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Post 10: Goodbye Chile and The Topics I Didn’t Cover

Time January 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So along with being the last day of 2012, today is the last full day I have in Chile. I am here now with my USA family: my parents and my two brothers. We are so excited to be here, having traveled to Santiago and Pucon before returning to my “hometowns” of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. They have met my Chilean family, climbed a Volcano, and ate as many typical Chilean foods as they could. It’s been a great week and I have really enjoyed showing them my adopted home.

My two families (American and Chilean) meet and hit it off!

My two families (American and Chilean) meet and hit it off!

But instead of talking about their visit, or how much I’m going to miss Chile and don’t want to leave, I’m going to make a list. Looking back at this blog I am happy about it but there are so many more things that I didn’t get to cover. Here is a list of topics that each could have occupied an entire post:

  1. Dancing/Music: Chileans love to dance!! Whether it’s salsa, reggaeton, or the traditional cueca, they love to incorporate rhythm into their lives. Latin Music is also great, check out this and this to get started.
  2. Dogs: Chile is home to literally millions of street dogs, who run wild, scaring some people and making others laugh. It is impossible to walk on the beach, or in the city, and not encounter at least a few.
  3. Politics: This is obviously a hard topic to cover, but Chileans are passionate and divided about their political ideas, and have a divisive dictatorship in their recent history. This semester there was a mayoral election and I have never seen so many campaign signs.
  4. Parties: Valparaíso is one of the nightlife capitals of Chile and I experienced firsthand the dominant youth culture that had their own slang, habits, and ideas.
  5. Economics: I’m an econ minor, and Chile is an extremely interesting country to study just based on its industries. It’s developing at one of the fastest rates in the world but is still a hugely unequal society.
  6. More sights in Viña and Valpo: Although I’ve given summaries of these cities, the hidden cafes I’ve discovered and the museums and gardens I’ve visited are also super cool and deserve a mention.
  7. Wine/Drinks: In my food posts, I neglected to mention that Chile has amazing wine and a delicious liquor called Pisco. Pisco sours are the best!
  8. SO MANY MORE: I have been constantly fascinated, challenged, and in love with the place I have been living for nearly six months. I will miss it more than I can say.
This is the room I stayed in  during this semester. I will miss living here and calling Chile my home.

This is the room I stayed in during this semester. I will miss living here and calling Chile my home.

Chao Chile, que te vayas suuuuper bien, y nos vemos una otra vez pronto.

Goodbye Chile, I hope you will be soo good, and I’ll see you again soon.


Post 9: Traveling Throughout the Region (and the Semester)

Time December 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Ok here comes a long post, at least in terms of number of photos. To recap, (or see my first post), I am living in Viña del Mar and studying in Valparaíso, two coastal cities in central Chile. In other words, this is where I have spent a good chunk of my days these past months:

Jealous? This was taken while I was doing homework!

But while the majority of my time, and all of my blog posts, have centered around my home base, I have also made a bunch of trips, short and long, to see new things. This post is mostly to show photos and some very brief descriptions. I have been lucky enough to go all over Chile as well as to Argentina and Peru, and seen so much in just this semester.

Keep in mind that these journeys left me with many stories and hundreds of photos and for sure this post will not do all of them justice. If you want to find out more about or plan a visit to any of these places, this post will not help, you’ll have to do your own research. I have found Lonely Planet’s website to be great and informative for travelers as well as the obvious choice Tripadvisor.

Day trips

Isla Negra:

-early September, IFSA-Butler trip, 1 1/2 hours south of home

Isla Negra is the location of Neruda’s most famous house, and the one he spent the most time in. This is the view he had, and it would inspire me to write poetry too! On this trip we also went wine tasting and visited a nearby village.

Portillo Ski Resort:

-Early October, 3 hours west of home

Portillo, located high in the Andes, was a spectacular setting for some incredible skiing. In another post, I put up this other picture of my ski trip.


-1 day trip and 2 one-night trips in October and November, plus various airport trips, one IFSA-Butler trip, 1 1/2 hours west of home

The changing of the guards at La Moneda, Chile’s version of The White House.

A view of part of the Santiago skyline, taken from Cerro Lucia. On the left is Cerro San Cristobal, which I climbed on a different visit.

A view of part of the Santiago skyline, taken from Cerro Lucia. On the left is Cerro San Cristobal, which I climbed on a different visit. Santiago is an enormous city, home to one third of Chile’s citizens, as well as some awesome museums, parks, and a great subway system.


Cerro La Campana:

-Mid December, about an hour northwest of home

I snapped this pic as we began our ascent of the mountain. It's bare rocky peak looks far away from where we were.

I snapped this pic as we began our ascent of the mountain. Its bare rocky peak looks far away from where we were.

It was a tough, 5 hour climb but getting to the top was worth it! La Campana is famous for, among other things, having a view of both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.

It was a tough, 5 hour climb but getting to the top was worth it! La Campana is famous for having a view of both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. From this angle though, we see the nearby town of Olmué.


