Tag Archives: springtime

It’s summer again

So summer is about three months long, right? Ish? Well, I got about a month and a half of summer while I was in the States, and I’m pretty sure it’s summer here now. It might not be summer in the minds of santiaguinos, since it’s not really summer until around December, but with temps in the high 70’s and sunny all the time, this is summer to me. Hence, with about a month and a half left (again, don’t wanna talk about it, no tears this time), I will get a complete summer in 2012 before I go home to my second winter of the year (third? second and a half? Remember it was winter when I got here!).

Last weekend I took a lovely paseo with my host family to a lake about an hour south of Santiago. Host dad went and sailed in a regatta with his friends while host mom, sister, and I hung out on shore. It was nice to get away from the computer and my connections to everything else for a day. I had an especially good time sister bonding. This was absolutely worth missing my university’s football game for.

Pretty pictures!

A lake nestled amongst the mountains. Just beautiful.

So naturally beautiful that my little camera couldn’t ruin it.

So much blue!

Host dad is on the foremost boat.

No words.

And then it was Halloween on Wednesday. They don’t celebrate Halloween here like we do in the States. They actually don’t really understand why we do up Halloween the way we do. A good number of kids dress up in costume and go trick-or-treating, but not in droves like at home. I dressed up as a gypsy and went to a club with some friends for the night. It was a decent time. I also learned that I attract enough attention with my blonde curly hair down around my shoulders. Add makeup and a costume (a modest costume, just so you know), and you can forget about blending in at all.

Now let’s talk about food.

I haven’t done a real food post in a while. Today I’m going to talk about some foods that aren’t necessarily traditionally Chilean, but are a part of my diet here and will probably disappear from my life when I go home.

There’s Chandelle. Chandelle is basically a pudding cup brought to a whole new level. You’ve got your pudding base, in flavors like chocolate, manjar (caramel or dulce de leche, but not the same and so much better), lúcuma (a subtle fruit flavor), and combinations thereof, topped off with Chantilly cream (really, it says “crema Chantilly” on the cups). Chandelle is a common dessert in my house, and I love it.

Then there’s the brazo de reina, or “queen’s arm.” This is basically a Swiss roll cake. In my case, I’ve had it with a white cake base, filled with a mix of manjar and pastry cream. Oh, this is so delicious. I might be requesting it for my birthday cake.

Let’s discuss manjar for a minute. Manjar. Like I said, its relatives are caramel and dulce de leche. But manjar is not the same. I can’t tell you exactly what’s different about it. But trust me. It’s different. We eat manjar rolled up in panqueques (which are like crepes), drizzled over bananas, in other desserts like brazo de reina and alfajores, in so many forms. I’m considering whipping up a batch to put in other desserts for the holidays. Family, you have been warned.

On the salty side of things, there are Ramitas. Ramitas might be my new favorite junk food. They’re little fried straws of I’m not even sure what. Not potatoes. Maybe the stuff Cheetos are made of? But they’re not airy and puffy like that. They’re dense and crunchy. They’ve got some kind of cheese-like powder dusted all over them, and oh my goodness if I can request a care package from my host family ever, I’m asking for a bag of those.

I’m pretty sure I’ve already talked about how much juice Chileans drink, but I would like to point out my favorite of all the juices (blueberry, strawberry, orange, banana) I’ve tried: Watt’s nectar de durazno, or, peach juice. Keep in mind that the juice here is somehow more viscous. It’s probably healthiest to water it down. But man, the peach juice. It tastes like a real peach, in concentrated and slightly sweetened (okay, really ridiculously sweetened) form. As happy as I’ll be to have normal orange juice back in my breakfasts, I’ll be sad to say goodbye to nectars.

That’s my update for now! I’m fairly inundated with work again, as believe it or not, it is the end of the semester. But I have a day hike in my near future, and I’m working on planning my big end-of-the-year trip. So stay tuned!

Much love,

Gaby

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Volando

Has anyone figured out how to make time stop yet? Or at least slow down? I’ve been in Santiago for 3 months. Which means I’ve been in Chile for about 3.5 months. Which leaves me about a month and half left.

I don’t want to talk about it. We dropped someone off at the airport last week, and I started crying. It got me thinking about how I’ll be leaving soon enough and then I’ll be one dragging my bags through the airport again and saying goodbye. My host mom just brought up how quickly the time has flown by, and I literally could not look at her because I started tearing up. I’ve had a bunch of moments like that this week, and mixed in with seeing people’s fall pictures from the States, plus a very full academic workload, it’s been emotional. I’m mostly blaming it on being tired and hormonal (you didn’t need to know that, but whatever, it’s the truth!), but we all know that that’s not the whole reason.

