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Monday, December 26, 2011

HOME

So I just want to apologize for dropping of the face of the planet for a little while.... sometimes that's just how I roll ;) The 2 final weeks I had in Santiago after classes finished were such a blessed, relaxed time, where people encouraged me, hung out with me and fed me :) For those of you who helped make my last 2 weeks in Chile so amazing I just have to take the time here to say thank you. Your kindness and friendship mean more to you than you may ever know.

One highlight of my final days was getting to spend time with me wonderful new friend Megan. She also goes to Humboldt but surprisingly we didn't know each other before our time in Santiago together. Because of the way the cookie sometimes crumbles we found ourselves a little more removed from USAC groups. Once Madie found her incredible group of friends within the USAC people and Bryan (whom I'm now dating :) left for Myanmar I wasn't really sure how my final days in Santiago would look. I obviously had a wonderful group of friends within my small group (loved our christmas party together!) and always feel very encouraged whenever Bryan and I talk about I felt weird having spent 4 months with the USAC people and by the end not really close to them. Megan came at the perfect time. Also feeling a bit outside the circles that naturally developed we found we related to each other on a lot of levels and started up a new friendship that we we were sad developed so late in the semester. She won't be in Humboldt in the Spring because she has another semester in Chile, but I know that as the semester picks up I'll be looking back on our evening stroll up San Cristobal (The warm super breeze, the full moon, etc) and our day trip to the coast where we spent some long, glorious, warm, hours laying on the beach.

On Sunday my friend Angie and her kids Victoria (2), Ben (4), and Nico (6) took me into their home for the week. Gosh did I enjoy my time with this family. Taking pictures, playing, watching star wars, cuddling, getting fed: YES PLEASE. I felt so welcomed and at home. It was a great way to get outside of the city and experience a different side of the Chilean culture. Angie is American but her kids are part Chilean and all born in Santiago. Angie is a lawyer but in Santiago she teaches law and does some consulting. She brought me right into her life and let me tag along to Christmas parties, Christmas programs, and lunches. I felt it was an unfair trade for her but she insisted that she enjoyed having me around just as much as I liked being there. The day before I flew out I got to go with her and the kids to the Valpo, a city on the coast, and see some sights I'd missed on my other visit to the artsy, dirty, beautiful, harbor town. I got to ride a boat around the harbor and take a few old rickety funiculars up the hill to see breathtaking views of the harbor and coast. I think the cherry on the already awesome cake was when we sang Christmas carols in the car as we drove back to Santiago.

My flight back to California was pretty uneventful. Long and uncomfortable, but I was chill and happy. To be honest, as much as I loved my time in Santiago, I was ready to be home. The sadness of leaving was fairly dulled by my excitement. I have no doubt that I'll, God willing, visit Chile again someday, but it isn't a place I feel attached to in a long run way. It's an incredible place I once lived and I'm happy to have it as such. I feel like a different/stronger person after 4 months. When I got home it didn't feel like I was gone that long even though the beginning of the semester in Chile seems so long ago. So much can happen in 4 months, friends are made, friends move on, sites are seen, experience gives wisdom, and in the end you see that it all, in the end, turned out ok. And even the way it was supposed to be. I mean I got another wonderful Church family, Santiago Community Church, great older peers who offered me such advice and encouragement, and Bryan.

The blessing that Bryan has been is hard to explain. Neither one of expected anything to happen, or had a relationship lens placed upon the other, but the more we spent time together the happier we became, and the more right it began to feel. It was natural and comfortable, and we are both glad we took down our walls a little bit in order to take a chance. No guy has ever treated me like he does, like I'm worth it ever second, and he tries, man how he tries. The long distance is hard, I miss him every day, but I've never worried because with him I feel so much trust that he will be there as much as he can and do what he said he will do to make it work, that all doubt is gone. As much as new relationships are scary we are excited and that feels awesome. My next big adventure is heading out to Myanmar in March to see him and I don't think I can convey fully how FREAKING EXCITED I AM. I'm all over the place sometimes.... but I don't think I want it any other way!

Now being home for the holidays has been everything I had expected and more. Even if I wasn't fully into church (which I am) I think I'd go just for the hugs. Man, has it been incredible to see everyone. The older I get the more I realize how great my family is. I got to meet my brother's "new" girlfriend and I hope she sticks around because her influence on my brother has been incredible. Her 2 boys are just as great and for those of you who know how much I've wanted nephews, you'll know how STOKED I am. My sister has a new job she loves, my niece is in that fascinating pre-teen age that all the rest of us girls of the family (including me) have no idea how to relate to, and my mom is feeling better than ever having lost 30 pounds! There is some drama and pain when it comes to my oldest brother's family but it seems it's in times hands. My family here has done a pretty good job dealing with all of it but since I just got home, it feels pretty fresh, and I'll need a bit more time to coup/forgive. I'm trying tho.

All in all, I'm incredibly happy now and I'm incredibly happy for the future. So much goes through my head these days but it's good. A lot is going on in my life but I don't feel overwhelmed (most of the time), just blessed to do all I do, know all I know, and be loved by/love all the people in my life. As I prepare for my final semester of college (5 classes, competitive frisbee, work, new boyfriend) I feel so confident about it all that I'm even surprised. I didn't used to transition like I do now but being all over the place this year gave me patience, a more relaxed temperament, experience, and a continued growth in my hope for the future. All super magnificent if you ask me. So much is going on this probably will seem long to you but shallow for me as I try to share a piece of myself with you all. But hey that's what I got God for, to share with, and have someone who knows me better than I know myself :) For those of you that took the time to read this, I love you and appreciate you deeply

Merry Christmas and happy new year everyone!





Thursday, December 1, 2011

Just Some Thoughts

So usually I start a blog with some sort of theme in mind or at least an idea of where it will be going, this isn't one of those blogs. Right now I'm home trying to escape the hot Santiago sun for a little while and just mulling over my last few weeks. I think I have said this before but time has a strange way of moving here. I feel the school week went by fast but when I think back to a week ago (Thanksgiving) it really feels like it was so much longer ago. I have a few thoughts as to the reason time ends up feeling like this way for me and I think the one easiest to explain is that I change so much each passing day that (to myself) I know I'm not the person I was a week ago. That person seems so different for only having been a week ago. Right now I'm restless and so this blog may help me get some thoughts straight.

Last week was quite a ride. I was stressed out and at points bummed out and at other points so incredibly happy. My week started off kinda lame with me losing my whole powerpoint (Comp froze and the usual back up didn't happen) that I had been working on all monday afternoon and me having to ask for an extension. It was lame sauce and incredibly frustrating to have spent so much time on something and it all be for nothing. I really wanting to get it done on tuesday but instead it would now be on thursday the same day as a different test. It was a good thing I was planning on pizza and a movie at the Marine house because if not for that I would have been a pretty unhappy camper that evening. This was also the night that Bryan told me he would be heading to Burma on Wednesday. I went to bed feeling pretty low.

Tuesdays are my busier days but never too bad, it was so nice outside that it was hard not to feel better. On tuesdays I have about 3 hours between class and volunteering so I head to my favorite cafe in the park by the children's home and do hw/people watch in the park. Bryan happened to be free so he came and chilled with me for a little while before I went over to play with the kids. After that was dance class and then the best part of my day. All of us in small group and church got together at a pizza place (one of few places I've been to more than once here) and had a little going away dinner for Bryan. It was good fun with good people and only got better and better. My favorite part was when a few of us headed to a close by bar and I got to get up to sing karaoke :D Love karaoke!

Wednesday ended up being a whole lot better than expected. Bryan got a call saying he wouldn't be leaving until thursday night and I got to do a little happy dance! Maybe this is selfish but a test and a presentation would have been hard the day after having to say goodbye to such a good friend. I felt like something finally gave, and I was grateful! My favorite part of this day was when Bryan hide behind a curtain at small group and popped out once everyone had sat down. They were so surprised to see him!

Thursday was a day of mixed emotions. I had a great little afternoon trip with my conversation partner to a hands on science museum and it was super interesting/fun. It's fun to go and be like a little kid for awhile. So much walking around in the sun left me so worn out though I was dragging butt by the time I got to the Marine house to see Bryan off. I keep thanking God for the way the week had played out because on his way to the airport I was dropped off at the Thanksgiving dinner at my church and everyone was incredibly encouraging. I would have been bad if I spent the hours after he had gone alone so I felt so blessed to have a whole church family to hang out with during I pretty hard goodbye. Plus good food always helps me feel better, and let me just say there was a whole heck of a lot of it! Oh pumpkin pie, how I adore thee!

My weekend didn't add up to anything terribly exciting but I really enjoyed it. I spent the time being a little more introverted/ recharging and I was grateful for the break. Some highlights were having girl's night with my friend Megan and us watching Happy Feet 2 3D (SO FREAKING CUTE), painting at a home for the elderly with a small group of people from my church, and my friend from USAC, Karen's, birthday dinner on sunday night.

Now we get to this week. Still been staying pretty low key and plugging along. Having some big realizations about my time here in Chile and such. I feel like there are a lot but for some odd reason getting into details about it here and now seems so hard.... maybe it's the heat. I'm great though on average and really can't complain. The USAC end of the semester dinner last night has been a highlight of my week. I really will miss these people when I'm gone. But at the same time I'm getting ready to be home and so while leaving will be pretty hard I think I'll be ok. But I won't know until I get there....

