It’s a monster blog post

Like monster cookies. Or compost cookies? You know, those cookies that have basically anything you’d ever want to put in a cookie in them? M&M’s, chocolate chips, oatmeal, raisins, potato chips, pretzels, etc. This blog is going to be like that today. And I even have actual cookies to show you. Eventually.

This week I celebrated 2 months in Santiago. 2 whole months. Add up the 2 weeks I was in Linares, and that makes 2.5 months since I left home. Which means I’m about halfway through my time here. Whoa. Stop. Let’s not talk about that right now.

In that time, I have gotten very comfortable with the metro system and slightly improved my micro (bus) riding skills. The metro is easy: find your stop. Connect the dots. Follow that route to your destination. The metro stations are very well-marked, inside and out. It’s hard to screw up the metro. It’s a lot easier to screw up the bus. Sometimes, the bus screws you up. But I’m riding it a little more often now and getting better at planning my routes ahead of time. The last time I rode a new route, I checked my iPhone to make sure I was heading in the right direction. And I was! Thank you thank you thank you, host dad!

It’s springtime here in Santiago. It’s officially here. Thank goodness. You don’t know how sick I am of wearing my same black North Face and trail shoes every day. Spring means it is chilly in the mornings and evenings, but very warm in the middle of the day. Layers are a must. It went from being in the 70’s and sunny to 50’s and rainy overnight. Cold here is cold. It’s never just a little cold. It’s not always freezing. But man, when you get cold, it’s very hard to shake.

It seems like it’s been a little smoggier lately too, with less rain and humidity to wash the pollution away. But after the rain, the vistas are pretty spectacular, and sometimes unexpected. I have to remember to look up once in a while. I caught a gorgeous view of the mountains on the same route I walk from the metro to my house every single day. And I just happened to look up.

It smells like spring too. The grass is damp in the mornings and makes everything smell so earthy. My favorite has to be the jasmine, though. I catch a whiff of it every so often when I’m walking, and then I become that girl who stops right where she is and takes a few big breaths of it before I move on.

Notes for anyone who is going to study abroad in a different language: start your papers ahead of time. Like, way ahead of time. You know how you kick yourself when  you put off your 6-7 page paper until the last night? Imagine doing that in your second language. Start your papers early- as early as you can- so you can give your friends, host family, whoever ample time to correct your paper and make you sound intelligent.

The other day I had huge ganas (craving; the phrase in Spanish is “tener ganas de”) for chocolate chip cookies. And not just any old Chips Ahoy! I wanted the kind of chocolate chip cookies that my mom and I make. Because cookies here are just not the same. All the cookies they have here that I couldn’t get in the States are delicious. Everything else is at best a mediocre facsimile of the real thing, and at its worst tastes like soap or Lip Smackers. I wanted something buttery and soft and warm and gooey and really chocolatey. To spend some time baking and putting love into. To give to my host dad for revising my essay and making it sound brilliant. To share with people because they are some of the best cookies I make.

Reasons I will not be enjoying chocolate chip cookies soon: I’d have to convert all the ingredients. This recipe yields about 72 cookies. There are four of us in the house. Granted, we have a collectively huge sweet tooth, but still. 72 cookies. Also, chocolate chips are carísimo (expensive) here. As in, $4 for a package about a quarter of the size that I’d need for this recipe. I’m not paying almost $20 for chocolate chips. Nope.

But I did make Funfetti cookies! Snack time!

Apparently they don’t have Funfetti cake mix here. Or at least we couldn’t find any in the store. So my host mom was kind enough to grab me some vanilla cake mix and sprinkles. I took my trusty cake mix cookies recipe and adapted it for these cookies. Prep the cake mix as directed, plus add around a teaspoon of almond extract. Add in the sprinkles at the end. Bake as directed. Ta-da!

I love sprinkles. I didn’t realize how much until I made these cookies.

I mean, this batter just shouts birthdays and joy and fun and happiness and parties with cake and frosting.

Sprinkles and cookies. Perfect for a Friday.

I didn’t actually realize how much progress I’d made in my Spanish until I encountered a couple of new arrivals the other day. I’m volunteering once a week, and my site hosts volunteers from a nonprofit that places students from all over the world with different groups here in Chile. We just got three newbies from this group. One of the girls is Australian, but her family is Chilean- her grandparents still live here. So when she speaks Spanish, she fits right in. She and I were joking and laughing with the staff at lunch this week. But the other two? My heart hurt for them a little bit. One is American and the other is German, and they were both wide-eyed and clearly missing out on the conversation. I spoke to the American in Spanish, and he had no clue what I said. What I said. His fellow American. I felt bad that they’re struggling, because I know how it feels. But it did make me feel a little bit proud that I’m definitely not speaking gringa Spanish.

That’s not to say that I don’t hit bumps anymore. Because I do. I’ve had to ask my host parents to repeat a lot of stuff recently. I asked for an agua de hierbas de maravilla tonight. Maravilla is sunflower seed. I really wanted manzanilla- chamomile. And the other day in the mall I had to ask the cashier to repeat her question three times before I understood (“¿forma de pago?” Really?). Which led to her and her coworker mumbling in Castellano about me, in front of me. That I do not appreciate. She did tell me that they were talking about how pretty my hair is. Either way, I understand better how uncomfortable it is to hear people conversing in another language.

To close out, I’ll share a few pictures of my field trip to Pomaire, a little pueblo about an hour away from Santiago where they produce and sell tons of artisanal goods. We had breakfast and lunch and a pottery tutorial in this gorgeous, lived-in, well-worn house (which I have decided is the kind of house I want, sleekness be damned). Here’s the bread that we ate, pan amasado. We saw them put it in and take it out of the oven. Talk about fresh.

Oh, good morning.

What you can’t see is the steam coming off the bread. That fresh. We ate it with butter, plum jam, avocado, and scrambled eggs.

Then they took us into town to visit a workshop where they make pottery on the wheel. Pottery like this passes through many hands: you have to dig up the dirt, get it wet, work the air out of it, and then you can finally make something of it.

They go through all this clay in a month.

They roll out the clay several times to get the air out, or else it will shatter in the oven.

It takes the artisan about 30 seconds to make one of these flower pots. No más.

Then we went and played with clay for a while. This is what I made. I don’t think I have a future in pottery.

And lunch. Oh, lunch. What a delicious lunch we had. Empanadas, soup, salad, rice, some of the best chicken I have ever had in my life, and a fruit salad made from the fruits of the juice we were drinking. And more bread with pebre, of course.

You’re aware I have an obsession with photographing everything I eat, right?

Just a great, lovely lunch.

And then we had some time to shop.

I could have worn all of these earrings. I ended up buying a pair that had plain clay teapots.

Pomaire is also known for its giant empanadas. Here is an example. Although this was not for sale.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Time is flying by. Someone please make it stop.

With love,

Gaby

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “It’s a monster blog post

  1. Dad

    First, let me say I love you and I love reading about your days and nights in Chile…….Secondly, let me say that your real Dad will not be doing your homework when you return to Notre Dame:)

  2. Dad

    Sounds like a BASF commercial:)

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