Friday, December 24, 2010

I will have the Red Curry...Gracias!

Merry Christmas Eve!  I've been back a few days and I'm slowly but surely adjusting to not being in South America.  I'm trying to switch my brain back to English.  I've had a few slip ups with flight attendants and restaurant servers where I've said something in Spanish and I just get a blank stare - like what is wrong with that girl?  The time difference hasn't been so bad (5 hours!) but I'm mostly worried I'll begin to forget my day to day life in Chile. I do feel refreshed being back, positive and most importantly relaxed.

I'm still planning on writing a post on my last week in South America including Buenos Aires (and my Antique store debacle) and my sweet, last few days in Valparaiso.  In the mean time, I'm excited to share an article I had published on a women's travel Web site, Pink Pangea.  I've written articles for clients before but I'm thrilled and nervous that it is all about moi!  Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone: Canyoning in Chile

Here are a few photos from our waterfall adventures!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Travel Frenzy to The End of The Earth and Back - Greetings!

Greetings from the dazzling city of Buenos Aires!  I appologize for the lack of posts but these last weeks have been hectic bouncing from city to town with the hopes of snagging a computer for a few minutes at a hostel.  On that note, I´m on my final travel countdown right now.  I´ll return on December 19 and I have to admit leaving South America breaks my heart a little bit or a lot.  That and the reality that playtime is over and it´s time to get working (although teaching was super hard).  But I´m excited to see family and friends. 

So anyways back to business, let´s talk about some of my travels.  Buenos Aires is a beautiful city (and gigantic with 13 million people) full of fashion, food and architecture.  Most people compare it to European cities and it is - and also much more expensive than other cities in South America.  I can understand why so many people fall in love with BA. 

Unfortunately, I can´t chat for long though because I´m off to reinact the Evita scene (photos to come) in the centro.  Here´s a little recap about where I´ve been and what I´ve been up to these last three weeks.

1.  First stop Santiago - I wrapped up my program with a formal ceremony at the United Nations.  We had a few days in Santiago and it was surreal to be back where it all began.  My friend Ian arrived a few days later determined more than ever to try a Terremoto and eat Chorillana (that didn´t happen until his last night traveling with us in Chiloe jaja).

2. The end of the earth - A group of us girls (plus Ian) flew to Punta Arenas which is at the end of South America in Patagonia and traveled up to Puerto Natales, which is sort of like a gateway town to all of the awesomeness there.  We took a day trip to the giant, active glacier, Petito Moreno in Argentina, which was awe inspiring.  The boat was up close and personal with the giant, I mean GIANT glacier that was crackling and falling into the water.  It looked like a scene from Lord of the Rings.  Once back we plotted our journey to Torres Del Paine, an incredible national park that pretty much everyone in Chile talks up.  Lucky for us it lived up to the hype.  Giant spikes of mountains, turquoise lakes, waterfalls - everything in Torres Del Paine feels like the size and colors are heightened to a grand scale.  I´ve never scene anything so beautiful.

3.  We bounced from the South, South to a small island off of Chile called Chiloe.  It was a perfect rest after being so extreme.  The island is lovely, green and tranquilo.  The local artisans knit wool everything (look out because some lucky family members might just get some wine bottle fashionwear).  Ian set off on his way to Valpo -  my favorite city in Chile and my home for the last five months.

4.  Off to Puerto Varras, we started making our way up North.  Still considered Patagonia, Puerto Varras is a lovely mountain town with German influence.  It´s set below two giant volcanoes and a large deep blue lake.  I don´t want to say too much because I´m writing on article (fingers crossed) on this town for a Web site but let´s just say it was one of my favorite traveling memories and probably the most extreme.

5.  Valdivia was next on the list and finally we could peel off our layers as the weather was much, much warmer.  Valdivia is a larger city and although I liked it, I missed the small feel and natural beauty of our stops.  We went to a brewery, shopped and just sort of recharged.  Like the final episodes in Real World some of the group started saying their goodbyes. 

6.  Back to Santiago on a 12 hour bus, one night of rest, early morning bus to Buenos Aires, 21 hours on the bus and here I am. 

What a run but I´m still loving every moment.  Will try to update you soon.

