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Returning to Reality in North Carolina

Time July 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | 1 Comment by

Last Thursday I stepped off my plane from Santiago and back onto American soil. I heard English all around me and walked past a sign advertising Artisanal Water and knew I was truly back. The fear of turning my phone off of airplane mode accidentally was gone and instead the freedom of unrestrained cell phone usage. There were leaves on the trees and disgusting amounts of humidity, two things that were absent from the last time I was in North Carolina.Despite all this fact, I still found myself muttering, “permiso” after bumping into people, or saying, “gracias” when receiving my food order. After nearly 6 months abroad, I’m home.

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Running back to my problems in the United States

Time June 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | 2 Comments by

Several days ago I read an article reposted to Facebook by an acquaintance (the type of acquaintance that can only exist on Facebook) that read to the extent of, “I didn’t study abroad because I decided not to run away from my problems.” After skimming the article and mentally patting myself on the back for deciding to study abroad to improve my language skills and see the world as opposed to running away from deep-seated problems lurking in Chapel Hill, I continued on with my day. I thought to myself, “I don’t have any problems to run away from.” Go me, right? But the reality is that while I have not fled from explicit issues, I have certainly found a safe haven away from the pressures of growing up.

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IFSA-Butler Valparaíso Pros and Cons

Time June 7th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | 1 Comment by

The following are pros and cons that I personally have found in the last 4 months and also those collected by fellow students in my program. This post will be more geared towards students looking specifically to study abroad in Valparaíso, Chile and less geared towards friends and family looking to follow my travels. A few small  disclaimers: some of these are opinions and some are unavoidable when studying abroad. I also did not talk to students of other programs so I am unsure of how they compare. Further, each semester is different with different IFSA staff or offered classes etc… Without further delay, IFSA-Butler Chilean Universities Program, Valparaíso pros and cons.

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The Gay Post

Time May 24th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

This is it everyone, the post you have all been waiting for. The post that got me this gig as a blogger, that is right… the gay post. But first, a bit about Chilean dating.

 

There is a question among millennials in the States that speaks to the nature of relationship development among our generation. I am referring to the infamous, “What are we?” inquiry. This question would be appropriate after maybe hooking up several times and someone wants to know where it is going. Or maybe after a few coffee dates and someone wants to define it (or at very least know if they should cut it off with their friend with benefits on the side). Regardless of when it is used, it speaks to the gray space of dating in which my generation seems to thrive. That sweet spot in between physical touch and emotional connection. We embrace the excitement of the unknown and finding satisfaction without labels or being tied down. As Emma Court wrote in the New York Times Modern Love essay, “A Millennial’s Guide to Kissing,” “Being casual is cooler than intimacy and vulnerability.”

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Political Incorrectness

Time May 11th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

During one of our very first Advanced Spanish classes here in Valpo, our professor told us that for Chileans, the notion of ‘political correctness’ does not exist. That quickly became apparent in the weeks to come as Sophie, a Chinese born American adopted student in our group, frequently received stares, slight bows, or the occasional, ‘konichiwa’ or ‘ni hao.’ Granted, to the Chileans, these are just simple jokes or ways to acknowledge her heritage. They fail to grasp that in the eyes of some, it can be seen as offensive or hurtful. Further, here in Valparaiso, it is rare to see someone not of Latino or European descent, so when there is someone who looks a bit different, they aren’t shy about showing their surprise.

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#turnt

Time April 27th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Taking a complete turnaround from last post about academics, this post will discuss how the party scene here in Valparaiso differs from that in quaint college town, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Quick disclaimer: the legal drinking age in Chile is 18 and all alcoholic consumption that has occurred has been done in a safe and (relatively) orderly manner. Let me set the scene for you, my avid reader… a bustling, bohemian, breathless city filled with thousands upon thousands of university age students living with their parents and eager to dance the night away. Add on the fact that there are over a dozen clubs and no one seems bothered to ask for ID when selling alcohol, there is a thriving partying environment here in Valparaiso. While marijuana is not legalized in Chile, smelling it in a club or by a bar at night is commonplace. Or if you’re ever taking a walk by some of the universities after most of the students finish class, don’t be surprised to see students rolling a joint in the street to celebrate the end of class for the day. Read More »

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The Nitty-Gritty Academics

Time April 12th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Having just registered for UNC classes and being halfway through my academic time here in Chile, academics is a painfully relevant topic. I had to have a friend register for me because I was on a flight to Easter island during my registration time. Despite the stress of leaving registration to another person, I’m loving Easter island and doing my best not to be the 5th confirmed case of Dengue.

