WEON, WE WON

Chile just won La Copa America — a huge soccer tournament for Latin American countries that takes place every four years. This was the 44th edition, and it was hosted right here in Chile (how lucky am I). I didn’t get to go to any games, but I did get to watch them all (at least the ones that mattered)- at a bar, around a tiny television with 12 other people, at a different bar, with my friend’s mom at her apartment, on an app on my phone at my place, etc. What an incredible time to be in Santiago, experiencing the celebration of the entire country with chants and cheers and whistles and fireworks (and tear gas and fire extinguishers and crowded streets). That was especially true last night. Watching the bar with four other gringos (aka people from the states), we put aside our home country’s favorite holiday in order to cheer on our host country in the finals. They were playing Argentina, which (arguably) has the best soccer player in the world, Lionel Messi, and honestly needed all the support they could get. Chileans are hopeful but also practical and I think a lot of people didn’t have 100% faith in their team. In fact, the odds were like pretty slim I think, I just tried to look it up on a gambling website but couldn’t really understand it so let’s just go with “slim.” As soon as the game started though you could tell that Chile was in it to win it. They came out really strong, although they have such a hard time finishing which is so hard to watch. Every time they got any kind of momentum they turned back around or kept passing instead of taking the shot and you could hear the disappointment in every groan from our table neighbors at bar Astor. However, their defense kicked ass (I’m an adult so I can say these words now mom, but also excuse my French) and led the match into double overtime and eventually a penalty shoot off. They both made their first goals. Then Argentina missed, and all of Chile gasped, followed by raucous cheering. We made our second, and then Argentina was up again. He took his shot and our beautiful Bravo dove to block it, caused the rowdiest group of futbol fans I have ever witnessed, followed by an almost silent room. Everyone held their breath as Alexis (mi amor) went to take his shot (if he made this, we won the tournament) and shot a perfect goal, winning la copa for Chile for THE FIRST TIME EVER.

Literally one of the best moments of my life. We rushed to Plaza Italia to take in the scene with the other 7 billion citizens of Santiago. It was so wild. I have never seen a group of people so collectively happy and carefree. I learned new songs and met new people and took pictures with Chileans that I will never see again and it was awesome. Vamos Chile. Te amo.

Below you will see us celebrating, still in red white and blue, please note.

gringos celebrando

xoxo

Things That Are Different In Santiago

One way streets. The street signs have the right direction on them, but the arrows on the ground are pointing the wrong direction, in my opinion. It confuses me so much, the people of this city should be happy I’m not behind the wheel here.

Pharmacies. Everything is behind the counter. And there aren’t lines- you walk in and take a number, like a 50s butcher shop or something (not sure if I just referenced a real thing). So if you want vitamins or meds or makeup… you have to go to the counter and speak to a pharmacist in broken Spanish, hoping they understand from your cough and tired eyes that you have a cold.

The Night Sky. I’m no astrologist but this is definitely different than what I’m used to seeing. I love stars. There are two super bright stars that I think are a part of the southern cross that are always so bright here. They help me find my way home, and also remind me that it’s night time and I should walk a little faster because you really never know what’s going to happen in Santiago.

Eating finger foods. Finger foods actually don’t exist here. French fries? You use a fork. Pizza? A fork. Burgers? A fork. I had this amazing sandwich for lunch – churrasco (like strips of beef), tomato, avocado, and mayonnaise – and I was so excited to dig in. But then I looked around the table and my civilized coworkers were all using a fork and a knife. So I conformed because 1. I didn’t want to look like a cave woman and 2. I already stick out at work lunches, seeing as I can’t keep up with the conversation enough to contribute at all. But honestly it just didn’t taste as good that way. (I’m kidding it was awesome I just miss being messy).

Excel. Excel at my job is all in Spanish. Which, duh, I’m in a foreign country. But it’s still a little hard to get used to, and i’m constantly googling the formulas for different things en español.

