lunes, 18 de abril de 2011

The end of blog-neglection

So there has been some great radio-silence here. Sorry for that. Time for a big update.

By now I am completely used to my life here, things have gotten normal. First week of uni was a complete chaos, everything that I thought was clear and definite turned out to be different. I came to classes to find out they’d only start one week later, or that they didn’t even offer that class this semester, and to find that out they send you from one office to another, from one person to another. Apparently this is normal for Universidad de Chile. Little university-life in Santiago explanation: there are loads of universities – public and private. Universidad de Chile, where I go, is public, which means that there are all sorts of people that study there, whereas at the private universities the people are richer. But at the same time Universidad de Chile is quite badly organized even though it is known to be (one of the) best universities.

Anyway, later things got sorted out and I started classes normally. I am taking 4 courses: Portuguese, which I love. Wanted to learn it for a while and here it’s perfect cause it’s from a Spanish perspective and the two are very alike. And the teacher is great. Also I am taking Etnolingüística – like anthropology/linguistics, also very interesting. That’s a fourth-year course so quite hard sometimes. Then I take Comunicación e Identidad, a first year journalism course, which is interesting sometimes but the teacher isn’t great. But I met a group of really nice Chileans which I hang out with there. And then my last course is Enfoques Latinoamericanos, and the teacher has been sick since the 2nd week of classes, so we’ve only had something that’s called ‘ayudantía’, and that’s basically an older student teaching.

Overall it all goes well, I’ve gotten used to the Chilean accent (even though sometimes it’s still hard when they speak fast) so I can usually follow what goes on in class. Still it happens at least once a week that I come to university and it turns out that there’s no class, but also that I’ve gotten used to.

I really like the ambience at university though. It is a campus with loads of faculties – I have classes at two different ones. The humanities faculty is known for its political activeness, protests (that sometimes get out of hand, police and smoke bombs and all, haven’t experienced that yet though) aren’t  uncommon. People are often quite alternative which makes for a good atmosphere. The other faculty, journalism/cinema, is cool too, very ‘open’, literally. There’s people on the lawn outside all day long, talking, hanging out.

Then my life outside of university. I am getting to know more and more people, besides the people in my house who I spend a lot of time with, I got to know an Australian girl, Grace, who I get along with very well and we go on adventures together. And then people from class, etc. I have been away a few times in the weekends, visiting villages, other places, last weekend I went to the beach (now that it’s not winter here yet).

So that is more or less how I spend my time here, I will soon upload some photos as well so you can see.

viernes, 4 de marzo de 2011

From ‘pé’ to ‘pó’

Or, from Peru to Chile. Crossing the border, so many things change. Peru and Chile are really so different: not only the accent (and words they use), also the cities, the atmosphere – it’s clear that Chile is a lot wealthier. Little title explanation: ‘pe’ is the Peruvian way of saying ‘pues’ (means ‘so’), which here they have made into ‘po’. After getting used to Peruvian Spanish, which is really easy to understand, in Chile they speak very fast and sometimes unintelligible (and they have about a million chilenismos, words they only use here).

So I am writing to you from my new house in Santiago. I arrived on Saturday, got picked up by my cousin Bas and his Chilean girlfriend Pamela. It was very nice to arrive in such a huge and unknown city with known people – the two of them were great, I stayed in an apartment they hired for a few days (cause Pamela is from a city near Santiago) and they helped me look for a house and everything.

After seeing one very shitty place, an overly pretty one, a full residence, another nice house – I almost immediately liked the last house most. It’s a nice neighborhood, quite green, but the people and atmosphere are actually why I liked it (and keep liking it more). It’s a total of 8 people living here: Felipe and Ricardo (both Chilean), Katy (Felipe’s Australian girlfriend), Cisco and Marine (a French couple, 19 and 20), Arielle (from New York), Joaquín (really Joachim, also Yoyo, Belgian). And we have three cats! It’s a house of 2 floors, with a garden, pretty spacey. My room is not so big, but since I don’t have a lot of stuff anyway so it’s fine.

Next week my classes start, till now I’ve had two info meetings but actually things are still pretty chaotic. I am now trying to subscribe to my courses online but the ones I want don’t appear on the website, and the ones that do don’t appear in the book with the course descriptions. Not so clear, everything, but it’s Chilean way of things and I will get used to that soon enough!

martes, 22 de febrero de 2011

Goodbyes (and hello-s)

