Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Time for real work

While I’ve been having classes this entire time, I’ll admit that they really aren’t anything to stress about and as far as homework goes, there really isn’t any. But in a few days (2, to be exact) I will actually begin a major project a very important part of my grade here in Chile. They call it ISP. Independent Study Project. And that’s exactly what it is.

We now have a month to conduct our own research projects on whatever topic we choose, in whatever city in Chile we’d like. A lot of students on this program usually just stay in Arica and complete their ISPs here because they don’t have to spend money on traveling, and they already know the location and have contacts here. However, this semester, not a single one of us is staying in Arica, and the majority of us are heading to Temuco in the south of Chile. Other students are going to Santiago (the capital) and ViƱa (an incredibly beautiful city on the beach). But for me, Temuco was a definite before I even came to Chile. You see, Temuco is where the majority of the Mapuche live, and the idea that I could live with the Mapuche for a month was one of the aspects of this program that drew me in the most.

Having worked with Project Odakniwa for a while now, I knew a bit about the Mapuche before arriving, but I’ve only worked with them indirectly, and have just heard stories about all of the amazing people and their culture. And now the time has finally come for me to experience it for myself!! And lucky for me, I have a few connections in Temuco already, thanks to Project Odakniwa! My friend Chris, who is the founder of PO, is living there with his family, and they’ve invited me to come live in their community for my ISP and have set me up with a host family there as well! Chris’s stepfather also happens to be the lonko, or chief, of the community, but it’s casual… ☺

I’ve decided to focus my ISP on Mapuche naming practices and how their names affect their identity. Not really sure how I came up with this idea, but I’m super excited to learn more about it! Names are such a curious thing, because I don’t think we realize how incredibly important they are and how much they really can affect how someone acts in society, or how someone is treated. (An example here on how names can affect people). How parents choose to name their children is also a part of my research. Is it for religious reasons? To affiliate their children with kin? For aesthetic reasons? Popularity reasons? Maybe they chose to name their child after their favorite movie character? Or their favorite fruit? Who knows! But that’s exactly what I want to find out. Why parents choose to name their children what they do, what their names mean, and if there are any naming ceremonies within the Mapuche culture that still exist. I’m interested in seeing how the Chilean culture and introduction to Christianity have influenced naming practices as well. Lots to find out, and only 4 weeks to do so!

All of my findings will be summed up in a 25 page Spanish essay which I will be presenting on at the end of my 4 weeks. Internet will be pretty limited while I’m living with the Mapuche, so don’t expect many updates. (Sorry mom). But for the last week of my ISP I will actually be going to Pucon, the Canadian like town in southern Chile that I visited on a previous excursion, and I’ll be staying in a hostel there to finish up writing my paper and to have more solid access to internet to finish my research.

I am super super excited for this part of my semester, and I can’t wait to share it all with you when I return!!

Let the school work begin!

Oh yeah, p.s. We visited an Aymaran community (another indigenous group in Chile) in northern Chile last week and we saw the most beautiful scenery near the border of Peru! We were about 14,000 feet high.Here's some photos :)

Mountain towns,sunset, alpaca, church, llamas, friends, and coca tea to help with the altitude

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gone South

Yeah, okay. Let me just sum up an incredibly inspiring and extremely packed two week excursion to Southern Chile and Argentina. No problem.

I think I’ll just use lots of photos and then I’ll go into detail about a few of my favorite events. But first let me just explain exactly where we were and what we were doing.

