Saturday, June 30, 2012

I don't want to say goodbye

Our time here in Chile has reminded me very much of things my parents tell me. I'm not talking about the advice they give you like "don't talk to strangers." I mean the sentimental things like "I blinked and you grew up! Where has the time gone?" With only fifteen days left in our South American paradise, it's hard to believe we've been here four months. Seems like just yesterday we were scared, little gringos stepping off the plane in this long, skinny country. But enough with this sappy dialogue.

J. J. Harting: speaks Spanish, English & German. Loves jazz.
Great news! We scored high enough on the third test in our business class to be exempt from the final! It was an interesting class to say the least, and we learned a few new things. Overall it was just a great experience to meet some new (spanish-speaking) friends, and watch some interesting documentaries we wouldn't have seen otherwise. This experience also makes me smile when I think that we (and by we, I mean me) were worried about doing well on the tests and whether we'd have to drop the class. We'll also never forget that our professor changed the class meeting time halfway through the semester, which enraged us! Alas, as with all things Chilean, you just have to take them in stride.

Ortofonía- we had too much fun learning. Carlos, Brandon, Rachel, Katie,
Allyn, Joven Mike, and me.
As for our other classes, we're pretty much done. We lack a dialogue test with our Ortofonía class, and a final in our grammar class. (If you were wondering how we were going to celebrate July 4th, we'll be taking said grammar test. Happy Birthday, America!) Our classes have all been great, but in different ways. Sometimes the material is the great part. Other times it is the teacher that makes class worthwhile. We'll take something special away from each class, mostly the new friends we've made here!

Now that school is almost over, Rachel and I have been trying to make a list of things we'll miss. (A daunting task, mind you.) However, here are some things/people we'll miss for years to come.

¡Maní confitado! Sugared peanuts, the best snack for $500 pesos.
Doña Raquel is one of the nicest Chilean ladies we've met here. Basically our relationship began with Rachel and I coming by to buy maní confitado every three days or so. She always smiled and exchanged pleasantries with us. After a few weeks we got to the "Do you like Chile? What are you studying?" phase. Nowadays when we go by it's full of hugs and smiles. I'll miss her terribly.... and her sugared peanuts. ;)

Rachel, Raquel, and me!

Me, Macarena, Maria Jose, and Rachel
These are the practicantes (student teachers) we had the privilege of knowing while volunteering at Colegio Paul Harris. They are in college as well, quite close to finishing and they hope to be English teachers at an elementary school someday. It was nice to talk to them and relate as one student to another.

Not pictured are Mauricio and Ricardo. Between the four of them and the two of us, our classes on Thursdays had no shortage of help for English class!

Side note: We didn't have to wear those ghastly orange aprons ever week. They were just for our closing program for volunteering the other day.

Teacher Rodrigo. He's totally boss.
However, our volunteer experience would not be complete without the help and enthusiasm of one man-- Teacher Rodrigo! This guy is awesome! He was welcoming when we arrived on the first day and even invited Rachel and me to his house for once last week. Apart from teaching English at the elementary school, he also teaches a class at a university. He's a lover of all things Beatles and Rock & Roll, and has a flair for technology. I'll really miss some of his expressions like "We have to fly!" and "Let's go lads." (He learned British English in college, so his accent and phrases are colored by the UK.)

From N. Carolina to Chile. She's bacán.
At our school, there are many people who have welcomed us with open arms and hearts. We'll be content to mention two today.

Kathleen Lowry is.... well to tell you the truth, I don't really know her title. Suffice it to say she is a BOSS! She's been able to handle any problem we've thrown at here and she's always ready to fill in as chaperone on the trips Carlos can't make. She's also a fan of chorillanas! (She once took us to one of her favorite places to eat them.) She's kind of like Rachel's role model since she moved down here to live in Chile on somewhat of whim. We'll definitely miss her mucho!
He told us this WAS his smile. 

Don Juan de Dios Gay is the best guard this side of the equator. He's an interesting guy who's worked in Chile, Argentina, and Portugal. He always smiles when walk up to the school. We usually spend a few minutes before class talking to him. He has taught us quite a few dichos or sayings in Chilean.
We have an ongoing argument on whether it's going to rain or not that day. (He usually wins.) At any rate, we've been blessed to know Juan. I only wish I could take him back to los estados unidos with me. I'd sleep more soundly if I knew Jaun was guarding the perimeter.

Poor quality, my apologies.

I have gotten somewhat addicted to juice in this country. I mean, back home I was quite partial to cranberry juice, but here I had to substitute. Luckily I came across this tasty liquid about a month ago. There is almost nothing better than Jugo Naranja-Plátano that I know of to quench a thirst. (Could be the copious amounts of sugar in it.... nah!) Sometimes it is rather hard to find, so it can seem like a treasure hunt. Watts is a Chilean brand so unfortunately there probably won't be this exact juice in the States, but I'll manage... somehow.

