Se Fue el Semestre

Everything coming to a close now after a successful reception of my independent study project and lots of play (surfing, concerts, pool parties…the rough life) these past couple weeks for which one must sacrifice some sleep! Nonetheless la vida es buena and I am grateful and a bit nostalgic for all that these past few months in Valparaíso has given me and am super psyched for the month ahead of me. Tomorrow I will hopefully head to Pichilemu with a few friends to camp, surf, and explore the area for 4 days until heading to Lima, Peru to meet up with the rest of my fam for what’s sure to be a great 10 day vacation. Then I will be returning to Valpo on Xmas-Eve to spend a few days with my Chilean host family before heading down to northern Patagonia in San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina to spend a few days with a friend through the new year and then finally back to Colorado on the 3rd of the year. So to say that life is sweet would be an understatement. Still, can’t wait to get back to everything and everyone that awaits me back in CO, skiing included, and Boston, lacrosse included.

Mi mamá, WiWi, y yo en nuestra cena final

Mi mamá, WiWi, y yo en nuestra cena final

If any of you have interest or Spanish skills and would like to check out my project, the link below will direct you to my written project and the complementary video that I hope to get some English subtitles on at some point. Hope you all enjoy! Abrazos gigantes.

ISP Escrito

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNYvTqiKAiQ&feature=youtu.be

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Play, Work, Live

After spending another week in northern Chile (5 days of which I spent living with on other student in a small pueblo of ~30 people, Socoroma, living the daily life in the fields, helping out at the school, and studying the town’s current water and irrigation system), I arrived back to Valparaíso at the beginning of November with a whole lot of work ahead of me as I entered the Independent Research Project period. Before any work could begin though, much play and friends had to come first. Two of my best friends from Tufts, Abbie and Janie who are studying in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, came to Valpo/Viña to get a taste of the high life staying with Wee Wee and fam at my house for the 1-3 of November. Between being spoiled by Wee Wee, going to a beer festival, taking a tour of Pablo Neruda’s house, lounging on the dunes, and having a an asado and playing beer pong with Wee Wee, I’m pretty sure the girls had a successful weekend here.

Me, Abbie, Janie

Me, Abbie, Janie

Daniel, Isabela, Sebastian, Me in Socoromo

Daniel, Isabela, Sebastian, Me in Socoroma

After the girls left, I was immediately greeted with a meeting with my advisor, a sociologist at the University of Chile, who assured me I still did not have a grasp of a specific research question that I could use for my project (something I’ve been told for the past month and a half). After that heart-warming meeting and a few days of scurrying, article rummaging and Google translate, I finally was able to create a concrete enough idea to get off the ground with. As a quick summary, I’ve decided to observe social interactions, specifically competitive behavior, in two socioeconomically contrasting physical education environments by entering into a public and private school to teach 3 sessions of lacrosse in each school. To complement my behavioral observational field study, I will also conduct interviews through out the month in order to comprehend the sources and influences of the kids’ healthy or delinquent daily habits and values in and outside of school. Even after my first intervention in the public school, I already began to pick up on many behavioral subtleties, and with the aid of a fantastic person and physical ed teacher, I have been able to focus in even further on a few key concepts/examples of the student’s behavior that I will continue to build upon in the next few weeks.

No matter how intense or time consuming the project is, I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to do hands on field-based research about a topic that I’m passionate about.  Everyone has been so supportive of my ideas here and it even seems as though my original idea of making a mini documentary will turn out! In the past couple months, I did make another short film of my lacrosse ventures before heading on my excursion to the north. Check out the video here…

Still, can’t let my time pass here in Chile without seeing or experiences something new every day. Lsat weekend, I made a trip about an hour south of Valpo to Algarrobo, where I stayed with an incredibly hospitable family (like the majority of Chileans), whom I met back in Colorado this summer. (The inlaws of my sister’s Chilean nanny). Although a strange connection, it was another reassurance to me of just how strong Chilean warmth really is- to have faith in someone you know by 4 degrees of separation, to welcome them into your home and treat them as if you’d know them for years and years. A truly special, beautiful, calm weekend complemented by the world’s largest man-made salt-water lagoon, beautiful walks on the beach, a family reunion/asado while watching Chile’s most prominent soccer teams faceoff (truly experiencing South American love of fútbol), a community parade celebrating the Festival of Spring, and some home made empanadas.