As opposed to in the US where students typically don’t have to declare a major until junior year, students in Chile (and most Latin American countries) declare their path of studies before entering a university. Their major, or carrera as it is called in Spanish, is set on a four year track with specific classes to take each term of each year. Should a student decide they want to switch carreras, they must begin the four year process over again, all before graduate programs afterwards. For example, one of the university students who helps out our program is 27 and in his final year because he switched carreras so many times. Additionally, since the students all have the same classes with their carreras for four straight years (apart from elective classes) they are typically quite friendly with each other and aren’t as interested in making gringo friends, at least in my experience.

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Semi cama or salon cama?

Time March 28th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I write this post from a bus going from the Island of Chiloe back to Santiago. This ride concludes a five day vacation to Southern Chile, specifically a region called Lake Districts. When I arrive tomorrow morning to Valpo after an overnight 14 hour bus ride and several buses before, I will be rudely awakened by four back to back classes and a week full of presentations and essays.

Throughout my semester in Valpo, I have two, maybe three, breaks from classes – one of which was this past Thursday and Friday. The day and a half break we were awarded was in honor of Semana Santa. The other primary break I have during the semester comes mid April, although half of it is dedicated to a five day IFSA trip to Patagonia to visit Mapuche communities. In contrast to the few breaks we have throughout the semester, I have a list of places I want to visit in Chile that is close to half a page. I am sadly forced to remind myself that in the end I am here to study, not solely vacation.

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Mi casa es su casa

Time March 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

Classes are in full swing and after three months of vacationing I am being painfully forced back into the schedule of a full time student, homework and all. I’m settling into my routine here in Valpo and that comes with feeling more comfortable in my new home. My host mother and I get along swimmingly and it feels more like we are roommates than mother and son (albeit a roommate who cooks all my meals). While I am overjoyed with my housing placement, it is not the same for all of my fellow gringos.

 

Our housing assignments play a huge role in our study abroad experience, and we have relatively little input. Before arriving in Valpo, we each received a form to fill out whether we smoke, the foods we don’t eat, if we like pets, if we want little kids in the house, which city we’d prefer, etc… And while IFSA did a great job of pairing us with like-minded families, not everything can be accommodated for.

 

The biggest difference is most likely the city assignment. Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are two cities directly next to one another, with half of us gringos in Valpo, and the other half in Viña. However, it can take half an hour to an hour to get from one end of Valpo to the other end of Viña. Add in the fact that all the best clubs and bars are in Valpo (friendly reminder that the drinking age is 18) means that more often than not the Viña gringos opt out of social events due to the long trek there and not wanting to trek back home late at night. For the most part, we were placed in clumps of two or three students which affect who we end up spending the most time with either walking to class or just relaxing in a cafe to do homework. My point is, many of the social dynamics of our semester were predetermined based on who was placed where.

 

Apart from simply location, the different housing assignments differ in several other ways. Some have fleas in the beds, and others take their gringo to Peru and Argentina for vacation. Some do not provide meals three times a day, and some have nannies that do all the cooking and cleaning. Some do not allow fellow gringos to spend the night, and others fully support significant others coming from the US and staying in their house. Bottom line is, the housing situation plays an enormously large role in one’s study abroad experience. However, I will reiterate that IFSA-Butler does an impressive job of matching students with families (and I’m not just saying that because I’m being paid to write this blog), but some families are better equipped to house students than others.

 

While you, my avid readers (hi mom), either know me quite well or are getting to know me through my writing, do not in fact know the faces of my fellow gringos or the Chileans I am meeting each day that compose a large part of my study abroad experience. So, in full HONY fashion, I will be interviewing and photographing one fellow gringo and one Chilean for each post. This time it’s the Texan rascal, Jennie (first quote), and my host mama Pamela. Photos to come once I figure out how to add photos within a post!

