The Plunge


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South America » Chile » Valparaíso Region » Petorca » La Ligua
August 30th 2010
Published: August 30th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Trip to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso


Exchange BuddiesExchange BuddiesExchange Buddies

Kirsa, Olivia and I in a field in Pullally.
Hey everybody! So I’ve reached the end of my first week here. Did I dip my toes into the water of Chilean life? Not a chance! I cannonballed straight into the deep end and am loving it!
So let’s see if I can remember everything that’s happened this week because wow has it been busy! (And a forewarning: this entry’s a big’un*)

*Note: I’m going to start taking short, 360-degree videos of some of the places I visit, so that you can all see what I see at some of the places I visit. Let me know how it works, though—I don’t want your computers to freak out when you’re trying to read! Thanks!

Last Sunday I went to church, and it was really cool for me to see the similarities between the Catholic church services back home and here in Chile—they’re virtually the same except for the language! Oh, and there’s no piano here. All the music is done by three people and one guitar. I’m going to ask them if I can join, though, because the music is fun (there are a bunch of new songs, but incredibly there are even some of the same songs I’m
First ImpressionsFirst ImpressionsFirst Impressions

Rotary definitely has a presence here in La Ligua!
used to!)
Then in the evening on Sunday my host mom (Jacqueline) took three of my new friends and me to some if the nearby beaches. It was a very cloudy day, but they were still beautiful! We took tons of pictures, and really enjoyed ourselves :)

Monday, the first day of school. I have to admit it was more than a little nerve-wracking and exhausting. Hmm, but before I tell about my day, I think I should explain how the Chilean school system works, as I understand it so far. First of all, because I am in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons (and therefore the school year) are reversed. The school year here starts on March first, and typically goes until mid-December. So “summer vacation” is January and February…weird thought, huh? In the U.S. students typically go from one class to the next individually. In Chile, however, it’s the teachers who move from class to class. Each grade is divided up into several “cursos,” which are labeled A, B, C, etc., and students remain with their curso for nearly the entire time they are in school—from middle school to high school graduation, as I understand it. I am
Pretty Birdies!Pretty Birdies!Pretty Birdies!

Just an adorable little kid enchanted by an enormouse Aviary in Quillota
in curso 3°C, which means that I’m in curso C of the third year of high school. My curso is extremely high energy and funny, and everyone is very welcoming, so I haven’t had any trouble making friends :)

I’ve also made friends with several people who aren’t in my curso through my elective classes—the only time that we have classes with people other than those in our curso. In Chile, students begin to specialize for their career paths during the third year of high school. However, it’s not like in the U.S. where you can choose every class you take, as far as electives go: there are several sets of three classes each that you can choose from to help focus your education. I have decided to take the 2nd Humanities option for the rest of this semester, so I will have a language class (to teach me a higher level of Spanish), an additional advanced math class (always good to sharpen those skills, plus it’s a bit of a break—math is the same worldwide!), and English (another break, but also like a Spanish class, because every time the teacher says something in English, she repeats it in
May The Best Bread WinMay The Best Bread WinMay The Best Bread Win

I absolutely LOVE the bread in Chile! I'm not trying to knock Sara Lee or anything--I mean the bread in the US is good and all, but...this is just better! :D
Spanish so the kids can understand). Next semester, though, I will be taking the science electives to help me prepare for college and my intended biology major.
A final thing I want to mention about school here in Chile is that the classes are not the same every day. In fact, no two days are the same! The only thing that is relatively consistent is that school starts at 8:00 AM every morning, there is a lunch break from 1:00-2:00, and then school ends at 5:30 in the evening. However, even that is not consistent: on Wednesdays classes go until 2:00 and then are finished, and on Friday classes only go until 3:30. It would be be a very confusing if one of my classmates hadn’t made me a schedule on my first day.

Okay, enough about school. On Wednesday I didn’t go to school because I had to get a Chilean ID card from the PDI (basically the Chilean FBI) office in Quillota, a large city about an hour and a half from La Ligua. One of the more interesting things that I saw in Quillota was a church that had been damaged by an earthquake. There were
And Yet The House Of God Stands StrongAnd Yet The House Of God Stands StrongAnd Yet The House Of God Stands Strong

The workers in this picture are repairing damage caused by an earthquake.
huge cracks in the wall that workers were trying to fix, and for the first time I kind of got a glimpse of the damage earthquakes can cause. According to my host mom the church is very old, so it doesn’t have the modern earthquake-proof architecture of buildings today.

