Monday, October 4, 2010

Amigos Chilenos

One thing that I am super excited about is making Chilean friends. It was really hard to do this for a while because I don't have very many classes with Chileans, I don't know where to go to meet Chileans that are my age that aren't creepy, and I don't know what the culture is like in regards to meeting new people. One night during spring break, some of us went to a Peruvian restaurant, suitably named Machu Picchu, to share our stories from the first half of the break. Some went to the Atacama Desert (featured in the Deserts portion of Planet Earth if any of you are interested), one went to work on an organic farm, and we told them about our adventures in San Alfonso. The food was amazing. I can't wait to go back and to take my parents when the visit. I had a shrimp dish that was delicious. I couldn't tell you what was in it but I loved it. My friend had this amazing beef dish, and the beef just melted in your mouth. Here are some pictures of the food. 

After we ate Peruvian food, we decided to walk up Manuel Montt and find a bar or club to dance in. While we were walking and chatting, I accidentally bumped into a girl, and after telling her I was sorry, she exclaimed "SON GRINGOS!" which means, "They are from the US!" I've never seen someone so excited to meet gringos, and she was very nice. We walked along talking to her and her friends, one of whom was essentially the Chilean Borat. He could hardly speak English, but insisted on it and asked me all about my travels in Chile. He inquired about a few places, none of which I had been to. When I told him that I had been to La Serena, he yelled at the top of his lungs "LAAAAA SERENAAAAA I LOOOOOVE THIS PLAAAACE!!!!!!!" I couldn't handle it. I was laughing so hard the entire time we were talking. Once we saw a place that looked fun, we told our new friends that we were going to head in there. They looked very sad, and so I said that they should come with us. They reacted, unsurprisingly, with extreme excitement. It was our lucky night. The girl got us all into the club for free by repeating to the door man, "These are my special friends" in English until he let us all in. And when one of our friends showed up late, she went to the door and again got him in for free by saying "This is my best friend" and smiling with here extremely red, glossed lips. She was the nicest girl ever, and we had a blast with her and her friends. I think Borat was a bit much for everyone, but it was an extremely entertaining evening. 
Amiga Chilena

The next day was friday, the day before Independence Day. My family had an asado (grillout, super typical for this holiday), and we feasted on beef, pork, and sausage accompanied with a coal-roasted onion and red pepper. At the time I didn't think I could ever eat meat again, but it was very very tasty. My friends and I didn't really know what to do that night, but after talking with numerous friends on the phone, we decided to meet up with one kid in our group because he was with his host brother's friends at Parque O'Higgins (O'Higgins Park). During the holiday, there are fondas there, which are basically like state fairs. Lots of food, lots of drinks, and a few people there to entertain us. When we arrived and met up with our friend, we were greeted by a series of swears from a mulleted Chilean. Most of us didn't really know what to think, but as the night wore on, we realized that he just likes to swear in English. We had a blast with the four Chileans, Marco, Andrés, Tiare, and Nagel, at the fonda, teaching each other swear words, eating empanadas and kabobs, drinking chicha (a sweet drink made with grapes, supposedly very alcoholic but I disagree) and terremotos. At one point we found a patch of grass and just sat around chatting. They were all so nice and funny. I was really excited to meet them, as you can see.  After the fonda, we headed to one of the Chilean's apartments, hung out there for a while and then went out searching for a dance club. Although we weren't successful at finding one, I had a lot of fun with my new Amigos Chilenos. 
Andrés, Vartan, and Marco 
The next day I got up "early" (aka about 10am) and met up with a friend who had been in Buenos Aires all week. She and I decided to climb the Cerro San Cristobal to start the Chilean Independence Day right. We exchanged stories from the week, discovered a little japanese garden, and then headed back to my house to partake in the food festivities of the holiday. We ate the most amazing empanadas I've ever had, and got ready for the party that night. We met up with some more friends and headed to the national stadium to see what was going on there. Unfortunately we missed the festivities there, but there was a big event going on inside and we watched for a while on a giant tv outside the stadium. While we were sitting here, some Chilean cops came up to us and started harassing us, accusing us of drinking in public (which, for the record, we had not been doing). I was pretty upset that they were doing this, since Chilean cops are reputedly very trustworthy, but I didn't let it ruin my night. After a while, our Amigos Chilenos came and picked us up to go back to Parque O'Higgins and spend another night at the fonda. Again, more eating, drinking, laughing, and talking. We ended the night at another of their apartments, talking and getting to know eachother around the dinner table. 

