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año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)

a travel blog by Sara Florecita

I will be teaching English to Chilean children in a public school in the Atacama region through the Inglés Abre Puertas program. I am excited to immerse myself in the Chilean culture, improve at Spanish, and dedicate myself to being a successful teacher. I also plan on travelling throughout Chile, as well as Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.
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19 Days Left

Rock Island, United States

What started off as a lofty, long-term, "someday I would love to visit this country and that country" and "someday I'll live somewhere I can speak Spanish" thoughts have turned into reality. Ever since I left the US for the first time about three and a half years ago (a 2 week long band tour), I have been longing to visit other countries, meet other people, and learn about what life is like somewhere else.

A year ago I spent 3 months studying at Oxford in the UK, and I loved it. I had some wonderful and life-changing chances to visit Venice, Paris, and Prague. I learned a ton about what life is like in England, and I didn't want to go home to the US because Oxford actually started to feel like home. I got used to my life there, but I had to return to the US to finish college.

Life in the States has been okay, but I've always longed for something more exciting, different, challenging, and enlightening. I like the jobs I've had here working with kids, so I'm thrilled that I will be teaching kids in Chile (and WELL-BEHAVED, normal ones who won't throw chairs or shampoo bottles at you, have hissy fits, or get restrained...).

For a while, I'd seriously considered applying to the Peace Corps or other long-term programs, but those were a huge commitment, and I wasn't ready to just leave my boyfriend for two and a half years because things probably wouldn't work out. I don't like the idea of long-distance relationships, but travelling / living abroad has always been important to me.

In my mind, tossed around the ideas of doing the Peace Corps or similar year-long programs in Guatemala or Mexico, and started researching different organizations or programs abroad. One of them, called Cultural Embrace, offered lots of affordable and shorter-term ideas. I requested more information and thought of it as a "maybe I would like to do this later, but now I have a full-time job" sort of idea.

Then one day out of the blue, I got an email from CE saying that they still had positions open for a 4-month program in Chile, and that this was the last call for interested applicants. I admit, it was a really impulsive decision to make, but something about it felt completely right. Within the next 2 days I gathered up my letters of recommendation, wrote a personal statement, and worked on a letter completely in Spanish, and I mailed it in. I didn't think about it a lot or debate whether I should do this or not. For some reason, Chile had always appealed to me, and 4 months was a long enough time to learn about Chile, visit lots of places, and immerse myself in the culture. However, it was also a short enough period of time that I wasn't worried about my relationship falling apart.

...So back to the present. My flight out of O'Hare leaves in 19 days. I've been doing LOTS of reading, studying, and information-seeking. I am part of the way through "Crónica de una muerte anunciada" by Gabriel García Márquez, in attempt to improve my Spanish, which is a tad bit rusty after 7 years of classes, 3 years of waitressing in a Mexican restaurant where I was the only gringa, and 2 1/2 years since I last took a Spanish class or waitressed. Most of it seems like it's coming back (or that I still remembered), and I am picking up all sorts of wonderful, quirky Chilean phrases. I got this book called "Chilenismos" which explains tons of words and phrases I'll probably hear while there.

Overall, I am confident that my Spanish is good enough for me to be decently comfortable while there, but part of me is kicking myself for stopping taking Spanish classes 2 1/2 years ago. I loved it when I was learning it, and it felt like I was good at it and a quick learner. I had one really annoying Spanish teacher in college, and after that I decided not to take more classes. I really wish I would have though. I cringe to think how fluent I COULD be now if I hadn't quit because of one lousy teacher. Then again, I'm still young and have lots of time to pick it back up.

Anyway, everything is in order for me to leave. I just need to figure out the whole cell phone situation because I don't want to pay the expensive rates per minute AT&T will make me pay. I think I'll just communicate via email. I also need to narrow down my list of things to bring with. I usually pack pretty light, but I want to make sure to leave room in my suitcase for anything I might buy in South America.

I have this thing where every city I visit, I buy a painting. It's much more awesome than tacky, touristy souvenirs. If possible, I like to meet and talk to the painter who made it. Then our apartment is filled with beautiful and one-of-a-kind artwork. I am looking forward to selecting paintings that capture some of my experiences in Chile (and probably Peru and Bolivia).

I wonder what my host family will be like. I wonder if they'll have kids, if they'll be accepting of me being a vegetarian, if they'll have a dog or cat, if they'll live in the city or the country, what their house will look like, whether their home will have air conditioning, computers, or TV's. Honestly, I am completely fine with it if they have none of those things. I am thrilled I will not have to deal with all the problems of having a car, driving, traffic, etc. I hope my host family will be nice, and that they'll be understanding of my broken Spanish.

