Tag Archives: Chile

Beauty and the Beast

Arica is a beautiful city. The coast and the ocean are amazing. There are beaches with dark golden sand and the waves are perfect. El Morro, a large, rocky hill that overlooks the city and coast, has breath taking views of the city and from anywhere in the city you can see the massive Chilean flag that flies on the top. You can’t see it from the city but there is also a huge statue of Jesus Christ on top that looks out at the ocean. It is a symbol of peace between Peru and Chile after territorial disputes were finally settled.

 

IMG_20170223_131532

The view of the beach from the top of El Morro.

IMG_20170223_132629

The group taking pictures of the massive Chilean flag at El Morro

IMG_20170223_132841

Closer view of the El Morro Chilean flag.

 

Outside of the city is pure desert. Sand dunes and almost nothing else. Years ago, an artist was commissioned to create several sculptures in the desert to the south of Arica. The statues that the artist created are massive, sand colored creations that are the only things that stand out for miles. His inspiration was the idea of people living in space. There is even a “landing pad” for extraterrestrial aircrafts that is a design made of rocks.

 

IMG_20170224_171042

Statues representing male and female figures in the desert south of Arica.

IMG_20170224_171713

Another statue found in the Arican desert.

 

There are also murals all over Arica. I’ve seen many around the University of Tarapacá and also around the old University Républica where we have our Spanish classes. Most of them seem to be memorials to people who lost their lives during the violent 1973 Chilean coup. All of the murals are very detailed and many are very colorful. Some are more abstract and include depictions of owls and colorful designs.

Besides all of this, there are just wonderful people. Everyone I have met so far has been very welcoming and kind. Everyone has been patient with me and my Spanish speaking abilities which I have been really grateful for. Most Chileans speak really fast and with so much slang that it’s hard to understand what they are saying even if you understand all of the words they are saying. My host family has been exceptionally welcoming. They have helped me a lot with my Spanish and they are very generous. I am really enjoying my time with them and getting to know them more. My host dad just came back from vacation the other day so I just met him but so far he seems very friendly. He’s been super funny so far. I also got to meet my cousins the other day. They are from Santiago but are currently in Arica. Two nights ago we went over to my abuela’s house for “once” (dinner). The next night we had a barbecue at our house. My host dad prepared fresh fish that he bought at the port that morning. It was delicious. The fish was reineta, a fish common in the ocean off of Chile. I am looking forward to trying more of the local fish while I’m here.

 

unspecified-2

Reineta being sold fresh at the market at the Port of Arica.

 

The other night I went to El Centro, the main shopping street in the center of the city, to get ice cream with a few other students from my study abroad program. When we got out of our colectivo (a carpool style taxi with a set route), there were several events going on in the plaza. One of the events was a traditional African-Chilean dance to celebrate the African heritage of Chileans in Arica. The dancers were amazing and there was a band of men and women playing drums and singing. I felt so lucky to have arrived just in time to watch the last few dances and experience this tradition.

 

IMG_3549

Dancers celebrating African-Chilean traditions.

 

While everything has been amazing and interesting so far, I have noticed that in the midst of all the beautiful places, there is a lot of trash. Arica’s tap water is safe to drink but most people who can afford to buy bottled water do because the tap water doesn’t have an appealing taste. I was told it’s because of the amount of minerals in it but I’m not really sure why it tastes bad. Most people buy bottled water and many families have the stereotypical office water cooler-type dispenser in their homes. Arica doesn’t have a very good recycling program and many of the people who live here are not very environmentally conscious. This means that there is a lot of plastic waste and garbage everywhere. I have found myself needing to buy bottled water occasionally and I feel really wasteful. Over the past week I have been better about filling up the water bottles that I brought with me and using those as much as possible but it is challenging because I drink a lot of water during the day. I do want to work on improving my environmental footprint while I am here though.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brooke in Chile, south america

