Sunday, March 11, 2012

The first weekend

It's been a lovely weekend so far!
Sea lions. (lobos marinos)

On Friday, we took a tour of Valparaíso with the other international students. It was an adventure to say the least. Valparaíso (or Valpo, as they like to call it here) is the city right next to Viña, and since it's also across the water, you can see it from Viña. We started our tour with a boat ride around the bay, where we got to take pictures of the city from the water, and of even cooler things like lobos marinos (sea lions). 

We then followed our guide, Leo, through the center of town--the only flat part of Valpo, because it's man-made--until we got to one of the still-functioning ascensores. We rode up cerro artilleria (one of Valparaíso's 42ish hills) in the ascensor, which is essentially a diagonal elevator, designed in 1892 as daily transportation in this city of hills. 
Carlos (international student coordinator) and our guide, Leo

We took the long way back down so we could experience the city as does a native porteño (the name the Valparaisans call themselves because they live in a port city). Leo told us that since Valparaíso was essentially built one building at a time as the city grew up the hills, each building was built when, where, and however someone wanted to build it. Consequently, Valpo has a unique lack of congruency or order, and each building has a personality of its own. I loved looking at the unique architecture and colors! Leo also told us that one of the quirks of Valparaíso is that whether it's the result of being built on a hill or of earthquakes and tsunamis, nothing is quite at the right angle anymore. Then at the bottom of one hill, we caught a micro to the top of another, and practically flew up it at speeds I would not have thought possible for steep grade hairpin curves. The bus took us to one of the two hills in the tourist district, where German and British influence were very strong in the architecture. In this part of Valparaíso, Leo told us that nearly every house was a hotel, hostel, cafe, or boutique. And of course, they were all uniquely structured and painted. This time the descent on foot took much longer, but it's hard to complain when you're surrounded by slightly crooked, very colorful houses built practically on top of one another as far as the eye can see. 

oh Valpo, no rhyme or reason
When we did finally reach the bottom, we all got back on the metro to return to Viña, and Colin and I went to my house to eat and wait until our first party in Locos X Viña. Mama Lorena made us some absolutely delicious (and very unusual) hamburgers with palta (avocado) and tomatoes.

I'm pretty sure our experience at Locos X Viña was not the typical carrete (party) chilena, because practically everyone there was an international student. It was, however, very similar to Panam parties back home, except that now I'm 21. So since they gave everyone one free drink, I tried the Chilean specialty, Pisco, with Sprite. It was actually pretty good, but I'm pretty sure it was because they put less Pisco in the free drinks than in the ones you pay for. Anyway, after a long day hiking through Valpo, we were rather tired and went home early, but it was a good day all around.

These Chileans take their relaxing very seriously. On Saturday, after a long day of doing nothing, I went to Colin's house at about five o'clock. For hours I thought that no one else was home until about eight when people started to stir and gather at the table for once. Since my family doesn't really have once, this was my first one, and it was lovely. We all gathered around the table for a "dinner" of mashed potatoes (called puré), with bread, anything you could imagine putting on bread, and tea. The whole family sat and talked long after we had finished eating.

This morning Colin and I had a whole new adventure. We looked up a Church of Christ online that Colin had heard about from someone, and although google maps couldn’t tell us exactly where it was, we found the street it was on and decided to go there. So Colin asked Mama Patty how to get there from his house (it sounded rather complicated), and I asked Mama Lorena how to get there from mine. We decided to meet there in the morning instead of trying to get to some other location and then go together, so I left earlier than necessary to make sure I could find it. My trip was simple and although I missed my bus stop and had to walk back a couple of blocks, I made it just fine. Only there was no ½ Oriente 1108. I walked up and down the street and then around to where there was another ½ Oriente, but to no avail. The second time I walked by, a man came out to try and help me, but he’d never seen a ½ Oriente 1108 either. While I was looking, Colin called me to say that he’d gotten on the wrong colectivo and though he knew where he was, he wasn’t quite sure how to get to where he was supposed to be. So I pulled out my touristy map of Viña and we decided to just walk toward each other until we met. Along the way, Colin passed a different church, so we decided to go there. I’m pretty sure we walked in about 30 minutes late, but there was still someone at the door to shake our hands, and I don’t think they minded too much. It was very interesting to have to pay extra close attention to understand the service in Spanish, and on top of that to realize partway through that we had walked into a tiny Chilean Assembly of God. They were very nice and asked us afterward where we were from and if we spoke Spanish and if this was our first time in the church, and if we wanted them to prophesy over us. We said no thank you in more-broken-than-usual Spanish, and left, shaking hands on the way out.

We start classes this week, so wish us luck!


  1. Ahh!! Valpo was one of my favorite cities in Chile. I'm so happy for you!! Disfrute la aventura!

    1. Thanks so much Nicole! We're having a blast so far, and it's only been a week! :)

  2. Valpo looks like such a fun city to explore but the hills are huge (and I'm from Oklahoma). Are you all going to look for the church this week so you know where to find it on Sunday?