Bring Back that Love and Feeling

P1020514 Oye! Our last week was jam packed with an array of experiences I don’t know where to begin. On Friday we celebrated our 5 year anniversary. Andy Collins and I have been together for 5 years…. and a day. Hard to believe it has been that much time. I remember when we met I was 19 almost 20, unsure, and reluctant to get into another relationship. The ongoing joke between us is we have been together for too long, but actually I won’t be giving up on a good thing any time soon, especially since we can travel together. To celebrate our big day we hit the town and went to a Mexican restaurant where I had a chirimoya (chirimoya is a tropical fruit that is popular here) margarita and Andy had a burrito stuffed with beef, chicken, and pork (He probably won’t order the mixed meat again… he was overloaded). Then we went to the Municipal Theatre to see a production called Tango. We listened to a piano, accordion, bass and violin play wonderful tangos and watched professional dancers. There was also a singer and master of ceremonies that sang along with some of the melodies. Before catching a micro (the local buses are called micros) home we found a bench under the stars. It is a local custom to make out in public areas… for hours! When in Rome… against Andy’s wishes we only stayed for a few minutes. J

P1020482 As the saying goes time flies when you are having fun and with three weeks under our belts we are ready to start week four. Last week seemed like a normal working week. We both got used to our own schedules. Andy continued to work on projects in Valparaiso and I attended three different English classes as a visiting Gringa. This gives all the morning classes the opportunity to listen to and interact with a native English speaker. The students in the morning classes are all teenagers and in the evening I have been co-teaching a class of beginning level adults. There are only three students and in February I will become the full time teacher. I am excited for the chance to teach a class on my own, but realize there are challenges. The teacher now uses a lot of Spanish to explain the meanings of words. I prefer and am not able to use Spanish when I teach. I am anxious to see how they adjust and how well I can teach a beginner adult class.

On the downside we both have been battling bad colds. I think it is a combination of the change in climate and adjusting to the city air and all the crap that is in it. Including tons of cigarette smoke; almost everyone here smokes and most restaurants and bars allow it. I had to stay home sick one day, but we are both on the mend and don’t cough nearly as much as before.

P1020573 On Friday we went to a botanical garden to do a high ropes course with the classmates from our Spanish class. We did a few zip lines from the treetops and walked across several types of hanging bridges. It was fun hanging out with our American classmates, who we have gotten to know during the past few weeks of class.

On Saturday we took it easy and then ventured out to Valparaiso to experience the cultural carnival, which presents several types of art from music to theatre, spread among the cities plazas. We walked through the streets and took a funicular, which is like an elevator that goes diagonally up a steep slope. Once above the city streets we found silence. Wanting to take advantage of the peace and quiet I found a corner table at a café. We spent at least a couple hours there journaling, sipping on helados, and listening to the street musicians passing by. The festival activities picked up in the evening and Valparaiso came alive. We roamed the city until 1am, drinking super bitter cheap beer, which is sold on the streets for a buck, and watching popular bands play on a stage at the heart of the city.

P1020565 Today we took a bus to the small town of Isla Negra to see one of Pablo Neruda’s houses. Neruda, who is famous for his poetry, has three houses, but this was his favorite. He loved the sea, but could not leave land and so he built his house like a ship. The inside has very low curved ceilings and small doors. The view of the waves hitting the coast was spectacular. Heading home we missed the bus and began to wait at the bus stop. I asked Andy if he was hungry and an older gentleman turned to me and said in English, “you know what happens when men get hungry don’t you?” Not sure how to react I played along and said asked what happens. He said, “They get aggressive.” Then he explained his story and before long the three of us were standing there having a diverse conversation for at least 45 minutes! He was a local and had some very interesting opinions and used to get grumpy when he came home from work. His wife figured this out and would leave food or a beverage for him at the front door so that he would not be so “aggressive” when he had some food in his stomach. His interesting viewpoints and his willingness to share with a couple of young extranjeros was refreshing and a nice touch to our day.

We have enjoyed reading all your comments so please keep writing! We miss you all and hope all is well in the states.

Amor,

Rachel

Chileans Love Mullets

P1020394I don’t know what it is, but young Chileans love mullets. I thought they went out  in the 80’s, but they are fresh down here. Everywhere you look, a person is sporting one, including our Spanish teacher. I wish I could sneak pics of all of them and just make a post about mullets, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The first week in Chile went a little slow for both Rachel and I as we adjusted to our new lives here. The city is always bustling and we can’t even escape from the noise in our room. Buses are constantly passing by and the bar next door blasts Reggaetone (A popular type of music in Latin America). Right now the song Ride ‘til I Die by rap artist DMX is shaking the walls.

But we are adjusting and getting in the swing of things. We are now in our third and final week of Spanish courses and we both started our jobs last week. I am working at Catholic University in Valparaiso and Rachel is working at a British English School in Vina del Mar. I like the work so far and am challenged everyday to effectively communicate with Fernando, the university’s main computer guy. Rachel is a visiting teacher that rotates to a different class every morning to mainly converse with students in English. In the afternoons she will start to co-teach in an adult class and will take over for the teacher next month.

