Saturday, November 22, 2014

THE END (well kind of)

Ahhh, so many things.
This week, I officially ended my semester at La Universidad de Chile!!! or what I like to say, I finished the "studying" part of studying abroad!
Lots of emotions going on finishing up my classes (99.99% good) but also I'm just relieved to be able to say I finished. This semester was one of the hardest ever and I am pretty excited to go back to classes in english and about science also I definitely gained a new respect for humanities majors because that is just way too much reading and writing.

Today we had our goodbye dinner with the program and it's pretty crazy us all being together and thinking back to how just 5 months ago we were complete strangers at orientation. I'm so happy to have a friend network that extends through all parts of California now when I go back! But speaking of friend networks I think that is one of the coolest things I've gotten out of this experience, the circle of friends that I've made from all parts of the world. Now I know if I find myself in Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, France, Holland, or wherever it may be I have travel buddies and great friends to get together with. The last five months have pretty awesome in providing me with many friends and that is something I'll always be grateful for from my time here.

Now I bet you're thinking, "but 5 months? Isn't she supposed to be gone for 6?". Well that's where this moment gets even better because tomorrow at noon, I, accompanied by 3 other friends, will be heading to Bolivia and later Peru! Super ecstatic to have the opportunity to travel for 3 weeks before returning to my beautiful home and family and friends!I think that's the funnest part of finishing classes is knowing I get to hang out and have fun down here in South America for 3 more weeks before heading back (even if I do miss everyone terribly). So that's what's next on my schedule and I can't wait for the adventure and to be able to share it with everyone. It's been a long time coming waiting for this trip and I can't believe it's already here! The months here definitely flew by and I'm sure the next 25 days until my feet hit US soil will too!

So I just wanted to update y'all as I am not sure how often I'll be in contact for the next 3 weeks and then I'll be back the 18th of December! I can't wait to see all of you and tell you even more about the adventures from Chile and Bolivia and Peru.
Love you all lots!! -Faith Aguirre

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mendoza, Argentina 10/10/14

I'm just going to start with that picture, because look how nice it is, great weather, shaded walkways, cafes and more cafes. To put it simply, I loved my 3 short days in Argentina. It was such a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Santiago (breathing smog-free area) and it made me really wish I had months and months to explore the different parts of Argentina. Granted, I am a little biased living with 4 Argentinians and pretty much only hearing wonderful things about the food and the people of the country on the other side of the Andes.

Thursday night we set off on a 7 hour night bus to arrive at Mendoza, which to our pleasure (sarcasm) placed us at crossing the border and going through customs at 2 AM. Despite the cold frontera, we arrived safely Friday morning to our hostel and after taking a few hours to recuperate, set off to do a bit of wine tasting, as Mendoza is well known for having Argentina's best wine. It was a lot of fun and I remain neutral to admitting which country has better wine between Chile and Argentina so as to not cause any more tension.

only 3 are mine i swear
impressively enough took this while bike riding
That night in proper Argentinian fashion, we sat down for dinner at 10:30 PM sharp and indulged in some of the best barbecue (so much meat). It was definitely worth the wait.

Saturday morning 2 of my friends and I embarked on a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to say we went skydiving in Argentina (sorry Grandma and Grandpa), it was pretty awesome and although I don't think I'll be signing up to be licensed any time soon, I can now say that I've done it! It was a great time and I have to say a lot less scary than I always thought! 
before: getting suited up

during: floating

during: falling
after: nervous laugh 
That night after spending the day in the sun, we indulged in some Argentinian cuisine, starting with milanesa (delicious bread coated/ fried steak basically) making our way to ice cream and ending with a coffee and medialunas (croissants) I probably gained about 5 pounds in 3 days but it was totally worth it.

With Sunday, came our last adventure, 4 of us headed out to the hills to take on some cabalgata (horseback riding). Honestly, I think I was more scared of riding for 3 hours on large quadrupeds than  I was jumping out of a plane the day before. It was a beautiful day and a fun time making our way through the hills. My friend and I had horses that were boyfriend and girlfriend so we spent a large majority of the trip lagging at the rear of the group as they just took their sweet time enjoying the romance.

We ended the day with yet another asado and let me tell you the genuine gaucho who cooked this feast did not disappoint. We left the mountains, with great views fresh in our minds and filled tummies.

We were all pretty sad to have to leave our mini vacation and return to school the next day, but if anything I can say that Mendoza lit a small flame of love for Argentina in my heart and I can't wait to get back there someday (I have a visa for 10 years so I better). It was so nice to experience a little bit of a different country and now I can officially say that I have been to two countries outside of the US. 