Chao, Chao!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why I Love My Students

Sum-sum-sum-summa-time (thank you for the song, Will Smith) is in the air down here.  I feel the restless energy building in my students as the carefree days of vacation can't come soon enough.  I on the other hand, have turned into a sentimental sap in my older years.

I have less than two weeks left with my high school and my heart drops when I think about leaving my alumnos.  They are the funniest kids - although often inappropriate - I have ever met.  Everyday they are shouting out "hello" and "How are you?" from the halls, windows and down the street.  A daughter of one of the teachers told me yesterday that my school is extremely territorial and if they decide they like someone, they look after them.  I keep thinking about that thought and I just can't say how proud I am of my rowdy, smart, incredible students.  Here are some scattered memories from that last few weeks that make me smile - 
  • Regalos Para Mi:  I am now sporting my embroidered "Jennifer" bracelet that some of my freshman girls gave me (the school is about 90 percent males). They also asked to take a photo with me and later handed me a printed copy.  They run into my classroom everyday and like to walk through the center of school with linked arms.  They are the sweetest girls...
  • Mod Squad:  This week some of my boys told me that they did not like my hot pink nail polish, Mod Squad, because it looked like Maestra Barbie and black would look much better.  
  • Sweep the Leg:  Some of my favorite students flagged me down.  They had competed in a Tae Kwon Do competition and brought the medals to school to show me.
  • Jersey Shore, corrupting kids and teaching English worldwide:  I had an extensive conversation about Jersey Shore (in English, yeah) and how Snookie, despite being Chilena, is NOT good looking or classy.  
  • Miss Anime:  I was given an anime drawing of myself - which I must admit, I've never looked better.  I'm wearing a fur coat and mini skirt.
  • John Travolta:  One boy, Jonathon, signed his name, Jonathon Travolta on a poster we created.
  • Chewy Calls:  I had to tell one of my classes, "Wookies, stop the Chewbacca calls."  Seriously, could I have more perfect students for me?  Little do they know my love for Chewy calls.
  • Musical Mosh Pit:  My recent musical chairs game turned into musical mosh pit - complete chaos.  They were participating so well umm, I let them play some death metal and just tried to embrace the chaos.  
  • Little Romeos:  I recently went on two field trips and both times the boys scaled down hills to pick me flowers.  

These are just a few things that have made me LOVE my school and students.  They are special kids and as I mentioned to some, I sometimes wonder if I have learned more from them than vice versa.  So on that note, here is a little musical enjoyment for your day courtesy of Journey and my very hilarious English workshop:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ale-ale-jandro and The Snack Stand Lady: Making Extreme Dreams Come True in Mendoza

We arrived at our hostel in Mendoza in a daze after an unexpected and monstrous 20 hour bus ride.  Normally, Valparaiso to Mendoza, Argentina should take around 8 hours.  Imagine my disappointment after falling asleep at night and thinking we were almost there when I awoke in the morning.  Hardly, the bus was stopped the entire time at the base of the Andes because of a snow storm.  Aaaacckk. 

My dreams of riding through the vineyards on a wine tasting, bike tour were crushed as they were closed by the time we arrived and like most towns in South America, Mendoza turns into a ghost town on Sundays.  So there we were talking to our cute, hipster hostel owner asking what we could do and trying to stay positive.  Horse back riding?  Nah, already did that.  That's when Maureen pointed to a parachute on a wall and said "maybe this?"  My first was response was NO WAY JOSE.  I'm not paragliding off a mountain in South America.  I've never been interested in bungee jumping or sky diving.  Well, after some convincing and the other girls were in, I realized why not?  It's once in a lifetime experience.  This brought me to my second problem, I didn't bring tennis shoes.  For once in my life, I tried to embrace the backpacker's mantra and pack super light.  Big mistake, big big mistake.  I'll never do that again.  After testing out the girls' shoes, I settled on sharing boots with Kristy since only three could jump off the mountain at a time.  Crisis averted (at least I thought).

