winter in the southern hemisphere

8am. Alarm clock sounds.  Say morning prayer: “Dear Jesus, please give me the strength to get out of my very warm bed and face the cold.”  Look at snazzy travel alarm clock (thanks Bryn!) that also reads temperature.  Approximate room temperature?  54 deg. F.  Lay in bed, debating whether or not to shower. Do like Rory Gilmore and make a pro/con list.  Pros: My host family might think I’m weird if I never shower.  People like people who smell good.  Cons: It’s real cold. My towel might not have fully dried from my last shower.  And it takes forever to blow dry hair…

8:20am.  Decide to shower.  Check to make sure the Calefont (aka hot water heater) is turned on.  Here in Chile we heat the water as we go.

9am. Breakfast.  And coffee, well kind of.  The most popular brand of instant coffee is Nescafé, fondly called “no es café” (translate: it’s not coffee).

9:30am.  Leave house.  Walk to metro.  Swipe “Bip” card to get on metro.

10am.  Contemporary Chile class, with study abroad program.  Listen to lecture on Chilean politics.  Try to understand.

1pm.  Lunch time.  Open lunch bag to see what mom packed.  Look around the lunch table to see what everyone else got.  Ask friend if she wants to trade her peach juice box for your pineapple one.  Reminisce about elementary school and PB&J sandwiches.

3 pm. Tour downtown Santiago.  (See some pictures on my last post!)

6pm.  Rush hour.  Try to avoid getting squished when the door on the Metro closes.

7:30pm. Dinner time!  Try very had to converse with family.   Help sister, Trini, do dishes.  We make a good wash/rinse team.  After dinner, watch Disney channel dubbed in Spanish with brother, Vicho.

9pm.  Skype with family, who tells me that I look cold, then goes on and on about how hot it is in Michigan right now.  Suppress jealously about warm weather.

11pm. Brush teeth.  Do a dance to keep warm.  Then stare at sink and decide whether or not to wash face with ice water from the Andes mountains…the calefont has been turned off for the night. Check to make sure the cat isn’t in bedroom, as to avoid repeat experience of sharing bed with cat.  Climb in bed.  Pull sheet, 4 blankets, and comforter up to ears.  Say bedtime prayer: “Dear Jesus, thank you for a warm bed.  And wonderful families, both here and far away.   And thank you that I showered this morning so that I don’t have to tomorrow.”

the talk

Last night I got THE TALK from my host parents…the Salvador Allende/Augusto Pinochet talk, that is.  All study-abroaders are destined to have this chat with their Chilean family at some point, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it so soon.  My vocabulary definitely wasn’t quite ready- but it was, as we say SUPER INTERESANTE!

We squeezed around a small table in the kitchen, as seems to be typical on cold winter nights, and somehow, in between bites of roast chicken and sips of hot tea, the conversation turned to Chilean history and politics.   My host mom, Olga, was born on September 11, 1973, which happens to be one of the most important dates in Chilean history.   On this day, democratically elected President Salvador Allende (a socialist) was overthrown in a coup d’état.  A military junta took over the Chilean government, and General Augusto Pinochet became the leader/dictator (depending on who you’re talking to).   Under the leadership of right-wing Pinochet there were a lot of human rights violations that took place in the country, namely the torture and disappearance of a few thousand people (numbers vary) who spoke out against the government.  That’s the nutshell version…it’s an incredibly complicated period of Chilean history and still remains quite controversial today.

Me at Palacio de la Moneda, which houses the offices of the President & cabinet. It was partially destroyed during the coup of 1973 (but has since been restored).

Well, it turns out my parents don’t exactly have the same political opinions, so I got to hear both versions of the story.  My mom comes from a left-wing, socialist-leaning family.  Her grandpa disappeared for 3 days and was tortured by Pinochet’s military.  She says she remembers not being able to talk about politics with her family, and that she and her friend celebrated whenever Pinochet stepped down from office.  My dad, on the other hand, grew up in a family, who, for the most part, respected Pinochet’s policies.  He disagreed with my mom about the extent of the tortures and disappearances and doesn’t believe that Pinochet was a dictator.  And he went to pay his respects to Pinochet when he died in 2008.

I was amazed that they had such differences in opinion, but was grateful that they were willing to share their beliefs with me.  I hope that what I wrote here accurately reflects what my parents told me last night.  I’m getting better at understanding my family, but some things still get lost in translation…

In other news, I’m healthy and happy, and have thoroughly enjoyed my first two weeks in this beautiful country!  See more pictures below.

bienvenidos

Hola!  I’m so happy to be writing my first post from Chile!  It’s been a whirlwind since I arrived (last week Wednesday), but I’m starting to settle in to my new home.  I’m living in an upper-middle class neighborhood, about 4 blocks from the main metro line into downtown Santiago (and I’m proud to report I successfully navigated my way home today).  My dad (Franco), mom (Olga), sister (Trini, 13), and brother (Vicente aka Vicho, 10) have been incredibly welcoming and I feel so blessed to be living with such a wonderful family!  They speak very fast, like all Chileans, but were so kind to take me on vacation with them last weekend to…

…the beach!

We went to my dad’s childhood home in Laguna Verde, a small town on the Pacific Ocean.  On Saturday we walked down to the beach, then returned to eat a late, large lunch.  Because everyone talks so fast here, sometimes I miss out on what’s happening, so I spent most of Saturday afternoon/evening not knowing where my family was taking me next…

But we ended up driving through the scenic port towns of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, and eventually arrived at the house of a family friend for “las onces” (translate: tea time).  Then, after asking my family a few strange questions (to my dad, “are you and your friend going to go hunting tomorrow?”), my mom told me that we were going to have a small “asado” (translate: bonfire + MEAT) at the family friends’ cabin.

Saturday night was my first asado and I was lucky enough to experience a second one on Sunday, this time with extended family.  I’ve been well fed since I’ve been here and thoroughly enjoying Chilean cuisine!  Hopefully my pictures do justice to my travels thus far!  Hasta luego!