see these giant hairy guys running all around the forest floor! Not my favorite.

I have really enjoyed my last month here. I can not believe how quickly the time went by! At this point I only have a month and a half left in Chile! How crazy and sad all at the same time. Over the past month I have not travelled very far but have really enjoyed getting to know my friends and family and finally finding a life here. The conversations I am having are changing from what once were simple exchanges of words.. where I was from, how long I was here, if I was hungry..:). The conversations are quickly transforming into meaningful moments in which relationships are being formed. The coolest part of this process is that at first when I spoke with anyone and everyone I was so focused on the words that I couldn’t say or understand much and, therefore, felt unfulfilled and silly in almost every conversation. Yet the language is transforming in front of me. No longer is Spanish a fun game or secret made-up language. It is my means of communicating and further sharing ideas and laughs and further simply communicating with those around me. In describing this process I do not mean to say that I have become fluent in Spanish because the truth is that I still fault so much of the structure, so many words, and make simple mistakes in almost every single one of my utterances. However, my mindset and vision of Spanish and learning and speaking this language is different. Spanish is no longer something I have to master but has become a new world in which I can participate. I have the opportunity to connect with music in Spanish that touches my heart, read books and poems that sing with a unique beauty when read in their native tongue, and I can converse with a whole new group of people, that before I had no way of understanding, yet now get to know how they think and their way of being. Although I do not speak Spanish fluently nor perfectly I know that I have this tool and can use it to gain moments and get to know people and places that I will never have the opportunity to familiarize myself again. In this aspect my vision of Spanish has changed and I am beginning to fall in love with the language, the culture here, and the way that these two aspects cause me to think in a completely distinct and refreshing manner.

At this point I really wish I had more time here; I wish I had a few months more, a year maybe! I just want time to truly understand. However, I will end this post with a few things I miss from the states to reassure friends and family that I will be returning in December…

I miss..

Normal showers

Gluten free and dairy free easily accessible sweets :)

My family

Carroll College

Fall leaves and snow (In MT they tend to occur at the same time)

Christmas music

Swing dancing

Customer Service

 Centralized heating systems

…I am sure there is more… I am really just loving Chile right now ><

See you all soon! I can’t wait to enjoy and take in my last month and a half in this beautiful country!

October142013

Hello everyone! I am so sorry that I haven’t updated my blog in forever.. there  are no excuses, except for I’m starting to really enjoy my time here. I have finally reached the point where I can understand just about everything in conversation and feel like I’m finally getting to know the city and unlocking the answers to my confusion in Chilean culture. At this point I don’t feel like I have enough time here…

Today marks two months until I leave Chile and head home to the United States. It’s crazy how time flys! I will be leaving the land of Spring and summer, where lately, it has been 70 degrees and clear skied everyday. I’ve enjoyed walking around in sandels and wearing sundresses for the spring all over again! However, I will return to the states in prime winter time for Montana! I don’t know if I’m ready for snow and freezing temperatures yet so I am pretty content here :). What to report…

At this point I spend a lot of time outside walking, meeting up with friends, and enjoying the day and night life of Chile. I don’t speak very much English anymore, yet can’t seem to quit my awful “gringa,” white girl, accent. However, I think that this will be a struggle that I will have to work with my entire life. I have made good friends with a group of students studying here from Mexico and a few girls from Washington state and Colorado. The group of us have been getting together lately to slack line, explore, play cards, and watch the Chilean soccer games when there on. The best part of this is that my friends from Mexico like to cook, and while the Chilean food is good… nothing tops the delicious Mexican food that I have had the opportunity to experience here!! Although I don’t spend all of my time with Chileans I am blessed to have the opportunity to get to know students from different states and countries to gain a little more perspective in my world view. Not to mention, since our government shut down I have the wonderful opportunity to explain why our system isn’t functioning which usually ends in confusion and frustration… yet another reason why I wouldn’t mind staying in Chile for a tad longer…

