My heart rate is finally settling down a bit after a hectic and exhilarating first week and a half. Nonetheless, I am still eating extremely well and frequently (courtesy of Wee Wee) and constantly on the move, trying to take advantage of all that’s here and improve my Chilean slang without making too many comical gringo slip-ups along the way.
I started taking a few classes this past week (after the past few weeks, it never crossed my mind that I’d have to do actual school work!) at Casa SIT where I will take a Spanish class every morning, Monday-Friday, and a Research Methods and Ethics class every Monday and Thursday afternoon. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll be taking 2 courses, Justice and Socio-economic Development in Chile and Sociocultural Transformations in Chile, at Tecnica Federico Santa Maria University( those classes will start this week). All the classes will be in Spanish with a few tests, presentations, and field trips/excursions built into the courses.
I filled my free time this week by biking around Viña a bit on Felipe’s old and rusted bike (nothing WD40 can’t fix!) and exploring the city of Valpo with fellow gringos/students. The city of Valparaíso has so much flavor- to the eye and to the experience. We went on a boat ride/tour of the bay in front of Valpo and got a magnificent glance at the aesthetics of the city from the perspective of the boat as well as a history lesson of the city and of the Golpe de Estado 40 years ago. The city is so colorful and dramatic as the cerros/foothills rise immediately and steeply from the bay. The anniversary of the Golpe, Sept. 11, is certainly the hottest topic in the country right now. Every media outlet is covering the story from dawn till dusk, adding to everyone’s hype of the day to come. Our teachers and families have advised us students that Wednesday is not a day to be out in the streets. We need to come straight home after our classes end and should not participate nor watch the marches, protests, and chaos that are sure to fill the city. So, like a good informed citizen, I’ll be tuning into the hectic action through the protection of the media.
On Friday we had the day off because the Registro Civil, is on strike and demanding improved wages, and thus were not able to go to get our student identification cards. So, I took advantage of the free but cloudy day and took a bus with a few gringo friends about an hour south to La Isla Negra, home to one of Pablo Neruda’s 3 homes in Chile. Señor Neruda continues to prove himself as quite the character, “a lover of things.” His house at La Isla Negra is constructed to shed the appearance of a boat and a train, and the interior is filled with stuff- LOTS of stuff. Everything from seashells, globes, art, taxidermy, ships in bottles, trash, fine china, and massive telescopes line the walls and ceilings of the house. And of course his bedroom is filled with an expanse of windows looking out to a beautiful beach and what I’m sure is an incredible view on a clear day.
During these weekend nights, I have definitely begun to get accustomed to the idea that the night does not end until after 5am!…everything just gets going a bit later here, and nobody stops partying until dawn. Exhausting but extremely fun as I have begun to make a few Chilean friends who continually prove to be nothing but welcoming and hospitable in every way- inviting me to the VIP sections in clubs and others to play ultimate Frisbee in the park and watch the Chilean national fútbol team beat Venezuela and earn a birth into the World Cup.
This same friendly culture permeates into other gringos who call Valpo home. As I try to get connected with masses of kids who I can show lacrosse and connect with in order to gather future research prospects for my project, I have already been able to link up with a couple after-school organizations who’s mission it is to connect with local kids in a positive and influential manner through surfing, skate-boarding, English lessons, and rugby. This past week I started volunteering for Valpo Surf Project (VSP), who’s “goal is to use surfing instruction and academic mentoring to encourage English language skills, personal character development, and environmental consciousness among underprivileged and at-risk youth in Valparaiso, Chile.” I brought a few sticks along with me to class this week and then brought a full set of sticks and goal to the beach on Sunday for the kids to play with we weren’t surfing (or me trying to surf). Even after only a week of working with these kids, I am really interested in diving in further with this organization, improving my teaching skills in and outside of the classroom, and consistently incorporating lacrosse into VSP’s existing curriculum. In the next week or two, I will be getting involved with a local rugby club as well to perhaps integrate lacrosse in a similar way. As my lacrosse opportunities present themselves, I will also be posting for 3x Lacrosse on 3xlax.com and for Lax All Stars on laxallstars.com.
I know that my experiences and what I will learn during these next 4 months will reach far beyond simply playing toss with the kids; and already I have learned and picked up on many subtleties of Chilean culture in regards to sports. Through my observations and interactions over the following weeks, I will focus in on a more concrete research question that I will be able to efficiently execute during the 4 weeks that I will have in November to carry out my independent research project. Until then, I will continue searching for more opportunities to take advantage of where I can connect with a variety of Chileans on a deeper intrinsic level.