Videos from Viña del Mar and Valparaiso

I’ve been meaning to upload these videos with the blogs, but I guess I forgot.  So here they all are in a separate post.  The first is of a soccer game and their fans that I went to last Friday, then a Tango dance from a show, two funicular rides up the hills of Valparaiso (kind of like an outdoor, sideways elevator), then an clip of an orchestra that we attended and finally a presidential celebration rally for Pinera, Chile’s next president.

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Me Falta Palta

P1020850 Two weekends ago, we went on our first camping trip here in Chile. A teacher that I work with gave me directions that were spot on. We had to hike a few miles on a dirt road before arriving at Nido de Condres, which is a piece of land that is owned by the nearby town and is used by gauchos (cowboys) for grazing, but also has campsites and trails that follow a small stream up into the hills and canyon. Moving slowly, the stream has created several natural pools, which we swam in, jumped in and found many small waterfalls and inhabitants. We cooked dinner on our new stove and slept in our new tent. During the night pobre Andy awoke with a stinging sensation on his chest and then again on is arm. A wasp had been trapped inside the tent and as a last resort to survive stung him twice. Don’t worry I came out of the incident unP1020872harmed. In the morning we awoke to a huge steer mooing outside out tent. We packed up and  headed out. Along the way I stopped at a scenic spot that overlooked the stream and sprinkled a few of Matt’s ashes. As I was turning around, I realized a poem had been painted on the rock. After translating it we realized this place was a memorial for someone else as well. I thought Matt would like to experience this place… the view and the sound of the stream coming from below.

We returned to Vina to celebrate the Superbowl at our house. Sadly we didn’t get to see the commercials, but the game was an exciting one. The Chilenos that I spoke to were amazed that the Superbowl was the most watched event in the United States. I tried to say it’s because of the commercials and the half time show. It was nice to spend the evening surrounded by Gringos who have always enjoyed the Superbowl experience.

I am jealous of Andy, because he uses Spanish at work to talk to his coworker, Javier. I go to work and usually speak English. I am teaching three classes and gaining a lot of experience. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are pretty crazy for me. I have two English classes in the morning, then our Spanish class, and right after that my night class begins. Andy continues to work in the mornings and then meets me for lunch before we go to our Spanish class. Christina is our Spanish teacher and has been reviewing many of the rules of the language and gives us homework most nights. Living with other North Americans we don’t speak much Spanish, except when we have been drinking. Working on my Spanish has been hot and cold. I feel like I can produce it sometimes, but other times I lose my confidence and will.

P1020914 Our living situation is so different from living with the host family. In general I like it. Besides the problems we have with the lack of hot water, the kitchen sink blasting water or nothing at all, or the broken refrigerator and its de-thawing freezer, it’s a decent place to live. The atmosphere is always lively. Morgan, Mara, and Nick are usually and other students have become regular visitors. Getting to know everyone has been great and now we seem like a crew. After a few nights of drinking, going to a club, playing Kings cup, and talking until 6 in the morning we have become close. We never go to bed at the same hour and always have the option of having one or two more drinks. The other night Andy and I decided to go to bed early which was about 2 am and the others went to a bar until 5am. One night we returned from a club at about 5, all hungry and craving palta (avocado). Palta is a staple food with every meal here, but this morning it was the main dish. We toasted bread and loaded on the palta while singing “me falta palta” which means “I’m missing avocado” It was quite the contradiction as we had plenty of palta.

Friday we experienced a tremor! I was laying in bed, awake, and all the sudden my room started violently shaking! It was strong at first and then it lessened. The tremor lasted 10 seconds! I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen screaming “Did you guys feel that! That was amazing!” Morgan was in the shower at the time and Andy brushing his teeth. That was the first real tremor I have ever felt and a reminder that the earth beneath us is constantly moving.

