Saturday, March 14, 2009

La Familia

So, I recently had some new people move into my house (which isn't usually a big deal since there have been about 5 or 6 people who have moved in and out of the house since January) and I thought I should share info on my family as a whole to give you all an idea of who I'm living with.

-my mom, 55, a very sweet woman who loves to laugh, is good at cooking, speaks very clearly and slowly for me, and loves to tell funny stories
-unfortunately she suffers from all sorts of physical ailments, like sinus issues, thyroid issues i think, she's in remission from cancer, and she's always tired and/or hot so that slows her down a bit
-but yeah, she's pretty much awesome

-my dad, 63, a really nice guy, very tall and German-looking which is interesting, he does a lot of work around the house which is apparently not what most men do here (according to other students in my program when discussing their families), he's very friendly and loves to crack jokes with us at the dinner table
-he knows english which helps a bit but i try to only consult him when i really can't think of a word in spanish

-my host brother, 25, he's really friendly and has always been nice to me and good about making me feel included in conversations at the dinner table, he was also the only one who remembered to wish my mom and sister and i a happy international women's day, 
-he's a med student and so he's always working for long shifts at the hospital
-he also has a girlfriend so he spends a lot of time at her place

-my host brother, 18, he started out really shy and wouldn't really talk to me which was frustrating because I wanted someone in the house who was about my age and would talk to me and help me with my spanish and with the culture
-however, as of recently (like a few days ago), he opened up to me and has been talking to me, joking around with me, and being super friendly, i'm not sure what happened but it's appreciated, that's for sure! :)
-he just started at some university here in Santiago (i still don't understand him when he tells me the name) and is studying engineering
-in his free time he likes to play on the computer so he has picked up a ton of english and understands it pretty well- he just refuses to speak it because he's too embarrassed

-my guest brother, 21, he is a Stanford University student from Reno, Nevada, i think he studies economics
-he spends a lot of time with his Stanford friends and lives on the second floor of our house (i live on the first floor) so i don't usually see him except at the dinner table
-he's very friendly and easy to talk to which is nice, but like i said, i hardly ever see the kid
-he's leaving this saturday because Stanford is on a trimester system so he'll be returning to the states really soon, leaving space open for another Stanford student to come and live with us for the next trimester

-my guest sister, 19, she's from Antofagasta, a small beach town in northern Chile, and has come here to study for the year
-she studies engineering, i think commercial, at some university here (not the same one as Egon), and loves to go out and party with her friends
-she's super friendly and i enjoy talking to her whenever i see her, we sometimes watch tv together and she has invited me to go out with her and her friends a couple times

-my guest sister, 20, from Rancagua, a small Chilean town 1.5 hours south of Santiago
-i forget what she's studying because she hasn't actually moved in yet, her classes haven't started yet, but i know that she goes to the University of Gabriela Mistral
-when i met her last week she was really nice and easy to talk to... well, she wasn't easy to understand but she was really patient with me when i was talking instead of cutting me off which some people like to do
-she is the oldest of 5 kids (20, 18, 15, 10, 6) so we relate on that level too

-my guest brother, 18, from Rancagua as well, he's one of Karin's little brothers and a pretty interesting guy
-i think he actually studies engineering as well but i could be making that up, and i forget what university he goes to as well, but i know that it's distinct from all of the other universities attended in this household!
-he is addicted to smoking and constantly runs out of the house to get his nicotine fix (which he does right outside of my window so i get the yummy fumes a few times a day if i'm in my room)
-he is either super shy, super antisocial, or super stuck up and i can't figure it out
---example: he came into the house a few days ago while we were eating dinner and of course my mom invited him to eat with us, he accepted, sat down with his baseball cap practically covering his face, answered a few questions directed at him, took two bites of food and then said he wasn't hungry and ran away from the table without clearing his place or anything
---i've also run into him on the street several times as he's leaving the house and i'm coming home and one time he saw me and tried to hide in the crowd so that he wouldn't have to say hi.  i of course yelled out "Hola Javier!" but it was funny how timid and awkward he got about seeing me, i guess that adds to the case about him being shy
-he's also a bit messy and we share a bathroom so it's frustrating when there are towels laying all over and huge puddles on the floor, but it's all good i guess!

