Afterlife

One of my favorite things about Latin American culture is visiting the cemeteries. So far, I have been to two cemeteries: Cementerio Curepto and Cementerio General in Santiago. Both times I have been amazed by the amount of life I saw despite the fact that I was in a cemetery. Here, the character of death is colorful- I have seen tombstones in different blues, yellows, and pure whites. The graves are taken care of by tenants who work in the cemeteries and also by the relatives of the deceased. It was uncommon to see a grave without flowers, candles, toys, or notes around it and if that was the case, it usually meant that the family has moved farther away or they too, have passed. Image

Image

Taken in Cementerio Curepto

Image

Taken in Cementerio General

In the United States, I never would walk in the cemetery to pass the time. On a large scale, death in the United States is not something to be discussed. I would argue that Americans look at death on a myopic scale until it becomes relevant to the individual, whether that be losing a friend or family member or having a near death experience. In Chile, the cemetery is a communal place. A family could be visiting their deceased loved ones, a couple could be spending the afternoon together, or someone could be enjoying a long run or bike ride. It’s as if there is more faith in death here and in what comes next in the afterlife. Image Image

The Upper Class, Cementerio General

Image

The Popular Class, Cementerio General

Image

President Salvador Allende

Image

Querido Allende // Dear Allende

Image

Patio 29: 

Patio 29 is known as the burial place of the victims of the 1973 Chilean coup d-état and its military government under Augusto Pinochet. In the 70s, Patio 29 was used for unannounced, unmarked burials. The individuals buried here were victims of mutilation, torture and execution under the Pinochet military government. The graves on the field are lined with rusted iron cross headstones with a date and “NN” for “No Name”. Some of the iron crosses had printed photographs of loved ones who were assumed to have been buried in Patio 29. Los desaparecidos is a term used to describe the individuals who suddenly vanished. The United States doesn’t have a word as profound as los desaparecidos, but the best translation would be “the missing ones” or “the vanished ones”. I could write down my many thoughts about this haunting and peaceful place, but I would rather share the photographs I have taken:

Image

Image

ImageImage

“Patio 29, recuperación de un espacio público, que nos invita a reflexionar sobre el profundo respeto que debemos tener por la vida y a llenar de sentido el nunca más que todos y todas anhelamos.”

Advertisements

The Interrobang Day (‽)

A lot of things don’t go quite as planned in Chile. I can only plan so much for something I don’t know and I often have expectations that the execution will be graceful and a smooth journey, but often that is not the case.

So where has this lead me? Well, I have been lost more than a few times, it’s taken me longer to get from point A to point B and I have had to get over my pride of ‘being able to do something all on my own’ and ask for direction or help. I’m learning that although Chileans can be timid and may not make the first approach to talk to me, they are more than willing to help whether they lead me to exactly where I need to go, allow me to borrow their phone or shared with me that I need to be walking 15 minutes in the other direction.

Image

Sunday was a prime example of an interrobang day. My friends and I started the day early by meeting up at the metro station Bellavista de La Florida, excited to spend our day hiking a mountain at Cajon del Maipo- a popular trekking spot which is an hour away from Santiago.

When we got to the town San Jose de Maipo (one of the towns in Cajon del Maipo), my friends and I went in to a little tourist office and began to speak with the woman behind the counter. We told her we wanted to go hiking and she told us about this really beautiful spot just past the river about a kilometer away. She pointed out the directions to us on the map and said, “You are going to go past a private road that says do not enter, enter and cross the bridge and then you will be able to go trekking.” We walked for more than one kilometer and did not find the place we were supposed to enter, so we walked back a bit and found another ‘entrance’ that we suspected would lead us to the bridge. The path led us to the river, but there was no bridge. We made our way back to the street and asked a family near by if they knew where the bridge to the hiking path was located. The mom told us it was about thirty minutes up the road and so we walked.