We left on October 2 and flew from Arica, the most northern city in Chile, to Temuco, which is in the IX region of Chile, about 400 miles south of Santiago (if that helps you at all). The main purpose of this excursion was to expose us to the Mapuche population that lives in Chile, and for us to better understand their beliefs and use of traditional medicine. The Mapuche are an indigenous population that make up about over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile, and about 4% of the total Chilean population. Similar to the Native Americans in the US, Mapuche had their land taken away from them and continue to face issues of discrimination and identity today. The word Mapuche means “people of the land,” so the loss of their land meant a lot more and lead to a loss of culture and identity. (I highly suggest checking out Project Odakniwa’s home page http://projectodakniwa.com/ to read more about the Mapuche and the amazing organization my friend has established to work with the Mapuche)

Highlights of the trip:

Temuco- We got to visit Temuco, which is the city where I’ll be staying for my Independent Study Proposal for the month of November. It’s a bit colder in the south, but there’s so much more green!!!

Makewe, Chol-Chol, Nuevo Imperial- These are all names of towns around Temuco that have strong Mapuche influences. We visited each of the hospitals/clinics in these towns and learned about the intercultural health care systems they have, combining traditional Mapuche medicine with occidental practices.

Pucon- We took a day trip to Pucon, a lovely little tourist town that looks a lot like Canada! We checked out the volcano, the hot springs, and enjoyed some lovely german pastries (there’s a large german population and influence in southern Chile… who knew?!)

Puerto Saavedra- So we had this activity called “Pueblo Drop Off,” and basically, we were split up into groups of 4 and given the name of a town where we would be spending the next 3 days. Technically it wasn’t even a drop-off because we had to find our own bus from Temuco to get there. So Puerto Saavedra was my destination, and I absolutely fell in love with this little beach town. It used to be a main port in southern Chile, but in 1960 there was a huge earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the entire town. It’s since been rebuilt, but it’s much smaller now and the port is no longer in use. This was an amazing experience to prepare us all for our Independent Study Projects because we had to get to know the town, the health care system, the school system, the politics, everything about this town using whatever resources we could. Oh, and we also had to find our own place to stay for these 3 days. It was such an incredible experience to be so independent in our own learning!

Bariloche, Argentina- Did I mention we got to hang out in Argentina? 14 hours on a bus (3 of those were spent at a restaurant for lunch) and we were there! But it was 14 hours with an AMAZING view. Bariloche is like the gateway to Patagonia, and it also happens to be the chocolate capital of Latin America. Not a bad city to spend a few days in.

Day with the Mapuche- While we were in Argentina, we got to spend a day with a Mapuche community. It was beyond incredible hearing their stories and learning about their struggles and triumphs. They were so open and welcoming. And OH MY the food they cooked for us… Wow. They cooked all of these veggies underground—meaning, they used the coals from a fire and then placed the veggies on top and coverd them in a tarp, and then covered the tarp with dirt to lock in the heat. 2 hours later we had one of the most delicious meals.

To end our two weeks there, we had a lovely dinner at our bus driver’s house ☺ Tons of delicious salads, chicken, steak, and the most delicious homemade ice cream I’ve ever had (sorry Ruth).

I can’t wait to go back in November!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

So… How’s the Weather over there?

Yes yes. The weather.

Arica is known as being the city of eternal spring. It’s always spring-ful weather here (minus the rain because we’re in a desert and it doesn’t rain in the desert). But there’s a little kick to this “eternal spring.”

You see, the sun here is extremely strong! Just walking outside for 10 minutes when the sun is out makes you start sweating, and especially when the sun is at your back, it feels so hot. So when the sun is out and shining, it’s shorts and tank top weather all the way. But as soon as you go in the shade, or a cloud comes, the temperature drops what feels like 20 degrees. It’s crazy the change in temperature just from not having the sun. And the same goes in the evenings; as soon as the sun goes down, it gets cold! So trying to dress accordingly has been difficult. The pattern seems to be that in the morning, it’s cloudy, and therefore cold. But after our morning classes, the sun is out. So I’ll go home, change into something more weather appropriate, and after lunch I’ll walk back to class. But after class is out at 5/5:30, it’s starting to get a little windy and the clouds are rolling in again, and I begin to wish I had my jacket and long pants on again….

But usually before the sun is going down, most of the clouds have gone away making for a beautiful sunset :)

All for now!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

That One Time I almost Became a Vegetarian...