I am looking forward to a more simple lifestyle, not like in the US where people live outside of their means and rely too much on material things for their conceived sense of happiness. I cannot wait to see the Andes, the Pacific, going on long, exhilirating runs in the Atacama, and just soak in the solitude of the desert. Hot springs, geysers, swimming, horseback riding, stargazing, cacti, and the idea of heat and no rain sound amazing. If I go to Bolivia, I am itching to try high-altitude running to see what that's like. Maybe I'll be coordinated enough to try sandboarding, but I think I'll stick with running.

As of now, I'm working my way through taking a course to get certified in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). So far it's not too hard but very time consuming. I really like it though, and it is helping out with all sorts of neat ideas to use with my future class. I really feel like this could be a career thing for me, not just a 4-month teaching job in Chile. Maybe this is part of the answer I've been looking for, and it will open many more doors for me.

At any rate, I need to get back to creating lesson plans for my TEFL homework. I'll be sure to keep writing.

Sarita Esperanza:)

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 3, 2010 from Rock Island, United States
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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En exactamente dos semanas de hoy estaré en Santiago

Rock Island, United States

This morning has been eventful as far as planning my trip for Chile is concerned. It's exciting to think that in exactly two weeks, at this exact moment, my plane will be touching down in Santiago, assuming there aren't any delays.

I also found out my regional placement, which is Tarapacá. The Tarapacá region is located in the northern part of Chile. Although I don't know which specific town or city I'll be teaching in, I was able to do some research of the area. Part of it is along the Pacific Ocean, part in the Atacama Desert, and part is in the Andes. There are several national parks and outdoor activities in Tarapacá. No matter where I'll be assigned to, it'll be a short bus ride to Iquique, a coastal city with beautiful views.

It was a huge surprise when I found out I'm going to Tarapacá (Region I). All along I'd thought I'd be in Region III in either Copiapó, El Salvador, Caldera, or Vallenar. I read a lot about those four cities, and was hoping I'd be in Copiapó (large mining town) or Caldera (small port / fishing town). I didn't even know the program offered teaching jobs in Tarapacá, nonetheless that it even existed.

Upon finding out, I looked up information about it online, and when I saw where it was and pictures of places in the region, I got really excited. There are alpacas there! Although they're rather awkward-looking creatures, I think they're pretty cute. And the cacti!! I LOVE those spikey succulents!

I do hope that I get placed in a larger city instead of a small town (I've always loved being in large cities and someday plan on moving to a major city), but even if it is a small town, I can practice my Spanish and meet lots of people. Not to mention that we end up in certain places for a reason. I'm keeping an open mind to this experience, and I know I'll learn a tremendous amount of new things.

As for the practical details, I still need to try to fit everything from my list of clothes, books, shoes, etc.. into my suitcase to make sure it fits and I don't need to invest in a slightly larger suitcase. The thing is, I don't want to bring too much stuff and would prefer to travel on the lighter side. My green suitcase is large enough I think everything should fit okay, but small enough that it can be considered a carry-on bag according to American Airlines. Plus, it has wheels and an expandable zippered section so if I buy things in Chile I'll be able to have room for them in the suitcase to bring back home to the States.

During 3rd shift last night--technically this morning--I finished Unit 13 of my TEFL course, which I am determined to finish before departing for Chile. So far I've been enjoying the course a lot, but last night I couldn't really "get into" it. Not when the whole lesson focused on phonetics. Ugh. I couldn't even stand that stuff when I was a kid in school. I guess that speaking is one of those things you don't think about, and when you actually do think about it (which syllables are stressed, intonation patterns, etc) it just boggles your brain. At any rate, I am glad Unit 13 is over, and I hope that the following ones will not focus on phonetics. But even if they do, that's okay...because soon I'll be enjoying the warm Chilean sun, Andean peaks, and the brilliant blue Pacific.

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 9, 2010 from Rock Island, United States
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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cuando pienso que no deba estar tan calientito, me digo que en una semana estaré en el desierto.

Rock Island, United States

I should be working on Unit 16 of my TEFL course. Then again, I only have 5 units left, 7 days before I leave, and 6 hours left at work...Which means that in tonight's case, procrastination is okay.

It's been one of those ridiculously humid summer days here in my mostly un-airconditioned apartment, and sleeping was a difficult task. Last night was this week's one day off work, so I went to sleep at a normal hour (1:30am). I woke up at 8am this morning and for the life of me could not fall back asleep. It was already sticky out and I didn't feel like running. Dark clouds were hovering in the east. Eventually I walked down to the coffee shop to go over Unit 15, draw, and kill time. I am definitely bringing my sketchbook with me to Chile.

