Friday, January 4, 2013

The End

It's now January. I have officially been reverse culture shocked, and back in the US of A for 20 days, almost 3 weeks.  It's still weird to walk down the streets and to not hear Spanish in every direction I go, to not be able to get an empanada from any street corner I want, and to not be able to walk 10 minutes to the nearest beach (my tan is unfortunately fading, slowly but surely).  I miss my host family so much; they're honestly some of the kindest and most loving people I have ever been lucky enough to come across in my life, and I think of them every day.  Over these past 3 weeks, I have thankfully already seen most of my DU Chile gente, and have even been lucky enough to see Rachel, Geneva, and Nolan as well along the way.  I think our bond and the shared memories we have will be something we will always cherish and been able to remember together.  Tomorrow I drive back to Denver to move into my apartment, and then I start back at DU on Monday. Life is moving on, yet every day I think of my life back in Chile and how it has made me who I am now and will be in the future.  I may not have noticeably changed to some people, but I feel changed, and even as if I am a better and stronger person than before my 5 months there.  I have to admit that there are many things I love about being home... consistent hot showers, ranch dressing, my family and friends, snow, being able to eavesdrop, you know, the usual.  But I know that no matter where I go in life, Chile will always be a part of me and an unforgettable experience. Thank you to everyone who read this blog and encouraged me along the way, and for now, I'll say goodbye, or as we said in Chile, ¡Chao!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Patagonia, The W Trail

Wow, almost two weeks later , and I still can't believe all of the beauty I got to see in the Patagonia in Southern Chile.  Sorry to have lacked so much on this post, but coming home and the holidays have been quite the whirlwind! Anyway, here is the outline of the Patagonia backpacking excursion. Our group got so close during our trek (maybe closer than we would have liked!), and I want to give a big thanks to Laura, Ellen, Nolan, and Nathan for making it as incredible as it was!  The trip started off with quite the large amount of traveling... a bus, a flight, a transfer bus, another bus... and the next day there was another bus, and a boat! Woo! But well worth it. Here's the itinerary we stuck with, along with some daily details.

Friday, December 7th:
--7:30am: Take 2 hour bus from Puerto Natales to the catamaran inside of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
--11:15-11:45am: Visit Salto Grande waterfall.  At this point, we knew it was a 15 minute walk from where the catamaran picked up to Salto Grande, and so we decided around 11:15 that we'd better get a move on if we wanted to see it.  With a lot of wind and rain along the way, we made our way up there, and it was beautiful! The only downside: on the way back, when we were on our way back to catch the catamaran, we checked our watch, and it was 11:55am. We were on the other side of the lake, and still had about a 10 minute walk to where the boat picked up, but usually things in Chile run a little late, so we thought we'd be okay. But that was before the boat engine turned on and there was no one else left walking there! So, with little time to make and still needing to grab our backpacking packs, we decided to run the last 10 minutes. Thankfully they waited for us, and our packs got to go on top of the pile of backpacks so we were the first off! Everything turned out okay.
The crew at Salto Grande
--12:30pm: Get off the catamaran, make a quick lunch, and start the 11km, 3 hr hike to our first campsite at Refugio Grey.  Along the way, the winds were so strong that we were literally walking around like we were drunk. Feet crossing each other, walking on and off the trail, and trying to keep ourselves and our heavy packs from falling down! To give you an idea of how windy it actually was: 2 buses driving around the park that day were actually blown over, with people in them and all! Pretty scary!
--4:00pm: Arrive at Refugio Grey, pay $4000 each for campsite (free campsite was closed in that area during our time there), set up our tents and leave our stuff to go on an hour hike to see Grey Glacier up close and personal! When we got back we just rested, made dinner, and went to bed.
Glacier Grey
Saturday, December 8th:
--6:30am: Wake up, make some oatmeal, pack everything up and get on the road by 8:00am to head to Campamento Italiano.
--11:30am: Arrive back down to starting point from the day before, make lunch.
--12:15pm: Start walking again
--4:00pm: Arrive at free Campamento Italiano.  This campsite was definitely the busiest, because it was a possibility to stay there for two nights for some people if necessary. At this point we were in the middle of the W of the W-trail.  To get to the camp, it was necessary to cross a rickety wooden hanging bridge, held down only by a pile of rocks and a couple of steel cables. From the bridge was a great view of mountain ranges covered in glaciers and waterfalls. Not too shabby!
--6:00pm: Make dinner, settle down for the night, and head to bed.