My real parents and my host parents have both told me that they know I will be coming back one day. And maybe it will be soon. I’ve decided to apply for an internship which would put me back here for 10 weeks next summer (or winter, in the Southern hemisphere). It would be a very valuable experience for me besides just getting some more time here, I promise. But it’s a competitive program, so who knows my chances of actually being accepted? Which means I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back. And that’s hard for me to deal with. I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do here. I didn’t really want to come here to travel every other weekend or go out three nights a week or anything. I cam here to live here. I came here in the hope that I could lay down some roots and that I would have a life here. And I do. Which means it’s going to be hard to leave.

I’ll be incredibly excited to go home and see my family and celebrate the holidays, of course. It’s gonna be an awesome Christmas. That doesn’t mean I’ll be any less sad or teary in that airport come December.

Several weeks ago, I was discussing how I don’t want to be seen as a tourist here. Then a Chilean asked me, “So what are you doing here?” And I didn’t really have a good answer for him. I am not a tourist. Do I occasionally do tourist-y things? Yes. Occasionally. Infrequently. I’m not an expatriate, because I’m not here for good. Am I just a foreigner? Just a student? Is that the easiest way to describe what I’m doing here? I wish there were a word that aptly described my temporarily-settled state. I know that, no matter how hard I try, no matter how many gringo students are overly impressed by my Spanish, I am not Chilean. Not by a long shot. So what do we think I am?

Oh hey! I finally went to a club!

Tip #1: if you want to drink, previa- or as American college students call it, pre-game. Drinks in the clubs are generally expensive, and you don’t want to fight the crowd at the bar, then have to sit at the bar with your drink while you’d rather be out dancing.

Tip #2: nothing really gets going until after 12, and a lot of people stay out until at least 4. So get yourself ready for a long night.

Tip #3: wear clothing with pockets. Try to avoid bringing a purse, because it’s hard to dance with your purse hanging off of you. It’s also easier to keep track of your stuff when it’s very close to your person.

Tip #4: take cab money to get home. Try not to ride the buses, especially alone, especially if you haven’t planned out multiple bus routes before you leave. Just take the cab.

Tip #5: try to get in for free! This is much easier for the ladies, especially the foreign ladies (sorry, guys). Covers can be ridiculous. Sometimes all it takes is getting there a little early or say you’re attending a club’s event on Facebook. But you’ll appreciate saving those 3.000 pesos or whatever it is.

Tip #6: just dance! Get in there and get going. That’s what you’re there for anyways, right?

Let’s talk about fashion! Santiago, like any other big city, exhibits a wide range of styles. You can get a good sense of it just by riding the metro. Let’s discuss some trends, shall we?

You can find every kind of sweater, or chaleco, in Chile. Like, every kind of style, knit, wool, size, shape, color you could possibly imagine. Chilean women wear sweaters in every kind of weather. It’s almost the only thing you’ll see them wearing on colder days, and I’ve even seen them when the temperature goes above 70.

Boots are also an essential part of the wardrobe, and they usually come with some kind of heel. I actually found it a little difficult to find flat boots at the beginning of the semester. Wedge boots, with laces, seem to have been the hot thing this season. Boots are still in full force now that spring has come to stay. I wonder if it’s an all-season thing.

Chilean women wear scrunchies. Not even kidding. We’ve been making fun of them for years, and they’re selling them new, in all kinds of prints and fabrics, in higher-end accessory stores. And the women make them work too! There’s nothing ridiculous about them! I might actually give one a try. Maybe we can bring it back?

There’s also a lot of acid-wash or very light denim around. Just another trend that I thought was gone with the 90’s until I got down here.

Scarves are everywhere, and with the wide range in temperatures you can experience in a day, they’re a must-have item. There are two words for scarves here. You’ve got the bufanda, which is usually a larger scarf made of thicker or heavier materials. There’s also the pañuelo, which appears to be more common and certainly so in the springtime. Pañuelos- also the word for handkerchief- are smaller and made of lighter materials.

I’ve seen a lot of ponchos. Mostly in the rural areas, but I’ve seen many a little bitty Chilean wrapped up in a poncho in Santiago when it gets cold. Side note: when it gets cooler here- and I mean, in the 40’s and 50’s, so not freezing- they wrap their babies up. Multiple blankets, poncho, ski jacket, boots, hats, gloves, the whole shebang. Chilean babies do not get cold.

Last thing, and probably the most unusual: printed parachute or harem pants. You know, the pants made out of some kind of jersey-like material that are tight at the ankles but baggy everywhere else? I’ve seen them all over the place. It’s a very specific Chilean woman who wears them- young, artsy, and hip. But really. Printed parachute pants! Are common!

