Chi Chi Chi La La La Vi Va Chile !

I can’t even believe I’ve been home for two weeks from the most amazing and out of this world trip. I was extremely lucky to be selected for this trip and I’ve been so thankful.

First off, with any trip you should do A LOT of research; but seeing as this was my first trip alone I was just so pumped! Needless to say, stepping off the plane and realizing it was winter was quite a shock! I was so happy I listened to my family and packed warm clothes for the night, you know “just in case”. Straight from the airport, we went to meet our host families; the love I felt from my host mother who spoke absolutely no English was out of this world. My roommate and I would leave the house for school and come back home to be greeted by the warmest of hugs and rapid Spanish asking how our day was. Even though I couldn’t speak Spanish the language barrier never discouraged us (with so much technology, it’s easy to fix that barrier anyways).

The country of Chile is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Any time of day or night it’s always buzzing with some type of activity. The teachers at the University of Vina Del Mar were fabulous and so patient with me that I was able to pick up and now understand some Spanish. My absolute favourite favourite favourite part of this trip was volunteering at the local children aid center. One little girl, Amara, stuck to me like glue, always asking me to use my phone to take pictures. At that moment with her, I wish I knew Spanish as a second language so that I could really understand what she was saying to me. On my last day in Chile, I went back to the Centre and there was a lady who was able to translate for me. A lot of tears were shed between Amara and me; in one month I had become so attached to that little one and to leave just like that was so heartbreaking.

Chile was the most amazing time of my life and I learnt so much especially from Amara. Since being home I have enrolled in Spanish classes and hope to become fluent…. eventually. I made amazing friends from many different parts of the world and have sent my first letter to the children centre yesterday. Thank you so much, Pearl and Ernesto, for believing that I was good enough to go on this trip. It was absolutely life-changing – I honestly came home to another person.

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Queen of Selfies
Queen of Selfies

 

– Justine Mounsey

You can’t miss Miscanti By Kawoos Naserie

Finally after three weeks in the Spanish program I decided to take a trip within Chile to see some wonderful views of the Driest Desert in the World ! San Pedro de Atacama was a wonderful place full of the worlds natural beauty from beautiful mountains, geysers & hot springs to the magical blue lagoons of Miscanti y Miñiques. Before the sunsets, the famous Moon Valley was a sight to see as the sunset turned the sky into a pink/purple haven with the sun hitting the right spots on the mountains. At night the stars could be seen by the bunches and it was the most I had ever seen in one place. Truly a great adventure and definitely worth a visit!

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Chillin’ in Chile by Kawoos Naserie

So it’s my first time in South America. I’m glad I got the opportunity to head to Chile as it is one of the greatest countries I have been to when it comes to nature. Living in the Town of Viña Del Mar, labeled the ‘Garden City’ due to having many flowers and tropical trees growing in the middle of winter has a lot of rich history along with the rest of Chile. To my left I have the Pacific Ocean and to my right the ever so beautiful Andes Mountains which can be seen as far as the eye can see. I have two more weeks left but next week I plan to go to the Atacama Desert which is the driest in the world. There I will encounter pink flamingos, steamy geysers and an amazing view of the stars at night. I’ll make sure to keep everyone posted. Happy travels everyone!

Kawoos Naserie

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¡Hola! from Chile

Since arriving in Chile on June 1, I have been having the experience of a lifetime!  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had never been to South America before, but my host family has made me feel right at home in Viña del Mar.

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The Flower Clock – One of Viña del Mar’s most recognizable features

My Spanish and Chilean Culture classes are very fun and engaging – and we don’t just learn in the classroom!  Our teacher takes us on an excursion at least once a week to tell us about the history and show us the culture firsthand.  This month, the FIFA World Cup started in Brazil, and it’s amazing how crazy Chileans get over soccer (or fútbol, as it’s called in Spanish)!  So far, Chile has played and won 2 games, and the whole city was shut down during the games.  My Spanish is much better now than when I arrived, and I am proud to say that I can order food in a restaurant sin problema!

