Back in Buenos Aires: tango, beautiful architecture, and an unreal amount of walking.

Hola familia y amigos! There are Christmas decorations everywhere in Santiago and it’s very confusing to me because it’s at least 80 degrees every day. I definitely miss the colder weather, especially when I’m walking or running. But on the bright side, I have my first Christmas tree ever! Our family put up holiday decorations and lights and a tree and all that jazz, so I finally get my Christmas experience.

Two weeks ago, Jordin and I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with three friends, and it was AWESOME. Many of you may remember that I lived in Buenos Aires for 5 weeks during my public health study abroad semester in the spring of 2015, and I absolutely loved it then and fell even more in love with the city this time around. We went with our friend Adam, who is a junior at Tufts, and two of his friends who are also studying abroad in Santiago this semester. All three of them had finished their classes and exams for the semester, and topped off their abroad experiences by doing some last-minute traveling. But because none of them had been to Argentina before, I was the planner and the guide of the trip. I usually like doing this, but this meant I was constantly taking out my map, making me look like the ultimate tourist. But that’s okay! We spent our 4 full days walking everywhere (an obvious activity with me as the guide, but thankfully our friends also love to walk). We had a marvelous time and I wish we could do it all over again.


Jordin and I arrived on Saturday evening (December 3rd), a day before our Tufts friends arrived, and we settled in before a long day of walking on Sunday. It also gave us some time to adjust to the Argentinian accent before our friends came – they pronounce the “ll” and “y” sound like “sh”, so the phrase “Yo me llamo Rachael” is pronounced “Sho me shamo Rachael”. This is so so different that most Spanish dialects – it’s hard to decide whether the Argentinian or Chilean dialect is harder to understand! But the city of Buenos Aires is unbelievably different than Santiago, especially in the architecture – it is incredibly European because of all the European immigration in the last century or so, especially from Italy and Spain. It’s also much more humid than Santiago, and you can’t see the Andes mountains like you can there. For someone who likes to explore by walking and seeing, Buenos Aires is definitely the city for this – just being surrounded by so many beautiful buildings is enough of an experience of the city without even doing anything. The buildings are generally much taller than they are in Santiago, and thus it feels like a much bigger city. Santiago feels like it focuses more on the nature/outdoorsy aspects of the country, as it lies between the Andes Mountains, there are many national parks within a few hours of the city, and it’s easy to get outside Santiago and go to the coast for the beaches. If you know me, you know that I love both walking everywhere AND national IMG_7426.jpgparks, so both of these cities work for me. But the vibrant culture in Buenos Aires is almost palpable, and the architecture is more incredible with every turn. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to return and would highly recommend this city to anyone who wants to travel to Latin America!

We all stayed in an apartment building two blocks away from El Obelisco (The Obelisk), which looks like the Washington Monument, which is a very central area of the city. On Sunday morning, we walked to the area of Recoleta, where there is a big artisan crafts fair every weekend. When I lived here in 2015, I probably went to this fair five or six times – it’s awesome. There are vendors with all sorts of crafts, like paintings, jewelry, tons of mate (the most popular non-alcoholic drink in Argentina, and popular throughout Latin America – a type of tea that people drink all the time out of a special cup, which is usually a hollowed-out gourd) cups and their accompanying metal straws (“bombilla”), and other unique crafts. One vendor, who was in his 70s or 80s and has been selling his crafts at the fair for over 30 years, creates figurines of various types of jobs made of metal forks and spoons. They were all incredible! Jordin bought one of a chemist, which includes test tubes and all. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Casa Rosada (“The Pink House”), which is where the President IMG_7111.JPGof Argentina works (but does not live). It’s a gorgeous building on the outside and the inside – on the weekends they give free tours, and because our tour was in Argentinian Spanish, neither of us ended up understanding much of it. But just being inside the building was enough – each room is enormous and filled with gold (photo below) . We learned that the house is pink because it was painted with a mixture of chalk and blood…if so, that’s a LOT of blood. After our tour, we walked just one block to another popular street fair in the neighborhood of San Telmo, and this fair goes on for about 10 blocks. We were told that while the crafts fair in Recoleta is more geared toward tourists, this one attracts more locals (though there were still plenty of tourists). I love to buy art as remembrances of places I’ve traveled, so I bought an awesome painting of the city that was painted with COFFEE – super unique and very reasonably priced. IMG_7094.JPGJust as I remembered, throughout the streets of the San Telmo street fair, there are people selling all sorts of food – fresh squeezed orange juice (which is everyone in both Buenos Aires and Santiago), various meat things, and of course, vegan food! We bought delicious veggie burgers, made of lentils, chickpeas, and arvejas (I described these in my last post – they’re a mix between lentils and split peas), only to pass by three other vendors soon after with even more options.

Our friends arrived on Sunday night, and on Monday morning we set out for a day of walking around the city to some of my favorite places. The first stop was El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a bookstore which was originally a theater in the early 1900s, then a cinema in the late 1920s. It’s an unbelievable building – I could spend all day there. In the last few years, it was rated as the second most beautiful bookshop in the world (rated by both The Guardian and BBC). The stage is now a bookstore! (Look at the picture below…and then keep looking because you KNOW you want to visit.) We then walked to Recoleta (where the crafts fair is on the weekends) to walk through a famous cemetery, which is the oldest public cemetery in Buenos Areas in which many notable Argentinians are buried, including Eva (Evita) Perón. This is no ordinary cemetery – it’s full of mausoleums and statues (almost every grave), with all sorts of architectural styles. It’s laid out like a grid, and you can walk through each section like you would walk city block, and each walkway is lined with trees.


 After the cemetery, we walked a short distance to the Floralis Generica, the official name of a giant steel flower sculpture that is surrounded by a fountain in the middle of a park. This flower opens up during the day and closes at night, just like many real flowers do, and it came to Buenos Aires in 2002. This flower is about 75 feet high, and when it is fully open, the petals span about 100 feet IMG_7169.JPGwide, and when closed, about 50 feet wide. I hadn’t gone when I was here before, so it was awesome to see it for the first time. The flower wasn’t fully open when we went, even at midday. Here is a cool video I found that shows the process of it opening and closing!



On Monday night, we went to a percussion concert called La Bomba del Tiempo, which I went to when I was here before and absolutely loved. It’s a group of 15-20 musicians on one stage, all playing different types of percussion instruments. Every few songs, the conductor switches places with someone in the band, and the type of songs change with each new conductor. They all looked like they were having so much fun (some of the conductors danced like crazy during it), and it’s just a really cool atmosphere and an experience very different from a typical concert. We also all tried the popular Argentinian drink, Fernet-Cola. Fernet is an alcohol that is extremely bitter and strong, so when it’s mixed with coke/pepsi, those are two things put together that I don’t like – needless to say, I did not drink much of it, but it’s always good to try something new.

On Tuesday, we spent the morning walking through the streets with a couple of attractions in mind, but mostly just wandering. We walked to the Casa Rosada so our friends could see it (from the outside), then to Café Tortoni, which is the oldest café in South America. It was built in 1858, and lots of famous people have visited, including a particular nasty woman whom I admire so much (photo below). We also came upon some little bookstores and each bought a few books, especially because they were reasonably priced and the books in Santiago tend to be pretty expensive. I bought a book of the 20 most famous Pablo Neruda poems (he was a famous Chilean poet – I studied some of his works in my Spanish classes at Wesleyan), as well as The Wizard of Oz in Spanish, called “El Mago de Oz”. I really need to be reading and watching TV in Spanish to learn more vocabulary.IMG_7238.JPG

In the afternoon, we took a bus to La Boca, the most colorful neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Even though we took a bus at 2:30pm, there was a ton of traffic, so it took us an hour to get there (this is interesting comparison for the bus ride back, which took 15 minutes). It’s called La Boca because it is located at the “mouth” of the city (“boca” = mouth), near its old port. The tourist destination in La Boca is called Caminito, but we wandered around for 25 minutes looking for that before we found it. I’m actually really glad we got the chance to do that, because most tourists think of La Boca as just those few colorful blocks, while actually, most of the neighborhood is fairly poor. Once we got to Caminito, we saw the beautiful colored walls, shops, and of course, tango in the street – La Boca is known for this.

La Boca.jpg

On Tuesday night, Jordin, Adam, and I headed out to a tango class that was only a few blocks away. Jordin and I both have many years of dance experience: he was on the Tufts Ballroom team for four years and knows how to tango (but not the Argentinian tango), and I danced every semester in college as well, but not competitively and not ballroom. The class we attended had five men and five women in total, which made it easy to partner up, and the teacher was fantastic at giving individual help as well as directing the class as a whole. Adam and I were the only beginners there, and even though the teacher had most people switch partners every few songs (which is very helpful), by the end, she had Adam and I stay together since we were at such a significantly lower level than everyone else…and we still had a blast. After the class, we met up with our other two friends (they didn’t go to the tango class) and then met up with a friend of Adam’s who is from Buenos Aires. We all went out to get gelato at a popular chain called Freddo, which is all over Buenos Aires. Because of the Italian influence in the city, gelato is extremely popular, and of course they have a handful of vegan flavors (sorbets). Then we went to a bar for a few hours where everyone except me ordered a fernet-cola, and I tried another unique drink on the sweeter side. A few sips of fernet at the concert was enough to sustain me for the entire week.