IMG_20131108_161956_610 IMG_20131108_172930_451 IMG_20131109_163211_472 IMG_20131109_181113_762 IMG_20131110_163755_811

A true treat it was, but now back to work!…I did come here to study.

Onto the next

Ah, finally now I have more than 10 min of free time to write another blog post…,which I guess, is not a bad thing and am certainly not complaining. Since coming back into real life in Chile after Fiestas Patrias, life certainly picked up again to 100mph.

Now after 6 ½ weeks of classes, 5 hours each week, while living with our host family, the first segment of the semester is coming to a close. The courses I’ve taken have been great and I am truly grateful for the organization put in by the SIT staff. Apart from our daily Spanish classes, which are taught by the same professors each morning who conduct very high-spirited classes and enlightening excursions around Valparaíso to observe and interview (to the local fishermen’s dock, the local feria, plazas, etc.), our seminar classes each afternoon are taught by a different professional and/or passionate activist in the field of that day’s class.

SIT program and our Spanish teachers

SIT program and our Spanish teachers

We’ve had a very skilled documentary director, Sebastian Moreno, whose film is extremely powerful and a worthwhile watch about photographers in the streets of Santiago during the dictatorship (http://www.laciudaddelosfotografos.cl/), another speaker, Camilo Ballesteros, who’s a leader in the Student Movement , and multiple survivors of torture and detainment during the 70’s and 80’s. Needless to say, these classes and our excursions are great first and second hand encounters with the very sensitive and complicated realities of this country.

A few weekends ago, a few friends and I took a few days to travel outside of Valpo and head about 6 hours north by bus to La Serena. It was great to bum around a different funky city for a day, play soccer on the beach with some Chileans, and then also went up in into the Elqui Valley which offers quite a unique landscape filled with extremely dry mountain spurting out of the valley floor that is filled with endless vineyards for wine, but mostly pisco. Here in the valley is a dinky town called Pisco Elqui, where we went on a tour of a pisco distillery and camped underneath beneath a beautiful clear sky that night. Apparently Elqui Valley is home to some of the clearest skies in the world and some of the world’s most prominent observatories.

Pisco Distillery

Pisco Distillery

Valle Elqui

Valle Elqui

Last weekend our program planned for us to do some community service in one of Valpo’s less developed neighborhoods very high up on the cerro of Playa Ancha. Danko, one of the SIT main staff members, told me that “this high up on the hills, anything can get robbed, but never the view.” And indeed, the view is breathtaking. However, now tall apartment buildings are being built on the hills every day and stealing people’s miraculous views.

view from Montedonico, Playa Ancha

view from Montedonico, Playa Ancha

Although many of us in the program wish we could have done a lot more for this neighborhood, we helped build a small soccer field enclosure and built/painted a small playground made out of car tires. After completing the work, SIT and the local community center organized a small parade to march through the small neighborhood to try and rally kids to come down to the new playground- a very fun, lively atmosphere inspired off of “Mil Tambores,” which we celebrated the next day. The entire community service experience again proved to me the authenticity of Chilean hospitality and how it almost felt they were spoiling us more than we were helping them. Nonetheless, I’m always extremely grateful for Chilean welcoming spirit.

Opening of the new playground

Opening of the new playground

The next day, a few of us went to celebrate “Mil Tambores” (1000 Drums), a celebration of life, community, and cultural preservation, which takes place every year in Valpo. After last year’s celebration got too rowdy and turned into a riot of sorts, the government initially banned all Mil Tambores festivities seeing that presidential election are now less than a month away and the government would like the keep people off the streets in mass gatherings as much as possible during the next few weeks. However after much disapproval from the people, the city allowed the parade to take place. The parade is filled with naked bodies artistically painted, elaborate costumes, jugglers on stilts, thousands of people playing drums and dancing in the streets.- Was such a scene of love, life, art, and compassion. And much to our surprise later that evening, while waiting in the ER for a friend who fell off the bus and hit her head (who thankfully now is healthy), we saw ourselves on the nightly news TV channel, half naked dancing to a drum line. I think I can go home now that I’ve finally made my appearance on Chilean news.