I ended up going running anyway. It was hot, and I was actually able to enjoy a somewhat longer run (about 6 miles). Running bridges has always been my favorite route. Today I looped around and ran through the new park down by the waterfront on the Illinois side. There was a nice breeze slipping by from the river, and I found that amazing place in my mind where I think about nothing and everything at the same time. It's both relaxing and energizing, and when I do get runner's high, it's what keeps me motivated to continue running.

Anyway, I ran across the Centennial Bridge and started thinking about how much I am going to miss running bridges when I'm in Chile. My mind started wandering, thinking about other things I'll miss when I'm in Chile. Obviously, Kyle (my boyfriend), Elli (my turtle), Bella (our cat), and the fish.

Although I'll still have a job to come back to, I thought about how many of the kids will complete their program and go home before I come back to the States, and I probably won't see many of them again. It's kind of sad thinking that Saturday is my "last" day at work, but then again, I'm excited about meeting my future students in Chile. I wonder if I'll miss the restraints, temper tantrums, yelling, bad attitudes, and noncompliance. In a weird sort of way, I bet I will. I was homesick for my job (especially the working with challenging kids part of it) when I was in England last year. However, I'm 100% glad I went, and I'm sure I'll feel that way about Chile too.

Here is my list of the top 10 things I'll miss about the Quad Cities area during my time in Chile:

1.) Kyle (but maybe he'll be able to come to Chile at some point. Even so, I'm used to seeing him every single day).
2.) Thursday nights at Theo's for open mic.
3.) Running bridges, Hauberg Park, Longview Park, along Blackhawk Park, out to 74 and back.
4.) Walking through Hauberg Park to go to the coffee shop (even though I've managed to cut back on my caffeine intake lately).
5.) Work. I'm pretty much a workaholic, and I love my job. I bet I will love my job in Chile too.
6.) Eating at Blue Cat and walks at night in the district.
7.) Music in general--I'm not bringing any instruments to Chile with me, which probably means no songwriting or singing either. I'll also miss singing and playing bass with the band.
8.) 24th Street in Rock Island, the stretch that goes from Blackhawk Road up to the 5-way. This part of the road winds through lots of beautiful trees. I will miss driving on it, riding in the car as Kyle drives on it, and running there.
9.) Coffee. Although I'm cutting back and learning to live without having espresso every single day (the switch to tea is going well!), I'm sure every now and then I will crave coffee. From what I've read, only the largest cities there have coffee shops. ***please please please let me get placed in Iquique or another large city!!!
10.) Staying up late and sleeping in. I'll be working Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm or something along those lines. Then again, it's probably healthier and more productive to get up and go to sleep earlier. It'll be worth it. I just am wondering if I can tame my inner night owl...at least for 5 months anyway:)

That being said, I do need to start doing Unit 16...

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 13, 2010 from Rock Island, United States
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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almost done packing

Rock Island, United States

Although I don't leave for two more days, tomorrow we're driving back to Peru, IL where my parents live, so today I did most of my packing. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard to fit everything into my carry-on size suitcase. I still have to wash some clothes before I go, but they'll fit:) I was going to bring Pinguino (yes, I have a stuffed animal penguin), but he is too chubby to fit into the suitcase. After debating, I decided it would be better to bring 5 more shirts than a goofy stuffed animal.

As I was packing up my contact case, comb, makeup, etc, the screw holding the arm of my glasses on fell out and the arm of my glasses fell off. I couldn't find the screw anywhere. I just hope Dad will be able to fix them tomorrow.

Now my time for the computer is almost up (I'm at the Rock Island Library since my laptop died a few months ago and a computer isn't really a necessity).

I'll write later!

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 20, 2010 from Rock Island, United States
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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on my way to the airport (jueves, 22 julio)

Peru, United States

My shuttle will be coming to pick me up in about an hour and fifteen minutes. I am feeling a wide assortment of different things. Excitement to see a new country and live there for four months. Sadness because I'll really miss Kyle while I'm in Chile. Grumpiness because getting stuck in a cramped seat on a plane for the next 14 or so hours doesn't sound like any fun. Caffeine-deprived, but then again, it would be pointless to drink any coffee since I hope to actually sleep on the plane. Refreshed because I went on a 4 mile run this morning, even though the humidity was awful, and running along the long quasi-gravel road by my parents House is not much more exciting than being stuck on a treadmill. All you see is endless rows of corn and nothing else. Oh well, it felt good to run so I can't complain too much.

