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!

Medio Maratón, Anyone?

The first half marathon I ever completed was only a few months ago, back in April, and in fact is the reason I began this blog (oh, the memories). Not even a year later, and in a foreign country, I write today to say something that I never thought I would say: I will be doing a half marathon in Chile.

It’s called the International Marathon of Viña del Mar (I took the liberty of translating that to English), and it will be at the middle of October. There’s one teensy, tiny, arguably irrelevant problem that I may face, though.

I haven’t gone on a run since July.

After my first half marathon in April, my mom and I set our sights on a new goal: run an entire race without stopping. That goal took form in a 4th of July 5k, which we finished within 35 minutes (not that I’m bragging, but yeah, it’s pretty impressive for a new runner). However, since that beautiful day, my physical motivation went spiraling downhill and I only managed to run a few times (by a few, I mean two, maybe) a week. Since I arrived in Chile, I have worked out exactly once, in a spin class with a few gringo friends. (The word gringo, by the way, isn’t a slur like it is in the U.S. and Mexico. Yeah. I was surprised, too.)

Anyway, long story short, my training for this half marathon will be both a new beginning as well as extremely concentrated. After all, I have about two months to prepare for a half marathon. Didn’t really think this through, did I? Then again, my host brother is doing a half marathon in a month, and started training yesterday; so, really, I’m ahead of the game.

Down and Dirty in Concón

Let’s face it: basically everything in the world can be turned into a sport or physical activity if you try hard enough. There are approximately a million sports around the world – that is a scientific, irrefutable fact, not an exaggeration – and there are so many I wouldn’t even consider as a sport. The other day, I tried one of those sports. It’s called sand boarding.

Some of you, I’m sure, are thinking well, duh. Everyone knows about sand boarding. I promise you I am not part of ‘everyone.’ And neither are the people in my study abroad program, who also are under-informed about this activity. Sand boarding is easily one of the most fun outdoor activities I’ve ever done.

Basically, a friend from my program and I took a micro (i.e., local bus) to Concón, where we rented two sandboards from the back of someone’s truck. All boards were graffiti’d in Spanish with phrases like “Jesus loves you” and “You paid to die.” Needless to say, while standing on the top of a dune that overlooks both the ocean and the Andes mountains, that graffiti can be a tad intimidating.

Not to worry, though: it was so much fun! It was US$2 to rent per hour, and while trekking up the dunes with one of the most beautiful views in the world, it was easy to marvel at my luck. Half the time, the thought that kept running through my mind was, “holy —-, I’m living in Chile.” For all those travelers out there, I highly recommend a day spent sand boarding.

For your viewing pleasure: my board and I.

For your viewing pleasure: my board and I.

Tomato, Tomahto.

Wow. So, true to form, I have completely forgotten what social media is and how to maintain my sites. Oops? Chile has been such and overwhelming adventure that it has been an ordeal just checking Facebook regularly.

As promised, I have compiled a list of things that are different from the U.S. and Chile. Keep in mind that this is Chile, specifically, and not general statements about South America.

1. The Chilean diet is bread, avocado, tomatoes, and liquor. I wish I could say this was an exaggeration, or a bad stereotype of South American culture. It’s not. I would be willing to bet my next paycheck that the reason bread is so popular (aside from it being dirt cheap) is that it’s really great at absorbing liquor. And, though I do love avocado, it was pretty surprising to realize that is on everything - even their famous Chilean hot dogs, called “completos,” which have an inch or two high of mashed avocado.

2. Chileans party much longer and more often than Americans. One of the biggest American stereotypes is how much we party, right? Not in Chile. The average American party ends – at least, on my college campus – around two or three in the morning. If you leave a party in Chile at two or three in the morning, either something has gone horribly wrong or the party is fatally boring. Parties end around five in the morning here, with much more liquor involved. Kudos, Chile.

3. Un beso, un beso. I was a bit more prepared for this part of the culture than others in my program, I think, largely due to my similar experiences in Mexico. Chileans greet each other with a kiss on the cheek and say goodbye the same way. Chileans are constantly touching each other. I didn’t realize how prude Americans are in comparison; we aren’t prone to really any sort of physical affection, be it romantic or platonic.

4. The hospitality here is aggressively friendly. The U.S. has a cultural attitude that is very individualistic. We don’t go out of our way to help others, as sad as it is to admit. Here, I have been helped more by strangers on the street in the past two weeks than I have in all my years in the States. A friend of mine, also living here, got lost recently. When she asked for directions, the little old lady pulled aside an entire team of construction workers, who then pulled over a delivery driver from the road, all of whom had a serious conversation about how best to get her home. When would that happen in the U.S.?

5. Time is a different concept down South. Don’t you dare show up at the time a Chilean tells you to show up. Don’t even consider it. When someone here says 7, they mean 9. It can be frustrating for an American, particularly one who has spent numerous years in cities with fast-paced cultures. But adjusting to this kind of time frame relaxes you. It’s a very “que sera, sera” attitude (whatever will be, will be), and living in that mindset makes for a more laid-back attitude.

Although I have only been in Viña for a few weeks, these aspects of Chilean culture are incredibly distinctive from American culture. None are necessarily better or worse, of course, but adjusting to them has been interesting to say the least.