After about forty-five minutes of walking, we reached the bridge. The bridge was frightening, fifty yards long, with pieces of wood of different lengths and only wire on either side to keep someone from falling in. Thankfully (also unfortunately), there was a door to the bridge that was locked, and so we were unable to cross it. Even though I wanted to be hiking in the mountains, I was glad we didn’t have to cross the bridge. I was really disappointed though. This day that was supposed to be adventurous had turned out to be a bust and even though it was only 12:30, everyone was tired and unmotivated because what we came to do was out of reach(even though mountains were all around us).

Image

We decided it was time to go back into town and start over-we thought we could find somewhere new to hike for a while, since the bus didn’t leave until 5:30. One problem, it was going to take a while to get into town, and no one wanted to walk back. Being in the situation that we were in, I stood on the side of the road, stuck my thumb up, in hopes of some kind person to give us a ride back to town. While I was standing there waiting for someone to pull over, I could not help but question everything from the morning up until that point-the website made this place look easy to navigate, but why has it been so difficult?-I would call this the interrogative point of my interrobang day because I had no idea what to do.

After ten minutes or so, a young woman pulled over and asked us where we needed to go. The situation seemed safe, and so my friends and I got into her car and rode to the town. The woman was so kind, she told us how she was working at this festival at one of the campgrounds near by. When we asked her what kind of festival it was, she told is it was a Cannabis festival and invited us to come. We declined because we had to return to Santiago later in the evening and also had no interest in going to a Cannabis festival.

Once in the town, we waited for another bus to take us to another hiking trail. While waiting, recognized my friends two French students, Margot and Flora, who are studying at La Católica this semester and we asked them where they were headed. It turned out that they too, were unable to navigate the area because the tourist office was closed and one of the girl’s credit cards was not working. We told them to join us on our adventure for the rest of the day, and they did. Once we got on the next bus, we were dropped off at this dark tunnel and were told to walk through to get to a hiking path and observatory. The tunnel was pitch black, comparable to Gollum’s cave. I had no ability to know if my next step would be solid or not and could have easily fallen into a hole in the middle of the tunnel if one had been there. At one point Margot was holding onto me out of fear, a girl I had barely just met. What a weird day. I’m learning how easily and quickly friendships can develop, and for that I am grateful.

Image

Once we got to the other side, we hit another roadblock. The hiking path was closed and locked. It was at that point where I really started to lose faith in the thought that I would be on top of a mountain that day. We asked someone else about a hiking trail and were told that there was a path up the road, ten minutes by car. We were not masters of hitchhiking, but we stuck our thumbs up in hopes that someone would pick us up. I wasn’t very hopeful though because we were in a group of seven people, we would have needed a van to fit us all. Thankfully a bus was driving by and pulled over and took us up the road free of charge.

We made it to our final destination around 3pm. It was an abandoned town that had been evacuated in the past because of a volcanic eruption. I was really thankful for that abandoned little town, because as eerie as abandoned places can be, they are aesthetically pleasing in my opinion and they allow me to imagine the lives once lived in that place. We didn’t really know how to get to the mountains, but thankfully a man who lived in the area was walking by, and led us to a path that he said would lead us to a trail. A few minutes went by and we walked across a bridge over the clearest river I have ever seen, and were finally making our way up toward the mountain. Unfortunately, we only had two hours until our bus would leave for Santiago, and we knew that wasn’t a sufficient amount of time to hike to the top of the mountain and back, but we decided to hike as much as we could in the next hour before making our way back.

Image

Image

We hiked up towards the mountain for about forty-five minutes and then took a break. I sat on a boulder and thought about how the day hadn’t quite gone as I thought it would have. I had expected to be on top of a mountain that day. I had expected for trails to be simply navigated and for simple transportation. As frustrating as the first half of the day was, I sat on that boulder admiring the mountains that surrounded me-the way some of their outlines curved and others were sharp and jagged. I looked at the rocks on which I had hiked up to that point, and was amazed by their natural purple and green colors. My Chilean friend, Kevin, had joined us for the day and brought maté to share. I need to take a moment and say how thankful I was to have had Kevin with us that day, because he was able to understand the people who were helping us get to where we wanted to go and when I couldn’t understand, he could. It was at this point where I experienced the exclamatory part of my interrobang day. Today may have been difficult in the beginning, but look at how it ended up!

