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Ser Poeta

Los poetas odiamos el odio y hacemos guerra a la guerra — Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda es un Gran Chileno,” our history professor told us. Looking at his life and his world, I’m convinced. Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet, writer, politician, and professor, but what Chileans love most about him, I think, is his personality.

He was a collector of many things, with a lot of personality quirks. For example, he always wrote in green ink pens, and he had a train relocated to his front yard.

The famous front-yard train.
A collection of odd-shaped glass jars in La Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s beachside home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far, I have visited two of his houses (there were three) and have been very impressed by his whimsical style. I’m inspired by his fun approach to life, and his belief that “la risa es el lenguaje del alma,” or “laughter is the language of the soul.” Honestly, this makes sense coming from a poet who wrote odes to kitchen objects and various fruits.

I’ve been working on a few Neruda-inspired poems this semester that I wanted to share with you. I’m generally nervous about sharing my poetry, but I’m also reminded by Neruda not to take myself so seriously. ūüôā Ok, here it goes:

#8

Laughter is sweet

Like that first crunch of empanada dough,

An easy way to break through the initial awkwardness

Before getting to the meat.

#14

You are more fierce than a vicu√Īa,

but I tried to make you a llama.

I thought I could compare you to a burro

But even those run salvaje.

Why do I try to put you in a caja

when even the universo

can’t contenerte?

 

Orientation! …In the outback?

After 20-odd hours in multiple airports and various planes, I finally made it to Sydney, Australia! …only to leave this beautiful city less than a day later to fly to my program’s orientation at a resort surrounding Ayers Rock, also known to the aboriginal people as Uluru. For those of you who don’t know what that is – I definitely had no clue before I came here – it is a giant red rock in the middle of a very flat desert! Sounds thrilling, right? Yeah, I was a little concerned too. Flying to the middle of nowhere in a country I have never been in with a group of people I have never met did make me a bit nervous! However, when we arrived, there was nothing to be worried about.

We arrived at what seemed to be the world’s smallest airport (with only two gates) and hopped on a bus that would take us to our hotel for the weekend. Little did I know that this was actually a very nice resort! We weren’t roughing it in the outback as I had expected. We had normal hotel rooms surrounded by the gorgeous red sands of the desert. There were multiple small hotels, a few restaurants, and the town square¬†with¬†some shops and even a grocery store.

After finding our rooms and a bit of exploring, it was finally time to eat! We met at the main bar/restaurant area where it was an Aussie self cook BBQ dinner. I do not know how to grill, yet they handed me a plate of raw steak and kangaroo, and happily showed me to the rows of grills stationed for us to use. I was worried that I would kill this meat many times over on this grill, but I was so hungry I had to do it! Thanks to my many years of experience watching food network, I actually grilled up a pretty decent steak and kangaroo! I highly recommend trying kangaroo – it was quite delicious.

 

Grillin’ kangaroo like a champ!

 

Kata Tjuta

The next day we took a tour at Kata Tjuta (another giant rock in the middle of nowhere). We hiked with our guide to a couple of different stunning viewing areas, but had to leave quickly in order to get back in time for our other planned events. We stopped at a viewing area of Uluru in order to watch the sun change the color of the rock as it set. It was amazing but again, we

Made it to the top!

had to hurry to our last stop before dinner. This last spot was one of my favorites because it was incredibly unique. It is called the Field of Lights, and it was just that Рa field of lights! There was a sea of little handcrafted bulbs that changed colors as you walked around them. It was such a peaceful and gorgeous experience to have in the middle of the desert. After that, we finished our adventure back at the resort and were treated to a five star interactive buffet dinner! It was just as amazing as it sounds and yes, I ate just about one of everything! After dinner, we called it a day because the next morning we had a sunrise hike around Uluru that we definitely did not want to miss!