The tour company picked us up in two cars - one which required us to sit in the back of a pick-up truck.  Well, at least it had seats.  That same car would later take us up the rocky, dirt trail to the top of the mountain.  While waiting at the base, I quickly realized the timing wouldn't work to share shoes.  We all brainstormed my options - A.  put my socks over my flip flops  B. Tape my flip flops to my feet and perhaps put my socks over my flip flops C. Not go.  That's when I noticed the woman working at the snack stand and my eyes focused on her tennis shoes.  I innocently asked her if I could borrow tape for my feet and explained my situation trying to give her the saddest look possible.  My trick worked and she offered to trade shoes.  I know, I know, it sounds gross but really I had no options.  So there I was wearing the snack stand lady's tennis shoes that were 3 sizes too big for me, skinny leg jeans and my J. Crew cardigan ready to propel myself off of a steep cliff.  EXTREMA!

Three of us set off up the steep mountain with our guides bouncing around in the back of the dusty truck.  The jokester of the group told us it was his first time and that he was just a little drunk.  Well, guess who got stuck with the drunk beginner?  We were up first and the wind was whipping around.  I was instructed to essentially run off the mountain with him and the parachute would take flight.  After two very unsuccessful attempts that dragged me across the dirt and bruised both of my arms, my nerves were at an all time high.  Then the wind stopped and we stood for a good 10 minutes just waiting.  Were these all signs that I wasn't supposed to go?  I was second guessing my extreme decision.  Just then he said run and the wind quickly caught us and before I knew it we were floating high above the mountains.  It was breathtaking as the sun was slowly making its way down. 

Suddenly I realized how my life was in the amateur hands of my drunk guide and I should probably know his name.  Alejandro!  The rest of the time, I couldn't get Lady Gaga's Ale-ale-jandro, Ale-ale-jandro, Alejandro, Alejandro out of my head as we soared around like a bird.  It was incredible and calming as we floated around the sky past the tall mountains.  Just then he began doing spiral tricks and after yelling "NO ME GUSTA, NO ME GUSTA" he quickly stopped.  Of all things, I felt slightly sea sick but tried to ignore it.

Now it was time for landing and I was fearful after the rough take off.  Luckily, it was easy breezy.  My feet gently touched the ground and I was reunited with land.  I made it.  Pheewwww.

What an incredible experience.  Although, I don't think I'll be signing up for sky diving lessons anytime soon.   Here are a few photos (photo cred to Lauren since my camera wasn't working).

My extreme gear - my purse went with me too

I think that's Maureen but that's what it looked like while in the air
The mountains near sunset

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Headin' Norte

After a minor blogging hiatus, I've returned.  So my loyal fans can relax, because this traveling chica's back.  These last few weeks I've been under the weather.  It was bound to happen at some point and ended up knocking me on my butt and caused La Miss (a recent nickname by students) to miss school. 

But it all came about after a glorious trip seven hours north of Valpo to the magical land of Valle Elqui.  A group of us wrapped up classes and hopped on a bus late on Thursday night.  Now when you hear seven hours on a bus north I know many would automatically think, "sick" but quite the opposite.  I rode in a fully reclined seat that gives flying first class a run for its money but not really because it's way cheaper.  Chile totally has a handle on luxury bus travel. 

We arrived at La Serena, a coastal town, at 6 a.m. and knocked on the door of a groggy hostel owner.  Just an example of how hospitable people are here, the sleepy hostel owner did not have a room but proceeded to call other hotels and even walked us down the street to another accommodation.  La Serena is known for its many churches and is the second oldest city in Chile.  Despite all of the build-up, I wasn't blown away.  To me it just seemed like another touristy, commercial coastal town but the people were incredibly nice which definitely gives it bonus points.  The next morning we met up with other friends and took another few hour bus ride inland to Valle Elqui. 

My first thought was THE ANDES ARE INCREDIBLE.  The mountain range practically touches the sky and is baren - with little to no trees.  Nestled between the ranges is a lush, green valley that harvests Chile's famous alcohol, Pisco.  Each morning the valley collects a layer of clouds and the day quickly becomes toasty as the sun breaks through. 

