Tag Archives: #dance

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.



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


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


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.



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


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.



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.



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.

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Filed under Brooke in Chile, south america

Tempus Fugit

Life is like a roller-coaster; the following is a peak-and-trough analysis of the past two weeks. My least favorite moment in Shanghai came when I said goodbye to some good friends I had made throughout the last two months. I am relocating to a second internship in Beijing. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and sure enough, the next high would present itself with the long awaited arrival of my hén hǎo de péngyou, Terry. When I met Terry in Calculus class, I never would have expected that three years later I would be waiting for him at the airport in his native country.



My best friend Terry.


In my previous posts, I talked about the meaning of food and how excited I was to try authentic Chinese cuisine. I did not fully comprehend how dangerous it would be to order my own meals. Most of the time it was hit or miss but more often than not I would regret it later when nature called. Eventually, I learned my lesson and started cooking my own meals, always alternating between McDonald’s and KFC for lunch, much to Terry’s dismay. Over a span of four days, Terry restored my faith in Chinese food as I tasted Shanghai with virgin lips.

Finally, it was time for us to leave for Chongqing where we would meet Terry’s family. Terry’s father and mother were very welcoming and showed incredible hospitality. They arranged superb accommodations and placed reservations at the finest restaurants in Chongqing. China’s economy has seen tremendous growth over the last few decades and as a self-made business man, Terry’s father offered me practical life advice. He asked me to call him shūshu (uncle) and showed me a glimpse of the luxurious life of the Chinese elite.



Chongqing hotpot.


We toured the city, enjoyed bubble tea drinks at an exotic zoo-themed café and went to the most famous hot pot restaurant in the city. Chongqing is near Sichuan and boasts the spiciest food in the country. Naturally, they thought I couldn’t keep up. Dish after dish came and I proved I had a stomach of steel. At the culmination of the meal, Shūshu’s friend, who is the president of a university, presented a nice gift that featured original postage stamps from all over China.

Later we went to a famous night club and watched a performance from the number one DJ in China. This was one of the most memorable nights of my life. Chinese people are not known for being liberal dancers and I saw this an opportunity to share my culture. I jumped on the empty stage when the DJ started playing hip-hop music and soon I was lost in my own world. I opened my eyes only to be blinded by the spotlight. As I looked across the sea of people, I realized they were all frozen; a thousand eyes fixated on the Egyptian-American dancing wildly before them. At first, I was intimidated, but then I encouraged the spectators to come on stage and dance with me. One by one they came until the stage was filled with Chinese people dancing around Terry and myself.

The next morning, I felt excruciating pain as my stomach fought the side effects of the hot pot. I mustered up the last of my strength to attend the home cooked meal that Shūshu had prepared. Although I could not eat much, the food looked and smelled delicious. Afterward, we enjoyed a scenic view from his company office overlooking the famous Yangtze River. The following morning, they arranged a “goodbye” dinner with an assortment of Shūshu’s acquaintances. I did not know it at the time but I was sitting next to one of the most powerful men in China. We laughed and shared stories using Terry as a translator to overcome the language barrier. At the end of the meal, they poured their drinks into their baijiu wells, which is the highest honor you can give someone.

I was sad to leave but at the same time, I was ecstatic to see my sister, Mel. I arrived in Beijing on my birthday and had dinner with Mel. Afterward, we met Val, my Russian friend, for a night on the town and celebrated my birthday in style. We made many new friends. My new co-workers here in Beijing are very kind and have gone to great lengths to welcome me to their city. I am excited to experience the rich history that Beijing has to offer. From the Great Wall to the Forbidden City, and the terracotta warriors in Xian—I want to see it all. With just under twenty days left in China, I cannot wait for the new adventures that await!



Reunion with my sister.