Courtesy. If you bump into someone on the subway, that doesn’t mean you say “I’m sorry,” it means it’s probably rush hour. If you’re not pushed up against the subway door and 3 other commuters, then you were lucky enough to find a seat. Which I’m scared to do because I feel like I won’t be able to force my way back out at my stop. Sorry is something I am so used to saying and it just isn’t used that much here. Not because they’re rude, but because I think they don’t feel the need to say sorry for every little bump or nudge on the street or in line at the market. Which, growing up Christian and in Iowa, is something I just don’t understand. If I offend anyone in any way I apologize. Even if I didn’t offend you I might apologize anyways. Sorry.

The Police. After reading a book on the time period during Chile’s military dictatorship, and hearing comments here and there about los carabineros and they’re many nicknames (most of them not nice), I’m so not sure how I feel about the police here. However, after seeing multiple protests on my street, and they efficient way they were handled by la policia, I have respect for the men and women in forest green. It’s an interesting dynamic between the police and the citizens here.

The language. This one is more of a joke because hahaha how on earth have I visited this country TWICE now and not been able to get a firm grasp on the language. I think maybe I just don’t have the ear for other languages. Which sucks because my goal was to learn like 4 and travel the globe. Need to find a plan b, that still includes world travel.

There are more things I’m sure. I’ll let you know.

xoxo

Coming Home

This weekend, I took the two hour bus ride to Viña del Mar. I got to have lunch with my familia chilena, and it was incredible to see what types of things had changed.

For example my Spanish. It has definitely improved, which I noticed from the way I could actually have full conversations with my host sister and mother. But it also definitely still needs work, which I noticed from the fact that I could only understand like 70% of their responses to me.

My family, also, had changed a bit. Both of my sisters now have pololos (the Chilean word for boyfriends), my brother is now enrolled in the naval academy (and has grown like 4 inches I think), and mi mama is thinking of moving. Which I told her is unacceptable because I love that apartment. She made a very good point that it’s a little too small for the family, as there are 3 bedrooms and generally 5 people living there (including their cycle of exchange students). However, I have one million memories of that place and reminisced so hard during our short afternoon together… The bathroom where I took too many cold showers because I could never really understand how the hot water worked there. And the kitchen where I made myself a breakfast of eggs and bacon almost every morning, and where the fridge was always stocked and open for me. And my bedroom where I watched tv programs with Spanish subtitles, while studying for my Latin American Economics class. And the patio, where I relaxed and read books, finding my happy place. This place was my home for 5 months. Which doesn’t seem like much but I had grown to love it so much. It gave me that feeling of relief to walk through the door after a long day at school and be able to nap or eat or relax. It gave me a family to talk to if I ever got homesick or I just wanted to practice my Spanish. It gave me a true home away from home.

I was blessed to have such an amazing family and to be able to connect with them. Living with a host family was one of my favorite things about studying abroad in Chile. Being back, and living on my own, I’m experiencing something completely new. I have to do my own laundry (ugh), buy my own food (ugh x100), and clean up after myself (which is actually fine). It’s completely different, and I definitely miss the support I had from Maritza and the rest of my family. But this is something that will continue to shape me as a person, just as my study abroad semester shaped me.

It was amazing to reconnect with my family, and they made me promise to come back. They said they would take me exploring in Valparaiso, which is something I am very excited about and so happy they offered to accompany me! Maritza, Andrea, Camila, and Victor treated me like I really was a part of their family, and continue to treat me that way. I am so lucky to be able to call them my Chilean family.

xoxo

Is it sophistication to be able to acknowledge that you’re not sophisticated? A Reflection.

Lengthy title but this is an introspective piece so that should prepare you.

Traveling abroad has made me much more adventurous, and opened my mind to new ways of thinking and seeing the world around me. It has also shown me other cultures and traditions and lifestyles. But you know those people who come home from being in Italy for a month and they have a slight accent and are always talking about Italian history or culture or writers, and turning their noses up at your Papa John’s addiction because “that’s not even real pizza”? I have not yet become that person.

