Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's bound to happen

It's bound to happen with all these micros (buses) driving crazily around with no route per se, or at least to the average traveller. I have finally taken the plunge and decided that if I ever want to get out and do things on a daily basis, and on a whim, I would need to learn how to take a micro.

Some micros are easier to take than others, like when I am in downtown Talagante at the bus station where all the buses stop at (so I don't have to flag them down) and I can easily see their signs in the wind shield, and easily choose my micro home. Which is any bus with the sign of "Isla de Maipo" on it. I board the bus pay my money say what city I am going to and I can wait a little bit. I can't relax because I am always worried I am going to miss my street. Once I see we are near my street I go up to the driver and ask him to stop here, or if I am lucky there will be just a button I have to press, I then get off the bus and I am done with it. That is the easy micro for me, it is not so easy at night though, seeing as how out of the city and into the country there are no street lights which makes seeing where we are that much harder, and makes my walk back home a little scarier. My dirt road won't have any strange people or anything of the sorts, but we have one house that doesn't have a gate around their house and they also have like 10 dogs on their property that wander the road. During the day it is fine since they are too lazy and it is daylight so they can see you, but at night if they are not sleeping they sometimes can bark you and it does get freaky, I have been lucky when it did happen my host dad was in his car behind me coming back home from work.

The other day my friend asked me to meet him in the plaza, and today I decided I would take the micro since I couldn't expect anyone to just drive me there. So I got my exact change, asked my host mom if there was any buses that from our road will not go to Talagante, which she said they all go to Talagante, which is a relief. I got my glasses so I could see the signs and I was off on our long dirt road headed for the main road. This is what I don't like doing, I don't like standing on a street by myself in the country where guys in cars an shout and whistle at me all they please. I am just praying to God that they don't actually stop and offer me a ride. I have been fortunate enough that it hasn't happened yet. Once I see a micro I put my arm out to the side and point my index finger signalling the micro to pull over, I was lucky enough that the first micro I saw pulled over. I am assuming since I am a girl and alone it pulled over, seeing as how whenever me and my brother try to flag down micros at the same spot about 5 will at least pass us without pulling over. I was happy to board the bus fearing more teenagers in cars passing me by, even though I wasn't fully confident in the bus seeing as how this was my first time taking it in this direction. It turned out to be fine, and I got off and made it to the plaza in no time.

Turns out when my friend said meet me in the plaza he meant a plaza of a different smaller city, but forgot to what city so I just automatically assumed. When he called, he offered to come to Talagante and find me but I said I would probably be fine trying to go to the other city. Of course I was scared shitless sort of, reassured me that I could ask people on the bus where it was. I also figured that this was an educated risk, since it was daylight out, and if I though I went to far or if I got lost I could always cross the street to the other side and take a micro back to Talagante and I would be fine.

At the bus station I know exactly what bus to get on, I just don't know where to get off, so I eventually ask this nice looking lady beside me if she knew the Isla and if she knew where the Supermarket was (me and my friend decided to meet there instead) she didn't really know exactly but she was really nice and said it was after when she got off and asked another lady to help me, which this lady talked super fast and was talking about how the bus turns around. I was utterly confused by her but I was proud of myself for actually talking in spanish to perfect starngers who didn't fully understand my situation. I was still slightly nervous but I told me head that you can't get lost and the worst scenario is that you take a micro back to Talagante. I finally understand what the lady is talking about when I see the plaza and we make a turn into the downtown of the city, so now I am searching for the super which I have seen once in my life here, but I can't find it and we make another turn and we are in the residential area. I quickly ask a another lady if we passed the supermarket she didn't know, so I ask the driver and he didn't understand me so I decide to get off the bus. I wasn't official lost since I knew if I just walked a few minutes back to the downtown and then walk another 10minutes to where I saw the plaza I would be fine. Turns out Isla de Maipo is a lot smaller than I thought, so when I reached the downtown my friend called and asked me where I was so I told him what happened and he eventually found me. It was a laughable situation. I told him how I couldn't see the super and how nobody knew where it was. We eventually pass it the super and I can see why I didn't see it, it was so tiny that I was probably looking on the other side and we passed it. At least I know how to take a micro to this city.

Thank goodness for common sense. As well as in daylight this situation is really hilarious but if it was in the night (although I never really do travel at night unless I am with friends) I think I would have been freaking out a bit more. But it's bound happen to get lost with a bus system like this.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I am obligated to Rotary to write a Beavertale. It's basically a summary of what my life has been like here, and I have to write one every third month. Not that I have been here for three months yet.

