Final Moments in the City

Three days! Three weeks have quickly become three days until the end of the semester. The end of my experience in the city. The end of nursing school.

The beginning of my *official* adult life. The beginning of a new start. The beginning of finally contributing to society in a larger way.

Don’t get me wrong, the last few years have been a perfect blend of sweet moments and wrestling to keep my head above water. The thought of going out into the world, where I feel I’ve been well-prepared, eases the anxiety of these new beginning stages of life. Despite my looming to-do list that continues to grow, I have been finding joy in the singular moments of peace and busyness during this last week. To be able to enjoy each second left in the city has been my goal these final days.

In the beginning of April, there was supposed to be an event with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but they went on strike. With the main performance being cancelled, I went to a lunch-break concert at the Chicago Temple. The sanctuary was so beautiful as a quartet performed some of the greatest composers: Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven. It was an excellent break in the day.

Chicago Temple

I was roughly three weeks from the end of the semester, and I still hadn’t visited the Lincoln Conservatory or Park Zoo. So, I decided to make a day adventure out of it. Since my apartment is only about 1.5 miles away from both, I decided to enjoy the warm day and walk there. While I had been to the Garfield Park Conservatory, I enjoyed the small, quiet spaces of Lincoln Park.


I love taking an entire day to sit with my own thoughts and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation around me. There is so much green space in the city, which surprised me. I’ve been trying to take advantage of it as much as I can. Not the best at directions, I wandered around the zoo for a couple of hours, just enjoying each of the exhibits. For the history buffs out there, the Lincoln Park Zoo has been around since 1868 thanks to Lincoln Park Commissioners. Since then, it has expanded its conservation efforts to a variety of exotic animals. As you might be able to tell from the picture, the weather was perfect for a visit. Others from the program had visited the zoo back in January and mentioned that not as many of the exhibits were open. So, I was thankful that I picked a warmer day to go.

The next weekend, I had been planning to go to Atlanta, Georgia for the National Conference for Undergraduate Research at Kennesaw University. The weekend was filled with thousands of students’ research projects of all different studies and disciplines. Among these thousands, Hope College sent nineteen. My research involved investigation of the relationship between a past medical history of psychiatric diagnoses and the incidence of delirium in an acute care non-intensive care unit. Throughout each presentation and poster that I visited, I could not help but be impressed at the work and diligence that the students had poured into each project. The culmination of their hard work reminded me of the unique contributions that diversity offers to exploration of the world. Being open enough to new ideas and perspectives is more and more evidently important to any field an individual may be pursing. At least, that is what I have found. In addition to listening and viewing others’ research, I went to a Braves vs. Mets game at the SunTrust Park (that’s baseball for the non-sports fans out there).

SunTrust Park

NCUR Hope College Group

Me and My Poster Presentation

One of the more structured parts of the weekend was a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Row, in downtown Atlanta. There is a street that holds his birth home, the church in which he grew up, and a memorial center that includes his and his wife’s, Cordelia Scott, burial tombs.

Memorial fountain with MLK Jr’s words inscribed
Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK Jr’s father preached and he grew up in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was able to visit his birth home which was unique because his mother redecorated it, after the national parks organization bought and restored the house. While I could not snap any pictures, I definitely wouldn’t want to. In the generation of picture-perfect moments and Instagram, it is nice to be able to preserve a piece of history in one’s mind instead of a camera roll. While I had learned about MLK Jr. in middle and high school, it was good to understand a bit more deeply on the enormity of his social and civil justice work, and the hallmark events of his life. It’s in these moments that I can begin to feel as if I could never measure up to someone as great and influential as MLK Jr. To have done so much at such a young age, he seemed like a superhero. Yet, it is these “super human” ideals that can hinder one from reaching his or her full potential in life. It is here where I am constantly reminded of Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12. While we should absolutely take pride in the work we accomplish, we cannot forget Who bestowed to us these gifts of intellect, influence, and power. Additionally, it reminds me that even in all my shortcomings and faults, God is a sovereign King who uses my weakness for His glory and purpose.

On the academic front, it was a very exciting week when the nursing students all gathered for breakfast to commemorate their last (EVER!) nursing exam. How glorious and relieving it was to be done with it! Celebratory coffee and naps!