So, that's my family.  I really like them all although it may not seem like it.  I think we have a good dynamic because my mom doesn't treat anyone differently or specially and now that we all speak spanish (the other people living here before were from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland and had never taken spanish), conversations at the dinner table are a lot more smooth.

Hasta luego when I hopefully get up the energy to write about school which started two days ago! :(

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some Observations

So, I've noticed that I am becoming really accustomed to certain things here that my former, pre-Chile self would find weird.  Examples:

-Carbonated Drinks: I have always hated pop, soda, Coke, whatever you want to call it, because the fizzy bubbles irritate my nose and mouth.  However, carbonation is popular here and many times when I eat out, my only option for a drink is something carbonated (or tap water but who wants that?) so I've gotten used to it.  However, it wasn't until yesterday that I actually actively sought it out.  I've never done that before but I had a craving for Fanta so I bought some.  Very strange.

-Chocolate Cereal: I have always hated chocolate in the morning and refused to ever eat cereal that even had a trace of chocolate in it.  However, after being served chocolate cereal every morning for the past two months (well minus the time i was traveling), I wouldn't have it any other way- I'm addicted.  I actually get excited in the morning for my chocolate flakes, warm milk (they leave the milk out of the fridge for awhile in the mornings) and fruit.  That's another thing, the milk.  I have NEVER been able to drink milk that wasn't fresh out of the fridge and now it's old hat for me.

-Train: I have gotten so used to taking the train (well here they call it the Metro) to school here that I forgot that I don't do that in the states.  I have never attended a college course that I had to take public transportation to.  I think it will be strange when I get back to Loyola and have all of my classes basically across the street from me.

-Cell Phone: I have forgotten what it's like to have the leisure of a phone plan.  Here, I am 
charged by the second and I constantly have to worry about running out of money on my phone and having to "recharge" it with more money.  My phone conversations have never been able to last more than a minute and I am not allowed to text cuz it costs a fortune.

-Speaking Spanglish: I have found myself using funny phrases when speaking to my friends in 
English that would make sense if translated into Spanish but do not have much meaning in English.  For example:
(---"What I say" - spanish translation, what it means)
---"I am of accord with you"- Estoy de acuerdo, I agree
---"I gave account that..."- Me di cuenta que..., I realized...

and then of course, I just throw in random spanish words here and there:
---In febrero, I went to...
---Ooh, I've heard that that's a really nice lugar

-Shower: I have become accustomed to turning on the "calefon" every morning before I shower.  The calefon is a box in our back patio with a knob and a little opening attached to the gas pipes.  I have to turn the knob, light a match, and put the match in the opening to ignite the gas.  This provides me with a hot shower- yay!!  but since when has a hot shower not been available to me without all that trouble?  it's an adjustment, my friend!

-Gum: not being able to find any good gum anywhere, no matter what the brand has been something i've gotten used to now

-Grocery Stores: you have to tip the bagboy or baggirl because they live off of tips, they don't receive a wage, this is something i would think was weird two months ago

-Dinner: eating dinner at 8:30pm is the norm here and i know of some families that even eat as late as 10pm!!  In the U.S. this would never fly with me because I was so used to eating at 5:30 or 6pm.  Now, eating at those times would be absurd since I usually eat lunch around 3pm!!

-Greeting: You have to greet everyone with a kiss on the right cheek or you're a rude Jude.  Men just shake hands with each other (unless they're really close, in which case they kiss each other's cheeks) but men and women and women and women kiss on the cheek.  It doesn't matter your age or whether you just met, you gotta do it.  In fact, that's HOW you meet people.  You kiss and as you're pulling away you tell them your name and listen for theirs.  It's a pretty interesting system that I'm really getting used to now.  Watch out!  When I get back to the U.S., no cheek will be spared!! :)

I think that's about it.  I just found all these things interesting.

