Friday, January 30, 2009

Feliz Navidad


Well, it was surely different.

The day was hot, sunny and of course not a single cloud insight, and there was just no magic in the Christmas it felt like any summer day in Chile. Except on the radio they had english christmas carols playing and there was a tiny plastic tree in the living room with no special family ornaments.

At around 11pm the family sat down for Christmas dinner which wasn't too unlike some lunches we have, except for the homemade apple sauce, the rest was chicken, seafood, bread, salads, and corn. Everyone had finished dinner earlier than any other meal I had ever seen them eat, and at 12pm the kids were allowed to open their presents from Santa Claus. Everyone had one or two presents and no more for Christmas and then everyone talks and drinks in the night. I was already dead tired and decided to have some pisco with the family to celebrate and to make me go to sleep faster. The next morning I brought all my presents to bed with me and opened them up (I opened the presents from my Nana one month later when the package finally was able to be picked up even though it arrived Dec 19 ...weons en la oficina) My family was doing nothing for Christmas Day and I actually went over to my friends house for Christmas Day and had lunch with his family.

It seemed so weird that in a family orientated country that Christmas was so "lazy" about spending time together, I would have thought that the whole family would be together for the two days but instead I spent more time with my friend. It was just really different and I was secretly hoping for my snow, and the magic of Christmas ... which there just isn't any when you can see your presents Christmas Eve, there is just something special when they all appear at once in the morning and your stocking as well (which by the way they dont have stockings either) and snow falling down, and the chimeny going, having hot chocolate and being able to wear slippers and your new christmas pyjamas.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Por Fin.

Por Fin or finally.

The 6th and last day of the trip, which was in Punta Arenas and there was a lot of confusion, it is always the big joke that the Rotarians always take the wrong path and two minutes later we are re-tracing our steps. Before we boarded our plane at night we decided to climb a "hill" so to speak while it was raining.

We first started going up part way on the bus, where it decided to drop us off we were told this was a "japenese garden" we were all thinking it would be cute little plants and bonzai trees with maybe some ponds in the mix. It didn't look like that at all. It was evergreen trees everywhere and it was not a garden it was a reserve. We started going up the hill and came to a cross road and the Rotarians eventually said go left so we all start going and my little group of people were lazy today and decided to walk in the back of the pack where we noticed that the Rotarians were still debating if left was actually the right way to go. So my group stops while everyone else moves ahead, which was a nice 20 minutes break. The Rotarians decide it's fine and we have to start moving we get to another cross road and decide to go left again but we couldn't see anyone else from the group. The Rotarians tell us to head back since we went the wrong way, .......we spent how long going up and we went the wrong way and worse yet the rest of the people are too far up to notice. We eventually go all the way back down, and take the right turn and the rest of the exchangers finally notice to come back. We then got in trouble for going ahead of the Rotarians.....ooooops, not me, I was too lazy to walk that fast. So we headed off again, and it starts to rain, and the hill turns more into a mountain to me, and people slip and hurt knees but we reach the top thinking that we are done there was a whole lot more....going down I slipped into mud and had a huge mud stain right all on the side of my butt. Paul decided this was funny which it was, he rushed over to help me up, which I said he was supposed to do that before I fell and to catch me ahaha. If only, then I wouldn't have been dirty. We finally get to the road and walk down but with the steep altitude it wasn't an enjoyable decent it actually hurt your knees a lot, and we all ran down the grass hill making it to the end. We were wet, dirty, sweaty and tired.
At night we finally boarded our plane, and it turns out the under 18 Chilean boys soccer team was on our flight as well. I switched with one of the players and I got to sit beside Kate (NZ) and I wrote basically 30 x-mas cards in 3 hours. Also Fred from Denmark was behind me and was sleeping. Now twice during the bus Fred decided to get a capful of water and dump it in my mouth (since my mouth is open when I sleep) and every time I wake up disturbed and water everywhere. This was my chance, and Kate has it on video. I got my water, filled the cap, and right at the exact moment Fred actually moved his head upwards (It was originally hanging off to the left) his mouth wasn't open, but who cared and bored it down. He woke up so fast, ripping hs hat off and swearing at the camera. It was awesome revenge! When we got off the plane I gave everyone their letters, and we got our suitcases and left with our families at like 2am.