When we arrived at Pisco Elqui all stresses seemed to melt away and I felt super tranquila.  Pisco Elqui is a tiny town - like one road and the church is the center of town tiny - but attracts bohemians and tourists alike with unique restaurants and artisans.  Our hotel was perfect, complete with fluffy white comforters, high ceilings, rustic furniture, fruit trees and a beautiful pool.  The only down part were the spiders the size of golf balls.  I especially loved when a woman from the hotel tried to capture one beast spider with a plastic bag.  The spider was not having it and jumped on the woman's hand and was then flung into my bed.  Awesome right?  Luckily that sucker couldn't hide forever but I think he called his friends for back-up.

A trip to Valle Elqui wouldn't be complete with some star gazing since it's one of the best spots in the world for it, as well as being known for magnetic powers and UFO sightings.  Although we couldn't make it to the observatory, we went on a tour in an astronomist's backyard where we viewed the Milky Way, star clusters and Jupiter all the while sipping homemade pisco sours.  Did you know about Light Pollution?  I didn't but not looking so good Cali. 

Star gazing and all, we were fully emersed in our bohemian weekend (sans UFOs).  We also went pisco tasting at a 100 year old vineyard thanks to our new friends, Martin and Kayla, who used to live in Jersey and were willing to cram six girls into their Jetta to take us to an authentic Pisco tasting.  At night we went to our favorite night spot with live music and fire pits (also owned by Martin's familia) and sipped on terremotos (strong wine and pineapple ice cream) and snacked on alfajaros (cookies and manjar dipped in chocolate). 

As I rode back to Valpo, I reflected on my perfect weekend feeling calm and happy.  Sitting next to me was my doppleganger (if I was a Chilean male) - a PR student who loved the same music and movies as me.  We also were wearing matching outfits and happily reclined in our seats to watch "Just Like Heaven" en Espanol.  It was weird but still a funny way to bring a great weekend to a close. 

Views of Valle Elqui

Fresh Pisco Mangos at our Fave Pizza Place

The streets of Pisco Elqui

Incredible Mural in the Center of Town

The Girls Pisco Tasting

Allegedly Haunted?

Pisco Vineyard Art


Sunday, October 3, 2010

The 1,000 Drums That Brought Tears to My Eyes

It has been awhile since my last post and I've definitely been out and about.  Last weekend I took a trip to Maintencillo, a sleepy beach town about 2 hours north of Valpo, with some volunteer amigas and stayed at the highly recommended, Cabanas Hermansen.  We ate fresh seafood, drank wine and went horseback riding on the beach.  It was the perfect getaway to relax and check out the beautiful coastline.  I also took my English Taller (English elective class with Sophmores) on a boat tour around the Valpo Harbor this week - a highlight of my teaching experiences here.  I really got the chance to talk with my students and with only a few months left of my trip, I'm already feeling sad about having to say goodbye.  My favorite quote of the field trip was, "I don't like you (long pause).  I love you!"  Life has been moving along at a fun pace and there's so  much to share but I wanted to focus my post on a cultural event this weekend in Valpo, Mil Tambores.

Mil Tambores or 1,000 drums is annual event that kicked off with a parade in the hills on Friday.  Performers from all walks of life march through the hills of Cerro Allegre.   My friend Lauren and I hiked up the artsy hill of Cerro Allegre, grabbed a delish scoop of homemade cherry ice cream, and went to check out what all of the buzz or drums were about.  I have to say that the hippies were out in full force and there was a happy mood among the mucho gente.  The crowd ranged from dreadlocked drum circles, naked girls painted with murals on their bodies, children on stilts, giant puppets and of course a giant parachute.  It was completely bizarre but fully charged with creativity and free-spirited fun.  The drums were soothing and music filled the air.  It was a wild parade but I wouldn't expect anything less from Valpo. 