On Wednesday, our last full day in Buenos Aires, we walked to the Jewish neighborhood of Buenos Aires, called Once/Barracas. The streets were packed with people selling various  types of goods, which made it hard to walk at times. We went into a bunch of stores selling Jewish objects, and the storeowners gave us the names and locations other places to check out. We wandered into a Jewish bakery (so many bagels), a kosher sushi restaurant, a store selling various Jewish cultural items (including cards that said “Feliz Januca”), and more. We also saw a Jewish synagogue from the outside, where we were not allowed to take any pictures. The synagogues in Buenos Aires (and in Santiago, as I’ve heard) are strictly protected and they won’t hesitate to almost interrogate people who want to enter, as they are constantly worried about violent acts. We also saw the outside of a JCC (Jewish Community Center), where the wall was covered in many names of people who were killed when the JCC was bombed in the 1990s. Additionally, almost every doorway in this neighborhood had a mezuzah, which was really cool to see. In the afternoon, we went to the neighborhood of Palermo Soho, which is a very upscale neighborhood with many exceedingly expensive stores that are fun to look at from the outside, but not fun once you look at your wallet. From there, Jordin and I went to visit my incredible host mom, Marta
, from when I lived in Buenos Aires in March/April of 2015. Marta is 83 years old, just as spunky, and she is looking better than ever. I was so happy to see her and return to my old apartment and just talk (she asked us about Trump, no surprise). I’m so happy that Jordin got to meet her as well – she is just the CUTEST lady. Reunited with my incredible host mom from March-April 2015 - la mujer más linda y mejor cocinera en Argentina!.jpg

After visiting with Marta, Jordin and I returned to Palermo Soho to go out to a nice final dinner with our friends. We picked the restaurant earlier in the day, and first they told us that they were having an event that night so we could only sit outside, but after we told them we wanted to sit outside and if we could make a reservation at 8, they said we could sit anywhere, since the event won’t be arriving until later – this was them laughing in our faces because 8pm is VERY early to eat in Argentina. We actually didn’t get our food until 9:15, which we think is because the cooks just didn’t have the food ready because it was so early. But no matter – we splurged on a bottle of Argentinian Malbec, which is made in Mendoza (the main wine country area of Argentina), and we talked about  more differences between Chile and the United States, and the different ways in which one of the countries is ahead of the other – here are a few:

  • Chilean culture is more of a machismo culture than the U.S., as it’s more normalized here (even though no one can doubt that it is also normalized in the U.S.)
  • Chile has a National Women’s Service in their constitution that crafts bills about women’s rights – awesome. While I believe and hope that the U.S. will have this someday, we’re much farther behind in this aspect.

One of the defining moments of this trip is something we laughed about when taking pictures – in the U.S., people say “cheese” because of the way the mouth is shaped to form a smile. Apparently in Spanish-speaking cultures, they say “whiskeeeeey” because it forms the same shape. But we decided to just translate “cheese” into Spanish by saying “quesooooooo”, and it definitely did not work out in the same smiles, and we have the pictures to prove it.

A few more things that are important to know about Argentina:

  • Mate (the tea mentioned above) – everyone walks around with it and drinks it all day long.
  • Dulce de leche – a spread/dessert/necessary part of Argentinians’ lives that is everywhere
  • Alfajores – an Argentinian dessert created with two round cookies with a filling between then, which is usually dulce de leche. There are at least 20 different kinds of these sold at every kiosco (corner store), and people eat them for breakfast, a snack, desserts, you name it.
  • Fashion – People have told me that they think Chile is five years behind the U.S. in many different ways, especially with fashion. Sometimes, I’m walking down the street and I feel like I’ve walked into the 80s or 90s. Shirts with English slogans on them are very popular in both Chile and Argentina, and what is ESPECIALLY popular is platform shoes: people even wear sneakers and flip flops with platforms on them. This is how I know I stand out in Chile, because I don’t have any platform shoes here (yet). But the fashion in Argentina is different than in Chile – it’s definitely more European and more posh.

A few highlights from last week (in Chile):

  • At Spanglish Party last Tuesday, three different people whom I had JUST met invited me to parties in the following days, one of which I was able to attend, which was a birthday celebration with only six people. Like I’ve said before, I would never expect something like this to happen in the U.S. – people are very very welcoming toward us here.
  • I regret to inform you that the apricots on the tree on our patio are all gone, as their season has now passed – my mornings will never be the same. The last ones were sadly turned into jam. Luckily, the other day I passed by a house where I saw an apricot tree in full bloom, and I stole a few for myself while walking (if the tree hangs out over the fence, I think that’s allowed).
  • We tried a new Chilean dish called Charquicán, which is stew with lots of veggies. It had a new food called “luche”, which is a type of seaweed, but different than cochayuyo – the internet told me that in English it’s called sea lettuce.
  • The best part of my week: we were talking with our host family about the radio, and how most people don’t like hearing a recording of their own voice. After discussing our feelings about our own voices, I told them how cute Mel’s voice is, and Aly told me that she thinks I’m in love with her (“Creo que estás enamorada de tu hermana”). While of course this is true, it’s funny because when I was abroad last time, multiple friends told me the same thing. I guess it just shows how excited I am to see that little lady so soon! (And hopefully she talks to all of her friends about me the same way I talk to everyone about her.)

I can’t believe it’s already the end of December, and that we’ve been here for almost three full months. Thank you so much for following along with our adventures here. I’m sending lots of besos y abrazos from Santiago – happy holidays and Happy New Year to all!


Steady employment (is this a thing?), apricots galore, and allllll the birthday parties.

Hello hello! Happy December (whaaaaat)! I can’t believe it’s already the holiday season – because it’s 85 degrees here, I can’t say I’m quite in the same holiday spirit. Speaking of spirit, if you want to see this post in much better formatting (especially with the pictures), please click on the title of this post and it will direct you to the site. This means that if you missed watching the videos of us dancing on the metro OR salsa dancing/dancing with our host abuela, you can only watch them by going to the site – they don’t show up in the email.

To make things easier for you, here are the videos – they’re worth it, I promise:



The beautiful Calle José Arrieta

I’m loving all of my English classes so far! The last time I thought I’d be a teacher, I was in first grade, but I really do love my job in Chile. I currently have 4 students, which is perfect for my schedule: last week, I taught 7 classes (total of 8 hours), and this week I have 9 classes (total of 11 hours). I realize that this sounds like nothing, but when you include the time it takes to travel to the class location and the prep time for the class, it adds up. It will change every week depending on the schedule of my students, but since they all like me (they’re very vocal about their feelings about the classes and my teaching style) and I like them, I’m hoping I can work with them all for the rest of my time in Chile. Ideally, I’ll have 1-2 classes every day, giving me the opportunity to both spend time in the neighborhoods where the people live, as well as do other things. It also gives me the opportunity to spend some time in some nice apartments, since ¾ of my classes take place in the students’ homes, and all three of these apartments have dogs! I really can’t complain right now. My newest private student lives less than a mile from my house, so I can walk to her, which is incredibly convenient, especially because we meet three times each week. Taking public transportation can be exhausting, and of course costs money, and I usually leave an hour before each class to ensure that I have enough time to get there. But I only have to leave 25 minutes before the class that’s walking distance away, which is fantastic.

One of my students is from Colombia and her Spanish is 10x easier to understand than Chilean Spanish – it is much slower and clearer, and I can actually hear every word she says, even if I don’t know the meaning. There’s a 15-year-old cousin of our family that I’ve met a bunch of times and I literally can only understand about 5 of every 30 words she says – Chilean Spanish is haaaaaaard, especially in the young ones. But I’m learning so much every day just by listening to conversations in my house, and hearing the words and phrases that my family members and others say every day. For example, when anyone leaves the house, they say, “Que te vaya bien”, which is a shortened sentence of, “Espero que te vaya bien”, which literally translates to “I hope that you go well”, and means “I hope all goes well”/”Have a nice day”/”Take care”. I never learned this in my Spanish classes at Wesleyan, and probably wouldn’t without living in a place where it is used every single day. Additionally, I’m learning more about word order in Spanish that I didn’t learn in the classroom – it’s easy to try and translate what I hear into English, or translate the English line in my head directly into Spanish, but word order is different colloquially than it is in the textbook. For example, in English I would say, “Rachael left the house”, but here they would say, “Salió la casa Rachael” (left the house Rachael). These little things that I’m learning every day make me so happy to be here! Yay experiential learning!


Experiential learning with vegan empanadas

For the last three weekends in a row, we’ve been to a birthday party with our host family – the first weekend was Aly’s (host mom) surprise party at our house, the next weekend was adult cousin/aunt (unsure of her exact relation) Christy’s birthday, and last weekend was the 15th birthday of Felipe’s (father of Leo the toddler/boyfriend of host sister Javiera) sister, also named Javiera. When we went to Christy’s birthday party in Peñaflor, about 40-60 minutes outside of Santiago, our family got there around 10:15pm, so I was prepared not to go to bed until at least 3am. This party was SO MUCH FUN. All of the parties we’ve been to have been almost all family, not friends, and everyone gets along so well. Everyone was so warm and welcoming to us even though they have no idea who we are. And the best part of this party is that there was no awkward standing-in-a-corner/small talk time because everyone wanted to talk to us. That’s probably the best part about being an extranjera/gringa here – I always have someone to talk to, and usually someone else who wants to jump in (note: being popular is very fun sometimes, but also exhausting). Everyone made sure to speak slower with me (though this doesn’t mean actually slow – it just means slow for Chileans). One woman kept throwing in the few English phrases that she knew, and later when people were giving speeches about Christy (the birthday lady), the English-phrase-using woman shouted out that they should provide subtitles in English for us. It’s funny how so many people think all we want to do is speak English while we’re here, when actually that’s the last thing we want to do. When I talked to someone about this, he explained to me that it’s a difference in culture – people here want to speak English with me because they want to practice their own English, while people in the U.S. generally don’t want to explore new cultures, languages, and countries, so they don’t usually want to practice Spanish with Spanish-speakers that travel in the U.S. While this is definitely a generalization, I see a lot of truth in that, especially with many Trump-supporting members of the U.S. right now.

I ended up talking a lot about why I’m vegan – since food is served all throughout the party (yes, up until 2am), every time I politely declined something and the person urged me to try it, I explained that I’m vegan and they took no offense and moved on to the next person (actually, usually someone else who already knew that we’re vegan would jump in and say it). I think that people here are much more interested and accepting of our veganism because it’s not common in Santiago, but especially because the food systems in the U.S. and Chile are completely different (though I don’t know too much about the food system in Chile yet except that produce is super cheap – I will look into it soon). I explained that I chose to go vegan 7 years ago because of many aspects of the U.S. food system, and everyone seemed genuinely interested in learning about it. My experiences in the U.S. have generally involved people being dismissive of my choice (though not always), so it’s very refreshing to talk to people who can respect it. Felipe’s aunt, Pamela, whom I’ve met many times, definitely wins the award for Most Helpful Family Member because she thoroughly searches for any vegan food at all the parties and moves it away from everyone else so we can eat it. At this birthday party, she moved an entire bowl of pistachios into a corner for us even though we repeatedly told her that we couldn’t eat all of them – she’s hilarious. At the end of the party, when I was hugging Cristy (the birthday lady) goodbye, she promptly invited me to her wedding in January…where else does that happen?? People here are unbelievably generous and welcoming toward us, and this just goes to show that they are genuinely interested in our backgrounds, experiences, and well-being. I feel so lucky to be living with a host family that comes with a huge extended family of which I get to be part.

