Thursday, March 19, 2009


For the weekend we made the three hour trip south to visit the Parcela, which is the family´s second house. Parcelas are very common for the middle class. It´s generally a weekend or summer home in the country that people use to escape. The house didn´t have a TV. It was all about family time and relaxing. Everywhere you looked there were huge green mountains.

Our Parcela was in a gated community with a bunch of other Parcelas. It had a pool and a big garden full of all different kinds of fruits and nuts that we picked to bring back home. It´s two minutes away from a lake and my family had a waver rider and a kayak that we could use there. Two minutes away in the other direction was a country club with wi-fi and all types of playing fields and a really big pool.

The town that the Parcela was in was run down, but in an enjoyable way, and when I say enjoyable I mean for visiting not living. For instance, the grocery store was very small with the metal shelves you can buy at Home Depot holding the food. The entrance had swinging doors like you see in saloons in the movies. In one corner there was a bunch of kitchen wares and other random stuff that you wouldn´t expect to find in a grocery store. It felt more like a garage sale. When we drove around we passed a soccer field. The goals were minitaure with no nets. On the road, tons of people were also riding around on horses. It was different in a way that was cute and made you smile.

My favorite part of the weekend was when we went to go pick up lunch at a ¨restaurant.¨ My Mama called ahead so that the food would be hot and ready for us when we arrived. But it was not your typical restaurant. The kitchen and tables were both outside and nothing matched, but it had the most delicious food. There was an outdoor oven, like the ones they use to make pizza, I forget what it´s called and they specialized in making homemade bread. We bought empanadas with homemade bread, tortillas that were homemade, everything homemade and everything was delicious. The lady saw how elated I was about the bread, since it is one my favorite foods, and gave me an extra warm slice right on the spot for free. I was in heaven.


We saved a cat´s life! Right as we were driving out of the Parcela to go home we noticed something moving in the woods. There was a fence made with strings of metal with spurs on it that were connected by two pieces of wood, it was the type of fence used to keep horses in, but in this case it had trapped a cat. The poor little kitten had it´s skin caught on one of the spurs and was just sitting there panting in the blistering 90 degree heat.
We rushed out of the car and my brother was able to unhook it from the fence without doing anymore harm. As soon as he did, the mother appeared and started licking the kitty where the wound was. You could tell she was so happy that he was okay. Then the brothers and sisters of the cat appeared. It was the most adorable thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There are four meals in a day. Breakfast is before school and generally something light like cereal, an apple, yogurt, or cereal and yogurt. (My initial reaction to my brother putting fruit yogurt was his chocolate cereal, think Coco Puffs, was ?!?!?!??!WHY?!?! I haven´t been brave enough to try it yet.) Lunch is anywhere between 1-4 from 5-7 is Onces which is some type of snack and dinner is from 9:30-11.

Everyone loves avocados. They´ll eat it with anything. Today, I had a hot dog, twice the size of my face, smothered in avocado. It was really weird, especially since I´m not that big of a fan of avocados to begin with.

The best place for ice cream in Bravissimo. It´s home made and extremely rich, triple churned so that when they scoop it it´s already mushed in that creamy way. Sooooooooo good :D

Chile definitely lives up to it´s reputation for fresh food when it comes to fruits and vegetables. There is a notable taste difference.

If you like to drink Chile is known wine and Pisco. Everyone keeps asking me if i´ve tried Pisco yet. It´s seems to be the drink of choice for all the young people I don´t know about the adults. They said that it was especially common and delicious to mix Pisco with Coca-Cola so that it becomes Piscola.

The other thing that´s big here is Manjar. It´s like the Nutella of Chile. They make cookies out of it and cakes and all other kinds of deserts. It´s pretty good, but something you have to get used to. We just celebrated my brother´s birthday and the cake he got was made from manjar but it has million of layers of bread, i think it was bread, so that it was flaky.

Here a sanwich isn´t eaten for a meal, but for a snack. Typically, Pan con Pollo is the most popular. That means bread with chicken. Cheeses is also commonly added. They cook it in the microwave so that it´s perfectly hot and delicious.

Public Transportation

Is excellent in Chile. Everyday my siblings and I take the bus to school, which costs roughly $400 one way depending on where you´re going. We also take it to get wherever we want to go since Mama y Papa work all day.
When I got here, I called the bus el bus, but the Chileans created another name for it as they do for so many other things. El Micro. The Micro is an adventure every single time. It begins by you standing outside, you can get on the bus at any point on the road all you have to do is stick your finger out liek you´re point at something. All the conductors have a preference for driving, but the norm is for them to go a million miles per hour without caring about the comfort of the passengers. It´s like they´re in a Nascar race or trying to drive away from a Tsunami. You need to hold on for dear life since there are no seatbelts and if you don´t, when they turn around the corner you will fall on the floor. When you pay for the bus, the conductor does it while he is still driving, stickshift. While he´s coming up with your change you ending up watching the road for him. They also have the same system ticket checking system as Europe. You don´t have to buy a ticket, but if the police come on and ask for it and if you don´t have one then you get a large fine so it´s better to just buy it in the first place.