I have also been volunteering at an orphanage in Viña del Mar.  Many of the children come from fractured families, but are in good spirits and always excited to see us.  We spend our time there playing with the children, and it is very rewarding to see the smiles on their faces.  During my last visit, as I was about to leave, one of the young children grabbed my hand and refused to let me leave until he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek!

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A ship at sunset during a walk around the city with my Chilean Culture Class

In my spare time, I have visited several local landmarks (including the beach and the flower clock), as well as Isla Negra (the home/museum of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who won a Nobel Prize) and the city of Valparaíso.  On my second weekend in Chile, I visited the tourist town of Púcon with my new friends.  We took a 12-hour overnight bus to go sightseeing, soak in hot springs, and ride horses.  It was an amazing trip that exposed a part of Chile I didn’t know existed!

ImageHorseback Riding in Púcon wearing ponchos of the Mapuche (indigenous people of south-central Chile)

This overall experience has been far more enriching than I could have expected.  Not only have I greatly expanded my Spanish vocabulary, but I have tried numerous (tasty!) new foods, witnessed the passion for soccer in South America, overcome the challenges of working with children of a different culture and language, and navigated my way through a new country and new cities.  I truly feel that I am living within the culture while living with my host family, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to experience a country and its culture.

-Madeline

Have you been to, uh well, let me see… Santiago, Chile?

I have about three weeks in Vina left, and I can’t help but start missing Chile already. Every time I look out at our balcony and see the ocean, or whenever I watch the sunset, I start thinking about how quickly these weeks and months have gone by. Of course, I have missed my family, friends and dog, and a part of me can’t wait to see them, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave yet. There’s still so much to see, many things to discover, and a language to learn. And so Sam and I have been trying to squeeze all of these in the next three weeks that we’ll be here.

Since a stay in Chile wouldn’t be complete without visiting the capital, we visited and stayed in Santiago for a weekend. We stayed at the W Hotel at Las Condes – which apparently had been labelled as ‘Sanhattan‘ – a combination of ‘Santiago’ + ‘Manhattan.’

Santiago, of course, is very different from Vina. Instead of the beaches and boardwalk, you’d find modern skyscrapers combined with older and classical architecture, with the imposing view of the Andes mountain. Sam and I visited as much as we can, including Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Santa Lucia.

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the dichotomy of old and new architecture

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it, unfortunately, was a smoggy day, but you can still see a little bit of the Andes and the city at Cerro San Cristobal

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Sam and I on the funicular, on the way to Cerro San Cristobal

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Cultural exploration at Museo Historico Nacional

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Excuse the alien eyes. Here’s a picture at Cerro Santa Lucia.

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A beautiful park on top of the hill, at Cerro Santa Lucia

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At La Chascona, Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago

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The statue of the Virgin Mary, at Cerro San Cristobal

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…and a beautiful sunset in Santiago.

Interning… and living in Chile

A few weeks ago we had a long weekend in Chile. April and I took advantage and travelled to San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world. 😀

It was beautiful! I took way too many pictures :D. Our 1st full day we went on tours all day. First up was Lagoon Chaxa which also doubles as a flamingo reserve.

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We were able to see the sunrise over the Andes and explore the interesting area.

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Then we continued on – up into the mountains, over 4000 ft.

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April and I, plus some friends in front of an active volcano.

DSCF8577Me in Valle de Luna.

The next day, it was sandboarding time!! Yes, sandboarding!

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April and I with our “rides.”

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Me on a run in the Death Valley.

That same afternoon, we went to Lagoon Cejar. There are only 3 of its kind; because of the amount of salt anyone who goes in automatically floats! How cool is that? It had a beautiful view as well!

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Me floating without even trying! SUPERMAN!

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The last day I visited the Tatio Geysers. They were awe-aspiring and just plain cool.

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Meanwhile, at work for our internship, April and I have been busy with the 2 projects we are working on. For one project we had numerous meetings with local Vina del Mar businesses. They are providing us with the chance to feel out professional meetings and interactions which will be helpful in our careers. I have also noticed that transferable skills such as teamwork and communication are improving and developing every day.