When we arrived at the rock, the sun was just starting to peek out on the horizon. Our tour guide, Jason, moved pretty quickly as he informed us that this would be a 12¬†km walk around this rock. He took us to places where we could stop and gawk at this desert wonder; however, there wasn’t much time for standing around and taking pictures because Jason would already be on the move! He would stop and tell us some of the stories that the aboriginals pass down to their children about a certain section of the rock, and there were quite a few! All of the stories are meant to teach some sort of moral to the children, just like we do in our culture. We also saw many cave drawings that depicted characters from these stories being told to us. Popular drawings would be of emu tracks (hunting image), people sitting, and their version of what we would call the devil. The hike took about five hours to complete, and by the end of it we were entirely exhausted. We got¬†back, slept for a few hours, then got up for another incredible dining experience – this time in the middle of the desert.

 

Our dinner was truly an experience. We started on a hill overlooking Uluru, so we were able to watch the sunset against it for a second time. They had endless drinks and hors d’oeuvres including crocodile, chicken liver, kangaroo, and smoked salmon – all¬†irresistibly amazing! After the sun was almost set, we were escorted to our tables to enjoy our three course Sound of Silence dinner experience. Another beautiful buffet was offered¬†and as the night progressed, we were entertained by a didgeridoo player and, for the main event, an astronomer talked to us¬†about the countless stars in the sky. I have never seen so many stars in my life – I even saw the milky way! We had a moment of silence to appreciate the quiet of the nature around us. That moment quickly became my favorite moment of the weekend. After a long day, we made it back to our hotels for our last night of the trip.

After a hearty breakfast and some last-minute exploring, we finally made our way back to the airport for our short flight back to Sydney. We got back just in time to see what orientation has in store for us at ICMS!

 

Causey Farm

I awoke Saturday morning with a start.  I realized that today I was going to a place called Causey Farms. I did not do any prior research on the destination but was looking forward to a fresh experience. I am still trying to figure out travel plans, foreign and abroad, but Causey was the perfect place to go to take my mind off of those fears. Me and my fellow Study Abroaders boarded a bus and trekked the 90 minutes to the farm.

  

When we arrived, I stepped off the bus and was immediately greeted by a friendly black and white dog. There was a beautiful white lab that was extremely friendly and was just chilling, enjoying the landscape and the day herself. Meanwhile, it began to rain, and the ground turned to muck, but we continued on. I was glad that I wore the boots that I bought for 12 Euro at a thrift store (shoes and clothes are pretty cheap in Dublin, guys and girls).

  

We petted animals, fed donkeys, milked a cow, and best of all, jumped into a bog (actually I didn’t, but you get the point). Then, when it was all said and done, we collected and ate¬†the bread that I forgot to mention we made at the beginning of our journey. I needed some butter for it because it is quite tasty! What a eventful day in the life of a Study¬†Abroader in Dublin! Stay tuned for more adventures.

  

  

P.S. Causey Farms is a great place. If you are ever in Ireland and you need a place to visit, stop by and explore another interesting facet of the great country of Ireland. Then I slept the 90 minutes back to Dublin. It was a pretty good Saturday afternoon. There will be more from me soon!

 

La Cueca

Is there a national dance in the US? No, claro, los gringos aren’t very good at dancing.

This was my excuse this weekend when I was asked that question. But the truth is, Chileans aren’t always good at dancing either. It doesn’t stop them from trying, though.

Chile’s national dance, called the cueca, is an obligatory part of every fiestas patrias celebration. For five days, the entire country gets excited about their national traditions. People dress up as huasos and chinitas, eat a lot of empanadas and chorip√°n, and drink a lot of wine. This weekend, I went to a lot of parties where the cueca was danced.

Here I am with my friends Gloria and Isabella (the little chiquita) dressed up in chinita costumes. My Chilean flag dress, borrowed from Gloria, made me feel very Chilean. ūüôā

This unique Chilean dance tells the story of the conquest of a woman. It’s danced in parejas, a boy and a girl. At first, the girl acts shy. They circle around each other, coming near and turning away. The guy is supposed to follow her around and stomp near her feet. Finally, at the end of the dance, he sticks out his arm to ask for another. Most times, the girl hooks his arm in his and the audience applauds. I learned that if she wants, though, she can throw her pa√Īuelo on the ground and walk away.

