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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.

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!)