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Some body art at Mil Tambores

Some body art at Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Caralee, myself, Cristal

Caralee, myself, Cristal

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Mil Tambores

Earlier in the week, when we had been waiting for 4 ½ hours in the civil registry to get our ID cards after the employees there had been on strike for over 25 days, a few of the girls decided to take a nap on the floor and were subsequently caught on tape by another Chilean news station and sure enough found themselves in the news reel later that night (Maybe us gringos actually aren’t doing that great a job at lying low after all).

After Mil Tambores, we were lucky enough to hear Michelle Bachelet, one of the favorite liberal candidates in the upcoming election who was president 2006-2010, speak for a few minutes in the main square in Valpo. It’s been very cool to witness the process of a crucial presidential election happening elsewhere than my home country, that’s continually filled with inspiring examples of pride and protest.

Protest sign during Michelle Bachelet's speach

Protest sign during Michelle Bachelet’s speach

Earlier in the weekend, I went to a see “Inti-Illimani” (Chilean version of The Beatles) in concert in Valpo. They’re a folk music group of political musicians, genre of Nueva Canción who were forced into exile during the dictatorship and have always been and remained a symbol of communist perseverance. It turned out to be a very talented yet mellow concert as everyone in the theater was sitting down and composed for most of the show (a bit of a different scene from Red Rocks Amphitheater), but authentic to say the least.

This weekend, being the end of our program’s first phase, was fun and jam-packed with a Chilean fútbol game against Columbia (which we unfortunately lost but still have one more chance on Tuesday to qualify for the world cup!), a beer festival in abandoned train cars and warehouses, a picnic with all the students and families on my program, a 21st birthday complemented by great live skah music in a dance bar (Mano Inquieta  and LaSmala , and a day of surfing and some lacrosse with Valpo Surf Project.

Valpo Beer Festival

Valpo Beer Festival

Now, besides getting some more sleep these next few days, I am preparing to leave Valpo/Viña for 2 weeks to travel to Chile’s northern Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, to live with an indigenous Aymara community. I’m very excited for this unique opportunity and am sure many stories will come of it. Upon returning from this 2-week excursion, the month long independent research period commences. I am still finalizing the logistics and hypotheses, but no matter will be teaching lacrosse in physical education classes in a public school and a socioeconomically contrasting private school and comparing the kids’ reactions to this new sport as an indication to which demographic may hold higher levels of ‘openness to experience’- and filming it all! Until then, hopefully all the logistics come together and my project will turn into a success of some sort.

There’s always so much and too much to do here and so little time to write about it all, but I hope to continue keeping people in tha loop when I come back from the desert. Much love to all. Keep happy and healthy.

Home Away from Home

After another couple weeks in Chile, it’s getting easier to call this place my home. Between going to classes twice/day in Valparaíso during the week and coming home midday for lunch with the family, I’m getting the hang of traveling around the city. Nonetheless everyday is different and learn something new each time I leave my bedroom.

SIT is great in the sense that multiple experiential excursions planned for the program through out the semester- a great opportunity to interact the Chilean people on the most authentic level. Last Tuesday, we had class down at the pier and each student individually interviewed local fisherman in order to get a strong sense of the humbling reality, which “Pescadores Artesanales” live every day. To say that the local fishermen’s rights are exploited would be an understatement. In the waters near Valparaíso, huge commercial fishing ships dominate the water while the local fisherman scrounge up whatever is left. After los Pescadores Artesanales real in their catch, their sale profits are then distributed usually between five families. The profits are distributed so because the cost of maintaining even a small fishing boat is so high because of the high taxes and strict regulations placed on the local fishing industry by the government. Meanwhile the government allows the large commercial fishing ships free reign over the waters, little to no taxes, and no regulations all so that the commercial fish sales will bring money into the cities. However consequently, since the big ships have no regulations to when they can fish, the ships end up taking the fish out of the water before they are fully developed and also end up taking the fish eggs out of the water, leaving less and less fish for los Pescadores Artesanales who are forbidden to fish during these regulated times. Needless to say, these hard working fishermen struggle to live on the poverty line and was very humbling to speak to them in person (although I can only understand about every 5th word they say as Chilean Spanish is very hard to understand if someone is not consciously trying to slow down and enunciate- words just bleed into each other in a seemingly slurred dialect).

