Monday, March 1, 2010

and then there was an earthquake

Let’s sum up the highlights of this weekend with a fun vocabulary list:

Peanut Butter (a novelty down here - but thanks to Walmart purchasing a chain of the grocery stores, creamy great value peanut butter is available to us homesick gringos. No one can escape the effing walmart, not even Chile)

666 (the area of Vina del Mar we managed to find TWICE in a 2 hour time period before being rescued)

Hot American Guy (pretty self explanatory)

Whoa (my awkward and very audible reaction upon spotting hot American guy)

Nick (hot American guy who rescued us from 666 and put us up in his apartment for 2 nights)

3 deep in a double (when 3 gringas pile in a double bed together)

TEREMOTO (Spanish for EARTHQUAKE. The lovely natural disaster that awoke and threw the 3 gringas from their slumber)

Body Odor (what we started to exude after a few days of no water or electricity…oh and apparently hot American guy doesn’t shower. Ever. Minus 190 points for Hot American guy)

Rochelle, Julie and myself were ecstatic to be getting away for our last weekend before school commenced…while tying up all our loose ends, getting home from school, packing and getting to the bus station on time proved QUITE stressful (ok, we all know I have anxiety issues)…we did it. We sunk into our bus seats, popped open a cervesa and were ready to rock and roll all the way to Vina del Mar, the beach resort 90 minutes west of Santiago (RT tix costing us each $12 USD). Once our destination was reached, we threw on our packs and headed straight for the beach – as it stays sunny very late down in these parts. After I peed in the frigid water I returned to our towel to find a very obese child had made his perch directly behind me. After I reluctantly fed him some of our peanut butter he decided to thank me by pulling out his testicles and pulling on them. “Luckily” his grandfather came to my aid and claimed his very large nino only to be “pants-ed” by his loving grandson. All I needed was dad’s man parts and I would have had all 3 generations in less than 2 minutes. In retrospect I consider this a bad omen.

Shortly later, we found ourselves back in shady ol’ 666 (again…in retrospect…perhaps this was a bad omen as well). Just as we were walking up to a hostel my eye was caught by a cute boy – as I double glanced and uttered “whoa”…he came up to me, asked if we needed help and informed me that we shouldn’t be in this part of town alone. One way or another, we ended up in his spare bedroom. All three of us in one bed with lucky me (seriously lucky…as I’m the only one who didn’t fall out of the bed) in the middle. We drank some beers and got to know our new “landlord” – a very kind and intelligent artist. Sensitive and creative and completely clueless that he smelled like day old armpit sweat. We took him out for dinner and then we hit up one of the local discotecs for a pitcher and an interesting conversation on abstract art and evolution (seriously, my game is lame). We returned home a little after 2am and settled in for the night…

The next thing I know, Rochelle and Julie are on the floor and we’re shaking. I was so groggy and still asleep that I was not able to process what was actually happening. It wasn’t until glass started to rattle and break, things began to fall off the wall and shelves and the plaster from the ceiling and corners began to fall on the bed that I realized something was definitely wrong. As the building continued to sway and shake Julie, being from San Diego, immediately bolted for the door frame…Rochelle shook my sorry ass awake and pulled me on to the floor and under the bed the best we could fit. I’d say it lasted around 2 minutes, but there is no telling how much we slept through. We ran outside as we were unsure of this oddly constructed building’s strength and infrastructure. It was chaos; screaming in spanish, dogs barking, car alarms blaring and glass shattering continued as the threat of a tsunami loomed (we were only 3 blocks from the water). Then…the aftershocks commenced…since the quake there have been over 100 aftershocks…more than ½ of these were stronger than a 5.2. everyone’s nerves were high and sleep was impossible. Every time we’d fix a tilted picture frame or sweep a pile of rubble an aftershock would set back our efforts.

