jueves, 19 de junio de 2008
The foreign students, with our fixed plane tickets home, don't have a winter break to sacrifice to the cause and thus I've been a traitor to my classmates and have figured out alternative work with my professors, who seem to just kind of make up an arbitrary assignment for me and call it a final. For one class I have to translate an article written in terrible English by a Chilean into what I am sure will be subpar Spanish so that the rest of the class can read it when the strike ends, then talk about it with the professor and my classmate from UCLA for half an hour. I definitely don't mind the break as I'm planning a week-long trip to the Atacama desert in the north, but I also feel a little shafted academically. As they say in Chile, "Es lo que hay" (it is what it is).
At the same time, I'm a little impressed by the perseverance of some of the students: both high schools and universities in several of the major cities of Chile have been causing a racket because the new education law proposed is just as "state hands-off" as the one it's replacing, and emphasizes privatization instead of public funds going towards education. I didn't go to the bigger protest (they deport foreigners that participate or could be mistaken for participants or are in the vicinitiy and look liberal), but got a taste of it when I was walking from my house towards downtown: I stopped in a park to watch a smallish group of art students from the Catholic University parading around with huge papier-mache figures criticizing the state's focus on profit instead of equality in the University system when hundreds of students that had been protesting in Plaza Italia nearby started running towards us, trying to scatter into side streets as some of the carabinero (police) riot squads chased after in cars, trying to round them up. I followed them, trying to look nonchalant, until I could duck into a supermarket, but not before I got a nasty whiff of tear gas. They're generous with the tear gas here.
Luckily, to entertain me a little while I'm at loose ends, world futbol season is here, and the TV in our house is constantly trained to the current game. Chilean passion for futbol (el opiato del pueblo, according to a housemate, though I don't know if he knows it's Marx), even though their teams have a reputation for losing constantly, is almost as incomprehensible as the vocabulary they use watching the games. Argentina's goalie is apparently un patón weon flaite viejo (an old, gangster bastard duck), and I finally had to ask my housemates why they kept mentioning The Clockwork Orange (La Naranja Mecánica) to find out it's the nickname of team Holland, which as my Dutch housemate constantly points out, is doing pretty well. A bunch of people from my house went to a cheap bar nearby to watch the Chilean final between Colo-Colo, Santiago's darling, and a team from Viña del Mar, a city on the coast to the west. The game was terrible (Colo-Colo was on the defensive the entire team), and I was perched on the edge of a table next to a chain-smoker, but I learned some of the Colo-Colo cheers and got a taste of futbolmania.
Depending on the profes of my two Geography classes, I think I'm down academically by next week. Before I come back the 14, I'm planning on going to San Pedro de Atacama, a small, kinda touristy town in the north that everyone raves about, then maybe stopping at some Nacional Park-type places on the way back, time-permitting. Then the challenge of fitting everything into my bags.
Set off some fireworks for me! I somehow think setting something on fire here in honor of US independence wouldn't be the way to go in improving US foreign relations.
Also, I uploaded a bunch of pictures to my flikr account so they aren't taking up space on my roomie's computer. They aren't all my pictures, and a lot of them have people you don't know or wouldn't be that interesting out of context, but you can take a look at www.flikr.com/photos/ssugar if you'd like.
sábado, 24 de mayo de 2008
Soon I'll have to plan the week and a half I have between finals and my plane ticket home...I definitely want to see the northern desert, which is barren but full of all sorts of natural wonders, ghost mining towns and a few Incan ruins. A girl in one of my classes also told me that the last week of June and the first week of July and ship leaves Valparaíso for the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, a little-known trip, so I'll look at the details for that at least.
Enjoy the heat! The cold is definitely setting in here, though apparently it only gets worse from here on out. This whole smog-trapping-cold-weather-inversion-layer is not to my tastes.
jueves, 17 de abril de 2008
I'm finally getting back into the swing of classes, but sometimes things still feel to unrealish to take them as seriously as at home. It doesn't help that classes here are much more theory-based than the ones in the UCs (says the philosophy major). Three out of four of my la Chile professors have assigned reading or given lectures on postmodernism, which apparently is big here, and my Economics profe gave a quick overview of the history of philosophy this week, from Hegel's dialectic to existentialism to the tiny ray of hope offered by Nietzsche's superman because he thinks the Chilean university system is so busy focusing on specialization that it churns out graduates completely ignorant about anything outside their area of study.