I guess when it comes down to it I've been assessing some of the relationships I've made here and Chile. Who has changed my life? Who do I want to stay in my life? What did I do well? What could I have done differently? How can I make these last few weeks the best possible? How am I feeling about goodbye? The list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. In the end there are things that didn't quite turned out the way I had hoped they would, but I don't want any regrets, so I count my blessings and want to make sure I give the last few weeks to God. If you mix all this wrapping up with my thoughts about the future and you've got one pretty self-reflective Aubrey. For those of you that don't know I graduate in Spring..... Life after college is a whole other ball game that I've realized I need to start training for. This is the first time in about 4 years, is my guess, that I haven't had myself planned out a year in advance. I know I need to get myself graduated and I want to hit up Sasquatch! as a graduation celebration.... but come next summer my slate is clean! How exciting! Have a few ideas of jobs I'd like to apply for, the thought of going to a seminary/bible school even crossed my mind, but most of all I know I need to start making money....

So I think this blog ended up about as scattered and vague as I thought it would... ah well they can't all be as epic as the Marine Corp ball. This is just a little bit of me and maybe I wrote it because I needed too more than the other times. But I enjoy sharing so it's a plus. If you do get one thing from this blog, take this, I miss all you guys a whole heck of a lot and I'm really excited to come back to Cali!

Hope to see a lot of you very soon and Marry Christmas!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The 236th Marine Corps Birthday Ball

So after the week I just had I've pretty much been introverted Aubrey trying to recharge and start to prepare myself for the next, and final stages, of my time here in Chile. Last Saturday literally feels like it could have been last month and I'm still just trying to come to terms with the fact the it is almost December.... I'll do this week in 2 parts I think.

So lets go back to a week ago.....

I get up last saturday morning excited and nervous. All I could think about was all I still needed to do to get myself ready for the Marine Corps birthday ball (including an hour and a half little adventure across town to get my curling iron from Madie's casa) and how amazing it was going to be. When I met my friend Megan at the metro stop by my house (she so amazingly offered to help me get ready) she was also ridiculously excited for me and so she only boosted my excitement higher. She was probably as excited as I was and it was incredibly sweet.

After spending quite a bit of time on my hair (which looked so great but didn't stay that way long....) it was finally ready to slip into my dress (An adorable black cocktail dress that my friend from church, Janet, let be borrow!) and leave for the metro. Megan was with me throughout the whole time taking pictures, offering words of encouragement, and not only took the metro with me but got off at my stop and walked with me to the front of the embassy too! After a little mishap with not being on the first list to get in the first gate (luckily I showed him my invitation and he let me through) I was into the grounds! Bryan was already at the venue, the Santa Rita vineyard, and so I was a bit on my own standing out front of the embassy watching other diplomats, officers, and VIP's show up in the black tie best. Eventually, 2 small and super nice Chileans girls showed up, they were dates of some of the other Marines, and so I made my first friends of the evening. They spoke some english but I also got to practice my spanish and we all banded together as we climbed on the bus and set out into the great unknown.

The Vineyard was about 30 minutes outside of town and when we arrived I just couldn't believe how beautiful it was. It was a prefect sunny summer evening and when I got off the bus I honestly think my jaw dropped a little. As a group we were lead into the museum and were allowed to have some time to stroll (This was the beginning of the wine tour..... which never happened because most wandered over the the main building to drink wine and start socializing) As I walked around some of the other Marines showed up and greeted their dates. I wasn't really too worried about where Bryan was because I knew he had pre ceremony things to attend to (He was one of the organizers of the event and the narrator for the ceremony) and I'm a pretty relaxed date when it comes to that stuff anyways, but the others insisted I go find him (Again I figured he'd find me when he was ready lol). As we made our way over the the main house I again started to realize just how big a deal this thing was, as if the police check points at the entrance to the vineyard weren't enough.... and it was also at this time that I made some more friends! Jason, Morgan, and Ana, became my partners in crime that night and when I couldn't be with Bryan meeting all the VIP's I was at the wine bar (It's good to have friends that know people) or cracking jokes with them on the patio while eating little foods. Because I don't work in, around, or anywhere near an embassy/ I'm very new to the military culture scene, I LOVED learning about it and getting the inside scope on all the embassy gossip. Watching Bryan's boss follow the general around like his lap dog was the cause of more then a few giggles from me that evening.

When Bryan was finally sorta done with his party duties we began our evening together. He took me around and introduced me to his superiors (he had to say sir., I got to call them by their first names!), his friends at the embassy, and we hung out with the other Marines and their dates. Man I love those guys, since I had been over at the Marine house a lot I've gotten to know a few and they are a bunch of awesome nerds. I miss them all already! (Bryan says that everyone loved me, I'm not sure how this is since I feel like I only shook a lot of hands... but hey I'll take it!) The evening was so pleasant as we got our pictures taken and had a look around the grounds. Bryan felt like he wasn't a very good date but he is far too humble about it and in all honesty he nailed it.



The ceremony was one very cool/intense/interesting moment in the evening. It actually made me a little homesick. There were 2 speakers, first Bryan's general (don't quote me on this) and then the US ambassador to Chile. Bryan narrated the whole thing and they even played a video made for all the Marine's in celebration of their 236th birthday. It talked about the history of the Marines, obviously, but its theme focused on the events of September 11th and Pearl Harbor. Like I said, it was a bit intense. A few other interesting parts were the cutting of the cake ceremony (they cut it with a sword!) and offer the first pieces to the guest of honor, the oldest marine and the youngest marine present. I also got to witness Bryan's boss (1 of the many) get sworn back in after deciding to re-enlist.

After the big american pride fest we all headed into the dinning hall (It's about 10pm) and man was it beautiful! Long and stone it was incredibly elegant. I had only caught peeks inside all evening and I was very impressed when I was finally seated inside next to Bryan at the Marine table (He had been working on all this for 2 weeks leading up to the ball and like I said I was impressed). We all throughly enjoyed each other's company that night and all those guys make me laugh. Add in the Chileana dates and how could one not have a good time! I ended up having the fish with white sauce, a creamed spinach, and tiny round potatoes. For dessert we had flan! My favorite! Freaking delicious! We had 3 courses total and had a full table setting to utilize. Even had a name tag (Which come to think of, I should have kept!) We had 3 wine glasses! And I can't even say how many utensils.....    

After dinner, my table and my partners in crime from earlier were the first to hit the dance floor. It's incredibly awesome yet strange to see a bunch of guys in uniform, and other VIP's in black tie, get down on the dance floor! Complete with a DJ, strobe lights, and the stars, we danced into the night. What I found most awesome was that the later it got, and the more drunk people became, the older the rap got... hahaha! I tuckered out a little before most so Bryan, like I said before he was an awesome date, offered me his arm and sat with me while I rested and drank water. Since I had missed the last bus back into town (I hadn't really planned on going back by my onesie on the bus anyway when I could just ride back in the Marine SUV) I was at the winery pretty late and I ended up falling asleep inside the main hall curled up on an incredibly comfortable leather couch while Bryan and a few other Marines broke down and loaded the cars. I woke up briefly at one point to find that Bryan had tucked a beautiful bouquet of flowers in my lap! I was so flattered seeing I had only received flowers a few times before in my life from a non-family member and the last time I clearly remember was when I was a Sr. in high school. Funny how girls remember stuff like that.... once I was nudged awake and into the SUV the rest of the night is kinda blanketed in a sleepy fog. We dropped the other Marines off at home then it was my turn. Bryan walked me all the way to my door even. Such a gentleman. Needless to say I went to bed a very happy girl that night (I was pushing aside the fact that I had to be up to sing at church in 4 hours....) and it's one night that I WILL NEVER EVER forget. Chile has continued to bless me in way that I never would have imagined and presented me with opportunities that I can't help but take.

Plain and simple, it's Magnificent!

Duders - If you are reading this. Thank you again.  I miss you and please be safe!

Here is the link to pictures for those of you who can't/haven't seen them on facebook.
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2687565471443.2149886.1325611081&type=1&l=348b776b6e


Friday, November 18, 2011

Having a Ball

So, it has been a very long time since I have blogged. I figured, since I needed a break from my hw, I'd do one now just to let people know that I'm still alive, happy, and doing my thing (as always)

Birthday weekend:

It's hard to put into words just how perfect this weekend was. Had a ladies night on friday night before my birthday where we simply had dinner and enjoyed each others company then it only went up from there. Madie had spent the night, and at midnight (we managed to keep ourselves up....) my madre entered my bedroom with a tray of wine and my birthday presents. As we sipped wine we joked and all ended up laughing very hard. I could hardly keep my eyes open and every time Madie looked over at me she would giggle because I was quiet funny looking leaning against the bed frame, wine in hand, with a sleepy grin on my face.