My friends Camila and Juan Pablo dancing in the church’s cueca competition.

The pa√Īuelos are an important component of the cueca. They are little handkerchiefs that the dancers have to hold in their hands and twirl around. I made sure to have my pa√Īuelo before the festivities began, but Chileans aren’t always that prepared. They improvise pa√Īuelos all the time. It could be a napkin, a scarf, maybe some toilet paper.

In the end, it makes for a pretty unique spectacle. I love watching the Chileans stomp around, twirling their mismatched pa√Īuelos and getting into the character of the dance.

Ask me to dance, though, and I’m a little more hesitant.

Wonderful Limits

How do you find words to describe the Infinite? When I try to explain the beauty and majesty I saw this weekend, especially in Spanish, simplemente no hay palabras. I find myself struggling against my limits. And then the Voice inside me tells me to relax.

Tranquila,” it says. “We will have all eternity to discover that.” My mind is blown again.

I don’t understand the concept of eternity. But in my limits, I can wonder.

What I learned this weekend is that that’s enough.

Being in the most beautiful place we’d ever seen brought so much wonder to myself and my friends. The trip was filled with exclamations of “¬°Guauu!“, “¬°Mira!“, “¬°Qu√© hermoso!“, “¬°Es maravilloso!” and “¬°No lo puedo creer!” We could only marvel at the beauty of the Atacama desert.

Take a look at my slideshow and marvel along with us! Fun fact: it’s the driest desert on earth.

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Being somewhere like this also makes you ponder deep questions like why we experience the sensation of beauty. My friend Erin had a very wise and interesting response.

“It’s the size of this place that makes us reflect on our own smallness and insignificance.” And that’s what wonder is. ¬†It’s being surrounded by something that’s too big to understand. It’s recognizing our limits of size and understanding.

If we knew everything, nothing would amaze us. If we were bigger or stronger we might not be dwarfed by the majesty of mountains.

Riding around the valle on bikes made me realize how big that corner of the desert was. By the end of the day our butts were sore and legs were tired. I had pushed myself to the limit, for sure. But there was a lot of joy in recognizing my limit; it made room for appreciation of God’s creation.

I think often times we try to push our limits, or forget them. In the process, we lose sight of our place in the world. Truly, we are just one second in the span of history, smaller than one grain of sand in a desert.

We have a choice to recognize that insignificance, or not. Either we accept our place in the world or create a worldview that puts us in the very center. Though it takes a lot of humility to wonder, I can’t help but think it’s worth it.

I met two slightly unpleasant people on this trip. And I feel bad judging them on some short conversations, but I wanted to share what left a bad taste in my mouth– their lack of wonder. A¬†Finnish boy and Australian girl were in one of the hostels I stayed at, and what both of them said was: “I’ve already seen something like that. ¬†I didn’t think it was that cool.”

To me, who felt awestruck at the sights I saw this weekend, this attitude surprised me. Maybe I’m just less cultured and important than (they think) they are. But if that’s the price to recognize beauty and value in a place, I’m willing to pay it.

I’d much rather be like our Brazilian roommate, Sabrina, who told me, “pienso que cada lugar que visito es lo m√°ximo”, or “I think that every place I see is the coolest.” I want her sense of wonder to see lo m√°ximo everywhere I go.

Some Final Words for My Beloved City

It was about 2 weeks before I left and I was already ready to leave my second home in Santiago de Chile.  I was anxious to see my family and friends and to be able to wake up under my own roof again.  As much as I loved living with a host family for my 5 months abroad, I really missed my family.  Quite honestly, it was the very first time I had felt truly homesick.  Maybe I had felt this way because the idea of returning was becoming so real to me or because I had been too busy to think much about returning home that I never felt the urge to go back.  At this point, I felt satisfied.  So much so that I was ready to say goodbye to a city that had given me so many wonderful memories.