Like Santa Cruz, the more profitable majors have nicer facilities: Economics has screens all over the place listing upcoming classes and monetary exchange rates, and there's ALWAYS toilet paper in the bathrooms. In contrast, the Architecture and Urbanism campus (my home front) has few computers, no toilet paper, and a perpetually-closed photocopy room. Luckily, my campus has all the design students and thus more character, with a life-size metal chess set and huge, floating women in the trees. Foosball tables are standard at all campuses. Plus the casino (cafeteria-type area) isn't owned by Sodexho, which has apparently reached South America. Rumer has it that the science campus is aMAzing.
The university feeling here is completely different. Even though the university in total has many more students than UCSC, it feels like a small high-school. A guy in my GIS class showed me the second-year geography-major photo-blog, and you never see anyone solo on campus. We just assume it's because people live at home and want to get away, but it's made me self-conscious for just chilling and studying solo.
A few more UC-led excursions: a loooooong day at the rodeo en Rancagua...not nearly as violent as matadors, but most of us were rooting for the cows. Basically everyone wears huaso (Chilean cowboy) hats and sits in the sun watching pairs of caballeros herd small cows sideways into the wall of the arena for four hours. We did get to say hello to some horses and absorb the rodeo atmosphere, though.
Back in Santiago, for our class a professor and former detainee under Pinochet showed us around a prison-camp-turned-memorial-park at which he himself had been tortured as well as the Cementerio Nacional (not the most uplifting of days). I really can't imagine wanting to relive that all the time to large groups of students, but he said he'd me morally remiss if he didn't do everything possible to keep such experiences alive in the collective consciousness so as to prevent it from happening again. It's impossible not to like a person who tears up when he talks about inequity in the school and university system while showing us Allende's tomb/memorial.
Also for the class we were bussed to El Teniente mine, the largest functioning below-ground mine in the world, owned by Chile. We suited up in tons of equipment and saw a big rock-chopper thing and I fell down some stairs, because I'm me. We also took a tour around the former campamento, a town built right next to the mine by the former American owners to keep workers and their families provided-for and entertained so the skilled labor wouldn't run off and leave the American jefes in a jam. Rooms were tight and alcohol prohibited, but the hospital was the most-advanced in Latin America and there was a bowling alley. It was odd to imagine this town of people tied to the mine, completely cut off from the world in the winter (the mine is up in the cordillera). Now it's a ghost town, partially torn down, but the rest is a world heritage site and appropriate for tours for foreign students.
The weather is cooling, but every Sunday there's a used-clothing and other things fair in the park and I stocked up on cheap sweaters and a jacket. There are also rastafarians selling soya-burgers for cheap all over the place, so it's now one of my favorite places.
Hope all is well with everyone, as always!
miércoles, 26 de marzo de 2008
Classes are...interesting. My seemingly most-concrete classes (one for GIS and one for sustainability as a technological or social problem) have started out with lectures on the meaning of reality and the move from cartesian empiricism to etc., so who knows where they're going to go. In our required EAP class we've had two excellent and fiery guest lectures on pre- and post-ag reform in chile, with two opposing conclusions, but the regular profesora for the class doesn't give the most exciting information. A lot of biographical information on Chilean poets that I could probably skim through on Wikipedia much more quickly. The class is an opportunity to see everyone from the program, though, so Tuesday and Thursday nights aren't too painful.
Last weekend a few of us bussed it up North a few clicks to La Serena and Valle de Elqui for Easter weekend. La Serena was basically deserted except for wandering tourists: the first day there I heard more English than Spanish, and some other people from California spotted us in our respective college sweatshirts and told us we looked like a UC catalogue picture. We made some omelettes and relaxed at the beach, then on Saturday bussed to Pisco Elqui, a small town in the valley nearby, to wander. The pueblo, with a pop. of only about 500 people, was picturesque, and the view out the windows of the bus even better: The mountains bordering the valley are completely dry with all sorts of crazy-colored minerals (lots of red from copper), while the valley floor is completely green from fruit and nut trees and vineyards for pisco grapes. Ondas buenas (good vibes) all over the place. We made a quick stop in Vicuna to tour a pisco distillery, then ordered some mediocre pizza back in La Serena and relaxed.