fishermen's lockers

fishermen’s lockers

the pier

the pier

At the end of the week, SIT took us to Santiago for a day where we ate a huge traditional Chilean meal, visited La Moneda (the Chilean version of the White House), and finished off the day with a tour of El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos that was constructed to commemorate all the missing, tortured, and killed Chileans as a result of Pinochet’s military Golpe del Estado and the succeeding dictatorship. Like the holocaust museums in DC and in Israel, this museum hits hard and is impossible to take in in only one visit.

An enlarged sculpture of Allende's glasses found in La Moneda after it was bombed

An enlarged sculpture of Allende’s glasses found in La Moneda after it was bombed

La Moneda

La Moneda

Salvador Allende memorial outside La Moneda

Salvador Allende memorial outside La Moneda

Like I said in a previous post, leading up to last Wednesday, September 11th, the media and common conversations have been saturated with the commemoration of the 40 anniversary of the Golpe. Certainly strange to be enveloped in this dark aspect of Chile’s recent past on September 11th while recognizing that September 11th means something much different for most Americans…and I believe with this reality comes a bit of ignorance. It’s been extremely interesting and sobering to hear of the US’s involvement/financial aid given to Pinochet during the early 1970’s and yet the majority of Americans are not aware of this unflattering truth.

outside La Monedo

outside La Monedo

Last weekend was another chance to get out with Valpo Surf Project for a day with the kids- unfortunately we were unable to get a car to take the surf boards to the beach, so instead we went to a local Valpo beach and played lacrosse and soccer! The kids are so intrigued by the sticks and the way you fling a ball out and get to push each other around (a reflection of my initial interest in the game). Surprisingly or not, it’s the girls who are more willing to pick up the sticks and have a toss after all! I’ll try to put another video together in the next couple weeks.

Inside Valpo Surf Project's classroom where I volunteer every Thursday

Inside Valpo Surf Project’s classroom where I volunteer every Thursday

outside the VSP classroom

outside the VSP classroom

This week is Chile’s independence celebrations and certainly proving to be the country’s time to shine- a week full of friends, family and food instead of just one day. The past few days have been a chance to eat great food (mostly empanadas and red meat), drink terremotos and chicha, fly kites, and attempt to dance the Cueca, Chile’s national dance. I’ve been schlepped around to multiple family asados at one of Wee Wee’s kids house outside of Viña del Mar and another one in at a beautiful park in Olmue (about an hour into the interior where my family used to own a second house) where we all played some lacrosse too. It’s quite a distinct landscape there in the Chile’s central interior- steep green and lush mountains sprouting out of the valley floor filled with vineyards and farmland.

Olmue

Olmue

lil laxer

lil laxer

La Cueca (Wee Wee and Sergio in the middle)

La Cueca (Wee Wee and Sergio in the middle)

Nonna (88 years old) is still quite a dancer!

Nonna (88 years old) is still quite a dancer!

Chile's first national lacrosse team

Chile’s first national lacrosse team

No Chilean goes this week without a family asado or a trip to Las Ramadas/ La Fonda… “Ramadas feature a dance floor, music, and tables to eat. Fondas, or refreshment stands, offer a wide variety of Chilean food including empanadas, anticuchos (shish kabobs), chicha (alchoholic drink), and more” – pretty much a big fair with people of all types including tourists, dancers, overly drunk teenagers/flaites, and everyone else. Quite a lively scene! And after a night at La Fonda last night, we had one last family asado at the house today then my host brother, Felipe, and I went sand surfing at the sand dunes that line the coast about a 15 min micro ride north of Viña- after a mouth full sand we decided it was our one way to justify all the food we’ve been eating these past few days.

