Tag Archives: #art

Overcoming Loneliness in Chile

The past three weeks of my study abroad program have been spent traveling. We spent a week in Putre and then had one day back in Arica to unpack and re-pack all of our things before we headed to the south of Chile. Our first stop was Temuco area. Here we spent most of the out time in Maquewe, which is a town 20 minutes away from Temuco. Despite it’s proximity to a city, Maquewe has no cellphone service, most houses don’t have internet, and there is no store or plaza around. It’s a very rural, spread out town that consists essentially of houses, farms, a hospital, and a school. Each day, for me to get to the hospital for class it was a 25-30 minute walk on the “highway.” There are buses that go from Maquewe to Temuco but other than that there was no public transportation system. Here is where my feeling of loneliness started. The house I was staying at was one of the farthest houses from the hospital. While I was staying with one other girl from the program, I felt very separated from my friends and I missed the ability to leave my house to just walk around small shops near the plaza.

Things didn’t really get any better when we left Maquewe to do our small group study of one of the other small towns around Temuco. I was in a group of three other girls going to Chol-Chol. Within the group, I definitely felt like I was an outsider. Most of the conversation came back to sororities or other topics of conversation that I could not really join in on. It didn’t help that in the afternoons we got trapped in our hostel because of the pouring rain. Again we had no internet but there was no cellphone service. For the entire time that I was in Chol-Chol I still had a feeling of isolation. I was really looking forward to our time in Pucón and hoping that it would be better and in reality Pucón did end up being a better situation. Maybe it was because we traveled as a group to some waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs. I was also just really excited to have a two days of free afternoons to explore and take a break from the constant class and lectures that we had the week before.

 

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Hot springs in Pucón!

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Some of the waterfalls we went to see in Pucón.

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Nicole and I on the other side of the falls.

 

After our two day mini break in Pucón, we headed to Santiago. This is where my feeling of isolation hit me the hardest. During check in, I somehow ended up without a roommate. The second night in Santiago I had spent an hour in an Entel store trying to get my phone to work since I can’t receive phone calls. I was with a group of people from the program who were also trying to fix their phones. When we got back to the hotel, the other girls I was with rushed out to go to dinner with a friend who was studying in Santiago. It was getting kind of late at that point and I was trying to find someone who was still around the hotel and hadn’t eaten yet. I didn’t have much luck and the messages that I sent out to people weren’t getting responses. After about another hour I heard back from one group of people who were in the city eating. I headed out to try to join them. I got on the metro and then was using my phone to get me to the restaurant address when my phone suddenly lost all data. I couldn’t find my way to the restaurant so I had to call my friends to find me at a street corner and I sat there for about 20 minutes.

This was really the pinnacle of my loneliness. I was sitting in front of a bank on a dimly lit street corner in Santiago at 9:00 at night alone, just waiting for people to find me. During this time I really felt alone and forgotten. However, this feeling was about to finally lift starting the next day. The next night I asked one girl to let me know what her plans for the night were, instead of trying to make last minute plans and sulking in my room. She texted me around 8:30 and we went out to dinner with three other girls and then we walked around Santiago looking at different restaurants and cafes until midnight when we returned back to the hotel. The following day, a girl came to my room and told me that she had somewhere that she needed to show me. So we put on our running shoes and she took me to a park. I was a little confused why we were there until I saw the climbing holds on a building. She had run past this the other day and thought of me. I was so happy, not just to have found a climbing wall but also I was happy to know that she had thought of me. We hung around to watch people climb and then jogged back to the hotel.

 

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Some of the climbers in the park in Santiago.

 

That night was the birthday of a girl in the program and so we went out to dinner with her at a Mexican restaurant nearby the hotel before buying ice cream at a grocery store and working on homework in the hotel conference room. However, it wasn’t really until Saturday that the feeling of isolation completely lifted. Saturday was our one free day in Santiago so eight of us decided to take a bus to Valparaíso for the day. We took the bus in the morning and made the 10:00 am walking tour of the city where we got to see the former prison, many murals, a cemetery, and hear a lot of the history of Valparaíso. The tour ended around 1:00 and we found a lunch place right by the street fair. Our lunch was very disappointing – our soup was just fish broth, and my friend’s seafood bowl tasted like nothing. But the food we found at the street fair made up for that. After touring the fair and getting little gifts for friends back home, we headed out to explore more of the city’s famous murals and see the open air museum which is a collection of murals created in the 1990s.

 

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A mural we found in Valparaíso

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Song lyrics painted on stairs in Valparíso.

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“We are not hippies. We are happies.”

 

By the end of the day, we were exhausted and ready to get back on the bus to Santiago. As I sat on the bus, I realized that I hadn’t smiled or laughed that much since we left Putre. I had probably laughed more that day than for the entire two weeks of traveling we had done before. It wasn’t that people hadn’t wanted me around or had forgotten about me, it was that I had let it get to my head. I let all the little moments, the little accidents, build up in my mind and turned them into a much more extreme situation that it was in reality. Before, I felt like I was being pushy asking if I could come along to dinner or on little adventures, but that day in Valparaíso made me realize that I needed to make the effort to be part of the group. I needed to ask if I could come because otherwise I wouldn’t do anything and that, above all, made me feel isolated and like an outsider. There was, in reality, no one stopping me from participating except myself.