Not for lack of trying though. I think it’s important to further yourself intellectually. Not to the point where your friends all end up hating you because you’ve become a snob, but to the point where you feel comfortable talking about current events and art and music from around the world. And I think I have furthered myself a little bit… But I cannot get into some of these things that sophisticated people do or talk about. For instance, my awesome roommate two nights ago asked me if I liked cinema. And I love movies I watch movies all the time. But then he started talking about this really cool Canadian director and the ascetics of his movies and my mind went completely blank. I took one film class in Viña last year and absolutely loved it, but I think I just don’t have time to truly appreciate good cinema. When I want to watch a movie, it’s because I want to relax or take a break, so I look for something funny or dramatic or action packed. I never look for something artsy because I feel like that will require work for me to watch it. Like if you watch an artistic movie, you can’t help yourself from noticing the unexpected shots the camera takes that really make a difference in the mood, or the fact that this song was placed ever so carefully with that scene, or that this overlying theme can really relate to all types of people… Stuff like that. And I love that, but again, I don’t think I have enough time to be sophisticated.

My favorite movie is Clueless.

My roommates really are the epitome of sophistication. They dress well, although a little hipster which is cool, they are super into art because they’re both artists, they know stuff about art HISTORY (which I learned sometime but promptly forgot all about), they have interesting friends that are fun to talk to, and their bookshelf is filled with the perfect mix of informational, inspirational, and fictional novels. They’re sophisticated- but more than that they’re just really cool. And like I’m cool(ish, I’ve been in bed since 5:30 tbh), but this is what I’m aspiring to be.

To have a collection of books from all over the world. To have furniture with a story (theirs is from an abandoned hospital…). To have some kind of knowledge about some kind of art. The first two are easy, I make a couple of fun purchases and I’m two thirds of the way to sophistication (by my own messed up definition of the concept). The last one is hard because memory has never been my thing. I can’t remember a single sports stat that I hear. I can’t remember conjugations which is why my Spanish is so rough. I can’t remember any piece of information from a class the day after a test. Like my memory is just not meant for facts. I cannot tell you which time period Salvador Dali is from but I can tell you his paintings look cool to me. Like can I still be sophisticated if I don’t particularly like art museums but I love beautiful things? I think so.

Anyway, my roommates are not only very cool but also have a sense of humor and it comes unexpectedly and it’s always so funny. Like when they say bad words in English. Or when we have any sort of conversation about my nonexistent lovelife. Or when we talk about pop culture from the U.S. Which is really where I thrive. And which is where my lack of sophistication probably stems from.

If I use the word sophistication enough will I become sophisticated..?

I think if I travel enough I will become more sophisticated. And hopefully learn a few more synonyms to the word as well. I know that cool furniture and books and souvenirs don’t make a person interesting though. It’s more about the journey. How you had to barter for that chair or how you found this book super cheap on a side street in Lastarria. I think stories make a person, and as many stories as Des Moines has given me, traveling abroad has given me so much more. It hasn’t just given me my own stories though- it has given me the stories I hear from people all along the way. For instance, I tell crazy Carson stories literally all the time. I love talking (if you couldn’t tell from how much I write…) and connecting with people and laughing. And I’m definitely not the most sophisticated person (my favorite tv show right now is bob’s burgers) but those three things I just listed don’t necessarily have to come from an intellectual conversation. I will continue to pursue (my own definition of) sophistication through travel, and through exploring the world around me, and being interested in learning about everything. But I’m young still and I’m really okay with not knowing everything right now. I’ll be cultured some day.

(also, viva Chile, we just won round 2 of la copa america and this is a long weekend and I am ready to relax in Reñaca with Barbi and the beach and more ceviche! I <3 chile)

My upswing

Can’t keep me down for long. Especially when I have the support of so many people who actively want to see me succeed. I am so lucky to have the people I have in my life.

In the days since my súper depressing post, these things happened to me:

My barista Jorge called me by name when I walked into Starbucks

My boss showed me a machine in our office that gives you coffee for 100 pesos (like 20 cents maybe)

I figured out how do to new things with excel (that one is exciting I know)

I met with some of my favorite people from my study abroad experience and we reminisced and laughed and ate pizza

My cool roommates threw me a welcome dinner and let me practice my Spanish with them

The cat that lives outside my building and I became friends

I met with a cool Drake grad who loves Chile equally if not more than I do

As a result of the previous, I figured out that I’m definitely applying for a Fulbright grant after graduation

I met another gringo that works at Principal here, who invited me to have almuerzo with his family tomorrow

I tried a submarino, which is hot chocolate but fancier because they give you steamed milk with a bar of chocolate and you stir it all up

I witnessed another protest on my street, this time at 7 a.m.

