Last Wednesday, I got to go to a soccer game with the Chilean selection team for the World Cup verses Northern Ireland. They were playing a pickup game in Valparaíso and so almost all the girls in my program got tickets to go! Here’s Hanna and I reppin’ our red warpaint and red lipstick! :)
The field :) we were close!
A cute family wearing crazy hats :) I tried to take a photo of them and then their sons saw me and started to laugh and then they left :(
Everyone was dressed in Chile gear and lots of people had their faces painted! The energy was really exciting :) We learned all the Chile chants and did the wave MANY times! They won 2-0!! It wasn’t the most interesting soccer game in terms of the actual playing of the sport but to experience what it is like to see a World Cup team in a South American country was quite the experience!!
Getting home was also quite the adventure. When we got out of the stadium, we quickly realized that getting a micro was going to be VERY hard. They were filled up to the brim with people packed in completely, so much so that the bus drivers physically couldn’t open the door for more people. We decided to wait it out, so we stood in the cold and waited for about an hour until we finally found a micro that would let us on :) And it probably took another hour to get home with the traffic.
And talking about cold, it is getting SUPER cold here at night. I should be used to the cold being from MA but alas I am not. This morning in my house, I could see my breath!! And I had to sleep with 2 sweatshirts and about 6 blankets!! I am not looking forward to leaving, but one thing that is going to make the transition a bit easier, is that it will be SUMMER when I get home :)!!!!!
On Thursday, I ventured on my own to visit an old Spanish teacher from Westtown School. Yarella lives in San Pedro de la Paz which is about 9 hours south of Viña. Yarella was really my first Spanish teacher and I had her for 9th and 10th grade at Westtown, so I was very excited to see her again after about 5 years. My Chilean mom took me to the bus stop Thursday morning and talked to the bus drivers. She pointed me out and said I would be the blondest one on the bus and to make sure that I get off in the right place because I didn’t know where I was going. Well funny story, they dropped me off in the wrong place. They dropped me off on the side of a highway at 10pm by myself, a little down the road from where Yarella was waiting for me. So when I got off, I tried to call Yarella and for some reason she was having a problem with her phone company and she couldn’t call me or receive my calls or texts.
So naturally, I went into panic mode. Here I was in the cold and dark on the side of a highway in a place where I have never been, and I had no way to call Yarella. So I called my Chilean mom and tried to keep calm, but she didn’t answer. So I tried to call my friend Hanna and she also didn’t answer! Finally my mom called me back and as I was explaining my situation to her, I saw Yarella running up to me! So after that heart attack experience, I was finally in her nice cozy house! I was so happy to see that she had a wood stove :)
Then I had another adventure… I woke up Friday morning with the flu, the whole package, throwing up and fever. It was a bummer, but Yarella and her mom took great care of me, I rested in my bed all day and by the next day I was feeling a lot better :) It was down-pouring most of the weekend, the area is having some serious weather, so we didn’t do too much. But on Saturday Yarella showed me the school where she teaches English and we went to the mall and ate frozen yogurt :) which is getting very popular here. I got to meet Yarella’s niece who was 2 years old and absolutely adorable! She loves to sing and was even learning some English. Yarella and I talked a lot about Westtown and reminisced about our goofy Spanish class. It was great to see her :) And now I am back home (in my house in Viña). I have just over a month left here so I am trying to enjoy every moment and do things on my bucket list!!
Also this weekend my cousin Ajah (and all my freshman babies who I loove sooo much) graduated from Westtown. I was soo sooo soo soo sad to miss this special day, and I lived on Facebook waiting for the pictures to go up! Sending them all my love <3
And love to all my family and friends :) I’ll be seeing you.
Yesterday we took a trip to Santiago focusing on the theme of Human Rights. First we went to the museum of Memory and Human Rights. This is a new museum dedicated to remember and teach about the attacks against life and dignity of the people during the dictatorship that started on September 11th, 1973 and lasted until March 10th, 1990. It’s goal is to promote respect for human rights as a permanent practice. The museum was very well done with lots of information presented in a way that was interesting and captivating. The part that influenced me the most was a wall that had photos of many of the people who died or “disappeared” during the dictatorship. Some of the frames were blank because they still don’t know everyone who died. The viewing room for this wall had lights that looked like candles around it so it felt as if we were at a vigil for all those people who lost their lives.