While we’re on the subject of food (again, I know. I’m such a foodie), I found a coffee shop while trying to find another place (yes, perpetually still getting lost, even at the end of the semester), called Dropshot. I snatched an iced coffee with lavender syrup. Oh boy was it tasty!
Another interesting restaurant that one of my roommates and I ventured out to is called Yassa, a Senegalese Restaurant. As part of the case study I was working on for my nursing seminar class, we had to visit a restaurant that was representative of the culture of the neighborhood of interest. For me, it was Bronzeville.

At 6 o’clock is a nem: a fried egg roll with ground beef, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables. At 2 o’clock is nataya, a spicy, deep fried salmon patty
Chicken Kebobs with Djolof Rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many things I’ve consistently enjoyed throughout the semester is the ability to go to more ethnically diverse restaurants than I could’ve imagined. A piece of advice to students coming to Chicago, invest in your relationships with your coworkers. They are the ones who have lived in the city for most, if not all, of their lives. Three months is a long time to spend with people, and I enjoyed becoming part of the hospital family. In this, they shared their favorite restaurants, entertainment events, and neighborhood advice (that is, which ones to visit, and which ones to avoid). So, to visit a Senegalese restaurant was very cool for me (yes, it was recommended by one of my coworkers). Not only was the food delicious (and very spicy), but the waiters were so friendly. They offered their traditional drinks and talked about each’s cultural importance. Learning is a process I hope never ends.

Another famous place in Chicago for good eats is called Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders. They serve their 1.5 pound pizza pot pie steaming hot, chock-full of cheese and tomato goodness. As you can tell, I’ve been gorging myself on a ton of delicious foods and finding out culture via my stomach.

Mediterranean bread bigger than all four of our faces

Jerk Chicken with coconut rice and beans; Beef brisket with jerk mac and cheese. Both with po-boys and white bread
Lamb Shwarma with cucumber salad and hummus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In these last few months, it has been a good chance to reflect on what I have learned:

1) Becoming an active member of your community is not necessarily easy, but it is important. Understanding the exhausting daily grind of a full-time job, I have come to realize how much effort it will take to be involved in community events. Yet, there is something about giving more of yourself to the world that somehow, magically allows you to gain even more of yourself back. I included the picture of the blue ribbons because as I passed it on one of my many walks, I remembered my passions in life and why I chose the career I did.

2) Becoming a part of a work family was so incredibly special. While I was still a student, I couldn’t believe how welcoming the staff were at the hospital and how much I learned because of them. They offered their time, efforts, and a slower day to teach me how to become a better nurse. To make someone feel at home is a special kind of talent that cannot be measure in gold or any other monetary equivalent.

3) You don’t have to live in the city to like being in the city. During my time here, I learned more about myself: what kind of and how much alone time I needed, what areas I needed to grow in, and how much I love people. I consider myself to be a fairly reflective individual of my personal preferences, but I love that I can be continually learning about how to function in the world at my optimal performance. My intentions in the beginning of the semester was to consider staying in Chicago if I liked it, but I figured out quickly that the city life was not for me. I could’ve easily pitted myself to not enjoy the city, but I attempted to make the most of the experience and the opportunity. I feel as though I have succeeded. In this, I have taken away lessons that will apply to wherever I land after graduation. Do I have this whole “life” thing figured out? Absolutely not. But, I do see a beautiful journey ahead of me.

Blue ribbons representing the number of children who are victims of abuse

 

¡Fui a un Espectáculo de Flamenco!/ I went to a Flamenco Show!

Castellano:

España es un país que gracias a Dios tiene una gran cultura que difunde mundialmente. Como mencioné en el último blog hay muchas regiones dentro de tan pequeño país y cada región con su propia cultura. Cultura que proviene desde tiempos en los que éstas regiones eran sus propios reinos con costumbres únicas, que luego fueron tejidas bajo una sola bandera española. Hoy en día, esta unidad de culturas se refleja en cuanto a la cuestión del baile, porque cuando cualquiera piensa en baile típico de España hay solo una palabra que domina: Flamenco. 

