Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

Why Helloween!

North American culture is obsessed with Halloween and they have infected South American with the holiday as well. It is not nearly as big a deal as it is in the States, but kids do dress up in costumes for candy. The funny thing is though, that Chile has two national paid holidays for it. Now to me that’s taking a holiday seriously.

On Friday my host mom and I headed early to Santiago to do some touristy things. I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t taken the time to really get to know Santiago. But honestly who can blame me. Valpo has so much character. Anyway I walked around with my expert guide through the center of the city. She pointed out the buildings that her parents worked in, the two buildings adjacent to La Moneda (like our White House), and how she used to run back and forth through La Mondeda playing as a child. This particular day that we were there, a special event was going on and we could go in. In fact, the whole road and plaza was blocked to get to it. But did that stop us from going in? Of course not! I don’t know what it is about my host mom, but somehow signs, rules, laws, military personnel cannot stand in the way of that determined woman. So instead of being this far from La Moneda…


…we ended up having a nice conversation with this kind sir in the threshold.

Popped our heads into the gigantic cathedral in the center before heading to my host mom’s tapestry class. I love talking to old people. They are just hilarious because they don’t have to sensor anything they say. If they don’t like something, they let their opinion be know. No beating around the bush. But seriously, they were very welcoming and loved to give the cute little gringa the opportunity to practice her Spanish.

The rest of the holiday weekend + some I spent in Viña. Gonzalo’s family and two of his friends came with us and we camped out at the beach during the day and played cards til early in the morning. No spookness to my Halloween, and that is just perfectly fine with me. I’ll trade the sound of terrified screams and candy for the sounds of waves on a sunny beach with great company any day.

October 28, 2011

Part 2: Ooh La La Serena

Remember when I took a road trip with my friends to San Pedro way up north in the Atacama Desert? One of the driest places in the world… 46 hours total spent in a bus… Ringing any bells? Well, Mom and I got a small sampling of the road we took to get there, but it looked WAY different this time. Instead of sand, shrubs with a look of death, and a dull grey cast to the landscape, the desert was alive, green, and blooming. Why the sudden change in character? Apparently we had some freakishly cold weather during the winter (you don’t say?) and some rare precipitation that caused all the death out there to spring back to life. I guess it happens once every decade or so. That means everyone flocks to the region for a couple weeks to catch a glimpse of the rare and beautiful desert flowers.
As a side-note, does anyone remember ‘Dennis the Menace’ the movie? “Tastes funny. Tastes like paint… and wood.” Well I couldn’t help but think about that one scene where Mr. Wilson was having the party to watch the obscure flower bloom. Fortunately these flowers lasted longer than a couple of minutes.
Mom and I headed to La Serena overnight and arrived in the pouring rain early in the morning. Fortunately we were able to check in early so we napped a little while we waited for the sun to rise and the rain to go away. Well the sun did rise, but the rain she stayed a little while longer. We still had a great time exploring the city, walking around the Japanese Gardens, and checking out the beach with the amazing lighthouse. The weather got much better as our stay went on and we had a clear day for star gazing in the Valle de Elqui. The next day we went to the penguin reserve in the Punto de Chorros. Blue footed boobies and sea lions and baby dolphins oh my! Isla Dama could not have been more beautiful with the pink and purple flowers covering the island.
I wanted to do something a little bit different for this post, so I asked Mom to write about the things that she observed while she was here. I just added in a few pictures and viola we’ve got ourselves a new author. Thanks Mom! I had a wonderful trip with you!
What I will remember most about Chile is the relentless amazement that I’m really here with you, far away at school, in Chile, in South America!  I don’t know how many times we said to each other “I can’t believe you’re here.”  I keep flashing back to when I emerged from Chilean Immigration into the throng of people waiting for arriving passengers and locked eyes with you, waiting expectantly, perched on the stairs.  That was the happiest moment of the trip!
If I were to make a list, in no particular order, of the other things I will remember, they will include:
1. walking a lot.  A lot.
2. busses of all kinds (I now appreciate your earlier transportation blog entry!)
3. ridiculous flowers.  Who grows amaryllis in their garden?  Who knew poinsettia was a tree?  Nasturtiums as a wildflower?  Seriously??
4. the desert in full bloom.  Stunning.
5. the hills of Valpo,  I think my heart rate is finally back down to normal.
6. conscientious people, like the grocery bag boy who triple bagged our wine and olive oil, and the manager of the completa restaurant who took such pride in his fresh avocado mash that topped our hot dogs and the hotel clerk who let us in out of the rain at 5:30 am and gave us our room early.
7. ostriches at the La Serena zoo.
8. the billion stars that filled Saturday night’s sky at the observatory.
9. ice cream!
10. the mountains, the coastal range and the Andes.
11. bay after blue bay with beautiful white waves and pristine beaches… and no people.
12. sea lions, dolphins, penguins and blue footed boobies
13. empanadas.  Camarones con queso. (That’s shrimp with cheese i.e. the best combo for an empanada in case you were wondering…)