Felipe and I atop of the dunes

Felipe and I atop of the dunes

View west from the dunes

View west from the dunes

view from dunes looking back at Valparaíso

view from dunes looking back at Valparaíso

Sand Dunes just north of Viña

Sand Dunes just north of Viña

By the end of this weekend, I have to decide where I want to go during my two week excursion in October- either to the northern desert of Chile to experience the Aymara culture or south to Temuco to spend my time with a Mapuche community. There’s definitely no bad decision, yet both present very different landscapes and people.

As every day goes on, I continue to fight against my own desire to do all that I can while I’m here and still stay healthy and exercise regularly. Even so, I am alive and well and looking forward to tomorrow. Love to all.

 

 

Chilean Time

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.

My host parents' grandchildren

My host parents’ grandchildren

Graffiti in Valpo

Graffiti in Valpo

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.

horse tied up on the main street in Valpo

horse tied up on the main street in Valpo

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.

A march for improved education and same-sex equality

A march for improved education and same-sex equality

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.

Neruda's house at La Isla Negra

Neruda’s house at La Isla Negra

view from Neruda's bedroom

view from Neruda’s bedroom

beach in front of Neruda's house

beach in front of Neruda’s house

Neruda's house

Neruda’s house

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.

Sand Dunes just north of Viña in Reñaca

Sand Dunes just north of Viña in Reñaca

VSP's surf board chauffeur

VSP’s surf board chauffeur

La Boca- VSP's surf spot 20 min south of Valpo/viña

La Boca- VSP’s surf spot 20 min north of Valpo/viña

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.

Chao

Graffiti in Valpo

Graffiti in Valpo

¡Bienvenidos a Valpo y Viña!

Made it to Chile safe and sound after a hectic few days! Flying into Santiago was quite magnificent as it sits in a valley surrounded by massive mountains. When I flew in, the entire valley was submersed in clouds, so unfortunately there was not much to see upon landing.

It’s definitely a bit colder here than I was expecting! I really sold myself well as a gringo when I walked out of the airport with shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops when all the Chileans had on pants and scarves jaja. Upon arrival in Valparaíso after ~1.5 hr bus ride from Santiago, Danko (part of the SIT staff) took me to Hotel Ibis, where we stayed until moving in with our host families this weekend, and introduced me to the 17 other American students in my program. A diverse group of kids needless to say, but most are very fun and great to hang with. The SIT staff is incredible. Danko and Choqui (assistant academic director) are so nice and funny.

Thursday and Friday was only orientation material. We ate all meals in a hotel and listened to presentations from the SIT staff about culture shock, our home-stays, staying healthy, general acclimation, etc. alongside a few activities to get comfortable in the city of Valparaíso (locals say Valpo). The first place that the activities took me was to Ascensor Artilleria- an awesome first view of the city. Since Valpo is a costal city that immediately rises into los cerros (foothills), a system of elevators have been adapted into the city for quite a while. There are 15-16 total in the entire city, but only 6 are in service at this day in age. Most others are in stages of renovation.

Ascensor Artillería

Ascensor Artillería

After lots of orientation activities on Thursday and Friday, we finally got a chance to meet a young member (host brother/sister/cousin) of our host family at a bar/restaurant on Friday night to have some dinner and drinks. I met my brother, Felipe, who’s 27 (the youngest of 6 children) and works in Santiago during the week for a business that organizes sporting events- mainly for marathons but also a few mountain bike races and rock climbing competitions. We connected very well with each other and throughout the weekend, he was extremely nice to talk to me about whatever I was curious about, to take me out to a few bars/clubs on Friday and Saturday night, as well as help me fix up his old/rusty mountain bike sitting in the garage for me to use during my time here. (A bike will prove useful to ride to the beach, to a friends’ house, or to the metro stop). Felipe works in Santiago during the weeks, but I think he will return to Viña on most weekends.