Arrival and Orientation

Yesterday I arrived in Arica, Chile after spending the night in a hotel at the Santiago airport. Traveling was long and stressful. I left on Sunday from Jackson, Wyoming and arrived in Santiago early Monday morning. Customs and Passport Control was a bit shocking. I figured that everything was going to be in English but I wasn’t ready for how fast everything was going to be. At customs I got in trouble for not declaring the two packages of beef jerky that I was bringing for my host family, but was fortunately allowed to keep them. Then when I checked in to the hotel, I was informed that Passport Control was supposed to give me a piece of paper but I never got one. This made me really anxious. At that point, I was very overwhelmed and starting to doubt whether or not I was prepared for this semester abroad. I decided to take a nap and relax at the hotel pool to try to de-stress. Then I went to dinner at the hotel restaurant. One of the waiters started speaking to me in Spanish and we had a conversation about how I was a student from the United States who was studying abroad in Chile for the semester. He told me that my Spanish was good and that was what I needed to hear. Then I went to bed since my flight was early the next morning, but I wasn’t able to sleep.

At 12:40 am I decided that it was useless to try to sleep anymore and I got up. I packed up my stuff and checked out of my room and headed to the airport. I was there a bit too early so the line to check bags at Latam wasn’t open yet. I waited about 10 or 15 minutes before they opened the line up to people on the 4:25 am flight to Arica. Then I went through security. I was anticipating security to be similar to the United States but when I got there it was very different. It looked similar but I wasn’t asked to show any ID, only my boarding pass. Then I watched as the people in front of me simply placed their bags down to walk through the body scanners with their jacket, shoes, belt, and jewelry still on. I was given strange looks for putting my phone in my backpack before going through. At the gate I was even more surprised to see a Dunkin’ Donuts.

As we started the boarding process, every announcement was in Spanish. I didn’t really understand that much but I was able to figure out what was going on based on what everyone else was doing. Once we where on the plane they started saying the announcements in English as well which was nice. The flight was about three hours long and I was excited that they not only had drinks but gave us a choice of four pastries for breakfast. And we were allowed to pick two! I was starving at that point so that made me really happy.

We landed at 7:00 am and the earliest pick-up time that my study abroad program, SIT, had given us was 9:00, so I was shocked to see a taxi driver holding up a sign with my name on it. I was honestly a little unsure of what to do but I figured that he had to have been sent by SIT. As we were leaving the airport, the sun was starting to rise. All around me were sand dunes. Only sand dunes. It looked like Mars or a scene from Star Wars. I knew that Arica was in the desert but I wasn’t expecting it to look quite like that. As we approached the city, a colorful arrangement of crowded houses appeared. The taxi took me to a small hostel where three other girls who had arrived early were spending the night. I was brought up to their room where we did brief introductions before I fell asleep for an hour in one of the beds. Around 9:00 am, one of the other girls woke me up to get breakfast. Despite having had food on the flight I was hungry again. The owner of the hostel had set up a table for us with several types of rolls and coffee and tea. He then asked us if we would like eggs and made us scrambled eggs. The other girls filled me in that SIT was picking us up at 11:30 am to go back to the airport to pick up the rest of the group.

The rest of the day was spent meeting everyone and getting settled. The Program Director and Director of Student Affairs picked us up and brought us to a gorgeous hotel in Arica. We were paired up for rooms. My roommate for orientation is a girl named Allison who spent the week prior to the program backpacking in Patagonia with 4 other students. The room was small but nice. However, the patio and the view are the best part. The hotel is right on the ocean. There is a patio with a pool that overlooks a rocky stretch of coast and right next to the hotel is one of the best beaches in Arica. After getting set up, we headed to lunch on the patio. We were sitting with the Program Director, Brian, so all the conversation was in Spanish. I felt like I understood most things but I wasn’t feeling confident enough to join in very much. I was also starting to feel the affects of only getting two hours of sleep. However, after lunch we had two hours of free time before orientation really started and I joined a group of students who were headed to the beach. Being from Wyoming, beaches aren’t something I see on a regular basis and I was excited to be there. The water was cool but felt really nice. There were tons of people there. Most of them seemed to be Chilean. There were also people selling drinks and fruit salad out of rolling coolers that they were walking across the beach with as they yelled out what they were selling.