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Filed under Brooke in Chile, south america

Culture Across a Town

Hello again! Now there’s only a month left in the semester and classes are starting to wind down as finals come closer. Normally a student at KU (Katholieke Universiteit) would take 6 classes a semester but my coordinator here at KU set up an opportunity for me to do an internship while I’m here to replace some of those classes. My internship is two-fold: For the first part I intern at a local children’s bookstore. There my main project is creating a way to explain the Christmas tradition of Sinterklaas to the parents of English-speaking families. To do this, I created a poster to be handed out to the parents during an informational event. In the poster I explained Sinterklaas and compared him to Santa Claus. Doing the poster was interesting because I got to research about Belgian holiday traditions and it was really cool to see how they differs from American ones.

 

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Outside of De Klein Johannes, the children’s bookstore I intern for!

 

The second part of my internship is at the local art museum in Leuven, Museum M. Through this internship I was able to talk to the head of the Public Relations office, and she explained how the museum is trying to create educational activities that use art as a universal language to break language barriers and act as a unifying tool for the whole Leuven community. My main task is to shadow different tours and educational activities to see how children interact with museum and the art in the museum. Though most of the programming is done in Dutch, my contact in the museum wanted me to follow the programming as an outsider and just read the crowd and see how the students react to the museum and the tour guide. As an Anthropology major, I’m used to reading the texts of anthropologists who do fieldwork like this, so it is very exciting to be doing this at a smaller scale, but also in the field that I am trying to pursue in the future.

 

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Outside view of Museum M! It’s very new and modern!

 

My favorite thing about my internship is seeing how hard my coordinator at the bookstore and my contact at the museum try to cultivate a community across Leuven- across different cultures and families by using art and literature to bring them together. They are trying to break boundaries and the classist and social stigma surrounding an art museum and literature. They want an inclusive community in Leuven and they are really doing an amazing job at it. Hearing what my contact at the museum says about the power of a museum was really inspiring and has reinforced my passion to pursue museum education in the future. This wasn’t something I was expecting to experience when I came to this internship, but is something that I will always remember.

 

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A children’s picture book that Museum M published. They publish one every year and base the museum’s educational activities on the theme of the book! This one is Called Geluk voor Kinderen, or “Happiness for Children.”

 

Throughout this internship I also learned a lot about how to connect different parts of a scattered community to become one cohesive unit and how to try and make a shared culture become the central part the community – one where people from different walks of life can find comfort. People like my coordinators are trying their best to make the marginalized and forgotten community in Leuven feel welcome and also uplifting the positive characteristics of the community.

I’m so happy I was granted the opportunity for this internship and it definitely added a different angle to my time abroad that I would not have otherwise gotten.

Until next time!

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Filed under Nhi in Belgium, Western Europe

Beauty in Vandalism?

Before I left for my study abroad program, I made one promise to several people. I promised that I would take as many pictures as possible and post them all over social media.

To be honest, I lied. I knew when I was making the promise to my friends and family that I was definitely not going to keep it. This is because I’ve never really been the type to showcase myself or my everyday life. At least not unless I do so as a personal challenge or project to memorialize an experience.

For example, I took a picture every day of my senior year in high school and I posted these pictures on social media. The pictures were of candid moments with my friends. Moments that were more valuable than an occasional selfie of me looking off in the distance, with a scenic background behind me and an inspiration caption that I had Googled only moments before.

Those pictures ended up being amazing commemorations of the end to an eventful chapter in my life. So coming here, I knew that I wanted to have the same mentality while recording my experience. I wanted to record the small, not staged moments. I wanted to record the things and scenes that would not often be thought of as “picture-perfect.”

This was, at first, a real challenge for me because almost everything here in Lüneburg, and in the other cities I have visited, is beautiful and picturesque. It takes a lot to not take a picture that one can easily find in a Google image search and call it a day. But during a bus ride through Lüneburg, I took notice of something that I am usually oblivious to: graffiti.

 

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Seid lieb” means “be nice.” This stencil can be found all over Lüneburg in many different colors.

 

In between picturesque buildings and monuments, there’s graffiti. Sometimes the graffiti is small stencils of a simple message or elaborate murals that seem to have been painted by multiple artists over a long period of time. These pieces are not really hidden, in fact it seems as if they are showcased because no one attempts to paint over them or reprimand the artists.

 

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My favorite section of the huge graffiti mural that is on the side of a local stadium.

 

One morning, my bus to school actually passed by a spray paint artist working on a small stump. She was doing this in broad daylight and was not stopped by anyone. The next day, her piece was done and it looked amazing.

 

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The end result of the broad daylight graffiti artist’s work.