El Flamenco es un baile que proviene de la región de Andalucía que queda en el sur del país, pegando con el Estrecho de Gibraltar y África. Es una de las regiones más ricas en cuestión de cultura Española. Andalucía fue la última región española que fue reconquistada por los reyes Católicos. Por eso gran parte de la historia de esta región fue teñida con rasgos árabes más que otras partes del país. Esa gran influencia en esta región tanto de lo árabes, romanos y posteriormente del reino español, causaron que hubiese convergencia de culturas y que de ellas florecieran muy bellas tradiciones y expresiones del arte. 

Para todo aquel que sabe de Flamenco, sabe que es un arte que trasciende mucho más que el baile y la música, en verdad es todo un espectáculo. El flamenco esta compuesto de varias partes, incluyendo: canto, toque de guitarra, baile, jaleo (vocalizaciones), palmas y pitos (no lo que piensan mis paisanos, sino tronar los dedos). Yo la verdad no estaba enterado que todo movimiento desde los aplausos hasta el trueno de dedos era parte integral del Flamenco. Eso lo aprendí hace unas cuantas semanas cuando fui a un espectáculo de Flamenco junto con mi programa. Fue una experiencia súper chida que de seguro no hubiese tenido sino fuera por el programa. Sí valió la pena haberme perdido en el metro de Madrid intentando buscar el teatro.

English:

Spain is a country that, by God’s glory, has a vast culture that it diffuses worldwide. As I said in my previous post there are so many different regions in such a small country, each with its own culture. Culture that derives from times when these individual regions were their own kingdoms with their unique customs, that were later all sewn together under a single Spanish flag. Today this unification of cultures is reflected in terms of dance, because when one thinks of a typical Spanish dance only one word dominates the conversation: Flamenco.

Flamenco is a dance that comes from the region of Andalusia which lies in the south of the country next to the Strait of Gibraltar and Africa. In terms of culture it is one of Spain’s richest regions. Andalusia was the last Spanish region reconquered by the Catholic kings. For this reason a great part of the history of this region is splattered with Arab similarity, more than other regions of the country. This great Arab influence as well as the Roman’s footprint and later the Spanish empire caused a grand convergence of cultures from which erupted different traditions and artistic expressions.

If you ask anyone that knows about Flamenco, they will tell you that it is an art form that transcends much more than dance and music, it is a real show. Flamenco is composed of several parts, including: song, guitar playing, dance, vocals, clapping, and finger snapping. I wasn’t aware that every component from the clapping to the finger snapping was actually integral to Flamenco. I learned all of this a few weeks ago when I went to a Flamenco show through my program. It was a very cool experience that I definitely wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t in the program. It was definitely worth getting lost on the Madrid metro attempting to find the theater.

 

My First Cricket Match

In the first week of classes, the University of Aberdeen hosted a refresher’s fair aimed at introducing new students to its large number of clubs and societies. I went to the fair and signed up to be notified about when most of these groups met. Fast forward one month, and I am bowling my first over in a university cricket match.

Having played baseball my whole life, I had never actually played a game of cricket before. I still don’t understand the rules, and yet, this past weekend I had an absolute blast playing in my first ever game. I have messed around playing cricket with my friends at home before; however, we have never played by the actual rules or used proper form for bowling or batting. Here, I have learned a lot from the players and the coach on proper form, and I am getting much better (though I am still pretty terrible).

I have even earned myself a nickname: baseball player. This nickname can be used as a compliment or an insult. When I accidentally bend my elbow while bowling (and throw more like a baseball pitch), I get called “baseball player” as an insult (though typically it is sarcastic). When someone decides to bowl it in full toss (without bouncing) against me, and I swing as if I am holding a baseball bat, I get called “baseball player” as a compliment.

My first game was filled with extremes. I hit a six (basically a home-run) and then I immediately popped up for an out on the next bowl (which is way worse than popping out in baseball). I bowled an out (basically a strikeout) and then a wide (basically a walk). I was probably one of the worst players on the field, but I had a lot of fun. The guys on the team have been incredibly welcoming to me, and they could not be any more supportive. The other players are always willing to help instruct me on how to improve my form or to explain instructions that the coach gives using non-cricket terms that I can understand.

I am really appreciative to the players on the team for how kind they have been to me. Several of them are some of the best friends that I have made since being here. I am also really appreciative for the opportunity that studying abroad has given me to learn something that I would otherwise have never gotten involved in. I can’t wait to learn more about the sport and to spend more time with the team over the course of the semester.