Sunday, December 9th:
--6:30am: Wake up, oatmeal, pack up the girls tent and put all of our stuff in the boys tent while we do a day hike up the middle of the W, through Valle Francais.
--8:00am: Start hiking, get to end of Valle Francais by 10:30am.  This was one of our favorite sections of the W, and we were really glad to get an early start because we were able to avoid most of the cloud cover and see it when it was clear. It was also pretty nice to be hiking without our packs, at least for a couple of hours!
The crew in Valle Francais
--1:30pm: Arrive back at camp, make lunch, pack everything else up, and head on our way to Refugio Los Cuernos to cut off some time on the following day's hike.
On the way to Campamento Los Cuernos
--4:00pm: Arrive at Los Cuernos, set up camp under a tree, relax a bit at the campsite below ours and read with the great view we had! Later made dinner, read some more, and headed to bed to rest up for the longest day of hiking the next day.
View from campsite at Los Cuernos
Monday, December 10th:
--6:30am routine wake up and schedule, hiking by 8:00am
--2:30pm make it to Campamento Las Torres.  We made surprisingly good time this day considering there was so much terrain to cover, but we hiked pretty quickly and kept the breaks short.  The casualties of this day included me slipping down a dirt path on a steep path and falling into a thorn bush with my left arm and hand, Laura later on landing in another thorn bush, and some wet tennis shoes during some water crossings.
--3:00pm: The campsite was set up on a 30ish degree slope, and the park ranger suggested to us that we set up our tents at the bottom, because there was better wind and rain protection, so we did. A little bit after we set them up, it started raining pretty hard, and we were pretty wiped, so we just decided to read a bit and nap. About an hour and a half later, when we woke up, it was still down pouring.  I took a look out of the vent of our tent, and immediately said, "Umm... guys? I think we might have a problem!" Turns out that having a tent at the bottom of a hill after two hours of rain ends up with our tent being located in a puddle, with a small stream running next to us! Because it was still down pouring, we just laughed it off, decided there was nothing we could do about it for the time being, and we warned the boys what was going on. However, rather than laughing it off and waiting it out, they had a slight diva freakout (don't be mad about my adjective usage guys, you know it's true), and decided to pack everything up in the middle of the storm and move their tent uphill. They did, and it ended up being fine. When the rain let up a little later, we ended up doing the same, with the tent still intact but to a new, drier spot uphill. I'm not sure what the park ranger was thinking, telling us to camp at the bottom. He must have enjoyed watching us struggling to move our tent over logs and other people's tents in the rain! Typical Chilean.  After struggling to find room in the covered cooking area to make dinner, we finally did, and after being well fed, went to bed early because the next day was an early wake up.

Tuesday, December 11th:
--4:00am: Wake up.
--4:15am: On the trail of death (straight up!) to hike up to see Las Torres at sunrise (meaning yes, we had to hike in the dark with our headlamps for most of the way up).  We brought our packs, but they only had sleeping bags and warm stuff for the top to watch the sunrise in.
--5:00am: Arrive at the top, bundle up, and enjoy the view! We spent an hour up top.
With Las Torres in the background
All bundled up at 5:30am
--7:00am: Arrive back down, pack up camp, and make breakfast. Head out around 8:15am.
--11:00am: Arrive down at the base, make lunch a little later, and then it's the waiting game until the transfer bus back to the regular bus at 2:30pm.