Yesterday I stopped by work to turn in my keys and say some (temporary?) goodbyes. I have no idea if I'll come back to this area after Chile or not, but that's okay. Things will turn out how they're meant to be.

Last night we stayed up late playing baseball (the card game) with my parents. It was pretty fun even though I kept losing (for the life of me I can't shuffle cards), but it was pretty hilarious. Finally we went to bed around 2am. I lied there for a while feeling overwhelmed--this is really it, and I am actually leaving for four months. I felt a similar emotion to right before I went to Oxford last year. I'd been excited about it for a long time, but right before leaving, a tiny part of me wanted to Chicken out and stay home with Kyle instead of being away for a while, part of me felt worried about flight delays, missing my connecting flight, or some other random problem happening. But I'm sure everything will be wonderful. I don't think I'd be quite human if I didn't have a few doubts or concerns with going to a foreign country for a semester.

Anyway, in exactly one day from now, I will be in Santiago!

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 22, 2010 from Peru, United States
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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the beauty of some things cannot be put into words, but nonetheless I will try to do so anyway (lunes 26 julio).

Santiago, Chile

There is so much going through my mind right now. I absolutely love this city. Its horizons of mountains with their snow covered peaks, the sandy cordilleras afar, and the lingering fog have taken me in, captivated me in a place that feels more like a suspension in time and space. It´s like being here but not really here, more connected to the earth and its beauty, but with my feet touching the frozen, dry ground. At the same time my head is lost somewhere and everywhere in the clouds. This is what I´d imagined it would feel like to be free, in many ways. Free from cell phones, computers, TVs, and having to drive. You can slow down and enjoy the flavors of passing moments while also being caught up in the bustle of pedestrians and busy streets. Free to enjoy the more beautiful, more often missed-out-on aspects of life. I´ve never felt this passionately about a place, but intuitively it feels completely right. A strong part of me considering not going back to Rock Island or the US at all. I am thirsty to keep traveling and continue loving the world. To me, travel represents freedom, which I´ve always valued, but it wasn´t until now that I have realized just how much it means to me. I don´t want to go back and miss out on what else I could be seeing. The past few days have been so happy and worthwhile. Although it´s a city and also full of people who smoke, pollution, and graffiti, I feel this is a more spiritual experience, and extremely spiritually and mentally liberating.

I love it here in Santiago and am having an amazing time. I feel like I've been here longer than just 4 days. I like to do a lot of walking, and it's a great city to walk around. Although it's winter here and the coldest one in 37 years, I like the crisp, fresh mountain air. It downpoured the first night I was here but I met up with some people from the hostel and wandered around in the rain to find a good place to try pisco sours.

The first day was frustrating because I was tired (I arrived at 7:50 and hadn't been able to get much sleep on the plane due to lots of turbulence). I also got held up at the airport. The carabineros were confused about the airport letter because it was in English, which they didn't understand. When I arrived I was dead tired from the flight but I stayed up and wandered around the city after checking into Hostelling Internacional on Cienfuegos, Barrio Brasil. It was a lot colder than I´d expected, but by my midwest standards, it was still pretty mild. I put on two of my zip-up sweatshirts and headed out. I listened to a military band concert across the avenue from the Moneda. Then I went to the Iglesia de San Francisco and el Museo de Arte Colonial de San Francisco. It was freezing there and I would´ve enjoyed it more if I´d had an actual winter coat. The tour guide there was friendly but talked a LOT! After going there, I found a store and bought a winter coat, which was on sale for the equivalent of 12 US dollars! I found some artesanías (art and craft shops) and bought a hat.

Then I walked to the Plaza de Armas and visited El Catedral Metropolitana, and El Mercado Central, which freaked me out because I saw this giant dead fish that had blood oozing out of it. It was lightly raining and a little chilly, and I was tired. I met a few other volunteers from the program, mostly Americans, but I felt awkward and out of place. Some of them seemed exactly like the type of people I was trying to ´leave behind`in the States by coming to Chile, but I figured I was just tired and jet lagged. It was slightly depressing and I felt like I´d left Kyle and my job behind for a gray, cold, smoggy city. I took a hot, steamy shower, took out my contacts, and went back to my room, which smelled sort of weird. I had to use a bedsheet to dry myself off with because the hostel had run out of towels, but it wasn´t a big deal and it worked. I changed into pajamas and decided to go to bed. I was dead tired and not in the greatest of moods.

