What a crazy week it’s been! After an overnight flight, I landed in Santiago, Chile at about 6:00 am last Saturday. Groggily, I made my way through customs and found the pre-booked shuttle outside(courtesy of my program) and made my way to Hostelling International. I was luckily able to check in early and take about a 4 hour nap, as I was exhausted. When I woke up, my 6-bed dorm had completely filled up with other female volunteers so we all began exchanging life stories fairly quickly! I headed to Central Station that afternoon to shop for some assorted teacher items that I needed and although still sleepy, went to see a Chilean band with a giant group of volunteers(they’re really into Funk here, so I wasn’t a huge fan of the band, but it was a great time nonetheless).
Sunday, I set out to explore the city solo, taking the Metro, visiting the Plaza de Armas, going shopping, checking out the Market, and seeing some amazing views of Santiago. I also realized that day how difficult the Chilean accent/language(it is seriously almost a different language than Spanish) is as they speak very, very fast and have Chilean slang for a lot of things – the word for avocado, for example is completely different in Chilean Spanish than in “regular” Spanish(palta vs. aguacate). So, I had some frustrating moments trying to buy things and ask questions. I also killed my blow dryer as I haven’t had to use a 220 converter since I went to Europe when I was 19! RIP little blow dryer.
Monday through Friday, I was in the English Opens Doors Program‘s(the program I’m in) orientation sessions. It was weird being in a classroom again and having to be somewhere from 9 to 5, as I’ve been free-wheeling it since September! We learned about the program, Chilean culture and a bunch of strategies for teaching English to non-native speakers. At night, all of the volunteers went out and explored the city and got our bond on, as we discovered that we are all very like-minded people that like to travel! We went to get pisco sours, drank beers at the hostel bar, went to a Chilean after work dance party on a rooftop overlooking the whole city, went to parks and museums, had arm wrestling competitions, and just explored the city of Santiago as much as we could. I seriously can’t believe how many great people are in the program and I am stoked to get to know all of the people more, even though we are all going to different cities all over Chile. I luckily got placed with 2 awesome volunteers in my same city, Quilpue, so we are definitely going to try to meet up and get our English fix once a week or so.
After a week of orientation + fun in Santiago, we all went our separate ways today and set out for our new homes for the next 5+ months. I hopped on a 2 hour bus ride from Santiago to the town of Quilpué (a suburbany commuter town that has a population of about 150,000) and was immediately greeted with hugs and the Chilean kiss by every member in my host family(minus the youngest daughter as she was with friends). I was surprised to see that the last volunteer that lived with them was also there and is staying with them for the weekend, because she is still living in Chile and loves them that much(and they wanted her here to help greet me)! It has been great to ask her questions(in English) about the family and her experience, as it seems like it’s been a great one.
The family consists of a mom and a dad(both absolutely adorable and so amazingly kind), a 19-year old musician son, and a 14-year-old teenage daughter. They have(and now I have for 5 months) an adorable, centrally located house, complete with a garden, an above ground pool, trinkets from all over the world, and Wifi. I can’t even describe how welcome and happy I feel after being here for one day! I went with Heather(the former volunteer from the States) and the son, Amaury, to Valparaiso(or Valpo as the locals call it) for some amazing ice cream this afternoon. Valpo is only a 30 minute metro ride from my new home – aaahhh!!! We only spent an hour or so there, as we were just grabbing some ice cream, but I can’t wait to check it out again(maybe this upcoming weekend) as it is a beautiful beach/port town with colorful buildings and musicians galore! This evening, I exchanged music with Amaury, hung with the parents, and ate once(Chilean dinner-snack) with the fam and a few of their friends(including the mayor of the entire town) and spoke Spanish pretty much the whole night! I am so stoked to get to know this family and to start teaching(although I’m still nervous about that part)!!!
The last few pictures are of my new room and a few pics of my house in Quilpue – more to come!