I also talked to a man named Richard, who is originally from England and whose parents are Spanish, so he grew up bilingual. He told me that though he’s a native Spanish speaker, he has lived in Chile for five years and still has trouble with the language (which definitely didn’t make ME feel confident about my language skills). But he said that if it weren’t for the people here, he would’ve left years ago – the generous, welcoming people are the reason that he stayed, and I feel the same in many ways. I do really like the city of Santiago, and of course there is so much of the country that I need to see, but the language is extremely difficult. Especially because I have an English student from Colombia who naturally speaks incredibly clearly and slowly, and I think about how much easier it would be to improve my Spanish if I were living there. It’s easy to get frustrated when I don’t understand much of what people are talking about, but in general, I feel pretty good about everything going on in my life here, and my amazing host family is a huge part of my Chilean experience.


Speaking of my extended family, one of our Chilean cousins works in a coffee shop, and he made me this beautiful almond milk latte today and I am very happy about it.


New foods (I put links in here so you can see what they look like):

  • Arvejas – they look taste like lentils, but I think are more similar to split peas; regardless, they’re delicious.
  • Avas – pretty positive these are lima beans with a Chilean twist (no direct translation)
  • Cochayuyo – seaweed-like food that is naturally hard when it’s raw, but you cook it and put it in salads, soup, etc. I’m usually not a huge fan of seafood (plants, of course)/seaweed things, but I actually really like this when it’s part of a dish with lots of other vegetables.
  • Chirimoya – delicious tropical fruit that you can eat plain or put in punch/sangria!
  • Calzones rotos – this is some sort of fried dough dessert, kind of like funnel cake, and the words literally translate to “broken underwear”.
  • Alcayota – looks like a honeydew on the outside, but it’s in the same family as pumpkins/squash. Apparently the only reason people buy this is to make it into jam. Below is a picture of Leo using the empty rind of the alcayota as a hat – I think he rocks it.



Miscellaneous happenings

  • I recently learned the word “mañoso/a”, which means picky, and realized that I have been describing Mel to my host family as “exigente” (demanding) for the last two months. Oops! Once she gets here and charms them with her Spanish, they’ll understand the non-demanding child she really is (Ya hear that Mel? You better be practicing!)
  • Many condiments come in bags, such as jam and mayonnaise (though mayonnaise also comes in a jar). This was interesting in one of the demo classes in my TEFL course in October, because one of my classmates was teaching a vocabulary class on containers, with vocab like jar, bottle, can, etc. When the students were matching food words to pictures of storage, they often matched jam to bags, and then we realized that even though this isn’t common in the U.S., they can say, “I would like a bag of jam” here in Chile and be correct.
  • Kinder vs. jardin – Kindergarten here is called “kinder” in Spanish, and pre-K is called “jardín” (garden). I only recently realized that it’s just the splitting of the word Kindergarten even though they’re totally separate programs – and I think this is adorable. “I’m sending my kid off to the garden.” – isn’t that cute??
  • All of the parties I’ve been to with our host family have had a lot of food (and they serve it up until the end of the party, i.e. 2:30am), but there are no plates for the guests to put their food – I find this strange. When people eat, they kind of just hover around the food table.
  • Life here is very family-oriented – we’ve been to parties with our host family 3 weekends in a row with family birthday parties, and all of the guests at those parties have been family members. I think a big part of this is because children tend to live at home until they’re married (or at least until they’re out of university, which is often between ages 25 and 30). Maybe I’m seeing so much of this because Javi (host sister) has a son, so she doesn’t have as much time to go out with friends, but in general, all the parties we’ve gone to have been all family members, not friends.
  • Everyone here uses Whatsapp – it’s very easy to forget about Whatsapp in the U.S. when it is not very common, but I’ve heard that virtually every country outside the U.S. uses Whatsapp in place of texting. No one ever calls someone’s phone or sends a real text – they all call/text through Whatsapp over data or wifi. All of the advertisements on billboards and at phone companies describe deals for gigabytes of data, not for minutes. I have a friend who told me when she visited the U.S., she sent people Whatsapp messages and never got a response, so she had to send real texts to them and it was a very strange experience for her.
  • Chileans love teaching me (and gringos/as in general) bad words (“malas palabras”), but the Chilenismo is “garabatos”. One night at Spanglish Party (the language exchange that Jordin and I go to every week), there was a soccer game between Chile and Uruguay (they’re in the middle of World Cup qualifiers). One of the guys I was sitting with told me that I would learn way more Chilean Spanish that night than any other night because of the soccer game. Every time there was a goal, people stood up and jumped around and yelled the Chilean national chant: “Chi, Chi Chi, Le, Le Le, Viva Chile!” It’s very exciting. But I actually got to use some of these malas palabras because during this Spanglish Party, just one week after the U.S. election, of course I was getting a lot of questions about it. After one Chilean man asked me about Trump in general, I explained to him Trump’s sexism, racism, white supremicism, etc., and then he repeatedly told me (in English) that I was overreacting about the whole situation (this was after 1-2 minutes of conversation). He may have also called me a “rambling bitch” (not actually sure if I heard him correctly), so it was the perfect situation to use my newly learned malas palabras after I chose to not engage with him further since he could not be respectful.
  • I recently went to a concert/lecture about the theremin, which is an electronic musical instrument in which the sounds come from electric signals. The “thereminist” uses their hands to control the frequency and volume of the sounds, between two antennas. So cool! Here is a video of her playing a few years ago, if you’re interested.
  • People are really friendly in situations with people they don’t know – they say ciao to the bus drivers, and “Que te vaya bien!” to people in the elevator – I love this. Why isn’t this a norm everywhere?IMG_9629.JPG
  • I think I’m addicted to apricots. I said last time that I eat 3-5 a day – that is a vast understatement right now. Sergio (host dad) and I have an unspoken competition every day as to who will eat more. These things are crack.


Vocab that I constantly confuse:

  • Alcayota – honeydew-appearing, pumpkin/squash family fruit described above.
  • Alpargata – rope-like sandal, similar to the brand Toms Shoes
  • Alfombra – rug/carpet
  • Almohada – pillow
  • Alcachofa – artichoke

Ciao until next time! Por favor, email/facebook message/whatsapp me personally with questions or updates about your own lives – I miss being home, especially during this time of year!