If you want to visit the actual site where my HIDEOUS rotary photo will be posted along with my entry it is http://rotary7080.org, then under "Site Pages" go to "Youth Exchange 7080" then on the left again it should say "Beavertales" and I am on the second page. :)


I arrived in Santiago, Chile August 24th on a very foggy day, and I was invited by some brisk weather (which was very refreshing seeing as how Burlington is always in a heat wave in the summer). I was greeted by my counsellor (Sofia) and my host parents Fernando & Consuelo. By the early morning I was already at my new home in Talagante (30 minutes away from the capital city, Santiago). When I arrived at the house I was greeted by my siblings, all 5 of them, Jose (20) is studying music, Tety (18) is my older sister and is studying obstetrics in university, than as my host dad would say there are the “little monsters”. He would be referring to Victoria (6), Jaime (5) and Rafaela (3). Coming from a very tiny (& quiet) family living with so many people has been quite the change for me.

The first things I learned in Spanish were “I am hungry” “I am cold” and “Hot water bottle”. Seeing as how I am now on the opposite side of the world, it is winter here, but nothing compared to Canada (it’s more like Burlington’s spring) but the houses have no central heating. So the temperature outside is the temperature inside the house, and needless to say I wasn’t ready for the cold weather and neither were my toes. After a month the weather got a lot warmer so that I didn’t have to wear my hoodie, sweater, long john’s, and wool socks to bed anymore.

I started school my 4th day here and this is when I really started to learn Spanish, or some may call it Castellano. (I consider I am learning two languages here Spanish & Castellano since they are so incredibly different, my friends can talk in Castellano and I will not be able to understand one word, where as in Spanish I can understand everything if they pronunciate). Chileans have a reputation to talk at lightening speed and with a language all their own. The majority of my family works at my school “English College” so I was being helped at every step of the way my first day there, but don’t be fooled by the name. The big joke is that the only thing that is in English at the school is the name. I was placed in the same class as my host brother who is currently in the U.S. So you know that everyone in the whole school knew I was coming, and for weeks after I first came there people I didn’t know would shout my name (or attempt to seeing as how Spanish isn’t the kindest language to my name). My first day was a lot of smiling, nodding my head, and shrugging my shoulders, and some more smiling. Even though I didn’t know much Spanish I was able to make it through the day with everyone thinking I was the charismatic “gringa” from Canada (“gringa” means North American Foreigner). I like school because it helps my Spanish and I have a good group of friends there, and the courses that I actually try in are Chemistry, Music, English, and Gym Class (which usually consists of soccer and the teams are usually the girls against me, and I usually win). Although now school is ending for me next week and then I have summer vacation for almost 4 months, this is do to the fact that I am in the graduating class, hence less school. So, in March I will go back to the school and do Cuarto Medio (Grade 12) over again but with a new class.

Being a “gringa” (foreigner) means that I get a lot of attention (even if I don’t want it some days). But I have the luxury that since people do know who I am they help me out a lot more and understand why I am making so many hand signals (or more compared to the average Chilean). Many times I get suckered into doing certain things because I don’t actually realize the full extent of what I am agreeing too. My friends just tell me the bascis and nothing more, seeing as how it makes it a lot easier for me to understand. My good friend who is very into music one day asked me if I wanted to sing with him while he played the guitar. So I said sure, why not? The only other piece of information I got was to be at the school on Saturday at a certain time. It was only a couple days later when Jose told me that I was actually singing at a festival, in front of people. So it turned out that I sang three songs by myself with my friends being the band. On my last song “Imagine” the music cut out and I had to sing the last verse with no music, I got quite the applause. After the show, I had eight, 10 year old girls run after me, asking me questions, the next day in school they found my classroom and asked me more questions….luckily my friends persuaded them to leave so I could hang out with my friends.

The stereotype of Chile would be that is super hot all year round, and the food is spicy as well. In reality the winters are cold! Not incredibly cold but enough to notice and make you wear multiple sweaters, as well as the food is anything but spicy. The food is very simple and healthy for you (at least in my family, I have learned to make things with out having a microwave, and I can do without dessert after dinner now). Lunch is definitely the largest meal of the day and I am not hungry until the next morning. We have a variety of things such as pasta, and lots of soups and stews (for winter), but we always have bread and ensalada (like salad but the dressing is lemon and salt). We also have lots of tea, coffee, and hot milk. You are considered weird to want cold milk, which is exactly what I wanted on my first day here, to be sorely disappointed when it turned out to taste like crème. I now too can’t drink milk cold!

