It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in Valparaíso, and it’s the perfect kind of day to sit back and reflect on my few days in Chile so far.
I arrived in Santiago last Tuesday morning, super sleep-deprived from my flight but excited for what was to come. My program didn’t technically start until Friday, so just two days ago. Since I had a couple days before my official start, I spent a couple days in Santiago. Because Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are flipped, so it’s all sunshine down here right now.
Santiago is really a beautiful city, surrounded by the Andes mountains on all sides, with skyscrapers that almost match the size of the towering mountains. I only had three days in Santiago, but I was able to explore a little of it in my time there, at least when I wasn’t lazing around by my hostel pool. One great thing about Santiago is that all the museums are completely free, and I tried to take complete advantage of that while there. I went to both the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos. The first is a really cool art museum with diverse exhibits from community-based art projects created by recent Haitian immigrants to classic sculptures like that of Venus or of Daphne and Apollo. The second is a more solemn museum, and it documents the abuses that many Chileans suffered under the dictatorship of Pinochet from 1973-1990. In the museum, there are many video testimonials from Chileans that were jailed and tortured under Pinochet’s dictatorship, along with books and pamphlets from that era.
On Friday I finally got to meet up with the rest of the people from my program, and we started the hour and a half drive to Valparaíso. After a massive Chilean lunch, we all met our host families and returned to our respective houses. My host family has been incredible so far, and I feel so lucky to have been matched with them. I’m living in an all women-household and loving it. I have host mom, host sister, and grandmother. My host sister and I are very close in age, and we get along great. There’s also a dog and two cats (who are also all female).
After a long day of my program orientation, I finally returned to my house around 7 PM. Upon arrival, my host sister informed me that I was going to experience a real Chilean fiesta and that we were going to her friends’ apartment for a party later that night. Little did I know that “later” meant around 2 AM.
The party was so much fun, although it was a little overwhelming at first. Literally every person at the party (besides me) was Chilean, and my host sister was, of course, the only person I knew there. Thankfully my host sister Paz did introduce me to all her friends, and they were all very welcoming and friendly. Now, it’s always a little scary to go to a party or something where you don’t know anyone at first, but, when everyone is speaking a different language, that just adds another whole level of difficulty. I’m definitely still adjusting to the Chilean Spanish, but, after a little bit at the party, it was easy enough to hold my own in conversation, and I was able to meet a bunch of Chileans (which was awesome!).
This upcoming week is filled with more of my program orientation with plenty of mandatory information sessions and group activities. I’m hoping to have some time in the evenings to explore Valparaíso a little bit more and make my way down to the beach, even if just for a walk.
More than anything, I’m just excited to see what else my time in Chile brings me and for all that lies ahead!