Roses + mountain views in Parque Arauco, Las Condes, Santiago

Employment, dancing videos (the time has come), and election emotions.

~~~Please click on the title so you can watch the video of us salsa dancing and dancing with our abuela chilena! (It won’t show up in the email)~~~

The last two weeks have flown by, but also have passed extremely slowly in different ways. The last post I sent out was on a Tuesday, when Jordin and I were unemployed and sitting on the couch (well, Jordin was sitting, I was standing at my standing desk aka the buffet table in our living room). Jordin and I became officially employed that Thursday, and at the same company! #Twinz. While it is a private company, it is different than the many language institutes in Santiago, to which students go for group lessons. This company sends an email every week about the new classes that are available to teach, with the student’s name, English level, location, payment per hour, and their availability. Then it is up to me to decide if I want to teach any of those students based on those criteria. These are essentially private classes, except that the students find teachers through the business, and we’re paid through the business. All of the classes they’ve sent us so far are one-on-one lessons, which often take place at the student’s home. This is the perfect scenario for us because we can choose which lessons we want to teach based on the student’s availability, the lessons last for a whole month (sometimes more), and the pay is significantly higher than many other institutes, even with taxes deducted. So far, I have three students – not a lot, but I’m hoping for more through the ads I posted around Santiago and in various teaching Facebook groups. Two of my students are at the beginner level, which is harder to teach than upper levels, but the first lessons went great. One is a 30-year-old woman through the business described above, and she is super nice and fed me delicious fruit after my first lesson with her (this was after I decided she wasn’t dangerous – don’t worry, moms out there). The other is a 6-year-old girl through a different business (but she’s my only student through them), and I will be teaching her every week for 6 months (aka until I leave Chile in the middle of May). I really enjoyed my first lesson with her for many reasons: 1) She’s really cute, 2) She lives in an awesome apartment, and, 3) I don’t have to prepare very much. Teaching young children is totally different than teaching adults, because they can’t sit still and can’t take in too much at once. She and I basically just played games and did fun activities the whole time – we wrote a story together (each of us writing every other sentence), played a matching card game with pictures of various objects (which I made her say in English every time), and threw a ball back and forth while counting to 100. It just felt like babysitting while making sure to use different skills in English (reading, writing, speaking). I just had my first lesson with my third student tonight – he’s a private student, which means I have to prepare everything on my own (unlike one of the businesses above, which provides me with a textbook – but I still have to prepare other stuff). This student is at the pre-intermediate or intermediate level, and wants to focus on conversation and reading, which I really like teaching. So far so good! Additionally, I’m chatting with a few more potential private students, so hopefully I’ll have more students by the next post.


Since our October TEFL course has been over, Jordin and I have had much more free time than we’re used to having, which is nice sometimes, but it’s not easy for an antsy person like me. I’m someone who needs to have things on my schedule every day in order to feel productive and active, so that’s another reason why I want more students (besides the fact that I need money) As I mentioned in the last post, we both want enough students that we have things on our schedules every day, but not so many that we’re spending most of our time speaking in English. So there are two different events we’re hoping to attend weekly: salsa dancing (or some type of dance class), and Spanglish Party (language exchange). Jordin and I went salsa dancing again last week, to the same club that we went to during our first week in Santiago. A negative is that the class attracts a lot of foreigners (although apparently many dance classes do), but I actually danced with a Chilean who could dance really well. This was much better than the last time, where I danced with someone who couldn’t dance well and didn’t put in much effort. As promised, I took a few videos – they are compiled with a few other videos below (this is your incentive to keep reading). Next time, I’ll have Jordin take videos of me as well so it doesn’t seem like he’s the only Metz who can dance!

The other weekly gathering is called Spanglish Party, which is a language exchange between locals and foreigners at various bars in Santiago. Jordin and I have been twice already, and in typical Estadounidense fashion, we arrived right on time at 8pm. Both times, we have been the first ones there – the bartenders/bouncers seemed confused that we were there so “early”, since Chileans often arrive about an hour later than the start time. It’s basically a place where people can hang out, drink, and talk, and the language is supposed to switch from Spanish to English, and vice versa, every 20 minutes. But the language doesn’t actually switch to English until 9:30, when there are a lot more people there, so I get the chance to speak Spanish for the first hour and a half. I assumed that there would be way more native English speakers at this event than Spanish speakers, but it’s actually the opposite, and I’m not complaining. I am often the only English speaker in a group of all Spanish speakers, which obviously is excellent practice, but it is also a fabulous way to meet new people and practice Spanish in a relaxed environment. Jordin and I don’t stay together during this so we can meet different people, which is great because at the end we end up introducing each other to our new friends anyway. Spanglish Party has been a big confidence boost for me in terms of my Spanish, because I’ve been told that I can speak very well, and I always respond by saying that it’s because they’re speaking slowly so that I can understand them. Every single time, people ask me why I chose to live in Chile instead of Peru, Colombia, or Ecuador, because the Spanish in Chile is notoriously faster and more difficult than in many other Latin American countries.


  • Chileans love mayonnaise – our family puts it on everything, including fresh vegetables.
  • When Jordin and I compliment food, we used to try to elaborate about the flavor and the spices, etc. But Chileans don’t do that – the only thing the cook wants to hear is “Que rico!” This phrase encompasses all food compliments.
  • Our apricot tree is finally starting to produce fruit (hellooooo summer!), so naturally I’ve been eating 3-5 fresh apricots a day. I’d only eaten dried apricots before coming to Chile, but the fresh ones here are absolutely AMAZING.
  • Chileans don’t know how to send a clear email – just like in their spoken Spanish, they abbreviate their words so much that I can’t even use an online translator. I’ve been sending messages to my new Chilean friend (from Spanglish Party) to translate for me, and in return, she sends me things in English that she doesn’t understand. She is fluent in Spanish, English, and Japanese, AND is studying other languages, so she constantly impresses me. Most of her translation questions have been about English phrases that seem literal but aren’t: for example, “ideology translated into action on the ground”, and “bringing the young readers into play”. One person whom I met, an 40-something adult who doesn’t speak English, told me he received an email from his friend in English that said “Let me holla at it”, and he had no clue how to decipher it. I tried to explain it to him in the best way that I could, by saying that it’s like “Yo puedo hacerlo” (I can do it) or “Yo puedo tratarlo” (I can try it). However, I just looked it up and apparently it means to let someone flirt/hit on someone…I am a millennial and thought I knew what this meant, but clearly I’m out of the loop already.
  • English words that are the same in Spanish (I’m not talking about cognates – these are the exact words on their own):
    • Cheesecake
    • Baby shower
    • Sandwich
    • ShortsIMG_9595.jpg
  • I tried a popular drink with some Americans and with my host sister, Javiera, called a Michelada. It consists of lemon juice, Merkén (smoked chili pepper), beer, and tobasco sauce, all in a glass with a salted rim. There are many variations of this drink across Latin America, and though I’m not a beer person, I think this is pretty cool (Dad, I hope you’re reading this because you would love it).
  • Santiago isn’t a city that promotes lots of art and music – it definitely exists, but it’s not a huge part of the culture here. One person whom I met at Spanglish Party said he’s in a band, but it’s hard to play shows with a lot of attendees. Apparently people will pay for foreign groups that come in, but local music isn’t very well attended.

This has been an incredibly tough week for me emotionally, and I know that many of you feel the same way. I spent Tuesday night at Spanglish Party, the language exchange, speaking with people for over two and a half hours mostly about the election. Before we arrived, Jordin and I agreed that we would leave no later than 10:30pm so we could get home to watch the polls come in. Throughout Spanglish Party, people asked me all about Trump and Clinton, who was going to win, and my opinions about all of it. I was the main one talking in my group, which gave me a lot of practice, and I tried to give them the whole picture of the situation, though of course I included my opinions (FYI explaining the electoral college in Spanish is difficult). My opinions are very similar to many others in Chile – not only that Trump is a terrible person, is racist/sexist/xenophobic/a white supremacist/etc, but that his fickle actions will affect not just the U.S. but the entire world. As the night went on, one person kept showing me the results map on his phone, but at that point it was only 10pm in Chile, meaning 8pm on the East Coast, and the polls had only just started coming in. At this point, I was definitely nervous, but like the media had predicted, I was sure that Hillary would win. Fast forward an hour – I get home around 11:30pm to a stunning realization that the polls are going the opposite direction – the prediction line graph on the NYTimes literally flipped. I spent the next three hours in front of my computer, tears streaming down my face while talking with friends online about the results, and feeling extremely connected and disconnected to America at the same time. As I stared at the results map and the annoying meter on the NYTimes website that keep inching forward with Trump’s chances of winning, I could not comprehend what was going on. I went to bed in tears, hoping for a miracle and wishing I could be hugging my mom and Melanie, and barely slept at all. I woke up at 8 on Wednesday because I had to leave for my first English class ever at 9, and attempted to pull myself together: I walked into the kitchen, Aly (host mom) asked me if I was sad, and I promptly burst into tears. Throughout the day, I kept thinking back to that moment: how is this POSSIBLE? It felt like a nightmare, and all I wanted to do was wake up. I actually had two great first English classes during the day, and I left each in a great mood, and then remembered the election and went back to that devastated state. I know this has been hard for all of my similar-minded friends and peers, but I think I had and am still having an especially hard time with it because I’m not surrounded by many people who can commiserate with me. This election just feels so incredibly personal, and the result was the repudiation of everything and everyone that I care about. After talking to a number of Chileans about it, I’ve found that most people here are nervous for Trump’s presidency, but they cannot understand it from a United States perspective; they don’t feel the same sadness and terror that I do, even being a white, educated woman of privilege (and with Pence as VP, being a woman is going to become much more difficult). Some Chileans discuss it like it’s a joke, but I keep reminding them that Trump’s presidency is going to affect the whole world. After crying a significant number of times throughout the day on Wednesday, I was able to come to terms with the results more, though it will take a long time to actually accept them. On Wednesday night, my best friend Shaina reminded me that even though this is going to be extremely difficult, we cannot just sit back and wait for the inevitable: it’s sad and it’s scary, but we are strong and need to work to bring about the change that we want to see in IMG_3445.jpgour country. I also want to thank everyone I know who worked so hard for Hillary – whether that was an actual job on her campaign, phonebanking, knocking on doors, leafleting, or working the polls, THANK YOU to everyone who spent their time spreading the word about our amazing candidate. In the past few weeks, these purple trees have been in bloom all over Santiago – the color of unity, the mix of red and blue, and the color of Hillary’s pantsuit during her concession speech. Now, I will pick myself up, donate to Planned Parenthood in honor of Hillary Clinton, and do my best to fight for the causes I believe in and for those who will be affected by our new president much more than I will. And I want to buy a pantsuit.