The pictures above display an excursion our group took to the National Congress of Chile in Valparaiso and to the house of Pablo Neruda, arguably the most famous poet of Chile. His house was amazing as all was in the theme of a ship at sea, infused with the creativity and originality of the quirky poet.  Neruda was buried at this house, however, in this moment pieces of his DNA are being treated in Spain and the U.S. as he mysteriously died within the same time period that the coup de tat overtook Chile in 1973 and Neruda happened to be a close friend to the former president of that time, Allende. The tests are being done in order to determine if his death was truly from cancer or from a poison injected into his system at the hospital. Interesting stuff! It’s incredible to live the history of Chile as the country is still so in touch with what occurred during the military dictatorship and has taken on a spirit of revolution that I wish our citizens could emulate. On a world level, however, I think we are finally standing up for how we want our governments to run and deciding to not forget the past. I think big changes are to come in both Chile and the U.S. and I am excited to see everything that occurs.

In the end I am enjoying my time in Chile. I enjoy the fairs of everything sellable you could think of fruit, car parts, animals, hair accessories, toys, dental tools, all on the same street. I enjoy the sun and easy going attitude to go out and enjoy the day. I enjoy my classes as well, yet sometimes struggle doing homework… At this point I have accepted that language learning is a process, and even still try to use Spanish every day even though I make a million mistakes. I am excited to continue on with learning the language as well as the people and culture of Chile!

 

September232013

Here is a tiny TINY glimpse of 10 pictures from my time of a week and a half of vacation during the Fiestas Patrias here in  Chile. Last week Chile celebrated their independence on the 18th of September. The entire week was a huge celebration and was so fun! Chileans danced cueca in the streets, had street fairs that took up entire stadiums, sold and ate soooo much meat, fries, empanadas, mote con huesillos, terremotos, chorripan, and sooo many sweets. It was such a good time and I feel blessed to have been able to experience this week in Chile.

My group in particular decided to save money (kind of) and stay within Chile and hit up several different cities. We started on the 11th for a city in the south called Pucon, a smaller southern city that exhibits a volcano, rapid river, lake, incredible cake, chocolate, crepe, and coffee shop called Cassis, artisanal fair, and awesome parks to go slack lining in! During our time there we climbed the volcano, went white river rafting, and frequented Cassis a time or two :) it was so cold so we had reason to buy almond hot chocolate! Climbing the volcano was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life (besides leaving everything and everyone I know to live in Chile). The temperature was well below 0 and there was so much snow and ice that we had to climb with ice picks and walk an extra two hours as the ski lifts were not functioning. At one point my hands were so cold that I started whimpering and the guide had to warm them up for me for us to continue on. All in all the experience and the view were incredible and very humbling for me and the trip up the volcano was definitely worth the work.

After Pucon my group headed to Valdivia for a few days, a city 2 hours south of Pucon and on the coast. It was almost identical to Seattle in climate with rain and foggy weather. There we saw a huge fish market and I ate the freshest shellfish I have ever tasted in my life! We also took a boat tour to a small island and enjoyed the green and pure feel of the Chilean south.

After our adventure we returned to Viña to celebrate the independence with our families. My family ate a huge lunch (eating was pretty much the theme of the week) and then headed to the sand dunes in Concon to fly kites :). It was a wonderful day and afternoon.

For the end of vacation my group headed north 7 hours to La Serena the second oldest city in Chile. There we went to the largest independence fair in all of Chile and it was crazy with lots of food, rides, and people; but it was also a lot of fun! Later we relaxed and rode horses on the beach :).

All in all although our group was not able to make it to distinct Chilean spots as in the Atacama Desert or Patagonia, we did get to experience much of the beauty and charm of Chile.

I am not super excited to start school again but I am looking forward to continue to apply myself to learn Spanish and understand more of the language day by day. I have been blessed to find an awesome church and finally seem to be settling into life here. Thank you for the continued support and prayers! Viva Chile!

