Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top of the World!

New Friends!
Well friends, the last few days have been quite the adventure, especially in regards to learning to use the public transport system. So far, only a few small mishaps, no big "getting losts" or being creeped upon by these Chilean men. Although sometimes I feel like I'm on display in a freak show, the whole blue eyed and obviously not latin or indigenous in descent is a dead giveaway when I'm on the the bus or metro. I get lots of searching looks that seem to say "Where could that person possibly be from....? ayyy she's a gringa!" I think it's just something I'll have to get used to. Although there are many different types of Chileans, I certainly don't fit the bill for any of them.

ANYWAYS! Night before last, the people on my program and I all went out to a place called Bellavista, it's kind of like a neighborhood/street with lots of bars, though it seemed rather touristy. We met up around 10:30, which is about 3-4 hours too early and since it was a Monday night, we were pretty much the only ones out. Plus the fact that we were a bunch of gringos, it was pretty funny. We walked around for a long time, being indecisive before returning to a bar we had passed that was named "La boheme" that had fantastic (and strong!) mojitos.
The nice server offered us "Happy Hour" since we were the only people on the street, but of course the only drinks that applied to the happy hour were strong, expensive ones. All in all though I spent about $20 the whole night, including my cab fare back home. A friend and I caught a cab together since we live about a half mile apart, but it took a few tries to find one who wouldn't rip us off too much.
I'm glad we opted for the cab though, since a couple of my other friends had a 3 hour adventure getting home that included taking the bus in the wrong direction, the bus driver chasing down the right bus, and getting home at 4:30 am, even though here that's a pretty "normal" time to get back after a night on the town. Before going home, me and some of the people went to a swanky looking bar called "Backstage" that had cheap-ish beer and was pretty comfy, but after trying to find the rest of our group for about half an hour, we all decided to call it a night. After sending my parents a quick "I'm still alive" email, I snuggled into my warm bed and slept like a rock until the dog down the street started barking nonstop for a few hours. But since I got to sleep late yesterday, it was fine.
After getting up and getting ready for the day, I ate a homey lunch of chicken and mashed potatoes, spiced up with some different sauces and powders. Unfortunately my host-grandma left today, but she said if she returns during my stay that she would bring me the mix for my favorite sauce so far. Once I got to the IES center, I chatted with some of my fellow foreigners and we decided to climb up the mountain, Cerro San Cristobal after everyone was done with their meetings at UChile. IES very conveniently scheduled one on one meetings with a professor at UC who could tell us which classes would be more ideal for us to take based on some small lists we prepared beforehand. They also had a student explain and write down exactly where to get off the metro and where to go to get to our classes. It was very useful. After coming back to IES and sipping some instant coffee (which is surprisingly the norm here), we all headed to Bellavista to start walking up the mountain. After dilly-dallying around the kids park/zoo for a while, we started the ascent to La Virgen (a statue of the virgin atop this mountain). After trying about 10 times to reach my host mom via phone, I conceded that I had the wrong number, called the student advisor to get the right number, and then called her to let her know where I was, etc.
Mr. Jokes
Funnily enough, one of my new friends told me the name of the mountain was Cerro Mágico, which I then proceeded to tell my mother, who laughed her ass off at me as my funny friend also laughed and explained that the mountain is not, in fact, named Magic Mountain. It's good to be the brunt of jokes, keeps you humble.

SO! Picture us kids, gringos as we are, camera-wielding, english-speaking, sweating, and all pretty redfaced walking up this mountain. Needless to say it was a bit longer to reach the top than I anticipated, but we all pretty much went at our own paces. I personally preferred to walk with the photographers in our group, who walked slower and saw much more. A perrito (dog) became our buddy and walked along with us, advising us which shortcuts not to take, and making sure all the other perritos knew that this was HIS mountain. We all made it to the top and took a few pictures, admired the smog line, and marveled at the Andes. It was a pretty awesome sight, and the fact that we were there at sunset certainly didn't hurt the view. We all went back down, made plans to meet up later and took off. Again, paces varied but as a result I got to hit the popular hot-dog fast food place with a few people. Hot dogs here, by the way are smothered with katsup, mustard, avocado, and cheese sauce. Not so attractive...but my friends said they were worth trying.

Second night out!

So, for the second night out, we all met up a little later. The glasses clad man above and I live pretty close so we have met up both nights to take the bus, but unfortunately went WAY too far last night and had to double back to find our friends. Once we did, however, we all found a nice little place that was playing some good music (at times) and had a nice time. It was a much more low key night than the one before, and it was good to have a little variety of people. We are all becoming fast friends, and I feel like this is going to be a close-knit group of people in a very short time. Senses of humor are great. One girl is super dry, and we all love her way of speaking. Others like to just poke fun, others are pretty sarcastic, and some just like to laugh (aka me). Last night the pisco sours had us all feeling pretty feisty and it was great to have everyone loosen up a bit and be ourselves.  I'm looking forward to celebrating one of the group member's birthday tonight!
Today for lunch I had pasta with a creamy, cheesey, mushroom, green onion, and garlic sauce at home with my family. DELICIOSA!  I then successfully took the bus to school all by myself, with the help of a drawn map from my host mom. After a short presentation by our intimidating spanish teacher, Claudia, we all got into groups and were assigned two locations in the center of Santiago. We had to get to these locations and answer a few questions about them and will present our findings tomorrow. My group had lots of fun in the metro and I know I laughed a lot.
Getting cozy on the metro

Trying to beat the other groups!

Me laughing, what's new

Museo Historico

Well, I think I'm going to take a nap before dinner and going out. Hope you're all enjoying keeping up with my experiences. 

Un abrazo,

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