Afterward I went home to relax and decided to meet up with some friends in town later for a drink.  The streets were bustling, since many people came into town for the weekend-long event.  Of course one drink turned into a long night of dancing fun and we left at the wee hours of the morning.  Us Valpo girls stuck together since theft can be problem here and planned on getting to the area were we could take collectivos (shared taxis) to our homes.  As the lights cast a orange glow on the streets it started to look hazy and before we knew it people were running quickly at us.  In an instant my eyes and throat started burning and somehow I quickly yelled "Tear gas.  Run!"  It felt like it was out of a movie where we were running down the street in slow motion not sure what to do.  This is when a kind soul stepped into to help us.  His name was Mauricio and I clearly remember his green, Peruvian sweater that I imagine was a big hit among his peace loving amigos.  He quickly said "I speak English.  Go this way," and guided us to another street.  Unfortunately, this street also had rioters as bottles were being thrown and garbage was being lit on fire.  Throughout this experience we were more afraid of the police who were freely spraying tear gas.  We made it to a safe street and Mauricio negotiated with a cab driver to give us a ride to the hills, since none of them wanted to drive through the rowdy streets.  I ended up staying at Steph's house since I couldn't get a ride to my house in the centro. 

Perhaps it was because of the Ron and Cokes but throughout the experience, I knew we would be ok.  It was a good reminder to not get too comfortable in my new surroundings.  I was also touched at the kindness from a stranger who went way out of his way to help us out of a dangerous situation. 

And knowing now that everything turned out ok, it will make for a great story for years to come.  The day when 1,000 drums brought me to tears from tear gas.  Here are a few photos from the vivid parade:

Monday, September 20, 2010

¡Feliz Cumpleanos Chile! Celebrating 200 Years of History

Riding back on the metro on the 18th, feeling sleepy and fuzzy from a day of drinking and eating at my fifth consecutive asado (BBQ), I felt my heart bursting with love for Chile.  September 18th marks Chile's 200 year independence anniversary and a one day celebration just won't suffice - the country has pretty much declared the entire week a holiday.  It's incredible to walk around and hear people celebrating in their homes and catch the smell of BBQs, see ribbons of flags strung from one house to another and just in general feel the happy buzz that has spread over Chile. 

There is so much pride and excitement in the air, that's it's hard not to be caught up into it all.  Que suerte that I get to share this milestone with Chile.  While I could go on and on, here is a glimpse into some of some of my favorite highlights of Dieciocho as it comes to a close:
  1. Unexpectedly dancing the national dance, cueca, in front of everyone at a school assembly
  2. Seeing a different side from my talented students who shared their heritage by playing beautiful folk music and dancing in traditional clothing
  3. Eating more meat in the last week than I have in the last two years.  I have put seven asados under my expanding belt.  Choripan (sausage in a roll), steak, pork ribs, blood sausage, chicken and my favorite, pino empanadas - I'm like (Wo)Man vs Food, Chile.  I love how they keep their grilling simple with just a wood-stoked grill and sea salt.  I'm convinced it's the only way to grill now.  
  4. Flying kites with four-year-olds at a party and watching them run around like little, happy maniacs.  Volantines (kites) are a favorite past time that people of all ages go nuts for and have been decorating the sky this whole week.  The streets are all lined with the shells of fallen kites after losing sky battles or being taken down by an unfortunate power line
  5. Discovering that Chileans don't use "arf, arf" as the classic sound description of a dog barking and pondering whether Chilean dogs perhaps roll their tongues when the bark "arrrrrrrrrrf" ;)
  6. Seeing babies wearing traditional ponchos and tiny hats.  Who doesn't love tiny hats? 
  7. Catching one of the best artificios fuegos (fireworks) shows I've ever seen.  Fireworks shot up from the entire Valparaiso port at once and made the sky look like it was on fire. Perhaps South American fireworks are stronger and have less restrictions but hey, no complaints here
  8. Making an impromptu visit to Valpo's ramada (four day party/carnival) to play games (toss the ring on the liquor bottle, pick the winning number for a guinea pig, foosball) and chat about Chile over a pitcher of terremotos (special wine and pineapple ice cream) with new Chilean friends.  Ramadas pretty much go all night long and can be found in most towns
  9. Trying my first glass of chicha, a traditional fermented wine
  10. Watching a parade of 20 Chilean naval ships tour the harbor from my school
  11. Of course putting my cueca lessons to use at almost every asado.  My friend/co-teacher told me it's ok to eat whatever you want as long as you dance one cueca for every piece of meat you eat
  12. Learning how to make empanadas.  Be prepared for empanada and wine parties when I return! 
  13. Running on the beach with my host mom in order to combat the mucho comida and running into one of few people on the streets post the 18th - another gringa/volunteer, Katie.  ¡Que un mundo pequeno!
  14. Hoping on a bus last minute to meet up with my Vina Del Mar girls which resulted in a wild night of dancing and piscolas (pisco and coke)
  15. And overall just having hilarious, fascinating and touching conversations with people I've met along the way and have invited me to join their once-in-a-lifetime celebrations. ¡Viva Chile!
My Cueca Performance
Students dancing it up
My host family dancing after muchos bebidas y comida
Fireworks in Valpo
Empanada cooking lessons at my friend/co-teacher's house
Carne, carne and more carne
Asado at Steph's house.  Mmmm choripan