Weekend Trips

Mendoza, Argentina:

– Early November, 6 hours (plus border crossing) west of home

We stayed right near the main plaza, where this sign hangs. Mendoza has many big and beautiful plazas, making it a very walkable city.

We stayed right near the main plaza, where this sign hangs. Mendoza has many big and beautiful plazas, making it a very walkable city.

This statue is at the top of Cerro La Gloria, one of hte largest hills in Mendoza. The people in the foreground are some of my travel buddies.

This statue is at the top of Cerro La Gloria, one of the largest hills in Mendoza. In addition to traveling around the city we also went wine tasting, hiking, and rapelling in the nearby countryside. The people in the foreground are some of my travel buddies.

La Serena:

– Mid November, 7 hours north of home, IFSA-Butler trip

La Serena is a beach town, but it lies close to the fertile grape filled Valle de Elqui. We biked through this valley, visiting museums and local artesans.

Not far from La Serena’s town center and long beach lies the fertile grape filled Valle de Elqui. We biked through this valley, visiting museums and local artesans. At night, this valley provided some unmatchable stargazing.

San Pedro de Atacama:

– Late November, 20+ hours north. I took a 2 1/2 hour flight instead.


The first day of the trip, we biked to and floated in the Lagunas Cejar, a series of salt lakes in the middle of the Atacma desert. Stunning!


The colors of the desert were beautiful, especially as the sun started to set here in Valle de la Luna. The atacama desert is the driest in the world, with some areas NEVER having recorded rain.


I hadn't slept at all when we set out at 4 am to see the Geysers Tatio. In spite of the cold and exhaustion, they were a gorgeous site.

I hadn’t slept at all when we set out at 4 am to see the Geysers Tatio. In spite of the cold and exhaustion, they were a gorgeous sight.

Longer Trips

Southern Chile:

-Mid September, during the Sept. 18th Chilean independence day festivities. We went first to Puerto Montt and Chiloé, 15 hours south, and then to Patagonia, two more hours south by plane (probably around 15 more by car). Total: 7 days.

It rained most of the time we were in Puerto Montt, but that meant we saw a lot of rainbows!

It rained most of the time we were in Puerto Montt, but that meant we saw a lot of rainbows!


Curanto is a tipical dish on the archipelago (island chain) of Chiloé. Meat and seafood are cooked together underground making for a yummy and protein filled meal.


Volcán Osorno as seen from Salta Petrohue. Oooooh ahhhh what a view


Some crazy colors at Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine, Patagonia.

Guanacos, in the llama family, hanging out in front of some giant mountains in Torres del Paine.

Guanacos, in the llama family, hanging out in front of some giant mountains in Torres del Paine.


The sun sets over the towers (in spanish, "torres") that give the park its name.

The sun sets over the towers that give the park its name.


– Early December. We first went to Arequipa for 3 hours flight plus 7 hours bus north.  Then we went to Cusco, 10 more hours north. From Cusco, we did a four day trek on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Total: 11 days.

While horseback riding in a valley near arequipa, we ran into a shepherd and his sheep. Can you spot my horse's ears?

While horseback riding in a valley near arequipa, we ran into a shepherd. See my horse’s ears?

The view of Cusco from a hill near the bus terminal. Cusco is a beautiful city, one whose buildings show clearly the transition from inca to spanish rule.

The view of Cusco from a hill near the bus terminal. Cusco is a beautiful city, whose buildings show clearly the transition from Inca to Spanish rule.


A craft fair in the nearby town of Pisac. The vendors do a good job, I wanted to buy everything!

A craft fair in the nearby town of Pisac. The vendors do a good job, I wanted to buy everything!

The ruins near Pisac are a great example of Inca terracing. Inca's made these flat stripes to farm on, but left the shapes mirroring the mountains they are hued from.

The ruins near Pisac. Incas made these terraces to farm on, following the natural form of the mountains they are hued from.


This is guinea pig, or “cuy,” and I ate it!! My friends and I sampled cuy and alpaca steaks at a fancy restaurant in Cusco, and enjoyed both of them. As a side note, local “Cusqueña” brand beer is also delicious.

This curving staircase is part of the Inca trail.

This curving staircase is part of the original Inca trail, built about 500 years ago by the ancient empire as a way to link various villages and cities.

Finally after four rainy, challenging days of hiking, we arrived at Machu Picchu, the mysterious and gorgeous inca ruin.

Finally after four rainy, challenging days of hiking, we arrived at Machu Picchu, the mysterious and gorgeous Incan ruin. I had to take the classic tourist picture from the guard house.


For me the coolest thing about Machu Picchu was the juxtaposition of the ancient buildings and the extreme and gorgeous natural setting.

For me the coolest thing about Machu Picchu was the juxtaposition of the ancient buildings and the amazing natural setting.

