A week ago, I was a part of something awesome! There was a festival called Mil Tambores, or a Thousand Drums. It was a weekend long event, and it was so much fun! It’s been going on for fifteen years, and it’s just a celebration of happiness here in Valparaiso, Chile! Friday there were poetry and song-writing contests, drawing in many wannabe artists dying to get a chance to publicize their works. Saturday there were many small parades up in the hills of Valparaiso. There was dancing and music and fun had by many families. There were so many people in the city that weekend! It was incredible!
Sunday there was a giant parade filled with music and dancing of various groups. There was samba and salsa and dances from the north of Chile and the south of Chile all being performed. There was also body painting going on at the beach, where people could wear as little clothing as they wanted and get their bodies covered in artwork. Some pictures are amazing!!!
Sunday is where my fun came in, too. Since I’ve been here, I’ve participated in a samba group. Every Saturday I’ve gone to a two-hour practice, just learning the samba step itself and learning to move more sensually. This group performed in that big parade, and I got to be part of it! We wore heels and a miniskirts and had to sew sequins and beads on to a bra to wear. I would have never worn such little clothing back at home, no matter what the reason. But I figured I wouldn’t get this opportunity again, so I went for it. And it was a blast! Afterward my feet hurt and I was sunburned, but I’m so glad I danced in the parade. It was an amazing opportunity to participate in Chilean culture and break out of my comfort zone!
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!
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!