In the morning Madie and I got up early and dressed ourselves up for wine tasting :D Madie did my hair and makeup and we left the house looking and feeling great. We met up with everyone at a metro station (of course we were fashionably late) and took the line out to the end. There, all of us in our wine tasting best, caught a bus to the Concho y Toro winery. I couldn't stop smiling, I was so excited. The winery was BEAUTIFUL. A friend of mine from small group, Jorge, works at the wine bar there and recommend the tour. It couldn't have been more perfect. After our first cup of wine at the wine bar we began our tour. We got to tour the gardens, the vineyards, and even the cool dark cellars. Along the way we got to sample 2 wines and I now have a whole new appreciation for the art of wine making. Probably my favorite part of the whole day, and guessing by how stoked everyone else was during this part I'd say theirs too, was when we had our own private wine and cheese tasting. The Swirling, the smelling, the sipping and all! Delicious! We even got to keep the cheese board and a wine glass as a part of our tour experience. After a few last glasses of wine at the wine bar and a very big thanks to Jorge we all headed back toward the city happy, sleepy, and at this point fairly buzzed. Madie and I got back to my place, slept, ate, then slept some more before changing into our going out duds and meeting the group for a night on the town. Wrapping up my 21st dancing the night away with some of my favorite people here couldn't have been more amazing.

San Pedro de Atacama:

At the end of Oct. and the beginning of this month USAC gives us an 11 day break to do some traveling! I was so excited for this because while I love my time around Santiago I was ready to see some other parts of the country. I left from my house at 4:30 am friday morning with no sleep under my belt (thanks to my friend Bryan taking me out for a great belated birthday dinner, the fact I needed to finish packing when I got home, how excited I was, and How I Met Your Mother). This day was a bit of a blur as I drifted in and out of consciousness heading north on a bus a plane and another bus.  When we arrived I couldn't believe how different and beautiful the North of Chile is. My words really don't give it justice at all so I took a lot of pictures and they do the talking for me. Hope you guys enjoy them because there are A LOT!

Buenos Aires:

Now this part of my last few weeks is a little harder to talk about. It didn't really turn out as planned and I ended up returning from this adventure exhausted, broke, and my friendship with Madie far from ok.
Guess I should just start from the beginning... Madie and I left Santiago (finally), after managing to get our buses in order, and excited to be on an adventure together. When we got to the border of Chile and Argentina things went pretty wrong pretty fast. Madie, who as been having trouble with the stupid bureaucratic system of getting her Chilean ID, was turned away and denied entrance into Argentina. Now this left me in a terrible lose lose situation and I'll honestly say the choice I made in that moment was probably one of the hardest of my life. My options were: 1. Go back to santiago with Madie, help her figure stuff out at the ID office place and head back toward BA the following morning (this wasn't really an option because I in no way could afford to pay for my bus tickets again and there for would flush the rest of the money I had spend on a concert ticket in BA and my plane ticket home from BA down the drain as well) 2. Go on without Madie, met up with some of the other girls in BA, and hopefully see Madie in BA in a few days time after she had a chance to sort things out in Santiago. These were best cases that weren't actually a reflection of reality because like I said if I returned to Santiago, BA then became impossible and Madie was never able to go to BA anyways. Details here are probably unnecessary, but long story short and I decided to go on from the border alone. I don't regret leaving but I see that the way I left could have been better.

Madie and I learned a lot about our friendship styles in that moment, me who would never ask a friend to give up so much for me because I'd handle it on my own just fine and her, just as justified, who would never ever split up from a friend. We've, after cooling down considerably, since talked it out and are pretty much trying to continue as we were. But a situation like that, that hurt us both so deeply, is not easily forgotten even while forgiveness as been given and I'm not sure if our friendship will ever really be the same. Who knows though, there is time yet, and I pray for healing for us and our friendship everyday. I miss the girl and know I will continue to long after I leave here.

The rest of BA was also a roller coaster ride. I managed to hurt deeply someone I care about most,  lose my Argentinean pesos, my phone, and barely hold on to my sanity in about a 5 day time. It was at this time that a lot of extremely nice guys stepped up and helped me through. I checked into a hostel close to where the other girls were staying (didn't see them much actually) and found myself surrounded my Israelis, 7 Israeli guys to be exact. I ended up befriending these guys, learning so much (including some Hebrew), becoming token chick, and loving almost ever moment that they let me hang out with them. When I wasn't tagging a long with them, I spent a lot of my afternoons there strolling by myself and taking pictures. It was some of my most calm moments of the trips and I got a whole lot of exercise!

One of the nights I went to the huge music festival and only slightly enjoyed myself. I'm really not one to not try my hardest to have a good time but in the end, after all the time and money spent, Madie not being with me, missing the band I wanted to see, losing my phone, and having to pay for a taxi back to the hostel because the BA transportation sucks, I was pretty much done with the entire situation. It just felt like a whole lot of work for not a lot of payback and I was TIRED. In the end I know I'm a changed person because of the experience and I learned not only a lot about myself but some of the people I care most about here. Between the Israeli guys and the dependable friend I have in Bryan I was never alone. What made this trip different was that I was not only outside of my comfort zone but things just kept going wrong as well and that made me so tired and frustrated. I wasn't able to catch my balance. I wouldn't say I'd do it again, but I wouldn't take it back either and I honestly can't wait to go back to BA if I ever get the chance (Just hopefully under very different circumstances).

The Rest:

The last couple of weeks have gone by FAST. My time here is wrapping up and school is getting a lot more hectic. I've had a few small but unpleasant moments of anxiety but I've pushed through and have learned that counting my blessings and putting things into perspective work wonders. Oh and being grateful works great too. Not to mention me stopping beating myself up about things I can't change. The one thing that has honestly been a sort of light at the end of the tunnel is the Marine Corp Birthday Ball tomorrow (Sat). Bryan invited me about 3 weeks ago but it wasn't a positive because the date of his departure to Burma (His next embassy posting) was uncertain. It still is but at least we know it's not until after the ball now. I am SO EXCITED! It's probably one of the biggest events I've ever had the privilege to go to and probably one of the fanciest. It won't be just Marines either and so I'll also have a chance to meet a lot of the other state department staff, etc. that work at the US embassy in Chile. Bryan says that taking pictures is encouraged.... Don't have to tell me twice! Keep a look out for them next week :) So get this, they cut the cake with a sword! And not only is it a "ball" but since it's at a winery there is a wine tour and tasting plus obviously (haha I didn't know this until he told me) a big ceremony with a speaker and all. Phew. I meet the bus from the embassy at 4:30 pm tomorrow and the adventure starts from there. I think my friend Megan (also from Humboldt but whom I actually didn't know before this trip) is going to come over and help me get ready :D I know I said this already but I'm REALLY EXCITED.

Well I think I should end on that note seeing as I should get back to hw..... Kinda a lot but I hope I gave  you guys a good taste of what I have been up too. Because I really have been having a ball (in more ways than one!)



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Leveling Out

Ever since the retreat my life seems to have moved into yet another phase that will in the end, along with the others, make up the whole wonderful picture that is my experience here in Chile. The retreat seemed to center me and while I am still processing a lot (in my usual pensive, self-reflective way) it seems I have become more natural in my movement through life. If that makes sense? In less poetic terms I could say that I'm feeling more stable and level headed. Unfortunately, and this is something I know is natural, I still seem to struggle with feelings of loneliness. And this is something I will probably have to continue to work on.... I don't want this to make people believe that I don't have some of the most amazing personal relationships here. So maybe I should correct myself and say that I have more of a longing, instead of loneliness. Ya that is much better. I'm a full advocate for strong single women changing the world but I can't say that watching others around me start to pair off, get engaged, get married, have babies (At this point in my life the thought of all that anytime soon makes me severally uncomfortable...) doesn't affect me a little or that I don't sometimes dream about the day (if or when this day comes) that I'll get to travel around with my best friend :) Hopefully someone that can keep up! So all this to say... well I'm not sure what. Maybe just that, whatever role I end up playing, be it aunt, best friend, wife, mother, employ, boss, etc. that I hope I do it well, that in the end it makes someone's life just a little brighter, and (selfishly) the ones I care about most (mostly God) proud.

Monday found me still pretty wiped from the weekend but still just as happy as a clam. After class I had lunch with Madie and then headed up to have my wonderful always chill monday afternoon. It's a great way to start my week, blogging, catching up on hw, going on a run, watching How I Met Your Mother, etc. Tuesdays are one of my more long days because I don't usually get home until late. I don't have my test back from my Latin American Cultures class yet but I'm almost positive I rocked it and with the weather having been so nice all week I have throughly enjoyed my afternoons around Santiago. If only it would stay this way and not get any hotter.... sigh. As some people know I've been having big issues in getting my package that my mom sent me. This package is import because it has my replacement lens (I haven't been able to use my canon in 6ish weeks...) and the dress I ordered before I came to Chile that I wanted to wear for my bday. Madie and I spent the early afternoon working our way over to the Cento post office to try and track it down. After standing in the wrong line for what seemed like forever, being told we stood in the wrong line and sent to an empty window around the corner, we were sent away empty handed (with my minimal spanish I think she said I needed to have the letter telling me to come pick up the package and this left me pretty peeved) I headed off to volunteer pretty frustrated but hopeful that my package could still be received in time for my birthday. Volunteering was ok, we had planned on making bread (using the easy recipe that I used with the kids on sunday) but only 2 boys were home that afternoon so we played Uno (with some of the weirdest rules) and then played a little bit of hide and seek. Then it was onto dance class, which I was excited for since I had missed the week before due to the food poisoning. We did salsa, tango, and finished with a super fun dance from the Dominican Republic. Blanking on the name but it definitely had some sas! After class, a group of us went to get a after dance drink and I throughly enjoyed sharing a pitcher with some people in the USAC program that I don't always have the privilege of spending a lot of time with.