A little update: Rachel and I were supposed to go to Mendoza, Argentina this weekend. Lamentablemente, the pass through the Andes Mountains was closed due to all the snow! I feel as though the expression "You snooze, you lose" applies here. We won't get to meet Argentina this trip, but we both have a desire to come back to South America in the future, so we're not terribly sad.
We are most definitely going to Peru next week, however. We leave here on July 5th, and shall return on July 11th.
We can't wait to tell ya'll all about it!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beauty from pain

Last weekend, Colin and I had the opportunity to visit something I never imagined I'd see unless I went to Europe: a concentration camp. It's not from World War II and it's not a Nazi concentration camp, but the fact that this camp was in operation throughout the 70s is perhaps even more sobering than if it were something I'd learned about since elementary school. It's a strong reminder that the world is not all as it should be.

Obviously Villa Grimaldi is no longer a "clandestine center for detention, torture, and extermination." Now it's Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi (Park for Peace Villa Grimaldi), and it is a very somber version of beautiful. The park was constructed on the grounds of the former concentration camp as a reminder that the fight for human rights doesn't end. Most of the old concentration camp was destroyed in the years after General Pinochet's military dictatorship in an effort to cover up the crimes committed there, but a few pieces have been reconstructed to help people like us understand what went on there. There is an example of the holding cells that prisoners lived in, five people to a cell, while they awaited torture or a verdict on their fate.

The inside of this cell is three feet by three feet

They have also reconstructed the Tower, an isolation center where some prisoners were taken to be tortured. They have sketches on the walls showing the life the prisoners lived here, including some of the specialized torture devices that were kept here.

The bed in this picture is called "la parilla" (the grill).

Most of the people taken to the tower were never seen again, and joined the numbers of the desaparecidos (the disappeared) who have never been found or accounted for. An estimated 4,500 prisoners passed through Villa Grimaldi while it was in operation, and at least 233 of them are now among the desaparecidos.

A memorial listing the names of the 233 known desaparecidos and executed

"El olvido está lleno de Memoria" The forgotten is full of memory

There is a rose garden that was planted in the park not only to mimic the rose garden that was there while it was a concentration camp, but also to commemorate all of the women who were in Villa Grimaldi and then became desaparecidos. When it opened, the rose garden had 36 names planted among the roses, but the monument was so moving that anyone who has a mother, daughter, wife, or sister among the desaparecidos can plant a rose there in their name.

There are several other memorials in the park, built by organizations who had members among the detainees at Villa Grimaldi.

MIR, the Revolutionary Left Movement

The Communist Party of Chile

The Socialist Party of Chile

At the end of our tour our guide showed us the collection of rail ties that was donated to the park by Judge Guzman after they were used as evidence in Pinochet's trials. These rail ties were found at the bottom of the ocean where we now know many of the desaparecidos were sent.

The Chileans have succeeded in creating a memorial that commemorates their loss, reminds them of their wrongs, brings peace to the present, and provides hope for a different future.

To conclude our exceedingly somber day in Santiago, we went to Pablo Neruda's second house, La Chascona. It was lovely, but again there was no photography allowed inside. This one was equally as convoluted as the last, but instead of having a view of the sea, it was built around a tiny waterfall on the side of a hill. It consequently had about sixteen different staircases, several of which were outside.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Rachel Davenport

Well world, it happened. Our little Rachel Davenport turned 22 on June 11, 2012! My how the time flies! Seems like just a week ago she was just a little 21 year old, wandering through Chile and making the most of her study abroad! But enough of the recollections, ON WITH HER BIG DAY!

Well, her BIG DAY actually started on Saturday. Rachel's Chilean mother, Mama Lorena was not to be outdone in providing her favorite host daughter with a wonderful birthday celebration. So a few other gringos and I were invited to Rachel's house for her birthday dinner. It was fantastic! We had completos, chips and dip, UNO, and lots of laughs all around. (Fun Fact: lots of Chileans think we call the card game UNO, ONE in the states!)
And no birthday should go without cake and candles, ever.

22 candles. I counted.

No really, Mama Lorena is amazing.

Katie, Mama Lorena, and Rachel!

The events of Rachel's actual birthday started out with us both getting dressed up! (This tradition might have started with me, but it's catching like wildfire!) We met up at the centro to catch our bus for our business class. I gotta say, we both looked dapper. Class went by as usual, and after it was over we left to go back to the centro. After we had stepped into a local tienda to buy some soup for lunch, we started walking towards the feria. As does often happen, Rachel and I got caught up in some delightful conversation, but this time we were interrupted by a Chilean lady saying something along the lines of "Hey you, your bag's open.... I think you got robbed, they ran off." After we came to the sharp realization that Rachel had indeed been robbed, we stopped to take stock of things. From what we gathered, her wallet was gone (and ALSO my packet of soup I'd just bought. I took it personally). Rachel took this surprisingly well, considering her Chilean ID, US military ID, metro card, 9500 pesos, and her debit card were now gone. I was a mixture of impressed since I should have noticed the poor damsel being robbed, angry since it was just unfair, and trying to remember that choice piece of scripture where Jesus says something about "loving your enemies." Silently praying for this depraved soul that preys on helpless gringos we made our way to the feria where I bought Rachel an authentic Chilean chaleco. She's been wanting one since we arrived and now she won't get cold in the terrible South American winter.
We went back to her house, (having purchased more soup) and began preparing lunch and thinking about the rest of the day. Suddenly, Rachel comes into the kitchen holding her wallet! It appears that she put her wallet under some things in her backpack and the thief only took her phone.... and my soup. That being said, this was a huge blessing. (That praying for your enemy stuff really works.) We ate lunch, and hung out until our second class that evening.