When it was all said and done, this trip was absolutely amazing. The sights, company, and even the food (at times) were really great! It was the perfect ending trip to an amazing 5 months in Chile, and the trip of a lifetime.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thank You Chile

While I am here in Chile on this great American holiday, mourning my lack of stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and other delicious Thanksgiving foods, I was suddenly hit with this thought: "Hey! Look at the bright side! You won't be feeling guilty about the size of your ginormous stomach afterwards! And, there are so many wonderful things here to be thankful for too." And that got me thinking, there really are so many things! In fact, I decided to make a list. While in no particular order, I'd like to say thank you to Chile for:

1. Empanadas.
2. The delicious panadería on the corner of my street.
3. Pisco Mango.
4. Watching "Los Tres Chiflados" (The Three Stooges) with Mamá as she cries laughing so hard.
5. Cooking with my host sister Leslie.
6. Seasons 1-7 of Dexter.
7. Skype and WhatsApp.
8. Sunny days at the beach, and living only 15 minutes away from it.
9. Finally being able to understand Chilean slang po. Cachai?
10. Being able to see the desert, beach, mountains, lakes, and glaciers all in the same country.
11. Good wine.
12. Cheap public transportation.
13. Friends who have turned into family down here (Laura, Rachel, Geneva, Lindsey, Katherine, Kassi, Nolan, Nathan, Katie, Karina... to name a few).
14. The openness and caring attitudes of the Chilean people.
15. Llama/Alpaca sweaters.
16. Flor de Chile.
17. Finding the bagel shop on 7 Norte.
18. Thursday morning coffee dates with Rachel and Geneva.
19. Bros like Nolan, Nathan, and Laura.
20. A host family that loves me.
21. ISA.
22. The old woman who found my wallet back after it was stolen.
23. A wonderful family back home who are so supportive and caring.
24. DU for having such a great abroad program and the Cherrington Global Scholar Program.
25. My grandparents for sending me cards with frogs that hug you.
26. Sunscreen.
27. Morning runs on the beach.
28. Warm showers.
29. The coconut cookies that Mamá buys.
30. Mint tea at once.
31. Pazookie and movie nights.
32. Friends from Steamboat and DU always there for me.
33. Orbit gum.
34. Peanut butter.
35. Earplugs.
36. Chorrillana, even thought it's a giant plate of grease and occasionally undercooked meat.
37. Only being able to talk in Spanish with my host family.
38. Discotecas (Bar Arena, Oasis, Ovo, etc.)
39. The colors in Valparaíso.
40. Llamas.

Well, there you have it. There are so many more than 40, but this is what I came up with for now. And yes I ended the list with Llamas. Duh. They're awesome. I can only hope everyone else has as many things to be thankful for as I do today... Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends currently abroad and everyone back home too!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pucón: Land of Volcanoes and Tarantulas

Thanks to my great study abroad program, ISA, we had the opportunity to go to Pucón, a city in the lake district of Chile. It was absolutely beautiful, and really reminded me of Colorado which was really wonderful! After a longggg 12 hour nighttime bus ride, we finally arrived and got a couple of hours to rest at our cabins. From there, ISA took us to several beautiful places throughout the day, including waterfalls, blue lagoons (really really blue!), a lunch at a Mapuche woman's house (so cool!), and to top of the day, we got to soak in some hot springs in the mountains. So wonderful.
Beautiful flowers/river in some old lava runoff from the volcano.
Light coming through the roof of a hut at the Mapuche woman's house
Blue flannel, blue lagoon
The next day was a big one, we had to wake up at 5:45am in order to get all set up to hike Volcán Villarrica! This volcano is absolutely beautiful, and can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the surrounding area! We had quite the group (mostly just girls...girl power!) hiking up with us, and it was so cool! We were pretty lucky with the weather to have been able to go up in the first place... they've said that even if there's one big cloud in the sky, they sometimes won't let groups go up! Thankfully we had perfect blue skies. The first bit was just dirt, but then after awhile we were just climbing in snow... which was the best part! We got to use ice picks in order to help us on our way up and down, I know I was feeling pretty legit, just saying. After about 4.5 hours, we made it to the top. It was not an easy hike! At first I was complaining a little about how slow we were going in the dirt part, but I was pretty glad for the slow pace after awhile. However, it was all well worth it once getting to the top, what an incredible view, so amazing! At the top, we walked around the crater of the volcano a bit, but had to make sure to not get too close because there were parts where there was snow, but no supporting ground underneath the snow, so it could have broken off and had someone fall in! Ouch! After getting our fair share of pictures in at the volcano and finishing our lunches, we had to get geared up for going down the volcano. Remember how it took 4.5 hours to get down the volcano? Yeah... it only took maybe 1 hour or so to get down. How is this possible you may ask? Well, we glissaded down! Basically, we slid down the snowy part of the volcano either on our behinds or on small sleds fitted for someone's backside, and let me tell you... it was AWESOME. To give you all an idea of what it was like, my friend Nolan had his GoPro with him, and took a video of part of the way down... here is it's link!