Chile beat Bolivia 5-0 in la copa america

I dropped the class that was causing me so much stress

That last one was a very hard decision for me, as I generally don’t quit. As kind of a life motto. But to be in a country this beautiful and to spend every day stressing about getting on the metro to rush home to do homework, passing up on exciting opportunities in order to read for class, and studying in my room instead of reading my Spanish book in the café down the street… that was just too much for me. I thought that I could handle a full time internship and one online class, because during the semester I do more than that and I’m fine. But being in Chile is an awesome opportunity and I don’t want to miss out on any of the things that come along with that. Like traveling to Viña for a weekend trip or having dinner with mis chilenos to practice my Spanish and try a new food. I gave up my summer for this, and I am so happy that I will finally be able to relax and enjoy myself. This means trying new things, learning this language finally, working hard at my internship, and living every day to its very fullest. My summer abroad in Chile is just beginning, and today has been one of my favorite days so far.

Beautiful Chile

I was so excited to come back to Chile. To me, this is the most beautiful country in the world. With bustling cities, crashing coastal waves, majestic mountains, vast deserts… this country has it all.

This trip has been a little different though. It has been a lot more work, a lot less relaxation, and more stress than I even experience at home with my crazy full schedule. Every day I try to find the beauty of this country in the small things. In the dog waiting at the cross walk for the light to turn. In the new food I got to try. In the last bit of light reflecting off the buildings before the sun sets. But some days it’s just too hard to find. Like the days when you have to wait for 23 metros to pass before you can finally squeeze your way on. Or the days when your feet are so blistered from walking that you have to limp back to your apartment at the end of the day. Or the days when all of your warm clothes are dirty so you have to do jumping jacks every ten minutes stay warm in your unheated apartment. Or the days when your new black work jeans stain your legs black, because you may literally be the most unlucky girl alive.

At the end of all those days though, I just have to remember that last part- that I am alive and healthy. Even if nothing was beautiful today, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking. It means I bought myself a candy bar on the way home, because it really was just one rough day. Tomorrow I’ll find my beautiful Chile again, somewhere in the twists and turns of this gigantic city. Maybe not in the straight faced business people pushed up against me on the subway, or at the lunch table where I can barely understand my coworkers through their speed and slang, but somewhere I’ll find it. And if I know me, which I do, it will probably involve small miracles, chocolate, or an animal.

xoxo

houston we have a problem, i don’t have wifi

This weekend, after a grueling one and a half days at my new internship, I escaped to beautiful viña, my real home, to spend some time with friends. It was amazing. I love the beach. And the dogs. And seeing people I recognize, halfway across the world.

My amazing host for the weekend Barbarita showed me around Reñaca, a town like right next to Viña on the coast, but maybe with nicer beaches. And amazing seafood (see ceviche below).

IMG_3565

My mouth is watering just looking at the picture. Here are more pics of Saturday night’s sunset and the beach on Sunday:IMG_3585 IMG_3625

So beautiful. Aside from the guy texting in my paradise picture.

Which leads me to this: one of the biggest struggles of living abroad is communication. Like obviously, because language barriers and whatever. But also just regular communication. And by regular I mean by phone. Lol how modern that I consider that regular. Think for a minute though about actually going a day without your cell phone. Or your home phone or your laptop or two cans on a string, whatever your preferred method of communication is. I know you think you could do it, and like wow kudos that’s great, you’re so alternative, but it’s not that hard for one day. You should be able to handle that, it’ll just be so very invconvenient. Think about meeting your friends for dinner. If you all were waiting in different places that could be a long wait without a phone. Now think about meeting your friends for dinner at a place you’ve never been before, in a part of town you’ve never been to. It’s basically a leap of faith to hope someone meets you at the same place you end up at. Like any time I meet anyone, I make sure to stand in a very open space so that if I don’t see them maybe they’ll see me. It has worked out well so far, happy to report.

