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.
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.
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.
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.