Thursday was a VERY interesting day. I only went to school for the first two classes, and I admit I felt guilty about that, but it was worth it in the end. My host mom works as a Catholic all-girls school, and was accompanying her boss and another nun to Viña del Mar, and her boss invited me along (so I couldn’t very well turn her down, could I?). Viña del Mar is a very large city, and it is connected to Valparaiso, which I believe is the largest port in Chile. One the way to Viña, we passed the largest oil refinery in Chile as well. It was simultaneously awe-inspiring and horrifying. The compound itself was, at a guess, several miles square, and right next to the Pacific Ocean. Because of the pollution produced by the refinery, though, the landscape was virtually barren for miles around, and I’d hazard
That's Amore!That's Amore!That's Amore!

I made a pizza at a friend's house :)
a guess that the local sea would be similarly devoid of life.

Along the way, I found out that the two nuns were going to attend a conference to decide how to help the residents of a city farther south called “Constitución” that was absolutely ravaged by the big earthquake last year (the city that got the most publicity was “Concepción,” but this was equally affected). According to Hermana Puri (the nun), there are 470 families that survived the earthquake, and they are currently living very close together in tiny camps (and with 5 or 6 people per family…that’s a lot of people), without food, water, electricity, sufficient medical help, or bathrooms. I’d imagine diseases are running rampant as well, considering all of that. To add to all of that—though I’m not 100% sure I understood this correctly, but it’s essentially right—the people have had to move out of the city to a nearby mountainside, because the proximity of the ocean makes the air in the city too cold and damp to survive without proper shelter. There’s one last terrible thing that’s now happening to the people: apparently there is someone now trying to take the land from a
Sun+Cool Teacher=Class OutsideSun+Cool Teacher=Class OutsideSun+Cool Teacher=Class Outside

The sun came out and it was a nice warm day, and our math teacher let us work outside! AWESOME.
large portion of the city to make a resort, because there are no longer any ownership documents to prove that the land is owned. Now, it may just be me but that seems downright evil. Anyway, I asked if I could help the nuns when they go down to Constitución. They will be mainly going down to provide spiritual help for the people, but I thought—since I don’t have a good enough grasp of Spanish to do that—I could help by giving toys and sweets to kids, running a food or clothing drive, helping build homes maybe, or shelters at least, maybe even some basic medical help. I brought lots of toys and candies and other small gifts from the U.S. that were meant to be gifts to the friends I make here, but I think the kids in Constitución need them more than my friends. I talked to the other two Rotary Exchange students here—Kirsa Nørregaard and Olivia Eberwein—and they both really want to help out too. This is our chance to actually DO something. I mean, yes, raising and donating money is good and all, but I’m more the type who likes to actually be there helping. I
The World's SportThe World's SportThe World's Sport

Here's something you never see in the states: kids playing a hardcore game of soccer during recess. Love it :D
want to be there in the thick of it, knowing I’m making a difference. I feel like I’ve been unbelievably blessed, and I need to use those blessings to help those who haven’t been as lucky. That’s part of why I want to be a doctor: to help people who are in need when they are at their most vulnerable, and to be able to comfort them and let them know that yes, I’m going to do everything in my power to help them. Constitución is like that. I’ve been thinking, and maybe Kirsa Olivia and I could learn how to make empanadas, or I could make pizzas or something, and we could sell them on the streets to make money, and then use the money to buy food and necessities for the people in Constitución, and deliver them and…yeah. Okay, I’m getting a little carried away (I haven’t yet heard from Puri when the nuns will be making a return trip and what is needed by the people), but…I dunno. I guess it’s just something I feel passionate about :p After that big tangent I should mention that the nuns are in Constitución right now, and will be coming
Ride'em Cowboy!Ride'em Cowboy!Ride'em Cowboy!

On the way to Vina del Mar, we passed this rodeo arena. Apparently there are a lot of rodeos during the summer--hope I can go to one!
back Tuesday, at which time I should find out more information.

