My updates have been few and far between this month…I’ve been busy traveling, doing homework (yes, I actually do have class and homework on occasion now, even though strikes and protests are still in full swing)…and dealing with a broken computer.   After a weekend away in Argentina (stories to follow!), I came home to a computer that wouldn’t turn on.  Long story short, my beloved Macbook will be fixed when I’m back in the states, and for now, I own a netbook- with a Spanish-language keyboard!  They’re definitely different, but useful when typing in Spanish! (It took me three months to learn how to insert an @ symbol on the keyboards at my university, but I finally mastered it).  It was a test of patience and strength to be here without a computer for a week, but I made it through!  So, I’m finally back, but for now, not posting pictures…

Two weekends ago I traveled to Mendoza, Argentina with my 3 best friends from my study abroad program, Nona, Katie, and Brita.  We took the bus up and over the Andes, which was a beautiful, but long, drive.  Brita’s friend’s aunt & uncle (distant connection) live in Mendoza and offered us their apartment for the weekend.  They were traveling to Chile, while were were in Argentina, so we got to stay for free in a lovely apartment, a few blocks from the center of Mendoza.  Truly a gift.  Our first full day there we took the bus about 30 minutes outside of the city and rented bikes to visit wineries.  It was cold and misting rain when we started out, but it ended up being a lovely day.  We visited 2 “bodegas” – one old and one new, and then ended our day at a chocolate factory where we ate lots of samples and bought treats to bring back to our families (Chilean families, that is…sorry!).  That night we went out for dinner and Nona and I ate steak (you kind of have to if you’re in Argentina)- yum!

Sunday morning we went to Parque San Martín and hiked around.  I’ve heard it’s the largest park in South America…I haven’t confirmed this, but I can say from experience (and getting a tad lost there) that it is huge!  We went back into town for lunch, and then spent the afternoon lingering at an arts and crafts market in plaza.  Mendoza was a sleepy town in the morning, but in the afternoon and evening, it seems like everyone comes out!

Monday was our last day, so we  took a walk downtown in the morning and did some last minute shopping and eating (found a café that served maté and “medias lunas,” aka croissants).  We took another long bus ride back over the Andes, turned in our fruit to the Border Police (no apples allowed over the border!) and arrived back in Santiago that night.

Last weekend was a family weekend.  I spent Saturday and Sunday at family asados, meeting MORE family members and eating lots of meat!  Chileans definitely know how to do family time/linger over a meal…in my experience, it’s rare to spend less than 6 hours at a family gathering!

In other news, Bieber fever hit Santiago this past weekend.  On Saturday night when we were driving back from the asado, we stopped by the national soccer stadium to try to hear Justin Bieber in concert.  He was performing and Trini was crushed that she didn’t get to go see him…so my parents obliged and we drove by to try to listen.  So, I can now say I’ve heard Justin Bieber in concert, in Chile.

I’m actually leaving today for more travels!  In a few hours I’m hopping on a plane with the 30 other students in my program and we’re traveling down south to Temuco, to get to know southern Chile and a few Mapuche (indigenous) communities.  Another post to follow when I return!


family vacation

It’s been a VERY LONG TIME since I’ve posted.  Mostly because I was on VACATION!  And then came back to reality, which has been quite busy lately!  I had an amazing time with my family- 7 days, 4 towns, and one broke-down car (story to come…keep reading).  I could write pages and pages, but I’ll try to keep it short-ish.

Wednesday, September 14- left Santiago.  We drove about 5 hours south to the small town of San Carlos, where we stayed with my mom’s cousin, his wife, and daughter.  After lunch in San Carlos, we took off again to visit another cousin in the nearby town of Chillán.  My mom seems to have family all over the south!  We first went to the market in Chillán, where we ate lots of fresh french fries, and then went to the cousin’s for dinner.  And yes, food is an important part of the culture here…I did NOT go hungry this week.

market in Chillán: a traditional fiestas patrias dress

Thursday, Sept. 15- Concepción!  Trini and I day tripped to Concepción (the largest town I went to all week) in bus, about 2 hrs away.  I wasn’t actually sure that we were going to make it there because we had to get up early to catch the bus, and my mom’s cousin told us just to head over the bus station- “it’s over there” and hop on the bus to Concepción- “I think it leaves around 7:45?”  Chilean directions are incredibly vague, but amazingly, we made it there with out any trouble!  We went to an art museum, walked through the park, climbed to the top of a hill for a view of the city, walked around the plaza, and went shopping!