At 5:00 pm we started orientation. We went over the schedule and structure of the program, then we moved on to icebreakers and get-to-know-you questions. At this point in the day I was feeling a lot more confident in my ability to hold a conversation in Spanish and I felt like I was understanding most of what was being said. Afterwards, we launched into a few mini-lessons about Chilean history and several famous Chilean artists like Pablo Neruda and Violetta Parra, among others. This all lasted about three hours.

After orientation ended for the day, we headed to dinner. I was starving at this point despite the massive lunch we had earlier. However, for most Chileans and other Latin Americans, lunch is the largest meal of the day, so dinner was not as filling despite being three courses. Again, conversation was all in Spanish and this time I was a much larger part of the dialogue. By the end of dinner I was exhausted from the past few days and headed straight to bed.

The next morning my roommate and I got up around 7:30 for breakfast. Breakfast was buffet style and the tables were filled with fruit, rolls, slices of bread, and various spreads for the bread. There were also crepe-like pancakes, scrambled eggs, and chorizo. One of the spreads for the bread was dulce de leche which was delicious and very thick.

After breakfast we headed into Arica for a guided tour of some historical sites around Arica. We visited a church designed by Gustave Eiffel that is made completely out of metal. We went to several markets. We visited the location where some of the oldest mummies in the world were found. We also went to the Port of Arica and saw some sea lions. The tour was really informative and it was awesome to see so many places in Arica but I also felt very touristy. We were given bucket hats and nametags. We already stand out as a large group of Americans based on clothing and appearances, but this really made us stick out. Local people would often pass us and speak in English welcoming us to the city. It was very exciting to see that so many people were happy to have us there and willing to speak to us.

 

Fishing and tourist boats at the Port of Arica.

After the tour was over, the group was split in half. Half went to the police station to begin the process to receive our temporary Chilean identification cards and the rest of us went back to the hotel. The rest of the day, and tomorrow is going to be spent in sessions covering program policies and classes, including information about SIT’s Independent Study Project and the Healthcare Practicum. The rest of the group is going to go to the police to get their Chilean IDs and then we are going to visit El Morro, where Chileans won a battle against Peruvian forces in 1880, as well as Playa Chinchorro, another popular beach in Arica, and the ex-island Alcarán. Alcarán used to be an island but has been converted to an artificial peninsula. I’m excited to see more of the city and I can’t wait to be able to explore it more myself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brooke in Chile, south america

A New Blend of an Old Self

It’s a week after I returned from study abroad. I’ve finished unpacking my suitcases and feel like my travel home is a blur. But then I remember the 24-hour journey in which I managed to bring not only my backpack as a carry on, but also my sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping mat that somehow made it through multiple sets of security check points. I also remember the entire season of Girls I watched with jet-lagged curiosity on the flight instead of sleeping. And on the final leg, waiting around in those airport chairs  eavesdropping on strangers who I can understand because they are shockingly speaking perfect English.

The airport pickup was made by my parents who arrived with much enthusiasm and a little cooler of snacks to share. The reunion felt strangely similar to when I am reunited with my family in between semesters away at school. All one can really offer another is love and snacks at this point.

 

IMG_2456

Shortly after I got home, my mother and I went strawberry picking. I’ve never been so conscious of such an annual routine. Take note of the small good!

 

There are a few strange bits about being home.

The first time I got in my car and began driving, it was a feeling of pure exhilaration and luxury. I turned on the radio and felt like a million dollars.

I have a whole closet, dresser, and shelf full of clothes to wear now and am somehow feeling slightly nostalgic for my living-out-of-a-suitcase life. This is something I thought to be impossible beforehand. I  donated multiple bags of clothing to the thrift store right away.

Being home is a bit strange because you want to share your experience perfectly so you feel a bit disappointed when people don’t ask you about it, but feel equally disappointed when they do ask and you struggle to define your experience in the 30 seconds available. There are just so may facets to include in the explanation. I believe this gets easier.