P1020353 The weekend before last we made like Chileans and stayed out to the wee hours of the morning, almost late enough to see the sun rise. We went to Valpo to check out a popular band called Chico Trujillo with other students from our Spanish school. Of course, we couldn’t find the bar. So we asked people where the Aduana Bar was, but in return they would give us these crazy looks. Turns out, we were saying it too clearly for them. Once Rachel mumbled the name, they knew right where to send us. Fortunately, everything starts late here so we made it to the bar by 2:00am to see the band go on by 2:30 even though we were told 12:00. Anyway, we danced to some Latin Ska with a packed house in a dimly lit, smoked filled bar. Rachel even got to dance with a couple of gay guys, who were of course sporting mullets. One guy’s mullet even had dread locks and was died orange. It was great!

P1020420 This last weekend we decided to ditch the city and head for the hills. We attempted to climb La Campana Hill in a nearby national park. This was some hill though; the trail was only 4.2 miles long and it had an elevation gain of 4,000+ feet. Plus, I mixed up the buses and we ended up walking an additional 5K just to get to the park entrance. Along the way we ran out of water, but thought we were close to the top and continued on. Soon thereafter we ran in to some people coming down and learned we were at least 45 minutes away. It was very hot and since I had recently gone through a dehydration bout last summer we decided it was best to turn around. On the return we met a nice couple from Denver; it was pleasant to hear someone without an accent. Then on Sunday we took it easy and witnessed Chile elect their new president, Sebastián Piñera, and attended a celebration in the main plaza of Vina. Our host parents are beside themselves since they were going for the opposition leader Eduardo Frei.

valpopano2

Other than that, we have watched the Santiago orchestra perform classical music in an outdoor theatre and have taken a tour of Valparaiso with the school, where we took a boat out in to the harbor, road a funicular up one of their many hills and found places decorated with ‘graffiti art’ which it is known for. We have also visited the beach in Con Con and got thoroughly sunburned, which makes it the second time for us. It’s nasty; we have skin flakes coming off everywhere. =P

Catch ya next time,

Andy

From the Bottom of the World

P1020242 The flight down was uneventful and long. I slept or tried to sleep for most of it. In Toronto we had to go through security again and spent seven hours anxiously waiting for our flight to leave. From Toronto to Chile it was nine hours and we had an open seat next to us. Even though we had the extra room we both got off the plane feeling grumpy and groggy, but in Chile! Customs was a cinch; we found our bags, and then our driver. I remember my first step out of the airport… the sun was high and it was hot!! We had to shed our winter layers quickly.

Our driver talked to us in Spanish the entire trip to Vina del Mar (2 hours). He was easy to understand and told us many things about the country of Chile like the famous vineyards, the copper mines, the climate, the government, food and what drink you should have with which food… he went on and on. It was very nice to have him as our guide, but it took energy to keep up with him. After our first view of the city of Valparaiso, which was very similar to San Francisco with narrow, steep streets, we went to Viña del Mar with our driver and our Adelante contact Jennifer. Both were giving us points of reference so we could remember how to get from place to place. We arrived at our host family’s house around 4pm, but the maid had already left and our parents were still on vacation so they put us up in a hotel for two nights.

P1020241 Being in a hotel we were able to catch up on sleep and explore the city of Viña del Mar. The city has many high rises and new buildings going up everywhere. There are many people here on vacation from other parts of the country so the restaurants, shops, hotels, and the beach are all very busy. It is nice to once again be in a place where everything is accessible by foot. There is a metro, buses and taxis, but we have walked everywhere so far. On Sunday we went to the beach, but it was too cloudy to swim. We walked along a path where the waves hit rocks along the and then splash onto the sidewalk. Several unlucky passersby were drenched with water! It almost happened to us once. I told Andy on a hot day we should come back and dodge the waves.

Monday was our first day of Spanish class. We both didn’t know what to expect. There are 7 students total. Most are from the states and most of them are men. For the first class two teachers asked all of us questions and we had to go around and answer in Spanish with everyone listening to our answers. I think everyone was really nervous, but Andy and I made it into the advanced class with 3 other students. After class we met our host family Susana and Denis. They own a big house 15 minutes away from our school. They are very nice and are used to sharing their home with students. Denis loves soccer and also plays basketball. He even invited us to play with him at a local gym! Susana has been a midwife for years and now is a professor at a college teaching others how to be midwives. She also paints and has many paintings hanging in the house. Their Chilean Spanish is very difficult to understand at times, but it is getting easier.

P1020226 The food has been great. We have had so many avocados and empanadas. My favorite is an empanada made with spinach, cheese, and queso! But Denis told me if I eat too many I will get fat J Our host parents had some guests over last night and we tried a beverage called “cola de mono” which is milk and tequila mixed together. It was surprisingly good. I am also looking forward to trying the ever famous Chilean drink pisco sour but poco a poco (bit by bit).

Overall we are adjusting to our surroundings, learning Chilean Spanish, walking everywhere, loving the nice weather, and soaking up the Chilean culture.