¡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

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!)

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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