Friday, January 9, 2009

City Tour of Punta Arenas

The fifth day we were still in Punta Arenas, and we had a city tour. We went to the cementary, the port and the plaza of Punta Arenas. We first went to the cementary which was really different it wasn't your ordinary cemetary with grass and tombstones, it was quite odd. Everything was in gravel and in the front of the cementary were the big buildings (I forget the proper name for it) for the rich families that are buried beneath and all together. Lots of walkways were lined with huge cedar hedges. Here is what the family "shrines" looked like they were actually quite pretty (I would think they would have to be for how much money you would be paying for one). One family actually had a huge garden and gated it off and only in the month of November are vistors allowed to go into the garden.
The smaller (cheaper) burial grounds were quite different as well, most were above ground tombstones surrounded in cement or stone, and some were buried and if the family was vigilant enough they actually planted beautiful gardens. Some had a mixture of real and fake flowers, and some just stuck bright fake flowers in the dirt (This is Chile what can I say) They also had little shrine areas at the front. It would be covered by glass and the family could put Jesus, Virgin Mary, or a picture of the person, it was quite creepy sometimes of some of the things or pictures in the cases for everyone to see. There is also what looks like a wall of where cremated bodies would be, but it is actually tombs in the wall, and they also had "windows" of shrine areas, and one wall was devoted for children most died in the 70's and there was a bunch of toys and little kid ornaments in the window it was quite sad.
We stopped to overlook the port for a little while and there was a little stand of Peruvian people selling sweaters made from alpaca fur at a better deal compared to the stores around here. Although no one could understand them because of their accent, and the few missing teeth caused some speaking problems I am sure. The port kind of reminds me of Valparasio but without the hill.
We then went to the plaza to go to the feria, and most of us kissed the foot in the plaza. When you kiss it you are supposed to have good luck, and you can see many people do kiss it with the toes being all bronze again, maybe this is the reason why so many people got sick after this trip. Across the street there was a colonial house that we went into, but I totally forget the history behind it, I was distracted by to much english and some of the exchange students were playing the piano while the tour guide was talking in spanish (What do you think I would rather listen too). Later after dinner we all went back into the plaza and hang about, and I was able to climb up on the statue and kiss the indian on the top (double luck I am not sure) and the meanwhile we had gringos filming the staue while I was trying to hide from it eventually I did "salud" the camera just how rotary taught me too. Haha

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Punta Arenas - Rotary

Our fourth day in the south we had to make the 3 hour drive from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas. This morning we actually got to sleep in a little bit, but it is pretty hard to do when the sun rises at around 5:30 am and sets around 10:30pm or 11pm as well. Lots of sun! Of course before we left Puerto Natales we all had to get off the bus to take a group photo, we took 25 minutes just taking this photo and then sperate photos of the people from certain regions of Chile, and then some of the countries. There is a picture of just the two Canadians with our massive flag (thanks to the provincial government) in most photos our flag is the biggest and the most unique I would say, it is amazing the amount of people who comment on our flag saying how pretty it is.