Thursday was Aly’s (host mom) birthday, and that night we had a birthday once (evening meal) with other family members: Sergio (host dad), Javiera (host sister), Leo (Javi’s son, the crying toddler); Cristóbal (Aly and Sergio’s son, age 24), Mariana (his girlfriend), Amalia (their 16-month-old toddler); Abuela Doris (Sergio’s mom), Marcela (Sergio’s sister), and Ignacia (Marcela’s daughter, age 11); Gabriel (Aly’s brother, late 30s). The best part is that Doris, Marcela, and Ignacia live in the house right behind ours, so we see them all the time. While this dinner was to celebrate Aly, the main topic was Trump winning the election.


Jordin dancing with our abuela chilena

On Saturday, we had a surprise birthday party for Aly. She and Sergio left early in the morning (early here is 8:30am) and went to the beach for the day , so we had all day to prepare with Javiera. We completely rearranged the patio furniture, put up lots of balloons and streamers, and prepared a bunch of food, with the help of Pamela, the aunt of Felipe (Javi’s boyfriend/Leo’s dad). This food included guacamole, which Pamela kept assuring me was vegan even though I never questioned it (though you never know…Chileans may slip some mayonnaise in there sometime), and vegan cake that Abuela made just for Jordin and me because she’s the The guests were supposed to come at 8:30pm, so in typical Chilean fashion, most of them showed up by 9:15, and Aly and Sergio were supposed to arrive at 9:30, so they showed up at 10:15. Aly was completely surprised, and after she hugged everyone, the real party began – our patio was transformed into an amazing dancefloor, with enough flashing, colored lights to give someone epilepsy, as well as a disco ball strategically placed in a large birdcage in the corner. Everyone wanted to talk to Jordin and me, and they all repeatedly asked why we chose Chile instead a different country where the Spanish is easier to learn. And of course we talked about Trump – the first question always is, “Estás contenta?” and my answer always is “Absolutamente nooooooo!” One man, Fernando, compared Trump to Augusto Pinochet, who was the President of Chile from 1973 to 1990, and this was a military dictatorship. To put it simply, a lot of shit went down during Pinochet’s rule, including the torturing, murder, and disappearances of thousands of people. I’ve met people who hate him and those who love him, for various reasons. But Fernando compared Pinochet to Trump by saying that the people want a president who is “muy duro”, or very tough. But back to the party – there was lots of dancing to great music, and Jordin was especially fantastic. One man came up to me and said, “Tu hermano es un espectáculo!” People loved us dancing even more when we played Uptown Funk, which all the younger kids knew. All in all, we had a blast. Many people said that they want to meet our parents when they come visit, so Mom and Dad, you better be studying your Spanish!

Last tidbit about the party: a man in his 70s told me, in English, that he loved me. So that happened. Below is a video with clips from both salsa classes and from the birthday party.

Chilenismos / vocabulary of the week:

  • Fome = boring, dull
  • ¡La raja! = awesome/something really fun; this is informal and used among young people
  • Palos/palillo/palito chino = chopsticks
  • Brocheta = kebab (e.g. brochetas de fruta, brochetas de verduras, brochetas de carne, etc)
  • Cangrejo (crab) vs. conejo (rabbit) vs. consejo (advice)


I saw this sign on the side of the road today near Universidad Católica, which is where I’ve seen many signs and posters about more liberal topics that are definitely not in other areas of Santiago. For example, street vendors selling vegan sandwiches and desserts, as well as lots of wall art and graffiti – yes, including the word “vegan” many times. But this sign is so relevant right now – here’s how it translates:
And why is abortion not something people talk about? 

Religion punishes us. School blinds us. Health hides it. The law forbids it. 

Month 1: Finishing the course, dancing on the metro, Chilean beaches, and a tarantula.

Hola amigos! Happy November! ~~~Don’t forget to click the title for better formatting (and to watch the video)!~~~

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of teaching, homework, and of course, lots of fun. My English-teaching certification program officially ended on Friday! I can’t believe we’ve now been in Chile for over a month – the course flew by, as expected, though the workload was intense, also as expected. But I was really sad for it to end, because I love our teacher, my classmates, and our class dynamic – the last day was very bittersweet. We’ve had a lot of work in the last two weeks (three teaching sessions and three papers), but now that it’s over, I have my TEFL / IDELT certification that is accepted in any country in the world, and I have six hours of observed teaching practice under my belt. While teaching wasn’t easy, it definitely got easier throughout, and my last class could not be more different from the first. Below are the six classes that I taught:

  • Pre-intermediate grammar: prepositions of time (in the morning, at night, until 4pm, etc.)
  • Pre-intermediate function: Asking for repetition (“Could you say that again?”)
  • Intermediate reading: I got to choose my own subject, which was an article on fast food and its health effects
  • Beginner grammar: simple present questions (“What do you like? Do you have a car?”)
  • Advanced listening: I got to choose my own subject again, so used a podcast about distracted driving
  • Beginner vocabulary: emotions (“I am excited”, “I am angry”)

I really enjoyed both of my reading and listening classes, not only because I could choose my own subject, but also because I didn’t have to do much teaching. This may seem contradictory to the teacher’s purpose in class, but one of our goals is to have as little Teacher Talk Time (TTT) as possible. In order to learn a language, the students need to use that language as much as possible, so listening to the teacher lecture about the topic won’t help them very much. In reading and listening classes, the focus is comprehension, not production (using the language, such as practicing asking for repetition in a variety of situations). The main goal is to get the students to talk about the topic and understand what they’re reading/listening to. I chose a reading or listening section that I tailored to the level of the students (e.g. Intermediate reading is half to two-thirds of a page of text, single spaced, while Advanced is a full page). Then we reviewed vocabulary from the selection that may be hard for the students to understand through some sort of activity, such as matching words or pictures to their definitions. Finally, we read/listened to the text/recording, and discussed both general and specific questions that I created beforehand. At the end, we had a discussion or debate, or something to demonstrate their comprehension of what they learned. In my course, we were specifically instructed NOT to choose a topic that is particularly contentious, such as politics or abortion (which is 100% illegal in Chile), because we shouldn’t impose our own opinions on the students. However, if I was teaching in the U.S. and just so happened to discuss the upcoming election to potentially swing some votes in the way of my preferred candidate…just kidding (kind of).

I have learned so much in this course, not just about English grammar, but also about how to teach well. In all of my six teaching sessions, I had a class of 1-3 students, and my teacher and classmates observed and gave feedback afterwards. This feedback has been essential to my improvement, especially because there are so many things I never would’ve noticed on my own. For example, during my second lesson, I was crowned the Modal Queen – modals are words like can, might, may, would, etc (words of possibility). In English classes, especially with any level below Advanced, we’re not supposed to use any modals because they are extra words that the students hear and often don’t understand, and they don’t actually add anything to the lesson except politeness. In the U.S., teachers constantly use modals, such as, “Could you please read the sentence on the board?”, or “Would you please repeat that?” But when teaching English, we’re supposed to make our instructions as short and direct as possible, and while they may not be as polite as they could be, the students know exactly what is being asked of them. For example, “Please do the worksheet”, “Please repeat that”, and “Please come to the board.” After learning that I used 58 modals during my second lesson (our teacher tallies them for everyone), I changed that aspect of my teaching style immediately, and now I think of exactly how I’ll begin my sentence before I speak. It is difficult at times, but I know it’s so much easier on the students, especially the beginners. Here are some other things that we all improved upon:

  • Echo – when the teacher repeats what the student says, regardless of whether or not it’s correct. Teachers often echo when the answer is incorrect, so we want to cause as little confusion as possible by not echoing what the student says at all; for example, student says “Wrote”, teacher says, “Good!”, instead of, “Wrote – good!”
  • Narration – Jordin and I had this problem the most, probably because we both tend to talk ourselves through whatever we’re doing. Narrating in class is filling the silence with words when it’s not necessary, for example, “Now I’m going to erase the board, and then we’ll do a worksheet.” Either the students will understand some of or all of what’s being said, or won’t understand anything and think they’re missing something important. We try to embrace the silence when we have it.
  • Teacher Talk Time (TTT) – as discussed above, we aim for a low TTT so the students get to speak as much as possible.

Making English grammar relatable to Chile

Additionally, we’ve had some pretty funny moments during classes with the students. In my final lesson, which was about emotions, I told the students, “I am excited about class today. What is an example of when you are excited?” One of the students shyly said, “I am excited when I….make love?” Everyone laughed, and I realized that excited is a false cognate for excitado in Spanish, which can mean sexually excited…oops! In the same class, the other student was trying to pronounce the word “niece”, but it came out sounding like “sex” (it’s hard to believe they sound similar, but they did). Things like this happen in class all the time, and it’s always a funny moment for teachers.

So, what are Jordin and I doing with ourselves now that the course is over? Applying for jobs WOOOOO! Just getting closer to what I’ll have to do in the real world when I get back to the U.S. There are a ton of institutes/businesses in Santiago that offer English classes and are hiring teachers, although we are entering the slow hiring season because it’s almost summer here, and fewer people take classes then. Private lessons are ideal because neither Jordin nor I want to work a ton of hours each week, since our primary goal living in Chile is to work on our Spanish, and English classes are 100% taught in English. We want to have something on our schedule every day, make enough to pay the rent, and spend the rest of the time speaking Spanish. In the last week of our course, we worked on our teaching resumes with our teacher’s feedback, and created flyers advertising our teaching services to post around the city. We also have been posting in various Facebook groups, on craigslist, and have emailed many IB schools in Santiago (again, after sending initial emails in July & August) to see what we can find. I already have some replies, so fingers crossed that we both find jobs soon!


Viña Concha y Toro

Backtracking a bit: Last Saturday (Oct. 22), my class (six of us) went to Concha y Toro, a large winery in the outskirts of Santiago that is accessible by public transportation – we took the metro from one end to the other (about 40 minutes). It’s not grape season right now (that’s more in March/April), but on our tour of the property, we saw many of the vines, which were labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc, as well as temperature-controlled rooms full of barrels of wine. Fun fact: some wines have hints of other flavors, such as specific fruits or vanilla, and these flavors are not added after the fact –they’re released by the barrels and absorbed by the wine! So cool. We got to taste three different wines, all of which were excellent, and we even got to keep the glass we used. When they filled up all the glasses at the beginning of the tasting, Bryan (one of our classmates) bent down to see which glass was filled the highest, and after that, our tour guide gave him his own wine each time, so Bryan drank double the wine that we did. This wine is definitely more expensive in the U.S. than it is here (in the liquor store, a bottle of one of these wines was around $5), but I highly recommend trying any of these if you’re looking for a new wine! Below are links to read more about them. And for those who don’t know their wines (I’m outing myself as someone who does not), I wrote the type of wine next to the name since otherwise I would have no clue what’s red or white (and the pictures show empty bottles)  :)


