Monthly Archives: August 2011

school supplies

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My host mom took me shopping for school supplies today. Apparently the average Chilean student needs 10 notebooks, 3 glue sticks and a pencil bag. I am still trying to find out what I am going to use to fill up all 10 of my notebooks but that remains a mystery that my incredibly sub-par Spanish skills can’t seem to solve.

Food note:

Salad dressing here consists of oil and lemon. The locals believe that salad dressing is disgusting for some reason so we just put oil, lemon and salt on our salads.

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new faces new places

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Yesterday there was a rotary lunch not too far from my house for all of the exchange students. I met 7 students staying here with my same rotary club. One from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada, USA and 2 from Portugal. Most everyone spoke English to me instead of Spanish but I would perfer to speak Spanish all the time. After dinner yesterday we went to a very large mall and I was able not to buy anything because I was promised more shopping in cheaper places. I still have no clue about the money but i think that 500 pesos is about equal to a dollar.

Today we went to the feria before we went to my host dad’s house and bought tons of fresh fruit and vegetables. I forgot my camera but we will go back soon and I will post pictures. My family took me up onto the roof of their building today and showed

me the incredible view. It was cloudy so the pictures didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, but I think you get the idea. The Andes mountains are famous for skiing and I hope I get to go before I leave.

Food update:

Like many Latin American countries lunch is the main meal. Here bread and potatoes seem to be very common. Every day my family eats bread with meat or cheese or butter for breakfast and dinner. For lunch yesterday we ate a sort of roast with potatoes and today we had a sort of sweet mashed potatoes (made from white potatoes with sugar added)  with chicken.

Side note, peaches aren’t fuzzy here. And dad, they have yellow lemons instead of limes.

HOLA CHILE!

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With a few shed tears and some encouraging words I set off for my year abroad on Friday. My first flight was from Denver to Atlanta where I then had a FOUR hour layover. I had a bit of a nervous stomach so i didn’t really feel like eating but I decided to listen to my parent’s advice and get a fruit and yogurt parfait. That was a big mistake because it turned out that they don’t have fruit in Atlanta so i got a vanilla yogurt and strawberry jelly paste. Yumm dinner. I then proceeded to ask someone which gate my flight would be taking out of but it seems that Delta’s employees have a sense of humor. The friendly-looking flight attendant sent me to a gate that doesn’t even exist. I had to wait an hour until my flight was up on the computer but then I was able to find my gate and make it onto the nine and a half hour plane ride to Santiago Chile. I arrived at 8:30 this morning but I didn’t make it out of the airport until 11 because of the lines that literally went from one end of the terminal to the other. About an hour after making it to my host family’s house we had to leave for a rotary lunch. It turns out that my host club has 8 exchange students at a time so I was met with warm hugs and kisses on the cheeks by 30 people of which I will never remember the names of. My school is closed due to protests so I am planning on filling up my closet here with lots of foreign clothes and such. I will write more but now I have to go get a start on spending my money.

goodbye america

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WOW. I leave the United States in about 14 1/2 hours. Do i feel ready? Not at all. I’m not packed, my papers are out of order and I still have no idea how to say goodbye to my parents. I know my family and friends will support me in all of this, but that doesn’t make leaving any easier. I barley speak Spanish and my stomach is starting to twist. I haven’t eaten a good meal in a while and i feel a lot more fearful than I could have ever imagined. This could be the biggest leap of faith I will ever have in my life. Lets see how it turns out.

side note: my dad saw in the news yesterday that people are burning buses in the streets. Also, my school is closed. Nervous? YEAH.

Lesson #1

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Wow. I haven’t even left yet and I’ve had my first lesson. Becoming an exchange student is harder than it sounds. Paperwork, choices, and all that other great stuff has to be planed and perfect down to the last detail.

First, an exchange student has to choose a program to travel with. I was lucky and was accepted by my first choice, Rotary. But that was only the beginning. After being accepted I needed a physical, a dental exam and a whole mess of paperwork to fill out not once, not twice, not even three times, but four. All signatures had to be in blue ink and signed in front of my coordinator. I went through a rigorous interview process and in the end, I was chosen to go to Santiago Chile.

After I was accepted all of the exchange students were summoned to a small town in Wyoming  for an orientation weekend (which just so happened to be prom weekend also I might add). We did exercises and met people and had oodles of endless fun getting to know people who we can relate to about our exchange. It was all fun and games until the next week when i received the next mountain of paperwork to be filled out graciously provided by my travel agent.

If only I knew what i was getting into. The first thing on the list was to get a background check filled out by the FBI. All I had to do was get fingerprinted and send it to the address in the packet. Not too hard, right? No. Some idiot online said that my parents had to be with me since I was a minor (which is completely false) so I decided to wait for my parents to return from California two and a half weeks later when my dad was cleared to fly after his surgery. A couple days after their return we all went down to the local police department where they fingerprinted me and then gave me the card which I sent off the next day to the provided address. I called a week later. I was told by the person on the phone that it would be 3 weeks before I was in the system, then they would send me my certificate. I thought that was a little excessive at the time but I had no idea what awaited me. Five weeks later I was still not in the system. I finally got someone on the phone who was kind enough to try looking me up under my address. He found me right away and the reason the other people couldn’t find me is because someone along the line misspelled my name. I was furious. I had provided them with a address, social security number AND my finger prints. No wonder people think our government is inefficient. It took them two weeks to chance a v to a u. It has been 7 weeks and nothing has changed. This is twice as long as i had planned for and while waiting a number of my papers have expired. Imagine my excitement when after nine weeks they inform me that they will be sending it within the next couple of days. It was time to move on to the other paperwork that had expired.

I needed an AIDS test. Yes, that is correct. Seeing as an AIDS test will expire after 30 days, I had to get an AIDS test not once but twice. The first time I made an appointment with my family doctor and everything went fine the second time, my doctor couldn’t fit me in for two weeks so lucky for me, I got to go to the AIDS clinic in the next town over. I don’t know if you have ever had an AIDS test, but my goodness! That place was sketchy. I pulled up in my mom’s car (because my sister was using ours for the day) and when her car doors were the only ones i could find which were all the same color I almost decided to turn around and speed all the way home. But no, I needed to get this test over with. And so, I summoned all of my courage and walked into the basement of a building that was beyond falling apart and had several for sale signs out front. Expecting the worst, I can honestly say I was pleased with what I walked into. No one had to buzz me in and my first step inside revealed fluorescent lighting and a wall that looked like a rainbow, not because of a cheerful paint job, but because of all the different colors and flavors of condoms. HOORAY!

After my AIDS test adventure I was able to send all of the paperwork into the Chilean consulate in Los Angeles California. Two days later I called to make sure all of the paperwork was correct and to make an appointment but yet another snag in the plan. How was I not surprised? Turns out the notary that notarized most of my papers forgot to sign them. Plus I was given the wrong forms to fill out which delayed my trip even further. Now that I have all the paperwork correct, no one is answering my phone calls or e-mails. All I need is 5 minutes of someone’s time to make an appointment to show up and get my visa.

This is a very frustrating process and It has taught me already that no one else is looking out for my interests and if I just sit by the side and let people take advantage of me then I will never make it to Chile. The best I can do now is keep calling and hope someone cares enough to answer the phone.

The Beginning

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I’m just your average 16-year-old girl from Loveland Colorado about to go on the adventure of a lifetime. I’m leaving my family, friends, and everything I know and love behind in the effort to pursue the chance of a lifetime. Join me as i make new friends and have new adventures in Santiago Chile. Who knows, I may even learn a thing or two.