Monday, August 31, 2009

The Perfect Leaf

I have to publish something quick before I'm stuck with the number 13 on the month of August forever. Today I stepped on the perfect dried leaf. Everything about it was ideal. First off, it was a surprise. Second, it's size was impeccable (about the size of my fist). And third, the crunch sound was flawless. I even stopped to look back at its remains because I couldn't believe just how awesome the event was. I'm glad I have this joyous occasion recorded...and I'm even more glad that August will have 14 rather than 13 posts. (14 is my favorite number and I don't like 13 because it's supposedly unlucky!)

Of course the one time I forget...

I love going home from school because I love walking around the neighborhood and I also love walking home to a delicious meal. I was already hungry when I left for my 12:45 class today, and I was excited because I smelled the wonderful chicken meal mi madre was making as I walked out the door. I joke around with other kids in the program how we're like dogs walking home. Let me explain. There is an episode of the Office where Jim trains Dwight to salivate whenever he hears the "ding" sound of Jim's computer. The other students and I laugh about how we start to "salivate" as we walk home. Today I was so excited to just go home and eat lunch. But something stood in the way of my desires: for the first time ever, I had forgot my keys. Normally, mi madre is home, but of course today was an exception. This happens on occasion, and whenever she isn't home for lunch, she makes me a beautiful plate of food protected with saran wrap. It was torture to picture my food sitting alone and delicious. I sat and read for a while waiting for mi familia, but I couldn't hack the wait.

So, today I discovered how difficult it is to break into my house; so difficult that it's flirting with impossible. There is at least a five foot leap of faith to get on the tin-thin roof on one side, and the other side is barred by spikes from heck. At one point I thought about going through the window, but even that is protected by bars. Ugh.

Finally, I plucked up my courage and decided to ask a neighbor for help (after I looked up the words "jump" and "fence" in my dictionary). The neighbor was very friendly, and even though we couldn't understand each other, she did pull out a step ladder to help me get over the fence. Yeah! It was an unexpected adventure that taught me to never, NEVER forget mis llaves!

See what I was dealing with? I think you understand why I didn't want to mess with the spikes.

Decorative bars on the window; and my precious keys that I forgot. Never again I tell ya!

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

One Month Mark

Yesterday, August 29th, was my "One Month Mark" in Chile. Wow, one month. It seems like I've been here much longer than a month because I feel like I've grown up and learned SO much since July 29th. My growth chart contains struggles, triumphs, laughs (a vast majority of which I share in my head with myself and I), surprises, and valuable life lessons that would be difficult to even begin explaining. *Oh, and I guess I've learned a few things about Spanish as well.*

I had this idea of taking a picture the 29th of every month while I'm here to celebrate and to have a visual representation of time passing. I would hold up one finger for one month, two fingers for two months, and so on. The only problem is that I totally forgot. So, just imagine that Dania is holding up just one finger instead of all of them. This pic is with my sisters in front of our casa enjoying the sun. Ah, what a life.

I Love to See the Temple

On Friday I had the opportunity to travel go to the Santiago Temple with a Vina Ward and do Baptisms. It was a wonderful experience. I did the work for the bisabuela (great-grandmother) de mi padre y I got a very small taste of how much some people have to sacrifice to get to the Temple. The Denver Temple only 20 minutes away, and the Provo and Rexburg the Temples are within walking distance. We went to Santiago via bus, and it took two hours each way, so it's an all day commitment to go to the Temple (I was gone from 12:30 p.m. - 10:15 p.m.). I thoroughly enjoyed the Santiago Temple and I love that I felt the same way inside this Temple as I do others. The Church most certainly is true.

The Santiago, Chile Temple: a small, but beautiful Temple nonetheless.

Before and after pictures of the Ward . As you can see in the lack of sunlight in the second pic, it took a long time to do work for everyone in the group (and I was perfectly happy to spend so much time at the Temple).
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

They're On To Something Here

I love the dumpsters in town. They are so cool. You don't need to touch the lid to put your trash inside. All you have to do is put your foot at the lever at the bottom which lifts the lid for you. It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant I tell ya! I'm totally bringing this phenomenon back to the States...