  1. Terrunyo – Sauvignon Blanc (white)IMG_9523.jpg
  2. Marques Casa Concha – Merlot (red)
  3. Terrunyo – Carmenere (red) 
  4. Casillero del Diablo – Cabernet Sauvignon (red) This last one I tasted outside of Concha y Toro, but it’s from there and named after the devil of Concha y Toro, Casillero del Diablo

When we took the metro back to Santiago, Bryan and Dennise took out their wine glasses and started drinking the bottle of wine they had bought, which is definitely illegal, but it was hilarious. At one stop, a saxophone player got on and started playing really popular dance music, so of course we all got up to dance. Every single person in the metro car was staring at us – I’m still upset that I didn’t take a quick picture of the whole car, because seeing all of those surprised faces would have been an excellent memory of the day. Not only were we a bunch of gringos, but two of us were drinking, and most of us were dancing, and Bryan even got a lady to stand up and dance with him. Not a typical metro ride, but we definitely gave the other riders a treat. Give yourself a treat and watch my compiled video below – it’s less than a minute and is guaranteed to make you smile!

On Friday, the last day of the course, we turned in all of our final documents, and then went out to lunch with our awesome teacher, Kimberley. We ordered a few pitchers of sangria as well as lunch, and others continued drinking throughout the 3 hours we were there (we started at 1:30pm…). After we left around 5pm, we went back to Kimberley’s apartment, and hung out on her terrace that had a gorgeous view of the city. Sadly, Friday’s view didn’t include the mountains because it was so smoggy. We had an amazing time, and I couldn’t have picked a better way to finish the final week of our course. Jordin and I will definitely be staying in touch with Kimberley while we’re in Chile, especially because we found out she also loves playing Canasta, so we’re going to play with her sometime soon. (Seriously, now that I’m 23 I do feel like a grandma, even though I’ve played both Canasta and Mahjongg since I was a young tot.)


View from Kimberley’s apartment – Dennise just went back to NYC.

This weekend was a long weekend in Chile (Monday and Tuesday are off), so on Saturday morning, we drove with our family to their casita en el campo, or little house in the country, in the town of Puchuncaví. It’s about 70 miles from Santiago, but it took us a while to get there because of traffic, and Leo’s (toddler) constant screaming definitely didn’t help. Jordin likes to say that Leo cries just to hear himself cry – I’m guessing it’s because he still doesn’t talk (which is concerning, because he’s almost a year and a half), so he cries regardless of how he feels.

On Sunday morning, I got up around 8:30, turned around, and saw that THERE WAS A GIANT TARANTULA ON THE WALL BEHIND MY BED, ABOUT A FOOT FROM WHERE MY HEAD WAS. If this sentence in all caps didn’t scare you, the photo below should. Even though our host parents told us that the tarantulas here aren’t dangerous, this is obviously a horrifying view for someone who just woke up. This was almost as scary as what happened when Jordin and I were on an Elderhostel in the Poconos with our grandma when we were 10: I ran into the cabin and slammed the door behind me to lock Jordin out, and saw that there was a large, black, coiled snake behind the door, blocking my only exit. But back to the tarantula, I heard that Javi (host sister), Felipe (her boyfriend), and Leo (toddler) were awake, so I asked them for help, and they woke the parents, who swiftly took the tarantula out of the house. Happy first morning in the country!



The house was about 20 kilometers from various beaches, so we went to two different ones each day: on Sunday, we drove to Maitencillo and La Laguna. Only Sergio went in the water, because it was pretty cold and the wind was somewhat nippy, though the weather warmed up throughout the day. I had my first Chilean empanada, which was quite mediocre (in my experience, Argentine empanadas are 1000% better). On Monday, we drove to Horcón, and went to one nameless beach and a second called El Tebo. We walked through the artisan fair and just hung out, and most of the family went in the water. Jordin and I are way too picky about cold water to even bring our bathing suits. All of the beaches were beautiful, and smelling that salty air was a nice change from smoggy Santiago. And on our final night, during the car ride home, we saw stars for the first time since arriving in Chile!


Playa El Tebo

The past few weeks have been somewhat stressful for me in terms of my Spanish practice. I have been so immersed in my course and speaking/teaching English that it’s been difficult to find time to focus on Spanish, since all of my work at night was in English. At the beginning of my time in Chile, I would go to bed and wake up thinking in Spanish, but that hasn’t happened for a few weeks. I’ve been reminding myself that I’ll focus much more after the course, but it’s still frustrating that I feel shy to speak most of the time. I feel like Jordin is able to converse pretty smoothly now, but I’m not there yet. He also took two more Spanish classes in college than I did, so it hasn’t been as long for him as it has been for me, but I still get frustrated with myself. Our host family was great about making us talk and correcting our grammar and vocabulary over the weekend, so I hope that continues. They also think it’s really funny that I can’t roll my R’s, so they’re making up sentences for me to say to practice: “Raquel va a tratar a correr por los cerros.” = “Rachael is going to try to run through the hills.” – I did try to do this in Puchuncaví, but failed miserably because the hills were so steep.

While it’s easy to be frustrated, I had an clarifying moment during the car ride to the country house: I’m finished with my intense course, I’ve made some great friends, I was driving through beautiful mountains covered in avocado trees, and I have so much of Santiago and the entire country of Chile to explore – I have nothing to complain about. While living and adjusting to life here can be difficult at times, it has been wonderful so far and I’m so excited for the rest. Live in the present.


sunset en el campo

Cosas nuevas que he aprendido (new things that I’ve learned):

  • We were talking with our host family about how Chileans talk about other people: they said that in the U.S., you can talk about yourself in a negative light, but not other people without it being gossipy (e.g. “I’m fat.”) But in Chile, they talk about other people all the time with words that the U.S. may consider offensive, but here it’s just descriptive and not out of malice. They say things like “Hola gordito” (“Hi fatty”) if someone is overweight, but it’s not meant as an insult; Chileans are just extremely descriptive with their words, so they won’t hesitate to say things like that.
  • You can’t buy alcohol on Election Day in Chile, which was last Sunday (Oct. 23), because politicians used to bus people in from far away and bribe them with alcohol. Needless to say, the liquor stores were packed on Saturday night.
  • You’re allowed to have up to 3 grams of marijuana growing in your own house. When we were talking about this with the family, my host mom clarified to me that marijuana is a drug, in case I didn’t know. #WesleyanGrad
  • I’ve seen many adults here with braces. Apparently braces are a sign of wealth– people put them on later when they start earning money, because they can afford it. Orthodontia costs for kids are more expensive.
  • Remember how I said Chileans add “-ito/a” as a suffix to most of their words, even if they don’t mean to change the meaning to “little _____” ? e.g. Tecito, cafecito, paltita. The other day, I was looking at someone’s phone over their shoulder, as I do here (it’s not snooping if I’m trying to learn the language, right?? ), and saw they were texting a contact named “Amorcito”, aka amor (love) + -ito. I would be surprised, but honestly I’m not because they add it to EVERYTHING.
  • Chilenismo of the week: arriba de la pelota = drunk

BesITOS y abrazITOS! Please email/facebook message/imessage/whatsapp me to catch up!


Week 2: An intensive course, unbelievable facts about dogs and bread, and nuestros cumpleaños!

***Reminder to click on the title and open this post through the website, instead of reading it via email, because the formatting is much cleaner!***

Hola hola! 

The last time I posted, we had just returned from a salsa dancing class and I was procrastinating writing a lesson plan. Since then, I continue to procrastinate but have managed to teach three classes since, so something is working out! The salsa class we attended was very close to Universidad Católica, which is one of the oldest universities in Chile and one of the best in Latin America. I really liked walking around that neighborhood because there were so many young people – and lots of people selling food, including vegan empanadas, so I’ll definitely be back. This salsa class was almost entirely foreigners, which was a slight disappointment, since I really need to be speaking Spanish. But the person teaching the class only spoke Spanish, so that made it more authentic and fun. Once our English-teaching class is over in two weeks, Jordin and I plan on going to dance classes more frequently.


7am view from Providencia

Jordin and I are in school together for the first time in 5 years! The course is an International English-teaching certification course to receive the TEFL/TESOL certificate. So far we absolutely love this class – there are six students in total, and we get along very well. Our teacher is amazing – super friendly, welcoming, hilarious, and also happens to be a fantastic English teacher. The course is really intense, with lots of reading throughout the first two weeks, but the reading is lightening up now because we have more papers and teaching sessions. We’re all required to teach six hours over the course of four weeks: six one-hour lessons. I’ve taught three times so far, and while I’m definitely improving, lesson planning doesn’t get any easier. In each lesson, we teach one of the following: Grammar, Vocabulary, Function, or Pronunciation. Function is by far the best – it’s teaching something that the students can apply easily, such as apologizing, encouragement, or asking for repetition. Lesson planning is SO TIME CONSUMING – I’m constantly thinking about how appreciative I am of my favorite teachers (some of whom are following this blog J) and how so much of what they did in the classroom was conducive to academic and personal growth. THANK YOU, TEACHERS! I’m complaining about having to teach twice, as in for 2 hours total, in one week, when they teach almost every hour of the school day. Already, I have learned so much in this course –how to be a good teacher, and how to teach English, specifically. All in all, the course is really intense, and we don’t have much time to do fun things outside of class during this month, but because of our fantastic class and teacher, I’m enjoying it tremendously. Our students are Chileans who get to come for free because we’re not certified, and they’re all awesome. I would say most are in their 50s and want to learn English either because of travel or it’s just an intrinsic motivation. They’re all super nice and friendly, and it’s also a good opportunity for me to practice my Spanish with them after class.

IMG_3341.JPGOn Fridays after class, our class has gone out afterward for dinner and drinks – for 4-5 hours. We have such a fantastic dynamic – we’re all from the U.S., but come from very different backgrounds and experiences. Among six of us, Jordin and I are the youngest, and then their ages are 24, 28, 30, and 42, so it’s quite a range. A six person group is perfect, as it’s enough that we switch up partners in class and get to observe five other beginner teachers, but small enough that we’re really close as a group. Two of the others are staying in Chile for a while after the course ends, but two are going back to the U.S., and I’m already sad for the day we all have to part. Two weeks in, and two weeks to go!

There is an unbelievable number of dogs in Santiago – and I’m not talking about the men (more on that later). Almost every house has a dog in my neighborhood, and all of the IMG_3330.jpghouses are gated, so the dogs stay by the gate and are outside all day. Our dog, Ita, is not allowed in the house, so she’s outside in the driveway 24/7, and it doesn’t have any grass. It’s really not a good life for her, or for many dogs here. I think most people have dogs as guard dogs of sorts, even if they’re small (like ours). But there are also an incredible number of street dogs, and they’re everywhere: walking around, sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk, and even taking the metro and busses around. I didn’t believe it until last night, when I saw it happen. Right before I got on the bus, a dog jumped on. These dogs know the public transportation system better than I do!

