On Wednesday, a friend and I went to a fogata, which is Spanish for “bonfire.” The fishermen in Valparaiso put it on once or twice a year. It involves lots of food, a giant fire, and good music. My family told me about it and I wanted to go, so I dragged a friend along.
Each fisherman has his own little stand where they fry fish right there in front of you. You can pay 2.000 pesos (roughly $4) and it gets you a fried fish, a dinner role, and a glass of wine. The fish was fried whole, skin and bones and everything—just missing its head. The fish was SO GOOD! I cannot even explain the joys of fresh fried fish, super hot and crispy, and a nice glass of cool wine to wash it down.
The bonfire was probably my favorite part, and naturally I was enjoying myself so much I didn’t take pictures of it. There was a wood pile that I am pretty sure was taller than me, and about five or six people standing together. They poured some lighter fluid on it and had a little countdown, and when the fire hit the lighter fluid, there was a little explosion! I was not the only to let out a scream of surprise. But then there was this amazing fire to accompany the night.
I was pretty surprised at the number of people there. Thinking about it, I really should not be, because obviously it is a well-known event that happens here, and fishing is an important part of life in Valparaiso. My host parents knew about it, and when I told my host sister where I was going, she was upset that she had forgotten it was that night. So clearly it is a thing people look forward to. And it was packed! We finally left because there were just so many people and my friend and I are both a little uncomfortable in big crowds. But overall, a really great experience—something I could never experience at home!
Dancing is such a fun activity. It is crazy to think that there is dancing all over the world, and people use it in celebrations, in weddings, in death, and just as a social event. I am not certain how big of a role dancing has played in Chile’s history, but it is playing a big part in my travels here!
I have been participating in a samba group that meets on Saturdays pretty close to where I live. One of the program employee dances, and she invites anybody who wants to come and learn a bit. Samba is a pretty fun dance. I do not think it is necessarily pretty, but it is fun to watch and to do. The group is all Chileans, and then the few of us from the program who want to learn. There is also a drum group that practices with us so that we can practice at tempo. There is a whole lot of fun involved, too!
I am also in a dance class called “Traditional Chilean Dances.” That class has been a blast since day one. It is only available for study abroad kids, so we are all incredibly awkward and not great dancers. Most dances involve a lot of hip action, trying to be “flirty and sexy,” and that just makes us all even more awkward. That class is a good time all the time.
The one dance we definitely need to know is called “La Cueca.” It is Chile’s national dance, and during their independence days, September 18 and 19, it is danced all around the country! La Cueca is very fun to do, but it takes a lot of practice. I have always been able to pick out the beat of a song and move to that beat, but Cueca is not like that. It is more following your partner and what feels right. I like it, but it has been a challenge. Whether I am moving my feet or my hips, or some combination of the two, I am glad that I have been dancing since I have arrived. It is great exercise, and motivates me to make friends.
It continues to be a busy yet fun time here in Chile! Last weekend my familia and I went to Santiago. They have a daughter that lives there with her family, so we visited. It was a lot of fun but quite busy, and I had a lot of homework due this week, so I have not gotten much of a chance to do anything else!
I am trying to put together a list of my favorites so far here. Some things are very difficult, but others are not quite as hard. Like my favorite mode of transportation is easy: the metro. There is only one metro line here in Valpo, and it is super easy to use. With our student passes, it is also super cheap! The exchange rate is about 582 Chilean pesos to every US dollar. The Metro only costs me about 126 pesos, depending on where I am going. That means it only costs about $0.22! The only problem is it is not always consistent, coming around maybe every ten minutes or so. But it is close to my house and drops me right off at the university, so I am not complaining!!!
My favorite food that is Chilean so far has to be manjar (pronounced “mon-har”). It is like liquid caramel, and I cannot get enough of it! Put in on bread or crackers; it is great as ice cream, too. My favorite “adult beverage” is probably anything with Pisco in it. Pisco is liquor that is available in Chile, and they love it. Mix it with Coke for a Piscola or there is also a PiscoSour, which is delicious.
And my favorite Chilean word is weon (pronounced “way-own”). It means literally anything. It can be a verb or a noun or an adjective. It is pretty awesome. When used to describe a person, however, it has bad connotations, so with friends it’s fine but careful with anybody else.
I think that’s about it for now. I am sure I will develop new favorites as I continue to explore this amazing country! Ciao!
It has been a pretty hectic couple of weeks here in Valparaiso, Chile! I have already learned so much about the city and the culture and the way things are done. It has been an adventure, to say the least, and I have a long way to go before I will be a master of this city.
Our group (there are 38 of us) arrived in the Santiago airport on the morning of July 17th. I am the only one from Hope; other students are here from all over the United States. Chile is in the same time zone as Michigan, so I did not have to adjust my internal clock. We spent our first three days in a hotel for our orientation, in order to get accustomed to the city and the program and the idea of being abroad. It was a lot of information, but I like everybody in the program, so that makes everything easier.
That Saturday we met our host families. I live with a couple slightly older than my parents and their daughter, who is married and has kids. The house is a two-story house, and the daughter’s family lives on the first floor, and the parents and I on the second. We always have at least one meal together during the day, either lunch or dinner. I have no problem with being in a big family because I am the middle child of five kids. I am very used to being around little ones and having people around all the time.
The meal times are a bit different here, with breakfast when you wake up, lunch around 2 pm, and dinner around 8 pm. The life here is just later, too. My host dad does not leave for work until 8:15 or so, and my host mom likes to sleep until 11.
There has been a lot to do and figure out, like public transportation and school and the dialect they use. It has been a difficult couple of weeks, but I am sure that in a month I will have it all down. I cannot believe how much I have already learned, and I look forward to having even more adventures!
It is a beautiful day here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And here I sit, stressing about the next few months because, well, I leave in July to go study abroad! I am excited and terrified and so, SO pumped to go. It has been a dream of mine to study abroad since I was very young. Spanish is not my first language, but it is pretty close to being my first. I went to a Spanish immersion school from kindergarten through high school. Basically, I studied all the academics like a normal kid, except I learned it all in Spanish instead of English (until middle school, when I had some classes in Spanish and some in English). I consider myself very blessed to have had that opportunity. And while I have had a few practical uses for Spanish here in the States, like helping out at food kitchens or with the ESL program at Hope, I cannot wait to fully apply my Spanish that I have worked so hard to learn!
Getting to this point has not been easy. I am so thankful for everything my family, friends, and even professors have done for me. They have written me letters of recommendation, helped me with endless paperwork, and have supported me through this slightly stressful time. I would not have gotten to this point without them.
And now I am playing the waiting game. I want to just hop on the plane and go now, but I have a lot to do in the meantime. I will be doing summer research right up until I leave, and packing will have to wait for later. I have some essentials that need purchasing, and some lists that need writing, so I suppose that is all for now!