Luckily for you, there is no stronger power in the universe to a college student than procrastination. And since I have a 2 page paper for one class due tomorrow and a 4 pager for another due the day after (and both have to be, naturally, in Spanish), I can't think of a better time to blog! Since I do have a lot of ground to cover (read: an entire semester) I'm going to break this post up by month AND anecdote. I hope you'll take the time to read to the end, or at least thoroughly skim it!
Off we go...
Actually, we're gonna start just a few days before the month began. Just a few days after I published my first blog post from Chile I decided to go to the movies with two of my new friends. We found a film we wanted to see, arranged a time to meet, and made our way to the movie theater in one of Viña's various shopping malls. The movie began without much hassle, and we were all sitting back and enjoying the mishaps of Cameron Diaz when suddenly we heard a low rumbling sound. At first we assumed it was just noise carrying over from the action movie in the next room, but when our seats started to shake back and forth we realized what was going on: We were experiencing an earthquake! None of us were all too sure what to do, but we figured being in the middle of the theater probably wasn't the safest place to be. We hurriedly gathered up our things and made it to the doors just as the ground stopped moving beneath our feet.
With none of being from seismically active places, none of us really knew exactly what to do at this point. We weren't quite sure how big it really was, if we needed to evacuate to the hills, if we needed to be afraid of a tsunami coming and swallowing us into the depths of the ocean. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that we should all head home before we started panicking too badly. When I got back to my house, everything was dark. I made my way inside and ran into everyone sitting in the kitchen, where they told me everything was fine. Sure, the power was going to be out for a few hours and cellular providers were going to be overloaded for a while, but I had nothing to worry about.
Since then we've had a few more temblors, but nothing that's shaken us up quite as much. Most of them tend to happen in the wee hours of the morning, and I generally more or less sleep through them without waking.
Wandering the Desert
September came soon enough after that, and with September came Chile's fiestas patrias. The national holiday that happens here on September 18th is similar to the USA's 4th of July, with fireworks and flags and barbecues, except for one major thing: This celebration lasts for an entire week! Since we had off of school for a sort of spring break my friends and I decided to make the 22 hour bus trip to the Atacama desert to spend a week exploring!
We arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, and immediately we realized that if we were going to be able to see the most possible we were going to have to book tours. (Originally we had thought about doing things on our own, but when you feel that sun and see the vast stretches of nothing you realize you should leave some things to the professionals). Thanks to some bolder members of our group giving their hand at haggling, we managed to book a tour a day for the entire week.
And so we adventured. We floated in icy salt lakes, jumped into deep pools in the middle of the desert, watched flamingos fly across an aquamarine sky, saw the Andes reflected in glassy salt flats, experienced the sunset setting the mountains ablaze with shades of red and orange, and marveled at unparalleled views of the milky way in a pitch black sky. We managed to eat our weight in AMAZING roasted chicken and artisanal ice cream, and if anyone is planning on heading to San Pedro I'll hook you up with the best food on a tight budget.
On one of the days, though, disaster struck! Well, maybe not disaster, but certainly misfortune. We woke up before dawn to make the trip to see geysers high, high in the mountains. We were all struggling with the weather (it was literally freezing), but none of us were really feeling the effects of the altitude. Our tour guides decided to treat us to something special after the freezing cold of the volcanic field, so we ended up at a thermal river where the water was exquisitely hot. After enjoying the warmth for a few hours we decided it was time to get out. However, as soon as I stood up I was hit with a wave of malaise. I felt sick to my stomach, dizzy, and all together awful. Much to my dismay, I was experiencing altitude sickness for the first time in my life. Our tour guides were very helpful, and they gave me oxygen from a can and told me to hold tight because we were going to a village where they would have a special tea from coca leaves that would cure me. We arrived at the village, and I gulped down the tea hoping to get well as soon as possible. But I wasn't expecting the foul taste that came with it, and next thing I knew I was making a break for the bathroom. But our guides were right, it did cure me in the end, and the rest of the trip passed without a hitch. (Except for almost missing the bus home because my alarm ended up on silent...)
The Real Chile
The day after I got back from San Pedro I was back on a bus. Thankfully for me, this time it was only for about 2 hours as I headed to the town of Los Andes to celebrate the 18th with my friend Daniella and her family! Since I hadn't yet had the chance to experience the true spirit of the holiday, they graciously invited me to their home for the weekend to see what it was like. And what I learned is that the fiestas patrias can be summed up in one word: FOOD.