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Filed under East Asia, Khalid in China

Departure and Initial Adjustments

Greetings from Lima, Peru! My name is Isabel Torres and I am an undergraduate student majoring in Education at Texas State University. Before leaving for my study abroad program, I made sure to do some research about my host country and pack any necessities that I needed to take. Being prepared left me feeling more confident and positive about the upcoming month in Peru. My excitement and confidence, however, soon disappeared the day of my departure. I had never been on an airplane before or set foot in an airport. After saying goodbye to my family, I found myself standing alone tightly clutching my carry-on like a security blanket and looking somewhat like an abandoned puppy. My nervousness soon turned into frustration once I realized that my family had dropped me off six hours before my flight even departed. What was I supposed to do now? Why hadn’t my parents taken the time to at least feed me lunch? Feeling slightly betrayed, I found a convenience store and paid for an overpriced coffee and power bar and called that lunch. Despite everything, those six hours made me realize how much I depended on my family to get through everyday tasks. Reflecting about my experience now, I am beginning to understand that I still have a lot to learn before I can officially call myself an adult. Although those six hours seemed like an eternity, they did eventually pass and I soon found myself aboard the plane ready to journey the additional six and a half hours to Lima, Peru.



Getting ready to check in my bags through security at the Houston International airport.


I stepped out of the plane around 10:50 PM and into an airport similar to the one I left in the United States. The only difference was everything was written in Spanish. Walking through the airport to the security checkpoints, I remember feeling beyond excited to experience a new Spanish culture that was different from my own Mexican heritage. Smiling, I handed over my passport and other official documents to the security inspector. Everything seemed to be in order, but before I could take one step to leave he quickly stopped me, saying “Cuántos días se quedará en el Perú?” My mind froze and began to whirl at the security inspector’s comment. I smiled even bigger, wondering if he was just trying to make polite conversation or if he needed me to say something back in order to stamp my passport. I guess I looked pretty stupid because he soon caught on to my confusion and began to speak broken English. That was the first time I actually felt embarrassed for not knowing Spanish. Although I seemed to fit in by appearance, my lack of knowing fluent Spanish hindered me from communicating with those around me. Throughout this week, I have been experiencing similar situations anytime I order food, take public transportation, or go shopping. What really surprised me was how much I was actually being bothered by it. In certain moments, I have even wished that I looked more like a typical foreigner from the United States so that others would be more understanding. After reviewing the stages of culture shock, I found that I was making my way through stage one—being super happy and excited—rather quickly and plunging forward into stages two and three where differences lead to frustration and helplessness.

Last night I attended a Peruvian dance show at Brisas del Titicaca with my fellow Texas State study abroad classmates and professor. The building consisted of a spacious room where tables were set up around a large dance floor and stage. Onstage, musicians were beginning to warm up and practice their instruments. Meanwhile the history of different Peruvian regions and dances that went along with that certain region were being showcased on a large projector screen behind the band. Soon enough, the lights dimmed and the band began to play. An announcer made his way to the middle of the dance floor and began speaking rapidly in Spanish. I later learned that he was giving a short summary about the area in Peru that had influenced the type of dance and costume the dancers were showcasing. Each dance was different and all the performers had brightly colored costumes and lively makeup. After each performance, the dancers would run off stage and get ready for the next dance. During this time, the band would start up again and anyone from the audience would be allowed to go on the dance floor. My classmates and I found the courage to go ahead and join in on the fun. The atmosphere reminded me of Quinceañera celebrations back at home. Everyone danced with everyone. There were no language barriers because the music was too loud to talk. In between dances the announcer acknowledged foreigners from different countries around the world. People from Brazil, Spain, France, and the United States had come together to view the show and celebrate through dance. By the power of smiles and laughter, I was able to connect with the Peruvian people for the first time. I sincerely felt like I belonged and I welcomed my new home with a warm heart.



Beautiful Peruvian dancers at the Brisas del Titicaca dance show.


The local Peruvian people and individuals from Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States come together to celebrate the different cultures of dance from various regions in Peru.


As I look forward to this weekend of traveling to Ica and Paracas, I find myself slowly transitioning out from previous feelings of defeat and into a new positive attitude. Instead of dwelling on language barriers, I have decided to develop strategies in order to cope with my depressed feelings and difficulties. Along with another student from Texas State, I have begun to study ten vocabulary words and phrases every other night when I am finished with my required reading for class. By the time the month in Peru is over, I want to be able to have a full conversation in Spanish with another Peruvian. Until then, wish me luck. Ciao!

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Filed under Isabel in Peru, south america