 

“I’ve always had a sense of wonderlust. I love being lost. I love meeting new people. I love the challenge of seeing something that I’m unfamiliar with and then engaging with it and learning about it, especially the people. And then slowly developing the sense of ownership over a place or a community. When I say sense of ownership I don’t mean like I own this place. But, like a sense of ‘I belong here.’ Think about when your mom comes to town and you want to show her this. It’s that sense of, ‘this is where I sit every night and this is where I put my shoes on in the morning,’ whatever it is. The places where you feel home, you know?”

 

“In the beginning I didn’t really know what to do. When I was a girl, I thought a lot about history and I liked history. After that when puppetry was presented to me I loved it and I knew what I wanted to do. Why do I like it? Because in the space of working with puppets, which is playing with plastic art, the action, the movement as well, the narration, there is also a search in dramatic art. You get the sense that you’re in a creative space within the art that combines many disciplines. They’re disciplines that I enjoy working with. For this reason it’s my favorite. For a bit I studied dance but it didn’t stick with me as much as puppetry did. But I believe that everything that you end up not studying acts as a tool to complete your objective, to develop more what you enjoy.”

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The gringo makes his way to Chile

Time March 1st, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

“Valparaiso, what an absurdity you are, how crazy: a crazy port. What a head of disheveled hills, that you never finish combing. Never did you have time to dress yourself, and always you were surprised by life.” This quote begins the poem Ode to Valparaiso by Pablo Neruda, famous poet who once lived in Valparaiso, Chile, the very city I currently call home. In the week that I have been staying in Valparaiso (commonly referred to as Valpo), I have began to fall in love with its unapologetically messy way of life and the culture that drips from every graffiti strewn wall and cobblestone paved hill. During my time in Peru, I felt content to live there for five weeks, but here in Valpo, I am honored and exhilarated to live in such a beautiful part of the world for five months. Each morning I am reminded of that very exhilaration when I wake up, throw open my window and smell the salt waft in from the sea and hear the clamour of a city hard at work. I feel just like Rapunzel peering out her window except minus the captivity and magical hair aspects.

Despite only having been in Chile for a mere week, I found that my adjustment period relatively short compared to the other Americans in my program. I assume this is due to having adapted to being in such a new place while in Peru, and Chile is simply the next step in my time abroad. Part of me misses experiencing the wanderlust and excitement of being in such a different place that I can see my fellow exchange students going through as they adapt, but feeling comfortable relatively quickly is hardly a bad thing. In addition to having time to adjust to a different culture in Peru, it also helped sculpt my Spanish, or so I thought. Chileans are notorious for their accent and lightning fast speaking, and I learned that this is hardly an exaggeration. In addition to these slight roadblocks, they also use an immense amount of slang specific to Chile. Words like po, hueon, and bacan are littered throughout most sentences, leading me to wonder if new words are specific to Chile or simply vocabulary I have yet to encounter.

Apart from encountering Chileans, starting this new part of my time abroad brought me into direct contact with other Americans again for the first time in a month and a half. With those Americans came the jokes, phrases, and culture that I had been deprived of while in Peru. But most of all, it brought back fluent English speakers. On the one hand, it feels amazing to be able to communicate everything I want to without a second thought, but at the same time I am here in Chile to improve my Spanish, and while in the company of native English speakers it is incredibly hard to motivate myself to speak solely in Spanish. Some study abroad programs employ a language pledge, binding the students to speak and write solely in Spanish for their time abroad. I told myself that once classes start I would speak solely in Spanish, but the idea is daunting. Further, my Spanish is not quite good enough to make jokes, be sarcastic, or fully convey my personality, which both frustrates me into speaking English and motivates me to practice my Spanish.

The cultural contrast between Peru and Chile is substantial, although I believe this in part to be due to my host families. In Peru, my host family was dedicated to order, cleanliness, and efficiency, while here in Chile, my host family is messy, spontaneous, and artistic. Both of these families embody the extremes of their own city – Arequipa being a conservative, orderly place and Valparaiso being rambunctious and bohemian.