Dos días en México: Two days in Mexico

Español:

Antes de partir a España tenía unas ansias de llegar ya a este nuevo país. Ya quería ver el país del cual la gente tanto me comentaba. Iba a ver el país de mayor influencia dentro de mi vida, porque había, en su momento, conquistado tanto a México como a parte del país donde hoy vivo. Pero antes de llegar a este país que jamás pensé que iba a visitar, tenía que desviar un poco mi trayecto. ¡Tenía que, por supuesto, visitar a mi México lindo y querido!

Así es que el 10 de enero, un miércoles, llegué a la Ciudad de México. Llegué a abrazar a mi tía Yuya y le dí un beso en la mejilla justo como lo hice con mi mamá al llegar a Austin. La neta es que es casi igual que darle un beso a mi mamá porque mi tía es idéntica a ella. 

¡Pero bueno, ya que tenía dos días muy cortitos en la Ciudad de México había que aprovecharlos a lo máximo!

El lugar que siempre me gusta visitar más en la Ciudad de México es la Villa. La verdad es que es increíble que en una ciudad tan grande y tan moderna como es la Ciudad de México puede haber una imagen tan importante, tan valorada y tan antigua como es la Guadalupana. Por supuesto que tenía que ir a ver a la Virgencita y pedirle que me fuera muy bien en el viaje que estaba a punto de emprender y además agradecerle por todo lo que me ha proveído en lo que llevo de vida. Es que es algo espectacular ver a esa morenita en persona; es una razón más por la cual estar orgulloso de ser Mexicano. 

¡La Guadalupana hermosa! The beautiful Virgen de Guadalupe!

 

Pelando toda la masorca a lado de mi tía Yuya en la Villa.
Showing off my pearly whites with my Aunt Yuya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Además de visitar a la Virgencita resulta que en esos días que andaba allí en la CDMX caía el cumpleaños de mi tía Yuya. Mi tío y mis primos querían darle una sorpresa y regalare un arreglo de flores sin que ella supiera. Querían que yo distrajera a mi tía Yuya con el paseo de la Villa. Pero también querían que viera los puestos de flores de Jamaica. Así es que al final de cuentas le dijeron a mi tía que le iban a comprar un arreglo pero que mis primas como quiera se lo iban a escoger. Así es que pelamos gallo tempranito hacía Jamaica por el famosísimo metro de CDMX. Después de un viaje donde nos trataron de vender paquetes de chocolates (tres por cinco pesos) en el metro y pasar varias mujeres vendiendo artesanías sobre sarapes coloridos en la calle, por fin llegamos al mismísimo Mercado Jamaica.

Yo viendo a todos lados menos a la camera. Just look at my eyes.

Al entrar yo sabía que había dejado la CDMX atrás. Había entrado en otro mundo completamente diferente, un mundo que era un laberinto lleno de pasillos de flores tras flores. La CDMX nunca deja de sorprenderme, porque al caminar unos cuantos pasos uno puede estar en un mundo irreconocible al que dejaste atrás. Tan pronto entramos los vendedores se nos echaron encima, como lo hacen en cualquier lado en CDMX. Mientras uno me decía, “mira, joven para la novia”, otro le decía a mi tío “cómpreselo a su güerita, jefe” o “le hacemos el arreglo como usted quiera” y miles de otras cosas para convencernos de comprar con ellos y no con otro vendedor. Al final de cuentas optamos por un arreglito que le gusto a mi prima Gaby.

Un pequeño arreglito. A small arrangment.

Después de las flores otra razón por la cual fuimos a Jamaica es porque allí hay un lugar que mis tíos frecuentan que vende muy buenos huaraches. La verdad es que yo no soy adicto a los huaraches ni es que sea mi comida favorita, pero llevaba encargo de mi mamá. Como ella tiene mucho tiempo sin ir a la CDMX y de chiquita le encantaba comer huaraches en la calle, quería que yo me comiera uno en su honor en México. Así es que para no desairar a mi madresita fui a comerme el mentado huarache. Claro, me lo tuve que hacer mitad de salsa verde y mitad de salsa roja, porque si no pica, no sabe.