It's a week of eating and drinking all day, every day. The grill could never be empty, your glass could never be dry, and your plate could never be clean. If you stopped eating you were instantly bombarded with questions on what was wrong and why you didn't want more. You ate until you were stuffed to the gills, and then you ate some more, and I absolutely LOVED it.
I brushed up on my skills at dominoes, brushed up on my spanish, and brushed up on what it was like to be surrounded by family (even if they weren't technically my own). It was a lovely weekend, and they let me know that I was welcome to come back any time I wanted.
You don't really know them until...
At the start of the month, I was asked if I wanted to go to see Chile play Peru at the soccer stadium in Valparaiso, and my answer was obviously yes. So one evening my friend and I painted our nails with little Chilean flags, donned every patriotic item we could find (I chose my La Liga jersey from Costa Rica because it's lucky), and grabbed the bus to the stadium. When we got there it was madness. People every where selling every piece of merchandise you could ask for, from flags to hats to vuvuzelas. Everyone was already chanting and singing, and not a peruvian jersey was in sight. The energy was infectious, and soon I was just as excited as the most die hard Alexis Sanchez fanatic.
We finally made it into the stadium, and I learned that you don't really know someone until you've seen them at a sports game. I learned new songs, new cheers, and new words about people's mothers that I'm never going to repeat. Chile ended up winning, and all was right with the world.
After what seems like an eternity, I finally became old enough to go to a bar with my friends and have a drink. The big 2-1! Woo! Which was a HUGE deal, right? With a bar crawl and shots and falling asleep hugging a toilet bowl? Well, not so much, because Chile (like pretty much the entire world) has it's drinking age at 18. How anticlimactic. However, I wasn't about to let that deter me. If being 21 only mattered in the USA, I was about to have the most American birthday ever at the most American restaurant Viña del Mar has to offer: Ruby Tuesdays.
That's right, on my big night I invited all my friends to join me at a mediocre chain restaurant and it was AWESOME. I got myself a big BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger and the most American drink on the menu, a star-spangled-rita, and at the end of the meal I got a piece of cake with a candle in it and the whole restaurant sang to me. It was everything I could have wanted, and my amazing friends made sure I didn't have to pay for a penny of it. At the end of the night I walked home, crawled into bed, and had a lovely birthday skype date with my pololo before falling asleep fully content and full of hope for the year ahead.
Don't cry for me (in) Argentina
Due to a combination of factors, I don't have a student visa. The only problem that this presents in the long run is that every 90 days I have to leave the country in order to renew my tourist status. A few of us in the same boat decided that we would take this opportunity to get to know the nearby city of Mendoza, Argentina one weekend. Once again I was back on a bus, and before I knew it I was in a whole other country. Although close in distance, Mendoza had a totally different culture from Chile. It's a little hard to describe, but it was very interesting to experience.
I was only really there for one full day, but boy was that day exciting! We booked a tour through the hostel and set off to see some vineyards and an olive oil factory. All were very interesting, and of course ALL came with tastings. By the time we made it back to the hostel we were very happy and "happy", if you catch my drift. Later that night we headed out for a steak dinner, which was everything Argentinian steak dinners are cracked up to be. $20 got me a soda, part of a bottle of wine, a side salad, and a HUGE delicious bife de chorizo. The weekend went by too quickly, but you can bet I'll be back again before this year is done!
What have I missed?
Of course, that's not everything that I've done in the past 2 months. Here are some other random little things from my life.
- I've been surfing twice! This brings my grand total up to 3, with one of them being in Hawaii. I can definitely say that it's easier in the warm waters of the tropics where you can actually feel your feet as you try to get up on the board (as opposed to in the arctic, wetsuit obligatory waters at Playa la Boca in Con-Con.
- I went to see a Chilean acquaintance defend her thesis, and after learning that she passed she promptly got tossed into the pool in the center of the university with everyone watching.
- I finally made it to Santiago for the first time since the airport incident. We went to a human rights museum, and then promptly lightened the mood with a trip to one of the largest malls in South America.
- I sang Whitney Houston. At a karaoke bar. In front of EVERYONE. Sober.
I think that about sums it up for now. There are only a few weeks before I'm back in the USA for Christmas, and it's scary how fast the time has flown. I've made a huge list of the countries I want to visit next. School is going well, I've been working hard at the gym, and it's finally warm enough for shorts and t-shirts most days. (It's funny when the Christmas decorations and bikinis arrive in the department stores at the same time). I PROMISE to post something to close the semester, at the very least.
PS, My charming boyfriend keeps bugging me to write about him. So I am. Happy now, love?