Our biggest concern through all of this were our parents. We had no way to contact ANYONE. I have a cell phone which cannot call the US…thank goodness I gave this number to several people…Kit, Mel and Dad/Mom. Phone and internet networks were down, power was out, water wasn’t working…nothing and I mean nothing was open. We had no food as we were traveling – but managed to find one market in the whole town which opened out of the kindness of their heart to make sure people had access to whatever food/drink they had left. I finally got to hear Mel’s voice around 2pm our time who informed us that yes, the quake was bad and yes, everyone had heard about it. I’m not going to lie, Mel…you made my day. My family and I are so grateful for your perseverance and determination to get a hold of me. The only other thing that compared to Mel’s call was finally getting to skype my parents and hear the panic in their voices subside….and I can’t even tell you the lump that formed in my throat when I finally got on FB. I am truly touched at the concern and outpouring of love. You all are amazing and I hate that you were worried, but know that your big hearts and kind thoughts are so deeply appreciated.

We had to stay in Vina an extra night as there was no way to get back to Santiago as we all wanted. Santiago is the only real home we have right now and we needed the comforts of whatever familiarity we had. PLUS...being so close to the beach during a tsunami warning can by no means be considered a "comfort" Nick was wonderful and put us up for an extra night. He found us dinner and beer as it still wasn't considered safe to wander the streets for the fear of falling glass/rubble/whatever the hell might fall and bludgen us to death. to make a long story short...we got back to Santiago sunday afternoon...still hard to find food but at least there is hot water and electricity. i have a 1/4 of a loaf of bread left and some peanut butter - the hostel has been generous with whatever food they have left. as school did not start as planned today...we are about to go out in search of an open store...however looting has been a serious issue and most stores are closed, empty or ransacked. but i'm ok and will be don't worry :) the devastation is bad, but we're staying in the hostel as much we can for safety concerns. when i got back to my top bunk in the hostel, our bed was in the middle of the room and covered in plaster! right now we're just waiting to hear about our schools and hanging out in the i am ok, safe and sound :)

Please continue to pray for this wonderful country that has been so welcoming to this crazy gringa.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

i get called Gringa daily...

It’s true. It’s virtually impossible to walk down the streets of Santiago without eliciting some form of sexist reaction – especially when we (females) travel in packs. On a whole, the people of Chile have been incredibly welcoming, warm and helpful. Their form of Spanish has been coined the fastest in the world, thus making it the most difficult to learn – but I’m doing my best and am a determined student. If you ask them to slow down, they are more than obliging and are encouraged as they perceive this (correctly) as a genuine interest in us wanting to learn their culture and way of life. My biggest complaint concerning the people is in regard to their “sidewalk management” skills. More specifically their (lack of) respect for other people’s personal space, taking up the entire sidewalk and not thinking it’s strange when someone coming at them face on needs to get through the barricade of held hands (families hold hands, like all 6 kids and grandma and dad AND tia maria and tio Julio) and the fact that they will elbow, shove and push to get wherever THEY want to be….they also like PDA…a lot of PDA and VERY PUBLIC PDA –I’m telling you, do not lay down in the grass in these parks – you WILL get pregnant. They’re also short – this is an observation, not a complaint (yet). All this aside, the people are incredible and I’m grateful to be welcome in their homeland.

My first week in Santiago was full of meeting new faces, forging new friendships, trainings, meeting teachers, cutting out random shapes and letters on construction paper, improving my laminating skills and drinking mimosas. Our hostel is packed full of everyone involved in the teachingchile program so it’s rare to find yourself bored or without some form of stimulation. There are 2 sub-sects to the program; only 12 of us were accepted to teach K-12 (we’ve been here alone for the past week or so) and the second group consists of around 60 people and they are teaching adult learners (arriving as I type). The city is completely user friendly – the metro is efficient, clean, on time and way smarta’ than marta. The design is easy to manipulate and the 12 of us are already navigating it seamlessly. Santiago is quite a large city…ok it’s huge. It has numerous different barrios, suburbs, plazas and markets all easily reachable via their kick ass public transportation system. There are hundreds of funky bars and discotecs as well as cafes and eclectic eateries. Empanadas are the national food as well as hot dogs and gelato. Anything sugary is available on every street corner thus explaining the abundance of fat people and the lack of gyms. I am excited to report that my apartment does have a gym – as well as a kick ass terrace, pool and lifesize chess set. I will be living with a fellow teacher from San Diego via Colorado – Rochelle – and we will be moving in our new apt this Friday – some random hot british guy will be our new roomie as well – complete with long blonde hair and tan…yes, I’m excited.

