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

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