All this traveling has opened my mind to how big the world is, and how much I like and want to explore. I have met people from all over the world and been inspired by their stories and adventures. My trips have involved a fair amount of physical activity such as hiking, swimming, horsebackriding, etc which has made me appreciate my youth and want to do even more. In short (well actually in long) traveling rocks!


Post 8: Mi Familia Chilena and Chilean Families in general

Time December 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Finally, I’m getting around to writing about the people I have been living with for the past 5 months. My IFSA-Butler program sets each of its students up with a host family, and for me it has been a wonderful way to practice spanish, get a local perspective on life, and live like a spoiled baby all at once.

I lucked out and got a large and welcoming family to live with. The people who live in my house are my two host parents, Juli and Pato, and my youngest host sister Javi. Carol, my middle host sister, recently moved out when she got married at the beginning of December. My third and oldest host sister, Paty, lives close by with her husband and two daughters, and they all come over several times a week. Since I grew up with two brothers, having three sisters (and two amazing nieces) has a new experience. But what has been especially fascinating has been learning about Chilean families, and how they function.

It was awesome to be able to go to my host sister’s wedding a few weeks ago. Chilean weddings are fun, and I could probably write a whole post just about that night! My host parents are seated on the left.

Simply put, Chilean families are intense. Children don’t leave the house until they are married, and even then parents remain quite involved in their lives. My Chilean mother is one of the most caring women I have ever met, and nothing makes her happier than looking after her daughters and granddaughters. When my niece got sick, she took soup and food and love over to there house every single day until she got better.

This is my niece Jose. Her full name is Josefina, but like all of my family members, she goes by a nickname. She is seven years old and loves clowning on my laptop’s photobooth. That’s her on the left and me on the right. Oh, and this is my room.

Seriously, how cute is she?

Partly because of who my host mother is specifically, and partly because of Chilean culture, I am treated to the life of luxury while I am here. My bed is made for me, my laundry is washed and folded, and all of my food is cooked and in some cases delivered to me in my room. It is not unusual for my host mother to bring me a piece of chocolate just because she was thinking of me. Chileans even have a word for this: I am the “regalona” of the house, or the spoiled one. This word has been used at times to describe me, our chilean puppy, or my two host nieces. Everyone is “el/la regalona” when it comes to my host mom.

And looking around at the chubby, happy Chilean babies and their adoring families, my family is clearly is not the only one around here who spoils their children.

My host mom and I at my program’s final dinner.

Not everything about the host family system is perfect. Living with parents or older people means that there are times when they go to bed early and I have to be quiet. Friends have reported less independence when it comes to going out at night. And although I like what my host mom cooks most of the time, I don’t have the ability to choose what and when I eat. (Speaking of food, now that summer has arrived the fruits have shifted again: pineapples, blueberries, and melon have all been appearing in my fruit salads lately)

But I wouldn’t trade living with a host family for anything. When I went back and read this post, I had to add the word “host” in so as not to be confusing. To me, it feels natural to refer to these people as just my parents, sisters, nieces, etc. The experience of being welcomed not as a friend or a visitor but as a daughter and a family member has been unique and has helped me feel comfortable and confident here. The advice, casual chats, the singing and laughing with my nieces, and so much more have made my semester here even better.

Yet another bonus of living with a family during this semester: my host dog, Clarita.

I will miss my Chilean host family so much when I return, which to my dismay is in just a couple of weeks. As my Chilean mother often says, “el tiempo pasa volando.” Or in English, time is flying!



Post 7: The Food Sequel

Time November 6th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Yes, I’m writing about food again. I can’t help it, I love to try new things, analyze flavors, and just eating in general.

Last time I described my home cooked meals and Chilean flavors. This time I will describe fast street food, specifically snack and sandwich options These two posts by no means cover all of Chile’s culinary options. Notable missing elements include seafood dishes, stews, chorillana, which is a dish with beef, eggs and french fries. I also didn’t manage to snap any pictures of the bakeries, cafes and ice cream stores that offer sweet treats. In spite of these lapses, I think that I did manage to capture a lot of common chilean favorites.

Sandwiches are a big deal in Chile. They are extremely popular among workers, students, partiers, children, basically anyone who wants to eat without spending too much time or money. There is at least one sandwich place on every block, with options usually under 2.000 pesos or $4. Varieties include Lomito (pork) and Churrasco (beef) and often chicken and ham as well. All the bases are then topped with a variety of options, such as cheese and veggies. One popular condiment option is the italiano: mayo, avocado and tomato, the colors of the Italian flag.

Probably the most popular sandwich is the completo, a hot dog that is smothered in the italiano toppings, plus other things like ketchup, mustard, and pickles. Large, messy, and mayonnaise-y, completos are not for the faint of heart and are not my favorite. Still, they are devoured by many as a lunch or late night snack. Every day I see students at school put extra salt and ketchup on these and am impressed by their energy and stamina. I didn’t take a pic of any of the sandwiches, in order to not waste money and calories on my photo walk. If you want to see a completo up closer (and they are worth a peek) just google them and feast your eyes on how enormous and fatty they look.