 I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but our host family does not speak English. This is ESSENTIAL for our language immersion because we’ve been speaking only English in our class and almost all the time with our classmates, so talking with our host family is our only Spanish-speaking time right now. Even though Jordin and I often use an online dictionary to look up words we don’t know, it’s really helpful for our family to describe new words to us in Spanish. Their pronunciation of my name is really funny – I told them Raquel is how it’s pronounced in Spanish and I like that, but they insist on calling me my name in the way it’s pronounced at home. But for them, it’s “Reach-el”. The same with Jordin – even though I pronounce it the way it would be in Spanish, “Hor-deen”, they pronounce it like I do in English. Even though I’d rather be called Raquel to make it simpler, it’s pretty cute the way they pronounce it.

Chileans loooooove their sweets – everyone in the family puts 2-3 teaspoons of sugar into their coffee and tea, and they’re always surprised we when don’t use it in tea or oatmeal. They like to tell us that Chileans like everything a little sweet. However, while I always take fruit for breakfast and often at once (the evening meal), they never do. But after meals, they ask if anyone would like a dessert, meaning fruit – it seems like they only view them as desserts or snacks. Jordin and I both were eating an apple and peanut butter the other day, and our host sister Javiera told us that an American who stayed with them in the past would make sandwiches of peanut butter and banana, and she thought it was gross. We told them how popular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are, but it’s not a thing here.

Some other interesting tidbits:

  • Coffee in Chile – the most popular form is Nescafé, which is instant coffee. There are coffee shops (Starbucks is here too), but Nescafé is by far the most widely used. Our host dad and sister drink it at every meal, so I asked them why it’s more common than purchasing a coffee maker. Their main reasons were that it’s very quick and cheap, which is valid. They also said that the view of people going to Starbucks is that the person is “quica”, which is a Chilenismo that means snobby. Granted, Starbucks here is just as expensive as it is in the U.S., and instant coffee is incredibly cheap.
  • Chileans eat 90 kilograms of bread every year – THAT’S ALMOST 200 POUNDS OF BREAD PER PERSON PER YEAR. And it’s not even my mom’s incredible homemade bread – it’s plain white. Just let that statistic sink in.IMG_3358.JPG
  • There are a ton of parks in my neighborhood, and almost all of them have exercise equipment that anyone can use! It’s what I’ve been doing after running, and it also is inviting and intriguing to anyone passing by. I love that it encourages exercise outdoors, for free, and in a beautiful place.
  • I didn’t realize how bad the catcalling situation here was until a few days ago, while I was running. I’ve been running as often as I can in my neighborhood in Ñuñoa, trying to get back into my running rhythm, but never had I received so much attention on a run before than I did last Thursday. It was around 6pm, which is rush hour, but when I’m in class all day, that’s the best time for me to go – it’s still light out, and it’s before we eat dinner. I’ve gotten used to the occasional honk from passing cars, but when it’s rush hour and cars are waiting at a red light, they clearly have nothing better to do than stare at me running by and honk incessantly. This even happened with multiple busses. If there are 3 or more men on the sidewalk ahead of me, I now cross to the other side of the street or move to the edge of the sidewalk so I am as far from them as possible, since it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll say something. Groups of men shouting things are even worse. I know it’s part of Chilean culture (and it’s constant in the U.S. – but of course that’s just “locker room talk”, right?), but it is absolutely infuriating to me that men here think it’s okay to shout their thoughts about women’s bodies and appearances whenever and wherever they want.

On a more positive note, thank you thank you thank you to everyone for the wonderful birthday wishes! I received so many messages through all forms of social media, and it made me feel very thankful to have such wonderful friends and family thinking of me. (FYI: I have my phone and can text through iMessage, but I prefer Facebook messenger IMG_9426.jpgbecause it’s quicker and more reliable. And email is great.) I feel super old! Jordin and I went out on both Friday and Saturday nights with friends, talking for hours, and had a blast. Our host family got us a few little gifts, and one of mine was a very colorful Chilean fannypack. Now, before you judge, fannypacks (called a banano here) are really hip among the young people, especially students. It’s perfect for carrying a wallet, keys, and a phone right in front of you, and since petty theft is so common here, I guess that’s why fannypacks are too. Even though the only person in the U.S. who actually uses one every day is my grandma, maybe they’ll come back in style right?! I’ll defer to my fashionista sister on that one. But the best present was probably when we skyped with our family and they brought some of our cats to the screen. I may or may not have teared up a bit thinking about cuddling with them. #CatLady4Ever

This week’s Chilenismos (I learned each of them OUT of context):IMG_3334.JPG

  • Caña = hangover
  • Al seco! = “Chug!” (as in a drink)
  • Flaite = ghetto (adjective)
  • Cuico/a = snobby (mentioned above)

Please respond/send an email/facebook message to keep me updated about your life while I’m here! I would love to catch up more. Besos y abrazos!

Week 1: Chilean food & drink, school, and exploring Santiago

**Same reminder as the beginning of the last post: if you’re receiving this by email, the post and pictures look significantly better on the website, so please click on the title and it will direct you there!


Host baby Leonardo

I cannot believe we have been in Chile almost a week already – it feels like we’ve been here for much longer than that. Things have improved significantly since I last posted, mostly because our school has started, which means I’ve been in other parts of Santiago besides Ñuñoa! I do like living in Ñuñoa, but it’s very suburban, and I like to be around lots of movement, things to do, and places to explore.



The climate in Santiago is very temperate – it is spring right now (I LOVE smelling the blooming flowers), but the temperature fluctuates constantly, so I bring layers everywhere. I’ve had many instances where I go back and forth between feeling warm and cold, but luckily I packed in layers (capas). During the day, I am usually in a t-shirt and shorts, which is funny compared to everyone else on the metro (the subway) or in the streets, as they wear coats and pants. By nighttime, the temperature drops significantly, and I go to bed in sweatpants and a fleece shirt, sometimes adding my fleece jacket onto that.

CHILEAN MEALS – the food culture here is totally different than in the U.S. in many ways. The two foods at every meal are white bread and mashed avocado (palta). Chileans eat a lot of the same foods that the U.S. does, but meals are set up totally differently.

  • Breakfast (desayuno) is usually eaten between 10 and 11am, and it’s
    pretty light. There are toasted bread rolls (always white), jam, butter (vegan for us!), peanut butter, mashed avocado, tea and coffee, and leftover cake if there is any. We told our host mom Aly that we eat oatmeal (avena) for breakfast, so she prepares that for us every day. I know living abroad requires flexibility, especially with food, but since oatmeal is easy to buy here and is much healthier, I’m very happy that we have it.
  • Lunch (almuerzo) is usually around 2pm, and is the main meal of the day. It often has multiple courses – here was one of ours:
    • Tea or coffee
    • Artichoke (alcachofa) and a lettuce salad
    • Soup of poroto, which is another word for beans (instead of frijoles) – I LOVE this dish.
    • A stir fry of rice noodles with corn (the Chilenismo is choclo, instead of maíz), carrots (zanahorias), and peas
    • Strawberries in the juice from jarred peaches
  • Dinner – Chileans don’t eat a “normal-sized” dinner – instead, it is called once (pronounced “ohn-say”, like the Spanish pronunciation of the number eleven;

    Baby avocado! A real paltita

    because I’m in Chile, where people drop the s’s on almost all of their words, it is usually pronounced without the s). Once is essentially an evening snack, with tea and coffee (of course), bread, butter, jam, peanut butter, and mashed avocado. There is sometimes some sort of deli meat on the table with breakfast and dinner for the rest of the family. Occasionally, Aly makes Jordin and me a vegetable dish, while the rest of them “tomar once” (to take once): last night was grilled vegetables with tomato sauce of many other veggies, spices, and carne vegetal (vegan meat substitute) – it was delicious.



IMG_9341.JPGIn my first post, I mentioned that Chileans add “ito” or “ita” to words even when the object isn’t small, which the ending usually means. Well, I only realized a few days ago that our host cat, Pancito, is named after pan (bread)…pan + ito = Pancito. How I interpret this is that our host family needed even more bread in their lives because there wasn’t enough already, so the cat needed to be named after bread to fulfill it.

On Friday night, Jordin and I went out with one of his friends from Tufts who is studying abroad in Santiago this semester, and three of his Chilean friends. We ended up going to a bar called “St. Patrick’s Day Bar” – definitely immersing ourselves in typical Chilean bar culture! Even though we only spoke in Spanish and the bar actually was filled with Chileans, it reminded me of a bar I went to in Vietnam called “Local Bar” (in English), and it was only foreigners. Here in Chile, I ordered my first pisco sour, which is a popular Chilean drink. It is made from pisco, which is a brandy-like drink made from grapes. I only found out afterwards that the drink usually contains egg white (oops), but I also read that Chilean pisco sours often don’t use egg whites, so I’ll have to ask next time.

On Saturday night, Jordin and I had absolutely no plans (#nofriends #yet), so we had a fun night in with Aly and Sergio. They made us “terremotos”, a popular Chilean drink (the word also means earthquake): pineapple ice cream (pineapple sorbet for us, though Aly told us it’s usually made with this), Pipeño (a special type of wine), and grenadine. Over drinks, we talked about all sorts of things, and I felt like it was a bonding moment with them. Afterward, Sergio put on popular Chilean music, and we talked about dancing and music in various countries, among other things.

On Sunday after breakfast, Aly and Sergio took Jordin and me to a farmers market (called a feria) in the nearby neighborhood of Peñalolén (it’s far enough from Ñuñoa to drive there, but is only about 15 minutes away). This market was a long line of produce stands, as wellIMG_9333.JPG as stands selling household items and clothes. Aly and Sergio bought lots of fruit and vegetables, and we got to taste many samples along the way. At one stand, the man working it made Jordin take a bag of lettuce and his reasoning was because Jordin is a gringo (a word often used to describe foreigners, especially a white person from the United States). We didn’t actually get it for free, but it was funny because then the man started talking with Sergio about Jordin being a gringo as if we couldn’t understand (I’ll be honest – I didn’t get most of it because it was so fast). It’s interesting for me to compare my experiences in Santiago and Buenos Aires, because when I was in Buenos Aires, I didn’t stand out at all. The result of decades of European immigration to Argentina is that much of the population in the city is white – it was only when I went outside of the city that people looked more stereotypically Hispanic. Here in Santiago, most of the population looks more Hispanic, so it’s much easier for Jordin and me to stand out.

On Monday, Jordin and I are started our English-teaching certification class to get our TEFL/TESOL certificates! We had our first day of school together for the first time in 5 years, since the beginning of senior year of high school. I am so excited to start having a routine and somewhere to go every day, because even though I like Ñuñoa, I was getting a little tired of being in the house with very little activity for four days. Our school is in Providencia, which is a business/financial section of Santiago. Our commute is 25-30 minutes, which isn’t much in Santiago: we walk 8 minutes to the metro, have an 8 minute metro ride (only 4 stops), and walk another 8 or so minutes to our school. Very easy! Our class starts at 10am, which is great for sleep benefits, but also because the busiest commuting hours are from 7-9am, and we leave around 9:15am (though the metro is still pretty crowded). Our class typically will end between 5 and 5:30pm, and rush hour in the evening is 6-8pm, so it will be pretty crowded for us at night. The class is six people, all from the U.S., and everyone comes from totally different backgrounds, schooling, and experiences – I like them all. The only problem is we speak in English all day, so we’re used to speaking that and often continue it when we leave school – we sometimes speak Spanish, but it’s so easy to revert to English that by the end of the day, I find myself longing to speak Spanish. I want to continue hanging out with my classmates, but I need to be really careful about speaking so much English – we all speak a fair amount of Spanish, so I’m going to try to enforce that more. More updates on school next time!