I love wednesdays around here, and this one this last week was what I like to call a TLC day. Well to be fair this whole week has sort of been me focusing a little more on taking care of myself in all ways. But it was my birthday week, I felt it was a good of time as any. After class Madie's conversation partner treated us to lunch. On our way we passed a group of protesters and came uncomfortably close to a tear gas cannon but drove through unharmed and glad to be heading away from that part of town for a little bit. We went to this cheap, and pretty bomb, sushi place and in hind site (because I had already eaten lunch) I regret not getting a role. We passed the beautiful afternoon enjoying each others company, poking fun, and busting up while reading a book about Chilean slang. A lot of it is pretty hilarious and some of it is pretty dirty. Madie and I topped off the afternoon with me FINALLY getting my hair cut and doing our toe nails. I don't have girly times like that very often so its nice to have Madie around to encourage it. I showed up at bible study feeling pretty stinkin' good and left feeling even better. I walked home with Janet (She suggested it instead of taking the metro home) and Keith joined us because he had a pretty uneventful day. While I was, and have been, very happy, there were some things I'd been chewing on and it was nice to talk a bit of it out with them as we strolled through the warm Santiago night. I talked about my feelings about being half way through my time here already and how I missed a lot of the people/things here before they're even gone. I shared the analogy about important people in your life being stepping stones and how that often helps me with goodbyes. I also spoke a little bit about my excitement and anxiety for the up coming birthday festivities. We also talked about whither we thought we were introverted or extroverted, what animal we would be if we could be, and different ways people learn. Loved it.

Thursdays kept the great day trend right on track. After class I met with me conversation partner Nicole and we lounged in the park talking about music. We then headed over to her "faculty" to hang out with her other friends (most of which I had met) and play some ping pong. Man I love ping pong! I even got to toss a frisbee around in the courtyard. Look forward to spending some more time with that group of Chileans because they are also so friendly and cool. Next week I think Nicole and I are hitting up a museum. So this is the part of the day that really gets fun :) Madie had chosen that afternoon to give me the surprise my mom and her had been planning. I honestly had no idea what it was and after I said goodbye to Nicole and hurried off to meet Madie I was pretty anxious. Was it a thing? Was it an activity? Are other people involved? I got off the metro and was greeted by Madie and 4 or 5 others belonging to the "some of my favorite people here" group. We walked about a block down and out front of a department store Madie covered my eyes and led me slowly through. When I opened my eyes I was standing in the guitar section! They got me a guitar! One of the guys, Jack, who is a music major and guitar lover helped Madie pick it out and I now have a guitar sitting in the corner of my room that I'm going to play as soon as I finish this :) After the surprise Madie and I went shopping because I now needed a dress to replace the one I was pretty sure wasn't going to come in time for my birthday. I also bought a shirt that as soon as I picked out knew I was going to buy and as soon as I picked out Madie wanted to throw something. Its the type of shirt she has been looking for since she got here and I only slightly regret seeing it first. I told her I'd let her borrow it.

After a much needed, and hilarious, coffee shop  homework session, her and I parted ways and I went to meet with my small group for pizza. This was so great! Laura's parents are in town and because they wanted to meet all of Laura's friends from church they treated us to dinner. We spent almost 3 1/2 hours laughing, eating delicious pizza, and sharing. I strummed a little bit on my guitar while people chatted and got lots of 21st birthday encouragement. Laura's parents were just great and you could see that hanging out with a younger crowd was bringing out their more youthful sides. I went to bed very late this night (late night phone call from friend worth taking the time for) and got up friday promising myself a nap. Never got it. Spent the afternoon with my host madre, she offered to come fight on my behave (which was awesome because she is fiesty and it got her out of the house) for my right to my package. Between stops into the post office I went and had lunch with her and her friend (middle aged Chilean women are fascinating) in this simple and typical Chilean restaurant that looked out onto Plaza de Armas. Very cool and very beautiful. After more time at the post and one of the head guys making about 20 phone calls, we finally tracked down my package, which got mislabeled at the airport and has been lost in the system ever since. We were told we may be able to pick it up at a different post the very next day. We couldn't... it now is looking like tuesday pick up. Didn't get the package in time for my bday but anything worth having is worth waiting for I suppose.

This now wraps up my week and puts us at the beginnings of my birthday weekend! A blog about all that awesomeness coming soon!    

Monday, October 17, 2011

Magnificent

magnificent |magˈnifəsənt|adjectiveimpressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking a dramatic landscape of magnificent mountains the interior layout is magnificent.very good; excellent she paid tribute to their magnificent efforts.
A word that comes to mind when I think about this weekend would have to be "magnificent". It seems to pop in and out of my life of late and it came this weekend in a moment I'll probably hold dear forever.
The retreat started off with me getting picked up at my house by a very sweet lady named Janis and her daughter Isa, whom go to my church. Janis was immediately warm and talkative, and it felt nice to talk to an adult in english after speaking spanish all afternoon with my friend Eduardo. It was interesting having to switch my brain over and not have to plan out all the things I wanted to say in spanish before talking. We were in the early arrivals group to help set up the center and man was it BEAUTIFUL. It was an open and airy red brick building that was made up of 3 connected squares with courtyards on the outer 2 and a chapel in the middle facing the main entrance. Very mission like with it's wide high ceilinged hallways. The grounds had plenty of space to wander (yet I didn't have much time for exploring) and I even had my own room tucked back in a quiet corner (close to the kid's classrooms of course). After helping Janis set out all the name tags grouped by first letter of last name, getting the briefing from Kathi for how kids sessions would be ran and in what rooms, and a few deep breath I prepared myself for the weekend to come. 
As people were trickling in before the first evening activities, Bryan showed up guitar in hand (he'd be helping to lead worship), and we took a little walk around the compound to get to know the place (It was supposed to be us running around in the rain.... it stopped raining as we ran outside... bummer) On our way back to the center, house, whatever it was, we encountered an interesting sight. It looked like someone had an easter hug hunt but instead of easter eggs they had used red paper hearts. They were tucked in the grass, floating in the drain, taped to flowers, stuck up in trees. As Bryan and I started to collect some we realized, oh wait maybe these are for something.... and immediately abandoned our hunt and returned sheepishly inside. Come to find out Kathi had no idea what the hearts were and they must have been left over from the group before us. 
Our first group activity was a get to know you game. We all were told to pick a picture that spoke to us from a bunch of pictures scattered about on tables (I had scattered these earlier so already had mine) We then stood in a group and shared what the picture meant to us. I had chosen a picture of a huge tree that looked like the valley oaks we have in Cali. It reminded me of my favorite tree in Humboldt that I pass every sunday on my way to church and of my childhood. We then played a bunch of name games. It was awesome to be in a group of all ages and mostly families after spending so much time with college aged peers all week. The really young kids were adorable and I so enjoyed creaking jokes with the older ones. The diversity was also really fun. In my church here, Santiago Community Church, there are people from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, etc. and kids that speak both spanish and english better than I. Haha kids with accents are so adorable, especially with names like Benjamin, Arthur, and all the sort of British influenced names. After the game we all gathered together for our first worship and it felt good to finally sing. I don't know many hymns but I make do and was quickly learning the songs familiar to my new church here. At dinner, the meals at the center were great, I got to know more of the older attends better and finally establish myself as a member of their church. I got to sit and have a chat with one of the oldest attends named Richard. Old guys and their stories are generally worth hearing. After dinner it was guitar strummin', twister playing, and drinking wine with the adults during a heated game of Taboo. I pretty much showed those older cats how it is done ;)
Now Saturday took off fast. After waffles, yes waffles!, I set right to work with the younger 2-4 year old kids. It always takes a little time to start up stuff because one must peel kids off parents and learn names but after the intro, and whipped away tears, we all sat down and talked about how we are all different but the same in God's eyes. How we are all an important part of God's body. We played a game where the kids got to stand up if I said something that applied to them and it is always cool to see a little kid get so excited about having blue eyes, or wearing a green shirt. We had them lay down and we traced their bodies so that they could color a life sized picture of themselves too! Now this is about the time that the kids get restless and we headed out for a walk. Little did I know just how handy those hearts would be! Scavenger hunt for hearts with a pack of kids = win. They had a blast. 
That day Keith and Janet had arrived for the Saturday sessions and it was so nice to have them around once I handed kids back to parents and sighed a sigh of relief that we all made it through in one piece. Watching kids all day is great birth control, I think I'll stick to cool aunt for a long while thank you very much. A highlight of my weekend was the afternoon free time, the field was right at the base of the mountains and the view up to the snow capped peaks made me pause more than a few times in awe, where I got to run around tossing a frisbee with Keith and teach little girls how to throw a flick.  They ended up falling in love with it! Seriously! Like ever time there was a spare minute they would ask, "Aubrey can we go throw the frisbee? You're coming right!?" I felt what it must feel like for a proud parents every time those girls had an especially nice flick or backhand. I'm fostering the next generation of frisbee players :D After yet another little spill, landing on the same places as last monday, I took it only a bit more easy. I was so exhausted by the time evening worship rolled around but I managed to get myself there and back out onto the field for MORE frisbee before dinner. Haha I loved the dinners. Bryan, Keith, Janet, and I were all so tired and so silly. We were creaking each other telling jokes and sharing stories. 
Since I was with the kids for the majority of the retreat I missed a lot of what the other adults had been up to in the main sessions. I was feeling like I hadn't quite gotten the retreat part of the retreat yet. The part with the deeper sharing and talking about God. That part came, ever so awesomely, that night, when Keith went off to do whatever it is Keith does lol and Janet had checked in for the night. Bryan and myself found ourselves wandering the halls, him strumming on his guitar and me walking too fast, and soon ended up in the dark pews of the center chapel. We didn't, as a church, spend time in this part but I'm glad I did. We each took turns strumming on the guitar while the other shared their testimony and when the guitar strumming got old I went and grabbed my Nutella and saltines out of my room so we could have a delicious late night feast while lounging in the pews. I'm not sure how many rules we broke but I figured if Jesus were there he would want a saltine with Nutella too. Deep late night talks are always something to cherish and it's one I won't forget. Bryan probably said some of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me and I realized that even when I may be totally unaware that God is using me in the lives of the amazing people I have the privilege of spending my time with, he really is moving in my life. This is the time of the weekend where the word "magnificent" is used and I couldn't have picked a better one to describe it now. Thank you Bryan for reading the dictionary! I'm going to be sad to see him go when he leaves for his next assignment sometime in the next few weeks. We then stayed in the chapel pews past lights out, luckily my cell phone has a flashlight, and I think we both went to bed that night muy contentos. 
Sunday morning was a bit more of a blur because I was pretty tired by this point of the weekend. After breakfast I had the kids again and we played a hilarious game I made up on the spot called "touch the tree." It turned into us making up easy obstacle courses for the kids to run and anything that helped them burn some energy was welcome. We also passed time coloring with chalk on the cement walkways outside our classroom.  I just realized this probably took place on Saturday because by Sunday the kids were a bit more grumpy and fussy. A highlight of this morning was making a throughly big mess while making the communion bread for the final sunday service. Toaster ovens are so handy. In the later session we made cards for those who are sick in the church and learned about serving the church by picking up litter around the compound. This wrapped up my job as children's leader and the sunday outdoor service began with me yawning and feeling incredibly blessed. I got to get up with the kids and shared a bit of what we had been up to over the weekend, and after some verses and more worship we all took communion together with the bread my kids had made. After service we all gathered together for one last lunch before people started packing up cars and saying goodbye. Bryan, myself, and a lot of the kids (we had a pack, it was awesome) ended up back outside playing games, running military  relays (Bryan is a US marine, and I got suckered into being a part of one of the relays... Bryan running while fireman carrying me on his back was actually quite uncomfortable....), and taking hilarious pictures of human pyramids, hanging kids, gangsta faced group shots, and all of us piled in a tree... was sad to see that afternoon end. But when I finally got home I was ready to shower and just relax (finally... haha) All in all I think my weekend at this retreat blew anything else I could have done out of the water (And it was free!). My life is really just too cool. I'm incredibly blessed! 




Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Bathroom, A Bible Study and A (Moto) Bike.

In my mind I pick weird times to blog.... but maybe that is because blogging is (and probably always be) a weird thing for me. It takes time, I don't regret doing it after the fact but I have to tell myself "it'll be worth it to write all this down" a lot, before the words actually flow. The fact that my friend Madie is the blog queen also puts a fire under by butt to at least write something. Sometime I wish I could just cop out and just paste from hers.... cause she has already done the work to write a lot of what I'm doing down.... but i wouldn't because it means more coming from me. I'll just be up a little early finishing up homework and i'll probably have to take a nap tomorrow. I don't worry too much about it because somehow I know I'll get stuff done just like I have for the last 20 (ALMOST 21!) years.

So I left off talking about how wonderful last weekend was. I seriously live for the weekends here. They are too epic, different, love filled, too really describe justly. That's the problem with blogging I suppose, I just can't fully make you grasp my life here because it is so much more than even I understand. I post a lot of pictures on FB and update my status but to dig deeper takes so much time. I logged off last monday coming down from another great weekend only to get hit with a unexpected low. Don't know what it is I ate, perhaps the sea food I ate with my host family on sunday, but whatever it was it decided late that night, right as I was about to crash, that it would rock me. No one wants details of nights spent in bathrooms but honestly I can't remember the last time I was that sick. My back is till tight from not being able to remove myself from the cold bathroom floor. But it is in these moments when you feel sick, cold, lonely, and like you will never be able to eat again, that other people start to shine in your like and humility grows. Imagine my frustration when I can't communicate how I'm actually feeling with my host parents (Hand motion vomiting is pretty universal tho) and my host madre gives me that look that makes me feel like a complete idiot. Or how I can talk to the people I miss the most on FB while camped out on the bathroom floor but that doesn't get me a hug from any of them. If you haven't realized this yet I'm a pathetic sick person, but I suppose most of us are. It's hard not to let other sides slip when the physical side is crumbling. Luckily, by morning the worst had past and I started to keep down some water, my host madre came in and out all day as I lay in bed exhausted, dehydrated, and incredibly humbled by her kindness. Never has watery rice and saltines been so good. By the time tuesday night rolled around I was stir crazy from being in my room all day and anxious to get back to my week. And man did I have a week ahead. With a paper, a composition, and a final exam I was stressed, weak, and wanting to feel ok again PRONTO. Wed. was supposed to be my day back to normalcy but funny when you think that things go kinda weird on ya. Somehow my alarm clock stopped, was wrong, I don't know.... but I got up an hour or so late. My host mom then wouldn't let me leave the house with a wet head and I strolled into class tired, late, with a sensitive stomach, and awesome blow dried hair. I only sorta remember that afternoon... oh ya I spent it with Madie :D We did hw at our favorite dessert and coffee bar, then tried to do some more at my house.... It then turned into us being our usual ridiculous selfs and her helping me write the words to Gus the Magic Drag Queen (to the tune of Puff the magic dragon that came about after a Chilean friend in my small group mistakingly misheard drag queen when someone said dragon) That girl and I laugh so hard sometimes, I think it's cause we are so awesome.

Wednesday night was Bible study and it always ends up being a highlight of my week. With everything that is always changing around here it is something in my schedule that stays constant and I look forward to the refreshment I receive from being with all the people there. I think I have spoken about this group before but it's worth mentioning here again. So far my time in Chile has been spent with a lot of college aged people like myself, some of the coolest people I know here fall under this category, but for any of you that truly know me, you know I can't do/be in one group for too long. I need different, diverse, and often unrelated, spheres of living, to truly thrive. Ever since I started to do that in Chile I have been far more happy. What is special about this small group is that it is filled with peers that are just a step ahead of me into the future. I now have friends that are showing me first hand what it is like to be a young adult, recently out of college, working and living successful lives in another country. It is such a blessing. And what is always great about small groups, and the body of Christ in general, is that we are all so different and unique. Our group really wouldn't be what it is without every single person that I have learned to love and appreciate there. Keith with his sarcasm and nonconformist adventures attitude, Janet with her more serious driven demeanor, Bryan with his similar sense of humor and flexible attitude, Sophie with her passion and wit, Ricardo with his awesome chilean accent and sophisticated air, Jorge the quiet and observant listener, Janet who is always just plan sweet as can be, and Kathi and David who hold us all together with their leadership and incredible knowledge of the bible. Long sentence? Maybe......

Thursday I got in that paper I had been quite worried about and felt a little bit freer. Plus I was suited up (How I Met Your Mother) and feeling like a boss. Oh and I was getting my appetite back finally! An after class lunch date with Madie is never a bad thing and people watching/ catching up on our weekends in a busy food court is alway a good time. Once I managed to get myself all the way home I took an obviously needed but unintentionally long nap and then hauled to get all my hw done so I could let myself out of the house for our weekly group viewing of Community, Parks and Recreation, and The Office, at the marine house. Madie joined me, she has also been looking for some friends outside of school, and we really enjoyed our night. Like Madie said "They are good people." I felt awful for not inviting her sooner but now that she is in I know she is hooked.

Now Friday is where I start feeling like I'm not nearly cool enough to do all the stuff I did. I mean seriously. After my test one of my friends here took me for a ride up San Cristobal on his motercycle, and of all the ways i've been up that hill that was BY FAR the best. The rains the day before had left the city air crisp and cleaner. The view of the city and the Andes was unusually clear. I had to keep reminding me that it was indeed my life I was living. As the colorful city passed around me I knew that the weekend was going to be something special. Spending the afternoon with new company is hardly ever boring and after we ate cheap sushi in Bella Vista (one of my FAVORITE parts of town) it was time for me to say goodbye for the weekend and head off on my next adventure.