Tomorrow classes begin and I return to a regimented schedule that has been lacking in my life for three months now. Although as our study abroad director reminded us during orientation, it’s called study abroad, not party abroad or vacation abroad, so there is no escaping classes and real responsibilities. In the coming weeks I will be exploring Chilean universities and continuing my life here in beautiful Valparaiso. I’ll be writing about classes here vs. the US, being gay in Valpo, earthquakes, and much more, so stay tuned!

That’s all for now,
William

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Meu Deus do céu, o que é isso?

Time February 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | 1 Comment by

Five weeks have come and gone and today counts as my last here in Peru. My feet are sore from climbing to Machu Picchu, my skin is darker from tanning while cruising across Lake Titicaca, and my Spanish speaking has improved exponentially. While I have enjoyed my time in Peru, I remain eager to continue my adventure in Chile. However, Chile will bring its own unique challenges, just as Peru did. Chile is infamous for its difficult accent and the speed at which its inhabitants speak. On the bright side, I have been told that if I can master the Chilean accent, I can understand any Spanish accent. In my time traveling in Peru I have met a number of Chileans and for the most part have been able to understand them, which leaves me hopeful of my ability communicate successfully for the next five months.

 

While my Spanish has improved, I am continually surprised by the amount of English that is present in Arequipa. It is used as a marketing technique, billboards with English phrases plastered across them are common despite the fact that most Arequipeños do not speak English. Buzzwords such as love, smile, and live are everywhere on adolescent’s clothing. One day, one of my students asked me what the English phrase on her shirt meant as she had no clue. Beyond this, American music is hugely popular Peru and I expect, Latin America. Many of my volunteer friends who either don’t speak English or have very thick accents can sing popular verses to hit songs without so much as a hint of an accent because they have heard them so many times.

 

Between my fellow volunteers a host of languages are spoken, the most prominent being Portuguese. With nearly 30 Brazilians composing the vast majority of our program here in Arequipa, those of us that do not speak the language are quite outnumbered. For the sake of simplicity in communicating, the Brazilians speak Portuguese nearly constantly, which is somewhat frustrating for the 10-15 non-Brazilians in the program. On the bright side, however, it has provided the opportunity for me to learn a few phrases in Portuguese, one of which being the title of this post, which essentially translates to OMG, what is this? I quickly learned that when the Brazilians were engaged in Portuguese, I could say this loudly and they would all laugh and if I was lucky they would also switch to Spanish. This lasted until they got too caught up in their conversation and unconsciously switched back to Portuguese. Other than my annoyance at not being able to understand the majority of what is said when spending time with the other volunteers, it also bothers me from a different perspective. Since Portuguese is so close to Spanish, many of the Brazilians speak decent Spanish. Decent, but not perfect. My frustration lies in the fact that they are staying in a Spanish speaking country with the best opportunity that exists to improve their Spanish and instead they revert to their native language instead of practicing. Of course, we all often spend time together after teaching English or spending time with our host families when they are forced to speak Spanish so it is understandable that they just want a break and Portuguese is easiest. Further, I am hardly guilty of not speaking English with other native speakers, so my bitterness is more a result of my inability to follow the conversation than disappointment in their lack of dedication to learning Spanish.

 