The part most intense was our visit to an old center of torture. They turned this place into a park/memorial and it is called “Parque por la Paz” (park for the peace). The woman that came with us for the day, was a victim of torture in that very place and she gave us a tour and shared her personal stories with us. I don’t know how she can step foot in the place where she was tortured only about 40 years ago. She was so strong and such a happy and inspirational person. She said that coming back she always has a rock in her stomach but she does it to teach people about what happened so that it never happens again.
My rough translation “In this site where we have put up a park was a place where they practices torture, death and desperation during 1974-1978. The names of each of corner correspond to the testimonies: to remember the distressed/anguished people who survived the ex-“villa grimaldi” Each flower, watered with the tears of yesterday. It’s a firm purpose from here. NEVER AGIAN! Never again in CHILE”
These planks were on the ground to explain each place and to remember that the prisoners were always blindfolded so all they could see was the ground.
"Here starts the journey of the prisoners. Old access. This door is permanently closed for ever!"
This was the plank next to the main entrance of the park. It was the only entrance when it was a center for torture and now the doors are locked shut forever.
They made a mosaic of a flame coming out of the door to represent freedom.
They planted birch trees to represent the prisoners. The bark of the trees show every mark and they are planted in lines because the prisoners always had to be in a line.
This is a photo of our wonderful inspiring tour guide! She is standing outside of a hut that they kept people in as torture. They would have 4 people in this hut, 2 standing and 2 sitting for 4 days. They would only be allowed to leave once a day to use the bathroom. There was a little hole to let the light in on the door because they found out if there was a little more light, the prisoners would feel more claustrophobic than if it was all dark.
There was a rose garden in the middle of the park. Each rose represented a woman who died during their time in the center for torture. They did this because when it was a center for torture there was a huge rose garden and the prisoners would all smell roses at night.
On the outside of the door this bike was painted as a memory to a famous Chilean biker. He was taken captive in this center and his bike was left outside for a long time. When they took it away, someone painted this one to remember him.
The day was chilly and cloudy which added to the depressing mood. It was very good to learn about the things that happened in Chile’s history but it was very intense and left us all in a weird mood. All in all, it is very important to know about the history of your place, even though it can be very difficult to recall the painful memories. Our tour guide was an amazing example of this. Her voice quivered a bit when she talked about her torture but she is such a strong woman to be able to come back to this place and share her story for us. For her, I am grateful!
As many of your have heard, the city that I am studying in has been facing some horrific times. On Saturday, a fire broke out in the cerros (hills) of Valparaíso, and due to the wind and the dryness of the area, as well as the overpopulation, this fire became the biggest fires in Chile’s history. Around 2,500 houses have been completely burned to the ground, 11,000 people are now homeless and it has taken away the lives of 15 people.
I first heard of the fire on one of my sunsets walks with my friend Hanna, We were admiring the incredible sunset, when we realized that a TON of smoke was coming from our beloved city.
This is a picture that I took of the start of the smoke.
Here is one that Hanna took,
On Sunday, Hanna and I woke up early and made our way to a grocery store. We had about $40 between the two of us, so we tried to buy as much as we could with that. We bought water, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and soap to donate. Just being in the supermarket was a humbling experience. People all around were filling up their carts, overflowing their carts, with stuff to donate to the victims.
We then went to our school to see if we could help with anything. They were accepting donations of clothes and other things that people could need. We helped organize the clothes, which was a hard task because the piles just kept on getting bigger and bigger! It was amazing to see all these young college kids taking action on a sunday morning!
The next day, we went with our program director to a homeless shelter. This was a frustrating day for me because it felt like there was SO much to do to help, but nothing was organized and there was an access of volunteers, so we didn’t end up helping much. We did serve lunch to the community, which was pretty fun! We got to talk to some of the guys while they ate. When they left, many of them came up and gave us a kiss on the cheek to thank us. One of them even wanted to take a picture with us.