Today, I had a very interesting ride to school. I knew it was going to be good when the micro pulled up and the outside had all these special lights. The driver most have watched a lot of Pimp My Ride because he had certainly pimped out his bus. The inside had all these neon lights instead of the awful fluorescent ones. There were air fresheners hanging from the ceiling all over the place and he had installed a crazy sound system that blasted Reggaeton and Hip-Hop, keep in mind it was 7 o´clock in the morning, and had synchronized red, blue, and white lights around the bus. My sister was mortified when I told the conductor that I liked his bus and started calling it the fiesta micro and bobbing my head to music. I want to take that bus to school everyday.

There are also buses that go long distances like the one I took from Santiago to Viña. They look like ants from the outside because the mirrors that are normally on the side of the car extend in front like antennas. The buses are also nicer than the Decamp ones we have at home. They all have TVs that play shows for your entertainment during the ride and depending on how full the bus is you have an assigned seat like and airplane.

P.S. The next day the fiesta micro happened to be running the same route again in front of our house. The conductor recognized us and asked for my name and phone number. He got a lie for the name and no answer for the phone number.


I love going to the bank here. The exchange rate makes me feel so good. The first time I exchanged money was at the airport so that I would have a bit of cash when I arrived, just in case. Apparently is was a rip off, but not in my opinion. I gave them $20 and got back $10000. Amazing! So when I go the bank to get money out of my account I can easily leave with hundreds of thousands of dollars. And since the Chileans use the dollar sign for their money too, I always think of how much something is worth in American dollars before converting it to the actual amount in Pesos. When we went to McDonald´s the Big Mac cost $1500. I started cracking up. I don´t know if America can be called the land of opportunity anymore. It´s a lot easier to become a millionaire here.


CAUTION: when using the bathroom DO NOT put the toilet paper in the toilet. Instead, dispose of it in the trash can besides the toilet. Most of the water systems cannot handle the extra waste and will get clogged if you do put it in, which can cause very embarrassing accidents.


Before you even attempt to go to Chile, erase the word escuela from your street vocabulary. It is never ever ever ever used here. Instead, there is colegio, which is primary school and goes until you´re seventeen, and universidad after that, which is equivalent to our college.
School works every differently here. I don´t know where to begin to explain it it´s so complicated. In colegio there are four different levels of ¨high school,¨ but you finish with school a year earlier than in the US, so graduation is when you´re seventeen. Each level has three classes, I guess you could call them home rooms, named A, B, or C. I am in III B. So, the third level class B.
In the school day, you have some classes with your homeroom class and then electives, which will include people from the other classes. What your electives are is based on what track you choose for Colegio/High School. There is Math, Science, Art, and Humanistic. Whatever track you choose, all your electives have something to do with that subject so that you´re really focusing in on it. To me, this doesn´t make sense. Here, if you decide to take Biology you have to take Biology again with your class so you learn the same thing twice. It´s very weird and not very effective in my opinion. The way the elective/track/whatever you call it schedule leaves me with 15 classes or so in one week. That´s a lot of different notebooks.
When I originally started corresponding with my family, an immediate question was how many classes I had and they said something like 19 in one week. I couldn´t even comprehend how that was possible, but after going through it myself I can give a pretty good break down of how it workds. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday school goes till 5 o´clock. In the morning you have four classes, three of them take two periods, each period is 45 minutes, and the fourth only lasts for one period. Between the big block classes you have about a 15 minute break where you can roam around or go buy a snack. Lunch is at 1:45 and for an hour. After lunch, there are three more class. One is two periods and the last is only one. On Thursday and Friday school ends at 1:45 and you go home for lunch. I think that´s my favorite part. I don´t think I could handle going to school for 5 days a week till 5. That´s two more hours than normal and we always start at eight.
Some other things about school that should be noted:
-NOBODY every pays attention. In class they´re on their phones, or drawing, or talking and there´s no punishment for this. You just do what you want. I really do think it´s because the classes are so long. I can´t sit there for an hour and a half with no break without getting antsy and loosing my patience and that´s not just because the class is in Spanish and I don´t understand, it´s everyone. The way the kids act seems very disrespectful to me especially for a region of the world that is known for respecting their elders by having a whole verb form that´s used for addressing an elder. For example, today we had physics and we were learning about vectors except it was one of those periods where no one cared enough to pay attention. The poor teacher seemed so sad. He just stood in front of the class, his lesson plan written on the board not knowning what to do. Or he was standing there waiting for everyone to notice he was upset and get quiet, which works with some teachers, but in his case it was a total fail.
-The relationship between the teachers and students is very different. They always hug and kiss each other. My first day was really weird. I didn´t know what to do when I was introduced to my professors. It´s an oddly friendly ideal for me, since in the US it would be considered awful for an adult to touch a child, especially a student. The teachers also tend to know a lot about your personal life.
-When the kid wants the attention of the teacher they whineSeññññññññor or Profeeeee without raising their hands.
-It´s common for the students to complain about what we´re doing or whether or not the light should be on blah blah blah Someone´s always unhappy.
-The only foreign language option is English. There are four different levels for each grade depending on how good you are. When I went to the class that was the best they were learning about AIM slang. LOL! :)
-The buzzer for classes is more is more like your phone being on vibrate and projecting that noise into a megaphone so everyone can hear it. It lasts for about a minute.
-THE CAFETERIA FOOD IS SO GOOD. It´s a delicious home cooked meal everyday and everything is fresh. Plus, they use actual plates, glasses, and silverwear. I love it. Your food is prepaid before the year starts so all you have to do is go through the line to get your drink, desert, and main meal. All of which are served to you.
-They don´t have textbooks for any classes.
-Math class is very different. The professor just writes problems on the board and we try to do them and then we do them all together since nobody in the class can do them alone because they´re ridiculously hard. An example would be (and this is one of the easier one because i don´t know how to write some of the other out on a computer) m-3(m+n)+(-(-(-2m+n-2-3(m-n+1))+m)) If you want the answer let me know.
- I do go to a Catholic school. So every morning the President and Vice President of the class go to the front and say what I think is the Spanish version of the the Lord´s Prayer. They then ask if anyone has anything that they´d like them to pray for. It´s a really nice way to hear about what´s going on in other people´s lives and what´s a touchy subject.
-You need to wear your uniform everyday and there are four people whos job is solely to go around and make sure that people are wearing their uniform. They´re called inspectors.
-The school has kids from Pre-K to ¨Seniors¨