At least I got a picture of the sign! At this sandwich store, the top left depicts some completos while the bottom right is a chacarero, a beef sandwich with green beans and chiles.

My personal favorite Chilean fast food item is the empanada. Empanadas are stuffed dough turnovers found all over South America but Chilean ones are awesome. They can be fried or baked, filled with cheese, veggies, meat, or fish. The most common type here is “Pino,” which comes with beef, onions, a section of a hard boiled egg, and a pitted olive.  They are warm, filling, savory, and delicious.

I decided to take photos of a step by step depiction of me buying and eating a pino empanada. Unnecessary I know, but here it is.

One of my favorite empanada places, on the way to class. It was closed this day…

Inside the “La Nonna” empanada shop, this time it was open! looking at the varieties. That’s the owner coming out to ask my order, on the left.

I picked “pino con ají” which means that they added hot sauce. Given how rare spicy food is in Chile, I add ají to as many things as i can!

Inside the empanada. the orangey color comes from the ají, and you can see the egg within the pino filling.

Another special kind of empanada, famous in the nearby town of Con Con, are fried and filled with seafood, such as shrimp or crab. These remind me of my New England roots. I wonder if an empanada stand could take off in Cape Cod next to a clam shack?? Empanadas are sold on the street, in fancy restaurants, and everywhere in between. They cost anywhere from $0.80 – $3 with a higher price usually implying better quality and a higher meat to onions ratio. One empanada makes a good snack and two or more make a meal.

By the way, I also said last time that I would show the new fruits as they ripen. Here are my favorite:

These super fresh strawberries are for sale at a little minimarket. Next to them are some peaches, and chirimoyas and melons are coming into season as well. These are $1.60 for a kg (about 2 pounds)

Everyone, or at least most people, loves tasty, cheap, filling food. And for this category, Chile delivers with variety, availability, and price. Although I still miss the wide range and complexity of the American smorgasbord, I love the chance to grab an empanada whenever I want from any street corner.

And if anyone wants to know more about Chilean cuisine, or even some more about Chile in general, watch this: it’s an episode of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” when Anthony Bourdain eats all of the above and more while traveling through Chile.

And now I really want strawberries! Good thing my host mama is sure to put them in my fruit salad tomorrow for breakfast :)


Post 6: Education: Crazy Classes in Chile

Time October 31st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am currently attending Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV), taking advanced spanish, math, economics, literature and dance (!). I knew that going to school at a large Chilean university in the middle of a city would be very different from my usual liberal arts experience at Bowdoin College. But I had no idea how far reaching the differences would be.

There were some differences that I was expecting: Spanish language classes, a large university, and Chilean students.

Although it was tiring and hard to understand the Spanish at first, and reading still takes a lot of effort, the language barrier has been the easiest thing to get used to. My spanish comprehension and other language skills have improved immensely. Often the hardest parts to understand are my classmate’s questions and comments, since they speak faster and annunciate less than professors.

The large, spread out nature of my school, has been annoying at times, with a daily half hour commute and classes in three locations. Still, it helped me get to know my way around the two cities and how to use the public transportation.

This is where I take my math class. A view of how urban PUCV is.

My Chilean classmates have varied, from quiet and a little closed off to very friendly in some classes. In general, if I reach out or ask for help I have found that they are happy to assist. One interesting thing about PUCV and most Chilean schools is that they take almost all of their classes with others from their major, and as a result already have a large group of friends in the class. As a result, my “general” classes have often been the friendliest.

Then came the differences I didn’t expect, and the ones that are harder to adjust to: the changes in attitude towards class and the politics of education in Chile.

Education is not taken for granted in Chile, it is the center of a national debate and one of the most contentious issues. To summarize a very long story, education is unequal and expensive in Chile. Public schools are of poor quality and university students at both public and private institutions graduate with huge levels of debt. Picture the situation with colleges US but with even less financial aid and even worse income inequality. So, students are highly organized and have been protesting for years. They are fighting for free education, quality education, and increased wages and benefits for teachers. They strike, march, and protest (and it seems like they tag every building with their slogans).

This is a high school protest that was happening a month or so ago near my house. The school was “taken over” with signs and chairs stuck into the gate. The sign has a few of the many slogans, including “Fight, fight, and fight”

To explain the politics, successes, and challenges of this movement are beyond the scope of this post and probably my abilities. However it is extremely fascinating and feel free to read more here or here.

Currently, energy and passion on these issues is waning after years and only small victories, and school is continuing. Still, there are still frequent 1-3 day strikes, often with little notice.