Then one of my hostelmates came into the room and we started talking. Les, who is Canadian /Irish, and I got along really well and started having some awesome conversations. Eventually he invited me out for a few drinks. It was raining a lot and cold, but I decided some company could be a good thing, especially since we were getting along so well and I had yet to try pisco, the national drink of Chile. We walked to Forestal, which later I would fall in love with, and talked nonstop, not really minding the rain. We ended up crossing the Rio Mapocho and walking to Barrio Bellavista where we ordered pisco sours. I enjoyed it alot. After that we walked back to the hostel, tired after a long day.

The following morning I slept in until 10am, took a hot shower, and got dressed. We went to Cerro San Cristobal after a vegan lunch in a hole in the wall but nice cafe, and visited La Iglesia Merced. Then we walked to Cerro San Cristobal and went hiking up to the summit. On the way there were these really neat aloe vera-like succulent plants that were huge. It was a little bit muddy on the trails but extremely breathtaking. At the summit of Cerro San Cristobal, I drank in the view of city, mountains, and cordillera poking through wispy patches of fog. It was incredible.

There are many things in life you cannot pinpoint the exact moment you begin to love something because the process occurs gradually, but this was different. At the top of Cerro San Cristobal I was taken in by Santiago and realized I wanted to spend way longer than only 5 months in Chile. It was such a powerful experience, falling in love with life at the top of this cerro, so much life below me and nothing but open, foggy sky above me. I felt completely free, happy and energized. This feeling has intensified with each moment of my time in Santiago.

On the way down, we found some more artesanías and wandered through Bellavista with its rainbow colored houses. It began to lightly rain but the sun was poking through the pale clouds and a rainbow reached across the sky, which was great because we were in a neighborhood of colorful houses and murals everywhere when the rainbow appeared.

We crossed back over the Mapocho and walked along the river before going to El Parque de las Esculturas, where I got to contemplate the meaning of art, philosophy, and motives. It isn´t often I find someone who enjoys art and thinks about it the way I do, but I guess when you travel, you find other people like you whose view of the world is more open-minded and interesting.

For dinner I ate a liviana, which is a sandwich, and jugo de chirrimoya. On the way back to the hostel I passed this rectangular fountain of psychedelic water and enjoyed the stars. In Santiago at this time of the year it starts getting dark around 6-6:30pm. We found a bar with this Michael Jackson impersonator who was interesting to watch. I tried Escudo, a type of Chilean beer, but it had a funky kind of aftertaste.

On Sunday I got to sleep in. I went to el Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombiano, where I enjoyed looking at artwork and artifacts from the Incans, Aymara, Mapuche, Mayans, Aztec, and other indigenous peoples. I was able to use Spanish more comfortably today. I went back to the plaza de Armas and listened to a military band concert. Then I visited el Museo Histórico Nacional, which had rooms explaining what life was like for the early settlers of Chile and the different social classes there. I found a park where a Chilean college student was passing out poetry and trying to raise money for the earthquake victims in Concepción. We talked for a little bit and he asked what part of Chile I was from. I guess my Spanish must be improving...at least I hope so. I walked to Cerro Santa Lucía and hiked to the top of it. It was beautiful, and I felt so inspired and in love with this city. I ended up finding a bench in the sunlight and writing poetry in Spanish because it felt more creative than using English, which seemed too `normal´ to capture what I wanted to say. After that I wandered down to Huérfanos where I heard a protest concert of Chileans protesting the immigration policy of Peruvian refugees. I walked down Paseo Ahumeda and decided randomly to get another piercing in my right ear...the place was there and I liked the spontaneous idea of getting something done. I talked to the guy in Spanish and then continued on my way.

Back at the hostel I met up with Les, and his roommates, Sebastián, Dave, and a guy from Spain. We went to a bar in Barrio Brasil and had some wine and a great conversation almost all in Spanish! For a few minutes Sebastián (from Argentina) was going on about how `mystical`my eyes were. I suppose people here are not used to seeing people with blue eyes.

Today I dragged myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:30am, took a scalding shower in an otherwise arctic-like hostel. Everyone was dressed up a lot more than I was, but I´m not really that kind of person. A few others wore jeans, but it didn´t really matter since we were just sitting at tables most of the day. For lunch I went with Lisa and Katelyn to a restaurant called Comida Chilena, which we thought was kind of funny.

The program seems really great so far. Today's orientation was sort of repetitive since I took the TEFL course, but then again, it won't hurt hearing things again. The people doing the presentations today were great--super friendly and helpful, and it wasn't boring at all! I am having a wonderful time and although it's only been 4 days, I am falling in love with this city and the people here. There are a lot of artesanias which are interesting to look around and many fresh fruit/veg markets, which makes me happy (I decided to go vegan upon my arrival here). This weekend I have Sat and Sun free before my flight up north on Monday, so on Sat I'm going to take the metro to take a tour of one of the wineries.