September112013

Hey everyone :). Above are photos of recent adventures along with a few simple sights that I have the privilege of seeing every day as I’m walking to school or strolling along random streets in Viña del Mar. Near the top you will find the porch of my apartment along with our view of the city! I love how decorated everything is for the 18 of September (aka Chilean independence day) the entire city and I’m guessing country is decorated out because next week most of us have a week off to enjoy the festivities of the Independence… there will be Cueca dancing, TONS of food, ferias or little stands that sell and serve lots of fun stuff, and moments of enjoying friends and family. I am so excited!!! Below these photos is a picture of me and a native women from the Chilean Mapuche tribe. She explained to me the process of making wool during a Mapuche fair in Santiago; it was awesome! Finally near the bottom you will find the mueo fonk, a legit Moai statue from the Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) and myself. So many random photos but I just thought I would share!

Over the last week I have come to appreciate my time in Chile more and have had the opportunity to remember my roots and qualities from the U.S. It’s hard to explain, yet the first month I was so focused on embracing Chile and assimilating to Spanish and the culture here that I forgot about the person I have come to be over my life. I have been going by my full name, Alisa, in Chile and it seems have been searching for a more Chilean personality to go along with this new name; however, I have finally remembered that Ali exists within Alisa. This probably makes no sense but I’ve finally realized that in order to enjoy my time here I have to recognize who I am and who I have been in order to embrace who I am becoming in the current moment. I am excited to continue to find myself as I am attempting to acquire both language and culture in this country and am so thankful for all the prayers and thoughts of everyone back home! I think these realizations have occurred partly because I am finally adjusting from cultural shock but also because the country of Chile itself is in a time of remembrance, especially today.

Today, September 11, 2013 is yes the anniversary of September 11, 2001 for the U.S. but it is also the 40th anniversary of the military coup de tat that overthrew the democratic government of Chile in 1973. After this coup took place, thousands of Chileans were tortured, disappeared, and killed during the military dictatorship that took place for the next 17 years. Today thousands of students, workers, teachers, and Chilean citizens are crowding the streets to commemorate those who were tortured and protest for change and a more sustainable form of democracy in Chile. After 40 years the citizens of this country are still recognizing their history, still lamenting those that were lost, and still searching to find the balance of their history (who they were) and their present (what changes they want to make now). This dichotomy of memory and action is incredible to me as there are still two strong contradicting sides of those who want to forget about the coup and who originally supported it vs. those who recognize the memory and detest the coup. Their history is still alive and effecting every aspect of this country today. In fact the protests that occur today will probably only add to the chapters of Chilean history in which a the country is still fighting to achieve balance in democracy, character, and memory. I only wish I could see these movements taken place (can’t leave to see the protests because the U.S. gov. advised us it might be to dangerous :p). All in all as I begin to find balance between who I have been and who I am becoming I am realizing that the achievement of this balance may in fact take me my whole life as Chile is a country that has been looking for this balance for more than 40 years. As you lament and pray for the victims of 9/11 today please pray for the victims of Chile’s 9/11 and pray for the future search of balance that is bound to continue to take place within this country as well as within the U.S.

Thank you for all the support!

August312013

After starting all of my classes and a very busy weekend in the Chilean capital of Santiago, I am finally updating my blog! At this point I feel like a huge statistic as I was struggling my first 3 weeks with culture shock, missing home, and being overwhelmed by having no idea what anyone here was saying. At this point (almost one month in) I can finally say I am truly beginning to enjoy my time here in Chile. I am amazed by how much living here for three weeks has already changed me and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for the rest of my time! Although my classes are hard, I am really enjoying them and enjoying my time volunteering in adult night classes teaching English! All around I am finally getting settled and love where I’m at.

The pictures you see above are shots from last weekend as we had a University trip to Santiago! In our tour we saw Palacio de La Moneda and the center of culture. We also climbed San Cristobal Hill by funicular to view the Mary statue, a zoo, and a beautiful church! To all my friends from Butte, Montana.. this Mary was not nearly as big as the Mary that sits upon the hill, however she was beautiful none the less. After the tour I stayed in Santiago with a few girls to continue our tour to the Museum of the Memory the following day. After studying the Chilean coup de ta of 1973 and its military dictatorship that followed I was incredibly interested in seeing this museum and having the opportunity to experience the memories of the victims. The museum was incredible and I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful and tragic it was to view accounts of innocent citizens who were tortured or disappeared during the military regime. I am glad I was able to experience the memory as well as have the opportunity to live in the current function democratic system of this country. I’m reminded of this every day as I walk to school and see students protesting their expensive education system or as I suffer from the inability to send letters due to the postal strike.