 

IMG_2304

The face I make for reverse culture shock as a stranger at my own kitchen table. Modeled by university cat.

 

A few oddities worth mentioning:

My Facebook newsfeed is a mix of memes in both English and Spanish.

In a recent trip to town, my friend hands me his Jeep’s auxiliary cord. I put on Chilean reggae music and begin to tap the rhythm out on my thighs. He just laughs.

I feel even more strongly now post-Chile that our consumer markets are flooded with way too much stuff as I stand in front of the five shelves of peanut butter in the grocery store, reflecting on the choice between merely two types in Chile.

I wonder when I’ll find a liquor store that sells Pisco, the Chilean alcohol distilled from grapes.

I complain about the quality of avocados in Wisconsin as I open a smelly too-many-days-old one from our counter. I recall how avocados seemed immune to aging in Chile. I also feel a queasy sort of guilt for all the food miles we rack up with produce in the States.

Outside my window I hear the sound of summer frogs instead of the weekly marching band practice that sounded below my Valparaiso apartment. The cars that pass by do so in silence and I find myself grappling to define the feeling that something is missing. I realize I miss the lack of cars with open windows stuck in traffic constantly, stretched along the oceanfront and the narrow streets. Many Chileans like to leave room for their reggaeton beats to waft out.

 

IMG_1475

A Chilean lesson: the meaning is always in the small details.

 

I visit the flea market on Sunday and it reminds me of Valparaiso’s. My mom motions to the meats for sale, wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap, labeled, and in buckets of ice. I think about the carts of raw fish in Chile with the juices running down the sides onto the sidewalk.

There are plenty of things here I appreciate, like setting my own mealtimes, free access to my large book collection, and the easily attained feeling of home. I missed being surrounded by forested area and seeing the deer graze in the yard. I’ve enjoyed planting the garden and weeding the kale again.

 

IMG_2451

A few of my favorite things I enjoyed the first week home: green salad, libraries, and iced coffee.

 

But it’s quiet here and pretty stable. I miss the chaotic, random unfolding of events of a night in Valparaiso and I miss the constant opportunity for something to happen. I suppose I have been trying to find small ways to add adventure and challenge to my days here since my time away allows me to look at it all with fresh eyes.

When I first arrived home I was scared I had settled back in too easily. But as I’ve made present in the examples above, Chile is present in my thoughts and is becoming more and more frequent. I keep finding more reasons to appreciate the experience.

As for my future, my appetite for the pursuit of my goals in life seems to have grown. I’ve been devouring magazine articles and short stories, noting remarkable authors and different approaches to journalism. I’ve been thinking about new ideas to write about this fall for my school’s magazine and narrowing in on my internship options. Making goals to read more, write more, and tackle some more Spanish reading seems to have become a daily trend right after brewing my morning coffee. Each cup is a treat as I thank my garage-sale-bought Coffeemate and recall the trademark Nescafe packets of Chilean instant coffee.

I envision my life being a fuse of lines of writing, reading, non-profit work, magazine articles, and representing differences, while simultaneously embarking on my own quest. My world has grown. My world is changing. I step into my old location as a new blend of myselves, pre-Chile and post.

 

IMG_1294

Ciao Chile!! This photo captures the finale of a steep climb that I made at the national park La Campana. Only a bit more steep and rocky than the challenge of studying abroad! (Hah!)

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Natalie in Chile, south america

How to Live Your Life After Studying Abroad

This isn’t easy to explain. In the simplest terms, Chile has expanded my world.

Every week I encounter other people whose lives seem to be so far from the United States’ definition of career or success. People who make their living by telling stories to the passengers of the trolley cars. The man by the bus stop who sells his empanadas caseras (homemade) out of a little basket while quietly announcing to the passing crowds the day’s special.

 

IMG_2333

This man is giving a live performance of his music with his CDs for sale as well. At the Sunday market you can find musical artists on the drums, saxophone, rapping, and sharing their skills with the public.