We also went to observatorio Mamalluca one night for a tour and to gaze at stars through the fancy telescopes. Unfortunately the moon was full, which made all the stars dimmer in comparison (our tour guide kept talking about how the full moon made the sky way too complex for good star-gazing), but we got some incredible views of Saturn and some constellations, as well as a blinding look at the moon up-close. We, self-conscious about seeming to gringo, opted for the Spanish tour, ignoring the pointed glances the bus driver gave us when asking who wanted the English one, but our plan kind of backfired: there were so few people in the English group that they all got much longer turns on the telescope. So much for trying to fit in.
Sunday I'm going to the rodeo, another cultural excursion compliments of EAP, but Saturday might be low-key: Our housemates warned us to stay en casa because there are going to be some considerable manifestaciones in memory of some young leftist brothers that were killed by the police during the coup, and apparently the "manifestaciones" are usually pretty rife with anti-estadounidense sentiment (the word "americano" here means "of the American continent", and they think it egocentric of US citizens to refer to themselves as American, so we're estadounidense or norteamericano). McDonalds' are a favorite target for Molotov cocktails, so I think I'll avoid the golden arches this weekend, though a Big Mac is soooooo tempting.
domingo, 16 de marzo de 2008
My agronomy class didn't work out because I don't remember calculus, but this week I started Globalization, copper, and the new Chilean Economy, where the professor began the class warning us about how economics programs now just churn out professionals and are no longer interested in research and academics, and how the Pinochet years have emasculated Chilean academics, and finally how Chile has no chance of catching up to the technosavvy Asian economies like Japan in the current economic system, so what to do? It should be interesting...
The UC program offered a day trip to the nearby port-city of Valparaiso, heralded as the San Francisco of Chile because it has hills and trolley cars. The day of exploration was a little superficial because of time constraints, but we saw the touristy parts, and it's close enought to return on a weekend. Plus our tour guide looked like Gene Wilder with less interesting hair. He argued that it's a somewhat egalitarian city because although the poor have to live on the outskirts and travel great distances every day to get to work, they live on the hills and thus get the best view of the ocean. I'm not sure I buy this.
There was also a day trip to the Aconcagua valley, which was an action-packed day. The professor from Irvine in charge of the UC program here, Heidi, did a lot of her research in fruit-packing in the valley, so she gave us background on Allende's agricultural reforms on the bus before introducing us to some of the people who helped with her research, including the first union of female fruit-packers in Chile. Then we went to the house of a mapuche family who served us various typical foods and drinks and talked to us about the state of indigenous people in the valley. We got a 20 minute lecture on the evils of George Bush and Western Imperialism (capital letters) which, although there was obviously truth in what the guy was saying, automaticlaly put us on the defensive and made for a few moments of awkwardness. Then we got a tour of a family table-grape "packing" (as the companies are called) and free samples of grapes. Finally we went to same family "microempresarios", or microindustries, I guess, which families use to supplement income. First a chicharia, where they produce chicha (kind of like cider, but with grapes) in massive copper vats in their backyard, and then we climbed the hill to another family's house that doubles as an empanaderia (where they make empanadas), and we had incredible empanadas with gorgeous view of the valley.
I've moved into my boarding house, and all the other students are fun, though I've been too busy to be home that much. There's hot water and refrigerator's and everything. Already romantic drama has hit some of the residents...It's like the dorms in that respect but not in any others, thankfully.
For Easter weekend (semana santa) a few of us are going up north to the mystical Valle de Elqui, which apparently has the clearest night sky in the world and is the center of pisco (un alcohol made from grapes) production.