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    My Guilty Pleasure, Martin Rivas

    I am not one to shy away from ridiculous TV.  I admit, I love tuning out the stresses of life and cherishing the ridiculous drama of reality TV.  Housewives of Orange County, Jersey Shore, Rock of Love, The Bachelor - I've watched them all.  And I know I'm not alone (you know who you are).  It's ok to escape reality with not really reality, reality shows.  Funny enough, before I left for Chile, I slowly detoxed from this world, since I didn't have cable or gasp, TIVO.  It was a brave new world but I thought it was good as I was about to make a cultural jump a world away.  Flash to me in Chile - Well, ummmm the TV detox hasn't technically worked.  I actually have satellite TV and watch BBC, HBO (True Blood sooo good) and movies like Karate Kid and 10 Things I Hate About You regularly.  I think it's a welcome relief to hear English after having my brain constantly working overtime with the language barriers.  But there is one Chilean show that has filled the void of my ridiculous and beloved TV drama...Martin Rivas!

    Martin Rivas is a Chilean telenovela that has become somewhat of a tradition in my house.  My host father, Antonio and I watch it regularly.  My host mom, as well as many Chileans, aren't fans but this gringa sure is.  It's a period drama that takes place in the 1800s and is focused on the hero of the story, Martin Rivas.  It's a classic struggle of forbidden loves, money and most importantly social classes.  It is based on a classic Chilean novel by Alberto Blest Gana.  Of course mucho goes over my head but how could you not love fake pregnancies (the old pillow tied around the waist trick), moms and daughters fighting for the same man, kidnappings, near death miracles and the eeevil, Clemente (who happens to be Leonor's hubby and wears a leather face mask after he had a tragic accident)?

    Always a sucker for a bad boy in a top hat

    Oooh that Clemente and his mysterious face mask - always causing trouble

    Secret Lovers That's What They Call Us (Martin and his lady friend, Leonor)

    Tonight is the ultimo capitulo (final episode) and boy, oh boy I can't wait to see what's in store.  Is the evil Clemente really dead?  Will Martin and Leonor finally be able to declare their love?  Oh the dramz...Thank you, Martin Rivas - it's been a good run.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    My Fin De Semana

    After a few weekends in Valpo, I was itching to check out some other places.  And thanks to a glorious teaching schedule, I get Friday's off!  So TGIT for me.  This past weekend I set out to see some new sites. 

    My first stop was Vina Del Mar to visit some volunteer amigas on Friday.  Vina is Valpo's neighboring city but it has a completely different vibe.  While Valpo is full of art, Vina is more touristy and has its beloved ocean-front casino.  People flock to the beaches and it even has a Starbuck's (this is very rare).  Craving a taste of home, I asked my friend to take me there.  It might just be the nicest Starbucks I've ever been to.  After I had my chai fix, we walked around the beach area and shopped around.  There were these two boutiques I fell in love with.  Each had one of a kind jewelry and handbags bursting with color.  Think Anthropologie with a South American flair and super barato.  

    Saturday a few of us hopped on a bus to Isla Negra.  Isla Negra, which is not really an island, was a few hours away and home to one of Pablo Neruda's most cherished homes.  I always look forward to bus trips when I'm abroad because you have time to just stare out the window and reflect on your travels.