Si no pica, no sabe.

La verdad es que cada vez que pongo pie en la Ciudad de México quedo más sorprendido que la vez pasada. Es la ciudad donde nació mi mamá, el centro de mi cultura Mexicana y mi destino favorito en el mundo. ¡Como amo México! Es la pura neta.

English:

Before leaving for Spain I was so anxious to arrive in this new country. I wanted to see first hand the country that people always tell me so much about. I was going to visit the country with the largest influence within my life, because it had once colonized both Mexico and part of the country that I live in today. However, before I arrived in the country I thought I would never visit, I had to make a quick pit stop. I had to, of course, visit my beloved and beautiful Mexico!

So on Wednesday the 10th of January I arrived around 1 o’clock central time. I arrived to hug my aunt Yuya and I kissed her on the cheeck just like I had done with my mom when I arrived in Austin. The truth is that it was almost like kissing my mom because my aunt is identical to her.

Since I had two very short days in Mexico City, I had to make the most of them!

The place that I most like visiting in Mexico City is the Villa de la Guadalupana. The truth is that it is incredible that in such a large city as Mexico City there can be an image that is so important, valuable and old as is the Guadalupana. I, of course, had to go visit the Virgen and ask that the trip I was about to take would go well and also thank her for everything she has given me in life. It is something truly spectacular to see the image of the apparition in person; it is one of the reasons I am so proud to be a Mexican.

Besides visiting the Virgen it turns out that during the days I was in CDMX (shorthand for Mexico city) it was going to by my aunt Yuya’s birthday. My uncle and cousins wanted to surprise my aunt with flowers, without her knowing. They wanted me to distract her through the walk around the Villa. On the other hand they wanted me to see the flower market in Jamaica. So in the end, thanks to me, they told my aunt that they were going to buy her flowers for her birthday, but that my cousins would still pick them out for her. So we left bright and early toward Jamaica on the infamous metro in CDMX. After a trip where they tried selling us chocolates (3 for 5 pesos) on the metro and walking past several older ladies selling crafts on top of colorful sarapes on the street, we finally arrived at the Jamaica market.

Upon entering I knew that I had left CDMX behind. I had entered into another completely different world, a world that was a maze flanked with flower after flower. CDMX will never stop surprising me, because if you walk a few steps in any direction you can be in an unrecognizable world from the one you left behind. As soon as we entered the market the salesmen leaped onto us. This happens anywhere you go in CDMX. While one told me, “Look, for your girlfriend”, another told my uncle, “Buy this for your beautiful wife, sir” or they said “We can make any bouquet however you want” and thousands of different things to try to convince us to buy with them and no one else. In the end we opted to buy a modest bouquet that my cousin Gaby picked out.

Escogiendo las flores más perronas. Choosing the coolest flowers.
Con la prima. With the cuz.

After getting the flowers, the other reason we had gone to Jamaica was that there is a place that my uncles go to frequently where they sell very good huaraches. Truth be told, I am not a huarache addict but I had promised my mom that I would go. Since she hasn’t been to CDMX in such a long time, and when she was little she loved eating huaraches from street vendors, she wanted me to eat one in her honor while in Mexico. So, not to let her down, I went to eat the huarache. I, of course, had to make it once half green salsa and the other half red salsa, because if it isn’t spicy it won’t taste like anything.

In all honesty, whenever I set foot in Mexico City I am left more surprised than the time before. It is the city where my mom was born, the center of my Mexican culture and my favorite destination in the world. Oh, how I love Mexico! For real.

Disability from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Part of my course load abroad was an internship to finish up my psychology major at Hope. The placement process began months before my arrival in which I was able to express my desires and qualifications for an internship in Santiago. Quite honestly, I did not feel equipped to actually contribute to a workplace environment, attributed  to a limited vocabulary and the fear of not being able to understand the directions and responsibilities given to me. Looking back on this semester, my internship challenged me in multiple ways, but more than anything it motivated me in the pursuit of my intended career path.

My main goal for an internship was to be involved with a population with physical and intellectual disabilities. I have always had a passion for working with people with special needs, and I wanted to see how that could grow and be challenged in a new culture. I was placed at a national foundation that offers many services to those with various types of disabilities. I chose to intern at a location that provides a home, schooling, and medical attention to a population who had been abandoned by their own families. There were 93 residents, nearly all of which had cerebral palsy, used wheelchairs, and were nonverbal. From my first visit, I knew this would be a challenging environment to be in, but I felt that my prior experiences had prepared me well.