The effect of all the student organizing that the power in the university is allocated a different way than it is in the US. Here are a few examples of common occurrences as I go to my classes:

–       Class is cancelled due to a strike

–       Students skip class, come in late ,and leave while class is still going on

–       Students are blatantly on their phones during class

–       Students, acting together as a class, tell the professor that they can’t do a certain paper, test, or project and often succeed in getting it postponed

–       Professors ask students whether class is likely to happen the next week

–       Students are caught blatantly cheating on papers, or half of the class fails a test

In general, the students here feel more empowered to argue against and opt out of what they don’t agree with. While this could be a good thing, it often leads to disrespect towards the professors and causes classes to fall behind schedule. The unpredictability and sheer number of classes cancelled is also alarming. My math teacher estimated we’d missed at least 7 sessions of his class, and that is not uncommon.  It frustrates me not to know whether I will have class today or this week. Finally, I must admit that my inner nerd gets mad when a student comes in half an hour late, interrupting class to shake hands and kiss his friends before sitting down.

Students hanging out outside one of my other class locations, one with a more campus-y feel. Class was cancelled all morning on this day.

Overall, classes have been far from my favorite part of living here. I’m excited to return next semester to my tiny college with a beautiful campus and brilliant, engaged students. But while many of my observations are negative, I know that my perspective as an visitor is limited, and that I don’t understand all of the factors. The challenge of finding my place at PUCV has taught me a lot both within my classes and about Chile and its struggle for high quality education.


Post 5: Art in the Streets

Time October 22nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So Chile is a country with spectacular natural beauty, but I have noticed a lot of human-made art here as well, in particular, public art and street art. Valparaíso is famous for its street art, and the between the paintings, messages and house colors, it is a city that explodes with color. Valpo has a “Open air Museum,” a guided walk past 20 murals done by professional modern artists in the 1990s. I didn’t bring my camera when I went, but I can tell you that it was pretty cool!

Some examples of street art in Valparaíso:

I love this mosaic. It’s also a good example of how not all of the street art is paint based.

Beautiful mural with themes about the Mapuches, the most famous indigenous Chileans.

One of my favorite things about all of this art is that it’s very dependent on location. The art interacts with the elements present, decorating cracks in the sidewalk, and changing the way you see the buildings and streets. One famous example (that again I didn’t take a picture of, oops) is a staircase in Valpo painted to look like a piano.

Viña del Mar has a lot of street art too! This is an example of the artist adjusting to the setting, decorating the otherwise drab electric poles.

This is kind of hard to see, but an electric wire was broken, so someone fashioned it into a noose shape. Someone (or possibly the same person) wrote mokingly, “Do you have problems?” pointing to the noose. This is typical of the interaction between the enviornment and art. (In Valpo)

The consensus here is that there is a big difference between street art and grafitti, the scrawling signatures and lude words that also appear on the side of almost every building. Street art, although usually amateur, often has a lot of complexity and can be quite beautiful. The grafitti is well, just grafitti.

The right foreground is street art, where the rest are grafitti tags. (In Valpo)

Finally, much of the art includes written messages. Ususally the message has something to do with being creative, finding yourself in nature or something else inspiring and well-worded. Sometimes they are more overtly political, usually leftist and pro-student. And sometimes they are just hilarious, such as one which reads “¡Viva las mujeres peludas!” or “Long live hairy women!”

This quote translates to “The TV is a disguise for those who have the power!” (in Viña)

I went to Santiago recently and there was a ton of public art as well! This, for example, is inside of a subway station! Each subway has its own décor and they are great scenery while waiting for the train.

The mural is based on the history of Chile. Also as a side note the Metro in Santiago has a bad reputation but I found it clean and efficient.

I love art of all kinds and living here has made me appreciate those who add art into urban environments, brightening up cities and inspiring others to think and create.



Post 4: Transportation, or the adventure that is riding a Micro

Time September 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Viña del Mar and Valparaíso are both very convenient cities offering a multitude of options for citizens and tourists. I see all kinds of transportation, including


interestingly, the largest parking lot in Viña can be found in its (almost always) dried out riverbed. This is also the home of a large vegetable market on the weekends and currently, the circus.


A colectivo or “collective taxi” has a sign with its set route. The price falls somewhere in between a bus and a taxi.


picture of boats, taken from a boat. how about that?!

And even horses:

Viña del Mar, according to my host parents, is famous for offering old fashioned horse and carriage rides for tourists. I wonder if they know that you can do that in almost any city in the U.S.?

But the vehicles that I use most, on average twice a day, are the Micros, or Buses.

These may seem like ordinary buses that you could find anywhere. Maybe they look a little smaller, maybe a little more brightly colored. Perhaps you notice that there are as many buses on these streets as there are cabs in NYC. That is all true.

But Micro rides are unique from any other public (or otherwise) transportation I have ever taken for a few reasons:

–       Bumpy rides: cars in chile are mostly stick shift, and the road between Viña and Valpo is very curvy. Even when sitting down, holding on is still necessary!

–       Chilean Driving: this is not just the Micro drivers, but more of a Chile-in-general comment. They drive like bandits! Speeding, weaving, tailgating, and honking are much more the rule than the exception. It makes my 15 minute commute feel like I’m living on the edge.