After orientation I decided to go running. There aren´t many runners here because of the busy streets and smog. But then again, I´m the kind of person who if I love doing something, am not going to be deterred by a little bit of smog, which I really don´t think is that bad. The parks here are beautiful and completely outweigh the busy streets and smog. Running here is like freedom.There is nothing holding me back from anything. The Santiaguine night air is crisp and refreshing, and I love having endless darkness stretch in front of me, like I have the world in my hands and all of it is mine to explore and do whatever I want with. While running, my mind lapsed into this state where I think of everything and nothing at the same time. It´s meditative, calming, yet energizing. I love the feeling that I can completely rely on myself and my own two legs to carry me along wherever I want to go. I did get a few weird looks from people. An old man told me, `ten cuidad,`and a Chilean college-age student in the Plaza de Armas stood up, started clapping, and yelled, `quieres ser mi amiga?` I kept running but yelled back, `solo si corres conmigo`and laughed to myself.

Anyway, I am heading out to meet up with some people from the hostel for dinner. I'll post some writing on my blog later, but honestly am REALLY enjoying not having to worry about having a car, cell phone, computer, etc. I like living on not a whole lot because I can enjoy the smaller, more often missed-out-on things here. Being here is definitely changing my perspectives on things in a good kind of way.

Nos cachamos!

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 26, 2010 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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permanent markers and white boards don´t end well (martes, 27 junio)

Santiago, Chile

Today was a little bit hard to pay attention during orientation since a lot of it was a repeat of what I´d learned during the TEFL course. To me, not much is worse than getting stuck sitting in a chair all day listening to people talk. Because of this, during the lesson planning part of the class, a friend I met here and I decided to start being the ´class clowns´just to make orientation bearable. For our presentation we had to pretend that we were teaching the class a speaking-based lesson, in which we taught them the song `Imagine`by the Beatles. One, it was an excuse to sing during orientation, and two, we got to do a ´fun´lesson instead of a boring one like everybody else. We wrote the words ´heaven, hell, die, kill,´ etc on the board (because they are in the song) and then acted them out. I got to be stabbed by Katie and fall on the floor dying. It was actually pretty funny and our class mostly paid attention! Once our lesson was over, we went to erase the board, only to realize that all of our vocab words had been written with a permanent black marker instead of a regular dry erase marker. The guy from the program apologized and admitted it was his fault for putting a permanent marker next to the board, and part of me felt bad because I couldn´t stop laughing. You know how sometimes you are the right combination of bored and tired that you think everything is funny? Well I was definitely at that point this afternoon.

After orientation got out, I met up with Elena, another volunteer, to go running. She is a marathon runner and we went on an hour and a half long run. Part of me felt bad because a few times I struggled to keep up with her (she´s actually finished a few marathons and I´m going to run my first one while in Chile), but she was really nice and encouraging. We ran up to Cerro San Cristobal. Fortunately it seems like my knee fully over that awful ACL injury I had in May. I realized that although I was frustrated with myself at first, it was really good to run with her because usually I go alone, and it is kind of nice having a better runner with you to push you further. It made me kind of miss running with Jess back home a few summers ago. It took most of the time running today for me to start feeling that runner´s high feeling. Unfortunately, I didn´t start feeling ´into it´until we were almost back at the hostel. I suppose this is a good thing...it used to take me 2 miles before I could settle in and feel like that, but we probably went 8 today. This must mean my endurance is improving. I love running in Santiago because all of it is so new and interesting to see. There´s a fun sort of aspect to running in places where you don´t quite know where you´re going because it makes the time pass way faster.

Back at the hostel I took an extremely long shower and then sat down to read some of `The House of Spirits`by Isabel Allende. I love reading but haven´t had much time to just sit and read while here, but that´s okay because I can read anytime, and I´m only here in Santiago for this week plus a few days. I ate some fresh fruit which was left over from lunch. After dinner I met up with Les, Sebastian, and Diego (who works at the hostel) for a little bit outside because it was actually warm enough to sit out on the back patio for a while. Then Sebastian and I went to this sushi restaurant in Barrio Brasil (the same place where we´d all gone the night before for wine and pisco sours de maracuya). I ordered vegan sushi, which was incredible. I´d never tried sushi before, and I loved it. Here they put avocados and corn in it, which was interesting because I´m pretty sure ´normal´sushi does not put those ingredients in it.

By the way, according to our EOD insurance plans, it seems like everything is considered an `extreme sport,`including long distance running. At least most of the things I want to do (skiing, surfing, paragliding, rock climbing, kayaking) usually include a basic insurance when you sign up for it. I´m going to try surfing, paragliding, and rock climbing in Iquique, and hope to try skiing here in Santiago. Life is short and I might as well try new things and live on the edge while I´m here.