Back to the Past

If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be a little kid again, or how it would feel to be back in middle school, then sign up to be a foreign exchange student. Really. I feel like I’ve relived the ages 3-19 since I’ve come to Chile. The first couple of days I felt like a toddler because I never knew what was going on. My life consisted of sleeping (recovering from a month of AFY and jetlag), eating, and more sleeping. My familia would explain where we were going before our outings, but all I understood was, “vamos.” I totally felt like a little kid again just getting in the car because everyone else was and sitting content in the back seat looking around. It was fun because every destination, whether it was the market or bank, was a surprise to me.

More recently I feel like I’m in elementary or middle school. I (try) to tell mi familia everything about my day: school, friends, activities. The other day Emily, Holli and I wanted to make cookies and didn’t really know how to go about it. We didn’t know which of our madres would be the most “okay” with it. The next day Emily said, “I asked my mom, and she said you can come over on Friday to make cookies!” I just had to laugh out loud at this. I’ve been away at college for the last two years, and I totally forgot about what it was like to ask mom if and when I could have friends over.

Another change I went through upon arrive in Chile is going without a cell phone because Verizon doesn’t work down here. *I have a secret confession. One of the things I’m most excited for when I return to the states is listening to what I call the “Mystery Voicemail.” I received a voicemail on my phone when I was waiting in the Toronto Airport, but I couldn’t open it for some reason. Ten bucks says it’s my dad saying, “Abby. This is dad. Call me.” But all the same, I look forward to when I can listen to the mystery message…*

But, back to Chile, it felt so strange to have no way to call anyone or for them to call me unless I gave them mi madre’s number. The first week or so I kept getting “phantom vibrations” thinking someone was calling me. But my sister Giselle got a new phone, and mi familia presented me her old phone. I was so excited! I felt so cool to have a cell phone. Granted, I only have six numbers in my phone and I keep forgetting it in my room, but it’s a phone nonetheless. It gives me flashbacks because there is no T9 texting, and I can’t figure out basic things like sound setting. I actually don’t call people much because I pay for the calling card, and every call I make costs me money (but it doesn’t cost money to receive calls, so we always say, "you call me," catchi).

Giselle presenting me with my very own cell phone. It was a joyous moment that the everyone (even the cat) gathered for. Happy day.

The times that I feel like an adult are when I talk about traveling. I tell mi familia about possible trips to Argentina or Peru, and they listen to me and take me seriously. I know I can do it and I do have some solidified trips lined up, but I can't believe they take me serious enough to trust me traveling around South America. They've heard my Spanish. They know how bad I am. So, even though I may feel like a kid around them most the time, I love that they treat me like I'm adult that has things all figured out. Bacan!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Palacio Rioja and Quilpue

Last Friday Emily, Holli, and I set out for some adventures in Vina. We began with the Palacio Rioja, which is just down the street from the Stake Center. It was neat to see the fancy interior of the early 1900s building, but my favorite part was the information packet's English translation. Being an editor and perfectionist at heart, it truly made me cringe to read sentences like, "he was the found of this area in 1907." Ugh. Simply dreadful. But it made me wonder if English to Spanish translations were just as bad. After the Palacio we went to the Mall, and I was quite impressed. It's pretty big and I thought it was interesting how there was a grocery store inside. That evening we went to Quilpue via Micro (the cheap bus) with our Chilean friend Raul and I have to admit that we feel really cool having an authentic Chilean around us gringas. It was a day full of learning and laughs.

I was just thinking about how much I wanted to play my violin when I saw a man at the Metro Station with one. He was kind enough to let me play his violin, but now I lose sleep at night because I forgot to give him some money as a token for my gratitude...

Holli and I in front of the Palacio Rioja.

Me, Holli, and Emily

On our way to the mall we walked past a huge Catholic church with open gates. There was an opera type song playing and the church was full of people. We had no idea what was going on. Holli and Emily felt uncomfortable and went to stand outside, but I went to a pew and discovered that it was was a funeral service. We were the only ones that we not dressed up, oops.

