95 degrees, sunny, and NOT humid: summer in Santiago!

Holaaaa! Happy February! We’ve been back from our travels with our family for just over a month now, and immediately got back into the swing of things – our class schedules, going to Spanglish Party every Tuesday, salsa and bachata classes every week (I finally started going), meeting up with friends, and sweating all day long in the 90+ degree heat. We’ve recently had a few “chilly” days, meaning a high of 82, so I am blissfully happy about that, but sadly it will be getting hot again soon. Here are a bunch of little updates:

It’s currently 72 degrees and I’m wearing a sweater – I hate admitting to myself that it’s chilly right now…I refuse! This weather is incredible. The other day, it was 60 degrees at 9am and I thought my Weather app wasn’t working because I didn’t believe that it wasn’t 85 degrees already. Sorry to everyone who is living in a snowstorm right now – please know that I am very jealous and I WISH there was snow here! I would love to be snowed in my house right now, with cats around me, watching Mel do her homework.

A few weeks ago, we went to Fantasilandia (Fantasyland), the only amusement park in all of Chile, with a bunch of our Chilean friends. Even though it’s the only park in Chile, it’s incredibly small in comparison to some of the parks I’ve been to, like Hershey Park and Dorney Park. I’m not the biggest fan of amusement parks, and everyone made fun of me when I didn’t want to go on the one big rollercoaster that they have, even though I’ve been on many in the past. Unfortunately, because it’s summer and it was a weekend, we waited about an hour for each 30-second ride. Needless to say, I have no inclination to return, but it was fun for a day.

January 20th was a heartbreak of a day here – talking to people about the inauguration was nauseating, even though (most) of the people with whom I spoke were genuinely curious about the political climate in the U.S. right now. I talked with one man who tried to convince me that because sexual assault happens all over the world, because men yell and shout vulgarities and other “normal” things at women all the time, it’s normal and that won’t change. He refused to listen to my point that because Trump is now the President of the United States (just gagged a little saying that), catcalling and sexual assault is only normalized more because we have a president who says that it’s okay. I stopped engaging with this man as soon as I realized he would never allow me to speak. On to the next.

Salsa and Bachata classes: I finally started going to the dance classes Jordin has been going to for two months, and I absolutely love them – I wish I started earlier. I’ve gone three times already, and I plan to continue as long as we’re here. The classes are twice a week, completely outside behind a huge art/performance building (it reminds me of the Kimmel Center – photo below of the dance space), and Jordin can only go one of those nights, so hopefully I’ll catch up to him by going twice a week instead of once. Each night that the classes are offered, there are two 1-hour classes, one of salsa cubana en rueda, and the other bachata en rueda. Rueda means it’s dancing in a circle and you constantly change partners, which is fantastic, because you have the chance to dance with people with all levels of dance experience. I’ve already made some friends through the class, and one guy was really impressed when he heard that I have seven years of dance experience, but then less impressed when I said that almost all of those years were non-competitive, just dancing in a group/performances for fun, and that I have no salsa or bachata experience. So far, I looooooove the salsa class, and it’s definitely easier for me than bachata – I even got some compliments from Chileans who probably didn’t believe that a gringa could pick up the moves, so that gave me confidence. But bachata is another story – last night, for some reason I had so much trouble with the second half of the moves that we learned and completely embarrassed myself. But oh well! That’s what practice is for. Videos to come!

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In the month that we’ve been back, there have been three more pool parties with Spanglish Party, the language exchange group Jordin and I go to every week. Almost all of our friends in Chile are from Spanglish – different people go to the meetups at bars every week, and we always meet new people at the pool parties. Last weekend, we met a bunch of new people with whom we’ve already hung out since, and have plans with this weekend. At one of the pool parties a few weeks ago, it was 95 degrees out, so everyone was swimming, but the pool is always so cold. There were a few little kids there (related to the family of the woman who runs Spanglish), and they kept jumping in, getting out, and jumping in again. I watched this tiny little girl pull my friend into the water after my friend was sitting on the steps trying to get used to the frigid water Then the girl looked at me and said, “¿Y tú?”, and it was almost as if she said, “Et tu, Brute?” because she promptly dragged me into the water and pulled off my sunglasses to make me go under.