September 18 is Chile’s independence day, and that week I got to experience lots of authentically Chilean and Latin American things. I was introduced to asados (BBQ), empanadas, and all sorts of Chilean meat and other dishes. The whole month the country was adorned in its flag and the only colours you could see was red, white and blue. Rodeos were happening, and it was normal to see someone dressed in traditional clothing with their hat and poncho dancing the cueca. (Which I can dance the cueca). It was also the time for partying and I was lucky enough the party was at my house so I was able to go to bed early (6am) and go to sleep when most people went home at 10pm. I still don’t understand how they do it.

I have definitely learned that you have to laugh at yourself, especially when learning a new language. Numerous times I would mess up words such as spoon and sexy together. Or have my friends as a joke have me write different answers for some school work. You just learn to laugh at it and when people bring it up you laugh along and have a good time with the story. Also, having three little kids in the house (when I am used to just one other [quiet] sibling in the house in Canada) makes your life very noisy, and I have given up on trying to break up every fight or console all the tears. I know to just laugh when they have tantrums because a minute later they will be on to the next distraction. But they can also bring other joys in my life, like when Jaimito runs around the house with his pants always half way down his butt, or Vikki trying to save a baby cat, and Rafa always showing up at my door with some sort of make-up all over her face. Also when our yard will be flooded with water and the kids decide it will make a decent pool for the day. Those are some things that are really hilarious and enjoyable that you just don’t experience when you have grown up with a brother very close to your age.

I remember in the beginning of my exchange and even now I will be in the car just thinking “Wow, I am in Chile!” while I am heading off to someplace I would never think I would go to, or do at some ridiculous hour. Like, coming back to the house at 6am when you left the house at 10pm and before you enter the house you see the sunrise over the Andes. That is when you think “Wow, I would never have done that in Canada, nowhere even close”. This whole exchange still seems semi-surreal to me, I can’t imagine going back to Canada now. My life is in Chile right now.



Thursday, November 13, 2008


So, I have been slacking in the blogging. Mainly because things have become similar (almost mundane to me) but if I wrote about it, it may sound interesting to you. Who knows. Also, my english writing sucks as of now, and writing in English now gives me a headache, whereas before concentrating on Spanish gave me a headache. They have now reversed.

I went to the Rodeo last weekend on the Sunday. My host dad Fernando is very into horses and grew up with them and all. So him, and his brother still ride horses and do rodeos.

Now to explain what they actually did in the rodeo:

The rodeo is obviously a circle, but it also has a stable wall in the middle, with two swinging "fences" as you might call them on either side. So that you can create a smaller ovalish shape when you close the fences, and when they are open you create a larger circle.

You have two riders in the oval at first and they both wait at where the cow will come out, they generally try to make the cow run around border of the oval numerous times usually three so it gets used to running and following the wall. One horse is at the back of the cow, and the other rider is at the side of the cow with the horse running sideways so that it pushes the cow into the barrier so it stays in the directed course.

After a couple rounds, the first fence opens and they run the cow around circle barrier until almost the other side of the circle. There are like "gymnast mats" attached to the walls, but only on these two certain areas. (I can't find the word for it but its like the mats they put around huge posts when you're skiing). Once you reach that area the horse on the side tries to ram the cow into the wall. You get a certain amount of point for how well you rammed the cow into the wall. They want clean hits not dirty ones, if you understand what I am getting at.

Once the cow has been rammed, they direct the cow back to the other side, and ram it into another wall (with mats of course). Then they go back to the other side, repeat, then direct it back to the other side and direct the cow into the outside of the barrier which is now opened.

You get good points for ramming the cow cleanly and at the right section, you also get a point if you run the cow out of the oval properly as well. You can also get bad points if the cow runs in the opposite direction, and you don't direct the cow into the outside barrier properly either.

Where I was sitting with some of my family we had a good show of the oval, and where one of the matted walls were. The oval is probably the most dangerous because the cow comes out all mad and not wanting to run around properly. At one point we were all watching, and the cow jumped over the fence into the circle. It went straight past us, needless to say my host mom quickly grabbed hold of Rafa and pulled her to her chest. The cow did it another time, and once again it looked like it wanted to jump over where we were sitting! Ahh.

Plenty of times Tety and me got sprayed with dirt from the hooves, and when we were eating icecream every time they came around we had to protect it. It was quite hilarious.