Hope everyone does okay with finals!
martes, 4 de marzo de 2008
We also took a penguin tour, because it´s the thing to do in Ancud. Apparently, the area is the only place where two species of penguins (Magellenic and one other type...) roost together, and because it´s close to shore, they can chill without worrying about orcas. They were adorable, of course, but I don´t think cormorants, an equally ridiculous bird, get the attention they deserve. Props to them.
400 variedades de potato and not one place in Ancud or Castro that serves anything but the standard. Blargh.
The fog there made me a little sentimental for Santa Cruz, but the heat here in Santiago has cured me of it. The stupid hole in the ozone layer is right over our heads and I´ve been going through Coppertone like a madwoman to no avail. I´m excited about fall.
Gracias para todos por las felicitaciones for my birthday!
domingo, 24 de febrero de 2008
The hostel was a charming little place owned by some Swiss bicyclists that retired from cycling around the world and settled in the Andes (home-made bread every morning!), and we met some fellow travelers there, including a girl from Washington that had gotten some scholarship that paid for her to travel around the world for 8 months, and a Belgian cycling through the country (hard-core!). We walked around the lake some, all blackish volcanic sand and rock, but picturesque, went rafting for the first time (well, my first time) and managed not to maim ourselves, hiked around Parque Nacional Huerquehue to see some more lakes and massive waterfalls, then said goodbye to good bread and headed to Valdivia.
Unfortunately for Valdivia, Villarrica was a difficult act to follow, and in retrospect we would have spent fewer days there. It´s known as a former German colony-type city on the river near the ocean, but there wasn´t much of a "cute historical German town" atmosphere. It was also flooded with other Chilean/extranjero tourists, which meant the housing was a hassle: the first place lost our reservations and chided us for not calling several times to confirm, and while the place she found for us, a little cabaña in the backyard of a strange old lady with obnoxious dogs, was relatively cheap, the old woman argued that we hadn´t been clear we were staying for two nights (this after about a fifteen minute conversation of clarification of that fact) and tried double the price on us. We did hang out with some Chileans, though...I know a little more about rugby and Chilean rock. Plus there were sea lions in the river. Could have watched them all day.
We´re all sick of Chilean food, which is either expensive restaurant-fare or various types of meat sandwiches, and started cooking for ourselves. Apparently Chilean per capita consumption of bread is second only to Germany, and it gets old fast. Green beans never tasted so good.
Then to the mystical island of Chiloe, which, despite some changed plans, is my favorite stop so far...much less crowded, and supposedly there are at least 400 varieties of potato, of which I want to try at least 150. We made plans to stay in the tiny campo town of Tenaún with a family, but a missed buss in Valdivia meant we missed the last rural bus there from Castro. Our staying in Castro, however, worked out for the best when one girl, who´d had a sore throat the day before, went downhill in the morning. We spent the morning at the emergency room, the only place open in a small town on a Sunday and literally the slowest entity ever, then let her rest as we wandered around the town and along the coast.
Next Ancud (a penguin colony), then back to Santiago by my birthday...I´m looking forward to a washing machine.
sábado, 16 de febrero de 2008
I´m takin´the midnight bus to Villarrica tonight...my Chilean madre bought me enough fruit to give the three of us the runs for a week.
miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2008
My intensive Spanish class (which hasn´t felt that intensive) is only four hours a day, but the last two weeks have been hectic (in a good way), and I´m seeing more and more of Santiago. I ride the buses and metro (subway) like a pro now, and can successfully give directions to my apartment to taxi drivers, hopefully convincingly enough that they don´t drive in circles trying to milk a few extra km out of me. Our Chilean tutors take us on field trips with funds from the study center, so we toured one of Santiago´s oldest vineyard/wineries, Concha y Toro, and got to try a few of their popular ones. I saw my first Araucania tree, a tall árbol that dates back to prehistoric times and is sacred to the Mapuche in the south (well at least I was excited). On a different day we toured el Palacio Cousiño, kind of the Hearst Castle of Santiago, and the Salvador Allende Museum of Solidarity (it sounds less odd in Spanish). The Palacio was pretty, in an extravagent, European sort of way, black Belgium marble, curtains hand-embroidered by French nuns, the first elevator and electric generator in South America, etc. Absolutely nothing of Chilean origin, the tour guide emphasized, which seems kind of sad. Europeanness is big here among the upper classes, and Chilean culture, arte folclorico and the like, is considered weak, especially in comparison to other Latin American countries´respective cultures.
