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!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Moving In, Moving On

Welp, I’m all moved in with my new family for the next few months! I don’t know how, but I got lucky again! I have an amazing host family here in Arica. I live with my dad, Pedro, mom, Betzy, and 14 year old brother Cristobal. I also have twin older siblings, Noemi and Pedro Pablo, but they both attend university in other cities in Chile so they’re not at home. I will get to meet them in a few weeks when the come for a week to celebrate Chile’s Independence Day on September 18! I have a lovely house that's pretty close to everywhere I might need to go. We also have a maid, Fanny, who brings her adorable little 2 year old son, Juan Diego, with her everyday. I actually think that Fanny and Juan Diego might live at the house, because there's a garage-type building that's not connected to the house that I haven't been in, but that's where Fanny hangs out during the day when she's not cooking or cleaning, and I'm pretty sure she and her family live there. Still unclear. And then we have a little poodle named Puco. At first I was in love with Puco and was so happy to have a dog, but then my bedroom kiiind of got infested with fleas and I kiiind of was attacked... But no worries, I've now moved into a different room while they decontaminate the upstairs and Puco has a nice new haircut :) Typical me getting odd skin bumps/rashes/reactions. It really wasn't that bad.

On a new note, we’ve completed our first week of classes here and so far it’s been pretty calm and easy. We have three hours of Spanish lessons in the morning, then we go home for lunch with our families, and then we have a lecture in the afternoon. I live about a 30 minute walk from the campus we use for Spanish classes in the morning, and about 15 minutes from the campus for our classes in the afternoon. I could also easily take a taxi or a colectivo, and both are very cheap ($1-3) but it’s nice to walk around and get to know the town more and to get some exercise in! All taxis have a set price, so no matter where you go in Arica, you won’t pay more than $3 for a taxi. And if there are more people in the taxi, then you all spit the $3 fee so it’s even cheaper! Colectivos are kind of like a taxi, but each car has a number or a letter on it, and each number/letter represents a specific route that the colectivo takes around town. So you find the colectivo that goes near where you need to go, and you pay $1 for the ride. It won’t take you directly to your house, but for example, there’s a colectivo that drives down a main road only two blocks from my house, so I can easily take that if I need to. But like I said, most things are within walking distance for me so I try not use my money on transportation.

I’m really liking the group of students on the program as well! There are 4 guys and 19 girls, and surprisingly a lot of them are Midwesterners! Since we don’t have much school work yet we’ve all been hanging out (the whole group, not just the Midwesterners) before and after classes and finding all of the good places to eat and shop. There’s an amazing street market on Sundays (probably one of the only things open on Sunday) and it’s literally the longest market I’ve ever seen before. I walked it last weekend with Katy and it took us about a half hour to get through the entire thing, and we didn’t even stop that much because neither of had brought money. I cannot wait until tomorrow so I can actually shop there. They have anything and everything you could think of, from clothes and shoes to notebooks and shampoo to souvenirs and decorations, all for an extremely low price. AND we can bargain. I’m so excited.

Okay well it’s lunch time so I have to go, but here are some photos before I go!

This is my bedroom I USED to live in before the flea infestation

Mi Casa :)

The Sunday Market

Cristobol and Papa Pedro with the gifts I brought for them

Puco's new haircut... she's not too fond of it.

El Morro- the big tourist attraction in Arica

All for now,


Monday, September 2, 2013

Week One: Orientation

After a long layover in Miami (which I spent most of the time at the beach), a long flight to Santiago, and a short one on to Arica, I arrived at my destination with all of my baggage. Each layover, I met up with more and more of the students from my program so it was nice to not have to go through customs and all alone. Our coordinators met us at the airport and loaded us all onto the bus that then took us to the hotel where we would be spending the next five days for orientation. We got a chance to explore the city, check out the beaches, talk with locals, and try some delicious (but very large) meals. Arica is a city of about 177,000 people, but around the city is a complete desert. There are barely any plants (besides imported palm trees) in the city because it’s very difficult to actually grow anything in the dry land. Who knew the land could be so dry right next to the ocean? I’m really liking this city, though. And since being here, these are a few of the things I’ve noticed:

-The people in Chile (and in Arica, more specifically) have a different accent from the rest of Latin America. They tend to drop the “s” sound in a lot of their words, making it difficult to understand them at times. They also have their own sayings and words that they use, called Chilenismos, so I’m trying to update my vocabulary.

-Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. However, the meals are much more spread out. Breakfast at 8, lunch at 1:30/2, dinner at 8/9. My stomach is trying to adapt to these long breaks in eating because I’m used to eating every 2 hours or so…. I think I’ll be buying lots of snacks here.

-We’ve also been eating a lot of fish here and I love it! Salads are also a part of just about every lunch and dinner. I haven’t noticed any other big food themes yet, but we’ve also only been at eating at the hotel. Once we move in with our host families things might be different.

-Sunsets here are BEAUTIFUL (when the clouds aren’t in the way). The sky turns PINK almost every evening.

-Things here are soooo cheap!! I love it so much. Bargains on bargains on bargains. I bought an adapter for $1, a pair of jeans for $6, and the program gave us each a cell phone for $30. It's not quite as cheap as Vietnam (there I got a cell phone for $16) it's still very cheap and very much okay with me!

-As if this town weren’t prefect enough, everyone takes naps after lunch. No, but seriously. All of the stores in town are closed from 2-6 because it’s “siesta time.” Even the students all go home for lunch and then don’t go back to school for about 3 hours so that they, too, can take a nap. What a genius idea, Arica!

-Apparently my name is difficult for the Chileans to say (or any Spanish speakers, really). Most of them call me “Hay-dee” and recently I’ve been told here that I look like Princess Diana, so the nickname “Lady D” has been catching on. I’ll take the compliment ☺

When I started this post I hadn’t met my entire host family yet, but now I’m on my second day with them and things are going really well! I’ll write all about them in my next post, so stay tuned!!

All for now!