Anyways, back to the grind of school, I've got an essay due next week, a proposal of my final project for another class, and a quiz in a different class all on the same day!! Wish me luck as I only have 5 more weeks of my semester left! Then I'll be off traveling for a few weeks and in two months and two days I'll be back to see all my favorite people (and eat all my favorite food). I miss all of you dearly and never feel shy to set up a Skype date or just chat for a bit via Facebook! Hope all is well on the other side of the screen!

Les quiero!! -Faith

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Viaje al sur! September 17

Hey y'all! So last wednesday night I set off for Puerto Varas a small town in southern Chile. This required a 13 hour overnight bus ride which was an experience in and of itself. Although slightly more bumpy than an airplane I did have a little bit more legroom... I still would probably prefer 13 hours in air. Anyways Thursday morning when we got there it was a beautiful day and my friend, Rachel and I just spent the day wandering the town

The next day, 4 more of our friends arrived and that's when the adventure really started! We decided to rent bikes and do a trip to Frutillar which most people told us would take us a bout 2.5 hours to get there.... long story short, the bike ride was a little bit more difficult than anticipated and we rode for about 2.5 hours and didn't get anywhere close to arriving in Frutillar, although a bit of rain also had a little bit to of with this. Even though we didn't make it was still a fun day! after people are always saying how life's about the journey not the destination right? 

Trying to take a selfie while biking unpaved roads is tricky


"thank god we're almost done selfie"
The next day unfortunately I woke up with a bit of a cold, but I knew it was going to be the best weather our entire trip so I powered through to make it to Los Saltos and Lago Todos Los Santos. It was so BEAUTIFUL and so worth sniffling through the entire day. The first location we went to there were these amazing waterfalls, and although it was a little chilly it was such an amazing thing to see and such a perfect and clear day to go on! Once again we bit off a little more than we could swallow, choosing a hike called "Paso Desolación" and only made it about 5k in before we had to turn around (mainly because of me and my inability to breathe thtrough a completely stuffed nose) The hike FELT like we were going straight up the side of the volcano although I'm sure we were not. The incline did allow for some pretty fantastic views and it was such  great weather ( sunny and 57... ya I know)

We'll just call this the trip of selfies

Sunday, we took a 30 min bus ride to Puerto Montt where we got an obscene amount of seafood for just about $8.50 and it was delishhhh. We didn't do much else that day but Monday we took a bus to Frutillar (the place we tried to bike to on Friday). The little town is very well known for being almost completely Germanized (if that wasn't a verb it is now) and also for having a large lavender field. Unofortunately, being winter, it was the off season, but it was still such a beautiful place and we went to the lavender tea house and it all felt very classy. 

more animal selfies

The next day we spent a bit more relaxed and simply went to a museum and a cute little cafe before boarding another 13 hour bus ride at 5 PM... over all it was a fantastic trip, although I opted out of my other vacation plans for the rest of the week due to my cold, I enjoyed my little trip down south so much! I find it's very nice to get out of Santiago every now and again, and this trip was no exception... Miss all of you dearly and PS exactly 3 more months until I'm back in the good ole' U. S. of A. not sure how to feel about that but I just thought I'd share that snippit!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The swing of things

hello all my beautiful people!
it's been a couple weeks since my last post, partially because nothing all that exciting has happened but also because I've been busy as ever!!

 I guess the MOST exciting part was turning 20 (YAAYYY no longer a teen). It was a very strange day I'll say just because it was quite odd being away from home and everyone for my birthday! Although I am residing on an entire different hemisphere than all of you, don't be mistaken; I felt the love!! It was amazing hearing from everybody and knowing that everyone hadn't forgotten about me quite yet (; I got to spend my birthday with a bunch of people from my program and even went salsa dancing!! All in all, I'll always remember my 20th birthday in Santiago.

So my schedule has also gone from zero to sixty in no time at all... the first 2 weeks of school I just had my classes which are on Tuesday and Thursday, but since then I've started to swim for the team at Universidad de Chile. This means that when I don't have class at 8:30 on Tuesday and Thursday, I'm getting up to go to practice at 8 every other weekday! The team is very relaxed though and I am enjoying getting back into shape and I actually have my first swim meet on Saturday!

In addition to my increased exercise hours, I have started my internship at Fundación Hogar Esperanza, a children's home. I go from 2-6:30 on Monday's and Wednesday's plus with the hour public transportation commute each way it makes my days quite long. Despite the hours I am really enjoying it, most of the time I sit with babies for a few hours and the worst part is just when one of them yaks on themselves haha. Also with this, I'm gaining a whole new set of vocabulary like telling the 4 year old boys not to hit each other and a lot of language you never really think about needing with kids!! I've been going for 3 weeks and really enjoy it even if I do get home at 8 PM dreading having to cook for myself.