The museum was excellent, though of course a downer. One photographer (argh...I need to write things down) managed to thoroughly document Allende before the coup and government action post-coup, and the two rooms of his photos were superfuerte. Especially trippy was a picture of Allende, Pinochet, and Fidel Castro (Pinochet having been big army guy at the time) walking past a color-guard, looking all buddy-buddy. Art by others inspired by post-coup repression in Chile and in the age in general filled other, equally moving rooms, and it was unfortunate that we were all exhausted at that point. One of the tutors told me that the Pinochet years are still avoided even in University classes (se toque...touched upon), and that Chileans, even youth, are relatively apolitical. He goes to la Católica, though, so it might not hold true for classes at la Chile, whose students tend to be radical even by non-Chilean standards. Apparently at la Chile it´s not a question of if some kind of student strike or sit-in is going to happen and disrupt classes, but whether the inevitable strike(s) will last long enough to force los estudiantes extranjeros to change their return flight dates. We´ll see what I´ve gotten myself into. :)
Some of us went to a Salsateque later that night and one of the tutors showed me the basics of Salsa and Merengue. I still have serious problems, especially twirling, but at least there´s a pattern now.
For a project for class we all went on trips for the weekend. Yo y three other girls took the train to San Fernando, an agricultural town in the valle south of Santiago (no seats initally, no air-conditioning, weather in the nineties, lots o fun) and walked around the artisan fair, talking to artisans, eating empanadas, and watching some jovenes from Arica dance the Cueca, to Chile as the Tango is to Argentina (though less dramatic...I heard it´s supposed to be reminiscent of roosters courting hens). We had to stay in for the night though, after the front-desk lady started catching on that there were more than two people staying in the double room. We only spoke in Spanish the entire weekend, though it´s much more helpful when there´s a native speaker in the group.
We also went to SAnta Cruz (tiny pueblo with a massive museum owned by an arms-dealer) and Pichilemu, which was on the beach but altogether too crowded and touristy to really enjoy. Bus ride back, half-hour traffic jam (taco) literally a block from the bus station, finishing homework. It was an excellent weekend.
I´ve also found housing...I´m sharing a room with my friend Oralia, who´s from UCSB but is Mexican and has promised to only speak to me in Spanish, in a house with other students (some Chileans but also some Mexicans and Germans) near a metro station in the same area I live in now. Everything´s included, and it´s a month-to-month lease, so if it doesn´t work out I can turn to the study center for advice.
Hope all is well with everyone!
miércoles, 6 de febrero de 2008
- My house: Sonia´s supersimpatica (super is the adjective of choice here, though saying "hiper" is way more fun, and my living situation is comfortable, but I still kinda feel like a guest. I´m not used to being waited on for meals and room cleaning and that type of thing, but I´m pretty sure I caught Sonia winceing when I convinced her to let me wash the dishes. I try to be as little hassle as possible, but she joked (endearingly) to her friend Cristina, whose weekend farm in Curacaví I was invited to for a Sunday almuerzo (I missed a superbowl party, but honestly I didn´t even know who was playing), that I never get any of the wrinkles out when I make my bed. She mentioned that after the end of February (when our contract ends), she´s looking for a place closer to her sons (or at least I´m pretty sure that´s what she was saying...I figure I get about 60% of what she tells me, 80% after I ask ¿Cómo?), so I´m looking at boarding houses near metro stations, preferably with other Chilean students. Or another home stay. Moving is stressful.
- Chilean food. Avocados (paltas) EVERYwhere, and fresh fruit coming out my ears. I´m going diabetic because peaches and yogurt are really the only portable thing in Sonia´s refrigerator. Unfortunately, Chileans are kind of gringo-of-tongue, so there isn´t anything spicy or superflavorful, per se, but there´s plenty of good stuff around. NOTE OF WARNING:¨"Italiano" as an adjective for a food item does not denote it´s cultural origin, but instead warns you that whatever it is will be buried under mountains of avocado, tomato and mayonnaise (the colors of the Italian flag, obviously). Usually on a hot dog. Everyone who´s tried it admits that the initial satisfaction is not worth the next four hours of digestion.