We went to a Karaoke activiy at a church in Quilpue, which was a 30 minute ride on the Micro. We were there about an hour early, and about two hours early in Latin time. To pass the time we all played the piano for each other and tried to teach Raul some songs. It was quite entertaining.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chilly in Chile: Part II

I must return the this subject as it tends to occupy a vast majority of my thoughts: the cold. Since my last post about how it's currently Wintertime in Chile I have learned a few things. I had the hardest time figuring out why I was so cold when the temperature was only in the 50s. I've come to realize that it's humidity that makes this cold so awful. I'd always heard about cold humidity, but I never grasped the idea of humidity being cold. So, feeling is believing in my case.
I have also learned that none of the buildings here have central heating. Growing up I took the phrase, "it's cold outside" for granted. I always knew that I would warm up once I stepped foot into a building. That's not the case here. In fact, it's usually harder to stay warm inside because you don't move around as much. I've even seen my breath in my room a couple times. So, what do I do to prevent freezing to death?
  1. Relish my time with the blow dryer. I love the blow dryer, it truly is heaven-sent. Not only do I use it to dry my hair, but I'll also use it over my whole body. (My feet are usually the most in need.)
  1. My family has an elliptical in the Living facing the TV. I like to exercise, I like Church videos, and I like to learn. So I would have enjoyed using the elliptical and watching a video in Spanish anyway, but these days I get on the elliptical simply to get my body temperature up.
  2. One time when I was straightening my hair I remembered thinking, "I wish I could straighten my entire body so I could be warm." The only thing holding me back was getting third degree burns from my straightener; bummer. But it turns out my my friend Holli actually did that (to a degree). She turned on her straightener for a little while to get warm, turned it off, and she actually ironed her hands, fingers, feet, and her nose! En serio!
I hope this illustrates just how cold it gets here. But the funny thing is that it's not like this every day. It'll be cold for a couple days, and then perfectly pleasant and sunny for the next three. I always thought Colorado's weather was a little fickle, but Vina has certainly changed my mind.

My jackets were still wet from last night (I was out in the rain a lot) so mi madre lent me one of her sweaters. This will sound incredibly shallow, but back in the states I wouldn't wear this sweater anywhere, but here it's an entirely different story. I felt terribly clever to have something besides my scarf to keep my neck warm. Bacan! All day my favorite Spongebob quote was running through my mind.
Spongebob: Patrick! Are you crazy!?
Patrick: No, I'm warm.
Haha, amen!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bread Winner (or Maker)

Last night I made bread (pan) with mi Padre, Alina, and Dania. It was fun to help out in the kitchen a little bit.

I loved watching the Chilean bread process for this recipe. My padre mixed the dough with water, hot milk, and other things I unfortunately missed because I wasn't paying much attention. Once it began to solidify, he mixed it very well--he even pounded it on the wall at one point. But my favorite twist to this specific recipe would have to be the addition of olives! Little bits of olive were mixed in, which gave it a special flare. The end result was delicious. It tasted like the green onion cream cheese you put on bagels, only this was in bread form. I definitely recommend serving it with avocado on top. Yum!

We shaped some of the dough into tradition flat disks, but we made some fun shapes a well. In this pic you can see our creativity at work. Mi Padre made the horse and bird, I did the frog and turtle, and the girls made the face and hearts.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good news! I saw a dog today!

Probably the most prominent thing I noticed when I walked around Vina for the first time was all the stray dogs. In fact, you have to be a complete space cadet to miss them. I was taught that if we could read animals minds, cats would say, "I'm a cat, and I hate you." Horses would say, "I'm a horse, and you are not." And dogs would say, "I'm a dog, I'm a dog, I'm a dog...!" I've come to realize that not all dogs have that same slogan. I decided that if I were to read the minds of Chilean dogs, they would be saying, "I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead..." It's a good thing all dogs go to heaven, because the dogs here certainly have crummy lives. Pobrecitos.

Once I started taking pictures of the homeless dogs, I had a hard time stopping. There are so many, and the next one always looked more destitute and miserable than the last.
This poor pup--that I affectionately nicknamed Skelator--takes the cake for most heart-wrenching dog on this side of the Amazon.
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

El Dia del Ninos

Earlier this week mi padre told me (in his broken English) that Sunday was "the day of boys." What the? Boys get a holiday here? After seeing my confusion he clarified by saying it was Children's Day. I told him (in my very broken Spanish) that we don't have a Children's Day in the States. I told him that when I was younger I asked my Mom why there was a Fathers' Day and a Mothers' Day, but no Children's Day, to which she responded, "Abby, Christmas is Children's Day." My padre chuckled when I said this, and I was so pleased to see mi padre laugh. Finally, I had told a successful story in Spanish!
Children's Day is actually a low-key holiday. I had completely forgotten about it, but after breakfast mi madre y padre had all the girls come into the "Living" (aka Living room) where they gave each of us a present. I was so excited, I didn't expect anything, but they gave me slippers! YEA!!! It is so freezing here, and everyday I just kick myself for not bringing my slippers. I just love my family here, they are very sweet and far too good to me.