All week the thought of this weekend had been getting me through. This weekend was my church here's church wide retreat and I had offered to help out in return for a sponsorship spot. I figured I'd serve a bit, get to go for free, and otherwise have the relaxing weekend I had been craving. Little did I know quite how hard it would be and quite how tired I would be when I returned back to my room today..... I'm exhausted, sore, and yet incredibly refreshed in other ways. I wouldn't change A SINGLE thing! Now this part of my weekend will have to be the next blog because it deserves some time, length, and attention. Plus it is late.... I'm actually impressed I made it this far. Chao chao and goodnight to everyone whom I love so insanely much!



Monday, October 10, 2011

On The Move

So I'm sitting on my bed filthy (I slid head first down a mountain), too tired to shower, too unmotivated to do hw, and happy as a clam. So I thought after 5ish? weeks maybe I should blog? Haha random.... For those of you that have been wondering what the heck I have been up too I'll try to fill you in and I may be just as random as the time I have chosen to write this... Guess the easiest place to start would be today!

So got up early-ish and met two of my guys friends from church for a hike up Mt. Manquehue. Keith is a definite outdoor adventurer that pushes me (especially during our run up Cerro San Cristobal) and I appreciate him for that, Bryan is a chill US Marine that works at the embassy here and gets all my silly movie quote references (If you are reading this I'm going to miss you when you leave.... even tho nobody knows when that will be exactly). I enjoy just listening to the two of them talk because it's all stuff I don't know much about, like their travels, guns, Marine life, etc. The hike wasn't too long but at times steep. Loved getting to the top and looking out over all of Santiago. I've climbed up all the smaller hills closer to the middle of the city but it was nice to finally get up an actual mountain. I figure it made up (kinda) for not getting up my childhood mountain, the Sierra Buttes, this year. The view was still pretty stunning, even with all the smog, and some time to just sit and reflex on the vastness of the city was wonderful. The way down was a bit more intense then the way up and in my attempt at some faster fast feet I did I pretty good head first baseball slide. Some cuts on my belly, a bruised thigh, bloody knee, and a pinky hang nail, but I'm no worse for the wear. Some say I'm accident prone.... I think I just do some higher rick things than most? Haha either way I don't mind a cool bruise or scar anyways.

After getting down the hill we piled back into the white Marine armored SUV (I've gotten to ride in this a few times and while it may look pretty harmless the doors weigh a ton and the windows are like 2 inches think. You can literally feel how heavy it must be while you're it it) and headed for snacks then a movie at the Marine house. Leave it to me, in my quest for guy friends, to hang out at the US marine house. Haha I kid. It is a great place to hang out tho and I'm always joking with Bryan that I only hang out with him for his house, not true at all but funny. We finally watched Mean Girls, which we were SUPPOSED to watch saturday during waffle afternoon but Keith managed wiggle his way out of it. Not this time tho! The group of us definitely got a laugh. That movie never gets old. Four for you Glen Coco! After beating Bryan at 3 games of ping pong I finally pulled myself away and hopped on the subway for home.

This weekend just got better and better. Friday the USAC group hit the Ocoa Valley national park for some hiking. Its known for it's interesting microclimate, Darwin's studies, and some of the southern most palms in the world. I really enjoyed the hike with everyone! I wish I could calculate how much I have ran, hiked, walked, this week, cause it's probably the most in one week I can think of in a VERY long time. Feels epic! After a great night out on friday where I stayed up really late (early?) enough to get to watch the mountains around Santiago turn blue as the sky got lighter, I took it easy with waffles and a movie in the afternoon. Sunday was church and the usual sunday lunch at my host aunts house with all my host family. With all the good food (my madre makes empanadas as big as your head), good people, good weather I feel spoiled. I'm actually getting good enough at spanish to crack a few jokes and understand a bit of what is happening.

While it's been a good weekend it's been a bit more self-reflective than most. At times I just have to stop and ponder who am I, what am I doing here, I don't really deserve any of this, etc.... Now that I'm settled, all the more subtle things that come with living in one place for an extended period come out. It's hard to explain. After the shine wears off and relationships have been built. When the routine has formed and strays away from it can throw you off a little. Sounds funny but things still surprise me here. I'm settled in yet at the same time things still seem to change so much. It's cool yet takes some getting used too.... you think i'd be used to it but ah well. In the end I find it as reminder of how human I am. I feel blessed to have found such a great church and bible study (we are heading to our church wide retreat this weekend and I'm very excited!) filled with such a diverse set of people. Add it too all the amazing people in USAC and the Chilean friends I've made here and I've ended up very happy/well balanced. While I miss frisbee (I dream about my friends in Humboldt almost every week), I've learned to keep it in my backpack and through whenever I can. Skype dates with besties also help keep me sane :)

Well I'm going to chao because my host family is home and I want to go play with my adorable 2 year old cousin Emiliano. This is only a tiny bit of my life in Chile but hope you guys enjoy it! MISS YOU and LOVE YOU all very much!

 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spring in Santiago

Hiyo!

So it's been a couple weeks since I have blogged but my pictures pretty much cover a lot of what the heck I've been doing. Let me just say that the first 2 weeks here seem to have flown by yet it feels like I have been here so much longer than 2 weeks.... I have adjusted to city life fairly well and have started to get used to my walk/metro commute to school each morning. The metro does unfortunately make me sleepy so by the time I get to class I have to re-wake up. 13 stops between my station, Maquehue, and Republica where my university, Andres Bello, is. The university, one of the top private universities in Chile, is within walking distance of downtown and most of the main squares so the first week pretty much consisted of walking the streets and taking pictures. I just LOVE exploring new places. Cities are just so interesting and since Santiago is SO HUGE I know i'll never run out of things to see.

The first weekend here was, man.... I hardly have words for it, I guess FANTASTIC works. Getting to know all the USAC people a little more on friday night (On an apartment roof overlooking the city!), meeting almost all of my extended host family on Sat, then hiking in the Andes (See FB pics) on sunday was such a wonderful well rounded kick off to this semester. We haven't stopped talking about it all week and I know this weekend will only be better. Since school has kicked into a higher gear the weekdays have toned down a bit, which is ok as we are all learning to pace ourselves, but we all look so forward to the weekends. This weekend we have 3 days off because our USAC group is taking a day trip to the coast :D It may be a bit cold but I don't care, I just want to see the beauty that everyone keeps talking so much about! On top of that it is my new friend Madie's 21st birthday today so a bunch of us are getting a hostel to stay over Friday night and celebrate. Haha, she is just so cool. I called her at midnight to sing feliz cumpleaños and I'm about to head out to have her Italian birthday dinner. I'M SO HUNGRY!      


Well I can't think of much else to say, maybe cause there is just SO MUCH. I love my little piece of the city with it's awesome (dangerous) german coffee shop, it's parks full of couples kissing, nanny's playing with adorable children, and dogs running around. The spring has brought everyone out into the sun and i get to watch as I stroll from school and back each day. The mountains never fail to take my breath away (well when I can see them). Also I am so well taken care of, my host parents are the perfect mix of parent/ friend and they are always encouraging me to go out and do new things.


I've also started up my dance class with everybody in USAC and while it is pretty easy I have A BALL with everyone there. We just smile and laugh and enjoy each others company. We seem to be a pretty tight group and I look forward to a trip to the coast with them all tomorrow. I have made a few Chilean friends but I am always in search of more because hey that's part of the experience too!  All in all this year has lead me to a place where I'm probably the most secure and confident I can remember being in a long time. I miss you all and want to thank you for being a part of this incredible journey I have found myself on!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

5 Strikes, (While) I'm Out?

So don't let my title fool you, I HAD A GREAT DAY! Its meaning will have to reveal itself in time.

My first couple full days in my homestay have been too cool. I feel like things that wouldn't be that exciting for any other person are just so freaking COOL! As my new awesome friend Madie (I actually spelt it right that time!) would say, it's all perspective! WORD! So I slept in pretty late yesterday, I'm on Cali West Coast time still plus they just seem to do that here... and had an awesome breakfast con mi mama Marina. For the last couple mornings she has had the whole little breakfast spread out for me when I wonder from my daze out into the front room and it is really nice to just relax and start my day feeling so loved. Mi mama Marina doesn't work anymore and my papa Oscar often works from home and only goes in when he is really needed, when there is a problem, or he has a business trip (He is a manger for cinemark cinemas and works in most of Western South America). This just means that they have time to spend with me :D And I won't lie I enjoy it. After breakfast yesterday I wanted to take pictures around the house (coming soon) and Oscar came a long with me, little did I know that we were about to head out on a hour and a half long tour of the area (I would have worn better shoes!) Las Condes. We walked through the little park near the house (Las Condes is an interesting part of town that is a mix of old "tranquilo" neighborhoods, mixed with big apartment buildings, along side huge malls and touring office buildings) where I can't wait to take the Dog, Gamba (Prawn! LOL!), to play. She is my buddy. Even tho I'm sure all my clothes are going to have a muddy paw print by the time this trip is over! It's my new fashion statement. After the park it was a few more blocks to the metro stop, Manquehue, and I officially experienced the first half of my walk to school. Right next to the stop is a huge mall, the first in Chile I believe (or something like that), that you sense it older then most and is an awesome maze of less mainstream shops and food. I'm excited to go explore! But on most days i don't think i'll bring my wallet.... that place may be bad for my wallet! Me and papa Oscar had a grand ol' time as he showed me the ropes and helped me get my bearings. One interesting part is when he pointed to one of the new and big office buildings, saying "see that plot, the house I used to live in was right there." I sense this city has come along way as the world continues to meet globalization. Just after the business district we walked threw an even larger park with a big bird house enclosure that just made my day! peacocks, cockatoos, canaries, parrots, etc. Very cool! Other than that nothing too much more exciting, another even bigger, newer mall, and me wishing my cute new black flats were a 1/2 size bigger :/