Basically, it was totally awesome. I mean, who can say that they've been sledding down a volcano in Chile before!? Once we got to the uncovered dirt part, we had to walk the rest of the way down (super sad day), but it was only about 20 minutes... not too bad. We got bussed back to the tour company, and were welcomed back with some cerveza! Awesome, yet again. Thanks tour company! The rest of the day we just lounged around by the lake... hiking volcanoes kind of takes it out of you.  Pictures from the hike are below!
Chairlifts on the volcano... it also has a couple of ski runs!
Laura and I at the top, with a different volcano in the background
Our last day, we still had a full day around Pucón and didn't have to be ready to go until 7pm. We woke up early to catch the earliest bus, and made our way to Huerquehue National Park to do some hiking and sightseeing. It was really beautiful, and we had a great view of the volcano as well as many lakes and waterfalls along the way! A couple of the girls wanted to swim in the waterfall area, but Laura and Emily and I wanted to keep going in order to see the lakes which were higher up! And luckily, we made it and got to see two of the three main lakes. They were really gorgeous. Hiking down had to be quick, because we had to be back in order to catch our 2:15 bus... with a little bit of running at the end (for about 20 minutes actually!) we made it back with a couple of minutes to spare before the bus got there. Before we did though, Emily all of the sudden asked, "Hey guys, did you just see that spider?" And we said, "No, where?" She then proceeded to point at not just any old spider, but a freaking ginormous wild tarantula. Let me tell you, that thing wasn't a spider, it was a stinking monster! Bleh... the picture still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Gross.

Giant, disgusting tarantula monster.
Laura, myself, and Emily at one of the lakes we made it to!
Oh well, it was still another beautiful day in the mountains surrounding by the beauty that we have in the world! Made me feel right at home again (minus the gigantic "spider"). The weekend ended with another 12 hour bus ride back, brutally just as long as the first one, but well worth it after a great weekend in a beautiful place. I can't wait to head back south in December when I go to Patagonia, it's really like a whole other world down there! It really is true what they say about Chile, God took the scraps of every kind of geography in the world, and put it in this country!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Yesterday, somewhere in between getting on the bus to school and coming back from school, my wallet was stolen out of my school bag. It had my credit card, debit card, $100 of Chilean Pesos, my metro student pass, and my Chilean ID (I can't leave the country without that).  I didn't notice it was missing until last night when I was getting ready to go out with some friends, and afterwards, ending up needing to call several people in order to cancel cards, figure things out, etc.  With incredibly good luck, this morning as I was doing homework, I received a call from an unknown number on my phone. It was the office of the metro station, and a woman had found my wallet and called the metro station since she knew they would have my contact information. They gave me her number, I called her, and we agreed on a meeting place in front of a supermarket near where she lived.  I called my friend Nolan to come with me just in case (you never know, and this neighborhood is a little far from me and kind of sketchy).  We made it up there, she and her husband came and gave me my wallet, and it had everything in it except the cash, big relief! She was so kind, and her husband was a bus driver and had found my wallet stuffed between the seats of his bus as he was cleaning it for the night last night.  While it was a bummer to lose the cash, I still got everything else back which is probably more important anyway.  I wish there was something I could have given her... a finders reward, something, but unfortunately without my cash/wallet I couldn't.  She told me she wouldn't have taken it anyway, and was just glad to have been able to help.

