Time to catch up....
The flight: All went well, and I ended up sitting next to another person in my program.
The Arrival: I was pretty nervous to go through customs and have to pay the tourist fee with my less than perfect Spanish. However, it was pretty simple. (Later on though, I found out that another woman was charged $200 for not declaring that she had fruit...aka her trail mix with dried fruit in it! I'm pretty lucky because I didn't even think to declare the dried cherries I brought for my host family.) The next step was to find Lizette, our director. I recognized her right away from the picture of her in ISA's booklet. She and the rest of the ISA staff that I met right away were very welcoming and comforting, embracing and giving the traditional kiss on the cheek. (Women greet both men and women by a "kiss" to the right cheek, although you really kiss air. Men shake hands.) After going to our hotel for some time and eating lunch, we went to "Cerro San Cristobal." Riding to the top of the second highest point in the city in an outdoor-cart-elevator-type-thing, for lack of words to explain this properly, you are treated to an awesome view of the city. There was even a zoo about halfway up the hill. At the top is an indoor and outdoor chapel. I particularly loved the outdoor chapel because each row of seats was a step up with small rows of gardens in between. At the very top is a gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary. Lunch this day was pretty uninteresting, but for dinner I ordered soup with mushrooms and shellfish. When the waiter brought it out, he warned me that it was hot. Well, it was- it was still boiling! It was delicious.
Day 2: First an orientation meeting: I won't give you all the details, promise. Next we toured the Palacio Presidencial La Moneda (the Presidential Palace). The most memorable part was seeing the spot where Salvador Allende died in the coup d'etat. It is a sad part of Chilean history, of course, but I learned more about him and that part of history. (Anyone know that the U.S. aided the military take over that led a dictatorship? Yup.) Also, I will share my embarrassment: our tour guide was explaining some of the history of the palace while I was trying VERY hard to understand him. Out of the whole group, and the only time he asked anyone anything during the tour, he called on me in front of everyone. And I had no clue what he was trying to ask. All I got was "study" and "Chile." Panicking in Spanish, I said "I don't know, yes, no." I must have looked totally terrified, but I felt much better that the person next to me tried to help and she didn't understand the question either! I definitely have much to learn, and am just trying to laugh at my mistakes for now. I love how Lizette keeps reminding us to "choose to not be frustrated."
Then we went to the Plaza de Armas. This was one of my favorite places because it was great people watching. It was really busy but with many locals hanging out on the benches. There are also many stray dogs, or "street dogs." Also, PDA is very prevalent. I'm guessing it is due to the more laid back culture and because, as I'm told, most Chileans don't live alone and therefor don't move out of their parent's home until they are married. (But that is just my guess- any imput?)
Lunch (which is by far the largest and most important meal of the day here) was in the Mercado Central- literally in the center of a market, mostly selling fish. It very different standing out so much (especially when I am in a group with one of the women with blonde hair!). As we were walking men working there would yell out or come up to us, asking where we are from, how are you, eat here, ect. Not rude or insulting, but one couldn't just stand there and slowly look around.
Today we toured a vineyard. To be honest, I didn't understand enough of the tour to relay much information. The really neat thing I did understand though is that they make a wine here called "gris" or "gray" because it is between red and white wine. The color is a very pretty pink, and it only ferments for two hours. The building where the wine is stored is beautiful- I will have to post pictures. The next place we went was to the Santiago home of Pablo Neruda, Chile's most famous poet. What a character! The house was built for his mistress, later 3rd? wife, and because Neruda loved the sea it is built to have the feel of a boat, complete with low ceilings and front room made to look as though one is in the top of a lighthouse. Very quirky with many decorations from his travels. He even had a secret passage built to the dining room so he could pop out and surprise his guests with a grand entrance.
The last three nights I have gone out with three different groups of people to explore the area. It has been fun getting to know the other American students, especially since I will be on my own very soon here. So far there has been one other Sociology major, so we have had some interesting conversations. Today I found out that one of the women living very close to me in Valpo has the same exact birthdate! And her school colors are the same! And she is a Chi Omega like me! Pretty neat.
These past few days have been great, while emotional. I often go from being frustrated and discouraged to excited and eager. I have my work cut out for me, but I can already tell that I'm learning. I'm looking forward to meeting my host family and spending more time speaking Spanish. I'm not excited for class registration, but the staff is going to continue to help us and I know I will just feel better once it is out of the way. Also, I am very happy to report that although sore by the end of the day, my knee is really doing well and not hurting much at all, considering.
Well, I'm really tired so I will try to post pictures tomorrow or one day next week.
Please keep me posted on what you are all up to!
And shout-out to Jamie and Mike for doing so well at the Lexington Triathlon!