So, on my second to last day of my stay in Santiago, I went for a hike on the city’s second highest mountain, Cerro Manquehue, and it was truly the most emotional hike I’ve had. ¬†No tears, I promise, but it was just a reflective memory walk. ¬†I remember the day that I moved in a day earlier than everyone else and I remembered the emotions I was feeling so rawly that it felt that I was feeling them for the first time again. ¬†I remembered how overwhelmed I was moving from the airport to my hotel on my own speaking purely in Spanish without any help. ¬†I remembered how alone I felt that evening as well. ¬†The most alone I had felt in my life, but at the same time I remember feeling a sense of excitement and thrill for what I would be experiencing my following 5 months, and every moment of it was beyond what I expected. ¬†So, as an ode to my beautiful city, here is what I wrote for her.

A note for my beloved city:

Chao, Santiago de Chile. No puedo decir lo suficiente cu√°nto te voy a extra√Īar. Gracias por todas las experiencias que me has dado. Desde las horas pico horribles en el Metro, temblores y d√≠as lluviosos hasta los cerros hermosos que abrazan tu alrededor y tu hermoso paisaje que me bendice cada ma√Īana con tu cordillera y amanecer. Te quiero y ya te echo de menos. ¬†La √ļnica cosa que te pido es que tus ciudadanos ayuden a limpiar todo el smog para que todos puedan ver tu belleza. Yo s√© que ha sido una experiencia dif√≠cil a veces pero me ha ense√Īado mucho a travez de mis desaf√≠os. Gracias tambi√©n por haberme dado amistades fuertes en mis √ļltimos meses en mi estad√≠a. Aunque los meses al principio fueron muy arduos,¬†a trav√©s de esa¬†temporada me has ense√Īado a sentirme contento estando solo. Ahora, veo que hay algo hermoso en eso. Que nunca he estado solo, que siempre he tenido un compa√Īero. Y ese compa√Īero soy yo.¬†

Goodbye, Santiago. I can’t say enough how much I will miss you. Thank you for all of the experiences that you have given me. From horrible rush hours in the Metro, tremors, and rainy days to your beautiful hills that embrace you along with your beautiful landscape that blesses me every morning with your mountain range and sunrise. I love you and I already miss you. The only thing I ask of you is that your citizens help to clear your smog so that everyone can see your beauty. ¬†I know that it has been a difficult experience at times but you have taught me a lot through my challenges. Thank you also for giving me strong friendships in the last months of my stay. Although the first months were tough, through this season you have taught me how to be content with being alone. Now, I see that there is something beautiful in this. That I have never been alone. That I have always had a companion and that companion is me. And for once, I got to know him really well.

First Birth – Appreciation for Life Forever Changed

One of my most impactful moments in Chile was during one of my shadowing shifts in a local hospital. I shadowed an OBGYN in a maternity clinic. Initially, I did not know what to expect but I must say that it was definitely a fast-paced experience. After we were shown around the clinic for a tour, we saw our first patient who was entering into labor. Walking in, I noticed blood on the floor in the corner by another bed and I asked the nurse about it. I was surprised that they had not cleaned it up yet, but he told me that it was an emergency and that patient was already being moved to another room to give birth. Right after asking, he left the room to find out if we could see the birth and within minutes he was back and excited to tell us that we had clearance to go to the birthing room. Breaking into a quick stride and light jog we were already quickly headed into the room where we met the mother and the father nervously gearing up for their life-changing moment.

I was nervous myself as I was uncomfortably close to the mother, who I did not know. I felt that it was a moment too precious to be shared with foreign strangers, but I was thankful that she allowed my classmate and I to observe. Once inside, we are given masks to protect our mouths and I already was breathing heavily as it was my first time wearing one and the room was getting exceptionally warm. It was a matter of minutes until she began and it felt like it all happened in just a few seconds but I was already seeing the newborn in the mother’s arms with her relieved and heart-filled smile. I look up to the father who had to step out a moment earlier to calm his nerves. His expression of relief was indescribable. It was a miracle. My face was a little damp¬†from sweating and also from the tears that fell down my face. It was just absolutely beautiful how mothers can bring so much beauty into this world. It was at this moment that I started getting excited for when maybe¬†I would see that beauty enter this world again and hoped that maybe that beauty would be my own child.