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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.