Moral of the story, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped me last night and today! My Mom and Dad for skyping and calling banks for me, my program director Elena for giving me advice on what to do, several of my friends for being supportive and calling/texting to make sure I was ok, Nolan for coming on the bus with me, and Alecía, the woman who gave the wallet back!  Before my four months here in Chile, if I had been in the same situation that happened last night, I probably would have freaked out, been crying, and just really stressed about the situation.  But instead I stayed mostly calm, realized that while yes it was a pain to lose all of that stuff, it could all be replaced. And I hadn't been mugged or harmed at all, so yet again, one more thing to be thankful for.  I really think my time here has helped me to realize that as much value as we give to certain things, usually materialistic things, there is always something more important and more valuable to be grateful for.  Basically, as we come upon Thanksgiving next week, I'm really realizing how much everyone in my life means to me, and how thankful I am to have each and every one of you around!

"All we have is all we need. All we need is the awareness of how blessed we really are."
-Sarah Ban Breathnach

Monday, November 12, 2012

La Familia Swiggart en Chile

Three Swiggart's in Chile at the same time. It's a potentially terrifying concept for those of you who know us for who we truly are... but don't worry, Chile, and my parents, made it out alive. It was a whirl-wine... I mean whirl-wind... 12 days, but I wouldn't change a minute of it! I'll give a day-by-day play-by-play, so here goes:

Friday, October 26: Head out of Viña at 7am to make it to the Santiago airport in time to pick the padres up.  Their flight got delayed an hour, so I had about an hour to sit and read my book before they got there, but when they did, the reunion was just as great as I had imagined!! Mom spotted me first, and we did all our hugs and kisses and went off to find a taxi.  While reminding Dad to keep his luggage close to him and not on the opposite side of the airport hallways, we made our way to the taxi area, got one, and were off to the Santiago hotel where we were going to spend 3 days. The hotel was GREAT. We had an awesome room, with a waterfall shower that gave hot water 24/7 (who would have thought!?), and a great pool/deck.  Since they were pretty wiped from their long travels, we decided to have a leisurely day. We walked around a nearby park in our Las Condes area, spend some time at the pool just lounging and relaxing (Dad may or may not have let a snore or two slip) and then got ready for dinner. To say that the dinner we had that night was amazing is an understatement. It was SO good. Afterwards we were all pretty exhausted, and a good night of sleep was much needed.

Saturday, October 27: Before my parents got to Santiago, I had found out about a free walking tour from a company called Spicy Chile. We decided to go to the meeting spot for the tour at 10am this day, and we are really glad we did! We met outside of the Palacio de La Moneda, where the president resides, and were lucky enough to see an incredible changing of the guards. Once we found our guide, Carla, she told us that she had never seen a changing of the guards quite like it, it was much more extravagant.  We got to see a parade, music, and lots of other cool exchanges.  From there we started our 4 hour walking tour! We got to see Bellavista, Cerro San Cristobal, Cerro Santa Lucia, Parque Forestal, Pablo Neruda's Santiago house, and many other things! Along the tour Dad also convinced the guide to take us to an incredible ice cream shop that she had pointed out as her favorite, Dad's treat. Definitely not upset about that one.  After the tour we went back to Cerro San Cristobal so we could go up to the top, and after having walked for about five hours already, we decided to take a $4.00USD taxi up and down the 6km hill. Hey, it was steep okay!? We then made it back to the hotel, had some more pool/relaxing time, cleaned up, and went to an excellent restaurant called Tiramisu right across from our hotel. If you are in Santiago in the Las Condes area, this is a must stop! Great pizza, salad, and wine! Yes, my parents and I LEGALLY shared a bottle of wine. And we finished said bottle of wine. I won't go into details for my parents sake, but they were both rather giggly and red-cheeked, and I may have heard stories that I'd never heard before about their pasts! Oh my! It was definitely a dinner to remember, and still makes me smile to think about it :)

Sunday, October 28: Well, we tried to go to Los Dominicos artesian shopping district on this morning, but unfortunately due to Chile's elections which were being held, it was closed! Not to be discouraged, we went back to the hotel, and enjoyed some more poolside relaxing in the wonderful Chilean sun.  After a day of bumming around, we went back to an area we had walked through on our walking tour called Lastarias, which we really liked! Cerro Santa Lucia was also really close to that area, and we decided to try to make our way in/up to actually see the beautiful water fountains it has.  We walked through the gate, when a guard told us they were actually just closing up. Thankfully, with a little gringa sweet-talking, he caved and let us go up and take a couple of photos before hurrying back down.  Thank you blond-ish hair!  Most restaurants were still closed in that area due to the elections, so we took the metro back to our area and found a great steak restaurant there.  The stars were really out that night, and surprising actually visible through all of the Santiago pollution, so we enjoyed those for awhile before finally going to bed after another long day!  Side note- Santiago metros are not quite as clean as those in Viña/Valpo... we constantly had clumps of long black Chilean hair floating across the floor as the wind blew through the moving metro train car... super gross.