On Saturday, I met the rest of my family, who I absolutely love, and moved into their house. I have my own room with a beautiful view of the neighborhood, and a little peek at the ocean. The house is in a neighborhood called “Recreo” that is within Viña de Mar. I get the sense that Recreo is middle or upper-middle class neighborhood that is relatively safe in comparison to some other neighborhoods in Viña and Valpo. Viña de Mar (locals say Viña) is a neighboring city of Valpo only separated by 10-15 min depending on where you are trying to get from/to. Here is a link of where my home is.

Look down my street, Pedro Montt

Look down my street, Pedro Montt

Front of the house

Front of the house

backyard terrace

backyard terrace

My bedroom

My bedroom

View from my bedroom window

View from my bedroom window

View from my bedroom window

View from my bedroom window

I will be living with my host mama y papa, who’s names are Wee Wee and Sergio. Wee Wee is a nickname she has after a grandchild could not pronounce ‘Victoria’ and has since stuck. To say that Wee Wee is a queen is an understatement. I have felt nothing but love and first-class treatment since I moved in on Saturday. Wee Wee has lived in Recreo her entire life and her childhood home is only a block away. And Wee Wee’s mother, Nonna (who also lives with us in the house- a very sweet and quiet 87 year old woman) also grew up in Recreo, only a few blocks away. Increíble! Wee Wee, during my first few days in their home, has not stopped asking me what I need, what I would like to eat, if I’m warm enough, what’d I like to do, etc. Needless to say, Wee Wee does not reserve this kindness solely to me; Wee Wee is beloved by her 6 children and few grandchildren as well as by all who know her. She has spent most of her life caring for her children or others’ children. So, although I always ask what I can do to help around the house, Wee Wee continues to spoil me J. Sergio is a very nice man too. Sergio is a dentist who works in Viña and is quite the handyman around the house- if it’s broken, he’ll fix it.

I have loved getting to know the family more and more, day by day. It’s extremely interesting to hear a few broken stories from them about their experiences growing up during Chile’s golpe de estado (coup) in 1973 and Pinchot’s military control that followed until 1990. This awful time in Chilean history is still very fresh in the minds of many Chileans and because this year is the 40th anniversary of the golpe, talk about that time period is very relevant nowadays. The golpe officially took place on Sept. 11th, but the entire country celebrates its independence day on Sept. 18-19. So, in just a few weeks, Chile will be booming with celebration…I have been told to prepare myself for endless asados (BBQs), sopapias, empanadas, cerveza, música, y danza during those few days. There is also lots of political talk going around the country lately because tonight (Sep. 2, 2013), documents are about to be released to the public that were never disclosed during Pinochet’s regime that apparently have evidence of some of the cruel occurrences that took place 20-40 years ago. In addition, Chile is in presidential campaign season! The national election is in November, so I’ll be sure to get caught up on all the happenings before then.

For now, seeing that I have only been in Chile for less than a week (crazy to realize after all that has been jam packed into these last few days!), I hope to continue exploring both Valparaíso and Viña del Mar more during these next few days and get into a bit of a structured schedule and start meeting more Chileans. Most of those who I’ve met have been so welcoming and open to interacting with me and I can’t wait to meet and hang with them more.

Some Graffiti that covers the entire city- lots of beautiful art, some of social protest, and lots of vandalism

Some Graffiti that covers the entire city- lots of beautiful art, some of social protest, and lots of vandalism

Sea Lions basking on a old pier with a battleship in the background

Sea Lions basking on a old pier with a battleship in the background

VIew of the ocean near the end of my street

VIew of the ocean near the end of my street

Everything has been very exciting upon my arrival and I am extremely content, if not incredibly jazzed, to be here. My 100mph life these past few weeks is finally catching up to me in form of a cold, but now that I have a comfortable bedroom to settle into for a while, I can recover a bit. Nonetheless, I can’t wait for more of whatever is to come.

Sunset at the beach from Viña with Valpo on the left

Sunset at the beach from Viña with Valpo on the left