When we got to Punta Arenas we had our Rotary obligations and we were invited to a lunch at a Rotarians house who owns like a farm, with lots of sheep as well, we watched one get sheared. Kind of disturbing. We also saw alpacas, llamas (the ones that spit), emu's, and ostriches. The emu actually fed out of my hand, a little scary because it sees the food staring from the side of his head and then dodges towards your hand like it is going to bite it right off. Of course it doesn't, but my friend Maddy was screaming when it was eating out of her hand ahah. We even went into a fenced area with three llamas and we were chasing them, I actually got close enough to pet one, and then there was Philipp who was trying to ride one, and Matthew from Colorado was the only one that was able to calm them. Two of them actually looked like they were about to spit and were chasing my friend Liz around the place haha.
We then saw some more penguins but they were farm penguins not like the ones we saw the first day at the beach. They made really funny sounds though, after this some kids went to play soccer with a sheep skull, I was too tired and talked to some Rotarians instead. For "once" we all had to wear our blue polos and Rotary jackets, which mine is getting way to heavy. Canadians however get awesome bright red ones, and my friend Paul from France gets a bright blue one, and all the other boring countries have navy blazers (kidding they arn't boring they just don't have spunk :P) We were at the meeting for a while for "once" mainly just talking in english when we weren't supposed to and the people who have their banners from their host clubs at home gave them to the club (which by the way any Rotarians from my club reading this should be reminded that I am waiting for those banners to be sent to Chile like you said they would haha, but really)

Patagonia - Third Day in the South

The third day in the south of Chile we were on a boat all day touring around the lakes. Of course the day started off with rain but by the time we had to be on the boat it was a nice day out. Most of the exchange students quite enjoy the rain because in the Santiago Valley it only rains in the winter season and only at night, so to have rain during the day was quite the odd occurence.

Most of the time inside the boat I slept on the table, seeing as how the day before we were tired and went to bed at 1am and had to wake up at 6:30am and we did this for two days in a row, I was catching up on my sleep a lot while in the bus or boat. If you were outisde the boat while it was steaming through the lakes you got absoultely soaked through and through which happened to Christy from Hawaii (and she didn't have a proper waterproof jacket either), Kirk from North Carolina, Jonah from Uxbridge Canada, and Philipp from Germany. Kirk & Jonah ended up wearing shorts for the rest of the day, and mind you it was probably a high of 13 C for the day, and we were on a cold boat. Although Philipp doesn't mind anything and spent his day acting like a pirate on the ship. Once the rain stopped a little we had a beautiful rainbow.
When the boat was at its slow pace we were allowed to goutside without getting completely soaked. I would always stand at the very front of the boat. At one point we had 4 dolphins jumping around the boat as well. Most of the lake looked like British Columbia to me again but there was glaciers and waterfalls which added something new.

This is Liz from Oklahoma and me just showing how bad that wind can really be, or at least to someone without a hat. Which I lived in mine for that week.

At one point we got off the boat to go trekking towards a huge glacier, it was raining and the rocks were slippery mind you, we had a couple people hurt themselves and twist their ankles.
This is what it looked like while trekking, it was so awesome to have trees on the mountains, since in Santiago all the hills are almost bare, and notice the steep staircase, that is how people get hurt haha.
This is looking in the opposite direction of the glacier to the rocky outcrop that we were situated on. A lot of streams were flowing through the rocks. You can see a lot of the exchaners as well. After travelling a little bit more we stopped for lunch somewhere where there was some actual flat ground. You can see Daniela from Germany, Ann from Germany, Liz and me. This is the Chilean Flag and the Patagonian Flag. Afterwards we headed back on the boat and headed back home, which I mostly slept in the boat again, and I sleep with my mouth open so my friends decided to shove a mini morocha in my mouth (its a small cookie) and apparently I felt nothing so they shoved it farther down, in turn I woke up and automatically spat out the cookie like it was poison or something. I actually thought it was a coin since it was so cold. I learned to sleep with my mouth closed that week seeing as how twice in a row Fred decided to get a capful of water and pour it in my mouth, to which I would wake up distubed and have water all down my shirt.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Torres del Paine

The Torres del Paine or translated into the "Paine Towers" this name is referring to the mountain range found in the Chilean Patagonia (or southern region of Chile). The mountains have a distinct shape that make it look like towers, as well as great shaven cliffs on the backside of the mountain range. I found it very odd how it was all tundra and then this spot of mountains.