Okay let’s see, what else? Oh! I know!

In Viña del Mar we stopped for lunch at a seaside seafood restaurant. It was AMAZING food, hands down the best seafood I’ve ever had, including that in South Padre Island and in Matamoros. I tried several new things, and a couple that I’d had before but not nearly as good, especially ceviche. The first new food I tried was a seafood called “loco,” which is a crazy-huge (haha get it? Loco=crazy? Okay…no. Anyway) clam-like creature. It was like eating a clam steak—it was roughly spherical and about two inches in diameter. And, of course, delicious. The next new food I tried was a type of fish called “congrio.” I have no idea what kind of fish it is or anything, just that it must be huge because each fillet was about an inch thick. The lest new thing that I tried were vegetables called “avas,” that were essencially olive-sized peas that you eat individually. They were good, if a little dry.

Okay, what more…

Thursday night I met Olivia and Kirsa in the central plaza, because
Finest of the RefineryFinest of the RefineryFinest of the Refinery

Eye of Sauron, anyone?
Kirsa had choir music to give me. There’s a choir competition in Viña del Mar this coming Wednesday, and the director is going to let me come if I learn the music in time. Luckily, there’s only one song and it’s fairly simple. It’s called “Te Quiero,” and if you Youtube “Te Quiero por coro” you should be able to find a performance of it by a professional choir. Our choir is the smallest I’ve ever been in: five sopranos, four altos, four tenors, and three basses (including me). It’s very good though—it took 2nd at last year’s competition.

On another musical note, Kirsa and I are going to try and do a duet of “Hallelujah” (from the Shrek soundtrack, but originally by Rufus Wainwright) in front of the school. How? Every Monday there is an assembly of the whole middle school called “el acto” in which we sing the Chilean national anthem, go over a bit of Chilean history, the student council speaks, and students perform little skits or songs they have prepared. Kirsa’s an amazing singer, so I’m really looking forward to being able to sing with her. Or at all, really. For those of you who
ChangeChangeChange

This is an interesting picture I took on the way to Vina del Mar. Uncharacteristically--for me--I think it's awfully symbolic of how the landscape is changing when you look at the picture from left to right.
know me, I’ve been going into a bit of singing withdrawal because I’m too shy (so far) to sing at school, and the walls at my house here here aren’t as insulated as in Rice Lake, so if I sang full voice at home the entire block would hear me. Plus I live with a grandmother who likes her peace and quiet. Sooo it’ll be nice to perform :D
What more…(jeez I should really wrap this thing up. Sorry! Some people encouraged me about the length last time so…yeah. Sorry about this :p)

Oh! Last Friday Kirsa, Olivia, two other friends and I went to Pullally (pronounced “poo-YA-yee”), which is a small, Canton-sized village near La Ligua. It has a bunch of old Spanish ruins from the 1800s that were really cool, including a “lecheria” (dairy). Also, it has the most spectacular mountain view I’ve seen so far—I’ve put a 360-degree video on this blog somewhere, and a picture of us three exchange students too.
Okay, last thing (that’s a lie), Friday night my curso had a welcoming party for me, and it was absolutely wonderful! We had “asado,” which basically means we grilled, and sang and danced a
As Far As The Eye Can SeaAs Far As The Eye Can SeaAs Far As The Eye Can Sea

I apologize for the terrible pun. This is Vina del Mar.
bit and talked and it was very very nice :) I’m gonna love this curso.

Okay, for those of you who are interested in the little cultural bits I’ve noticed so far, here ya go:
Chilean Spanish was once described to me as “wicked fast and they drop consonants like crazy.” Ian, you have been proven correct once again. For example, the phrase “mas o menos” (which means so-so) comes out as “maomehno.” Also, there are lots of little Chileanisms that are used with frequency, and pop up all over the place. For example, the colloquial “po,” which is used after nearly every sentence, and means something along the lines of “man” or “dude.” Another Chileanism is “al tiro,” which literally means “like a shot,” though it could be a shot that takes fifteen minutes to an hour to reach its target. This phrase seems to correspond to the Mexican “ahorita.” Hmm anything else… dum de doo day…oh! If you’re ever in Chile, don’t EVER be on time to informal gatherings. If you’re getting together with Chileans at 8:00 PM, make sure you arrive sometime between 8:45 and 9:30. However, for formal gatherings (school, for example) arriving on time
For Starters...For Starters...For Starters...