Aside from the convenience of everyday communication with friends and loved ones, your wifi capable phone probably also has a map on it, and google, and google translate, and snapchat (that one’s not a necessity I just miss having it around all the time). Like in Chile, I’m already clueless, and if I get lost going to meet those hypothetical friends mentioned above (working on the friends thing, where my english speakers at?) i can’t map out directions, or translate a grammar correct sentence to ask a local, or google bus routes… It’s like I have this smart phone but for 14 hours out of the day, when I’m out and about, he gets amnesia and forgets how smart he is. He can play music though that’s cool. My phone in the US is basically a lifeline; directions in case I get lost, phone a friend in case I get into trouble, a dictionary in case I can’t find the right words… It’s hard without it.

And speaking of finding the right words, I think I’m forgetting how to speak English. It’s hard because I try to speak English to people here in a way they would understand from Spanish. If that makes sense. Like you don’t say shrimp empanadas (mm) you say empanadas de camarones so like it’s easier to understand if I say empanadas of shrimp I think. That’s a lame example but just trying to spread some light. This loss of English is NOT due to my adoption of the Spanish language. I can still understand maybe the general topic of the conversations at the lunch table, but not enough to know what’s actually going on, or how to contribute with my level of knowledge (aka: minimal). I’m trying so hard this time though. Or trying to try.

Semi-related – I have to change my name. As much as people misspell my name in the U.S., it’s so much worse when that name doesn’t exist at all in this language. I’ve gotten lots of different responses to my name, including Madle (is that a name in any language ..), Mari, and Mary. I need to at least change the spelling, because mine makes 0 sense in Spanish. In fact, if you were to actually pronounce my name after reading it, Spanish phonetically correct, it would sound like “moh-yee-ay” I think. The ll messes things up. IMG_3629I enjoyed Mary’s passion tea lemonade.

First Real Job // First Time on the Subway at Rush Hour

My day went like this:

  • snoozed my alarm until 6:30, when I got out of bed reluctantly and got ready for my very first day at Principal!
  • walked to the door to leave… and could not figure out how to exit my new apartment. 10 minutes later, I texted my roommate to have him come let me out.
  • walked like 8 minutes to the subway.
  • held my breath as I waited for what I had heard was the worst subway situation ever. Thankfully I was the only one waiting, so when the (very full) subway pulled up, I literally wedged myself between two grown men and off we all went. I wasn’t even holding onto anything, that’s how wedged I was.
  • got off the subway 6 stops later. It was 8:00 by this time and still dark out. Since I didn’t have to be at work until 8:30, I stopped at the very conveniently located starbucks to order un cafe latte, fria.
  • still early to work, I had to wait a bit for my new bosses to be ready for me.
  • then I was introduced around. People’s first impression is that I’m probably chilean, because I have dark hair and eyes and light skin. And then I open my mouth and they’re like “wait..”
  • one coworker I met asked “hablas español?” to which I replied “que??” …so like, if that answers your question…
  • then my “tutor” started my little introduction to principal financial en chile, but first asked about myself. he asked my age. I said 11.
  • it is now clear to all of my office that I am not that good at Spanish (yet).
  • they continued to ask me throughout the day whether I’d prefer English and I continued to insist that they speak Spanish with me (but slower por favor!!).
  • lunch break was at 2 pm. Remember the good old days in the U.S.? When I’d eat at 12, maybe even 11 if I was in that kinda mood? Because I don’t.
  • we went as a group to lunch. pretty sure all of my new coworkers think I am the most boring person in the world (I was so nervous to say anything and mess up..)
  • then I actually became the most boring person in the world when I started to kind of enjoy learning the different words to describe our pension funds and how they work.
  • work ended at 6:30. Chileans go hard.
  • it was dark again by the time I left. So Iowa, enjoy your stupid sun because I’m not even going to see it for the next two months.
  • I walked a few blocks back to the subway station, determined to get back on that crowded death trap and finally go home.
  • 14 metros came and left before I finally forced my way on. 25 minutes of waiting. These subways were so packed that parts of people backpacks, coats, arms, legs, were hanging out the side of it. Not arms and legs but it got really really close.
  • I got off at the right metro station (applause if you’d like, it’s deserved I think) and then walked in like a full circle before I shamefully took out my tourist map and navigated back to a street I knew. I need to invest in maybe like a compass. You come up from the depths of the city and it’s like the most disorienting thing ever.
  • I got home, changed, went back out to get groceries, and was back by 8:30 to eat dinner and make a nice cup of tea.