This last week I began assisting in English classes at the University and have had a blast conversing with night students who are close to obtaining their degrees in teaching English. I had the opportunity to return to Santiago on Friday to view a fair of the Mapuche tribe with my family and enjoyed trying the new food and taking in the culture!

All in all the last two weeks have been exciting and filled  with many memories. I can’t believe that I have already been here a month and at the same time I feel like I’ve been here for way longer. Although I still feel very inadequate in terms of Spanish communication, I cannot believe how much I have been able to learn. I can’t wait to see what the coming months will bring!

August182013
1PM

Wow. Increible! That is the word I kept using to describe the incredible sights of the Andes, the ocean, and the surrounding cities and mountains that I saw on Friday last week. I love to hike.. anywhere.. everywhere! Therefore, when the time came to travel an hour out of town on the metro and microbus.. (the public transportation here is amazing! Its on time and cheap!) I jumped at the opportunity! So three girls from the states and I ventured to La Campana (the bell) to trek out and attempt to climb the mountains to summits (15 km.. ~8 miles) within the day. After leaving at 730am we reached the mountain at 930 and began to climb. After 3 hours we reached the first summit and ate an amazing lunch, soon after my friend Dana and I decided to reach the second summit while the others stayed behind. Our legs weren’t that tired and we were ready to trek. Little did we know the second summit trail was a rock climbing trail for 2 km! After sweat and a few breaks we finally reached the top. It was probably the hardest hike I have ever done but as we say down here La campana fue “vale la pena” definitely worth it to climb to the top and see a cute little fox, some lizards, and the Andes surrounding us. It was incredible! We reached the bottom of the mountain again after dark around 8 o clock and proceeded to search through the city for a bus to take us back home. This was an adventure in itself, as we were four “gringas” from the states searching for a bus to take us home. The coolest part was that I had no fear just trust that everything was going to be ok! Overall the hike was incredible, I awed at God’s beauty and again realized that I have been given an incredible opportunity to live in and enjoy this side of the world! In the end He has come through in every way and I have more confidence in Him now than ever before!

After the long day of hiking I was able to meet up with a friend I met on the bus in Valparaiso (Vina’s sister city). She toured me around the city and made me feel so at home! I think I am learning that if I want to truly experience the people and life of Chile, I need to go out, search, and find it for myself. I cannot wait in my room, sitting, and missing my friends and family from back home. I must go out and live! Even though going out and speaking with random people isn’t really my personality; I’m finding it a little bit easier day by day. I can’t wait to see how God and Chile will change my heart and mind. I’m excited for future memories and adventures to come!!!!

August122013

Yesterday was el dia del nino… aka kid’s day here in Chile. On this day kid’s are given toys from there parents and have free events in the town square all day. There were drum lines, magic trips, shows, jumpy houses, free ice cream, face painting, and more. I feel like I was ripped off as a kid because this day looked awesome!

In other news, I start my classes this week and will take conversation, speaking, and elective classes in Spanish to better my speaking so that one day I can hopefully understand most of what my host family says. I have found that even though this experience is incredible it is also very frusturating when I am unable to understand what is being for a long period of time. I am learning to have patience with myself which is something new for me. Needless to say, I am excited to begin classes and learn more.

During the last week while I have not been in classes, I have enjoyed exploring the city. On Friday night I went with a group of friends to Valparaiso to watch an intervencion, it was a cool form of breakout contact dancing that traveled throughout the streets!  Many things are always going on within the cities and I can’t wait to discover more!

I can not believe I have already been here a week and yet I can’t believe its only been a week at the same time! It’s incredible!

11AM
La puesta del sol :) que linda. Always beautiful sunsets here in Viña del Mar!

La puesta del sol :) que linda. Always beautiful sunsets here in Viña del Mar!

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