At la fuente in Cerro Santa Lucía
Monday, October 29: Mom and I went back to Los Dominicos to do a little shopping, and had a blast doing so! We let Dad stay home to do whatever it is that guys do when women go shopping, and came back, grabbed some lunch, and took the metro to our bus station! Getting all of the luggage to the metro and onto the bus was a little interesting, but the parents were such troopers and did great! We got to Viña with time for me to go back to the hotel with them before my class, and checked into their room there... such a beautiful hotel yet again with the most amazing ocean view!  Unfortunately I had to ditch them to go to class for an exam, but I came back afterwards! I went up to the room expecting to find them in pajamas watching tv or playing cards, but alas, the room was empty! From our balcony you could see into the restaurant, and after a significant five minutes of creeping, I determined a couple down there was them and went to join! I got there, and not only were they almost done sharing an ENTIRE bottle of wine, but they were just jumping into a big dish of ice cream! The ice cream is definitely no surprise, especially coming from Dad, but the bottle of wine!? I was thinking, who are these lush people and where have my parents gone!? Guess they just had to celebrate finally making it to Viña!

Tuesday, October 30: Lazy morning, and then we went to my host family's house for a big almuerzo! It was anticucho time, and we came with hungry stomachs. With the exception of Francisca, my 21 year old host sister who can speak some English and understand a lot, and myself, nobody else understood anything of the other people speaking! It made for a very interesting translation process, but it was great practice, and everyone got along incredibly well, and we had a great time! Papá's food was delicious, and there was definitely no shortage! Chileans really do know how to eat lunch, and a lot of it! Told you Mom and Dad!  At one point, my host family was showing my parents some old pictures, and there was one of Mamá looking rather sexy with a diva pose when she was younger, and when my Dad saw it, he wanted to jokingly say something along the lines of "Wow, hot!" in his Jim Swiggart-esque way... and so, in Spanish, he said, "Wow! Caliente!" while touching Mamá's arm... and in that specific situation, the word "caliente" was referring not towards "hot" but actually to "horny"... so Dad is touching Mamá's arm, while talking about horny references... needless to say, there were some wide eyes, then a lot of laughing, and then when I told my parents what it actually meant, there was even more laughing on their parts. It was quite wonderful, and definitely an unforgettable, yet slightly embarrassing moment!  Another great part, lunch ran a little long, and rather than going to class, Mamá and Mom both gave me permission to ditch. Awesome! Thanks Madres!

Wednesday, October 31: After running some errands in the morning, exploring a nearby castle on the water, and me registering for my classes for next quarter at DU, we all enjoyed some empanadas at the pool at the hotel. Rough life, I know.  That afternoon I had to go to class unfortunately, but I didn't feel guilty, because Mom and Dad had plans of their own! The day before, my Chilean Papá had offered to take my parents on a driving tour of Valparaíso this next day since he didn't have to work.  I told him I had to go to class during the time he wanted to go, but he said it didn't matter, and that they should go anyway! I asked Mom and Dad if this was okay with them, and they said it sounded great! However, the part they apparently didn't understand was that I wouldn't be there! When they found that out, they were a little nervous, but were game for anything! After class I came back to the house, where we were all going to have oncé together, and they still weren't back! But when they did come back, Fran was with them, so thankfully there had been at least some kind of translating, and they had all had a blast! Oncé was yet again filled with hilarious little mistranslations and conversation, and we also left VERY full. We had panqueque's and my favorite "traigo" (alcoholic drink) called Cola de Mono. YUM.