In the US you get fresh rolls at restaurants, in Valparaiso you get seviche (a sort of cold seafood dish), seafood empanadas, and a shot of pisco sour, a typical Chilean (alcoholic) drink. (Don't worry Rotarians, I that same amount was left in the glass at when we left :P)
is important. So don’t be more than 5 minutes late :D

What more…hmm…I don’t think there’s anything else particularly exciting to talk about anymore, and I’m already at over 2,300 words so…I guess I’ll write to you all next week! Take care! Chau!

-Alex

P.S.
I do know that next weekend I will be climbing one of the local mountains, attending a double 18th birthday party, and the local disco’s anniversary party so…next week’s entry should be interesting!

P.P.S.
I ohmygoodness I want to go home!!! The mosquitos here are bigger than in Wisconsin! One that’s gotta have a two-inch wingspan just flew past my computer screen! AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

P.P.P.S.
Scratch the videos--they take far too long to upload so...pictures will have to suffice until I get back!


Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


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Holy Loco!Holy Loco!
Holy Loco!

These are the loco that I ate in Valaparaiso--sooooo good!
Tik TokTik Tok
Tik Tok

This giant clock in Vina del Mar actually tells time. Kinda neat!
Where The Power LiesWhere The Power Lies
Where The Power Lies

This is the Chilean capitol building--just a little imposing, don't you think? It's in Valparaiso, even though the capitol is Santiago. I have no idea how that works, but okay!
Port Starboard and Port PortPort Starboard and Port Port
Port Starboard and Port Port

Wow that word sounds funny if you say it enough. Huh. Anyway this is the port in Valparaiso.
Spanish RuinsSpanish Ruins
Spanish Ruins

Well THAT was a boring caption title :S Anyway...enough said :P
Well Hello Up There!Well Hello Up There!
Well Hello Up There!

Me in the Spanish ruins in Pullally
My What Big Eyes You Have...My What Big Eyes You Have...
My What Big Eyes You Have...

Some sort of frog we found under a rock in Pullally.
Call The Plumber! This Needs Some Fixin'Call The Plumber! This Needs Some Fixin'
Call The Plumber! This Needs Some Fixin'

These are old water troughs from when the dairy was functional.
Awww...Awww...
Awww...

There's no bond quite like that between a little girl and her lamb :)
Puertas de Chile2Puertas de Chile2
Puertas de Chile2

Door of the dairy in Pullally.
Bienvenido!Bienvenido!
Bienvenido!

Some of my friends making the "asado" at my welcoming party :)
This Is HomeThis Is Home
This Is Home

Aaaand this is where I've been sitting while writing this blog! :)


30th August 2010

Your first week
Alex, While reading your recent post, I became very excited for you. A little jealous because it looks like you will have an adventure for the next year. We (Rice Lake Rotary) are very proud to send students on exchanges. We have Emanuel, who is from Austria living in Rice Lake for a year, and he is having some great times also. Good luck and keep posting. My best, Marlene Gargulak President Rice Lake Rotary
From Blog: The Plunge
30th August 2010

Te quiero the song
I think that song " Te quiero" ( the correct name) is known as " somos mucho mas que dos" es una cancion de Mario Benedetti cantada por Joan manuerl Serratt durante mas tiempos. : )
From Blog: The Plunge
30th August 2010

THE SONG " TE QUIERO"
I think this song ( correct name is Te quiero) was know as " Somos mucho mas que dos" durante mis tiempos :) es una cancion de Mario Benedetti y fue cantada en mis tiempos por Joan Manuel Serrat pero, mucho otros la han cantado. La letra es muy bonita. I wish i coud hear you. A piano or guitar and a boy and a girl duet is reaaaaalllllyyyy nice. I 'll bet Youtube would have it with someone. Maybe!!
From Blog: The Plunge
12th September 2010

I really enjoy your captions and photos! I like the eye of saron one and the one that you said is symbolic of change. I love observations like that!
From Blog: The Plunge

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