A World Away: Valparaiso, Chile Update

10471458_10152858358279032_653441882235954588_nAs my friends back home at Michigan Tech are finishing finals and celebrating the arrival of slightly warmer weather, I couldn’t help but notice how I really am living a world away in every regard. Unlike my classmates in Houghton, I am in the middle of my semester here at La Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparasio. As they feel the warmth of the spring sun, I’m enjoying a different shift in seasons by welcoming the crisp fall air. It’s the beginning of my fifth month abroad and I am still just as excited to be here as I was when I first arrived. I’ve adjusted to many cultural differences, and with that has come a growing sense of belonging and comfort.

What have been some of the biggest adjustments?


Once (Tea time)

One of the most noticeable differences would be typical Chilean eating habits. Breakfast usually consists of bread, coffee, and fruit. Lunch is considered the biggest and most important meal of the day, and includes salad, a carb-loaded second plate, and fruit. The next meal, once (own-say), is tea time. Bread with jam or manjar, a caramel like spread similar to dulce de leche, along with tea or coffee is served around 6pm for most families. It is normal that this will be the last meal of the day, but some families also will eat dinner a few hours after once, which is usually leftovers from lunch. My transportation situation is also different from home. I ride a micro, or local bus to my university from my neighborhood situated on cerro., one of the many hills that make up the city of Valparaiso. This costs the equivalent of about 50 cents each time I ride it. Depending on the time of day, riding the micro can be an overwhelming experience. If it is morning rush hour, lunch time, or evening rush hour, there usually will be zero seats available and people pack into the bus like sardines. Personal space is thrown out the window, and you pretty much have to do everything you can to not fall over while standing in the aisle of the bus. I can also take colectivos, which are essentially group taxis that can take up to four people at a time. Those cost about a dollar per ride. Greeting people is a whole different game here. The custom is that you greet everyone with a single kiss on the right cheek. This goes for family members all the way to people you meet for the first time. It can take a really long time to greet an entire room in this way, but Chileans find a way to do it, and it doesn’t bother them. This is a tradition that I really have grown to love, because it is so warm and welcoming. Being late. There are two time schedules: Chilean time and Gringo time. Chilean time means regularly showing up to class 20 minutes late and starting a party at 11:30 when you say 9:30. Gringo time means showing up to class at 1:59 if it starts at 2:00 and being the only person in the room. Even though all of these things took a little bit of time to get used to, it was relatively easy to get accustomed to a different flow of life here. I will have a hard time not greeting people with a kiss on the cheek at home! And I definitely plan on adopting a daily afternoon tea time routine.

What’s a typical school day like?

9:00 Wake up. Drink Nescafe and eat bread. No longer phased by the fact that Nescafe lacks caffeine content and doesn’t taste like real coffee.

9:45 Head out the door, walk 2 blocks to catch a micro. Ride for approx. 7 minutes to my university, PUCV.

10:00 – 17:10 Go to class, chat with friends, eat lunch in the study abroad office, brew some mate, go to more classes.

17:12 Tired of sitting, I’m ready to move. Walk along the coast for 10 minutes to my favorite climbing gym. Play on bouldering problems until my arms can’t take it any longer.

18:30 Jump on a micro home and trade the climbing shoes for running shoes. Have once with the family (sometimes miss this part, depending on running schedule). Head out to enjoy a run along the coast, usually accompanied by an epic sunset.

19:45 Take a shower. Spend more time than I usually would reading the shampoo bottles, since they are in Spanish.

20:30 Dinner with my host family, with all kinds of interesting conversations that usually result in everyone talking at the same time.

22:00 Reading, homework, & planning future trips!

00:00 Fall asleep and get ready to do it all over again. It has been another great day in Chile.

Some notable moments since my last post:

  • There have been lots of natural disasters in Chile during the last few months. The Villarrica volcano erupted, a huge fire broke out in Valparaiso, severe flooding has devastated the North of Chile, and Volcan Calbuco erupted for the third time in the last eight days.
  • I’ve been able to reunite with two people from my NOLS expedition here in Valpo. First, one of our instructors, Pedro, was in town for a weekend. Later, Tyler made an appearance as he finished up his trekking though Patagonia. He is now hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Two friends from Clarkston, Christine and Laura, made a spring break voyage to Chile. I had a great time showing them around the cities that I now call my home. We even went to a Chilean cooking class, where we learned what it takes to make the perfect pebre, empanadas, pastel de choclo, and pisco sours.


    Chilean cooking class

  • I was also able to meet up with a friend that I hadn’t seen since 8th grade at Everest Academy, Jo. She came to the States from Chile as an 8th grade student for one year, and now here I am studying in her country! It was really nice to reconnect after so many years- we’ve both grown up a lot since the days of sweater vests and plaid skirts.
  • I’ve finally discovered two great places to get coffee, one in Cerro Concepcion and one in Vina. It’s always a treat to have a nice mocha when you’re used to the Nescafe instant coffee!
  • The climbing gym I mentioned earlier, Tornamesa Centro de Escalada, has been a fun place to meet people from all over the world and learn a style of climbing I never tried before coming to Chile- indoor bouldering.

What’s Next?

This post marks just about the halfway point of this adventure abroad. There’s still so much more for me to see and do before heading home. To start, I am running a half marathon trail race this weekend, the Salomon X Trail 21k in Concon. The end of May will include the long awaited visit from Evan, and we hope to get some good outdoor climbing in. At the beginning of June, I’ll be heading to Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) for the big race I’ve been preparing for all semester, the Rapa Nui Marathon. My mom will visit me here in Chile as I wrap up the semester in early July, and we will be heading to the Atacama Desert for some trekking and sightseeing. Me encanta la vida Chilena! -Carlita


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