Laughing at oncé
Thursday, November 1: Today was a tour of Viña! We saw Parque Quinta Vergara, La Parroquia, La Plaza de Viña, and ate at my favorite ice cream shop (anyone noticing a trend here yet with the ice cream?).  We had a nice homemade sandwich lunch on our hotel balcony and played cards, and then went for a tour of Valpo in the afternoon.  My friend Nolan came with us, and Mom started off on the right foot with him by bringing him a sandwich and cookie! What a lady.  In Valpo we just explored the hills of Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre, got lost, but as one of my favorite quotes says: "Not all those who wander are lost." So true!  While we were definitely a little turned around at times, we got to see some amazing wall art, colorful buildings, and Dad was especially amazed by a tree growing out of a wall.  To end the tour in Valpo, we sat at a small restaurant/café with a terrace overlooking the port and all of Valpo, and shared some wine (yes, more) and cheese. Yum. Then to really top it all off, we did a quick/cheap boat tour of the port, while wearing super cute orange life vests. We were definitely the best looking gringos around in those things.
Parque Quinta Vergara
Mom walking the colorful hills of Valpo
Boat tour of the port of Valpo
Friday, November 2: Día de la bodega! We went to Casas del Bosque, in the Casablanca Valley. In the past almost four months that I have been here in South America, I have visited six wineries in total, and this was above and beyond my absolute favorite. We started the tour off with a bike ride through the vineyards, which were massive!  We stopped at a beautiful dam at one point, and at another, Mom saw a big Lion-King-esque tree that she wanted to bike up too. I thought the hill looked a little intimidating to bike up, but she insisted we could do it.  And when Momma insists, you don't get the option of saying no.  My Dad says that my Mom is always right, even when she's wrong, but in this case, as we were walking our bikes up this incredibly steep dirt hill, I was really wondering how that statement came into play.  I guess when the view was so incredible from up there, that might have been the "rightness" he was talking about.  After a little more biking, we made it back to the main area of the winery, and we all decided that we needed to do some wine tasting before lunch, naturally.  Now in most places that you taste wine, a taste is just that: a taste. However, at this winery, a taste was about 3/4 of your normal glass. And we got three different wines to "taste". Mom couldn't finish her third one because she was feeling too buzzed. Needing some food in our stomachs, we got to the lunch table, and ordered what was about to be potentially one of the top 3 meals of all of our lives.  We also shared another bottle of the winery's famous sauvignon blanc wine. The meal of steak, salmon, potatoes, salad,  mousse, and wine among other things was just incredible, and we all left very satisfied and quite tipsy as well. Job well done I'd say. I may or may not have fallen asleep on the 40 minute taxi ride back to the hotel. Just throwing it out there.  After getting some advil in us, Mom and I did a little more shopping while Dad took a nap to wear off the wine, and that night I spent the night with my host family in order to get a little school work done!

Dad and I at Olivos Dam
Mom and Dad are tipsy.
As I'm getting a bit tired of writing and the last couple days were a little bit of a blur, I'll summarize: We played lots of cards.  We went to my favorite restaurant, La Flor de Chile, for a typical Chilean meal of chorrillana and pisco sours with some of my friends, Nolan, Laura, and Ellen.  We took my host family out for an Italian meal dinner, and Esme brought her own little "purse" filled with a toothbrush, hand soap, shampoo, hairbrush, coloring things, a sweater, oh, and my host dad's gold wedding band. Casual, and normal.  We had a nice, relaxing day at the Reñaca beach (after waiting about an hour for the fog/clouds to clear).  We had a picnic and wine at the sand dunes in Concón for sunset, and took a crazy fast micro bus back to the hotel. We got coffee with my friends Geneva and Rachel, and they had to suffer through my Dad's 25 minute long story of how he met/married my mother. And the last night, we ate at a beautiful restaurant, Tierra de Fuego, that I've wanted to eat at since I got here! I was not disappointed. Yum. So good.

Picnic dinner at the sand dunes in Concón!
Overall, this trip was absolutely incredible.  It was an amazing experience to be able to show my parents where I've been living almost the past four months, and I'm so glad they were able to understand a little bit more of what I've been doing/experiencing since I've been down here.  A big thank you to both of you for helping me to make this experience possible and always being so supportive and understanding of me, and having you two down here is something I will never forget! Ciao for now, updates on my weekend in Pucón will come soon when my fingers can type again!