We’ve been eating a lot of incredibly delicious watermelon as a dessert after lunch, and these watermelons are significantly bigger than those at home. When Sergio (host dad) cuts it, he slices the melon in half the long way, and each person gets about ¼ of that half, which is ENORMOUS. Jordin and I always ask to split one of those slices, because even though I would love to eat watermelon all day long, I can’t eat that much after a full lunch. It’s honestly ridiculous how large those slices are. Additionally, some of our host family members like to put a certain type of flour on their watermelon. It’s called “harina tostada”, which translates to “toasted flour”, but I’m not sure exactly what it is – it’s not something I eat, but another little Chilean quirk and addition to my list of different ways that Chileans eat their fruit.

I had one new student that I taught only in January, and she is actually the niece of a colleague of one of you lovely readers! As I learned in my TEFL course in October, one of the best ways to find students is through word of mouth, and that worked out for me. I met up with this colleague in December just to say hi, and when I sent her a thank you email, she asked if I would be interested in teaching her niece. Moral of the story: always send thank-you notes, not only to express your gratitude, but because you never know what could come out of it. I currently have eight students in total that I have taught, but a few went on vacation, so my schedule has been pretty flexible. Just this week, I taught three new students, yet still fell short a class or two in terms of my earning goal for the week. I met one student through Spanglish, one through the salsa class, and one who is the son of someone who came to the free classes during our course in October. The best places to find students are by getting out and meeting new people, because many Chileans either want an English teacher, or have a friend that does. General update: classes are going very well, I really like all of my students (both old and new), and I’m always learning from them.

As you may remember from my last post, when my family was in Patagonia, we met two fantastic women, Grace and Aimee, who are currently traveling the world for six months. A few weeks after Patagonia, they spent a week in Santiago, and we got to hang out with them a few times! One of the places where we went is called the Mercado Central, which is a huge food market in Santiago known for its seafood and fresh produce. We bought 1 kilo of strawberries for 1000 pesos (about $1.50) and you bet we ate them all.

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In the past month, Chile has had tons of fires throughout the country, but especially in the south. A state of emergency was declared in at least three regions of Chile, and it was the largest emergency operation in the country’s history. With the drought and extremely high temperatures (in the mid/high 90s during the day, 70s/80s during the night), entire forests, farms, and even towns have been burned to the ground. A few firemen and police died, which is a huge deal and was the highlight of the news for days. At one point, there were at least 135 active fires, with at least half out of control, and over 300,000 acres (twice the size of New York City) burned in central and southern Chile (this was a statistic from a few weeks ago, so it definitely increased afterward).

In Santiago, there was much more smog than usual and we couldn’t see the mountains at all for a few weeks (photo below). While this could and should have been breaking news around the world, unfortunately the actions of a certain administration in the U.S. has been taking that stage instead. At another point, we heard that there were approximately 44-100 fires just in the metropolitan area of Santiago, and many more in the south. There are many suspicions about what caused the fires: many were intentionally caused by pyromaniacs (which is how the news described them), negligence, the fact that Chile is a dry country with little rain, and the high summer temperatures. Some of the people suspected to have started the fires were arrested. There was eventually some international aid, and planes with water and other fire-fighting materials arrived in Chile, including a huge “supertanker” from the U.S. When discussing all this with our host parents, they mentioned that it took 10 days of hundreds of active fires for the U.S. and other countries to take notice and send help – that is apparently very common here. When discussing all of the environmental disasters that have been happening in the world, our host parents suggested that maybe the inauguration of Trump just caused them all. I would agree. Here are a few articles about these fires if you want to read more:

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A few weeks ago I went to a play with some friends (all in Spanish, but easier to understand than Chileans speaking regularly because the actors were enunciating really well), and afterward we went to a famous bar called La Piojera. Apparently, it’s been around since the late 1800s, but it’s known for being a bar that attracts a lot of foreigners. I actually had never heard of it until the week before we went, when my Chilean friends suggested that we go there. It’s famous for the terremotos, a famous Chilean drink made of pipeño (a sweet Chilean wine), grenadine, and is topped off by a scoop of pineapple sorbet. I’ve had my share of these here in Chile, but they’re unbelievably sweet, and at La Piojera, they were unbelievably STRONG for a lightweight like me. Terremoto means earthquake, and the drink has the name because when you stand up after drinking it, your legs are usually very shaky. Well, after THIS terremoto, I finally got that experience, and I still felt it four hours later and after I refilled my water bottle twice (I carry my water bottle everywhere, a typical gringa move at which Chileans are always surprised). Except for the fact that La Piojera is one of the oldest bars in the city, I feel no need to return: it’s big, loud, dirty, and served me a drink that made me almost fall over. We went to a karaoke bar after La Piojera, and I sang Bohemian Rhapsody with one of my Chilean friends – I know this song is popular for this in the U.S., but it was chosen soooo many times by Chileans! I had a blast singing it, and then made the poor decision of singing Taylor Swift’s “22”, thankfully with another Chilean friend who loves Taylor Swift, at which point I realized that literally no one in the bar knew the song and that it was a terrible decision. But it happened, there’s a (private) video, and I will never sing Taylor Swift in a Chilean bar again. Just in my head.

Aly and Sergio (host parents) have a group of friends, five couples in total, with whom they get together once a month, without fail. They throw together some money every month to save for these occasions, and while they sometimes go out to a restaurant, they usually gather at one of their houses for a night of eating, drinking, and talking. I’ve met all these friends before, but this time it was at our house, and some of them were still at our house AFTER I came back from going out (Chileans stay up veryyyy late). But I love that Aly, Sergio, and their friends prioritize this on their calendar and set aside time every month for this, and I hope I can keep up a schedule like that with friends in the future.

Our host family made humitas! Humitas are a traditional Chilean dish of ground corn, onion and basil, all wrapped in corn husks and tied with string, and then boiled. I’m not the biggest fan of ground corn, but it was really cool to see the process of making them and getting to try them afterward (see photo below).
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The supermoon was beautiful here!

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Leo (host toddler) is growing very fast – he is now 1 year and 9 months, and seems significantly older than when we arrived here 4.5 months ago. He still doesn’t talk, but he makes tons of sounds, including “mama” for everything, whether or not that person is his mother. When I watch him listening to people talk to him and see him understand and respond, every time I am reminded how COOL language is and how babies can learn so much when their brains are so malleable. Leo could learn and become fluent in any language he is exposed to while he’s young, and that’s freaking awesome. Here’s a picture of Leo eating a banana that you may enjoy.img_0026

House garden update: the peach tree is now in bloom, so naturally I am eating many of them each day (though significantly fewer than I ate when the apricot tree was in bloom). They’re less sweet than supermarket/typical peaches, but I really like them. Additionally, we have a grapevine and get to eat fresh green grapes! Last but not least, the almond tree is starting to bloom – they come in a shell, which you have to break open with a hammer in order to remove the one, singular almond inside. But it’s awesome to see and they taste great.

The other day, I explained to some Chilean friends what pretzels are because they don’t exist here, and I suddenly missed pretzels a lot. Then I got over it.

I saw this beautiful mural about public education and think it’s incredibly relevant right now, especially in light of recent events. It says: Public education: “In our hands is the hope for a better future.” Diversity, inclusion, justice, participation, community.

Important message here

Current vocabulary confusion:

  • Coger – to take, grab, seize
  • Encoger – to shrink
  • Recoger – to pick up, collect, clean up

Thanks for reading! We have a bunch of plans in the next few weeks, so the next post should be more exciting than this one. Until then, stay warm and enjoy February! Please send me updates or say hi via email/Facebook messenger/Snapchat/iMessage (to my email), if nothing else but to send pictures of snow or whatever weather you’re in, and I promise that you’ll feel better about your weather than mine when I send you back pictures of the 95-degree summer heat in Santiago. 

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