The next day, I got a call around 7pm asking me if I wanted to go to Viña del Mar with my friend from my program and some of our new friends. Of course I decided to go. We had a fun drive there, listening to reggaeton and laughing, as usual. We got to Viña, hung out in Andrés' apartment while waiting for his girlfriend and her friend to meet up with us. We all went out dancing at a club called Scratch, and had a great time.  
Mateo, Vartan, Dani, Andrés, and Marco

The Crew at Scratch
The next morning, we woke up to Andrés making us cheese sandwiches. We all got ourselves ready, and headed out to see the naval/air show. Viña del Mar is on the coast, and for the Independence Day, the navy and air force put on a big show. My camera died before I could get pictures of the show, but here I am with my new friends.
Me, Varti, Andrés, and Marco
Since this weekend, I have spent a lot more time with these guys and their other friends. I can't even express to you all how welcoming they are. Even though Andrés lives in Viña, he still calls me ever few days to see how everything is going. Vartan and I skype, practicing our English and Spanish and having very deep conversations. I refer to him as "mi mejor amigo" (my best friend) because he is so awesome. We actually met Varti a while ago at our friend's house since he's the friend of my friend's host brother. We talked to him for about 2 hours about how we need to travel and enjoy Chile. He's a very genuine person. And Marco is one of the nicest people I've ever met. My friends all agree that he's the nicest of them all. He seems pretty quiet at first, but once he gets talking, he's hilarious. They are all so funny and close with eachother. It's obvious that friendship here in Chile, at least with these people, means a lot more than what we think of as friendship in the states. I'm so happy and feel very lucky to have these guys as my friends. I know it's going to be hard to leave them all in a few months.

Spring break in September

Cajon del Maipo!
Hello my loving friends and family. I know it has been an INSANELY long time since I last posted, and so much has happened! I've just been so busy! I'm sorry, and here come some epic updates.

Me with our new dog-friend at the waterfall
Spring break was a blast, to say the least. The week leading up to the Chilean independence day, September 18th, we all had off and most people traveled. I organized a small trip with three other friends to a relaxing locale, Cajon del Maipo. We rented a big cabin from a preserve called Cascada de las Animas, or Waterfall of the Spirits. The cabin was a great size, and could probably have fit 6 people very comfortably. It had a fully equipped kitchen, towels, sheets, furniture. I wanted to move in. It was so peaceful and relaxing. We spent most of our time cooking and making up games. We didn't have any music, computers, internet, or any other forms of technology to distract us. We filled up our woodstove with crackling logs and relaxed in our cabin. The group of people I went with was perfect. The two girls and one guy that I went with made very good travel companions, and we created a nice little family for the three days we spent in San Alfonso. This tiny town was actually pretty sufficient for our needs. We bought almost all of our groceries in Santiago and carried them on our 1.5 hour bus ride (which by the way cost about $1.50), but we could have bought most things in San Alfonso. The town was full of amiable people, and the man who worked at the Mini-Mart became our friend, seeing as how we stopped in every time we passed to augment our food supplies. There did seem to be a rather large population of alcoholics, which while providing us with funny encounters, was pretty sad. Two days in a row we saw a pair of men (different) drunkenly buying beer from the equally drunk liquor store owner. One pair tried to give us directions in an indecipherable Spanish before driving off at an alarming speed. But back to the fun parts of the story!

View of the town. This is about the entire town.

Getting ready for Triolesa
The place that we rented the cabin from provided the opportunity for lots of activities. We elected a self-guided hike to the waterfall, during which we were accompanied by a dog pretty much the whole way. It was a refreshing hike that we did in the morning. Later that day we did Triolesa, or zip-lining. It was a blast, but I about peed my pants beforehand. I was terrified once I realized where exactly we would be triolesa-ing to. It was totally worth it though. I also decided to take a horseback ride in the Andes. I felt like this was a possible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn't miss. It was just me and a guide and his dog. Luckily he spoke English very well, and we had fun speaking in both languages. He was a tiny old man who didn't seem to understand my alarm at how small and sharp the trails were. At one point on the ascent, we had to stop so that he could remove painful stones from his horse's hoof. I was situated at a hairpin turn on a steep (obviously) hill. When we started up again my horse started to slip and fall back and I yelled out "OH _______" very loud. I thought I was about to have my leg crushed, but luckily that didn't happen. After that one little mishap, the trip was great. We rode up to a plateau that offered an amazing view of the mountains. I felt like I was nestled in a little bowl of the Andes, with alternating tree and snow covered peaks filling up my view. The guide pointed out and named all the peaks for me (of course I couldn't tell you any name now), picked eucalyptus leaves for me to smell, and showed me one mountain-line that looked like the profile of a face looking up to the heavens. It was an awe-inspiring ride. 

Like I said, we spent a lot of time cooking, which was great. I miss cooking so much and was happy to spend most of the days as the chef. We made chiliquilis (a Mexican dish with meat, eggs, cheese, sauce, and tortillas), burritos, a big breakfast scramble/omelet, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, and pasta with red sauce. Pretty much every dish had chorizo incorporated into it somehow, along with tomato, green pepper, onion, and lemon. All very tasty! All in all it was a fun relaxing trip, and it was great to get out of the city into the fresh air. 
Our dog-guide on the hike to the waterfall