After our little outing, mama prepared her usual lunch. White rice, steak, salad, another veggie of some kind, yummy bread, and a glass of wine. So steak everyday and wine with every meal! HELLO! Yes please! This just might ruin me.... At lunch I gave out my gifts I got for mis padres and it was super fun to see Marina's eyes light up when I headed her the salad forks from Kenya or Oscar's excitement when I gave him the book about gold rush Grass Valley. We both had a good time looking at the old pictures and maps, which then lead to him breaking out the atlas and giving me a little lesson about Chile, which I desperately needed. Even the metal water bottle I got for their son (he isn't here tho) got Marina excited. Man, I love my host parents. The afternoon was a rest time, which Oscar suggested I needed but didn't want to admit I needed, and he was totally right. I really enjoyed a chill afternoon to catch up with friends stateside, drink tea, and watch TV with Marina. At 8 (well 8:45 but shhh it's Chilean time) we headed out for a family reunion. Oscar's nephew just graduated law school and his side of the family was having a little get together to celebrate. I was pretty scared going into it but it ended up being harmless fun :) Stuffed myself on delicious finger food (they don't make dinner a big deal here), luckily ran into another girl from the program named Katie, she is the host student of Oscar's sister (My new cousin!), and got pretty good/sick of answering the same questions over and over in Spanish. Katie and I became allies and with each others help picking through the sticky moments of miscommunication we were comfortable and happily chatting away in spanish by the end of the night.

Chileans stay out late, its late now lol, and I didn't even roll out of bed until almost noon today! I'm definitely going to try and get up earlier tomorrow, in order to prepare myself for the early awakening that will be monday morning.... Because I got up so late I ate a quick breakfast (lunch?) and headed out for a run in order to punish myself for my laziness. It was wonderful. The sun came out for me while I ran and early spring in this city is just breathtaking. The trees are blooming, the buildings shine, and the snow covered mountains are truly different than anything else I have ever seen. Santiago is just so unique! After my fairly shortish run (I'll have to build myself up to longer distances as I get used to the dry, cold, high mountain, city air) I look forward to it! What made today great, beside the fact that my padres took me out to a movie, was that we picked up Madie on the way! She lives pretty far away but we both figure its tots worth the effort. We'll just have to find a chill hangout place somewhere in between :D The movie was good, but REALLY sad. It was about the life of Violeta Parra, a famous Chilean guitarist/singer (Gracias a la Vida), and any movie that ends with a gun in someone's hand probably doesn't end pretty. Madie came back to my place for some tea then we kicked off our first outing.

The strikes begin....

STRIKE ONE: Walked to the mall next to the metro stop in order to exchange my dollars into pesos. Closed....

STRIKE TWO: We go to next cash option only to find that the ATM won't take my card....

STRIKE THREE: I forgot my keys... Call papa, we work out a plan.

STRIKE FOUR: Madie lends me some money for the metro and while I'm getting my "beep card" at the info desk there is a miscommunication. Didn't help that I couldn't hear the women through the glass, both were getting frustrated, and their was a line of impatient Chileans behind me (I swear when I walked up there was hardly anyone around, just my luck they arrive just as I'm having issues)....

STRIKE FIVE: We get to the stop "closest" to Madie's place only to discover it isn't 2 blocks away from the center by her house that we wanted to go for drinks but TWENTY... her padres came and grabbed us....

After getting to her house, and hour and a half after leaving mine, we had no more strikes :) Just one fantastic chill evening. She ordered a Margarita, I a Mojito, and we just talked about how awesome our lives are, boys, and home towns. Every once and awhile we would stop to laugh at the music playing in the restaurant. Gangster's paradise? Uh, push it? Random other 90's hip hop rap? YES PLEASE. We left the place feeling a lot more at ease and even more excited for adventures to come. While walking through the square by her house an awesome (I'm probably overusing that word) Chilean band was playing music. They were a dream come true! Madie and I finished our day rocking out, dancing with other Chileans in the park, and all and all just stoked on our new friendship. Madie even had her first, i'm blond in Chile moment, when this friendly drunk Chilean man (We nicknamed him twinkle toes!) came to dance near us. All and all it was solid. I caught a taxi home from her place without a problem and sit here now super content.

STRIKE SIX? Not sure if this counts because it is basically linked to STRIKE ONE.
Upon arriving home I couldn't find the keys mi papa said he would hide under a pot... luckily the son of Marina's friend (the one that is nice, awkward, talks fast, asks a lot questions, and studders, remember?) heard me poking around outside and let me in. I couldn't help but laugh at this point....  


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Los Primeros Dias En Chile

Ok, so it's late here in Chile but I knew a facebook status update would NOT suffice in telling you all about my fabulous beginning days here in Chile. And as I type my bed is rolling out from under me... one sec......

And back! Hmmm where to start? Plane ride nothing too special, well except that Atlanta's airport IS HUGE, other then that i'll start by getting off the plane. Got through customs and got my bags and headed out into the sea of people waiting at the arrival's gate. So one problem, I knew people from USAC where waiting for me (my flight got in the same time as the group flight) but I wasn't seeing them and any American looking a little lost is asking to be bugged by taxi drivers, the guy was nice enough but I got really sick of telling him "No Gracias. No necesito un taxi, yo necesito encountrar USAC AQUI." John, a super nice british man who works for USAC, eventually spoted me and pulled me over to the side where others who weren't on the group flight were waiting. So good thing i'm comfortable meeting new people because when you do something like this you better get over that quickly, there are names to remember, travel plans to talk about, and friends (your really going to need) to make. I realizes fairly quickly how important the people you meet in the first few moments of a trip are to shaping the rest of the trip.... I don't know maybe I'm over thinking this but the people I met in the airport at first are the people I approached later and the friends all probably travel with in the future. After the group flight arrived we piled on a couch bus and headed to our hotel.

Ok, so Chile is really different then anywhere i've ever been and after spending three or so glorious weeks in the california sun the cold definitely through me off. If I had to guess it's probably a lot like salt lake city, but i've never been to salt lake so I can't be sure. It's a huge city, in a high plain, surrounded my mountains. It wasn't until I left the hotel today that I realized there is snow on ones right by where we stayed. SO BEAUTIFUL. We are already planning a day trip to go skiing and boarding! Upon arriving at the hotel we got assigned rooms and roommates, mine was already at the hotel and it was a little intimidating to knock on a hotel door and meet the stranger you'll be sharing a room with. Very freshman in college like. Well the girl that opened the door is named Madison, and she pretty much rocks socks. She is from Idaho, and she too has been at Sasquatch! for the last 2 years. CRAZY RIGHT. We have also started making travel plans and such and we are thinking Easter Island would be a great fall (spring) break destination :D And maybe a pre christmas trek up to Machu Picchu before they close it indefinitely wouldn't be such a bad idea. Maybe these are just ideas of 2 super excited girls but the future is looking bright. After settling in we had a on and off again day of activities. Madie and I accidently showed up an hour late for lunch (Guess Chile is +1 from east coast time....) oops! And laughed pretty hard about it, we would be THOSE people. Then it was a quick walk with the group to get a picture for our identification card, our first orientation session in the hotels big conference room, and some exploring/playing in the hotel's garden. Me and Maddy tried to play hopscotch and pretty much failed but we laughed it off like most everything else we did that was an epic fail and continued about our exploring. After dinner we both snuggled in and did some reading before a fairly early lights out. Some others in the program went out.... crazies!

Now for today. It was pretty much the bomb, I didn't do anything super exciting yet it was all VERY exciting. Got up and ate yet another super tasty meal, I'm telling you this hotel was nice (but not in our western sense, it wasn't huge, cooky cutter, and shiny, it was homey and unique and had good food.) Orientation part 2 was basically us meeting one on one with Luis, our director, to finalize our class schedule, we then had to all go and pack up our luggage to prepare for later family pickup. Somehow my room got selected as the one everyone moved their stuff into and that was actually kinda fun. Maddy and I met new people as they brought their bags in and hung out in our room, it was a obstacle course! I couldn't even use the bathroom cause, for one, the door was too blocked to close and two, there was a suitcase on the toilet, haha good times! After that we all headed back the the meeting room to take a language level test, let me say I'm glad I'm in track 2...., we ate a tasty lunch, then had a presentation on the social movement that is happening here in Chile. So fascinating and right up my ally. I didn't know this but a pretty large scale social movement is happening right now in Santiago, students are leading the way with protests, sit ins, some rioting (The media often portrays any violence as a lot worse than it really is), etc. While it is on the surface a protest against the high schooling costs and the privatization of the education system (their own president said education is a consumer good, not a right.... scary), it is a deeper protest by all classes who have decided enough is enough. I am really looking forward to seeing how things unfold in the coming months, and don't worry I'm not going to go getting myself into situations with water canons and tear gas!