    Once we arrived, we got a lay of the land, which took about 10 minutes.  Isla Negra is an incredibly charming and small town on the coast - the stores and restaurants are on one main street and somehow are all tied to something Pablo Neruda-ish.  When Pablo lived there, his friends all flocked to this town, making it an intellectual and artistic community.  It now has ginormous vacation homes inhabited by nearby city folk during the summer months. 

    Before we jumped on the tour, we decided to take a food break.  I'll keep it brief but my Crab and Cheese Empanada and fresh squeezed orange and banana juice were A-mazing at the Vida Del Arbol Cafe.  Check it below!

    Now it was tour time.  I can see why Pablo Neruda loved his house so much.  It overlooks a sandy beach with giant black rocks spread across it.  According to the tour guide, the ocean was pretty mellow which was insane to me because the waves reminded me of a scene out of Point Break.  We all decided that the water was best described as the color of mouthwash.  His house was pretty sweet too.  It was filled with artifacts from around the world but the most interesting were the large female figureheads obtained from old ships.  He suspended them from ceilings and walls giving it a very powerful and slightly dark feel.  Despite his poetic waxings he also loved to entertain and had a bar that well actually looked like a bar.  His poetry truly is amazing ranging from love to land to playful.  I can see why Chileans are so proud to claim Pablo as one of their own.

    After much touring and an impromptu photo shoot on the beach, we headed back to Vina and I got ready to go to a friend's host family's birthday party.  We spent the night dancing to Spanish 80s music and what I think was Cumbia.  At one point there was a Chilean electric slide in action but thought it was best to sit that one out.

    Sunday was a funday too.  What was meant to be a day of lesson planning, turned into a random day out.  My host mom asked me if I wanted to go with her and her mother.  Thinking it was a quick errand and as usual not entirely understanding but nodding, I agreed.  Six hours later I returned from my first visit to a Chilean mall in Vina Del Mar!  Que Rico (translates to how rich but is used nonstop to describe anything you like here)!  It was a giant mall and felt like being in Orange County.  The only similar stores I spotted were Zara, Aldo, Nine West and Columbia.  Esprit is big here which makes me giggle everytime I think about my giant t-shirt shorts and off the shoulder Esprit sweatshirt from middle school.  LaCoste also seems to be a hot ticket.  Anyway, after hours of window shopping and spraying perfume, we settled for a delish ice cream cone and people watched for a bit.  At one point we all chuckled as some obvious gringas passed by.  Somehow it made me feel like I was an insider for a sec or two.  "Silly gringas!"  Jajajajaja (that's how you write hahaha). 

    And that is how I spent my weekend.

    El Fin (with photos below)
    Vina Del Mar - Sporting our new knock off Ray Bans

    Gorg Isla Negra

    Lunch at El Arbol De Vida

    Artsy Shot of Pablo Neruda's bar (photo cred to Maureen)
    Pablo's Ode to Vino - I like his style
    The Isla Negra Girls (another photo cred to Maureen)

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    !Baile, Baile!

    This week teaching wise was a big challenge.  I'm mostly facing how to discipline some of the out of control students.  While I've mentioned that my students are really funny (this week a boy found a girl's hair extention in the corner and taped it to the armpit of his jacket), I also have some students that are aggressive towards each other in the classroom.  This is definitely uncomfortable and not something I expected to face.  Although I have good students, I walked away feeling discouraged this week.  Sorry to be a downer, but figured it was a good idea to share the true part of my experiences here.  It's not always roses and empanadas!  I might also be going through the classic "cultural adjustment" phase.  A student actually asked me (in Spanish) if it's difficult for me to speak English and hear everyone around me speaking Spanish.  Yes and no.  It's hard enough to communicate in the same language and it's a bummer (slang word of the week for my students) to want to say things or join conversations but not be able to communicate.   On the otherhand, I see my Spanish greatly improving after just a month and a half being here.

    So in the words of Lady Gaga, after a long week, I decided to "Just Dance."  Sorry, I know, I know cheesy.  Every week, there have been Cueca lessons at a volunteer's casa.  The Cueca is Chile's national dance that was created in the 1800s.  It's a big tradition of Chilean culture.  The lessons are a nice break to see all of my fellow volunteer friends.  While twirling our hankerchiefs in the air like we just don't care, we also catch up on our weeks.  It's a beautiful dance that will come in handy in just a few weeks when Chile begins celebrating its Bicentenario.  The festivities for this independence anniversary have been in the works for years and I'm in a great city for it.  Everyone keeps talking about how amazing it will be and I can't wait.  We even get a week off from school.