–       Drivers make change: very convenient, and I’ve never seen that before. But be warned, many start to drive away as soon as you start to pay, and count the change while going full speed.

the driver’s area. i had to be pretty creepy to get this shot. the spools of paper are tickets, and there are coins to make change for the passengers. Most Micro rides cost around 430 pesos (86 cents), but it depends on where you are going and when.

–       Unlabled stops: you have to know where you’re going, because although many appear are similar, there are are 50-100 different routes, and stops have no name. I am at the stage where I can confidently hop on a Micro, zone out completely and jump up just as we near my classes or my house. This took weeks, so don’t mock my progress!

– Possibly because of the confusion above, there seem to be people whose job is advertise the route and inform drivers and riders. Some hang out of the bus and yell at passersby, attempting to convince them that they should get on. Others stay at the stops and alert drivers to trafic patterns and other mysterious notes that they take in their notebooks. Their endgame is a small tip from the driver.

As I get on a micro, this guy directs other people onto it as well. The sign shows an outline of the route, but no specific stops.

–       Onboard entertainment: singers, venders, and clowns, and storytellers all hop on the Micro at certain stops. I’m always surprised with what works for passengers. I once saw three women buy needles and thread from a vendor onboard. One man also told us about his intestinal problems in more detail than I thought was necessary, but it moved a couple of passengers into parting with some change.

–        Decor and graffiti: All micros are personalized, with the drivers having some leeway in regards to posters, seat colors, air fresheners, stickers, etc. Elvis and Jesus are popular options, and the Chilean flag is ubiquitous especially now as we get close to Sept 18, Chile’s independence day.  The other day, I even realized that I had been in that exact Micro vehicle once already. The key: Graffiti saying “TE AMO JUAN” or “I LOVE YOU JUAN” across many of the seats looked familiar.

The inside of a Micro. unfortunately i could not capture any entertainment or grafiti in this photo. I was trying to be smooth and not get my camera robbed. 

So that’s it! Not super exciting, but Micros are a part of my daily life and I’ve come to love the shouting drivers and honking swerves that make up my commute to class and journeys around the city.


*Note: I didn’t manage to get a picture of the Metro, the subway system. I hardly ever use it, but people who live near it use it every day and report that it is clean, smooth, and avoids the traffic jams or “tacos” that Micros always seem to find.*



Post 3: Language: Chilean is Different then Spanish!

Time September 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

This may be a boring blog post for most people. However, a major reason I chose to study in South America was to learn Spanish, so it seems to be a decent thing to reflect on.

In general, my Spanish skills are slowly getting better, especially in terms of comprehension. I was very excited the other day when I realized that I could evesdrop on others on the street, and pick up on what chilean classmates were chatting about. Understanding those little conversations help me feel much more comfortable here.

Chilean Spanish, I’d been warned, is a challenge. Many people here call it ugly, or at the very least unclear. I’ve mostly found it an adventure but it is fair to say that it is far from the Spanish you learn in a Spanish class in the states, or in any country except chile. Chile seems to do everything its own way, from constant use of diminuitives (“ito”) and english terms (“email”) to new forms of grammar and different words. I’ve highlighted a few differences in detail here:

Grammar: The you/tu form of the verb is conjugated differently in informal situations. I just looked this up and it is called the voseo form of the verb.

Example: I hear “¿Cómo estai?” (not the typical spanish “cómo estás”) almost every day from friends or family. It is just the Chilean way to say “How are you?”

Accent: Chileans speak fast, mumble, and often cut off the last letters of the word they are saying.

Example: Micro (bus) drivers ask where you are going to know how much to charge you. In other countries, they would say, “¿Para donde vas?” “Where are you going?” Here, between the changes in grammar (vas => vai) and accent I often hear “¿Par don’e vai?” Or, “¿Paonevai?” “Wheahyougoin?” It takes some getting used to, but it reminds me of a Boston or New York tone.

Speaking habits/filler words: This may seem random, but Chileans here don’t say um, or em, or ehh. They use words to fill their spaces. Different places do that differently, and Chile has some creative ones that change up the rhythm and comprehension of Spanish here.


Things that are emphasized, and most sentences, end with the word “po” (meaning basically “pues” or “well”) “Si po.” “yeah!”

 One of the most commonly heard fillers is “¿cachai?” (note the voseo form). “¿cachai?” means “get it?” or “do you understand?” but is used sometimes as often as an American might say like.

 Young men/boys often uses the word “wueyon” to mean “dude” and also say that every few words. It literally means something more like asshole (and has an even more vulgar literal meaning, feel free to look it up). Thus, it is only used within a youth context and should be used with caution. “Wueyona” is the female, but I have heard that this should be used with even more caution. “Oye, wueyon, ¡vamos a carretear!” “Hey dude, lets go party!”

the word “cachai” has become such a part of our speech that my friend Kristen (pictured) and I decided to carve it into the sand dunes at Concon.