We got out of class early on Monday and Tuesday, which means we had time to explore, which I have been wanting to do since the day I got here. On Monday, we walked to the Costanera Center, which is a skyscraper a few blocks from our school, and it is also the tallest building in Latin America! It has a six-floor shopping mall (to be honest, I didn’t know there were many malls bigger than King of Prussia), offices, and lots of food. On Tuesday, we went to Cerro San Cristóbal, which is in an area called Bellavista – cerro means hill, and Santiago is full of them. The peak of this hill is the second highest point in the city, so it has fantastic views – we went yesterday because it rained on Monday night, which means the smog clears up somewhat. You can take a tram or walk up, and at the top, there is an enormous statue of Virgin Mary (I assumed it was San Cristóbal, but learned it wasn’t after some research), a small room for prayer below the statue, and a chapel for services. The views were incredible – it’s hard to realize how big Santiago is (and how big and beautiful the mountains are) before seeing this.


You can see the Costanera Center (tallest building in Latin America) on the left!


A little more information on Chilenismos before I list some new ones I’ve learned – much of this localized slang has been adapted from language of the Mapuche, a group of indigenous people from parts of Chile and Argentina. Not only do Chileans speak incredibly fast, but they often slur their words, drop final syllables (“algo más?” becomes “alg ma?”; helado, ice cream, which should be pronounced e-la-do, becomes e-lao), and ignore the final s’s. I am slowly learning the most common Chilenismos, but I have many more to go.

  • Po –this is a suffix that has absolutely no significance; it’s used the way we say “so” or “well”, so it’s often placed at the end of phrases: “sí po”. There’s a popular party every Wednesday in Santiago specifically for extranjeros (foreigners) called “Miercolespo” (Wednesday + po). No real reason for the po, but that’s how Chileans do.
  • Pololo/a is used in place of novio/a, which means boyfriend/girlfriend. Apparently, using novio/a here means that you’re getting married – so they only use pololo/a.
  • Taco – no, not the Mexican food, but used to describe the morning/evening commute in the traffic: there is “mucho taco”. When we tried to take the metro somewhere tonight at 7pm, the ENTIRE station was filled with people in line to get down to the metro – think of an entire train station filled with people. You can’t move anywhere.
  • ¿Cachai? means “do you understand?”. Apparently Chileans often ask people they believe are extranjeras this to see if they really understand it, but I’ve yet to be asked. Another interesting tidbit: Felipe, the boyfriend of our host sister Javiera, told us that in Peru, this word means “to fuck”, so asking someone “Cachai?” means “You make love?” Good to know.
  • Additionally, when we were at the farmers market over the weekend, I happened to notice a handful of people wearing shirts with English phrases on them, the best of which I will give you the pleasure of reading now (as I did when finishing my blog posts in Argentina):
    • “You Make My Day”
    • “Limited Edition”
    • And the best: “B-ball is my favorite sport because golf, tennis, and baseball have small balls”

Not my photo, but helpful (to me)!

I have to go write a lesson plan for my first class on Friday – I’m teaching prepositions of time. Even though we’ve only been in class 3 days, I feel like I’m getting the hang of things, so I’m not terribly worried about the teaching, but it requires mucha preparación! We just got back from salsa dancing, so I’m pretty tired – while I could’ve used that time to work on the lesson plan and read more chapters in the textbook, I’m going to take full advantage of living in this amazing country and exploring all it has to offer. Besides, I read the chapters for tomorrow earlier, and I have tomorrow night for the lesson plan – good to know that I’m keeping up my procrastination even though I’ve been out of college for 4 months!

Until next time! Besitos y abrazos!

¡Estamos en Chile!

*Disclaimer – if you’ve read Jordin’s email already, please know that we wrote ours separately but you’ll be hearing some similar things! “Twin telepathy”, I suppose – or just the fact that we’re living the same life right now.

*ALSO, sometimes the formatting of the pictures in the emailed version is a little messy, so if you want to see the post look more appealing, click on the title and it will direct you to the website!

Estamos en Santiago, Chile!!! After two flights, with a total of 18 hours of travel, we are finally beginning our 8-month-long adventure. After going through two sets of customs, waiting for 30 minutes in a room full of people with signs and taxi drivers asking us if we wanted rides, we finally spotted our host mom, Aly, with a sign with our names on it. After


right before Mom tried to follow us through security

a bunch of emails sent back and forth in which she sent us an “abrazo grande” (big hug) multiple times, I assumed she’d be pretty friendly. Well, she was INCREDIBLY friendly – she greeted us both with a smile and a huge hug, and was full of energy as we walked back to the car to meet her husband, Sergio. We had a 30 minute ride back to the house in the neighborhood of Ñuñoa, where we pulled our 3 suitcases out of the car and loaded them into the house. Ñuñoa feels very suburban, as do many other sections of Santiago. Jordin and I have our own rooms, which is nice, and they’re small but cozy. Aly and Sergio have two kids, 21-year-old daughter Javiera, and 24-year-old son Cristóbal – and both of these kids have a 1-year-old baby! Javiera lives at home with her boyfriend and her son, while Cristóbal lives with his girlfriend and daughter in an apartment nearby. Javiera is studying psychology in university, so we talked about that (as one of my majors was psychology), and its relationship to public health. I like this host family already for a few reasons:

  • Aly and Sergio are extremely friendly, warm, accommodating, and patient. They address each other not by their names, but by “mi amor”, which is very cute.
  • Aly is a fantastic cook and is very open to trying new vegan recipes.
  • We have a HOST CAT AND DOG – if any of you saw my snapchat story the day I left home, or know my love for my cats at all, you’ll know how hard those goodbyes were for me. Our host cat is named Panchito, and he is super friendly, adorable, and fluffy. Our host dog’s name is Ita, and even though she moves about as slowly as a sloth (it looks like I won’t be walking her), she’s very sweet.
  • Outdoor/patio area – part of the house is a covered, almost enclosed outdoor area in which the family eats their meals in the nice weather. It is full of small plants, medium plants, and trees that grow through the roof. It is extremely peaceful to be out there.



  • The garden! They grow multiple spices: romero (rosemary), laurel (bay leaves), ajo (garlic), and more. They also have multiple trees: limón (lemon), palta (avocado – can’t wait for summer in Chile), durazno (peach), and damasco (apricot).
  • We also have a host baby!! Since Javiera lives at home with her son, we get to see the adorable Leonardo walk around and play while we’re at home. He doesn’t really talk yet, but he definitely understands what people say to him, and uses that to his advantage when getting attention. He also hasn’t cried much since we’ve been here (hopefully this doesn’t jinx it).
  • Our neighborhood is very walkable – so far we’ve walked to the grocery store, the bank, a phone store (for SIM cards), and the metro station.

My first day in Santiago surprisingly reminded me a lot of Hanoi, Vietnam. Driving back from the airport, I saw a city that was extremely spread out, with lots of buildings only one or a few stories high, but mostly houses (we haven’t been into a non-residential area of the city yet). Santiago is situated in a valley between the Andes Mountains, and the sky is gray because of the smog, so the mountains aren’t easy to see (though when I saw them for the first time while walking around la comuna, or neighborhood, I was so excited). There are also lots of palm trees, which are strange to see with the mountains in the background. The houses are compact and cozy, ours without much “stuff” and without much trash, and they’re very close together.

Our conversations during meals on the first day covered the two major topics that I predicted we would discuss: veganism and the U.S. presidential election. Our host parents are totally open to cooking vegan meals and asking us about our preferences, recipes, and


saw the word Vegan in graffiti and thought it was necessary to document

why we are vegan, and all throughout dinner we spoke all about our family’s history with vegetarianism and now veganism. Our meals have been delicious so far – and bread is always served (just like in Argentina – even after knowing Melanie’s bread-eating habits, it’s surprising how much bread people can eat here). The second conversation was about none other than Donald Trump and the presidential election. Many Chileans are talking about our election because of Trump and how loco he is (my host mom’s words, not mine), which I was expecting. In my first Spanish faux pas in Chile, I accidentally responded to a question about Trump by agreeing that we were voting for him – as soon as I realized this, I quickly explained that it was absolutely false – I can’t believe I did that on our first day here. Oh well!

My Spanish is not the greatest right now, as I have not spoken much for almost a year and a half, but our host family is very patient with us and tries to explain things until we understand. However, I’ve had a lot of feelings in the past 24 hours about my abilities and this trip overall – it is so easy to not pay attention when others are speaking in Spanish because they’re speaking quick enough that I don’t understand it, and it is so easy to just think, “well, I’ll never get to that level”. It’s extremely overwhelming to be surrounded by only IMG_9313.JPGSpanish, especially Chilean Spanish, even though I know I want to improve mine. I know these feelings are normal and will subside as I become more comfortable, but I think I’ll continue feeling this way for at least a few weeks. Chilean Spanish is incredibly fast AND full of slang called chilenismos – so you can see why it’s sometimes hard to catch on. Additionally, people tend to leave off the ends of words sometimes – cansada becomes cansa, nada becomes na, and por favor becomes por fa. They also add “ita” or “ito” to the ends of random words – typically un perro is a dog and un perrito is a puppy or small dog, but here, they add this ending regardless. We’ve heard avocado being called paltito (this would be a baby avocado, which sounds adorable…but it was just an avocado), coffee being called cafecito, and hot water being called aguito.

Sometimes I feel like I understand what’s going on, and other times I feel totally lost and that I don’t understand anything being said. In order to use our Spanish as much as possible, Jordin and I are doing a few things:

  • Carrying a little notebook around to write in new words we learn
  • Keeping a journal in Spanish
  • Only speaking Spanish to each other
  • Only speaking Spanish to others (aka we’re trying not to hang out with Americans if they’re going to speak English)
  • I’m going to start watching Leonardo’s (the baby) television show with him – it’s meant for babies, which means there are lots of songs AND they’re slower than typical music (though it’s still difficult to understand…so that’s saying something about Chilean Spanish and maybe also my Spanish level).

When I was in Argentina, at the bottom of each post I included examples of the ridiculous English slogans I saw on people’s shirts, such as “A broken crayon still colors”, “This is not a reality show”, and my all-time favorite, “I eat glitter for breakfast”. While in Chile, I’m going to include new chilenismos that I’ve learned (maybe later I’ll learn some that are even more ridiculous than those slogans”):

  • Que bacán! = how cool/awesome
  • Taca taca = foosball
  • Guagua = baby
  • Weón = friend/bro, but can also mean jerk/asshole – it totally depends on the context and the tone, which means I may not be using it for a while so I don’t risk calling a new friend a jerk. OR I could use it to talk with Mel and just don’t tell her what context it’s in (that’s what big sisters are for).

Un abrazo grande! Happy October!