Monday, July 26, 2010

Dogs in Coats, Terremotos & FUN-iculars

It's crazy to think that I've been here nearly two weeks.  Time feels like it is rushing by but at the same time I've been here for a long time.  I'm scrambling to fill my time with everything I want to see in this city since we are in back to back trainings.  Orientation/training ends later this week and soon I'll be shipped off somewhere in the 5th region, Valparaiso, to begin teaching - location TBD.  Yes it's that random.  Oddly, I now feel more comfortable in big cities and the thought of being placed in the campo (aka rural rural) makes me pretty nervous.  I just have to keep reminding myself it's all part of the adventure.

So while I've been here in this smog-fest yet modern city (everyone says Santiago is not Chile so don't want to get too comfy), here are a few more interesting things I've come across and seen since I've been here...

Stray Dogs in Coats rule the streets.  They are everywhere and extremely friendly and tame.  It's not unusual to have a little friend follow you while cruising around the streets.  They are actually quite tame, well fed and A-dorable.  I kept seeing the little guys in coats and finally was told by a Chilean that people feel bad for the dogs and buy/put coats on them.  In my head,  I've adopted 10 of them so don't be surprised if you all get dogs wearing fleece jackets for Christmas.
Perro y Amigo
Perro Wearing A Superman Jacket

Rock You Like a Terremoto (Not the Natural Disaster Kind). The Terremoto is a scary, genius concoction of pure red wine and pinneapple ice cream.  As the Hurricane is to NOLA, the Terremoto is one of Chile's signature drinks or perhaps a way to laugh at gringos that dare to try it.  It's extremely potent and more than one is probably not a good idea.  So of course I had to try it.  Our Spanish teacher, Profe Arvanik, took us all out to a fantastic, local spot and introduced us to this drink, as well as what I can only describe as a hybrid of chili cheese fries and nachos - with a fried egg thrown on top for good measure.  The Chilean diet consists of everything you outwardly condemn but secretly love.  Trying to fit into my pants for the next five months will be a huge challenge.  Although it's fun to try, I'm constantly craving fresh veggies sin mayonesa (a treasured Chilean condiment on EVERYTHING).

The Terremoto

Taking it all in Atop San Cristobal.  A 72 foot Virgin Mary statue guards the city atop Cerro San Cristobal.  This hill overlooks the city and offers specatular views of both the city and Andes.  Tourists and locals flock to this spot when it's warm and the smog is low.  It's about an hour trek up to the top or you can take a funicular (like the Angel Flight in Los Angeles).  I chose option B after feeling the aftereffects of too much dancing and Ron & Cokas (Rum & Cokes) from the night before.   It was extremely peaceful, especially catching the gorgeous sunset.
Going up the funicular

Atop Cerro San Cristobal

View from the top
Cerro San Cristobal's Virgin Mary
One Last View

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's a Wrap - My First Week In Chile

My time in Chile has been jam packed so far.  I haven't been this busy for quite awhile and although we are in all day trainings, the other volunteers and I have managed to check out some of the city (and of course enjoy the famous Chilean wines at serious two buck chuck prices). The Espanol is muy differente aqui.  Chileans have their own slang and style of speaking and trying to figure that out has been interesting to say the least.  Luckily, I now know a few words that I've embraced including bacan ("awesome" - how could something that sounds like bacon not be awesome?), carrete ("party") and cachai ("get it?").  I have yet to try their beloved completo - a big task to take on.  It entails a hot dog smothered with avocado, loads of mayonaise, tomatoes and onions and I promise to dedicate an entire entry to that alone once it happens.

On a serious note, one of the most unique experiences I've had so far (besides getting to know the hilarious and bacan fellow volunteers) was our Human Rights tour led by an actual prisoner during Chile's dictatorship rule (1973 to 1990). This part of Chile's history is still fresh in the minds of Chileans where thousands including men, women and children were tortured and killed while thousands continue to be missing to this day.  It was a sobering yet inspirational experience to see the memorials now dedicated to healing and peace. 

As promised, here are a few photos from my time here... 

View of the Andes

Amazing Race Challenge:  Second Stop at Cerro Santa Lucia

View of Santiago from Atop Cerro Santa Lucia

Human Rights Tour - Casa Memoria

Human Rights Tour - Parque por La Paz Villa Grimaldi

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting Adjusted as a ChiLAdy (living in Chile+LA+lady)

Today was my first day in Santiago and first full day of training.  For the next few weeks I'm rooming with fellow volunteers at an old hotel/hostel in the historic Centro area (like Chico Whitney Hall only muy different).  The area is charming with cobblestone streets and old European-style buildings.  It's an interesting area but I still feel like I have a lot to explore in this city. 

Today was our big day visiting the US Embassy.  Nerd that I am, I was excited to do this.  We met with a few staff members who gave us the safety rundown (pickpocketing is the most common threat) and then talked about the complexity of education and teaching in Chile.  Right now is a key time where they are looking to help bridge the gap between public and private education.  It was reassuring to hear that the country has asked for us to be here and value our presence. 

So after a long day of training we decided to walk back from the Embassy (versus the subway) and catch the sites.  My first impression is that Chileans love their statues and churches because they're everywhere.  Not so nice is the smog from buses but this afternoon it gave the Andes a pink glow.   The Andes have a quite a presence over the city and tower over the skyscrapers.

I must admit that the hardest adjustment here is the weather.  Growing up in Tahoe, I thought that I was a toughy when it came to temperatures.  Well apparently the SoCal weather has warmed my heart of stone because it's really, really cold.  Like sleep with a fleece, gloves and a hat cold.  Indoor heating does not seem to be a concern or need here so far.  Wowzas!  Hopefully, I'll adjust to my life as an indoor camper these next few winter months.

Speaking of which, in typical Jen fashion I was late to the first official training day this morning.  Our alarm didn't go off and I opened my eyes at the exact time we were supposed to be ready downstairs.  After a mad and showerless dash, I made it down there in under 10 min.  So basically I was the scuzzy American at the Embassy that had my sweater inside out all day.  Awesome.  

Side note:  Photos to come soon (just need to start taking some)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jen's Going Where?

Hi friends and family.  It's official, I'm a blogger.  Due to the overwhelming requests (I'm referring to my mom and dad and probably my friend, Lauren), I've decided to recount my next five months in Chile as a WorldTeach ( volunteer teacher.  I'm about to begin my adventure and feel a mix of excitement and nerves.  This all came about earlier this year when I suddenly was no longer working full time, had more time on my hands as a freelancer and was allowed to wear yoga pants all day long.

Living in another culture has always been a life goal and I figured what better a time to do something like this.  After being inspired by two amazing friends that took time out of their own careers and lives to volunteer in Ecuador and always having a curiosity for teaching, I decided to go for it.

When I first started researching, I was instantly drawn to Chile - it's such a diverse and beautiful country (think glaciers, deserts, beaches and mountains) and I'm thrilled to discover as much as I can about it.  My plans were put on hold after the devastating earthquake but I decided to wait a few months and not give up on something I so had my heart set on.

This is by far the most adventurous thing I've ever done, but I'm also looking forward to pushing myself and hopefully helping others.  These last few months, I've been trying to prepare for the big trip by observing English As a Second Language (ESL) adult classes, buying "functionable" clothing, brushing up on my Espanol and trying to figure out teaching goodies to bring down (I'm starting to second guess my Zach Efron sticker purchase).  

So my bags are packed and this show is hitting the road.  Let's get this adventure started!  Next stop Santiago...