I think that might be everything. I think.

(Above is a picture of my class)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

La Casa

I wasnt sure what to expect of my host family´s home. Obviously if they could host an exchange student they would at least have to be Middle Class, but I didn´t know what Middle Class was in Chile. I was pretty sure it wouldn´t be like the United States where the Middle Class often enjoy big houses with big lawns. What I found was a house located on top of a HUGE hill that is very comfortable although not huge. The first floor has the kitchen, dining room, living room, and a bathroom. The second floor has my bedroom, the parents bedroom, my brother´s bedroom, and two bathrooms. The third floor is one room, which my brother and sister are sharing while I´m here. That´s it. I like everthing being on the smaller side, it´s nice for things to be simple and not the regular super sized styled of the US. It also really makes me want to keep my room clean so I can have some space to walk around. We do have a pool, which is tiny and takes up the whole backyard and some kind of frontyard. It´s supposed to be a drive way so it´s half concrete and half grass, but the family doesn´t use it as a driveway and instead opts to park the car half on the curb, half in the street. The house does feel too small at times. Like there´s no place to escape to, but as the AFS motto goes: It´s not good, it´s not bad, it´s just different (very different).


The information I got told me I was going to be living in Viña del Mar, but for me that was a pretty broad generalization. For all I knew that could have been going to some farm in the middle of nowhere. So whenever I met a Chilean I jumped at the opportunity to ask them what they knew about Viña. Their reactions were very good. Normally it would be a gasp, followed by ¨You´re so lucky!¨or ¨I´m so jealous!¨ Viña is a city of about 700,000 people so it´s big enough that you don´t know everyone, but it´s easy to know your way around. The name means Vineyard by the Sea and it´s one of the most beautiful places I´ve ever seen. I don´t think it´s possible for anyone to be unhappy here. Everyone lives withing minutes of the beach and the sky is always blue. It also has a mall (YAY!) and tons of restaurants. It´s a common vacation spot for families living in other parts of Chile. The best way I can describe it is the Miami of Chile. Around Viña there are several cities. Each one has it´s own unique characteristics. I´ve only been able to make it to Valpariso, but you can immediately see a difference. Valpariso is a place for the working class and a little more dumpier than Viña, which is more touristy. At the same time Valpariso is full of life and color and according to one friend has the best night life. However, it´s also the type of place that you need to visit with a group of friends and not alone.


I knew I was going to be alright when we arrived at the bus depot and saw the families clustered together waiting for us. The anticipation on their faces plus the nervousness of the kids on the bus heightened all of our emotions as we were told to wait for everyone else on the bus to deboard first. Most of the kids had their faces glued to the glass of the windows, looking for their new families and waving to them. I think we all were kind of afraid that we wouldn´t recognize the people that were temporarily adopting us, even after spending hours on end examining their photos and the short descriptions they gave us about themselves. Every kid has some fears lurking in the back of their minds going into an exchange program. They fear that they won´t like their family, or their family won´t like them, or they´ll get placed in a bad town, school, etc, I could go on for days, but when I got a chance to look out that window and see my family I knew it was a well made match and I would quickly come to love them. They had a big yellow sign waiting for me that read ¨Bienvenido a Chile Analisa¨(Welcome to Chile Analisa) and three star balloons that were red, white, and blue. A man came on the bus and explained that we would get off one by one so that there wouldn´t be too much chaos and they could take pictures of us first meeting our families, of course the group elected me to go first. I put my backpack on my shoulder and walked out. The second I stepped out everyone burst into smiles, including me. My host mother was beaming and literally jumping up and down while all the others called my name and ambushed me with hugs and kisses. It was the perfect welcome and the start of many wonderful memories.