Image

I’ve decided to make my catch phrase for each day in Chile: “Here goes something‽” Because I am learning that in order to better understand Chile, I have to do things even if it means getting lost a few hours longer or being uncomfortable. Although Sunday in particular was an interrobang day, every day in Chile is an interrobang day filled with mistakes and difficulties but also excitement and joy. Execution is everything.

Image

Learning Castellano de Chile

Chilean Spanish, or Castellano de Chile, is different from the Spanish I’ve been learning for the last eight years. It is distinct because of the many modismos, or Chilenismos that are used. Chilenismos are Chilean words and phrases that are only used in Chile. These words are idiosyncratic and it is easy to catch Chileans using them. For example, Chileans use ‘cachai’ when explaining something as a way to say “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?

Before the Spanish came to Chile, the indigenous Mapuche people lived throughout Chile. As the two cultures mixed, the Spanish adopted Mapuchan words, which are commonly used in conversation. Sometimes students use Mapuchan words in my class and when they do, I become lost in translation.

Another chilenismo is ‘po’ which is included at the end of si(po), no(po), or other words. This chilenismo is a shortened form of the word ‘pues’ and is used to add emphasis to certain words. I can vouch for the Chileans that once you start using ‘po’, you cannot stop.

My favorite Chilenismo is ‘huevon’, but it sounds like ‘weon’. Huevon is the Chilean equivalent of dude or friend, but it is also a term used to describe someone who is mean, rude or strange. It’s pretty entertaining to use, and every time I say it, my Chilean friends laugh, so I’m going to continue to use it.

Before coming to Chile, I had very little knowledge of Castellano de Chile and how it differs from the formal Spanish I’ve been learning. With that said, I really love what I am learning and I am thankful for my Chilean friends and family, who have been teaching me Chilenismos.

Image

Photo taken in Bella Vista. 12.03.2014

Santiago

Santiago

This city is home to over six million people.

Home is an intimate subject for me to talk about. A home is not a home just because am a resident. For me, it takes a variety of experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Santiago-I love the busyness of its subway and streets, the different cultures of its people, and the great mountains around the city-but I cannot say that this city is my home yet.

On my first day in Santiago, I went with two of my friends to explore the Central Campus of La Católica. I walked fifteen minutes to get to the Metro, met up with my friends at one of the stops, and we then rode the Metro for twenty more minutes. One difference between cities in the United States in comparison with Santiago is in the United States, there are lights with crosswalks every block or so, that is not the case in Santiago. If you don’t cross the street where you need to, you may end up walking another seven to ten minutes until you reach the next crosswalk. My friends and I may have had to do this a few times and eventually we made it to the campus, although it was right in front of us the whole time. We walked into a beautiful hallway and then outside again into a courtyard in the middle of all of the classes, it was cool, contrary to the humid Metro we had been riding on earlier. (Sidenote: the heat in the Metro has me convinced that Chileans most definitely have a higher blood temperature than gringos like myself.)

After our little tour, we decided to continue exploring what the area had to offer and fresh blueberry ice cream was one of those things. Yum! At one point, we stopped inside a ‘beauty store’, which could be comparable to Ulta, but is about the size of a MAC store. In order to purchase facewash, deodorant, makeup, my friend Kaitlyn had to take a number and wait until her number was called. It was so weird.

Image

On one of our journeys to find a crosswalk, we noticed this beautiful, yellow, palace-like building and of course we had to go figure out what it was. When we finally reached it, we realized that we could continue to walk up more stairs to an even higher place -of course we had to keep climbing. At the top of the stairs was a beautiful little deck that overlooked the city and the mountains that surround it. As I looked out, I felt small in comparison to the vast landscape of buildings that surrounded me, and even smaller in comparison to the enormous mountains. Regardless of how uncomfortable it made me feel, I think it was important to understand how small I am in this world-but not insignificant- and to remember that life keeps moving around me, whether I am there or not.