P1020905 This past weekend was very chill. We spent Saturday at the beach in ConCon and walked the beach in Renaca as well. The beaches in these two cities are very different. In ConCon there are more families and there are fabulous seafood restaurants just off the beach. Renaca is a different world. Andy compared it to South Beach, with younger people, showers and massages on the beach and swimsuit contests happening. ConCon was more my speed. After the beach we took a bus to the market to stock up on fresh produce and we decided to get a fresh salmon filet for Valentine’s Day which was very relaxed. We caught up on sleep, studied Spanish, and prepared the salmon. Peter our friend from Michigan set the mood of our romantic dinner by playing love songs and our roommates made us take a sappy prom picture. We ended the night with a game of Kings cup.

P1020908 Right now we are taking it easy in a coffee shop near our house. Andy ordered a hot chocolate and the waiter asked, “espeso o liquido” meaning thick or liquid. Not quite understanding, he went with the espeso and ended up with a cup of hot, rich, chocolate pudding in front of him. Andy liked it, but won’t likely order it again.

Taking a look at the calendar we have less than two weeks left in Vina. After February we leave for the South and then to Argentina. We are in the process of planning our trip and hope to cover some ground. Time has flown by and I realize that I have enjoyed living in Chile and learning about the culture and the people that live here.

One Completo, Two Completo

completo Everyone has been telling us, “Oh, you have to try the ‘completos’, they’re fabulous.” A completo is one item on Chile’s menu of fast, unhealthy food. The funny thing is that they don’t hide it either, like this particular restaurant was called ‘El Guaton’ which is the title for a fat person. So we made our way there and each ordered a completo completo. We forgot the camera, so this photo will have to do it justice, but as you can see it’s a foot long hot dog and bun topped off with huge amounts of sauerkraut, tomatoes, avocadoes and mayonnaise. All you taste is condiments. Ugh, we both felt ill after.

This week Rachel and I have moved out of our host family’s house and into a house with 3 other students. We were ready for the change, but sad to go at the same time. We really liked our host family, but our relationship with them was always hot and cold. At times it felt like they didn’t want anything to do with us and at other times we felt very included. I’m sure it was hectic for them P1020811 (1024x768)though since this is their holiday and had family coming and going. The new house has two wings. Rach and I live in one end and have separate rooms, living area (with yellow, fake leather furniture nonetheless!) and a bathroom. The other wing has three bedrooms, bath and a more comfortable living area with internet, TV and dining table. The two sections are joined together in the middle by a kitchen and open air patio. The accommodations are very basic and kind of remind me my friend’s houses in college, obviously not the best or cleanest, but get the job done. We knew one of the roommates, Nico, from class and the other two, Morgan and Mara, flew in last weekend from Colorado. We’re really representin’ down here!

Plus, the nice thing about being on our own is we can buy our own food. Rachel found out about a sweet, outdoor market held twice a week here. We went a couple days ago and were able to fill up a backpack chock full of goods for five bucks! Most things cost between $0.60 and $1.00 per Kilo (2.2 pounds), so we loaded up and got strawberries, bananas, avocadoes, tomatoes, grapes, lettuce and more. Wish it were this cheap in the States!

P1020674 (768x1024) We’ve been keeping busy with our jobs, especially Rach whose work load has increased this week. We also started new Spanish classes today. We hope to get out of town this weekend and do some camping. In the mean time we’ve continued to visit Valpo to climb up the Cerros and then wander down through the nooks and crannies of the dilapidated stairways lined with beautiful graffiti art. I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe Valpo and haven’t been able to since it’s so unique, but I think this small excerpt from Chile’s famous poet Pablo Neruda does a nice job:

Valparaiso,

How absurd you are,

You haven’t combed your hair,

You’ve never had time to get dressed,

Life has always surprised you.

(Click here to read the full poem)

We’ve also met the other new students at the school and we’ve all been hanging out at nights. It’s pretty low key and we usually end up playing a game called Minority. Basically, someone says two things like “Wedding Crashers or Old School” and everyone votes for their favorite. The choice with the least votes means those people have to drink.

So which would you choose? Wedding Crashers or Old School?

Signing Off,

Andy