 

This week I saw a truck driving through the city with its bed stacked with bundles of flowers. I saw a truck driving through the city with its bed full of drums, the instruments towering above the truck secured by a few straps. I saw a bicyclist taking a break, his hand latched onto the bed of a truck, soaring through the street. Little reminders that life is different for everyone.

 

IMG_2334

Pebre and chorizo served up on the street! A very Chilean combo of street meat and a type of salsa unique to this area. The street food here is a cultural factor. I’ve witnessed a man who bought a large fish tank, fastened it to a cart, and created a way to cart around his pastries for sale.

 

So if I had to describe how my experience in Chile has altered my ideas about my future, career wise or academically, I would say that it has given me a sense of calmness that has allowed me much more space to think. More important than establishing your career is ensuring that you’re seeking out the right grounds on which to establish it. And that takes a lot of time. It could involve a list of odd jobs along the way.

Before, I was a bit preoccupied with figuring out what all of my education is really amounting to. But being in Chile has helped me understand that if you listen to what you find interesting or what you are craving to know more about, you can and will lead yourself in the right direction. Right now I consider myself a student of Spanish, English writing, and philosophy. I have noted that I need to start setting intentions about which directions I’d like to be going in pretty much every aspect of my life….
In reading
In writing
In eating
In speaking
In being

 

IMG_2337

This man is selling birds at the Sunday market! There is also a booth that sells fish supplies and fish themselves. The market not only offers anything you need, but creates needs you didn’t know you had.

 

I would say that Chile has affected my career goals with the realization that life is constantly happening. Every moment of your day counts as your life. Envision a life you could be happy in. Look around at the lives the people around you find themselves in. Adjust yours. Admire others.

With only a set amount of days to spend somewhere, you are forced to come to terms with the concept of time.  But that is probably the way I should be living my life every day. I would say that Chile has renewed my understanding of the importance of immediacy. If there is something you think you need or want to do, don’t let the unknown next step leave you hesitating. It’s a bit scary, yes, but there is a lot of good to be found. Refusing to take that leap of faith is like refusing to play a game of cards because you don’t know what cards the other player has in their hand.

 

IMG_2221

Here is a photo of a woman who is selling her eggs outside the Unimarc grocery store.

 

So in an attempt to say something more concrete about my career and academic goals, Chile has helped me pick a direction because of the lessons I have learned about the value of time and the value of experience. I’m currently seeking out literary magazines to send out internship requests to and my reading list is growing a more specific focus.

My eyes are wider and my brain is more ready than ever before to seek opportunities, make connections with other humans, and live this life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Natalie in Chile, south america

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.

 

IMG_1711

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.

 

IMG_1696

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.

 

IMG_1688

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.

 

IMG_1692

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

IMG_1695

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

IMG_1699

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Natalie in Chile, south america

Expectations vs. Reality: FOOD, Part I

If my brain had an equivalent of Google’s most frequently asked questions, I believe my top 3 would look something like this:

  1. Is that a really a job? (Something I ask myself when I witness yet another five people handing out flyers on the street for restaurants, or a women stationed at the bathroom to hand me a piece of toilet paper.)
  2.  Do I  eat this? (Synonymous with “What is this?”)
  3. What is Chilean food?

I do not believe that any of these questions have specific answers. This post aims to explore the realm of possibilities for question #3 of my FAQs.

The question “what do the inhabitants of [insert country here] eat?” is tricky no matter the geographical coordinates. It’s a question of great importance, but requires you to acknowledge that a country is not one homogeneous culture, but a group of individuals with different tastes and interests. Inhabitants of the United States may eat pizza, french fries, and hamburgers, but that answers also veers towards over-generalization. One must trod on the topic of food and gastronomy with careful feet and a conscious mind!

I can admit with some amount of shame that my idea of Chilean food before leaving the United States was based on what I found at local Mexican restaurants and the inaccurate correlation of Spanish-speaking individuals and rice and beans. I briefly looked up images on Google before I departed for my semester abroad. I arrived on the Chilean food scene with a mix of ignorance, naivety, and a big case of never-been-out-of-the-country. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough food in the last two months to share a bit of my observations.