I vastly underestimated the differences that existed between the rights for those with disabilities and how they vary across countries. Chile is a developing country, and the rights for the disabled populations are very far behind those of the United States. Furthermore, it was a difficult transition from working with privileged families who could send their children to summer camp or hire nannies as simply “an extra set of hands,” to working with an overcrowded foundation of residents who had no contact outside the walls of the residence.

As an intern, I was able to contribute to the building upkeep and supported the teachers and health professionals in their work with the residents. I can’t quite say that I made much of an impact on this organization, but to be a fly on the wall in a completely unique setting offered a cross-cultural perspective on disability that I would not have been able to find here in the States. I learned that empathy, joy, and friendship can be communicated without a common language or even the ability to speak. I also learned how privileged we are to have the facilities, legislation, and compassion for those with disabilities, and this is distinct in comparison with the rest of the world. As a global citizen, it can be difficult to see the injustices and imperfections that exist across cultures and people groups. However, this newfound passion is what motivates me in my studies and in future career, and will be an experience that will always remind me to be an advocate for others.

 

Es una Broooma

I’m anticipating that when I get home, people will ask me what my favorite thing about Chile was. My answer for them will be this: the sound that Chileans make as they’re waiting for you to get their joke. It’s a very specific “aaaaah,” and it’s shared by basically everyone I’ve met! I love this particularity of their culture, and I appreciate that I’ve gotten to experience it on the daily.

Chileans have a remarkable sense of humor. They are always making jokes and teasing one another lightheartedly. My house, the church, and even my classes are absolutely full of laughter.

My two-year old brother loves to play pranks and poke fun at the rest of our family. He has a catch-phrase that he says all the time: “es una broma,” which means, “it’s a joke.” Or, with his cute baby-talk, it generally comes out more like “es una brooooooma.” I think it’s the cutest thing ever! Here’s a quick video:

The sense of humor is also present in their language. Chileans have added many words and phrases to the Spanish that I learned, which makes it their own unique dialect. As we say in my phonetics class, they speak chileno, not español.

Many of the “chilenismos” have to do with animals, which is pretty fun. For example, young men are called cabros (goats) and hacer una vaca (cow) is to raise money. Another one of my favorites is echarse el burro, which means to lose motivation to do something.

One thing Chileans do is call each other names. A lot are endearing nicknames–there’s the classic mi’jita (mi  hijita), cariño, or amor that even people in the grocery store will call you. There’s also modifications of your given name– I’ve gotten Moni, Mo, and Moquita. My friends are Isa Pizza and Juan Papa (to incorporate food). And also Chileans often use adjectives ironically, like feo (ugly) or gordito (fat). When I first heard my friend Rodrigo talking about his daughter, la gordita, I remember being shocked. But it’s actually a term of endearment, some light teasing. A reminder not to take everything people say completely seriously.

I tend to be an over-thinker and I value pondering deep life questions. But simply being in another culture has brought a lot of that to mind. So I’m thankful that I get the chance every day to laugh it off, take joy in relationships, and watch Camilo’s face light up when we fall for another one of his pranks.

What does it mean to be mujer?

Today I let myself cry about the gender inequality I see in our world. I felt a little silly sitting on a park bench with the tears streaming down my face, but I think this issue is something that needs to be recognized and deserves to be cried about.

My tears were spurred by an encounter I had with two older men as I was leaving my literature class. Just outside the university, one yelled at me, “Hola linda! You speak English? What is your name?” I ignored him and kept walking. However, that catcall seemed to give permission to the man beside me to start talking to me, also asking where I was from and telling me about his business. Despite my refusal to respond or even make eye contact, he kept pestering me until we reached a corner. There, I turned to avoid him and take a different route.

But why should I have to change my walk home from school? I should be able to feel safe on the streets. I was fuming and frustrated that those men had the power to make me feel so vulnerable and targeted.

