My New Chilean Family...Whoa Baby!

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February 29th 2012
Published: April 29th 2012
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I met my host family on Sunday and they are great. On Sunday morning we packed our stuff to leave Hotel Rent-a-Home, chunked it on a truck, and hopped on a bus to tour some more of Santiago before making the two hour trip to Valparaiso-Viña del Mar where we'll be attending school and staying for the duration of the semester. The plan was for our parents to come pick us up from the University. It was so funny. When we pulled up to La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, all the other ISA students and I were sweating bullets!! The ISA staff gave us all name tags with the names of our host families so when we entered they would know who we belonged to. There we were, doe-eyed, name tagged, arms full of bags, and anxiously waiting for our families to claim us. Haha! I hid behind Cassandra, my roommate to be, as we debated who would enter first. All around us, I heard other students freaking out as they repeated "I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous!" I think we all forgot that we are adults. Hilarious. It was like I was in elementary school again!

Then it
Cassandra y yo.Cassandra y yo.Cassandra y yo.

A perfect picture of our personalities. Haha! Tranquil meets wild.
happened. Lorna, one of the ISA staff member, came over to me and Cassandra to introduce us to these completely unknown people we'd be living with for the next four and a half months. It was wild! She presented my host dad, Samuel, and my host brother, Issac, who had come to fetch us. We gave the customary Chilean besos (kisses) on the cheek and then they led us to the car. I was worried because Chileans speak so fast. During the orientations with ISA, Lizette,the site director, kept telling us not to worry. She said that we wouldn't understand anything for the first TWO WEEKS (scary!) but it would get easier as we go. She encouraged us by telling us how she had studied English for 5 years here in Chile, but when she went to the United states, she didn't understand a thing. Lizette is completely fluent in English now so hearing that from her was encouraging. We were warned about all types of frustrations we'd probably encounter and told again and again that this was normal. I said a prayer for myself and hopped in the car!

That's when I stumbled upon a miracle. My host

La Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso
dad and bro began talking to us and I understood EVERYTHING!! And I began talking back to them with NO problems!! I've always struggled. Yes, I've studied Spanish in school but I've never been able to speak well. And for a long time I couldn't listen either. My ex-boyfriend was Mexican, his mom didn't speak any English, and every time I would converse with his mom, it was very hard for me to understand her. Then when I spoke, it was a hot mess. Haha! For the past couple of years I've been watching tons of telenovelas, which greatly improved my listening skills and vocabulary. However I noticed in Santiago that I still couldn't understand the Chileans. But when I got in the car it was like earplugs had been ripped out of my ears and a sock out of my mouth! It was crazy! And I didn't feel the least bit frustrated which was totally abnormal.

I met the rest of the family when we got to the house. They are so awesome! My host dad is a pastor of a protestant church. He's 50 years old and he used to be an electrical engineer but retired from
My city!My city!My city!

that to go into ministry full time. He's super funny and a very warm and social person. Before we got to the house, he told me that they are EXTRA excited to have an African American student because they've never had one before. And he even rubbed my cheek in endearment as he introduced me to his wife. He said in these words "Chile has a bunch of white foreigners now. Even my wife is white-ish because she has a couple of German ancestors. But we never have black people here". And then he told me that there is no racism here. He informed me that "gringos" refers to anyone foreign but is not in the least bit offensive like it is in Mexico. Then he said Chileans call black people "negros o negras" but that it is never said offensively. That's just what they're called. Haha they also call white people "los blancos". Haha everything's so literal!

My host mom's name is Sussy. I call her Mama Sussy. She's cute. She's 52 and a social worker. She used to teach German to high schoolers. They have 3 kids: Priscilla, Elisabet, and Isaac. Priscilla is 20 and studying to
Lunch with Bri on the rooftop terrace of ISA.Lunch with Bri on the rooftop terrace of ISA.Lunch with Bri on the rooftop terrace of ISA.

La Catolica is in the background!
be a history teacher. She's not here most of the time because she's always with her boyfriend, Rodrigo, who's 28 and a student too. Elisabet is 23, like me, and has a baby named Marco. He's only 6 months old. We call him Marquitos and he's legit the calmest baby I've EVER seen. Super happy and barely cries. Pretty sweet. Elisabet technically doesn't live with us because she has her own house on the side of our house. They converted part of the house to be a separate apartment. She's really nice and we have a lot of the same interests. Isaac is 25 and a tour guide. He started his own thing where he gives walking tours around Valpo (Valparaiso). He gave me and Cassandra a mini one on Monday. He took us to this cute tea place and introduced us to his friend Freddy who's super cool.

This week we've been touring and hanging out at the ISA office which is in front of La Catolica and very close to the beach. Our families pack us a lunch and drop us off at the ISA office every day on the micro (bus) or in a colectivo (cab). Then they come and pick us up at the end of the day. It's so kindergarten and cute! Haha! They're only doing it this week until we get the hang of the transportation system. Next week I start classes. I love the ISA office. It's a chic, comfy, 3 story building with a rooftop terrace. It has hard wood floors, huge windows with breezy white curtains, and all the rooms are painted in fun shades of blue or green. There are even these dramatic, winding staircases. It's super fresh! The bottom floor is for the staff and their desks. The 2nd floor has the restrooms, two rooms with couches and a table, and another room with microwaves, a sink, dishes, and computers. The 3rd floor has another area with computers and a huge open space where we've been having more orientations. Then on the 4th floor is the roof top terrace which overlooks palm trees, a busy street, and La Catolica. Whoa baby!

Additional photos below
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Lunch before leaving Santiago.Lunch before leaving Santiago.
Lunch before leaving Santiago.

Claire, Mike, and Karin.
Tall girl roommates!Tall girl roommates!
Tall girl roommates!

Look at that. Unbelievable!
The CuencaThe Cuenca
The Cuenca

Traditional Chilean dance.

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