Just as many of the advertisements cater to English as a business tactic, many parts of where I have traveled have been catered solely to tourists as a source of income. The indigenous groups we visited during our last week of vacation seemed to put up a facade of their native lifestyle instead of showcasing their real culture. This past weekend while going on two separate tours around Cusco on Saturday and Sunday to different locations, we stopped in a town to learn about the indigenous women and their textile production on both tours. During each stop at different spots, we received the exact same speech including the same joke at the end about a llama bone being from a tourist who did not buy anything after the presentation. During the second presentation the phone of one of the women presenting rang and she hurried off behind closed doors to answer it. This is not confined solely to our tours around Cusco, however. On the floating islands, there were no lights in the houses but cell phones were commonplace. While driving to Machu Picchu, big company advertisements were plastered to the walls of dilapidated buildings. The indigenous culture is exploited and put on for sale in the form of alpaca wool clothing, stitched wall hangings, and earrings in the shapes of llamas. Visiting these communities felt more like going to the zoo to see the animals in their cages than learning about and celebrating their culture as it has been passed on for generations. Maybe it was naive of me to think it would be less rehearsed and more genuine of their culture, but it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Despite my frustration, I understand the rationale behind it. As a woman from a jewelry shop literally chased a family haggling prices as they left the shop, our tour guide whispered to us that a common phrase is “tourism or death.” The indigenous people need money in order to survive and continue their way of life, and selling their indigenous/commercialized goods to tourists like me is the best way to do it. The wall hanging, alpaca backpack, and other souvenirs and gifts that I have purchased in my time here reminds me that I hardly above the tourist industry despite my dislike for how it is run.

 

Tomorrow morning I head for Santiago and later this week for Valparaiso where I will settle down for the next five months. The last few days have been filled with teary goodbyes but as one of my good friends told me, “No es un adios. Es un hasta luego!”

That’s all for now, folks. Chile, here I come!

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My Host Mother aka Superwoman

Time February 5th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Peru | 1 Comment by

Last night as dinner came to an end and I stacked my plate and wiped my hands on my napkin, my host mom softly groaned and lamented that she now had to wash the dishes and clean the house. This complaint came understandably since at the end of dinner around ten in the evening, she had been awake and working for at least fourteen hours, and it wasn’t over yet. I thought machismo culture would consist of men not displaying their feelings and women claiming the role as head of the household. I never expected it would be so extreme.

Each morning when my alarm sounds at seven in the morning I drag myself out of bed, shower, get dressed, and walk into the kitchen to greet my host mom who promptly places my breakfast in front of me. She then resumes preparing her sister and my host sister’s breakfast, lunch for the house, and readying herself for work. She then goes to work for nearly eleven hours, comes home, cooks, cleans, and goes to bed only to do it all over again the next day. Meanwhile, her sister spends her day running a law firm, and her daughter running errands for the house, In contrast, her father spends his days watching television, reading in the garden, and waiting to be called to eat.

Within Latino culture, it is typical for children to live at home until they are in their late twenties. Study abroad agencies frequently warn students that studying in a Latino country will be similar to re-entering high school and living under their parent’s roofs. In my time living with my host family, I have watched my host sister receive training in cooking and cleaning so she can fill the role of the matriarch in her own home one day. When I first arrived, my host family assumed I couldn’t do anything since I was both nineteen and a male. At first, I was not allowed to clear my plate, wash my dishes, help cook, do my own laundry, or clean my own room. This came as quite a shock after having been fairly independent for two years. Over time, however, and with many failed attempts, I have been allowed to fulfill more and more duties. These days I can safely clear the table and maybe even wash a dish or two before my host mom or sister shoo me away from the kitchen. Unfortunately, this way of life is not exclusive to my own host-family. In the house of my fellow volunteers, the mothers spends their days cooking and the sons and husbands wait to be beckoned for meals.

The women here are not silently suffering, however, they see the unfairness in the system just as easily as I do. One day when I helped clear the table after lunch with my host sister and her grandfather, she thanked me repeatedly. She then asked her grandfather why he didn’t help clear the dishes. He simply responded that he did not have time. He didn’t have time despite the fact that he spends 95% of his day sitting on the sofa watching TV. But that’s none of my business. Equally, when I arrived home on the grandfather’s birthday, he was sitting around the table with two of his brother-in-laws while the women swarmed around the kitchen preparing the meal. I was quickly told to sit and given a whiskey on the rocks and began making pleasantries to the men sitting beside me. As the women continued to work I asked if I could help, at which point they loudly said of course and unabashedly noted how nice it was to have a man offer to help around the house.

When it comes down to it, my dislike of the system here will not change gender norms or make the life of my host mother any easier. Although, I am not here to radicalize the culture and force American beliefs into my host country, instead, I am simply here to experience and learn. Albeit, the more dishes I can wash, the better. In my current environment, I have found that while the wage gap, discrimination, and unfair opportunities surrounding gender norms in America are all valid, the complaints of microaggressions and other such minor issues seem like petty complaints in comparison to the disparity in gender equality here in Peru and other parts of the world.