So, I like meat. Like, a lot. Steak, prime rib, a good burger, you bethca! Though believe it or not, there was a point in time this past week when I swore I was never going to eat a piece of meat again. It started back in Peru….

Our last day there, we went to this beautiful restaurant where we were served a 10-course meal. I don’t actually know if there were 10 courses, but they brought out bread and peanuts to start, then salad, then a potato dish etc etc etc, and then they brought out the MEAT. First beef kabobs, then chicken, then the steaks. Naturally, I ate them all. But these steaks… They were juicy and cooked just right. I thought maybe Ruth was in the kitchen! So we left the restaurant very full and satisfied and ready for our pisco vineyard tour. Pisco is a grape-made brandy that is produced in many regions of Peru and Chile, and pisco sour drinks are very, very popular here. It was pretty cool to see how it was made and to get all the special tips on how to tell if it’s good pisco or not.

We returned to Chile later that night just in time to finish celebrating Chile’s Independence Day with our host families. We ate more delicious food, had a few delicious drinks, and danced the cueca all night long. The next day, we had a big asado (braii,/grill out) with the fam, and then my host dad took me and my host sister Noemi out for dessert in the desert (but actually. see photos below). We drove to the other side of the sand mountain to this adorable little restaurant where they had very traditional Chilean food. Afterwards, we returned home, napped, and then headed out to our cousins house to celebrate Independence Day again! (It’s kind of a weeklong deal).

However, as soon as we got to their house, my stomach started churning and turning, and I no longer wanted to eat more delicious food or dance the cueca. I’ll spare you all the nasty details, but let’s just say that about a half hour later I was back at my host family’s house, chillin’ by the toilet, and I stayed there for the next few hours. And it was in these hours spent bent over the toilet that I thought I would never touch another piece of meat again, because that was all I could think of that had caused this.

Eventually it got to the point where my fever was so bad and I was feeling so extremely weak and dehydrated that an ambulance came and set me up with an at-home IV.

When the doctor came back the next morning to take out my IV, he told me that he was just at the house of one of the other exchange students giving her the same treatment! So I wasn’t the only one! Turns out, 5 other students ended up getting the IV treatment, and all but 6 (out of 23) got sick over the weekend. Our director thinks that we got some virus in Peru, but a lot of us think it was something we ate at the restaurant on our last day. We may never actually find out. But five days after the incident, I’m feeling much much better and am hoping to soon be back to my normal eating habits! My host parents were extremely caring and helpful through the entire thing, and they’ve kept me on a strict diet so as to not upset my stomach while I’m recovering. They were glad to know that all of the other students got sick as well because they were worried it was something that they had fed me. I assured them it was Peru’s fault.

Unfortunately, since I was sick all weekend, I didn’t get a chance to experience all of the fiestas patrias for Independence Day, and I missed the big market in town and the parade that my host parents were a part of. I guess I’ll just have to come back next year ☺

At the Pisco vineyard

I wasn't a big fan of the pisco...

Fiestas Patrias

Driving out to the desert

The restaurant we had dessert at

What my meals have consisted of lately

My weekend

All for now,


Saturday, September 21, 2013

This may have been illegal, but it was for a good cause!

On Sunday, we left Arica for our first excursion of the semester to Tacna, Peru. It was only about an hour drive, but it took a little while to get through customs with a group of 23 (not nearly as long as it would have taken to get through customs in the US; it was much simpler than that). So we arrived on Sunday evening, and even though it’s only an hour away, there was a two hour time change from Arica to Tacna, so we got there at the same time that we had left, which was kind of cool! We had the evening to explore the center and shop around, and then we had dinner back at the hotel.