On our second day in Chile we were in Puerto Natales and headed off to the Torres del Paine National Park, it was very windy with heavy rain, and we knew we had to walk outside for a couple of hours as well. We were not looking forward to the rain and cold but luckily in 30 minutes before we got into the park it cleared up and it turned out to be quite the sunny day for the most part. It was very weird and unpredictable weather there. The big joke with the Rotarians is taking way too many photos and getting off the bus to take a group photo with our flags and then boarding the bus again. "Vamos Chicos" "Saludos el video" "Bajamos" were the most common things we heard that week and just think of it in a high chilean accent it was pretty hilarious, and most of that video I am sure contains us exchangers doing the peace sign, and catching us all breaking the fule of no speaking english (which today when given my allowance all 4 exchange students in my area got our fines of about $5 CDN for speaking in english, at least they did it after the trip, but still).
In this photo you can see the "towers" better they're in the middle and kind of covered in clouds but all the same there they are. This lake infront of them is actually a salt lake something to do with the minerals deposited into the lake by the water from the mountains. We all touched the water and our cameras and in turn once the water dried we had lots of salt on our cameras! Of course we had to trek down a hill which many of the exchange students (including me) were willingly hopping down the hill by passing the shrubs and not feeling a thing. Of course heading back up we noticed that those seemingly harmless shrubs had lots of needles and spikes on them which we felt now since our adrenaline had ran out.
For the morning we were in the bus a lot so we were able to see almost all the park in one day. Seeing as how it takes 10 days to see the whole park if you walk. This picture just not do justice to how blue this lake was, the minerals from the glaciers made the water so blue in this specific lake. It sparkled like crazy as well. We also saw other lakes, waterfalls and amzing mountain ranges. Needless to say our cameras were out, and our mouths wide open in awe. The south of Chile actually reminded me a lot of British Columbia. There is also an incredible amount of wind that is in the South of Chile, so while we were walking outside our hair was a huge mess as well.
This is just another picture showing the mountain ranges, this time we actually got to enjoy it for 20 minutes or so before getting hustled back onto the bus. A lot of the exchangers didn't like the bus either, they wanted to do an extreme hiking exhaust-yourself-until-you-die experience here. As in hiking for 12 hours non-stop for 10 days straight, I quite enjoy the bus at times although I love walking and biking doing it for that long is no fun especially with the crazy weather here in the south. Apparently last year they had problems with the camping here with the weather and bathrooms and ticks, which is why we all stayed in hotels this year.
We headed for lunch at a resturant located in the middle of a glacier lake, and this is my
favourite part of the Torres del Paine. Where there is this massive sharp cliff in the middle of the mountain. We had the best view in the resturant as well as walking over the bridge to get to the spot on the water. We also had 4 guys swim in the glacier water for awhile as well, it is glacier
water so it is super cold and needless to say there was definite shrinkage that day! It was Philipp from Germany, Peter from Michigan, Paul from France, and Frederik from Denmark. Philipp was probably the craziest of them all and was actually swimming until his body went numb, but he is also the one who wanted to hike 10 days in the park for 12 hours a day as well. Not my cup of tea. We still had our fair share of walking I might add. Later after lunch we walked around the lake, which is a sparkling light blue and started our hike through the forest and onto a different lake, that had a median inbetween the lake itself, so much wind and it was terribly hard to walk on sand with sneakers on. All of our hair was a brid's nest filled with pounds of sand in our scalp, later that night it took me twenty mintues to brush it all out after I had washed it with conditioner hoping that it would help untangle it. Apparently it made it worse, but how was I to know. This photo it one of the glacier lakes with my exchange friend "Maddy" from Dallas, Texas. We are from two very different parts of North America and we always have debates of english words that are different, our joke about the accents. Apparently I am a retard for saying "pencil crayons" instead of coloured pencils, as well as being weird (I would say polite) for saying washroom instead of bathroom, none of the americans knew what I was talking about. As well as enlightening them all about how Canada was in WW1 and WW2 Maddy looked so dumbfounded for 10 minutes after I told her, and I even had to prove it by bringing the Dutch exchanger over who proudly insisted that Canada liberated the Dutch in WW2 he was so cute. None of them had ever learned about other countries in the war and thought it crazy that we were in both and entered the wars before America.