Argentina and Uruguay

Sorry that it's taken me so long to update on my trip to Argentina and Uruguay- I've been exhausted, busy, and overwhelmed!  But really happy and still loving it here :)  So, here is a little breakdown of our trip:

My traveling companions:
-Evelynn Azooz: a sophomore at Loyola Chicago, secondary education major, born to shop and in love with fashion!
-Stefani Evans: a junior at Mount Holyoke College, international studies major, from Jamaica and filled with endless positive energy!
-Caitlin Ruiz: a junior at Loyola Chicago, anthropology major, good at analyzing people and making her opinion known :)
-Anna Trela: a junior at Loyola Chicago, political science major, fun and goofy and able to pick up on my love of sarcasm

sabado, 21 de febrero
-left Santiago by plane at 5:30pm and arrived in Buenos Aires at 8:30pm (Argentina is one hour ahead of Chile so the flight wasn't really 3 hours)
-checked into our cute hostel called the "Che Hostel"
-went out to eat at an AMAZING italian restaurant (well, i'm not sure if it was specifically italian because there is such a strong italian influence in Argentina that you can't really separate Argentine and Italian cuisine but...) and I had the best Margarita pizza ever.  It had huge fresh tomatoes and full leaves of basil on it and thick crust.  I was in heaven. :)

domingo, 22 de febrero
-walked around a little and got gelatto!!!  it was fantastic.  i got a double cone of banana and dulce de leche (a caramel-like sweet that is found EVERYWHERE in chile and argentina) and the banana part had to be the most delicious ice cream i've ever tasted.
-you could say then, that Argentina knew the way to my heart was through food.  However, this was short-lived as I learned that the only good things it had to offer vegetarians were pizza, gelattos and pasta and there's only so much of that stuff i can handle!

lunes, 23 de febrero
-we designed a walking tour of the city and headed out early, touching on these landmarks:
--Avenida Plaza de Mayo, a famous street that has millions of statues and monuments
--Plaza de Mayo, the place where mothers of "Los Desaparecidos" gathered to protest during the dictatorship in the '70s
--The Congress Building
--La Casa Rosada (their equivalent of the White House, only it was pink!!)
--Avenida Florida, a pedestrian avenue (no cars were allowed to drive down it) popular for all it's little craft tables set up in the middle of the street and the stores
--we discovered the McCafe which was dangerous for sugar fiends!!  It's a cafe attached to many of the McDonald's restaurants in Buenos.  It offers crazy sugary coffee drinks, and ridiculously tempting deserts!!  So basically we walked into the McDonalds and straight ahead about 30 yards inside the building were the cash registers for the regular food, but to the left was a big counter serving the coffee and sweets and to the right was a big counter serving ice cream.  It was crazy!! Does the U.S. have McCafes?  I've never seen it before and i hope I never do!
--we saw many buildings walking downtown that looked like they were straight out of 19th or early 20th century Europe, they were beautiful!!
--then we walked across town to the famous Tango district, more specifically to the famous street called Caminito where Tango originated, or at least where tons of tango dancing happens
--we sat down in the middle of the street at a restaurant and watched a tango show.  Then one of the dancers invited us to come up on stage and learn to dance the tango with him.  None of my companions wanted to so i volunteered.  it was so much fun!!  i wasn't very good but it was still fun to dance tango on stage in front of people on the street famous for tango dancing!!

martes, 24 de febrero
-we decided to do more exploring and walking around so we walked downtown again to Avenida Florida and over to the Recoleta Cemetery where MANY famous people are buried, including Eva Peron.  The mausoleums were amazingly intricate and huge and ancient.
-Then Stefani and I visited the Eva Peron Museum which was really neat cuz it had a lot of her outfits and other personal items on display and it was interesting to think that such an influential figure actually wore and used those items that we were standing one foot away from.
-We might have been able to do more on this day but some of my companions were exhausted so we were kind of draggin'.
-After the museum, Stefani and I decided to try out the Buenos Aires train system.  What an experience!!  The trains seemed like they had been running that same track for the last 150 years- no joke!! they were so old!!  Instead of those nice plastic seats on other metro systems, these seats were wooden benches and the lights were old lanterns and the doors of the train opened a little before the train stopped at every stop- pretty dangerous!
-Then when we got off the train at what we thought was our stop, we got lost and walked all over the place.  It was a bit scary.  At one point I was crossing the street and some guy on a bike came racing towards me and I thought he would just zoom around me but instead he came right at me shouting "Hola mi amor!!" and swerved away from me at the very last second.  I felt like a deer caught in the headlights.