Today, was the most moving day for me by far. I started the day by going to a school up in the hills, very close to the ones that burned down. We were organizing more clothes but it wasn’t as chaotic as before, so I felt like we were actually making progress. We could see hundreds of people in the cerros working on cleaning the area of debris. Every once in a while we would hear lots of shouting and look over just in time to see a huge wall come crashing down. All the houses that burned down, need to be completely knocked down in order to rebuild them later. While I was organizing sweaters a man came over to me and pointed to a house and all was left of it was a few cement walls. He told me that this was his house and that he needed a sweater. This is something that doesn’t feel real, but once you see the debris of hundreds of houses and talk to people who actually lived there, it hits your hard. Here is a picture my friend took of all that remained….
After working at the school for a while, we went up into Cerro Las Cañas, to help with the debris clearing. We found an assembly line of people moving piles of burnt and rusty metal closer to roads where trucks could come, and we joined right in! Luckily we all had nice work gloves and masks on :)
When that assembly line finished, we went looking for another. We found a group of guys clearing out rocks from where a house used to be, so we asked if we could help. The family who used to live in that spot had set up a tent on their floor, the only part of the house that remained. It broke my heart to see them stand there with a baby in their arms, watching people clear out the remains of their lost house. Photo cred: Madison
Tomorrow another day awaits to help my second home. All of our classes have been canceled this week so that students and teachers can do all that they can to help. There is something amazing about a community after a disaster. Every day is more humbling for me. I never dreamed that I would be cleaning out burnt neighborhoods during my time studying abroad but it has made me love this city even more just to see everyone coming together. Almost every car and micro has “Fuerza Valpo” written on it, Valpo’s version of “Boston Strong.”
What used to be a beautiful city is now a city of ruins. Chilean flags have been placed all around these ruins. This is the view now but together we will work together to rebuild this city. #fuerzaValpo
Here is an article with more information about the fire.
My program planed a trip to the south this past weekend that was filled with amazing experiences. I will try to include as much as I can in here but, as a forewarning, this blog post may be quite long.
We left Thursday morning, before the sunrise, to take a 2 hour bus to Santiago. Once we got there, we took a flight to a tiny airport in Temuco. We then had an hour drive to a small Mapuche (native tribe of Chile) town called Lago Budi. Upon arrival, we were served a delicious lunch of rice and vegetables (for the vegetarians) with homemade natural strawberry juice! After lunch, we spilt up into groups and were shown to our Rukas (traditional Mapuche houses made from straw). The Mapuche don’t live in their rukas anymore but they community that we were visiting opened them for us to sleep in.
We then had a workshop with 2 Mapuche woman. They taught us how to make yarn from wool, and then how to weave on their loom. We also saw how she made a natural die from onions, which made the yarn a natural yellow color.
That night, after dinner, we were invited into a big Ruka for a talk about the Mapuche worldview. They told us about how they have been seriously mistreated by the Chilean government (with many of the same problems that Native American tribes have faced in the US) with loosing their land and being treated as terrorists. We learned about how loosing their land is like loosing a part of their identity because they are a part of their land and their land is a part of them. They then played some traditional Mapuche music, with drumming, and some members from the community danced in traditional gear.
After that, we went back to our rukas to sleep. There was a fireplace in the middle of the ruka to keep us warm. It was so rustic to be sleeping in a ruka with a fire. Here is a photo of me in my bed,
We woke up to the sound of roosters crowing and the sun rising over the mountains. The woman who’s property we were staying on brought us breakfast in our ruka. Each group of IFSA girls got their own breakfast in their rukas. We had fresh scrambled eggs with bread and Yerba Mate, a herbal tea that is healthy for you. We then went to a talk about traditional Mapuche medicine. We learned about the process of becoming and medicine man or woman. If you are chosen, you have special dreams that tell you that you are meant to be a healer. It is not something that you can choose to do. We then got a tour of their herbal garden, where they grew all sorts of herbs that they use for medicinal practices.
