Una Vida Menos Gringa, Más Chilena | A Life Less American, More Chilean

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Club Hipico in Santiago

The view from new bedroom is fantastic! I can swing open the window, hear the birds chirping and hopping around in the trees, and just a little further see where the city is stopped by the mountains. I’ve been exploring the area surrounding my apartment building, and have not yet been disappointed. The people are friendly, the cars drive more slowly, and it feels much more residential. A few blocks from my front steps are more restaurants than I can count: I’ve tried a few so far but will definitely be adding to my repertoire. There are countless yoga studios within walking distance, and advertisements posted all around for concerts, festivals, and pop-up outdoor markets. And with the long days of summer, there’s plenty of daylight to explore. Yes, I am quite pleased with my new home.

A room with a view in Providencia
A room with a view in Providencia
Resident neighborhood cat
Resident neighborhood cat

My first few days back were challenging, as I felt like I was starting all over again in the city as a new arrival. I missed my friends from the states who were studying here last term, my close friend, JC, went home to Linares, Chile for the summer, and a few of my friends from work have left as well. Not to mention I had just jumped from the middle of winter in the Northeast US to the middle of summer in Santiago. I was having trouble sleeping at night, and trouble focusing during the day. But now, here I am, happily settling into a flexible schedule again and planning things to look forward to for the next 8 weeks (help! That’s no time at all!).

My first Friday back, I was able to meet up with a friend, EP, and check out Club Hipico, a horse racing track in Santiago. His family belongs to the country club next door, and we were able to swim in the pool for a little while before heading over to watch a few races. Best part of the pool? Instead of tented areas or beach umbrellas around the perimeter, there was canopy of grapevines anchored by a palta|avocado tree nearby. We picked some grapes as a post-swim snack and I think my face gave away my excitement: EP started laughing. I had never been to a race before and didn’t understand the whole betting game at all. Luckily, EP has watched more races than he could ever count, as his grandfather used to care for the race horses. We chose a few horses and bet a thousand or so pesos. To clarify, this is only about $3-$4 USD. We’re big spenders! We won one, and lost one, so we broke even and called it a day. For dinner we went to a fantastic pizza place called Tiramisu, in Las Condes, my old barrio|neighborhood. It didn’t disappoint! Chilean food isn’t world-renowned – anyone who’s visited can attest to the healthy dose of mayonnaise and salt that usually accompanies a perfectly nice piece of chicken, burger, hot dog, you name it. So, pizza with fresh arugula, jamón serrano, and manchego cheese? Possibly the best food I’ve had in Chile so far! Paired with a fresh raspberry mojito and I was quite happy with the meal. A few days later, I came across an article by College Tourist titled A Foodie’s Guide to Chile. First one on the list in Santiago? Tiramisu! Good pick, EP, you know good food.

The race track
The race track

My two weeks so far have consisted of work, a trip to Linares, yoga classes, assignments for an online class for Drexel, and hanging out with my roommates and friends from work. Running will work it’s way back in there too once I come to terms with the heat. My roommates have been great at welcoming me, and I’m getting to know their friends as well. I’m very grateful! As good as I am at being alone and doing things on my own, it’s almost always more fun with company. I also have been thinking about trips that I want to take before my co-op ends in mid-March. After some budgeting and drafting travel plans, it looks like I will have the time to visit Chilean Patagonia and hike in Torres del Paine (about as far south as you can go) and possibly San Pedro de Atacama (the desert very far north). Nothing is set as of now, but they’re my goal destinations! I had been wanting to go to Machu Picchu to hike the Inca Trail and make the trek to see the ruins, but flight prices are exorbitant in February and I think it’s best for me to make the most of my time while here in Chile. It wasn’t the easiest thing to come to terms with, but I have.

This past weekend I went to Linares to visit JC and her family. I was so happy to see them!

IMG_4030I arrived just in time for onces|a light dinner and went out with JC and her friends both Friday and Saturday night. On Saturday, we took a trip into the pre-cordillera|foothills to cool off in the river and so that I could see more of the area. The water was bright blue and was just what we needed in the 90F heat!

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Linares and the surrounding area are what JC’s dad calls typical Chilean. It’s farmland, and outside of the central part of Linares, there are fields upon fields and families riding in the backs of pick-up trucks and cowboys and farmers on horses with wide-brimmed hats and ponchos. There are entire communities built to house field and factory workers, and while some are modern and look like suburbs rubbing shoulders with each other, some are scant and bare, with tarped shacks and partially boarded windows.  As much as I wanted to take pictures to share with you, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to hang my head out the window of the car and take pictures of people going about their daily business. It’s strange for me to see such a contrast between the center of Santiago and rest of the country. I’m not sure how it makes me feel: it’s what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around during much of my time here. I acknowledge that this also occurs across the United States, and I think that it is worth noting as well. I have no answers or no profound way to express how I feel about the difference. It’s something I need to think more about.

Drove through the hills surrounding Linares to find a beautiful lake
Drove through the hills surrounding Linares to find a beautiful lake

I’m back in Santiago now and working for the full week. Between a workshop today, my friend’s, SC’s, Masters thesis defense tomorrow, another workshop on Thursday, and a project due by the start of the day on Friday, I’m keeping busy and enjoying myself. I’m finally settled in and am feeling more and more like I live here now, and that I’m not just a tourist. I even gave directions on the Metro today! It’s a small accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless.

To everyone at Drexel, good luck with B-round and Week 3! Here’s a picture of my favorite San Joaquín campus dog to send you out. She’s a sweetheart and keeps me company when I’m able to do work outside.

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