Friday, May 21, 2010

El Tiempo Pasa Volando


I could have sworn that I posted my last blog entry just over a week ago, but what do I know, it's been a month. More concerning to me though is the other result of quickly passing time-- I know have less than a month left in Chile. How do I feel about this? Quite honestly I don't know. I feel good about the amount of things I've done and places I've been during my year in Chile, but now with the time winding down, so are my possibilities. I have to come to grips with the fact that I won't get to do everything. The human front is more difficult to explain. I have real friends here, both Chilean and otherwise, some of them I'm very very close with. However, the hard reality is, there's no way I will be seeing them again with any real consistency. These people have really shaped my life and my perspective over the last year, so it's tough to say the least. Leaving my friends and acquaintances at my new school adds another layer of complication- I have made some good friendships, but there are a number of people who I find really interesting and good-company that I haven't really gotten to know yet, and sadly, I may never actually get to know some of them. It really just adds on to my feeling that I can't fit in everything that I want.

Although there is a lot of sadness in leaving what has been my home for the last 9 months, I know that there are a lot of things to look forward to when I come home-- friends, family, summer, heading off to college. It should be good, but I'm a spot nervous about possibility that it won't, given that life in Morgantown will probably seem less special, less exciting, and less interesting. Hopefully that will all be overpowered by the fact that Morgantown has always been home.

Reflection aside, I have gotten to do a lot of cool stuff lately.(Though it's been long enough that I've probably forgotten a lot of things). The biggest happening since my last post was my Rotary Trip to Easter Island, which was quite definitely quite cool. However, before I get into that, I want at least mention the days before. We left for Easter Island on a Tuesday, and the Friday night before was a big ol' rave-- Sensation. I first heard about Sensation back in September, and ever since had been making sure I had people to go with. I ended up going with Peter (Chilean) and Liz (Michigander), and meeting up with other exchange students there. It was a lot of fun. eight straight hours of dancing. Lots of lights, loud music, dancers, decorations, etc. The coolest part about Sensation is that everyone has to come dressed completely in white-- it makes for quite a sweet atmosphere.


Back to the trip, first some background for those of you who aren't familiar -- Easter Island,more correctly referred to as Rapa Nui (the name in Rapa Nui's native language) is one of the most isolated inhabited locations in the world-- it's closest inhabited neighbor is more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) away. However, it's big claim to fame are the giant, somewhat ominous, and very distinct stone statues that are found all over the island, known as Moai.



After a five-to-six hour flight from Santiago, our group of thirty-some exchange students and four Rotarians arrived in Rapa Nui . We arrived around 2 in the afternoon, and had free time until dinner. So, with some friends, we walked around the little town and the surrounding area, getting ourselves oriented, and enjoying the mild climate--a departure from the winter chill that was already arriving in mainland Chile. We saw our first moai and sea turtle, then went to quench our thirst on an ocean-view balcony, that was also overlooking a very old cemetary in which some horses decided to hang out.Within a few hours, the island's laid-back atmosphere was definitely sinking in. The island life is a nice life.
The next couple of days we mostly spent touring the island. Sites visited include:
-One of the Island's two sandy beaches (the rest are rocky)

-A volcano that once served as the base for the process of selecting each year's ruling clan (determined by whose competitor snatched the first egg laid by the seagulls), which now provides fresh water to the islanders, by way of the rain water that collects in the crater

-A cave with cave paintings and lava rocks that showed how the lava flowed

-Another volcano, the site of the quarry from which the moai were carved. There are a whole bunch of moai sitting around, some which were waiting to be transported and some which were still being finished. Work on the moai stopped pretty suddenly when there was a giant ecological/political/resource collapse.
-Many many moai
-We also stopped by a school nearby to drop off some donations we'd brought with us on the plane (everything's expensive on the island because it has to be brought in by boat or plane) and chat with the kids


Each night we ended up with a different production of native dance, of various levels of polish and touristy-ness. They always called people out of the crowd to dance with them. Because they gave generally gave little (no) instruction, hilarity was abound. Eventually though, we caught on.
video