While not having a job has certainly been fun and filled with liters of beers and afternoon mimosas with Rochelle on the hostel patio – I am EAGER (as most of you know I tend to get bored without a purpose or job) to start teaching and get into a routine again (I haven’t seen a gym in weeks, God help me)…however…school will not be starting on 3/1 as originally planned…because well…an Earthquake happened….

Thursday, February 25, 2010

backpacking through the south

i am happy to say that i didn't even remember that sunday 2/14 was valentine's day. my backpack and i hopped on a rickety POS bus and headed South out of Santiago. the bus was bumpy and smiled like old cat shit. my fellow passengers for the week included a Brazilian student traveling on her summer break (oh yeah, it's summer down here and hot as blazes), a 26 yr old Irish gal traveling around the world in a year and a Canadian brother/sister duo who apparently have a rich dad and no agenda.

Day 1: our first stop was Pichilemu...a beach town known for the best surfing in Chile, black sand and cacti at the beach. this stop was fun except that i missed the llama on the beach and the Irish gal and i were starred at relentlessly since we were in bathing suits and the whitest people to ever set foot in chile. the contrast of the black sand probably didn't help. i also got stalked by a cat at the hostel, this was ok until he followed me into the shower...then things got a little awkward and i made him leave...only to find him waiting for me outside my room.

Day 2: arrived in pucon...the "outdoor activity" capital of Chile. we decided to climb Volcan Villaricca the next morning.

Day 3: headed out at 6am to climb the volcano of death. i liken this experience to my half let's just say that i'm so glad i did it. it was a long and tiring day. only our tour guide and i made it up. the irish chick made it an hour later only to throw up on my foot. the experience was awesome and the pics are amazing. the view was out of a postcard...and we got to slide down on our asses in a man made luge type thing. my ass was black and blue for days since i caught air and landed on my bony excuse for bum more times than i care to count. i was also pisssssed that i didn't get to see any lava or anything explode, putting me within seconds of life-ending danger...such a let down.

we ate BBQ (and yes, this IS a significant event, don't forget about said BBQ). we went to a hot springs and got thrown out for drinking 40s (devon, i spilled the 40...i'm sorry). i then awoke at 3am...and the 5 days of vommiting commenced a hostel bathroom. yum.

Day 4: i slept all day. had a fever and couldn't get out of bed. barely got a glimpse of Valdivia...but the weather was horrid so no one really got to see anything anyways.

Day 5: still feel like shiza but i got the backseat of the bus to sleep so i consider that a win. made it to Puerto Montt...then to Puerto Varas...managed to walk around and enjoy both cities. then i bought a small chilean girl and paid for my hostel.

Day 6: slept on the bus...i, admitedly, threw up in my nalgene at some point during the day...i've since run it through the dishwasher. twice.

went to a beautiful waterfall and found a pony. still having a hard time enjoying things as i'm pretty weak and still angry at that sausage.

Day 7: back in santiago to join my fellow teachers! still barfing but loving life and grateful for a kick ass, real life experience! :) miss y'all!

let's catch up

so i realized i have COMPLETELY neglected my blog...but there are several legit reasons, 1. i was traveling..on a bus without internet for over a week, 2. i got food poisoning and was struggling to function for about 5 days, 3. i'm ridiculously lazy, 4. i've been pretty busy getting used to my new life down here...

