Friday, April 23, 2010

Vacaciones Terminan: Viajo al Norte y Colegio Empieza

This entry was written was written a couple of weeks ago, I just took forever to put the pictures in and finally post it... expect another update soon focusing on my trip to easter, among other adventures.

So, after coming back from Hualañé, I spent just enough time in Curicó to wash my clothes and say goodbye to Rafaela( my Brazilian friend who just went home) then went al tiro to Santiago to head out on the Rotary trip to the North of Chile. The trip consisted of 12 days with 20 some exchange students from the US (the majority), Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia on a bus, roadtripping 1,250 miles (2,000 km) north to Arica, and then back. We had many a laugh, chuckle, and giggle-snort; slept very,very little; and saw countless churches and plazas (every towns fall-back tourist attraction), as well as many simply fantastic views.
Some highlights:
-Seeing geysers at the break of dawn
-Visiting what I dubbed "llama-town", where there were llama pens and llama kabobs
-Exploring a canyon after our bus broke down in the middle of the desert for the fourth time in a half-hour
-Seeing flamingos in the lagoon in the middle of a giant salt flat with Volcanoes in the background
-The views and sunset in Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), which is truly otherworldly.
-Midnight full moon sandboarding in La Valle de la Muerte (The Valley of Death)
[I'd like to note that all of the highlights to this point happened in one thoroughly awesome day]

-Gorgeous extremely high altitude lake view from somewhere near Bolivia
-Alpaca clothing (I snagged a sweater, socks, and gloves), hippy pants, and tunics
-Joke time on the bus
-Moments of absolute beauty out the window after hours of nondescript-to-ugly desert monotony
-Testing the waves everytime we stopped anywhere with ocean
-The view from Embalse Puclaro, a big ol' dam
-Iquique, which is just a cool city

After the North trip, I came back to Curicó, I had a couple of days to get everything ready for me to start school the following Monday, then had to head back to Santiago for the annual Rotary District conference. The conference was a bit pointless-- they basically just wanted us to make an appearance, then found ways to occupy our time the rest of the day, but i had a good time with my exchange student friends anyway.

Monday I started at my new school-- Liceo Zapallar. It's Curicós public school "of excellence" which means that the kids there have to do well on a standardized test and have to maintain a 6 average (~85%). There are also more than four times as many kids in my grade. Given that, and the fact that this school is public (free) while my other school was a very expensive private school, things are a lot different. Starting at a new school this time was a lot easier because A- my Spanish is so much better than it was when I arrived, B-I'd already met a number of these kids and already had a few good friends at this school so it wasn't easy to join their friend group.
I'm quite happy with my new school. The kids are nice and interesting, and having changed has definitely given me a new set of experiences.

I managed to make it up to Santiago one other time recently to see Matisyahu (Jewish Reggae-Rap Fusion that is actually quite popular/mainstream) in concert. I went with a bunch of exchange students and we had a good time. Matisyahu was great, and even though the crowd was sub-par, we still had a blast dancing and singing the whole time. I also managed to grab some scrumptious Thai food the next day before I headed back to Curicó, ebbing my constant cravings for ethnic food which is much harder to come by here than it is in the US.

Upcoming excitement includes a big ol' electronica concert and the Rotary trip to Easter Island.

Also, my return date is set. I leave Santiago the night of the 22nd and arrive in Pittsburgh the morning of June 23rd. I don't know how I feel about it. I get a bit panicked thinking about how little time is left, but there is also definitely a part of me that appreciates and looks forward to all of the positives that being home will bring. I guess the best thing to do is not worry about it too much, and use any related stress as motivation to take advantage of as much as I can.

1.Chilean grades are given on a scale of 1-7. 4 is passing, and it seems to me that there are a lot more kids who don't pass. Failing grades are known as promedios rojos or failing averages.

2. Chileans aren't as big on strong flavors and a lot of things are only seasoned with some combination of lemon, salt, and/or oil, such as salad and avocado. I miss the abundant and flavorful sauces of the US from time to time.

3. When people talk about where they've visited in the US, they have to list cities, states, and regions. In Chile, you just have to mention two places-- the furthest south you've been. For instance, I would say, Conozco desde Punta Arenas hasta Arica.