 

Lüneburg is beautiful because it’s historic and “frozen in time.” But the modern graffiti seems to add to the overall aesthetic of the city. So I decided to make capturing graffiti (and candid moments) my way of recording my study abroad experience. I know that by recording my experience this way, I will always be able to look at any picture and put myself back in that exact moment, experiencing the same emotions.

 

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Filed under Bioreoluwasheto in Germany, Western Europe

A Word on Being Alone

There’s a stark reality underneath the layers of all the newness that comes with study abroad (new friends, new “family,” new places). The reality is that you have transported yourself into to a completely other culture that is a whole 12 hour flight away from your home. An entire different set of humans living their lives here just as you had been living yours. They are speaking a different language and eating different foods. They shop at stores you’ve never heard of and at weird times of the day. You are surrounded by the unfamiliar and in this reality you are alone.

 

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Studying abroad can sometimes feel like you’re upside down. This photo was in the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo and was taken by Elías Adasme of Chile.

 

I don’t want this to sound like a message of fear. I want to explain that this sense of alone-ness can be your greatest friend. You create your own reality. Maybe at home, your reality was influenced by your parents or things your friends shared with you, whether it be interests, activities, ideas. Study abroad is your chance to really think about what you’d like your reality to be about and go ahead and create it.

Last weekend’s circumstances called for me to venture solo. My study abroad program had a field trip to Santigo to visit a few historically important sites and I decided instead of taking the bus back that evening with the group, I would spend the night at a hostel.

After navigating the metro system, I checked into my hostel. I was informed it was the largest hostel in Chile. While the man at the front desk was showing me around the hostel I experienced something like deja vu. The place felt like something that had appeared in a childhood dream. It had many staircases and hallways and a bohemian vibe. A kitchen with cooking things waiting to be discovered in the many cabinets. If you walked towards the center of the hostel you’d find yourself in an open air patio that continues on to the dining area. What looked like a modest, maybe shabby old brick building from the outside felt like a mansion of travelers from foreign lands on the inside.

 

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Santiago streets. It’s always the season to eat outside here.

 

After buying groceries, I spent a while under a tree in the park eating gummy worms and people watching. Perfect. I cooked dinner, a stir fry of broccoli, green onions, and bean sprouts while dancing around the other guests cooking their meals in the kitchen. We swapped a little Spanish as they monitored their pasta. Cooking dinner was very exciting because after three months of eating food cooked for me by my host family, it feels nourishing to cook for myself.

I felt like a queen.

I ate dinner with a table of girls I had never met, all from different countries all over the world. We talked and laughed and decided to find a place to dance that evening and went out together. We bonded over feelings of displacement and being inept at dancing the salsa.

In the morning the hostel had a nice breakfast included in the price of my stay so I ate as many pieces of bread as possible in true Chilean fashion, slathered in caramel-ly manjar* and consumed several cups of REAL coffee.** Fuel for my day. I planned to visit two art museums: Museo de Bellas Artes and Museo de Arte Conteporaneo.

*Manjar is similar to dulce de leche or a caramel-like spread. It bears resemblance to the caramel frequently used for caramel apples. However, Chileans put it on anything possible, like cakes, candy, donuts, and of course toasted bread for breakfast.

**It is rare to find real coffee here in Chile. If you order it in a restaurant or cafe, you will frequently receive a mug of hot water and packet of instant coffee powder on the side.

I had selected this hostel because of its walking distance to the art museums. I walked in the general direction of the museums and trusted my instincts. I stumbled upon a record sale and fingered through vinyls of many Chilean bands that I was ecstatic to recognize and had to restrain myself from spending all of my pesos.

 

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Records found at the pop up record fair. Los Prisioneros is a popular Chilean band that I recommend giving a listen.

 

I wandered through a flea market and craft vendors selling beautiful handmade clothing and jewelry. I walked through a cobblestone street surrounded by artsy cafes and bars. Eventually I found the art museums (free admission!) and spent several hours wandering around the two galleries. How fun it is to be on the other side of the earth and still be doing things you would do in your home town.

 

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Books for sale. Books in your second language seem to possess a new mystery because they reveal themselves in a whole different layer.

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More bizarre, cool things stumbled upon in the art market. Old cameras for sale.

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Photo found at Museo de Arte Contemporaneo. Called Las Dos Fridas, it is a play on the original painting by Frida Kahlo. This one is enacted by Chilean writer and artist Pedro Lemebel and photographed by Francisco Casas.

 

I got very hungry and decided to try the tiny cafe inside of the museum and was served an awesome meal of salad, soup, and spinach lasagna. The two cafe workers were about my age and had fantastic taste in music and when I paid for my meal we chatted about their great tunes.

I caught my bus back to Vina del Mar and was back home.

The point of this is that being alone is good for you. It develops self awareness, forces you to face your reality, and allows you to credit yourself with confidence. Embrace the uncomfortable zones of your identity. Pretend you are like a vegetable on a vine that needs rotation so that each side can face the sun. You may feel like a tree without roots for awhile, but by becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable you can learn a lot.

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Filed under Natalie in Chile, south america