Slangwords: These are also known as Chilenismos, or Chilean-isms, and are purely Chilean words that don’t exist anywhere else. I’ve already listed a few here (micro, po, cachai, wueyon, carretear) but there are literally hundreds. They are rich, fun to use, and interesting. If you want a more complete list or more information read this or buy this.

Examples: There are far too many chilenismos to list, but I’ll show a few of my favorites to give an example of their range.

Al tiro: Right away. Litterally “at the shot.” Of course, since we run on Chilean time, this can be actually right away, or perhaps in 15 minutes…or an hour…

Apagarse la tele: to be so drunk that one literally “turns off the tv”. Like the term blackout, but much more creative. Just one of about a million terms surrounding Chile’s youth and party culture.

Fome: Boring, dull, annoying. If you are described as fome, time to change your routine!

 Guagua: baby. In mexico and other countries, a guagua is a bus. Go figure.

Pololo/polola: Girlfriend or boyfriend. One of the most fun chilenismos to say, it comes from a Mapuche (indigenous) word.

Taco: In other countries, it means heel of a shoe, or, more familiar to Americans, a type of mexican food.

Regalona: spoiled one in the house. Aka all guaguas, and me.


Although you probably think this is all very “fome,” I could go on for a lot longer. Chilean spanish, for all of its detractors, comes from a rich mix of immigrants, indigenous cultures, and more. It reflects both globalization (with English terms rapidly gaining popularity in daily usage) and individuality (its uniqueness can be a point of pride). It’s worth the stumbling attempts and general confusion to learn about this intriguing culture in its own words.

Bonus Picture, since this post is pretty picture-less:

Last Friday I went skiing at Portillo in the Andes. What a gorgeous setting for some spectacular skiing!


Post 2: Chilean Home Cooking

Time August 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey everyone! So if you know me, you know I love food and love to critique it. Chilean food has its own style, ingredients, and flavors, which I will try to break down in this post. Then, I have some photos representing a typical day’s meals.

Note: This post is about home-cooked meals. Street food is very common here, and I should also make another post about that. If you’re curious, google “empanadas de pino” and “completos” to get an idea of what Chileans eat outside of their kitchens. Or just wait and eventually I will get to describe that myself.

Chilean food, for better or for worse, is very plain. I have not eaten anything spicy, or even anything that varies from salty, sweet, or lemony.  Starches are everywhere, mayonnaise is by far the favorite condiment, and when I say salty, I mean that everything tends to be covered in salt (and then my family often adds more on their own plates).

But what Chilean food lacks in flavor, it makes up for with its fresh products. Chile is a huge exporter of fruits and veggies, and I often see chilean products at home at the supermarket, but eating it here is way more awesome! It is winter right now in the southern hemisphere, so the “only” fresh local fruits are apples, oranges, clementines, kiwi, pear, and banana. And Chilean avocados are like no other I have tried, with apologies to my Californian friends and family. They are rich, smooth, creamy, and literally pouring out of local markets.

some, but not all, of the fruits and veggies in my house on any given day. Note the luscious avocados!


I eat most of these types of produce every day, although not all are pictured here. My host mom has taken pains to assure me that there will be more and different items as the weather warms towards summer. Yet another reason to have another food post later!

Beyond its local abundance, Chile also boasts an almost infinite number of panaderias (bakeries) churning out enormous amounts of fresh bread. Several Chileans have told me that Chile is the number one per capita consumer of bread, and sometimes it certainly seems that way. I have tried pan batido, pan de molde, pan amasado, and my favorite, pan hallulla, among others whose names I forget. Bread generally comes in personal sizes (think hamburger bun size) and is bought close to daily by Chilean families. Typical sandwiches usually feature avocado and tomatoes and add cheese, turkey or ham.  Hamburgers, sausage, and hotdogs are also very common and popular.

A typical day’s food:

Chilean food is also very consistent, so I basically eat exactly this every day. I did list some common alternatives and other options so that you can get an idea of what else is out there.


Pictured: fruit salad, yogurt, fruit, what I eat every day.
Other common alternatives: Many Chileans eat pan con palta, or bread with avocados, for breakfast (and also for lunch, and also for dinner…)


Lunch is the biggest Chilean Meal, starting late and lasting for hours sometimes.

Pictured: Lettuce salad, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, rices, veggie quiche, water
Other Common Alternatives: Most main courses involve meat, this was a rare veggie meal. Stews and soups are common hearty options. Also, most of the time salads include avocado and tomato as well.


Many Chilean families, like mine, eat “once” rather than dinner. This translates literally to “11” but in reality is a small meal similar to an English tea, served around 7 or 8 in the evening.

Pictured: pastry, fruit salad, hot chocolate (although usually we have tea), egg sandwich. This is very consistent day to day, albeit with a different sandwich and pastry.


Favorite meal: My mom makes a mean chicken soup, called cazuela that includes a full piece of chicken and a half of a corn on the cob, as well as noodles, potatoes, and tons of veggies. It is truly soup for the soul and I love it!

