Consider this your fair warning: If I intend to do the past week any justice, then this blog entry is going to have to be epically long. I suggest that you make yourself an iced tea and get comfortable.
The Other Side of the World is Really the Other Side of the Mirror
The following is a recipe for San Franciscans wishing to adjust to the Chilean physical and social environment.
Take everything you’re used to and gently turn it 180 degrees, making sure none of the contents shift in the process. Add drastic changes in daily winter temperature, Chilean Spanish (no substitutes), and a fully open capitalist market. Skim off from the top the adherence to the stated speed limit; remove and dispose of immediately. Serve with a side of parallel politics.
Everything here, with the exception of the added ingredients mentioned above, is familiar. Chile physically seems to mirror Northern California. San Francisco is “The City by the Bay”; Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, then, must be “The Sister Cities by the Other Bay.” Central Chile’s hills and Mediterranean-biome plant life mirror the hills and plant life of the Bay Area. Like most of northern California, the winter isn’t all that bad. (Yes, it gets really cold at night, even after what felt like a Spring day, but that’s because in Chile houses are not kept artificially warm with central heating like they are in the U.S.) Valparaiso has ascensores to climb the hills for you; San Francisco has cable cars for the same purpose. The ocean sparkles in the sun here the same way it does in northern California. Even the politics have things in common.
Right now, the university I am supposed to attend is almost entirely shut down due to student protests in response to what the students consider a mis-allocation of government funds for education. A couple of years ago, San Francisco State University students blocked off access to an academic building in response to increases in tuition and cuts to academic offerings.
The Chilean student strikes are more complicated than my brief introduction above, of course–not that I fully understand what’s going on myself–but it seems to me that young Chileans are similarly, but more grandly, demonstrative as Californians.
In my pre-departure post I assumed that nothing would be familiar to me in Chile. I was wrong. Almost everything is familiar, but in an inverted, re-mixed sort of way. I’m living on the other side of the mirror.
Parque Nacional La Campana
La Campana is a national park in the Fifth Region of Chile (where Vina del Mar and Valparaiso are located, along with a good chunk of central inland Chile). IFSA took us here during orientation.
For now, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.
No Te Preocupes
“Do not expect breakfast in bed,” IFSA staff tells us during orientation. So what happened on the first morning I spend with my host family? I was brought breakfast in bed. It happened the following morning, too. One might think this is awesome–and it is. I mean, who doesn’t like breakfast in bed? But for me, it is also a little uncomfortable. I’m not a princess; I shouldn’t be treated like one.
So I asked my host mom to set breakfast for me on the table the next morning instead of bringing it all the way to my room. She did, and I felt relieved.
So what happened this morning? Breakfast in bed again. And then she was off doing something else before I could protest.
And when I do protest such luxury (she also tidied up my room for me and insisted on walking with me to meet up with IFSA friends at night), all I get is “No te preocupes” (“don’t worry about it”) and a few words explaining that she likes to do the things she does. So, either I am going to have to ask for a bejeweled crown as well, or ask my host mom to be a little less nice to me.
It makes me wonder, are all Chilean families this hyper-caring?
Carreteando with the Chileans
Last night was my first carrete–the Chilean word for party. After hanging out at a bar and having awesome conversations in Spanish with Chileans I met that night through a mutual IFSA student connection, the group took the party to one of the Chilean’s apartments. This is where a big difference between Americans and Chileans comes up. Americans like to party, but are usually in bed before the sun comes up (with some exceptions). Chileans really like to party,but don’t start until late and don’t stop until the Americans are waking up the next morning. So, I and a couple other students left “early,” while the party was still based in the apartment. Leaving early was the wrong decision. The rest of the group went dancing afterwards, and from what I hear it was a ton of fun.
Next time, I guess. There is time for a lot more carreteando this semester.