Then, we went on a row boat ride to an island in the lake. It was very calming and beautiful.
After a delicious lunch, we hopped back on the bus and drove to a touristy town called Pucón. This town is about half an hour from the boarder of Argentina, and is surrounded by the Andes Mountain range. It is also super close to an active volcano!!
We had the night free, so some friends of mine went out for dinner and then bought some ice cream and went back to our hostal to watch movies. Here is a photo of my roomies in our room in the hostal we stayed in for Friday and Saturday night,
This day we spent in another community of Mapuche close to Pucón. We had a great tour guide who showed us his community. In his valley, all the people who live there are relatives, and his father was the chief of the area. In order to get to their houses, you had to cross a bridge that wiggled a lot when we were all on it! Scary!
Once you cross, you entered into paradise. Animals roamed free and the area was so beautiful. I took so many photos because I was blown away by the beauty! Here is a picture of our guide and his parents,
We explored, rested in the fields, hung out with animals and a cute 9 year old nephew who wanted to play music for us, and learned about plants that are sacred and/or used for medicine by the Mapuche. We also helped to prepare an amazing lunch with some sort of vegetable stew and potatoes. I found a heart in the side of a mountain :)
In the afternoon, we visited Parque National Villarrica which had a really beautiful lake up in the mountains, with a great view of the volcano. Finally, the clouds lifted off the volcano and I got this great shot!
Before the sun set, we went to a huge waterfall on the property of the Mapuche family that we were visiting.
That night we went to a hot spring place and had a very fan and relaxing night in the hot springs :)
This was the most fun day of the whole trip. We started the day off with Zip-lining!!! We went to a place that had a course of 11 super high and super long zip lines. They were all attached to one another so it was an all or nothing experience. I was in the second group to go and I was getting super nervous watching my friends fly by super fast. I was thinking that maybe I wouldn’t go since my stomach was spinning with just the thought of it. But, I decided to get over my fear! The first one was definitely the scariest, but they got a bit less scary after that. I really loved the zip line part of it! The climbing up super high in the trees that were swaying in the wind wasn’t my favorite part but we had really supportive guides and everyone in my group was supportive too. There were 3 zips that crossed the large river and the view was incredible! I was very happy when I finished the course and happy that I didn’t let my fear hold me back!
Then after lunch, we went white water rafting! We had a great time going down the river with level 2-3 rapids. We had to wear a wetsuit, booties, shorts, a helmet and a lifejacket. In my boat, we hit almost every rock and had a few situations that were hard to get out but I laughed more than I have since I got to Chile on that raft.
We then changed quickly into our clothes and booked it to the airport. We were running a little late but luckily we all boarded the plane with just a few minutes to spare. I made it back to my house at about 12:50am and tried to get a bit of sleep before my 9 am class.
Here is one of my favorite photos from the weekend,
XOXOXO :) sending all my love!
On Friday, our group went on an excursion to a vineyard and a small town that is famous for their pottery all throughout Chile. We left bright and early, and drove about 2 hours to arrive at the vineyard. At the vineyard, we got to have a tour around the fundo (estate/farm). We saw the house of the owners of the vineyard, which was beautiful and full of the most amazing flowers and trees.
This is the front of the house. They had kewi plants….
and avocado trees….
and prune trees (we got to try one!)
They also had these really big ceramic pots that they used to keep wine in before they started to use barrels.
Then, we went to the vineyard where they grow the grapes. We got to harvest some grapes and we had a little competition to see which group could pick the prettiest grape bunches. Here is a photo of how beautiful the vineyard was!!
And the grapes!!
After the harvest, we got to go and have a tasting! They set up a beautiful display for us on barrels with little snacks.
Here is a photo of me and my friend Megan enjoying the wine we tasted!
Then, we drove a little bit to a little town called Pomaire. This town in known all throughout Chile for their pottery. Everyone in the town does it! and the air in Pomaire is having problems with contamination from all the hornos (ovens where they bake their clay). We saw a man making a huge pot out of clay, on a wheel that he spun with his hands. I was so surprised to see how fast he did it, and how they could make tons of pots exactly the same!!