Trini and I in Concepción (hiking the up the hill)

Friday, Sept. 16- San Carlos to San Fabián.  We spent most of the day in San Carlos, walking and riding bikes around town, hanging out at the playground, eating ice cream in the plaza.  Also- we went to the meat market to stock up the for the weekend.  I was quite fascinated, as we don’t have carnicerías in the U.S., at least not in Michigan. I told my host mom that one of my sisters is a vegetarian…and for the rest of the week my mom kept telling other family members (to shock them): “Tess’ sister is a vegetarian!  Can you believe it!?!?  She would die from hunger here!”   In the evening we drove to San Fabián, where my mom’s aunt and uncle have a vacation home, which is where we stayed, with them and her cousin from San Carlos.  San Fabían is a very very very small town, occupied mostly by summer vacationers.  It’s nestled in the foothills of the cordirella (Andes mountains) and bordered by a river and expanses farmland.  It’s definitely the most beautiful (and tranquil) place I’ve been in Chile thus far!  Friday night we had our first asado.  Official food of the weekend? MEAT.  And drink? Red wine.

meat market in San Carlos, decorated for Fiestas Patrias

Saturday, Sept. 17- San Fabián. I went for a run each morning that we were in San Fabián and enjoyed the beautiful countryside and small town quaintness.  We had a very relaxing day: bike rides, late lunch, fishing at the river, and concluded the day with another asado, of course.

down at the river

Sunday, Sept. 18- Fiestas Patrias! (the Chilean Independence Day) in San Fabián.  There was a horse-parade through town on the morning of Fiestas Patrias, passing by our house.  I helped my mom and aunt make empanadas, which were a ton of work, but totally worth it.  We had another large lunch (the biggest and most important meal of the day) and then in the afternoon, some of us went for a drive along the river, stopping to enjoy the scenery, walk around, and take pictures along the way.  And in the evening?  An asado!  This time it was Chilean shish-kabobs.  Then, around 11:30pm, we went to the local “fonda.”  In big cities like Santiago, a fonda is like a state fair, complete with food, drink, dancing, and entertainment.  The fonda in San Fabián was quite distinct from the big city fondas, but still enjoyable!  It was just a tent sent up, with a dirt floor, but there was a live band, lots of dancing!

Making empanadas with my mom

Monday, Sept. 19- Fiestas Patrias, cont. (the 2nd day of celebration) in San Fabián.  I’ve been asked by Chileans a few times, “Is it true that in the U.S. you only have one day of celebration for your independence ?  And you don’t have a national dance!?!?  Qué fome! (how lame/boring!)”  Chileans turn Fiestas Patrias into a whole weekend (or week…or month…) of celebration.  We continued our celebrations on Monday and then cleaned up to head home.  Monday afternoon Trini, her cousin Isidora, and I escaped for a bit to enjoy one last bike ride around town.  In the evening we returned to San Carlos.

main street of San Fabián

Tuesday, Sept. 20- the long trek home.  So here comes the car-breaking-down-story.  We were heading out of town (minus my dad, who was staying there for business) and got about 5 blocks away from my mom’s cousin’s house, when the car broke down.  Luckily we were still in town and her cousin and uncle happen to know how to tow cars, so they came to our rescue.  After we took the car to the mechanic and consumed a few ice cream bars, my host mom decided buy Trini and I bus tickets back to Santiago, since we both had classes the next day.  Trini and I were experts on the bus at this point, so we were pretty excited to take another bus trip together, and I was ready to get back home.  We hopped on the bus, said goodbye to the family, who was staying til the car got fixed, and finally made it home!  Whew!  We were home alone for 2 days, but survived just fine, watching lots of episodes of our favorite Chilean soap opera, Esperanza, together.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first diesiocho in Chile, and had so much fun celebrating it in such a beautiful place with my family! If you want to see all of my pictures from the week (warning: there are A LOT), click this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150826631685062.730870.655265061&l=c714d7808c&type=1