Anyway, I´ll write more later. Buenas noches:)

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 27, 2010 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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miercoles, 28 julio

Santiago, Chile

Today I had issues with waking up this morning, but at 8:15 finally got out of bed. I was glad I showered last night so all I had to do was get dressed and head to the hotel board room for orientation. I stopped at this place called Natural Greens and got some fresh kiwi juice on the way. It was great! During orientation we worked on more lesson plans and I met some more people. I ate lunch at El Naturista on Paseo Huérfanos with another volunteer. El Naturista is a vegetarian / vegan restaurant. It´s a little pricey but good. It was kind of weird because when we arrived they gave me a menu in Spanish but the other volunteer one in English.

I have been having an easier time lately with speaking Spanish. I feel like I´m improving at it already. Part of me never wants to return the US because then I can stay here (or maybe go to another Spanish speaking country) where I can eventually become fluent. I really love it here and ever since going to Cerro San Cristobal, have felt enamored with this place. Before I´d felt captivated by Venice and its charm, enjoyed the magical city of Prague, but Chile is different. It´s like the mountains and the fog cast a spell over you and you`re completely taken in by it and never want to leave. I´ve enjoyed being here so much that I haven´t thought much about back home at all (although I actually want to get placed in one of the worse schools because I do miss working with my former clients at Arrowhead).

After orientation I was planning on going to Pablo Neruda´s house (La Chascona), but I didn´t have time since the last tour starts a little before 5pm. Instead I went on a shorter, 6 mile run to Plaza Italia and around Forestal before going back to the hostel to shower. I headed out to a vegetable / fruit vendor and bought a fresh avocado, kiwi, and some nuts for dinner. After that, Les, Sebastian, and I went to a place in Barrio Brasil for a drink or two. I couldn´t believe it because it was a Chilean bar that didn´t have pisco! I suppose maybe they ran out. Hanging out with those two has been a lot of fun and I´m going to miss their company when I leave Santiago on Monday.

I need to get some sleep...another early morning tomorrow awaits.

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 28, 2010 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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there is so much in this world to love and to write about (jueves, 29 julio)

Santiago, Chile

Today orientation was long, as usual. I stopped at Natural Greens to get fresh juice before orientation began. Today they told us about our trip arrangements. Everyone in the group was laughing because some of the people have to get up at 6am on Monday to depart from Santiago. I was laughing, but that stopped as soon as I found out that on Monday I have a 6:30am flight to Iquique, which means I have to be waiting at the front desk of the hostel at 5am for the Inglés Abre Puertas people to pick us up. I guess it was bad karma to laugh at other people...

Instead of going somewhere for lunch I decided to wander around Paseo Huérfanos and Ahumeda to look in some shops. I got some bread, peaches, and juice to take with me and enjoyed the sunlight in la Plaza de Armas. There were a bunch of painters there, so I was excited. I have this thing where every city I visit, I buy a painting. For me, there is no cooler memento of my trip than something completely original made by a native of that city. I´ve always found artists to be a friendly and interesting type of people, so I talked to about three or four of the painters in Spanish for a while. One of them asked if I came from Spain and seemed a little surprised when I said I was from the States. At least it made me feel more confident about speaking Spanish. When I first got here, it had been a while since I´d spoken or heard Spanish (disincluding the Spanish channel), so it wasn´t easy at first. I know it hasn´t been much time at all, but I´m getting more comfortable speaking in Spanish. I was surprised by how difficult it is, especially since I´d always been really good at Spanish in my classes. Then again, the Chilean dialect is a lot different than other kinds of Spanish. I figure that if I can learn to understand people and be understood here, it will be extremely beneficial for me. I ended up choosing a really pretty watercolor of La Calle Catedral. There is a black lantern just off-center surrounded by yellows and pinks of the sunset framed by both sides of the street. The painter said it took about an hour to make. I love being able to talk to the locals about art and the city.

Then I had to return to orientation. When it did finally get over, I walked to La Chascona, which is one of Pablo Neruda´s three houses. Before I came to Chile I bought a bilingual edition of one of Neruda´s collections of poetry. To me, his words are beautiful and completely inspiring. I took a tour in Spanish, and the tour guide was very nice. He kept asking if I understood or had questions since he knew Spanish wasn´t my first language. The house itself is beautiful with all sorts of intricate collections and trinkets such as paperweights, glasswork, dishes, pottery, paintings, and so forth. It is designed to resemble a ship because he loved the sea. Neruda built La Chascona as a place to keep his lover, Matilde, hidden away, but they eventually got married. The house is about as eccentric as Neruda was. The objects seem random, but are a good reflection of his character.