If you notice in the picture, the weather already changed and twenty minutes later it was super hot again while we were trekking around an island looking at glaciers. Lots of wind and surf. If you look closely you can see some glaciers in the background as well.

This would be just one of the many glaciers we saw...and after we saw a lot more while walking around in the island. It was an icredible blue colour and we had to hike up a huge hill to even get to see the glaciers. We also met our ecuadorian friend from the night before travelling around here as well. Weird coincidence, and a little odd. When we trekked back across the median the weather had changed once more to violently windy to the point that salt and sand was stinging our faces, wind was whipping through our hair, and it was starting to rain. It also got a lot harder to walk in the sand, and I pretended to pass out onto the rocks, and apparently some foreigners from Britian said "Oh, is she alright? Should we help her" but I started to get up, they obviously couldn't tell between a faint and a teenagers laziness and deciding that rocks make a good bed. This was the last photo of the day. After we visted Cave Milodon where a bear lake creature once inhabited the area and the cave was massive, it could support a tribe in there. But afterwards before heading on the bus Renee said that it looked like the lion king if you just added animals and heat. Which it kind of did. But I just really liked the sun rays through the clouds in this photo. It was such an awesome day, and we went back to our hotel and we didn't eat chicken or mashed potatoes this time. However we got flan twice in a row that day instead, at lunch and at dinner. I just drank the juice the flan was in, the texture threw me off a little which is why none of the exchangers ate the flan. Also having dinner was throwing me off as well, coming from my host family where if you wake up early enough you have breakfast and then we have lunch and nothing afterwards, and defientaly no sweets. Too many kids, so having dessert after every meal and dinner, I was eating a lot.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fin del Mundo

The end of the world (fin del mundo).
This is where I went for my first Rotary trip here in Chile, the south, not the deep south or down south it was truly on the opposite end of the world close to Antartica.

For 6 days there was 36 exchange students all closely packed together in hotels, planes, and buses. All wild-eyed and crazy and ready for some adventure and to speak in english (which were totally against the rules, but how can 7 consellors stop 36 students from speaking the language they want to speak in, well they can't)

I arrived at the airport December 14th at 7am which meant we had to leave our house in Talagante at 6am. It was not a fun wake-up that morning, went through some super relaxed domestic security (no taking off jackets or shoes) and we made it on the plane in no time. While waiting though all the exchange students spotted a Starbucks which I haven't had in about 4 months even though it was more expensive and not up to the usual standards it was still Starbucks. Especially since everyone here drinks instant coffee, which to me isn't bad at all. Our plane ride was about 3 hours long and lucky for me I got the emergency exit row which is wonderful for someone with super long legs, which Chileans seem to lack. Once we got off the plane we got our bags and boarded our bus, and we headed off into the tundra, and there was nothing much more to look at but clouded skies, little hills, and maybe the sea.
We took a detour onto a dirt road that went on forever until we reached a beach where we could walk a trail and see penguins. Which to my surprise there actually were penguins, usually you go to park reserves to find nothing there. We spent a good hour in the tundra, taking pictures, and we headed to Puerto Natales which was a three hour bus ride from Punta Arenas. We had a nice hotel to which Clea my roomate and me had three beds and a massive room to ourself. This day for lunch and dinner we had chicken and mashed potatoes in a row! It's a big joke that gringo food is chicken and mashed potatoes, every Rotary event we attend we seem to have it. In the night we went to the water, where we met a university student from Ecuador studying in Chile, he talked so slow in Spanish and I understand why the Chileans make fun of other latin american countries for how slow they talk.