Besides, we were just in Santiago this past weekend. I had a great time.

Me in Santiago.

You can hear all about Santiago in the next one or two blogs.

1 more month to go. What an experience this internship has been! Yes, there are some lows (like missing one’s family & friends) but honestly, each and every day brings something new and this really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m excited to see what the last month will bring!

Must love dogs

If you ever plan on visiting Chile, I hope that you’re not scared of, or even allergic to dogs, because there are a lot of stray dogs in the country. And when I say a lot, I really do mean A LOT!

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On our way to work, seeing a couple of dogs lounging in front of a Church

You’ll find them everywhere you go – on the streets, by the beach, or just napping by the sidewalk. They generally don’t bother you – Sam & I noticed that they only really bark at motorcycles and other vehicles.

I have encountered stray dogs in my travels before, but I have to say that the Chilean stray dogs are some of the sweetest ones that you’ll find. I know that may seem hard to believe, but its true.They like walking with people – strangers. They also like being petted (although you may want to refrain on doing that to some, as they unfortunately have fleas). Image

Last weekend, as I was working out by the beach, there was this dog who just sat near me and watched me quietly.

Even though they are technically stray dogs, I find that many of them are well taken care of. Chileans, in general, treat their stray dogs very well. Aside from fleas, the dogs seem to be healthy and well fed. And because it’s winter, many of them even have coats on!

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Churros as dog treats

Being (technically) surrounded by dogs, and being thousands of miles away from home is making me miss my dog, Gatsby. But for now, I’m glad to have the Chilean dogs to keep me company 🙂

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Gatsby, who will get spoiled with walks when I come home (less than two months away!)

1 Month in Vina del Mar, Chile

Hola from Chile,

Today marks a month that April and I have been in Chile! Wow, how time has flown!

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Lately we have been pretty busy at work, which is great. We’re both super glad that we have a project to work on and are not just fetching people coffee!

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We have been to a university ceremony, participated in 2 important work meetings with possible university partners, and been working on our Internship Program project.

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Outside work, we’ve been having fun! We went to Isla Negra and toured the very beautiful house of Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet. We also explored a Chilean market close to where we are staying. We’re always looking for ways to have a good time while learning the culture!

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We’re excited to see what the next few weeks bring! 😀

Hola, from Vina del Mar!

Our second week in Chile has been pretty exciting. For work, we’ve been busy starting a project, setting up an international internship program for the University of Vina del Mar. I’m excited because it presents a lot of learning opportunities that are relevant to our field! It was great that our supervisor actually had a talk with us on our first week, and asked us what we expected and wanted to learn from our internship. I have to say that I’m relieved that fetching coffee/tea won’t be on my list of duties.

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In fact, they actually encouraged us to attend an Expo, and represent the University. We were able to talk (schmooze) with local business representatives and network, in hope of gaining partnership and collaborate with them on our project. And on our walk home, we tried the famous Chilean empanadas. And yes, they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious! (Actually, just thinking about it is making me crave for it).

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I have to say that being an intern at a University has its perks. On the 10th of June, Samantha and I were honoured to have met Senor Juan Guzman Tapia, the judge who indicted and prosecuted the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Although I admit to previously knowing very little about the history of Chile, it was a humbling experience to meet someone who had the courage to fight for human rights. Hearing him speak, and talk with other students about his experiences was truly inspiring.

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Since we previously took a ‘lazy’ weekend, we decided to  join other international students (Americans, French and Germans) to a trip in Concon, Chile, for horseback riding. We were both apprehensive at first, as neither one of us had experience with horses, but we figured that it would only involve the horses walking by the beach. However, within twenty minutes, I discovered that my horse didn’t like walking as much as he loved trotting and galloping! Luckily for me, my fear and nervousness quickly disappeared and I ended up enjoying and loving the experience! Not to mention that the views were spectacular – we went around the beaches, sand dunes, and marshlands. Chile really is a beautiful country!

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and can I just mention how precious this little puppy is? I would’ve loved to take him home! ❤

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