PURA VIDA: Travels Through a Thin Country
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About: 107 days of travel through South America... Pura VIda = Pure Life
Dias 102-107

Whelllpppp it is safe to say that my study abroad in Chile is coming to an end.  Bags are packed/stuffed, my final lunch with my family is about to be on the table, and the tears are ready for when we say goodbye to our directors. 

One of the things that I have learned while abroad is that the only thing constant in life is change.  We never were in the same place for more than four weeks, and everything was constantly changing; our home, the food we ate, the people we were with and the activities we were doing. Adapting to change has gotten easier and easier for all of us, and hopefully it will be the case when we go back to the United States. It is amazing to think that now it is Christmas and we are about to begin yet another semester and another year at our University’s.  

Our last time together we all wrote down things that we wanted to take back to the United States and things that we wanted to leave in Chile. Everyone had various responses, but mine were:

Leave:  Fear of speaking Spanish, Pre-conceptions about Study Abroad, Nervousness about being away for so long, My ability to be an hour late to a dinner (because this is normal)

Take: Openness to new cultures, ideas and ways of life, Manner of life that is much more “tranquila” and appreciative,  Ability to avoid getting caught up in the small stuff, Determination and hope for social change that most Chileans my age have.

This adventure has changed my life forever and I am sad to leave Chile, but so excited to get back to the US. In a conversation with my academic director Roberto, he said that he has watched me the past 15 weeks to create a path to success with the challenges that have been thrown at me.  His words and praises mean so much to me, as he is now another mentor that I have for the future. 

This post will bitter-sweetly end my abroad blog, but thank you so much to everyone, to my american mama, dad, brothers and friends.  To my beloved Chilean mom, nanny Luisa and the ninos. To the casa SIT fam (and chloe)! I am thankful for every minute of this crazy adventure.  Today, step out side of your comfort zone and have the “esperanza” (hope) that Chileans have for the future. XOXO

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We celebrated Christmas our last weekend together by having a dinner in the hotel and swimming in the worlds biggest pool!  It was a great celebration, but weird to have Christmas when it is 80 degrees out..

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Who would want to leave a city where the houses look like this and the beach dogs hang out with you all day long? 

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Dias 96-101

I can safely say that I have been out of the United States for over 100 days… I swear I was just saying goodbyes and packing up to leave.  This past week in Vina I have been writing my 30 page research paper… in spanish. It has been basically the only hard work I have had to do all semester, but it has been more than challenging enough. Obviously, beach time and a little bit of sightseeing has broken up the work and tomorrow we will go back to Santiago for our last SEVEN days? I dont want to leave the beach, but I want to see my Santiago family and friends. I dont want to leave Chile, but I want to see my USA family and friends…. its going to be an interesting week!  

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WE MADE IT!

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Big fat chilean Thanksgiving!

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Dias 91 - 95

Where to start?  Thursday I left for Santiago to have what turned out to be an amazing Thanksgiving dinner with my SIT family in Santiago.  Coco found probably one of the only full turkeys in Santiago and cooked that up, and everyone brought something to share.  Surprisingly, we had all of the “american” food that one would eat at Thanksgiving in the States!  Someone even found sweet potatoes, which are supposed to not exist here.  It was SO yummy, and we all celebrated with coco’s Chilean family late into the evening.  

Friday began Chloe and I’s adventure down to Pucon, where our main goal was to hike a volcano.  I dont think we knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we made it!  Saturday we spent the day bike riding, getting everything in order for our volcano excursion Sunday and exploring town.  We met some new Aussie friends at dinner Saturday so it was nice to spend our meals with them and hear their perspective on traveling through South America without speaking ANY Spanish… talk about adventure!  Sunday we woke up bright and early to leave for the Volcano.  We suited up in our snow gear and took the chair lift up, which cut the hike down to only four hours.  The volcano was straight snow and we had an ice pick and umm “claws” on our boots, I dont remember what they are called!  The altitude got to us a little, but our we kept ourselves going with our supportive guide and lots of chocolate. When we got to the top my legs felt like they did after I ran a half marathon and our hair was frozen solid. The winds were pretty high and the top and it wasnt a clear day so we could not see a lot but we were so happy to have summited one of the most active volcanos in Chile. After stopping for a minute at the top, we pulled out our tiny plastic sleds and flew all the way down the volcano. I don’t think I will ever forget this adventure and to say that I spent it with one of my best college friends, Chloe, will definitely be a story the kids will hear. 