HOWEVER, i have never once been too busy to miss every single one of you guys.

From the beginning...

on friday the 12th, the lovely Ma Pouncey (mel) drove me to the airport after a night of anxiety plagued sleep and gas. somehow or 'nother, and after a yard-sale at Hartsfield Jackson, me and my 100+ pounds of luggage managed to get checked in (after a few angry swipes of the dwindling debit card). After connecting in charlotte, i arrived in toronto (yes, Chile via Canada...makes total sense to me too) and the 8 hour layover commenced. i drank. a lot. and then got on the plane after a nice CFL player bought my drinks (score) and a fiesty old english lady bitched out Air Canada for me after they said i was on stand-by. we took off an hour late since the lovely chap across the aisle from me was considered too inebriated to fly after he threw up and fell on an old man.

5 free movies, a dead ipod, 4 (free) mini bottles of wine and 12 hours later my journey began and i arrived in chile, land of llamas and sea bass.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

it's the 11th hour and i'm eating pancakes with the dog...

i'm entirely too tired to even be awake, but i didn't want to go another day without thanking all of my wonderful friends for coming out to show their support on friday. all your encouraging words meant so much and the excessive shot buying had me out of commission till around 5pm the next day -when we embarked on the snuggie pub crawl to celebrate yet another wayward traveler's bon voyage fiesta/sleepover.

I've been packing all day, inhaled enough bleach to kill a small village of buy-able chilean boys and have at least a softball's sized ball of dust and Rowen hair lodged in my nasal cavity. i am exhausted and dusty - yet causticly sterile - however, the to-do list is dwindling thanks again to my friends, i would be lost without you guys. the wolfpack at home tends to forget the purpose of running in packs, but in the glass 1/2 full mentality, there is always a silver lining...things could always be a tad dicier, besides the obvious 3 or 4, i'm happy to report that for the most part, the signs point to my safety.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"court, you're a genius, but a damn idiot"

WE have progress! after an hour long tongue-lashing from the elder sibling last night including being told that he got all the common sense in the family (ok, so he really did), my ass is now in gear and ready to rock.

it was a long day of flight pricing, schedule maneuvering and bank account (re)evaluating, but i am happy to say that the flight is booked and the visa is in the works! i will be leaving on friday 2/12 courtesy of Air Canada (yea, don't ask...). Thanks to the lovely Ms Kunis, i was able to book through and get a relatively decent price...word to the wise however, do NOT wait until the last minute to buy what will obviously be a significantly priced ticket.

i had drinks with a dear, dear friend tonight and she successfully brought the first (friend prompted) tears to my eyes (ok, besides Kara moving, but that was Kara related, not Chile related). while i've always known my friends are beyond amazing, i'm truly beginning to realize how unbelievably blessed i am. Mel, i hate you for making me cry, but i couldn't ask for a more thoughtful and loyal friend; i adore you and can't wait to see your face when i return. i will curse your existence after i accidently purchase a child while grocery shopping for fruit. ps. that bartender is ridiculously hot and i might love him.

after being called an idiot by family, i am happy to say that things are falling into place. my checklist (thanks, JAY) is dwindling and my nerves from the past 2 days are subsiding (thank you Mel, Matt and Kit for talking me off the ledge and providing me with alcohol). i now realize the world is not going to implode whilst i'm gone and that you will more than likely remember me once i return. i look forward to seeing all of you at my surprise goodbye party tomorrow night ;) and yes - tomorrow is a marathon, Melissa - not a sprint. got it ;)


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I took English?

DOES anyone else NOT remember what the hell any of these things are?
  • Future Continuous Tense
  • Past Continuous Tense
  • Present Continuous
  • Past Perfect...
  • Present Perfect Continuous
  • 3rd conditional
  • Zero Conditional
  • and it just continues to digress...
doesn't this pretty much sum up the important stuff?