Lots of changes and happenings the last few days that have made my head spin. I spent a truly great weekend in Arequipa with my friends from Cusco who came to visit me: Roy, Juan Carlos (Juanca) and la Osa (this means ‘the bear’, which does not mean that she is big nor hairy – her real name is Ana but no one calls her that). I have just known them for about three weeks, but is special to notice how close I feel to them. We had so much fun together, even though we didn’t really do great things (large part of the time was spent on looking for a place to live for la Osa because she studies in Arequipa) – these three are the worst to accompany a tourist, in Cusco I missed quite some tourist attractions as well. I was very happy to spend to last days with them – we ate about a month worth of KFC, then watched an awful movie (do not ever spend money on a movie called ‘Muerte en la Montaña! In English I think it’s ‘Frozen’. It is stupid and not nice to watch after having eaten. It involves seeing bones sticking out of legs and wolves devouring people). The guys had their rum – without that it can’t be complete. We looked for more houses. I met my first Dutch people in the wild! Real boeren from Eindhoven.
Sunday night my friends went back to Cusco and I went the opposite way – to Tacna (south end of Peru). It was not fun to say bye, this time for real. As I said, I got quite close to them and it doesn’t matter how many times you have had to say bye to people, it stays shitty.
The bus to Tacna scared me – when we just started driving this guy came buy and filmed all of the passengers. And then they told us about all of their safety measures etc. That, combined with horror stories of buses crashing and people dying in that area didn’t really give me a comforting feeling. Mondaymorning, 4 am, I arrived in Tacna, feeling tired, lost, alone and unhappy. It is not all great and happiness always, though it might sound that way… My original plan was to stay in Tacna for the day and then in the afternoon cross the border to Arica, Chile – but at that moment I heard 3 others speaking about going to Arica right away so I decided to join them. A young Chilean couple and a Brazilian guy (Hugo) – with the four of us (and a Peruvian man) we took a combi taxi to cross the border. The driver helps you through all the formalities of leaving Peru and entering Chile, which luckily went without any problems. Around 9.30 in the morning we arrived in Arica and I went with Hugo to a hostel, where the amazing welcome made me happier instantly – the hostel is like a home and there were a bunch of people sitting around a big breakfast table with everything you could wish for, fruit, cereals, nice bread, yogurt, cheese… Arica is a very nice city, right at the beach, finally some real heat and no rain, etc. The last two days I have walked around a lot, with Hugo, with two Canadian girls who sadly enough all have already left. My plan is two stay here for two more nights and then go on to La Serena, a 22 hour long bus ride south, and then Santiago.

viernes, 18 de febrero de 2011

Start of part two - travelling south towards Santiago

Yesterday morning, early early, I arrived to Arequipa (south of Cusco). It’s always sad to leave a place where you have made new friends, so leaving on Wednesday evening wasn't a happy event... Nightbus to Arequipa, where I met up with Jantien (for the people who don't know - ex UC unitmate friend) and her friend Georgia, who are travelling around here too. So the last two days I have spent with them, which has been very nice - Arequipa is beautiful, nice atmosphere and clearly a bigger city than Cusco. And it is very nice to meet up with people I know. It is fun being with Jantien and Georgia, we make a sport out of finding the cheapest deals for food. Today we had a huge lunch menu in a marketplace for 3,50 soles (less than €1) surrounded by Peruvians watching us (see photo). My happiness is complete, cause three good friends from Cusco are arriving tomorrow morning to spend the weekend together. 

jueves, 10 de febrero de 2011

Watery times

I have been passing watery times lately, which might sound a bit off, but let me explain. Last weekend I finally went to Machu Picchu, the world famous Inca excavation site in the mountains surrounding Cusco. The company was: Roy and Juan Carlos (friends who I met through Andrea, my host family sister) and Mario, Roy’s brother. After going out on Friday night, none of us had very high energy levels and instead of our original plan of leaving Cusco at 11.00, we left a few hours later. On our way to Ollantaytambo (the village from where the train to Aguas Calientes- the village of Machu Picchu - leaves). On our way we stopped to see a friend and by night we arrived to Ollantaytambo, where we first saw the heavy rain that would faithfully stay with us for the rest of the weekend. That night we agreed to be out of the hostel before 6 the next morning to go to Machu Picchu. That turned out to be harder than expected since the guys had decided to buy a bottle of rum and finish that between the three of them (I was smart enough to pass). In the end we were out by seven and for some reason decided to not take the bus up to Machu Picchu but to go walking. Already after only 15 minutes of climbing the steep stairs in the rain we all fiercely regretted that decision. One and a half exhausting hours of rain and feeling-bad-ness later we arrived at the entrance. Kind of disappointing because the rain and clouds, mist, made that we could barely see anything of the surroundings – that what you always see on the photos. And it kept on raining. The good company however made up for it and we still had fun but still, my advice for everyone: if you want to go to Machu Picchu, do it outside of the rainy season! Oh and advice number two is to bring enough cash cause we didn’t and then the two ATMs in the town turned out not to work. Creatively and intelligently we solved that problem till the next one came up: the train back. I already had my ticket for 15.30 but the guys couldn’t buy it for that time cause it was already full. Also solved that and changed my time to the next one: 22.30 which meant that we had lots of time to kill in a village with rain, cold and wet, and no place to stay. Again, genius as we are, solved that and slept in a hostel room that afternoon.

That was watery adventure number one. Number two happened this morning when I was woken up by Lucho knocking on my door – after which I opened my eyes and the floor seemed kind of shiny, but I wasn’t wearing my contacts so I couldn’t see why. That was figured out fast enough though when I stepped out of my bed and into bout 2/3 centimeters of water. Turned out that I, but honestly I think a friend that I had over the evening before, had left open a tab and since they cut off the water at night, probably forgot to close it again. So it had been open for half the night. After about an hour of cleaning and taking out all the soaked stuff that I had left on the floor (almost electrocuting myself by touching the plug), Lucho and Rossana went up to prepare some breakfast and I entered the bathroom to get ready. After which the door wouldn’t open. Great, just what I needed after the whole swimming pool situation. Luckily Lucho came to free me not too long after and even though my intuition told me to stay in bed to not attract more bad luck, I left to my work in Inca Educa and hopefully will survive the rest of the day.