At about 5 pm the host families showed up and I was wisked off on my first adventure :) My mama Marina and my papa Oscar took me straight to a HUGE supermarket called Lider. Think wallmart maybe? For those of you who have been to Nairobi think patriotic Nakumatt.  haha but better organized! I got my phone that i'll be using while here and while it isn't anything special it was first step to becoming Chilean for the semester. The supermarket was basically my first spanish lesson as we wondered around shopping, browsing wine, and learning a bit more about each other. Upon arriving at my house we unloading the tiny car packed full of my junk, and the groceries, and I got to see my new home. It is small (well, not that small but it's long and kinda passage like so it gives it that feel), homey (THEY HAVE A DOG!), and a bit cold. Not super nice by our standards but similar to my house and I'm already enjoying the Chilean experience. My room is very well suited for a student like me, closet, shelves, a TV and dvd player even, a bed, a chair, and a side table. Once I got all my stuff in it looks pretty good. Once I set out my pictures it really felt pretty homey. Phew, I should wrap up! Guess I'm still on west coast time! After unpacking I watched a novela with Marina, my host mom, and understood almost nothing. What I did get was the typical, mom kills people, the mom that kill's people's daughter's husband cheats on her, etc, etc. Cool fact tho, my host mom's daughter is the lead actress! Oh forgot to mention, no siblings this trip. The one son that is still at home is in Australia, where their oldest son lives, learning english. Pretty cool though. I then had dinner with my host mom and dad as well as one of their friends and her son(He asked a lot of questions, spoke fast, and had a studder). I was very hard to follow their conversation but once I got involved it slowed down and they wanted to hear a little about me. I talked about GV, Humboldt, Kenya, my family, my frisbee team, and even shared some pictures. They especially enjoyed the pictures I took in Kenya this summer of Maasai students dancing and of Lions out on Safari. They are all very patient with me, they have been doing this for 18 years!, and I'm learning how to express myself in Spanish really quickly.

Haha what a fun post! It's nice to be happy and confident and comfortable. I'll have my ups and downs I know that, once the newness of it all wears off and the oh wow i'm here for 4 months kicks in, but this summer definitely prepared me for this. A chill attitude can also get you pretty far, not to mention an awesome God.

Well, it's 1:45 am and I don't even have the energy to read back through this to make sure it isn't ridiculous and error-ridden. Hope you had fun with that....

LOVE AND MISS YOU ALL

Straubrey

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Onward to Chile: Excited Yet Nervous

So I'm sitting at my bestie Natalie's house in SF, I take off to Chile at 1 pm tomorrow, reflecting back on the last 3 weeks I just spent home in Cali and I have to say that they were pretty much some of the best weeks of my life. They were a fabulous finish to a summer that literal rocked socks and also taught me the true meaning of Grace. As some of you already know I've have (and sometimes still do) struggled with how undeserving I feel of the blessings God has poured out on me. I admit I put way to much on my plate this year and while things have all managed to work out (sometimes barely and only by the grace of God, plus I HAVE AN AWESOME MOM), I know that this year probably could have been done a bit differently....  but it has definitely taught me some tough lessons I'll now be able to take forward into the rest of my life.

I feel like I'm ready to take off to Chile yet I don't... If that makes sense. I'm still processing Kenya (and missing the girl's that made it so freaking amazing more and more each day, you know who you are) and I was so caught up in enjoying being fully immersed in the wonderful thing that is my home that I can admit that I'm a little worried that I haven't brushed up on my spanish or read about Chile as much as I should have. I'm really going into this completely on my own (well God's coming too) and totally green which after the ever changing thing that was my summer I'm actually pretty okay with..... I'm sure i'll be getting my butt kicked in Spanish (and loving ever second of it), learning about the culture, and meeting tons of new great people soon enough.... right? I like not fully being prepared.... haha.... makes it more of a surprise?

So I guess I haven't really shared much about the end of my internship in Kenya. Let me just say that it ended up being so much greater than I could have ever imaged. God just kept blessing me and knowing what I was about to realize/where I needed to be before I realized/knew where I need to be. This internship had a very important purpose in my life, and in my walk with God, and that was to help me build confidence in the One that is perfect, never changing, outside of time, etc. Yet at the same time, the only way you can have true confidence in God and in the abilities he has blessed you with is if you foster humility in your life. THAT was a good lesson. I'm not sure this is making any sense so I suppose maybe a timeline of my journey/ thought process throughout the summer if would make more sense?

I am broken = I have to suck up my pride, humble myself before God, and admit I messed up = I am SO UNDESERVING because God continued to pour out His blessings on me = I start some unhealthy bashing because I'm SO UNDESERVING = I, instead of continuing on my walk toward condemnation, channel that realization into Joy in the fact that God poured out his Grace on me = I now wonder what the heck I should do with all this Joy from all this Grace = I realize that is why we are called to serve = I think "I NEED TO SERVE" = Then I realize "Oh, wait I'm in Kenya..... I am serving." = I then realize God was ahead of me the whole time laying the groundwork, putting me where I needed to be before I even realized why I needed to be there = I understood why I was in Kenya.

Tada!

Wow, so all this reflecting back has made me even more exhausted than I already was. Staying up until 4 am last night (I wasn't even packing.... just squeezing every last second out of the time I had with the people I love), driving down to SF, and doing some last minute shopping (which always makes me tired) with Nat has made me fully aware, yet again, how grateful I am for sleep. Sleep is also super humbling too, if you think about it.

So this is me in the coming week

Tuesday: Fly out of SFO at 1pm
Wed morning: Take group shuttle to Orientation hotel.
Wed-?: Orientation
Thurs: Move in to my home stay and meet my host family
Friday: Tour of Santiago
Monday: Courses Begin!!!!

Ok I should really go to bed, there was more I wanted to talk about.... like all the awesome stuff I did while I was home and all the people I will miss but I think you all know who you are. Please know that I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH and that I will MISS YOU.


Also, for those of you wondering where Kenya pics are..... I just, after 2 weeks of cleaning up and going through all the stuff on my comp, made room to final upload them.... I'm still editing and such plus didn't have internet at my house. Along with that, most of my picture files from the trip are too big to place on fb so that leaves me having to find I different place to put them so you all can see them. Phew, I really can't wait to share them all with you guys!!!! It is worth all the steps to do so I promise.  


Sunday, July 3, 2011

First Kenya Post (Two and a Half Weeks Into My Internship) :/

OK! So sorry I haven't posted ANYTHING about Kenya. I realized I kinda suck at blogging..... it takes SO much more time and energy then I thought it would and when I blog I want it to be good. I get intimidated and then don't even start. I have high hopes for this one :D

I guess I should start by talking about my internship and my project here. I am here for 6 weeks working with an faith based organization called HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team) It was started 11 years ago in order to help battle the HIV/Aids pandemic. It has now grown to not only focus on health teaching and clinics but also working in poor areas with AIDS infected mothers (WEEP = Women's Empowerment Equality Project), helping kids get female breeding goats and a uniform to help them pay/ stay in school (Kids For Schools), and lastly a piece that helps girls to manage their monthly cycles so they can stay in school and be empowered to grow up and do great things (Freedom for Girls). So that was kinda a run on sentence! Us 4 interns and our intern coordinator live in the big, and beautiful, "main house" where we laugh until we cry, watch hilarious youtube videos, spend hours learning about past heartbreaks, our families, or likes/dislikes, our childhoods, etc. We also manage to get a little work done! Sometimes.... ;) I love them ALL already and one of them, Meghan, has only been here 3 days! All in all it is me, Ashlee (The hilarious story teller who almost always has a smile on her face), Brittany (The one who has scary similar music taste as me!), Meghan (who has the cutest laugh ever), and then there is our intern coordinator Katelyn (Beautiful and chill and the rock that holds the group together).

Now I'm settled in here and it has been interesting learning to be in one place for an extended period of time again lol I got used to moving every 3 or 4 days! I get restless sometimes but I love it here and i'm definitely not ready to be heading home any time soon. I do often wonder what is happening in Cali tho...  Anyways... my project is helping the one part of HEART's missions called Freedom for Girl's or FFG. I've been given the task of helping Lydia, the AMAZING Kenyan woman that leads this area, to assess the success and failures of the program's 1st year in order to help it improve upon this first years experiences.  We hope to learn from this 1st year so future years will run more smoothly and help girls more effectively. I've already put the data together from our 4 day trip up country to Taita, where we visited 8 FFG programs in 2 days!, and now I need to help do a piece of the trips summery (due tuesday!) and eventually make a slide show for fundraising. BEEN SUPER COOL! The FFG girls are simply beautiful and getting to meet/interview them for this project has been a privilege. It is one thing to know I project is doing good, but it is a whole other thing to get on the ground, up close and personal, with the very people it is helping. Just to be welcomed in, hear some of their stories, and see the confidence that HEART's help has brought to these girls has only strengthened by belief in the work God is doing through HEART.

I miss everyone at home and hope all is well. Thank you for your prayer and support!