Fast Food

I’ve been living with a host family who provides me with a lot of my meals, however this post is focused on the food I’ve eaten outside of my house which I’ve deemed here as “fast food” for a lack of a better term. I mean no negative connotations.

While Vina Del Mar does yield a surprising amount of mainstream fast food joints such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Popeye’s Chicken, I believe that Chilean fast food is something different altogether. I’ve tried both McDonald’s and Pizza Hut out of curiosity and an insatiable urge to eat pizza. Though the McDonald’s here in Chile is gigantic– containing a large playland, a separate cafe for their coffee-related drinks, two stories of seating area, and the occasional weekend DJ– the menu was limited, my burger was lukewarm, my french fries uncharacteristically under cooked, and the bill was a reflection of the trend rather than the cheap.

My experience with Pizza Hut was slightly better. I had a personal veggie pizza that cost way too much money and included corn as a topping. I’ve learned now to expect corn on pizza here and have become quite fond of it. Also my friends and I ordered the cinnamon dessert sticks to treat our homesickness, dreaming about the creamy icing, however when they arrived at our table they were presented without icing and instead accompanied by a small bowl of jelly.

The real treasure of fast food in Chile is the underwhelming, often overlooked tiny “diners” that are numerous and often offer what appears to be a continuous cycle of similar specials. Here you will find completos, chorillana, empanada, and all sorts of variation on the sandwich that will probably come with a bebida y papas fritas (beverage and fries).

While none of these fast food joints immediately seem to be blue ribbon options, I’ve learned that Chileans know what they’re good at, and they stick to it. They don’t need to wow your socks off because they already have loyal followers.

Completo

 

completo

My friend Brittany and the famed giant completo. Yes, she ate the whole thing.

 

The completo is what I thought to be a glorified hot dog upon first arrival to Chile. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it’s not even about the meat, but everything that comes with it. The completo, generally coming in both a normal size and a giant size, is a hot dog on a bun with mayonnaise, avocado, tomatoes, and usually a form of sauerkraut. Completos are consumed for lunch, for dinner, at 3 am, on your way to class, when you want to grab a snack with your friend, etc. Many are prepared with a bit of variation but one consistent factor is there are never enough napkins and generally a lack of plate. Extra points if the bun is toasted.

Chorillana

 

chorillana

This plate feeds 2-3 people. Look at the flavor.

 

Imagine french fries. Imagine french fries topped with sauteed onions. Imagine french fries topped with sauteed onions, chopped hot dog, and cuts of beef. Now imagine this in large portions. You’ve got the chorillana. I visited the christened birth place of the chorillana, a restaurant in Valparaiso by the name of Jota Cruz. It’s located at the end of a long skinny alley and the walls of the restaurant are collaged with passport photos and customers’ words of thank you and other really random but exciting junk. The restaurant is not large and when you sit down at the wooden tables with table cloths littered with previous customers’ scribbles, you feel as if you are sitting down to eat dinner in the center of the local flea market. The only thing the waiter asks is if you want the large sized chorillanas or the extra large sized, which may be an inaccurate recount of the sizes because I only remember the way he motioned his hands to demonstrate the monstrous plate sizes.

 

jota cruz

The interior of the famed Jota Cruz is part of the perfect dining experience.

jota cruz again

Impossible to be bored while eating.

 

Sandwiches

I cannot say too much about the sandwiches here in Chile because I am still working my way through trying several. I can only say that the common factors of all types of sandwiches, no matter the meat, are a lot of cheese and even more avocado. And of course good ol’ Chilean bread. Yum. I’ve discovered a restaurant that serves giant sandwiches that I want to try. The buns are about the size of a dinner plate and they are grilled to perfection.

Empanadas

 

empanada love

Pictured here is one Chilean ID, one happy human (me), and two empanadas.