The other problem with that encounter is that it wasn’t just a one-time, isolated thing. Catcalls happen to me almost daily here, and my foreign friends have experienced the same thing. In fact, I was coming from my literatura latinoamericana class, where we had just finished sharing our experiences of gender roles. To close the unit on feminist literature, my profesora asked us all to write down moments where we saw gender roles play out. The sad thing was, every person in the class had those experiences. We talked about guys acting aggressively in bars, male coworkers getting paid more than female counterparts, “mansplaining,” family members giving stereotypical gender-based gifts, and of course, the plethora of catcalling.

In Spanish, the things people yell are considered piropos, and the phenomena is generally called acoso callejero (street harassment). El machismo is how they describe this gender-unequal society, where men are over-masculinized and women are relegated to the home. They also have a word for crimes against women, los femicidios, where women are actually targeted for their gender.

While I’m frustrated that these are things that happen here, I’m glad there are words that describe this experience. I feel like in Chile, it’s something I can talk about and process freely. The other day I had a really good conversation about catcalling and gender roles with a male Chilean friend. He was so sympathetic and the first thing he wanted to do was tell his other guy friends about the things I’d experienced. That made me really happy because it’s something people are realizing needs to change.

Here, the conversation about feminism is happening. Perhaps because gender inequality is more evident. However, when it’s subtle, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Back home, women experience the same things, though often it’s disguised as something that’s normal.

Emma Watson said, “we think that we live in a post-feminist society, where we don’t need feminism anymore, but actually that’s really disconcerting.” There are a lot of things that happen to women that they blame on themselves because they don’t see the bigger narrative. We need feminism; we need to talk about the things that women experience that should not be normal.

That’s why I’m sharing my story. It’s frustrating that this encounter happened to me. I don’t think it should be normal, and I don’t think it’s right that all the time women feel targeted or unsafe like I did today. Hopefully, together we can create a society that affirms the dignity of all its members. The first step, though, is joining the conversation.

Here’s a photo of two women that I consider to be some of the most powerful Chilean women ever. On the right is our pastora, Oriana, who has had to face a lot of criticism being a female leader in the church. My host mom Rocío is on the left, and she is working on her doctorate in environmental law. I wrote an interview question for her the other day: “what is it like being mujer and abogada (lawyer)?” and it occurred to me that this would never be asked of a man, since they are assumed to dominate this career path and don’t have the same occupational challenges related to gender.

Despedirse

In Spanish class we learned that the way to say goodbye is “Adios!” At least in Chile, though, that’s not how you do it. Everyone says “Chao!” as goodbye, and it’s accompanied by a kiss on the cheek, maybe a hug, cuídate, nos vemos!

Despedirse is something you do every time you leave a social gathering. And it’s required for everyone there. You have to go around the room and say goodbye to all the people you’re with before it’s okay to leave.

At the beginning of my time in Chile, this was really uncomfortable for me, because I wasn’t sure how to insert myself in someone’s conversation to say goodbye. I always felt like I was interrupting something. Or that I was holding up my family from leaving. The truth is, though, that they’re never in a hurry, and the cultural value of acknowledging others trumps the extra inconvenience.

For me, this shift in cultural values requires extra effort, and to be honest I’m still not the best at the practice of despedirse, but that’s something I want to keep working on until I have to leave.

The end of my study abroad program is coming up just on the horizon. We have a month and a week before we all part ways. I’m anticipating that this goodbye will be very difficult.

In my time here I have made a lot of wonderful friends. Both my amigos gringos and amigos chilenos have made a remarkable impact on me. I have been greeted with such kindness, invited into a new family, and accepted for who I am. I can share my heart and soul with the people I have met here, and for that I am so grateful.

I’m not ready to say goodbye.

Here I am with some friends from my program on a trip to Mendoza, Argentina. I love that the other gringas are always up to travel and share cultural experiences!
My community of jóvenes from my church in Chile. Here we are at a weekend retreat. My host dad Séba is the one taking the selfie.
These are my host family’s relatives. From aunts and uncles to abuelos y nietos, everyone came together for fiestas patrias and they’ve done an incredible job of including me in their family.
Some of my chilean church friends and I at a despedida (farewell party) for Gabriel (not pictured) who’s leaving to learn English in the US for a couple months. This was the first of many goodbyes for me and it got me feeling super sentimental.