Sunset from Viña over Valpo

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Wow! It's been awhile! I know! I'm sorry, I've really been slacking. Things have been busy around here! Now that there's a break in the madness, here's a quick update on what has been going on the past couple of weeks.

After getting back from Mendoza, it was back to normal Viña life for the next couple of weeks! Or so I thought... that first week was also the birthday week of my friend Katie, and naturally we had to celebrate!  After our class together on that Wednesday night, we went to Katie's house, had cake and coffee, got dolled up, and went to Café Journal like any reasonable Gringas would do. Plus Katie had never been on a Wednesday night, the most popular night, so it was yet another reason to go! Once we got there, we made it upstairs and ordered some drinks and a pizza! We had no idea what the pizza there would be like, especially since we have yet to find exceptional (or even half edible) pizza here, but we were very happily surprised to find that it was delicious!  However, even better than the delicious pizza in front of us was the table full of 20-30 good looking military men to our right. We couldn't decide if they were Chilean or not... they dressed a little swankier than Chileans, and just had a different look (one that we definitely weren't complaining about), so we came to the conclusion that they were not local. When they came to talk to us a little later, we were correct! Turns out that that upcoming weekend, there was a sailing competition in Viña, and there were teams from Columbia, Brazil, Italy, Chile, and more competing! Our new friends were from Columbia and Italy.  We weren't upset about it. At all. They wanted to dance, but since it really wasn't the time or place, they invited us to Ovo, a discoteca in the casino the following night! Fast forward 21ish hours, and we had just finished getting ready and were off for the night, looking quite fierce I might add! Most of our new friends were from the Italian sailing team, and that's who we ended up spending most of the time with at the discoteca.  Overall a really fun night of dancing and continuing the birthday celebration!

Lindsey and I ready for Bday action.

The birthday crew!
Also during this week, a care package from my Mom came in! Woot woot! I was SO excited. Peanut butter, Bath and Body Works lotions and soap, Nilla Wafers, and gum to name a couple of things.  If you want to see what my reaction was really like, see this link:

That Saturday was also an excursion with my program, ISA, as well as the birthday party for my little host sister! Our ISA excursion took us to Con Con, Horcón, as well as a couple of other small stops along the coast. I had already been to all of the places they took us, but it was still a fun day with all of the ISA crew! Then when I got back to my house, my host family was just about to start the festivities for Esme's birthday! There were decorations everywhere in the house, with loads of candy and delicious things covering the table.  I had made chocolate chip cookies the night prior for the party, but since I left them out on the dining table that night and the day leading up to the party, they were all gone by the time it was party time! Oh well, at least someone enjoyed them! The party was really fun, we listened to Esme's favorite Disney singer on repeat (if I never hear the name "Violetta" again I wouldn't be sad), ate the most delicious cake ever, and had good quality time with family.

Esme blowing out her candles, 6 years old!
Geneva and I on the ISA excursion.
In other news, starting right after I got back from Mendoza, the weather FINALLY has started to actually feel like Spring! The sun has been out, the trees are green, the flowers are blooming, and it has been in the solid high 60's to low 70's for the past 2 or 3 weeks. Minus one or two days of rain. But I am not at ALL complaining. Also my computer charger decided to die last week, so that was unfortunate. The only way I could get it to work was if it was plugged into the outlet in our house's dining room, with the computer sitting on the table, and when the charger was plugged in, the cord had to be elevated or else it wouldn't charge. To fix this, I put our mayonnaise bottle underneath the cord to keep it up. Worked like a charm. First useful thing I've found in mayo since I've been here! Thankfully, my PARENTS are now here, so they were able to bring me a new charger! Yes yes, I know I can't believe I haven't mentioned it yet, but my parents are currently here visiting me for 13 days! Best thing ever. It's been so amazing having them here. But their trip description will be for the next blog post, I promise there are good things coming. Sneak peak, my parents met my host family, and Poppa Swigs thought that he knew some Spanish... turns out the words he knows don't quite mean what he thought they meant! Whoops! On that crazy cliff hanger (I know, I should really write a novel), until next time!