School has been a very interesting process as some days I go and think, "Oh wow, I finally get this stuff and can understand the professor!" and others I sit there and think, "... well maybe next time". Although I am starting to get used to the way my teachers talk it really just depends on the day. I was supposed to have a test today, but by the grace of god the university scheduled an interruption to the electrical system and therefor all class was cancelled! What a bummer I know, I was really looking forward to it. haha

Right now lots of plans to travel are beginning to form, for fiestas patrias my university has the entire week off. So I'll be heading down south in Chile for the first half and then going up north to the beach with another group of friends. Although I love Santiago, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't dying to get out for a couple days. Sometime the smog can really put a damper on any sort of activity here so getting out of the city will be good for the spirit (and my respiratory system). Also starting to think about plans after I finish class at about thanksgiving I'll be heading to Bolivia/ Peru, and it's very exciting to think about going to more countries!! The other day my mom booked my flight for the 18th of December so now I'm feeling a lot of pressure to make the most out of the next less than 4 months!(2 month mark was completed on Sunday)

Hope you lovely people miss me as much as I so dearly miss you and please please please set up facetime dates with me because I'm not always that good at remembering!
Much Love- Faith

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 7, 2014: what I'm learning

So I could sit here and write for hours about how hard my classes are, how I just moved into my new house, and how I'm relearning how to cook for myself but I thought I'd switch it up a little bit.

Before I left for Chile my Aunt Karen gave me a journal so that on top of this blog I have something for myself to collect my experiences and look back on when this whole trip is just a memory. Every couple pages the journal will say something instead of just being a page to just write and today I stumbled upon one labeled: Things I Am Learning. Now at first of course I thought of simple things like : Spanish(obviously), how to use public transportation, and how to not stick out as completely foreign. And then I thought a little longer.

You see what they don't tell you about living life in a different language is how much you change. And ya ya ya I know what you're thinking; " Well duh you change it's a different country! You're going to gain worldly knowledge and be all cool and travel-hipster when you come back!" But I think the strangest part of it all is when the change occurs. I guess I didn't expect that I would seem changed to myself for one and also that things about my personality would change while I was here.

So Here's What I Have Learned(and am learning more everyday):
1. About learning a 2nd language~~~ It's really frustrating not communicating. Yes, it takes time. yes, every day it improves. Yes, people will look at you funny. And yes, it. will. exhaust. you. But you lay your head down for a good nights rest, wake up the next day and start it all again. One day you'll feel so confident having held complete conversations and others you'll feel right back at square one. It's a roller coaster of emotions and it's the biggest challenge I've faced in my (almost) 20 years of life.

2. About living in a big city~~~ There are a lot of people. There's always a lot of noise. AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SUCKS. Google Maps says the trip will take 25 minutes? You better leave an hour early because you never know when the bus will be late, when there will be too many people in line or how many times you'll get lost along the way. So you figure out that 10 min on the metro will take about 25 minutes walking, that if you hadn't spent the time switching your backpack to the front(you know to not get pick pocketed) and falling all over the place on the metro you could find a new café to hangout in for a while, and that there are AMAZING artisans selling stuff on the streets every day!

3. About Perspective(both literal and figurative): It is absolutely everything. In a new city there is nothing more destructive to your experience than right-off-the-bat-routine and here's what I mean. How can you know that there's a beautiful park on the corner if you're way to work/school/whatever you may fill your day with is in the opposite direction? My point is there are endless paths to walk and always new places to be discovered so why limit yourself?? You never know what you'll find unless you simply take a different way to work everyday or just make a point to explore with no destination.

And figuratively of course. When I left my last class of the first week of school I felt completely overwhelmed. In over my head in every possible way. And  I thought to myself that this semester is going to suck. And then I threw on my hypothetical brakes to my train of thought and flipped that baby in a new direction. Because why should school have to be so horrible?! So now this is how I think. This is all a learning process. So my teachers are impossible to understand? Well I'm determined to use every hour of class to be able to improve my listening and understanding skills. I realize how hard this whole process is and know that it will only improve, only get easier if I have patience. Seriously, there should be therapy for study abroad students because this is a conclusion I didn't come to easily.

