Monday, August 12, 2013

A Love/Hate Relationship

I am realizing more and more that I have a love/hate relationship with my life here in Chile. Some days, I cannot imagine anything better than living here! The majority of these days are on the weekend. The few days in the middle of the week when I attend classes and attempt to conquer a mountain of homework are considerably less pleasant. I am taking five classes here: Contemporary Chilean Literature, Classic Spanish Literature, 20th Century Sociopolitical History of Latin America, Advance Oral and Written Spanish, and a for-credit internship. I don't think anyone considers homework exhilarating under any circumstances, but it's especially frustrating to have to read passages multiple times and constantly reference my dictionary to even make a guess as to what my readings are saying. This is especially true for my Classic Spanish Lit class because the texts are from the 1500's and 1600's, before the language had been fully standardized, and therefore contain some pretty funky grammatical structures and creative spelling. I constantly have to remember to be patient with myself, and that though learning Spanish is not easy, it will be worth it in the long run!

For my internship I am volunteering with the local non-profit AVARID, an organization that provides educational activities for children and adults with Down Syndrome. Last week, I went to volunteer for the first time with the reading group for young adults and adults. The goal of the group is to practice reading comprehension by listening to the teacher read. This is great practice for me, too, as I am learning Spanish.  I can´t help but smile when I think that my listening abilities are quite literally on par with these disabled adults because we are realizing that we are not so different from each other after all. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and am very much looking forward to spending time there every week.

To demonstrate more reasons for my love/hate relationship with Chile, I will list the good, the bad, and the ugly of my past week here in Chile!

The Good:
1. Went horseback riding on the beach last Sunday. My friend Rachel and I were trying to find some sand dunes but accidentally took the wrong bus, so we ended up in the beach town of Concón instead. We saw that we could ride horses and decided to give it a shot! This is just one of many examples of my life mantra here in Chile, which is ¿Por qué no? (Why not?)

2. Getting to know the other college students in my church. The youth group for university students at my church on Friday nights is huge! I am particularly enjoying spending time with a sub-group comprised of 20 or so other students from the US and Chilean students who just so happen to enjoy getting to know foreign exchange kids. We spend time hanging out, drinking coffee, eating at cafes or in ice cream shops, etc.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I really enjoy catching people off guard by saying or doing things that are just a little bit off-color, especially because I like to break the good Christian girl stereotype. In typical form, I think I may already having some of my new friends thinking I am just a little crazy... and who I am to argue? :) Example: A guy says, "I don't want to go to Zumba because I didn't pack appropriate clothing for such an activity." I respond, "Well, you can dance without clothes." Needless to say, no one was expecting that one.

3. Going to the sand dunes! Yes, we eventually found them. We got quite a bit of rain this week, so even a few days after the rain stopped the sand was still a little too wet to slide down on trays. My friends and I decided to somersault and roll down the dunes instead! 

4. A man standing next to me at a stop light told me, "¡Eres la mujer más linda en todo el mundo, y I love you." (The first part means, "You are the most beautiful woman in the whole world.") I was flattered, but I don't think our love will work out in the long run, seeing as he was at least 40. This is just one example of the many piropos, or compliments/whistles/honks that Latin American men use to comment on the appearance of women whom they have never met nor have any intention of dating. It's an aspect of the patriarchal culture here.

The Bad: 
1. Riding shotgun on the micro. I had always wanted to sit in the foremost seats on the bus, right next to the driver, so I decided to just do it one day this week. The bus driver started chatting me up, and even though I could barely hear him over the roar of the motor, we managed to communicate. At first everything was fine, but it got weird. First he asked me if I took a plane from the US to Chile. Uh, how the heck do you think I got here? Driving? Swimming? Then, just as I was about to get off, he asked me if I have a Chilean cell phone, followed by something else that I couldn't quite hear. I am not positive, but I think he might have been asking for my number. He was at least 50 and missing most of his teeth. Needless to say, I jumped off the bus pretty quickly. Ewwww.

2. After experiencing my first rainy day here I went to go buy some leather boots. When it rains here, it pours, and the streets flood. My running shoes got pretty thoroughly soaked, so I wanted something a little sturdier. When I rolled up my pants leg to try on a pair of boots, an older woman exclaimed, "¡Qué blanca!" or essentially "Wow! Your legs are really pale." I felt like saying, "Wow, thank you for pointing out my whiteness to me, I had no idea that I am a gringa living in a country of Hispanic people." Or, "Yes, you can thank my Scandinavian ancestors for my blindingly white skin." But instead I just said, "Si, es verdad" (Yes, it´s true). She didn't mean anything bad, and normally I would brush off this type of comment, but sometimes I get fed up with always looking and feeling like I don't belong here.

3. Trying to go shopping. I wanted to buy a book for one of my classes, envelopes, minutes for my cell phone, snacks, and photo prints. In the US I would go to Walmart and accomplish all of this in one place. While there are supermarkets in Chile, they still have a somewhat limited offering. Generally Chileans prefer the more traditional system of small shops that specialize in just one type of offering. There are farmacías (pharmacies), panaderías (bread stores), carnicerías (meat stores), librerías (school supply stores OR book stores), lecherías (dairy product stores), zapaterías (shoe stores), and a million more types. I had to find the proper shop for each item on my list. These little stores very rarely have websites and GoogleMaps cannot be trusted to provide accurate locations for them, so they are very hard to find.

4. Mailing a letter to my grandma. The man in the post office met me at the door, asked me what I wanted, and as soon as I mentioned the word "send" he shook his head and shut the door. I had to ask several people and finally visit the website to discover that the entire postal system in Chile is on strike. No mail for me.

The Ugly:
1. Getting my wallet stolen. Yes, I got pick-pocketed, and I haven't even been here a month. I having a bad day, and so I put away my things absentmindedly. We have been warned not to put a wallet in external pockets of backpacks because they are more easily accessible to thieves, but I wasn't thinking and put my wallet in the same pocket I would in the US, which was unfortunately on the outside of my bag. I was listening to my iPod, like many locals do when using public transportation, so I will admit I wasn't 100% alert. Somewhere in the 2-block walk between the university and the bus stop, probably while I was standing at the stoplight waiting for it to change, someone came up from behind, rifled through my backpack, and stole my wallet right off my back. Thankfully I was only carrying about $15 and a photocopy of my passport, and my wallet was starting to fall apart so I needed to replace it anyway. In reality, it was largely my fault for not being more careful, but it still makes me mad that one person would do that to another. Also, my host brother told me that no one has ever stolen anything from him and he has lived here his whole life, so I can´t help but think that I am an easier target simply because I am white. Frustrating, to say the least. Oh well, I have learned my lesson.

That's all for now, folks. Until next week!


  1. find a new, sexier wallet that will make your old one jealous. -bethany (the one related to you)

    1. Dad wants to you to not lose anything else. I left my purse at DIA, so I live in a glass house. Glad you have kept your wisdom and perspective through your ups and downs. We are proud of you. Love you much!

    2. Ha ha I love you guys :) Miss you! And tell Dad I have been trying really hard not to lose anything, even more so now!