 

While the empanada is found in many Latin American countries and also parts of Europe, Chile is a major player in empanada consumption just as well. Recently I took a trip to the small town of Pomaire, home of many artisans and also the 1/2 kilo empanada. The empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry and the possibilities of fillings are endless. My favorite is the cheesy, scrumptious shrimp empanada I occasionally buy from a small family run shop half way up one of Valparaiso’s hills. The typical Chilean empanada would be the empanada de pino which includes beef, hard boiled eggs, onions, olives, and sometimes raisins. The best part about empanadas being in abundance is that you can get a fantastic empanada for less than $1.

 

I’ve found that navigating restaurant menus and trying foreign foods is one of the most painless ways to dive into a new culture. It’s also a reasonable excuse to spend too much time at bakeries. Nonetheless, consider this a brief, surface introduction to the world of Chilean culinary arts. Expect more to come!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Natalie in Chile, south america

How to be a Runner in Chile

I first fell into a steady relationship with running when I started college three years ago. I had taken up running very casually in high school when I befriended a German foreign exchange student who was concerned about America’s stark consumption of sugars. We engaged in combat with the sugars of our nightmares every day after school and then I went home and ate cookies. Now I run for my university’s college team and am hoping to do my first marathon within the next year. I still go home and eat cookies.

Anyone who runs has a very unique relationship with running. Running is very much like having a human companion because it occupies your mind quite a lot, but without the added benefits of sometimes making you dinner or bringing home a pizza. Instead you’re more ravishingly hungry. All of the time. hence the cookies. If you have a regular routine of running almost every day, missing a day because of something unexpected is like waking up and not drinking that expected cup of coffee.

I came to Chile accepting that I might not be able to run here as I do at my home. I told myself that it was just fine to take a break, however this mental preparation was not necessary. Here in Chile, I live impossibly close to the ocean, and I have the freedom to take an ocean-side run whenever I want to. The experience differs from my running in the States, where I grew accustomed to running on city bike trails and when at home with my parents, country back roads.

 

running

A beautiful view of the evening sky as I run along the coast one evening.

 

I didn’t know whether or not running was a popular activity here in Chile. From my observations, it’s not a strange hobby, but it is not nearly as common as it is in the United States. Below are some demographics about the average Chilean runner that I learned in a  Chilean culture class.

  • Of the Chileans that claim to habitually run, 47% belong to the upper class (known as ABC1 here).
  • 3 out of every 10 runners are women.
  • 70% of runners here are 21-40 years old while 1 out of 15 are between the age of 16-20. (I’ve noticed this a lot.)

During the summer season here, running is a bit like a game of frogger until you clear the populous beach areas. From any point in the city it is easy enough to find the ocean and run along side of it, where you’ll find many other athletes. However, summer also means loads of stroller-pushing, ice cream-eating beach-goers who like to lazily take up the entire side walk. There’s also solid stretches of vendors selling empanadas, fruit juice, alpaca socks, key chains, jewelry, precious rocks, and homemade sweets.

It makes for fantastic people watching and entertainment, but can also slow you down a bit while running. Here I am finding that it is good to be slowed though. Things should be done and performed for the feeling you get during and after, not solely to “get it done” as we tend to say in North America. Now that the season is changing to fall, the crowds are beginning to ease up as well.

My runs tend to be about an hour long and I run from central Vina del Mar to the Renaca area along the coast. If you like to run longer, there’s opportunity to keep on going and the longer you run, the better the view gets. This is my opinion because I prefer more nature and less urban running environments. I’ve also been doing a lot of trekking which is excellent on the legs too. I recently returned from a 6 day trek in the Torres del Paine National Park.

 

running 2

A stop to stretch just means a chance to take in more beauty!

 

But if you enjoy outdoor exercise activities without the expense of a plane ticket, the area by Vina del Mar’s Playa Deportes (Sport Beach) has a lot of exercise equipment for the public. Think children’s playground design, but for adults.  They also offer free zumba on the beach regularly during the summer, and weekends in the fall, and have beach volleyball as well. My university offers many free opportunities to join in

I have yet to tackle Valparaiso’s hillsides for any intense training, but it is definitely doable for any feeling up to the challenge.

Leave a comment

Filed under Natalie in Chile, south america