    So while there have been some unexpected obstacles, they far outweigh the positives.  I mean, as I'm typing this, my host mom just brought me breakfast in bed. !Que suerte!

    Traditional Cueca.  NOTE:  I don't look like this nor do I have the traditional garbs...YET!

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Valpo, Where Artists and Dogs Run Free

    Valpo is one of the most fascinating cities I've been to.  It's a mix of artists, cafes, hills, street dogs and grit.  When you explore the cerros or hills, you stumble upon European style cafes, boutiques, funky galleries and B&Bs.  Like Santiago, it's not uncommon to have a little four legged tour guide to accompany you on your journey. You can't help but be charmed by the city.

    At the same time, there's also an air of danger and many warn to hold onto your purse tightly and don't venture alone up the hills at night - especially as a gringa.  Despite these warnings the heart of the city is in the steep hills.  One of the  most beloved areas is Cerro Alegre - I mean how could you not like a happy hill?  Valpo almost feels like a city of opposites with its mint chip green, smurf blue and cherry red houses nestled among deserted, run down buildings.  Even the dogs, although cute, could use a good bath.

    This leads to me to one of the coolest things, in my humble opinion, about Valpo.  In most places graffiti is frowned upon but it's the exact opposite here.  Everywhere you look, there are giant murals with everything imagineable ranging from cute to political.  Here are few that caught my eye and a couple shots around town:

    Familia de Owls   
    Gato Garage Door
    Valpo in Valpo
    View from atop a B&B - The owner happened to be from AZ!

    View up the hills

    My Two Lovely Friends in Cerro Alegre

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    My New Name is Miss

    This week was my first week officially teaching classes.  I have always thought that teachers deserved more recognition but man oh man has that increased by a 1,000 percent.  My brain hurts and I wasn't even teaching all of my classes yet.

    Once upon a time, I remember being in high school and feeling super awkward and interested in anything but classes. I can't imagine some stranger coming into class and forcing me to speak in an alien language.  On top of that, I seem to get animated in the classroom, act out everything and bounce around the room.  I'm sure they think I'm crazy and are often making fun of me but at least they are learning English!  When I walk around the schoolyard, I hear tons of "HELLO MISS," "HEEELLLOOO," "AWESOME," (which I taught earlier in the week), "I LOVE YOU" and the occasional "HOOWWRU?" shout and run.  The kids are really funny and it's hard not to crack up  - even when they are often misbehaving in class.

    The most rewarding part of my week came from students crowding around me and asking me questions about my homeland.  If anything, I hope I can teach them to have curiosity of the world.  Here a few of the interesting/funny questions - in Spanish and English - I received this week:

    1. Do you know the Jonas Brothers? Hannah Montana?  Lady Gaga? 
    2.  What kind of clothes do kids wear in the US?
    3.  Do you like to play ping pong?
    4.  Are there lots of terrorists in the US?
    5.  Are you a millionaire? 
    6.  Do you like Obama?
    7.  How old are you?  (flash to gasp when they hear my ancient age)
    8.  Do you have a boyfriend?
    9. Do you like reggaeton? (heads-up on this one, it's always best to say no)
    10.  Do you like to party? Do you like to smoke ganga? (aka marijuana with hand gestures of smoking a joint)
    11.  Can I take a photo of you?

    As part of my duties, I'm also teaching a Taller de Ingles (aka English Workshop) for 2nd medio, Sophmores.  Get this, it's for 2.5 hours!!  It's supposed to be a fun, elective type class so I decided to create the first one around movies.  We talked about our favorite movies, types of movies, watched some new trailers and created movie posters.  We also listened to some music from the US, which prompted some amazing Michael Jackson impersonations.  It was a lot of fun and the students are seriously amazing artists.  Here are a few pics from it...

    The Winning Poster - Cats and Dogs!

    The Karate Kid - Accompanied with some impressive karate kicks
    Despicable Me - A very strong contender