Thumo? Fumo? Or Zumo?

Since I have been here I admit to having my fair share of misunderstandings, which have been awkward and uncomfortable in the moment, but looking back on it now, make me laugh. These small moments may seem insignificant, but they contribute to making my study abroad experience unique and memorable.

My favorite mix-up happened my first morning in Seville. I woke up around 8am and went to the kitchen where Maria, my señora, was making herself breakfast. When I walked in, she greeted me with a “buenos dias” and eagerly told me all of the breakfast options. There was pan con aceite y mermelada (bread with olive oil and jam), galletas (Belvita biscuits), magdalenas (muffins), fruta, leche, and “fumo”. When she said the last item I was a bit confused; “fumo” means smoke in Spanish. I learned from my previous night of orientation that smoking is a social norm here, but I was surprised Maria would offer that, let alone on my first day. Maria saw my uncertainty and continued explaining that the student who was here last semester loved “fumo” and would have two magdalenas and “fumo” every morning. I was about to explain to her that I don’t smoke but rather I was content with just the two magdalenas, when she walked to the fridge. She pulled out a juice box declaring “thumo”, which is when I had the big realization she was saying “zumo” with the Castilian accent. Not “fumo”. Whew!

The Castilian accent, also called the Castilian lisp, is when certain “s” or “z” sounds are enunciated with a “th” sound. For example, the Plaza de España would be pronounced the “Platha de Ethpaña”. Fun fact: this accent is only in Spain and not in any Central or Southern American countries.

I’m slowly but surely adjusting to the new accent! Thanks for listening! Grathias por escuchar!

 

Playfair…Seville Style

I thought I’d never say this, but orientation week was a blast! It was no ordinary Playfair where all the freshman students crowd into the Dow Center and do speed dating and ultimate rock, paper, scissors. This was orientation in Spain!

The first night here, our guide, Pedro, led me and eight other students along Calle San Jacinto, the main road in Triana (a barrio or neighborhood). It is lined with delicious bakeries, restaurants/bars, and ice cream shops. Imagine 8th street in downtown Holland but even bigger and a lot cheaper. Any Dutch person’s dream. This street leads directly to one of the many bridges in Seville, the Puente de Isabel II, or more colloquially known as the Triana bridge. Pedro took us to a small café/ice cream shop called Mascarpone where we were able to buy snacks and meet some of our fellow study abroad classmates. I treated myself to a refreshing granizado de limón (lemon slushi)! One thing that surprised me during my first walk through Seville is that everyone smokes cigarettes. Young and old, male and female. People smoke while waiting for the bus, walking down the street, and in the outdoor seating of restaurants. Even the tour guide Pedro, who is about 21 years old, smokes. It’s strange to see so many people smoking, even some my age because it’s so different than what I’m used to.

Afterwards, we were led across the Triana bridge to an old train station transformed into a shopping mall. Inside the mall, there were cute clothing stores and a cine (movie theatre). Don’t judge me, but I was very excited about this since my Netflix is not working in Spain. It’s probably for the best that I can’t watch my favorites: The Office, Once Upon a Time, and the Flash to name a few. However, I will definitely be visiting the cine to enjoy some Spanish cinema!

During the next few days, the orientation guides continued to show us around the city, recommend fun activities, and point out their favorite restaurants, some which we ended up going to for tapas and drinks. One day, we had a “tourist day” where we visited all of the major tourist attractions in Seville. Pedro showed us the Torre de Oro, the Cathedral, the Giralda, and the Plaza de España. It was incredible to see all of the beautiful architecture! We also walked along the Río Guadalquivir, which is the river that separates the centro from Triana. The river is always bustling with tour boats, people doing kayaking, remo, stand-up paddle boarding, and rowing.

Throughout orientation, my group and I have become good friends because we all live in the same neighborhood of Triana. I have yet to meet students who live across the bridge on the centro side, but I’m sure that will change once classes start. The centro side is where the CIEE study center, University of Seville, shopping malls, and all the tourist attractions are located (so basically everything except my homestay). The centro has a more city-like feel while Triana is similar to a suburban area. Although it is a long 30-minute walk from my house to the centro side, I am glad for the peacefulness and home-like feel in Triana. Plus, I get all my steps in every day.

Hasta pronto!