That’s all for now, now that my inner feminist has had a chance to rant. I’m off to Puno for a festival this weekend, Cusco and Machu Picchu next week and then Chile directly after – the adventure continues.

 

Wish me luck,

William

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Sunburnt in January

Time January 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | 1 Comment by

Well, I made it. It’s been over a week and I’m still alive, and believe it or not, things are going well. In this past week I haven’t cried, puked, or been kidnapped and had my organs stolen, despite what I thought would have happened by this point. I have quickly fallen into a routine here in Arequipa, Peru. I have adapted to the food, the altitude, the city, and a different way of life. I am aware that it has only been a week and a half, but at this point I feel comfortable in being away from home for the next 6 months. While each day I feel more at home in Arequipa, the shattered pepsi bottles stuck to the tops of walls to discourage intruders reminds me that I am a far ways away from quaint Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Despite the fact that I am feeling more and more at home here, I am constantly reminded that I do not quite belong. Granted, I am loved by my host family and cared for by my newly found friends, but I am a foreigner and this city will not let me forget it. The crick in my neck reminds me that I can’t stand up straight in the combi’s (Arequipa’s public transportation) because they are not built for individuals over 6’ tall. The discoteca worker who gave us free entrance and alcohol because our group was foreign further engrains the simple fact that we do not belong and can be exploited for business as “exotic.” The whispers of “gigante” by the schoolkids when I walk into any room, or the remarks about my blue eyes, or even having to crouch to reach the doorknob of my bedroom door reminds me that this part of the world is not used to people like me. I am certainly adapting, but I am painfully aware of the fact that no matter how much adaptation occurs, I will never really belong. But I am not here to become Peruvian, nor should the Peruvians feel the need to make allowances for me, I am solely here to understand and learn about the culture and the experience it provides.

Although I am physically quite different from the Peruvians surrounding me, their beliefs and practices also differ from that which I am accustomed to in the United States. This became clear to me when I walked into my host family’s kitchen for the first time and met my host sister’s aunt and grandfather. After greeting me they took a quick look at my arm and immediately questioned me about the bright tattoo sitting below my left elbow. They exclaimed their disapproval and angrily asked what I would do if my father or mother became sick and I needed to give blood. I refrained from mentioning that I already could not donate blood in the United States because I am gay. Before arriving I had been unsure as to whether I would come out to my host family but after seeing their reaction to my tattoo I was positive I would keep that part of my identity a secret. Apart from the difference in body art, religion plays a much larger role in this city than it does in Chapel Hill. While exploring the city, it quickly became apparent that Jesus Christ is a pretty popular guy in these parts. Whenever riding in the combi’s around town and we pass a church, several people around me punctually draw a cross across their chests. And the picture of Jesus Christ smiling down at me from the wall as I teach English every day hardly lets me forget the conservative and religious nature of Arequipa.

In contrast to the conservative nature of Arequipa and some of its inhabitants, many of my fellow AIESEC volunteers are much more liberal and accepting, which is good, because discretion has never been my strong suit. While in the United States if I make a slip up about someone being gay it goes unquestioned, but here, it can leave someone homeless and ostracized. On my second night in Arequipa I was invited to a birthday party for one of the volunteers where I met a boy named Leo. He’s the life of every party, conversation, and interaction he steps into. Without fear or discomfort he displays an unrivaled will to live and experience the thriving world around him. Since that night, he and I have been walking the thin line of quasi-dating but aware that our time together will come to a screeching halt on the 16th of February when I fly to Chile and he returns to Brazil. I only explain the fairytale nature of my experience with Leo as a way of explaining gay culture in Arequipa (at least what I’ve learned in the last week and a half). While spending time with the other volunteers who come from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, etc, there have been no nasty comments, backlash, or discrimination whatsoever. In contrast however, on the night when we met and sat together talking, a Peruvian girl at the party took the opportunity to throw a gay slur in Portuguese to Leo. Another person in the program had to change to a new host family when his family found out he was gay. This hasn’t stopped Leo and me from spending time together in public but I have a constant fear of violent backlash from those who have differing views. Of course, this is only my experience and hardly speaks for the whole of Arequipa. Just like anywhere in the world there exists a mix of beliefs, these are just the ones I have encountered so far.

