Here I am. 10, 719 km away from home. A different hemisphere, a different time zone, but the same me. This crazy new adventure started on July 24 at 22:20 EST, as I took a 10-hour direct flight from Toronto to Santiago, Chile. Once I arrived I could not believe it. Up until now, past BIBers have not only talked, but given rave reviews on their experiences. And here I was, experiencing it with my own two eyes. I saw Los Andes out the right window of the car, then the Santiago metropolis out the left window, and then La Playa right out the windshield. Alexandra has arrived-or should I say Alejandra has arrived.
It is now the end of September, with the two-month mark coming up right around the corner. I feel like I have experienced everything from all four seasons in one week. Surfing on Monday, skiing on Friday, sweater weather walking to school, and sand-boarding on Wednesday while watching the sunset.
There have been so many highs and so many lows that I could not count them on my hands. For starters, right off the bat, I noticed a huge change in culture here in Chile. Locals were so welcoming and their charisma showed right when they gave you a kiss on the cheek. Wait. Kiss on the cheek? Do we do that in Canada? No, but it was something that I had to very quickly adjust to. Just like the Europeans, but unlike Asians or North Americans, South Americans greet others with a kiss on the cheek. At first it felt odd, but now I am used to it and I have grown to absolutely love this way of greeting others. Back to the warm kindred spirited Chileans – I kid you not they need to come to Canada. Their immediate sense of welcoming and urge to introduce you to their culture is contagious. Wherever you go if you are alone or with a group and need a hand with anything they are simply so helpful.
When I first arrived in Chile, I saw DOGS EVERYWHERE. Now being an avid dog lover, you would think I would be in paradise but think twice before you pet the dogs here. These dogs are stray and live on the streets which absolutely crushed my heart. But through talking with locals and past exchange students I learned that the dogs are actually well looked after. But if one does like a little more than your typical stray dog, it is best to not touch them or to be extremely careful when you touch them. The university that I attend even has dogs that roam around outside and are very therapeutic when you come out from that test where you had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Now here is something you are less likely to experience at Carleton. Hitchhiking home from class! Although the school that I attend has a free bus service from the school (which is located at the top of a hill) into the city, hitchhiking is a popular option to get home from school. Just outside the parking lot is an area where students stand and stick their thumbs up to passing cars that have just come out of the parking lot. At the school that I attend, most students drive to and from school. Therefore, there are an endless amount of possibilities to get a ride home. How successful is hitchhiking though? I would say that right now, my hitchhiking experience has an 8.5/10 chance of success. Where I live in Viña is on the way to a small popular city Reñaca and surfer town Concón, where many of the students live.
Some differences between not only the hemispheres but the customs too!
- Overwhelming amount of avocado everywhere you turn. In Canada, adding a side of avocado to your burrito bowl at Chipotle would cost you five dollars CAD. Here in Chile, it is abnormal to not get avocado with your meal, let alone have one a day. At the market on Saturdays you can get one kilogram of avocados for 1,000 pesos or two dollars CAD. Crazy cheap!
- Bagged Mayo… and a lot of other bagged items. When you enter into a grocery store here in Viña you will find a huge aisle of bagged mayonnaise (they are mayo obsessed here), unrefrigerated eggs, a huge selection of yogurt with granola to go and a very small and very expensive selection of hummus.
- Bag Boys (people who bag your groceries) at every store! Even at stores like Walmart where many people buy in bulk
- Excessive use of WhatsApp and voice messages. That is all they use down here and basically live by that as a main method of communication. Parading the streets of Viña you will see people talking into their phones and listening to other voice messages. It is a very fast and efficient way of talking to someone, especially for Chileans who speak a million words a minute. Move over Snapchat, WhatsApp is coming in hot.
So, I will end this blog reminiscing on the beautiful sunsets by the ocean, overwhelming amount of avocados, and pure excitement to be here!
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