Hola a mi familia y mis amigos!
It is crazy to reflect on how fast time has flown! The past several weeks have been very busy, but I am down to my FINAL WEEK here in Chile.
Over the past several weeks, I have done some traveling, wrapped up classes, and spent lots of time with my friends and host family. Recently, we visited a Mapuche Ruca, where we learned more about this indigenous group in Chile, their traditions, and some of their musical instruments! Afterward, we were treated to a delicious meal of fresh breads and sopaipillas, complete with marmalade and salsas. It was such an educational experience, especially as the fight for indigenous rights has been so prominent in Chilean history.
Most notably, my ‘Gringo Squad’ and I recently spent a long weekend in the Valle de Elqui, about 6 hours north of Valparaíso. We visited La Serena, Pisco Elqui, and the Pingüino de Humboldt National Reserve. Our first stop for the weekend was the Reserve.
We were picked up by a wonderful Ecotourismo group and began the two and a half hour drive north! Before we made our way to the islands of the Reserve, we stopped in the valley to check out some of the wildlife, including guanacos, zorros, and some huge cacti. Then, we made our way to the coast where we hoped in a boat and headed toward Isla Choros, where the penguins live! Unfortunately, due to the time of year, we only found one little penguin, but we also were able to see some pelicans and lobos marinos as we searched! After, we went to Isla Damas, where we were able to disembark and walk around the island! It was absolutely beautiful and the water was so clear! After we left the islands, we were treated to a delicious meal at a local restaurant where we had fresh empanadas and pastel de jaiba, with fresh foods from the sea. We also were able to visit Pisco Elqui, tucked far away in the Valle de Elqui. Here, we visited a pisco distillery of one of the most well-known pisco producers in Chile. We learned all about the process of making pisco and what makes this type of brandy so unique. We enjoyed learning more about Chile and its culture during this weekend away!
ISA wrapped up our time here with a Farewell Lunch celebration where we feasted on some of our Chilean favorites, empanadas and sopaipillas! We also played some games (My team won TWICE!) and danced to both Latin music and music from the US. It was a wonderful party to close out our semester with ISA! The Gringo Squad even made the ISA Chile’s Facebook page!
Last week, my host mom and grandmother left for Germany as mom’s daughter is having her first child! I am so excited for the time they get to spend there, but was very said when they left. My host family has been one of the most treasured parts of my time here in Chile. I cannot express how much they mean to me, and how much love they have shown me over the past four and a half months.
Going into my finals days, I am hoping to be able to spend as much time in my city as I can with the wonderful friends I have grown so close to over the past semester. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin to pack, finish my classes, and say my goodbyes before heading home next Saturday! I cannot wait to be home in the States, but Chile will definitely have a special place in my heart.