25 de febrero
-we had to wake up early to take a ferry and bus to Montevideo, Uruguay
-we arrived at our new hostel, "Planet Hostel" and settled in
-we walked around the downtown area and there wasn't anything too impressive except several very old European-style buildings and a HUGE doorway leading into their version of the Avenida Florida, a pedestrian street filled with little stands set up in the middle
-we met some kids who begged me to take their picture and then asked for money, it was sad
-other than that, we didn't do too much other than eat and i wasn't impressed with the food, not too much else for me to eat other than pizza and pasta and salad.

26 de febrero
-Beach Day!!
-We went to the beach for the day and laid out for some suntanning.  we would have swam but the water was really murky, brown, and filled with little black bits of ickiness.  so we opted to just lay out, eat some sweets that stefani bought us, play in the sand, and check out the guys on the beach.
-A little known fact about Uruguay is that it is home to the most gorgeous guys in South America...or so they say.  I don't want to sound like a pig but I was impressed by the sheer volume of attractive men in that country.
-Unfortunately, we didn't realize that we were getting burned up like crazy so we had some horrible burns to deal with later.  Oh well, it was worth it!! :)

27 de febrero
-All of us, sans Evelynn, decided to take public transportation (the bus) over to some pretty gardens on the other side of town.  However, we didn't spend much time at the gardens cuz we got caught up at the restaurant we went to for lunch.  I swear, a ton of our trip revolved around food and eating in restaurants.  We couldn't just grab a Subway sandwich real quick and be on our way, we had to sit down, order, wait, eat for a long time, wait for the waiter to walk by our table (which happens a LOT less frequently than one would prefer) so we could ask for the check, and then figure out how everyone was going to pay for their meals (which took awhile sometimes cuz we would each have big bills).  Since we told Evie we'd be back at a certain time, we had to rush through the gardens, but that was fine.  It was HORRIBLY hot outside so i was glad to return to the hostel.
-then we watched some cable, went out to dinner, and then went out to a Montevideoan dance club!!
-the club was called the Pony Pisador (which I think means "Pissing Pony") and it played a ton of reggaeton songs that I have come to love!  We danced until 5:30am and then had to rush back to the hostel and pack up cuz our ferry back to Buenos Aires left at 7am!!!  No sleep tonight!!

28 de febrero
-we arrived in Buenos Aires around noonish I think and checked into our new hostel
-we then had lunch and went over to the Japanese Gardens- they were beautiful and we watched a performance of traditional dances and drumming which was fun!
-then we were all exhausted so we slept

1 de marzo
-we had to get up at 5:30am to catch a cab to the airport and hop on a plane back to Santiago

Some general observations about Buenos Aires:
-the accent!  they really do pronounce the "ll" and "y" differently, instead of "yo me llamo", they say "sho me shamo", it was pretty fun to hear!  And I adopted it for awhile, which was comical when i returned to my host family in Santiago because they were wondering why i was saying "asha" instead of "alla" and "shegue" instead of "llegue"
-the streets were dirty!  we had to put a ton of effort into avoiding the dog poop ALL over the sidewalk.  i think also, they were going through a garbagemen strike so all the street corners were overflowing with trash
-poverty: there were several people on the streets begging, and what really got to me were the mothers on the street holding their babies.  the babies looked so sickly and some even looked dead.  it was horrifying.
-there was a lot more diversity there than in santiago i think.  there is definitely a larger asian population there.
-there were many SUPER skinny women and i think i've heard that buenos aires has an unusually large population of anorexics so that explains the bony shoulders and knobby knees.  it was sad.

General Observations of Uruguay:
-street signs barely exist!! okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration but seriously, SEVERAL street corners had not even the slightest hint of a street sign while others had a little sign attached to the building on the street corner that you could only see from one angle
-the "sh" sound exists there as well
-lots of poor people as well, and they would come up to us and tell us their life stories, so they were pretty proactive.  we had a well-dressed old woman come up to us in a shoe store and ask us for money cuz her husband just died and she had no place to live.  it was hard to know whether to believe her or not and i felt bad.
-gay marriage is legal there!!  as of a year ago, it is now legal there, which i found pretty cool.

Well, hope I didn't ramble too much but I simply adored my trip to these two countries!!  I think Uruguay would be the perfect place to go and relax some day in the future when I'm retired and Buenos Aires is so vibrant and culturally rich, I know there is so much there that I didn't even explore.

T.T.F.N. (Ta Ta For Now)