Buenos tardes a todos!
It’s hard to believe I have already been in Chile for 11 days! Time is moving so fast, but I am enjoying every moment of it. This past week, we had orientation activities for school, which begins on Wednesday, and tours of some locations of interest in the Viña-Valpo area! I also applied for and will receiving my official Chilean ID within the next few weeks! This week I really enjoyed being able to explore my home for the next four months and spending time with mi familia chilena.
In Viña, we visited the beach (where I set foot in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life!), the sand dunes of Concón, and a market downtown for a taste of tourism in this city. In Valparaíso, we rode on ascensores (elevator-like machines that take you to the top of the steep hills) and witnessed some incredible views of the coast! We also walked through the streets to take in all of the beautiful graffiti that Valpo is famous for, such as the “We are not hippies, we are happies” artwork! It was incredible to see this expression of art as something positive rather than the negative stigma that surrounds the graffiti that we tend to see in the United States. One of the highlights of our touring in Valpo was our boat ride in the ocean! We were able to see wild Sea Lions and gigantic cargo ships that export Chilean products, such as wine, avocados, and grapes.
I am also very excited to get stated as as student at PUCV! After a test to determine which level of Spanish classes are best suited for me, I chose classes for this semester, including a Spanish Communication and Chilean Culture class, Economic Development of Latin America, and 20th Century Chilean Poetry. I am ready to start school and get into a routine. I will not have class on Fridays, which is exciting as I will have the opportunity to attend almost all of the excursions that my organization, ISA, has to offer! Next Friday, for example, we will be visiting a cementerio and ex carcel in Valpo, with a trip to the playas del norte (northern beaches) following this excursion on Saturday!
I have been enjoying my time and conversations with my family. My head is still adjusting to Spanish, but I am finding myself to be understanding significantly more than what I was understanding 11 days ago! I am hoping that my conversation class will help me to be more proficient at responding in conversations with my family and friends. I have been experiencing a little bit of culture shock, but not enough to bring down my spirits! It is different for someone who grew up in a small-town, rural part of Pennsylvania to adjust to living in the city. Public transportation is a new experience, but I think I have the metro system pretty well figured out and have not had any problems…yet! Protests are also a consistent part of Chilean life. As I walked out of the metro station to meet my friend for a trip to the beach last night, I ran into an environmental protest! I was not expecting that at the top of the metro station’s stairs! Time is also so laid back here. It was nice to take the time to walk along the boardwalk and the pier in Viña and just relax after a crazy week! I even had sea shells braided into my hair!
Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin classes this coming week and that I will continue to enjoy my time here in Chile. I miss my family and friends with all of my heart, but feel very at peace in Viña! I am hoping that feeling will continue through the start of classes.