The next day we put on our white coats and headed to the Centro de Salud in Tacna to learn about the health care system in Peru and the different health programs they offer. Peru’s health care system is very similar to Chile’s, but for some reason Peru’s is much worse… I guess the execution of the system didn’t work out as well, and the different government and mindset of the people also play a role in how the health care system runs. After a quick little snack break we split up into small groups to help conduct home visits with the doctors and nurses at the clinic. This was a bit uncomfortable because although the patients had agreed to let us come, it still felt a bit invasive. Though I’ve come to learn that privacy in Chile and Peru is not really a things like it is in the US; they’re much more about familiarity. They have maps up in the clinics of where people with certain illnesses live, they call patients by their full names and were more than willing to share a patient’s entire medical profile with us. Never having done any sort of medical work before in a clinic or hospital setting, it’s all pretty new to me, but I have a feeling that this wouldn’t go down so well in the US. But that’s just the culture here!

We went out for lunch at a delicious Peruvian restaurant, and although it took forever to get our food, it was well worth it. Food in Peru has much more flavor than in Chile, but it’s also a lot spicier, so I was sure to double check with the waiter that my order would not be spicy. After lunch we went to the University in Tacna and talked with the medical students there on several different health topics in Peru, and then we had the evening free to shop and eat dinner. Things in Peru were cheaper than Chile, so lots of shopping was done, indeed!

The two activities that we did the next days were probably my favorite ones we’ve done so far. On Tuesday we went to a clinic in a much more rural part outside of Tacna. This little town was created largely by people who lost their homes in the earthquake a few years back, so it was a much poorer population than what we saw the previous day. After getting a tour of the clinic, we got to take part in a nutrition workshop for new and expecting mothers. We all paired up with the women at the workshop and talked with them about anything and everything for about a half hour before actually starting the class. I actually got two partners to chat with; one was a 20 year old who was about to have her first child, and the other was a 38 year old who had just had her 4th child. Two very different situations, but it was so nice to get to know these women and to share experiences with them. The workshop consisted of going over important nutritional information not just for the babies, but for the mothers as well. They talked about different food needs for different ages, and when to start introducing what, and then we were put to the test to see what we had learned. We split up into 5 groups and had to make a full meal for a specific age and for a mother as well with all the food and ingredients provided. So my group had to make a meal for a 7-month-old baby and the mother. We went to the food table and gathered our ingredients and started preparing the plates! Us students didn’t actually do anything in this part and were more there for support so that the mothers could get the hands-on experience. Afterwards, each group presented their meals to everyone and we went over all of the important foods that were included in each meal to make sure it covered all of the necessary nutrients. And the great part was that it took very little time to prepare these meals, and all of the ingredients were very basic and were supposed to be affordable for theses mothers as well.

It really did feel like a successful workshop and it was really cool to watch some of the more experienced mothers helping the new ones and offering advice. I’ve been thinking about doing a topic like this (infant nutrition) for my Independent Study Project this semester, so it was really cool to be a part of this workshop and gain some really good insight to the nutritional situation in Peru.


The second event that I really enjoyed was an HIV/AIDS campaign at the university in Tacna. They were giving free testing, information sessions, and condoms to all of the students that day, and we got to help! There were three different “stations” that we rotated between so we could see the whole process. So we walked around the campus in small groups with a medical student informing students about the campaign and testing that was going on in the front of the campus, and we handed out booklets with information on STDs and HIV/AIDS, and then if the students wanted to sign up to get tested, the received a “protection packet” as well. Then there was the information sessions that were happening at the same location as the testing, because before getting tested, we had to be sure they knew what HIV/AIDS was, how it’s spread, how to prevent it, etc. So we would rally in students as they passed by, asked what they knew about AIDS and if they wanted to get tested. Apparently us “gringos” were really good at this because they said they’ve never had so many people come to get tested before! We even had two students from our group who started giving a Condoms 101 talk. They drew quite the crowd.