Oh and the whole personality change thing. I guess the biggest thing is that I've never considered myself shy or not outgoing before. I usually try to be quite friendly, but take the California girl and displace her thousands of miles into a spanish-speaking country and that sure will shut me right up. Most of it comes along with a little bit of embarrassment trying to speak and therefore it's easier to stay silent. Also the chilean people aren't necessarily the type to strike up conversation with the awkward gringa. It is completely up to me to form relationships here and I feel completely unequipped of a extremely outgoing personality to be able to do that. So every time I think "omg no way I'm talking to that person to ask something" I force myself to snap out of it and give myself a shove out of my comfort zone. Let me tell you that is hard! It's one thing if you've ever had friends who bring you along to do things you're not used to but this is completely up to myself. I have to push myself to be more outgoing. I have to consciously decide to make myself do something I REALLY DONT WANT TO DO. Talk about confusing. I think this is why at the end of the day I am completely exhausted. Not only do I spend my day trying to think in Spanish but I spend my day struggling to find the courage to go ask a stranger for help, or what we learned in class, and so much more.
So the moral of the story is that studying abroad is an amazing experience. "What??  But Faith you just spent 6 paragraphs telling us about everything that sucks??" Ya as weird as it sounds that's what makes it so amazing. You will get frustrated beyond belief. You will most definitely cry from said frustration(I know I did), but once you actively decide to change your perspective you will find that looking on the bright side of things is a whole lot less stressful! and fun!!!

Well I hope my chilean enlightenment has not made you worry about my mental health and has encouraged you to stop grumbling about how much work you have to do (I have over 100 pages to read by tuesday). I hope I'm able to maintain this peace of my mind when I get to my first term papers, but I'll just look back at this post and think "if you thought this way once you can do it again!" Thanks for sticking around for my blogs even when I don't have new wild adventures to talk about.

Oh and here's a picture of the Andes after a morning of pouring rain. How amazing they looked probably has some sort of symbolism for my experience I'm sure. Until next time everyone!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Antofagasta: where they like their spanish like they like their quads...FAST

So for those of you who don't know, when I was a Junior in high school I had a friend, Kevin, who was an exchange student from Chile..... flash forward 3 years and now I'm the exchange student in Chile! So this past week I went to visit Kevin in Antofagasta which is in northern Chile, about a 2 hour  plane from Santiago. Antofagasta is a really interesting place because the desert there comes right up to the beach and theres just enough room between the 2 landscapes to fit the main road and some houses, its a long and thin city much like the country.
 Kevin left out some details about the view from his house! I mean wow!!

my "the desert's so windy!!" face
I guess I am starting to realize how spoiled I was in Santa Barbara getting to live right on the coast because all of the 3 trips I've taken from Santiago have been to the coast, a little bit of salty air withdrawal I suppose. Anyways the past 5 days have consisted of walking around in the not too cold weather (much preferred over the weather in Santiago) and going out on the quads into the desert which is a lot of fun because I had never even been to the desert in the US! It was pretty extraordinary how the hills just went on and on way beyond where I could see. Kevin and his brothers took me on the quad and I was pretty surprised I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be (even when Kevin started doing wheelies with me in the back).

I also had the pleasure of meeting Kevin's family which was very fun. I take back everything that I've said about people being difficult to understand in Santiago because listening to Kevin talk with his brothers in Spanish stopped me in my tracks for the past 5 days. I swear they talk faster than anyone I have ever heard even in English! The only things I could catch in their conversations was how they ended every sentence with -po' weeoooon. cachai?- Spanish Slang Submersion 101. My best translation of this would be -duuuuude ya know?- Anyways this made for a pretty silent Faithy when no one was actively conversing with me because there's no way I could try to keep up with them, but I had a lot of fun nonetheless. Also, of all the places we went there was usually at least one person who would be patient enough to try to talk with me in Spanish or Kevin's brothers who could speak English would sometimes switch to talk with me because to be honest I don't think a lot of them know how to talk slower haha.

Although it was exhausting listening to conversations that I didn't have much clue were about, it was pretty awesome to get out of Santiago and get to see another city not just from a touristy perspective but more of a local every day life (for the boys this means staying up until at least 4 AM and sleeping until at least 1 PM... I could barely keep up with this too). Today I had a flight at 11 AM so you can imagine it was a struggle getting up but Kevin and I stopped by La Portada which is a protected natural monument. It was pretty cool to see and good to have one last stop before I was on my way.