After freezing at the top of the volcano yesterday I was due for some beach time, so when I got off of the over night bus this morning I was thankful that it was sunny and 80 degrees.  Only 14 more days in Chile, and only 6 more on the beach.  Time is flying by toooooooo quickly! Oh and remember that 25 page paper I have due next week?  Can someone send some of Santa’s elves to write that for me? 

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Sunset!  (and no.. we dont know that Chilean in the background)

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Welcome to Vina del Mar! This is the very official way of telling time when you live on the beach…

Welcome to Vina del Mar! This is the very official way of telling time when you live on the beach…

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Dias 88-90

In the past few days I have gone to a few classrooms, but have mostly been working on writing my paper.  Also… it is now day SIX of straight sun-no cloud in the sky-75 degree weather, so that has kept me very busy. Even if we dont go to the beach during the day, the sunsets are always gorgeous!  Tomorrow afternoon we are going to Santiago for Thanksgiving with some of our SIT friends.  One of our favorite things to do in Santiago was cook dinner together, so we are just going to take this to an extreme and attempt to pull together enough weird Chilean ingredients to come up with some sort of Thanksgiving food… it should be an experience.  The best news of all is that on Friday, Chloe and I are going to take the over night bus South to Pucon, Chile in order to hike the active Volcano there on Saturday/Sunday. We have been wanting to do a trip together for awhile, and I was hesitant because of my “ISP” work, but I know that if I came back to Valpo after Thanksgiving I would really just end up spending the whole weekend on the beach.. so why not hike a Volcano!? It is going to be an amazing adventure, and who better to spend it with than one of my best Denison amigas, Chlo!  

Article about Pucon, Chile: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/travel/15next.html

So, until next week… have an amazing Thanksgiving, be thankful for family, friends and every single minute! 

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Dias 79 - 87

Another week of ISP has flown by and we are really loving our time here on the coast. I have done some very interesting school visits to public schools and a few to private schools. The school system here is so different than in the US in terms of class room atmosphere, and after working in class rooms for almost 11 weeks now I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the Chilean school system. Our days here are truly determined by if it is sunny or not. If it is sunny we wake up early, get our work done, head to the gym and head to the beach. If it isnt sunny we procrastinate our work a little, head to the gym and then probably take a beach walk or go exploring.

All four of us love our families here as they are even more “tranquilo” (relaxed) than our Santiago families. I didnt think it was possible, but it is. My mom here often talks to me about how structured life in the US and Europe is and how “the world is over” if people are a few minutes late for something, eat breakfast an hour late, or are not perfectly organized. I tell her that she really is right, and that I have adapted to the Chilean time schedule (8pm actually means 9pm) but will be right back in my timely US ways when I go home.

Friday we went to the sand dunes that are a town over. They are nothing compared to sleeping bear dunes in Michigan but the scenery was gorgeous and it made for a good adventure. Transportation here is soooo easy as the buses are never packed (like santiago) and it takes 15 minutes max to go beach town to beach town. Saturday our friends from Santiago came to have a beach day with us and spend the night. It was great to be reunited with some of our program and show them what we love doing most, playing on the beach!

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Gorgeous sunset last night with a new beach dog friend!

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My view and desk in my room (like my dinosaur curtains?!) Some sand sculpture art and pictures from yesterday  when Kelsey and I walked all the way to the end of the beach and up a bluff that looked over pretty much all of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, and the other way a small beach town called Renaca. We technically hopped the fence to get to the top, and we were much higher up in the pictures than it looks like!

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