I left there in a creative and inspired mood. There is so much in this world to love and to write about. So many things to appreciate, so much beauty surrounding us. And to think of how much time all of us waste complaining or only seeing the negative. There´s some sort of optimism and realism of being in Santiago, some sort of positive and refreshing energy. Something about this place just resonates love and happiness. I can´t put my finger on it, but that´s okay.

When I got back to the hostel I checked my email, only to find out that back home, my grandma is in the hospital after a sequence of bad events. It was strange because Roman, another volunteer, had let me borrow his laptop to check my email, and without meaning to, blurted out that my grandma was in the hospital and I couldn´t believe all the things that had happened. Roman pointed out that there really was nothing I could do about it, being that I´m all the way in Chile, and worrying wouldn´t do any good. A bunch of volunteers were going out that night to a salsoteca to take salsa dancing lessons, and he invited me to go with. I´m not much of a dancer, but I thought it would be fun, especially since one time back home Kyle and I had been talking about salsa dancing and how he didn´t think I´d be able to learn it because sometimes I´m pretty uncoordinated.

After a quick dinner of avocados, kiwi, almonds, and cauliflour soup, we took the Metro to Baquedano and walked a short way to the place in Bellavista. The music there was lively and fun, and the inside of the place had such a rich South American flavor. It was a little hard to understand the instructor because she talked really fast, but I managed to learn a few steps, spins, etc. She kept having us switch partners and I ended up with a guy, Andrés, who was a great dancer, and he was able to teach me some more salsa. We ended up dancing for five hours! It was a lot of fun and I didn´t want to leave so early (the place didn´t close till 3), but there was still one more day of orientation to get through...

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 29, 2010 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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hoy es hoy / y ayer se fue / no hay dudas (viernes, 30 julio)

Santiago, Chile

Finally the last day of orientation has ended. It´s not that I didn´t enjoy it or meet a lot of interesting people, but it was a long week and parts of orientation weren´t that exciting. Some of it was though, like the `Never Have I Ever`game. Let´s just say that I was standing up a lot:) During our lunch break we walked to a place near the Moneda. Fortunately for me, the place next door had veggie burgers!!! I was so excited because I didn´t think they´d have veggie burgers in Chile. I ordered it to go and joined some of the other volunteers at the cafe next door. In a way it´s sad because just as I´m getting to know people, it´s almost time for all of us to leave Santiago. I´m glad I have all of tomorrow and Sunday free. Hopefully on Sunday I´m going to try skiing. I think it´ll be a lot of fun.

After orientation I ran from the hostel all the way out to Los Leones and back. I seriously felt like I was flying. It´s funny because runner´s high used to be a rare occurrence for me, but this whole week it´s been happening. It´s one of the most incredible feelings ever. I ran for almost two hours straight and didn´t want to go back to the hostel because I wanted to keep running forever, but I didn´t want to overdo it again. When I got back to the hostel I stayed in the shower for a long time and my back kept cracking, which also felt great.

I got this crazy but awesome idea that I really want to do. I think I´m going to cancel my return flight and get my money refunded, and when I decide to head back to the States, I´ll take a bus from one city to the next, spending a day or two in places that interest me along the way. I packed light, so this is entirely possible. I´d get to experience more countries and see more places that way. I don´t mind long bus rides, in fact, they´re actually kind of fun. I could get a glimpse of other Spanish speaking countries and their cultures on my long way home. That is, if I decide to go home after all...

I meandered downstairs with my notebook with the intentions of writing, but that didn´t happen because I ran into more people, and as usual for me, started talking. I ended up drinking wine with the hostel staff and some of their friends, one of whom was being really cheesy about my blue eyes. I don´t think a day has passed here where someone has not said something about my eyes. It was a lot of fun talking to the hostel staff and their friends, as well as Les, Sebastian, Igor, and Dave. I didn´t go to bed until after 4am, but it wasn´t a big deal because it´s a Friday night and I get to sleep in tomorrow. I just hope I can tame my inner night owl in a few days when I start working 8 to 4 at the school. But for now, I am enjoying every moment here.

permalink written by  Sara Florecita on July 30, 2010 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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Sara Florecita Sara Florecita
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-I am participating in the Inglés Abre Puertas program run by the Chilean Ministry of Education.
-Hobbies include travelling, writing, reading, learning Spanish and Italian, long-distance running, music, and art.
-I am a college graduate who is trying to find her place in this world.

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