All in all, vacation was great even if it was only 5 days long.... Now to start school and everything else! Chao!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 21: 4 weeks down

I guess the title is a bit misleading, four weeks down makes it seem like I’m counting down the days to leave, when in reality I can’t believe I only have 5 more months left. 4 weeks down seems to me like bragging rights for accomplishing living in a foreign country for this long. Honestly I don’t mean to toot my own horn but in 4 short weeks I’ve learned tremendous amounts about the Chilean people and their culture (although I’m just scratching the surface), I’ve only gotten lost on public transportation a handful of times (I mean would you expect less of me?), and have improved my Spanish skills tremendously. I can now with about 80% confidence hold a conversation with someone and I would say when I came here I was about 25% confident in my abilities. I’m ECSTATIC at the thought of how much more things are going to progress in my remaining 5 months here.

So this week has been hectic as ever! Everything has felt like sort of a transition point for the past 4 weeks, but things are finally starting to fall into place to be permanent for the rest of my time here. On Saturday I finished ILP, which was my Spanish class with the program and although it was bittersweet finishing, (no more “gringolandia” 4 hours a day/ 5 days a week and saying goodbye to an awesome teacher) I was pretty happy to be finished and to finally feel like they’re sending us off into the real world.

The rest of my weekend was spent preparing for the craziness that will come with real school.  I spent hours looking for classes to choose from, which I’ll be signing up for tomorrow. Also had to spend a little bit of time looking at different internships to do here, as we’re required by our program to do one. I think I’ll be working for a foundation that works with kids of ages 0-18 who don’t have families and live in a home. I’m not exactly sure of the details of the job yet and I’ll have an interview for it next week so here’s to hoping that works out! Aaaaand to put the cherry on top I found a house with students from all over that I’m going to move to for the rest of my time here. So many things accomplished in such a short time!

Today I spent the day at orientation for the University of Chile where we got to meet all of the other exchange students. It was pretty amazing meeting all these kids from all over the world, Germany, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Columbia, and different parts of the US. I’m so impressed by all of the students who have their native language, can speak English and on top of that are also learning Spanish just like me! We took a tour of one of the campuses, Juan Gomez Millas, which was a whole different experience. This campus is one that is very well known for their “paros” (student strikes) and has all sorts of art on every wall of every building. Many of the murals are political, some are inspired by works of famous poets, and many are just beautiful to look at. I think it’s pretty amazing to walk all over the campus and see the student voice displayed all over. There is such a strong sentiment of having your opinion heard at La Chile that it’s nothing short of inspiring.

So on top of all the excitement for the new semester (which starts on Monday) starting tomorrow I’m on vacation!! * insert happy dance here* I’m headed up north to Antofagasta to visit my old friend Kevin who was a student from Chile at my high school for a year and I’m very excited to catch up and see a different part of Chile. So 5ish days of vacation and then back to the real world for me!

So I’d like to just add to this post to mention the topic of a few conversations I had today, I was sitting next to my friend Angelica on the bus today on our way from orientation to the other campus and when I asked her how she was her response was simply “wow, just so many emotions.” When we talked a little bit more about it she expressed not only her nervousness for classes and excitement for all that is in store but also her gratitude for being able to be where she is today. It really made me take a step back and evaluate how where I am today came to be.  Again, later when I talked to my friend, Chloe, about the long and difficult process that was getting to study abroad, it threw in some perspective about all that has happened in the past few months. Just in December this whole trip was just a hope and dream, a future that I didn’t know would even be possible. Talking to my friends made me really process how much I was able to do to get here and how valuable the entire moral, financial and emotional support I have received is. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have some of the most generous, loving people in my life, from the rain jacket I wear almost every day that my grandparents bought for me just last year, to my mom calming my nerves every time I filled out yet another application incorrectly, to my grandma who has helped pay for my schooling and everyone who has even given the slightest bit of motivation along the way. I have so much to be grateful for today and every day and I know that I will not take any bit of this experience for granted.
Well that’s a little slice of my perspective from the southern hemisphere, miss all of you and I look forward to talking to friends and family each and every day.

Ciao! –Faith. ( even if my host-mom still insists on calling me Joyce)

**Sidenote: my internet has been really bad at home so even though I wrote this yesterday I wasn’t able to post it until today, therefore everything referred to as “tomorrow” is actually today (: and I'm happy to report that today went without a hitch!! **

Ok ONE MORE THING. I just think this world is such a funny place, because before sharing this on Facebook I went home for a little bit. After having the best day ever hence the "everything went without a hitch" part, I was able to get all the classes I want, get my chilean ID card, and pay for my new apartment that I will be living in and then..... I DROPPED MY CHILEAN PHONE IN THE TOILET. Of course I just laughed at how comical my life is (a perfect day doesn't exist), but I'm sure I'll figure out what to do and I know it could be much worse. Hope y'all are as entertained by my misfortune as I am. Peace.