First day √

My First Two Days in Chile I…

…found some pretty cool street dogs.

…changed my phone to military time.

…learned all the Chilean slang I probably shouldn’t know.

…made some really cool new friends.

…met a bar owner who was from San Diego, and had a puppy.

…moved into my room for the next two months.

…started my online class through Drake.

…ate Peruvian food, Taco Bell, and a completo.

…took next to zero pictures.

…got (kind of) settled in.

So all of that happened since I arrived in Chile yesterday morning at 7:30 AM. I barely made it through immigration because I didn’t really have a legitimate address, just a street name. I changed money into pesos at the airport, the one thing you’re NOT supposed to do. I almost got ripped off trying to find a taxi. I turned off airplane mode on my phone to see if I could find some kind of service (sorry mom that may have been expensive). And all of those things were in the first 30 minutes back in this beautiful country.

Chile is like the ultimate people watching experience. I love figuring people out. People watching in the U.S., you can basically figure out the basics of the people passing you, just guessing at their lives. Here though, Chileans are a brick wall. They keep to themselves, until you introduce yourself. They don’t say hello, unless you live in the same apartment building. They don’t say sorry or excuse me if they bump you on the street, but if you know them personally they’re actually pretty polite. This is what I’ve figured out, both from last year abroad and from my past 48 hours. I can’t decide whether I want to stop smiling at the people I make eye contact with while I’m walking down the street. I feel like that’s so Iowa of me, because they definitely don’t smile back here. But at the same time, it’s basically engrained in me. So do I really have a choice but to be almost too nice to everyone I meet? It’s okay though, because my natural niceness is offset by the fact that I can’t always have an actual conversation with most people. I’m getting better at understanding, but the speaking part trips me up. What if I say something wrong… I’m especially afraid of this happening tomorrow, at my first day interning for Principal. They’re going to think I’m a little dumb at first, claro, but I’m hoping my wit and charm shine through the language barrier enough that they start to like me. And I’m hoping I’ll be able to figure them out enough that they become the open, kind Chileans that I call my closest friends here.

Tomorrow I have to take a subway at 7:30 in the morning (which is earlier than I prefer to wake up, because it is FIVE THIRTY Iowa time). And the subway here is as terrible as you’re imagining. Wish me luck on 1) not getting pick-pocketed, 2) waking up to my alarm, and 3) getting off at the right stop. besitos,

Gonna be a Chile Summer

Because it’s winter there right now.

And because the name of the country is Chile.

Chile is a lot like Iowa in that Iowans don’t know where Chile is on a map and Chileans don’t think Iowa is even a real place.

I leave TOMORROW MORNING. Ready for a full day of travel, with 6 hours of layover and a million hours in a tiny seat on a giant jet. Probably ready for my first week back in Chile, making sure my living situation is legit and starting my online class and my internship and learning Spanish and all.

Not ready to leave my friends and my family and my city for the summer. As much crap as DSM gets, I love this place and am always sad to leave it, especially for the entire summer.

I am fully packed and found out today I could’ve checked two bags. But I think I’m good with the one, I feel like I have all my essentials and more. As I write this though I’m remembering things I still need to throw in a bag. Like my pup.

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Speaking of puppies, I had to say goodbye to my two favorite golden doodles yesterday. And two of my biggest supporters at Drake. President Maxwell, First Lady Maddy, Gus, George, and my little Moosers leave for Asheville this next month. We had to do our goodbyes yesterday and I got a little emotional. They have been such an amazing influence in my life, and such an incredible couple of role models. Their lives are so cool- the stories and the lessons they have shared will stay with me forever. And I know this won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing them. These are people that I expect to have with me for life, near or far.

Anyways. Look for updates on my first week. xoxoxo