Fiestas Patrias, Pt. 1

Feliz día de independencia, readers! Today is Chile’s much, much celebrated day of independence (when I say much – even my host brothers are currently hosting hangovers, which, from what I’ve seen, is very difficult for a Chilean to obtain on a normal night). I am writing this morning because, based on my fairly hectic-looking schedule, I will likely not be able to write for a while.

From what my Chilean family and friends have told me, Chile’s independence day is somewhat akin to America’s independence day; minus the fireworks and “‘murica,” and plus much more alcohol. (I’m sorry, American readers. I know it’ll hurt to read this, but we just don’t party as hard as the rest of the world, despite our boasts.) It’s also, interestingly, the one of the only times Chileans sport their flags. After September, I suspect the flags will be put away until the next major celebration.

Today I am attending a BBQ – an asado in Spanish, and thank god, I miss grilled food something terrible – and later, I am celebrating in some form or another. On a side note, I think it’s pretty impressive that this country is so dedicated to going out with friends that it’s taken a person like me (a bed-at-ten, up-at-six girl) and turned me into more of a partier than I’ve ever been. Ever. In my entire life.

Anyway, chao, amigos – nos vemos in algunas días. Have a great Independence Day!

El Capitol

I spent the weekend in Santiago, the nation’s capitol, with part of my study abroad group. Over 17 million people in Chile, and over 6 million people live in Santiago; needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed.

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After the past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that – exciting though Santiago is – I have a new found appreciation for Viña. Santiago is huge. There is a very large amount of smog due to the city’s location and size, and it is very easy to feel a bit claustrophobic when downtown. I say this not because I’m trying to insult Santiago or tell anyone they should not visit (it’s the nation’s capitol, you really should see it at least once), but as a forewarning; I was not prepared for Santiago, being a smaller-city person myself.

That being said, there is a ton to do in Santiago. We left Viña around 11:30 in the morning, and arrived a little after 1 in the afternoon; the hostal we chose is Hostal Forestal, and I definitely recommend it. The hostal is located a few blocks away from the popular bar/party area, Bellavista, but not too close that you won’t be able to sleep from the noise.

A large part of my weekend was sight-seeing, but there’s much more than just sight-seeing in Santiago. I’m planning on a few more day trips to the capitol to see and do more; for example, in a few weeks, a friend and I are probably going to Santiago for a theme park (woohoo! rollercoasters!).

If there’s anything that I recommend as a must-do, it is Cerro San Cristobal. It’s one of the best vantage points in the city, with a breathtaking view of the Andes and the city; I’d suggest taking the trolley up and walking down the hill, because it’s a pretty steep incline and worth the US$4.


Coffeeshop Culture

If there is one thing that I miss most about American culture – one aspect that is so ingrained into my daily life that I can’t imagine life without it – that thing is coffee shops. Which, I sadly say, is not a part of the Chilean lifestyle.

There is one main road that stretches down most of the length of Viña del Mar, Ave. Libertad. If you need a coffee – a real coffee, mind you, not that instant coffee Chileans love so much – you go to Libertad. There’s a string of cafés down this roadbut they aren’t really for coffee; they have it, but that’s not why they are there. You’d most likely go to a café for a sandwich. Maybe some tea. But even then, people don’t typically sit around and drink and talk.

I can’t understand this. If any aspect of the American culture seems like it would fit into the South American lifestyle, it would be the event of sitting somewhere, drinking and talking. When I’m in the States and there is nothing to do, I call up a friend and meet that friend in a café. But here, these cafés and coffeeshops are scarce and unpopular. It hurts.

My positive spin to this negative situation is that I am clearly spending less, make that no, money on coffee. I drink a cup or two of tea a day, at least in the morning, at my host family’s host; then, after that, I try to stick to water.

(The little American brat inside of me, despite all this, just wants to whine, but I only want a coffeeshop to talk to friends and read my books! Wahh!)

Parque Nacional La Campana!

After a month’s worth of mountain withdrawal, I teamed up with two other gringas to hike La Campana, a national park outside of Viña. It was a beautiful day for hiking, despite being very cold in the morning (we were on the metro at 6:30am to get to the park as soon as it opened, at 9am).  Once we left the metro, we took a micro (i.e., small bus) from the station to a kilometer from the park entrance; we couldn’t be dropped off right at the entrance because we had to hike up to the park. Once at the park, we took a trail called Andinista, a beautiful trail that leads up to the summit.

995634_10152354505968549_8262697949087699366_nThe photo above is a view from about halfway up our hike. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions the day prior (it snowed and made the trail unsafe), we weren’t allowed to summit the mountain. But we did get very close: 5k out of the 7k on the toughest trail in the park, which was well worth it, even without the summit.

The snowy peak is the summit, as seen from the entrance of the park.

The snowy peak is the summit, as seen from the entrance of the park.

It was around 6 miles round trip, and easily done within a day. Believe it or not, I have extremely sore legs right now because of that hike! We took several breaks on the way up to our stop, Area La Mina (Mining Area), and still made it within 3 hours; our trip down was around 2 hours with fewer stops. All in all, it was really cheap; the metro fee (cheaper for me because I have a student card), US$1 for the micro to the park, and US$5 for foreigners to pay the park’s entrance fee. Anyone who needs or wants more information on Parque Nacional La Campana can look on its site, here.

Viva Chile!

Viva Chile!


Have I maid a scene?

Hello, readers. I am hiding from my host family’s maid.

Not hiding, exactly. But it could be argued that I am hiding. I’m sitting in my room and avoiding the kitchen, which I so desperately want to be in right now to make my lunch before an afternoon run. The problem with this situation is that if I go to the kitchen, she’s going to try to make my lunch.

What’s the problem there, right? A person making your lunch, how great, I’m sure some people will say. But it makes me so uncomfortable. It’s not that she tries to just make my lunch, but she fawns over me; she tries to do every possible thing she can do for me. I can see how it could be considered her job, maybe, and I could see that through others’ perspectives it could be considered sweet, but in my mind it’s just too uncomfortable.

I have been living on my own for three years. I’ve been doing everything for myself in my daily life, with only occasional help from my parents in big situations. I’m from the United States, a country that is so very individualistic that the idea of having someone take care of me – a legal adult – is just awkward. I want to be polite. I want to be nice. But I also want to say, “hey, lady, I’m used to making my own food and I like making my own food, so please, just give me some breathing room.”

How strange this must sound: sometimes, this culture is just a little too friendly for me.

Shaking Things Up

I experienced my first earthquake and tsunami warning! I’m sure this may not be very exciting for readers who regularly experience those situations, but being a first-timer, it was pretty crazy for me. This quake was a 6.4, and apparently, that’s nothing for Chileans. With the exception of my host mom, who was worried because my phone wasn’t working, nobody I knew really seemed to care. I’ve been told a relatively large earthquake like this happens about once a month; if that’s the case, I’ve got one down, and three to go!