This is the part where I tell you we have some amazing friends. We arrived to our second class with a room of balloons and everyone singing Feliz Cumpleaños! Class passed with not too much more action and afterwards a group of us headed out to get some Mexican food, (Rachel's choice).

¡La reina del día!


Birthday flowers girasoles for the birthday girl!

The place we wanted to go to was unfortunately closed, but we ended up at Margarita's. There was a fireplace, 90's music, and huge plates of Mexican cuisine! Just before the food arrived, our friends lavished Rachel with lots of candy, a sketch book, a paint set, a coffee/soup mug, and more candy! Add that to the chaleco, flowers, and shirt she got from other people earlier and she made out like a bandit.
After filling ourselves with burritos and the like, we went to Bar Ston (pronounced Bar Stone) to partake in terremotos, which is something close to a national drink here. They are made up of wine, powdered sugar, grenadine, and a scoop of ice-cream. (Colin's opinion: "They're disgusting!" Everyone else ever: "They're amazing!") We had classes the next day so we all left to go home before things got too late.

I'm hoping that Rachel feels as lucky as I felt to have spent her birthday here in Chile, and I can only thank her for letting me share in the festivities.

From all of us once again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A horse, of course.

After a marvelous 21st birthday, it’s hard to return to the mundane. Luckily, we’re in Chile and every day is a new adventure!

This past Saturday, both Rachel and I had the chance to go horseback riding in Ritoque, which is just a little ways north of Concón about thirty minutes or so. We arrived and everyone got to pretty much pick his or her own horse, with the exception that some horses go faster than others and therefore required a little more experienced (or daring) riders. This proved to true for our dear friend Charlene, whose (mis)adventures you can read here..

Beachward bound
After we were all saddled up and had taken a few practice runs around the fenced area, we started for the beach. Now, at this point, it almost seemed like our horses were rather bored with us, and simply followed one after another; however, once we got to the beach we were given a little more free rein with them (buh dum ch).
We spent the next couple of hours traversing through sand dunes, fording small rivers, or galloping across the beach just like a movie. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and aside from being a little bow-legged and having some sore shoulders the next day, it was amazing. (But really, nobody told me that when you turn 21 your body starts to fall apart!)

Lift your feet!
Goofing off  :)
Aw, our horses were friends!

Ambling along through grassy sandy dunes
Off they go!

There's only one, Concón.

Slow and steady wins the race.

We went to Concón after riding horses to go to Las Deliciosas, a well-known spot for amazing empanadas, but apparently they’re on vacation for the month. Fome! Either way, we found a local shop just a block away to eat empanadas all the same.

Rachel, Katie, and Alyssa enjoying the sand between their toes!
June has brought some exciting things to us in Chile: some extraordinary weather before winter totally sets in, and also some new exchange students! La Universidad Viña de Mar got five new exchange students last week who are here for a month of intensive study. Four of the five students are from the University of Oklahoma, but Rachel and I only knew Alyssa beforehand. We were all so excited to meet them and help them get acquainted with the other students and the town. On Friday, we went walking around the town, and ended up at our favorite place El Baúl Café before the night was over. Sunday, Katie, Rachel, and I showed Alyssa great things in Chile like the helado, the churros, the ferias, and of course, the beach! (The pacific is still cold, even if we only stuck our feet in.) It’s hard to believe that these new students will only be here four short weeks, but I’m sure they’ll have a wonderful time all the same.
We cannot get over how cool/edgy/hipster/fetch this place is! GAH!

Other than these exciting adventures, we have nothing else to report. Third exams will be upon before we know it, and after that FINALS! We just got our second test back from our Business class with the other Chileans and we did exceedingly well! (6.9 and a 6.8 out of 7 for the both of us!) Our professor even complimented us our "ortografía" skills and our "capacity to reply to questions well, in a language other than our native tongue." We're super stoked, because if we do well on our last test in this class, we won't have to take the final. *fingers crossed*

Somewhere we have to fit in a trip to Argentina and Peru. (I’ll leave the heavy planning to Rachel.)

Back in the States, we have quite a few friends who’ve had many wonderful and exciting things happen recently. To all of our friends who have gotten married, had a baby, learned how to juggle (wait what…..?) we are so happy for you and cannot wait to reminisce about your special experiences. (especially you, jugglers.)