Santiago is not my home yet, but as I to get to know the city and befriend its beautiful residents, it grows on me. What is most important is that I see God here. He is at work in this city, in the lives of its residents, and in me. Over the next few months, I hope that He makes Santiago my home and I hope I can be used to love its people well.

Image

Chile

It’s amazing to think that I have already spent twenty days in Chile. I’ve explored some beautiful places, tasted more wines than I can count on my hands, and eaten many of the rich foods Chile has to offer. I’ve had very limited access to wifi throughout my time in Vilches and Curepto, but now that I am in Santiago I will do a better job of sharing my experiences with you all.

Vilches

My first eight days in Chile were spent at an antique, Catholic mission center in Vilches Alto with twenty-three other students. Each day was spent taking classes of Chilean culture and the language, eating different Chilean foods, and relaxing at a beautiful river close by. In Vilches, I was able to get to know the other students better and continue to improve my Spanish. One day, we hiked a mountain in Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay. A little bit half way through the hike, we took a break to relax and view the surrounding mountains. After about five minutes of sitting, the earth started trembling below me for the first time- an earthquake! After the hike, I found out it wasn’t actually an earthquake, but the aftershock of an earthquake that had hit Japan. Nonetheless, knowing that the ground was shaking in Chile as a result of something that had happened on the other side of the earth was astounding.

Image

Curepto: My Family.

Curepto is a farming town in the Chilean Province of Talca, in the VII Region of Chile. I was excited arrive in Curepto because I felt ready to live with a family in order to better understand the language in a normal, family environment.

My host dad, Sergio, was constantly working because he runs his own construction company in the town, so I really didn’t see him that often during my time in Curepto. He was kind and had a big heart for his family and the people in the town, and was very quiet.

My host mom, Lucy, is hardworking. In the mornings when I would wake up, she would be cooking and cleaning. She constantly wanted me to try the food and often at lunchtime would serve me two different meals, which I never could finish. On top of eating two meals, she would then cut a melon and serve one half of it to me. I had to tell her multiple times that I don’t have a strong, Chilean stomach like she and the rest of the family have. Onces is my favorite meal. It is a smaller dinner and usually consists of bread, meat and avocado (which is one of my favorite foods!). The first day she served it to me, I put so much avocado on the bread that she kept joking she was going to serve me avocado with every meal. Thankfully she did not, but had she, I would have eaten it. My host mom has a heart of gold. Every day, she would take care of her three granddaughters: Connie, Josefina and Agostina. It was beautiful to watch the way she interacted with them and to see the way the girls would reciprocate her love with smiles and hugs. When I think about my understanding of family in a Latin American context prior to my journey in Chile, Lucy very much fits my understanding of a Latin American woman and mother. I am glad I was able to see the way she serves her family and her community at the church.

My host brother, Nico, is twenty-three. I’m really thankful I had him as a brother, because we did some pretty cool things together in Curepto. One day, we went on a forty-kilometer bike ride, another day hiked to some waterfalls, and he even invited me to the Asados (Chilean barbeque) he and his friends had together. At first, I was nervous to meet his friends because I was afraid they would speak too quickly or not want to talk to me because I am equivalent to a child when it comes to speaking Castellano. Contrary to my thoughts, they warmly welcomed me into the group and began to teach me all of the bad Chilean words they knew in exchange for the bad English words I knew. By the end of the week, my friends had taught me Modismos Chilenos, shared their favorite reggaeton songs with me and taught me how to dance the Cumbia. I miss my friends from Curepto.

Image

With my family in Curepto, there was constant activity in the house. Whether it was my brother cracking jokes at me, my ‘mom’ playing with her beautiful granddaughters, friends and family visiting at night just to chat, or the quick pace television on in the background, something was always happening. What I loved about my family is that they invited me into their home with the intention to share their daily lives with me. They didn’t clean the house up or make it look fancier like my family does in the United States when we have a guest.

Image