- The Night Life. Chileans don´t get plastered, luckily (American students in Chile, on the other hand...) but there´s drinking and dancing and staying out late. I danced Salsa with a Chilean for the first time, but some combination of my own notcoordination and his being a kind of lousy leader made it not-so-memorable. I need to take a class. Dancing to Reguetón (spelling) with some other UCers was better. We have Chilean tutors that take us on cultural excursions and out at night to introduce us to the city and the night scene, but the last few times we´ve gone out with obscene numbers of students, making any kind of decision-making impossible. Still, all the tutors are supernice/concerned about our safety, and really are so far our only avenue to meeting other Chilean students, seeing as everyone´s vacation started like a week ago.
Tengo que completar una página sobre una película que miramos, so more later, probably. This weekend a group of us are going to San Fernando for a class project, then Santa Cruz (!!!!) and some surfing town on the coast. Now just to figure out tickets...
viernes, 1 de febrero de 2008
Flight to Atlanta was fine. 8-hour layover in Atlanta...estaba bien. I walked up and down escalators a lot and spent too much time in the Zimbabwan art exhibit between terminals A and T. My last taste of Sbarro´s for a while, I reckon. I ran into three other Santa Cruz students on the same flight (Yay wearing my UCSC sweatshirt!). The 10-hour flight would have been less terrible if I´d practiced sleeping upright near crying children, but I my seat-mate was a pediatric surgeon from Santiago who was good company and a good giver-of-advice on Santiago and Santiaguinos.
The four of us (me and Santa Cruzians) slowly figured out the logistics of exiting the airport. One of the customs golden retrievers pointed out my bag, but apparently the agriculture administration, not drug law enforcement, employs the puppies at the airport. Who knew accidentally leaving an orange peel in my backpack would be so stressful. We got to the hostel (We´d all made reservations at the place recommended by the University), put stuff down, drank beer on the patio, and then left in search of lunch en el Centro, where there´s kind of a pedestrian-mall-type-thing composed mostly of bank buildings, Dunkin´ Donuts, pharmacies and ice cream stands. Word of warning: NesCafe is big here, as we figured out after about five minutes of confusion while a waiter holding a teapot of hot water stood waiting for us to spoon out our own coffee crystals, which we mistook for cinnamon. More wandering, me being kind of cranky for being dehydratedish and not having slept or showered much during the last 48 hours, then chilling at hostel.
MAn that wasn´t particularly interesting at all. I´ll get to the good stuff, I swear.
Next day, family matching, where we stood around, hoping that we wouldn´t be left, familyless, on the steps of la Católica´s Campus Oriente. My host mother, Sonia, didn´t recognize me from my six-month-old, photocopied black and white picture, but she finally drove me home in her Toyota to her small, classy apartment in La Providencia (the neighborhood). I have my own room that opens out to a terraza, my own bathroom, and a guard at the door of the building who finds me amusing. Luckily she eats really healthily (low-sodium salt? What?), but I had to eat my first banana with a fork and knife...Meals have become less proper, but they´re still more European than I´m used too. Too many unnecessary plates.
They stuffed all the students in living situations near Campus Oriente, where the UC study center is, and they´re all super classy neighborhoods. To get a feel for La Providencia, think East Sac. Lots of trees, dog-walking, lawn-watering, signs for Pilates. In el centro de Providencia, above the metro station is a massive mall with a Starbucks. So much for the foreign experience. On clear days, though, the Andes to the East (house prices go up the closer you get to the mountains) take up like a third of the sky, and while the cordillera closest to Santiago isn´t snow-capped yet, it´s still pretty incredible.
Except for sheer size of the mountains, I could honestly mistake this for Sacramentoish area in the summer: kinda scrubby hills/mountains, dry weather in the 90s, flat. That and the pizza huts and burger kings all over the place.
I´ll write more later, and hopefully it gets more exciting...I´ll plan on doing something illegal and/or dangerous.