Alina and Dania waiting in anticipation to receive and open their gifts.

The children with our gifts: Alina's bathrobe, Dania's umbrella, Giselle's pillow, and a super-excited me with my slippers. You know, these girls (especailly Alina and Dania) are usually really loud and smiley, but the never look like it in their pictures...
Alina and Dania under the Umbrella of Love of their mother.

Dania loves to play with my camera. Every time I get it out she takes it and takes pictures of everything and anything.
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Yesterday the Universidad de Vina del Mar took the International Students on a tour through Vina's neiboring city, Valpariso, or as the natives sometimes call it, Valpo. Our tour guide spoke in I know he was talking about the history and other things I'd love to know, but unfortunately all I was able to pick up on was a few words here and there. (Curse this language barrier!) We toured all over Valpo; everywhere from an underground tunnel elevator to a boat. Needless to say, it was a day full of fun and adventure (regardless of my utter lack of ability to understand my tour guide...)

Here I am with my Mormon friends; Holli, Emily, and John-Miguel. It's such a blessing to have people that you are able to make instant friends with!

There is so much to take in at Valpariso!

A typical Valpariso neighborhood.

The streets of Valpo.

This is an artist's interpretation of Valpariso from his mind. Up close it's like a bunch of lines and globs of paint; looks like Valpo to me!

Las tres amigas en el bote. Ahh.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Off to school, off to school...

Hoy fue mi primero día de escuela. Well okay, not really school, just orientation, but nonetheless it felt good to have something official to do. There are about 25-30 international students attending Viña del Mar this Winter II Semester, with their homes ranging from California, Ohio, Oklahoma, Hawaii, to Romania (I think) and Sweden. Wow!

I took both my written and oral placement exams today, and I felt like I did the best I could have asked for at this point. I actually enjoyed my oral exam because it was mainly me speaking, which is good because I really struggle with the listening and comprehending Spanish (and on top of that, Chileans talk incredibly fast).

I liked today because it felt like I had returned to my Elementary School days. I thought it was really sweet how mi madre gave me the home address and her phone number on a piece of paper before I left the house this morning in case I got lost and needed help. My schedule for Orientation (and I think most Spanish-speaking countries) gives me a couple of hours to go home for lunch, so I walked home with my new friends and even had one join me for lunch at mi casa. It was a fun trip down memory lane to recall walking home from Belmar Elementary and bringing friends along for and after-school snack. But probably the best thing about today was a rekindled determination. I’ve been extremely soft on my Spanish since I’ve been here, and I’ve been talking in English way too much. Today I decided to suck it up and really start pushing myself. I’ve spoiled myself and cheated a lot, but now it’s go time. And thus, the fun begins now.

My mom used to always take our picture on the first day of school, so Mom, this one's for you! This was taken just outside the International Students' Office. As you can see it was a foggy and cold day. I think it's funny to do the peace sign because a lot of the teenagers do it here. I thought it was just a Japanese thing, but apparently not.
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

My first night in Chile, Giselle y mi madre explained the shower furnace thing to me. Light a match, stick it inside the furnace, and turn the knob to the red for warm water. Pretty easy, right? Well, leave it to someone like me to make it difficult. The next day I woke up cold as cold could be. All I was looking forward to was a nice, hot shower to get me going. But, when I got in the shower I couldn't figure out how to get it on. I tried all sorts of turning the knob to the black. Not smart. I had the coldest shower in showering history that day, and it set the tone for an extremely chilly day. At least it build a lot of character, right?

This morning I was determined that history would not repeat itself. I saw that the flame was on inside the box thing, so I didn't mess around. I went straight for the water, and miracle of miracles, it was warm, and dare I say it, it even got hot. It was marvelous, simply wonderful, and my warm shower set the mood for a perfectly sunny day. Ah, what a life!

The furnace that outsmarted me.

The knob of destiny.
Red = warm (which equals happiness)
Black = Outer Darkness (and wickedness never was happiness)

So, bien esta lo que bien acada (all's well that ends well). I can sleep easy tonight knowing that I did indeed conquer the furnace.

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