One thing you don’t see: a lot of athletic wear. I’ve left my house in yoga pants just once this semester. Once. I have never gone to class in anything less than jeans. I also have yet to see many shorts, particularly on women. I’ll update you soon on that front now that the weather is regularly getting above 70-75. Because I don’t know how I’ll be able to wear full-length when it gets to be 80 and brilliantly sunny every day and I have to ride a crowded metro that hits 90 degrees during rush hour.

Oh, there was another temblor! I was sound asleep and felt nothing, but apparently it was stronger than the last one. It really makes me believe what the Chileans say about weird weather (which we had again recently: a full week of sun and 70’s followed by two days of under 60 with pouring rain) meaning more seismic activity. The scientists say no, but I’m inclined to side with the locals on this one.

We’ll see what adventures or thoughts I have in store for you next time! Until then, chao chao y cuídate mucho!

With love,

Gaby

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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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2 meses y más

Oh hi! How are you all? It’s been more than a week. Did you miss me? (Please say yes.)

In case you weren’t aware, it’s September. And I’m in Chile. September 18th is Chilean Independence Day. This means that I have the entire week of September 17-24th off, and also that the entire month is just a huge party. My vacation began today after my last test. You have no idea how ready I am for a week off.

Which means I finally have time to write a post!

It’s been so many days that it’s useless to try and organize this post day by day. Let’s just recap overall.

First, one of my friends celebrated the big 2-1 (yay S.!). This was probably one of the funnest nights I’ve had so far. It was just all gringos, eating food, speaking a lot of English. Everything on study abroad doesn’t have to be a big trip or something planned or something “cultural.” You can still just hang out.

Second, real schoolwork decided to rear its ugly head and remind me that there is indeed a “study” in study abroad. This involved a personal essay proposal, which my host mom very kindly corrected and edited, and a group project proposal. Fun fact about group projects while on study abroad: you still have all the same problems, but in your second language. It’s a hoot, let me tell you. All I can say is thank goodness for Google docs.

Third, I went to daily Mass on campus. It turns out college Mass is pretty much the best Mass no matter where you are, no matter what the language.

Fourth, spring is coming. It might actually be here already. But I don’t want to jinx things, because I’ve thought that about four times now and every time there’s always a nice brisk 50-and-rainy day to shake things up. It’s been around 70 and sunny for three days now…so here’s hoping! With this has come a resentment of my closet and the quantity of winter clothes I have versus cute spring/summer items. Paired with my unwillingness to spend money on “unnecessary” shopping, you can imagine how getting dressed has been lately.

Question for Chileans: how do you wear all those layers when it’s 75 and sunny out? Yes, it’s chilly in the morning. But you’re really going to keep wearing your chaleco and bufanda at 3 PM?

Finally, I went on another vineyard tour.

There was a gate like this at Hallie’s dad’s vineyard in The Parent Trap, right?

Obviously a visit to a vineyard must include references the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap. We had the pleasure of visiting Viña Concha y Toro, way out on the southern border of the Santiago metropolitan region. Unlike our trip to the artisanal vineyard in Linares, this trip featured a lot less lecturing and a lot more picture-taking. Let’s take a brief photo tour, shall we?

I just like the pictures my camera takes in landscape shooting mode.

Also: people used to live here. Can you imagine?

The former main house of the estate. See previous caption.

It all looks the same, but there’s actually a lot of different wine dormant (it’s winter) here.

There’s a mountain or a cerro in the back! Of course I took a photo of it!

Things I learned: the climate in the central zone of Chile, where Santiago is, is excellent for growing wine grapes. There’s a type of red wine here called carménère, which is only grown in Chile. Keys to tasting wine: see (color), smell, swirl (to oxygenate) and smell again (it WILL smell different!), and sip. I feel smarter drinking wine now.

First wine tasting: a carménère.

El Casillero del Diablo, or “The Devil’s Cellar.” Where the best wine is kept.

Why this picture? The entire cellar- which was huge- was made of bricks laid with limestone, sand, and egg whites. Yes, egg whites.

Camera fun. Thank you for indulging me.

Wine tasting #2: the Trio, a combination of 70% cabernet sauvignon, 15% shiraz/syrah?, 15% carménère. I think.

Just another nice, classy, relaxing paseo. And of course we finished the day with food.

Empanada de pino and a Coca-Cola. Welcome to Chile.

Guess how long I’ve been here now? That’s right! TWO MONTHS. The time is flying by, people. I could do for it to slow down juuuuust a tad if you please.

So what’s next? A fiesta dieciochera for fiestas patria at my volunteer site. Which will feature me in traditional Chilean dress. A nearly 10-day vacation. Four days in Linares! Lots and lots and lots of food. And hopefully a zillion pictures and stories to share with you.

Chao chao! Besos! Cuídate!

Much love,

Gaby

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