Buenos tardes! Good afternoon!
Time sure is flying! As of today, I have exactly two more months left of my study abroad experience; and as of last week, we passed the halfway point of being in Chile and are quickly approaching our return to the States. I am definitely looking forward to going home and seeing my friends and family, but I am also enjoying every day here in my Latin American home!
April has been a busy month here in Chile and it is hard to believe that it is almost over already! To begin, I was able to experience Easter a little differently than what I am used to back in the States. Like most Latin American countries, the primary religion of Chile is Catholicism; therefore, Semana Santa (Holy Week) holds extra significance throughout the culture. I attended a wonderful worship service at my church, Iglesia Unión Cristiana, on Thursday night and a communion service on Sunday morning. Though I was sad to be missing out on my home church’s Easter service, I loved both services and absolutely loved being able to worship with my Chilean brothers and sisters! On Saturday, thanks to my absolutely wonderful host mom, I was able to host a little Easter get-together at our house in Viña del Mar! My gringo friends came over and we made some Kraft Mac and Cheese (thank you, Katie!), pigged out on junk food and Easter candy, and dyed eggs with my host brother. It was a blast! We really enjoyed being able to do something together that we normally do at home with our families in the States and sharing it with my Chilean family.
Another big event that happened last week was the Chilean Census! Almost everything in Chile was shut down and volunteers came door to door to get the information they need. The last census held in 2012 is said to have had issues due to inaccuracies in its methodology, and so the importance of this year’s census was highly emphasized by Chile. I am so excited, as I am officially included in this year’s census! As I am technically a resident of Chile and living with my host family full-time, I am part of the Guardia household!
As always, we also had the opportunity to attend some great excursions organized by ISA, our study abroad organization! We visited the third and final house of Pablo Neruda in Isla Negra, which also happens to be the resting place of Neruda and his wife, Matilde Urrutia. The view here was absolutely incredible, as well as the house in which parts of the house are modeled after a boat and a train! Following Isla Negra, we went to Pomaire, an artisan village, where we ate a kilo (2 lb.) empanada and checked out the artisan’s merchandise! The following week we got to tour the National Congress Building, which is located just a few blocks away from my school in Valparaíso. Here we saw several rooms of importance to the Chilean government and learned about the inner-workings of Congress.
I have also been enjoying exploring the area around where I am living this semester! Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go with Valparadise Experience to hike at Laguna La Luz! From a distance, we took in the views of Salto del Agua, a beautiful waterfall that we actually got the chance to go to the top of! It was absolutely incredible and worth all of the soreness I am feeling today. My gringo friends and I have also been craving American foods a lot recently. We have found the most amazing pizzeria in Valparaíso and tend to get ice cream more than once a week!
My classes continue to go well and I am learning more and more everyday! I have especially been excited as I am realizing just how far I have come since February in my ability to understand and speak conversational Spanish with Chileans. It has been quite an encouragement as I begin to wrap up this experience! It is also crazy to think that friends and family back home are almost finished with their school year, and I still have until the end of June! I am especially thinking of my Messiah friends as they are heading into finals next week. With 62 more days to go, I am looking forward to seeing what else Chile has in store for me!