He made this in about 2 min!!
We then went to a house of a woman who lives in the town. There we saw a man make about 6 pieces of clay in about 10 min with an electric wheel.
Then the woman, served a dinner to all of us, with the most delicious homemade empanadas. It was so nice of her to host our whole group!! We were just blown away with her hospitality!!
with cheese, tomato and olives :)
We had a very long ride back to Viña. For some reason the toll booth didn’t let us enter the highway so we had to turn around and take a very long, ride through the most curvy and hilly small roads! We got back around 11pm, exhausted from our busy day.
For more photos of the day, check out facebook :)
This Thursday, my group is flying to southern Chile for 4 days! I’m sure I will have a blog post about it later so stay tuned :)
enviado todo mi amor <3
un gran abrazo
Today, I was having a rough start to the day. I got called out and picked on in my first class of the day, Poetry. And then I had a 35 min presentation in my Spanish Class about a story that we read. I was feeling ready to leave school, but it was 3:30pm and I had another class at 5:10.
My friend Hanna, who is also from Saint Michael’s College, also had 2 hours to kill, so we decided to find a little café and get some tea and a snack. We walked for a bit, not really knowing where we were going, but enjoying the walk. We stumbled across a little café and asked for our favorite, Pan con Palta (bread with mushed avocado) and tea. While we were sitting and waiting for our snack, the sun came out. We haven’t seen the sun about a week! The pan con palta came out and was so deliciosa. It was perfect avocado on thin bread and it really hit the spot!
While we were walking back to school, we passed a stand that sold our favorite chocolates called Bon Bon. They are similar to nutter butters and have a small taste of peanut butter in the middle! We treated ourselves to a small bar :)
Then instead of our class, we were invited to go to a talk about Chilean farm worker and the farm life. We heard a first-hand story from a woman who was a farm worker who picked grapes for Chilean wine (kind of like our migrant workers in the US) without general human rights like a bathroom, water and a fair salary. It related so much to my recent service trip to Immokalee Florida, where I got to learn about the tomato pickers and just how hard their lives are.
We then heard from a man who talked about the bad health affects of GMO’s and pesticides. This was equally interesting. It was very neat to hear about what Chile is doing in regard to these problems. They told us that 80% of Chileans don’t know about GMO’s!!
To end the day, Hanna and I got onto a micro that was blasting “Just The Way You Are” By Bruno Mars, and as we sang along, we looked out the window, only to see the most beautiful sunset over the ocean, with boats on the horizon and the skyline of Valparaíso illuminated in the light. We realized that this was just too special of a moment to sit in traffic on a crowded micro, so we jumped off and ran over to the ocean. We sat on the rocks and watched the sun set, which created the most amazing silver lining of light on the horizon. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera but the memory will always be beautiful. Walking home was the perfect decision and perfect way to end a day that started off bad and just kept on getting better.
Sending my love to everyone back home!
Tomorrow is the National Down Syndrome Day and because a few girls from my program and I plan to do an Internship with Aparid, (an organization that works with people of all ages with Down Syndrome- http://aparid2013.wix.com/aparid ) we were invited to go to the Congress building for a type of celebration.
We didn’t really know what it was going to be about but I knew that it was going to be an amazing experience and it was! There were 3 congress men at the celebration. Our directors of the program pointed them out to us.
We got to hear a few speeches by people who have Down Syndrome.
This guy is Felipe Garrido and he attends delegations at the congress building. His dream is to work there. His speech was beautiful and at one point he said “Somos distintos pero no inferiores” (we are different but not inferior).
We also heard this girl speak and she mentioned her boyfriend and after her speech, he ran up to her and gave her the hugest hug!
(The 2 closest to the poster are the boyfriend and girlfriend and the guy next to them is the President of the Chamber, who also gave an impressive speech.)
We also got to go into the Congress room where they meet (Camera de diputados)
Sorry for the photo quality!! (I was using my iphone).
Here is a link to a news report of the day.