Least favorite meal: Occasionally, I get a sandwich that has turkey, cheese and BUTTER!!!. At first I thought it was a weird, second kind of cheese but then I realized that I was biting straight into butter. Gross.

As I was about to publish this post, I realized I forgot to mention manjar!!! Manjar is probably my favorite Chilean ingredient. It’s very similar to dulce de leche, a creamy and rich caramel that goes in ice cream, churros, cookies, and cakes like this one.

So there you go! As I was describing all of this food, I should probably describe the wonderful woman who cooked all of it. My host mother’s name is Julia and she is sweet, friendly, and caring. One of my next posts will introduce my whole family but for now just know that I truly feel at home, (and spoiled!) and love living here.


I’m in Chile! Post 1: Cities

Time August 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Ok, so I’m in Chile! I’ve actually been here for about three weeks, but I wanted to settle in before I wrote this post. By now I’ve met my group, completed orientation, moved in with my host family, and had a week of classes. Covering all of that in one blog post is nearly impossible. As I have procrastinated writing this first post I have realized that in general, covering everything about life here in blog posts is an insane task.

So, I won’t even try. Don’t worry (not that anyone was worried), I will still be posting here regularly and updating you on life in Chile as an American and as a member of the IFSA-Butler program. But I had an idea: I think each post will focus on one or two themes in particular: food, family, language, travel, etc. I’ve only been here for 3 weeks and I can already think of 100 more themes, so I know that I will have to limit myself.

This post, being the first, will set the scene by focusing on the cities I’m living in.

This program, and thus my life for the next 5 months takes place in the twin cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, Chile. They are located in the central valley of Chile, about an hour and a half west of the capital Santiago, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is currently winter here, but in this temperate area that means 50s and 60s.

A quick rundown of the two cities (with photos!!):

Viña del Mar is where I live. The city is known for its gardens and stands out to me for its safety and walkability. I love that there are so many flowers and trees, and it seems I can’t walk far without happening on a new park! It is built on a grid, which has been amazing for me, since I am used to the chaos and randomness that is Boston.

reloj de flores

My friend Ranya and I just happened upon the “flower clock” one of Viñas most famous parks. (I’m on the left)

But without a doubt, what makes Viña shine is its coast. Living on the water is just indescribably beautiful and calming. Beaches are my favorite things in the world, and walking down the boardwalk and dipping my toes into the chilly pacific those first few days made me feel sure I was in the right place for me. The boardwalk is a wonderful, long strip with vendors, lots of activities for all ages, pelicans and sea lions, and most of all a beautiful place to view a west coast sunset every night.


one of many beautiful beach views in Viña

Valparaiso is Viña’s twin city, and feels more urban and “gritty”. The bulk of Valpo takes place on its steep hills, where thousands of tiny, bright colored houses crowd together with artistic and creative graffiti. The hills, or cerros in Spanish, are exciting (and tiring) to explore and yield impressive views. Valpo has a lot of cultural attractions, as well as being one of chile’s biggest ports and the base for most of my classes.

this view was a reward for climbing up a steep cerro

When I took a tour of Valpo last week, I had the opportunity to visit one of Pablo Neruda’s houses, called La Sebastiana. I loved seeing the eccentric collections and beautiful art the poet gathered in his house. I have a goal of seeing all three of Neruda’s houses (the others are in Santiago and on the island Isla Negra). It also highlighted some of the most beautiful views of the city I have seen yet.


pablo neruda’s dining room, look out the window!

So that’s all for this first post. I have been having an amazing time so far. The group of Americans is great, my Chilean host family is so sweet, and obviously the location has given me a multitude of things to discover. Already, I am glad I made the decision to come here and cannot wait for what lies ahead!



Leaving So Soon!

Time July 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So, it’s impossible to walk through my room. Or more realistically, its impossible to step on the floor anywhere in my room, because my bags and clothes are all over the place.

I have been at my school in Maine all summer, working at an internship and exploring the coast by bike, boat, and car. I got home to Brookline, MA two days ago and now everything from clothes, posters, games, and lamps are strewn about my floor. To get in the door, I have to jump directly onto the bed because there is nowhere else to stand.

I guess I should back up and say hi! My name is Rachel, and I’m getting ready to spend a semester in Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, Chile. I’m excited to go for about a million reasons, but I’m most excited to improve my spanish and immerse myself in a totally new place. The fact that I’ll be living walking distance from the beach (I already googlemapped it) doesn’t hurt either.

Of course, I’m also nervous. I’ve averaged one freak-out per day, where I suddenly realize, “Oh my god, I’m going to be in Chile in 8 days.” “5 days!!” “3 days?!” Knowing that I am leaving tomorrow, and will land in Santiago on Wednesday, has kicked my anticipation/anxiety into high gear. Luckily, I’m much more excited than nervous.

But before I can get there, I have a mountain of things to do. I have a two page list of errands and phone calls, and I have to clear off the floor in my room. So I can’t stay here and write long. Next time I post, I’ll already be in Chile!

¡Hasta pronto!