NP photos will follow, if the internet is willing to work with me!

jueves, 3 de febrero de 2011

"Crea en nosotros, Señor, un corazón nuevo"

In the category of new experiences:
Last Sunday I attended my very first mass, ever. One to remember I must say. 

("God loves you the way you are.")

We went with the family to Lares, a tiny mountain village where there is nothing to see or do - except for the baños termales, natural hot springs. So after an adventurous 2-hour trip in a full micro (minibus) on a sandy path through the mountains (pretty scary at times, deep abysses) we arrived by night. The family knows the priest of the local church. The priest set up a place for the kids of the communities in the mountains to stay during the week, so they can go to school and eat healthy and learn basic things. That is where we stayed and we got to know some of these kids a little bit. It's special to notice how most of them are quite shy and clearly not so used to visitors (of course, especially I was extra strange) - compared to the kids I see everyday in the orphanage who come up running to give me hugs, even when it's the first time I see them.

 Campesinos boys setting the table for everyone to eat (all the kids, the priest, us)

These boys were shy, speaking amongst each other in Quechua (the native language) and 
looking at us (ok, me) with curiosity.

Anyway, that night we already went to the hot springs, risked our lives on an unlit muddy path, but made it to the deliciously hot baths. It was already dark, amidst mountains and with not so many people.

 Baños termales

So, since we were the guests of the 'Padre', we were expected to attend the Sunday morning mass. It was raining heavily and very cold so I spend the mass shivering, sitting on the wooden bench in between Andrea and Luis trying to keep ourselves warm. The church was not nearly filled, the people who were there were mostly 'campesinos', people from the village and the mountains. Due to my lack of religious background I was a bit lost, even more since everything obviously was in Spanish, but I tried to fit in, standing up and sitting down when the others did. Sometimes it feels strange being in such a religious country without having the same background or beliefs - in almost every house, shop, public place, there's religious images and texts. Makes me think about these religious, or cultural, customs that we don't have at all back home.

On an ending note: this weekend awaits excitement! Finally going to see Machu Picchu.

miércoles, 26 de enero de 2011

                                     This is la cuy that they eat...
 La familia - from left to right Rossana, Luis, Lucho, Andrea
 Alpaca / llama zoo!
 Viva el Perú (note also the Cristo Blanco on the left)
Señora in the alpaca/llama place

Time for an update. Monday I had my first day of rain, lots of rain. Before I left I already put the weather forecast of Cusco on my homepage and it wasn’t greatly promising to see pictures of heavy rain every day (January, February is rainy season here) – but when I arrived it wasn’t so bad. The thing is, Cusco is surrounded by mountains so once the clouds are inside, they don’t leave so quickly. Anyway today was better already.

Last weekend was nice, on Saturday I went with Lucho and Luis to a sort of big market place (el baratillo) where people sell second hand stuff. Mostly looking like fifth hand I must say. They sell everything ranging from doll heads (scary) to empty coca cola bottles, to car parts and phones. I had to buy a phone still so this was the perfect place and I even managed to buy one that wasn’t about to fall apart, pretty much new actually! Fourty soles, which is a little bit more than 10 Euros. Anyway, quite the place, el baratillo.
Sunday we went with the whole family to el Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley). It’s a valley with lots of villages with Inca excavation sites and remains, and artesania and all, about an hour away from Cusco by car. It was so nice, I saw lots of these places, unfortunately didn’t have this tourist pass you need to enter most of them, but beautiful landscapes. Also a mini zoo-type place along the road with alpacas and llamas and all! Very cool. After seeing loads of places and look-outs, we went to see Lucho’s sisters with children etc. We stayed there for a while, in a beautiful village between the mountains, with very fresh air and little rivers and all. In the evening we went back – stopped by the Cristo Blanco (the one they also have in Rio de Janeiro) to see beautiful Cusco by night. Then we drove back by car, listening to music and enjoying tiredness and the view.

Monday back to the aldea again – facing reality of snot and poop. And of two beautiful smiles greeting me! It takes me effort to call the little one la Cuy because yesterday I saw the real cuy- which is something like fried, stuffed guinea-pig, complete with eyes and teeth. Quite gross – it’s a delicacy here and apparently quite nice but to be honest, I hope I’ll be able to leave the country without having to try it. Today I also went to see the building of the NGO where I will be working my last one or two weeks. Lucho is the director, the NGO is called Inca Educa, and they offer short practice aimed types of education of a few months to people between the ages of 17-30. They pay a small amount and choose a direction, like bakery, cooking, house keeping, bar/restaurant personnel, etc. After they finish, they get an official diploma and Inca Educa helps them to find a job. There is also a nursery for the kids of the people who take classes. They open next week, and then I’ll see when I start there. Ya está, that's it for now.