The third station was the actual testing. Now once again, let me remind you all that I’ve never had any medical training (besides CPR in health class in 10th grade), so I thought they were kidding when they asked us if we wanted to give the tests… Nope, they were serious. Even though it was just a finger prick blood sample, it was still a very serious process, and I didn’t feel that qualified to be giving an HIV/AIDS test. But I did it! Because what an experience!! I’m sure it was illegal for us to be giving those tests, but it was for a good cause, so I figured, why not? Another example of how privacy isn’t a big deal here… The test results were all just sitting out on the table with people’s names on them while they waited 5 minutes to get their results back. But no one seemed to mind! Apparently Tacna has an extremely low rate of HIV/AIDS, and we didn’t have any positive test results, but it still felt a bit invasive.

Nonetheless, it was an incredible experience to be a part of the campaign and to help inform people on HIV/AIDS. Most of the students I spoke with said they had never been tested before, nor had they ever seen a place where they could get free testing, so I felt pretty accomplished knowing that I was helping ☺

Okay sorry I didn’t mean for that to get so long, but if you stuck with me the whole way through, good for you!

I’ll be updating again soon because I still have more to tell you about Peru! For now, we’re back in Chile and celebrating Independence Day (the 18th)

All for now!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

UPDATED: Protests and Whatnot

Last night at dinner I began asking my host family more questions about the protests and riots that were happening and why September 11 was especially known for these events in Chile. So after obtaining a lot of really important information, I wanted to update this last post and share it with you all! Since the first day we arrived here in Chile, we were informed about the different protests and strikes that were happening not only in Arica, but in other parts of Chile as well. First the post office was down because they were all on strike (that has ended, so you may all send peanut butter and chocolate my way!) Then one of the government buildings was on strike—and still are—so we have been unable to attain our official Chilean citizen documents. But one of the more prominent ones has been the university protest that has been going on for several years really, but these past few days were ones that the entire country had been preparing for in terms of riots and protesting. As it turns out, September 11 is not only a very important date in the United States, but also in Chile. It was on this day in 1973 that the Chilean coup led by Augusto Pinochet began.

It started with the bombing of La Moneda Palace, (where then-president Salvador Allende gave his last speech and later committed suicide) and ended the the socialist government in Chile. After came a 17 year dictatorship under Pinochet, which brought repression and killing much of the working class, along with thousands of civilians who simply "disappeared." Forty years later, this day is remembered and is used as a day to mourn the people who disappeared, were tortured and killed in Chile. However, each year, the peaceful demonstrations commemorating the coup turn into violent riots. This was especially anticipated to be the largest yet because of the 40th anniversary milestone.

Wednesday morning seemed fairly quiet, but mostly because a lot of people were too afraid to go outside in fear that they might be attacked. We were informed at the beginning of the week that we should be in our houses by 7pm for the next few nights, just for safety reasons. So don’t worry, Mom, they’re taking care of us and making sure we’re safe. In fact, our director called us to tell us that our morning class would be canceled because the entire university and all of its classes were suspended today in case any riots were to break out. So we didn't have anything in the morning, and then we had a clinic visit in the afternoon so we were able to get out of the house for a little bit. This morning (Wednesday) on the news, all of the news teams were in Santiago filming and waiting for the crazy students to start burning things and destroying property… but none of that actually happened… so they were just filming a typical day in Santiago! I’ve heard, however, that there was some damage done to the University here in Arica, but I haven’t seen anything on the news or been confirmed of this rumor***

***As it turns out, there was a protest at the University. Students (and some non-students) came to the school and began destroying the property, breaking all of the windows at the main entrance and writing graffiti all over the walls of the building. I'm still quite confused as to why the students would destroy their own school, because they're back in classes again today, and now they have to deal with the construction and the repair of all that was damaged. I found some photos (I didn't take them, don't worry Mom and Dad!) from the riot at the University. There was tear gas and everything. It was odd to go back to classes at the University yesterday and have everything seem so normal and fine again. It was as if the riot was just another day and just another event that had happened.

Photos of the damage at the University:

But really, Mom, don’t worry ☺

All for now!