At some point, there was a free afternoon, which a friend and I decided to make use of to go horseback riding. We'd befriended a Rapa Nui (the term refers to the place, the language, and the people) who had a friend with a couple of horses he said would rent them to us. When we came by, a group of them were sitting down, a little bit intoxicated. We asked them about the horses, and they pointed to a couple that were walking around, but said they didn't have saddles. We decided to man-up and go anyway. The problem was that neither of us has much if any experience with horses. We crossed the field, and their our problems began. My friends horse only wanted to keep climbing up the hill, while mine found a nice patch of grass that it was determined to eat, no matter what. I managed to move from that patch of grass, only to get stopped at another one. There I sat on the horse for about 20 minutes, trying to give it enough time to eat that it might want to cooperate, then leading it a couple of yards before it got frustrated and angry again. Eventually, I saw a couple of friends passing in the distance. I shouted to them for help, and they pulled/led my horse back to where I'd come from. I told our Rapa Nui friends that my friend on the other horse was MIA somewhere up the hill, so one of them jumped on my horse, and without problem went after him. I can't say it was particularly pleasant, sitting nervously on a stubborn horse, but it was certainly an experience.
Our last full day on the island was characterized by torrential rain. Plans to go to the beach were scrapped, so my friends and I took the morning to go Scuba diving. It was way awesome. 10 meters down, swimming among a coral reef, just off the coast of Easter Island. Fantastic. That afternoon, I spent with a couple of friends getting to know some of the Easter Island characters. On the way back from Scuba, we passed a barbecue for Rapa Nui Indepence, just outside a municipal building. They invited us to try some meat, and we ended up talking for a while with one particularly drunk Rapa Nui man. I was a little confused that it was an Independence Day celebration, given that Rapa Nui is a part of Chile, and the people there were of no help-- everyone I asked told me that Rapa Nui always has and always will be independent. We went back to the hotel to grab some lunch, then headed back out to visit our friend who had the horse connection. We played a little chess and just hung out for the rest of the afternoon.
Our last morning in Rapa Nui, everyone scrambled into town for some last minute souvenir shopping, then jumped in the bus to head to the airport. Our bus driver Jimmy has a musical taste that centers on very poppy upbeat electronica, and he seemed to just have one 5-10 song mix that he put on loop, so we all became very familiar with all of the songs. There was one song we all became very attached to, and as we drove up to the airport, he put the song on, and we all went crazy dancing, singing, screaming, and jumping. It was a nice last hurrah before getting on the plane ride.

The ride back wasn't painful (LAN Chile airplanes have the sweet personal touchscreen, and have all of the games and movies and such free) but was a bit sad as people passed around flags for other people to sign, and prepared to say their last goodbyes.

I'm still really liking my new school. The kids are really nice, and it's great that I can actually communicate with them. After school every day, I walk to the Centro with some of my classmates, and then the people who don't have pre-U (college prep classes to help prepare for the big ol' standardized test), mosey around and accompany whoever happens to have errands to run. The other day was student's day which, is basically a condensed, toned-down version of the school's Anniversary. A bunch of little competitions, which was good fun.

My Brazilian friend Breno is leaving tomorrow (as I write this, by the time this is posted, he's probably already gone) and I've taken part in a lot of his goodbye activities. Especially since I now share my room with him-- he moved back in with my family after problems with his second family. Among them were his goodbye party (disappointing atmosphere, but still a fun and very interesting night), and a couple of soccer/barbecue nights with 40-something-year-old men and Breno. One of the two was their farewell to Breno, so instead of doing their typical asado, they did a discada-- a many-meat-mixture cooked in the disc-shaped blade of a harvester. It is unbelievably delicious. It was also a really cool experience just hanging out with a group of Chilean men, seeing how they talk and behave when they're just hanging out with each other. Plus I got to play soccer, which is never bad.

Mostly, as always, I've just been living life. Planning adventures (at the moment, my goodbye party), and adventuring (like a friend's goodbye party in Santo Domingo, or going to the transvestite circus, which was actually quite dreadful). I don't think I'm ready to give up my pace of life. But no matter how easy or hard it is, I'm going to have to say goodbye and I'm going to have get used to living life back in Gringolandia.

three things that are different here

1. Chileans have a different stance on sexuality. For one, PDA is everywhere-- every park and plaza will have some neckin' going on. Also, Chilean TV is way more direct in using sex to draw people in, and after 10 or 11 ( I forget the time) they show everything but genitalia on network TV. Another poignant example would be some of the student's day activities-- among them, a very blatantly sensual dance choreographed by a teacher and a few freshman girls, a game where paper is passed mouth to mouth down a line of 40 some students (if the paper drops, you're kissing), and one competition in which a teams of one guy and one girl competed to "best" pass a tiny gummy candy from mouth to mouth, that is to say, who would have the most passionate kiss in front of the whole school. The fact that Chileans are okay with all of these things is added to by the fact that Chileans are much more physically touchy-- air- kisses on the cheek are given every time a a girl says hi to a girl, to a guy, or even between two guys who are close friends, and no one thinks anything of it. Despite all of this, when there was a debate (given, at my other, more conservative school) on gay marriage, I was the only one in the whole class who willingly argued in favor.

2. When a member of a teacher/administrator's immediate family dies, the whole school gets out. Happened to me the first time the other day. I can't imagine how that works (if they do it) at the really really big schools.

3.The family-owned corner store is not at all dead in Chile. In fact, I live in one (upstairs). If I had to guess, I'd say it has to do with the culture being much less car-centric, but be that or whatever reason, as much as Lider tries to become Walmart, it doesn't seem to be taking over too terribly quickly, if at all.