While in the United States I was scared that I would have a hard time arriving and adapting, but now I’m afraid I will have a hard time leaving the life I am carving out for myself here in Arequipa. J.R. Tolkien once wrote, “The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.”, and what a world it is.

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Nervecitement in Miami

Time January 11th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents | 2 Comments by

Like any great college student I waited until the last possible minute to do my work. What that means is I am currently sitting in the Miami airport in hour one of a ten-hour layover. Once those ten hours are up I will be flying to Lima, Peru, and I won’t be coming back to the states for over half a year. What comes to mind when I think about this time abroad is the word my sister invented directly before getting her first tattoo: nervecited. I absolutely feel both nervous and excited but most of all ready for an adventure.

A quick introduction for those who do not already know me: my name is Will and I am a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying Psychology and Spanish Literature. I will be traveling to Peru where I will be teaching English for five weeks through a program called AISEC. After that I will be in Valparaiso, Chile for five and a half months for a study abroad program. As an IFSA-Butler Blog Correspondent I will be writing blog posts at least once every two weeks. I’ll be writing about my experience abroad as a whole and specifically as a gay male and what gay culture is like in Arequipa and Valparaíso.

The weeks leading up to today have been filled with sleepless nights, endless frustration with the United States bureaucracy, and teary goodbyes (primarily with my dogs), but, even so, I don’t quite feel prepared. No matter how much packing, planning, or panicking goes into my pre-departure, I just don’t feel ready. This is primarily due to the fact that I’ve never experienced anything similar to what the next 6 months will entail. The longest I’ve been out of the States for is two weeks, and after tonight I won’t be back for 6 months. Even in the US, I’ve been quite localized. I grew up and went to a university all within a ten-mile radius. When I broke my foot first semester, my mom picked me up on her way home from work to take me to the doctor. This adventure is both terrifying and exhilarating. Admittedly, nervecited has a bit of a better ring to it than terrifilarated.

I find myself more nervous about not being able to drink the tap water than being discriminated against for my sexual orientation. Just like how I have never lived outside the NC Triangle, I have never experienced much discrimination. I feel extraordinarily lucky for that fact, but it would be naive of me to believe it doesn’t exist simply because I haven’t been affected. As a Catholic country, Chile has slightly more conservative views than liberal Chapel Hill, so I should be prepared for differing opinions. Again, this is something I don’t have much experience in and therefore can’t prepare myself that much.

My mind has been filled with a million thoughts and questions regarding this trip. Questions like, just how extreme of a height difference will there be between me and the native Chileans considering I’m 6’5”? What color are the walls painted in my host family’s house? Will I ever fully memorize the differences on when to use por o para even after 6 months speaking Spanish? Will those people sprinting by make it to their gate on time? I don’t have a good answer for most of these but that’s part of going abroad, isn’t it? To come back with answers, even to questions you didn’t even know you had. Except for the last one, on that one I’m pretty sure they’re SOL.

Despite all the unknowns, I can anticipate one thing for certain: this trip will open my eyes and change how I view the world. Terry Pratchett wrote, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Looking back, it is easy to see the big moments that have shaped who I am today. I can see how the experiences formed by those I have loved, lost, and places I have been have altered how I view and act in the world. But right now, this is the first time in my life I can look forward and anticipate one of those moments. I can confidently say that when I step back in North Carolina on July 27th, I will have a different perspective on the world. But just like losing someone or falling in love, there’s nothing you can do to change it – it just keeps on coming. I am going to get on the plane, I am going to fly to Peru, and if everything goes according to plan, I am not going to come back until late July. I’m definitely feeling the nervecitement.

That’s it for now. Just a few more hours to kill before I board a plane to Lima. Wish me luck, this is it.

William

 

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