December 6, 2010

Where in the world did November go?!  I can’t believe its December and almost time for me to leave already!  My apologies for the lack of blogging last month.  I am now done with all of my classes and finals, so hooray!!  One of the adventures I’ve had since the end of my classes is an adventure in the culinary arts.  About 10 of us extranjeras decided to get together in a Iraimi’s kitchen and try our hand at empanadas.  For those that don’t know, empanadas are kind of like hot pockets, but waaaaay better.  They are very typical Chilean food, and they started out as a small but filling food for miners to take to work with them.  They can fit into your pocket, and they are always stuffed with something muuuuuy rico!  Here is the recipe with some pictures to go with.  Some of these pictures I took while Courtney was making empanadas for her host family as a farewell present.  Follow the jump to see the recipe!

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Halloween in Chile

November 3, 2010

Halloween really isn’t that big of a deal in Chile.  Or course some people get dressed up or take their kids out trick-or-treating, but there are a lot less people who participate in it here.  The church that I go to here put on a program for kids and families who wanted to enjoy Halloween in a Christian way, so Courtney, Iraimi and I went with our group leader Nancy and her pololo Sergio.  I had a lot of fun, and the kids were really cute!  They were so adorable in their costumes!

Nuestro secretito/Our little secret

November 1, 2010

A friend of mine had heard about this place called the Laguna Verde, just outside of Valparaiso.  My host dad and sister had gone camping there before, but I hadn’t run into too many other people who had actually been there.  So there we were on Saturday, trying to find our bus to our Atlantis destination.  Of course there is only one micro that goes to the Laguna Verde, and we eventually found it.

The micro climbed through the cerros of the city out to the campo.  Then the bus driver dropped us off in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.  We asked him how to get to the Laguna Verde, and first he said, you’re here.  Then he realized we meant the beach and told us a 20-30 min walk down the path.  A lone German exchange student who was also on the bus joined the five of us ladies.  After walking for 30 min, we found a small shop and asked for directions.  We were then told that the beach was more like a 2 hours walk away.  I don’t think the bus driver had every been to this beach.

Well, 2-3 hours is a long time to walk on unpaved and partially marked trails, so our German friend decided to put his arm out and thumb up.  Courtney, Victoria and I all looked at each other, thinking no way are we possibly going hitch hiking out in the boonies.  Then a truck passed by with an older gentlemen driving who offered as a ride, and we thought, ok there’s six of us all together, and he’s old.  Ok, we can do this!

He dropped us off at a fork in the road and told us to keep walking, and shortly thereafter another truck drove by with another older fellow and his adult son.  We survived just fine the first time, so we hopped in.  And guess what?  They drove us all the way down to the beach and invited us to their house the next time we were in the area.  How cool is that?  The same thing happened on the way back, except one of the drivers gave us a ride all the way back to Valpo so we wouldn’t have to take a bus.  He also gave us a tour around the Playa Ancha area because he was so grateful we were willing to help him practice his English with us.  I love Chileans.

The beach they brought us to is GORGEOUS.  Absolutely breathtaking.  Look at the pictures, but they really don’t do it justice.  There were two or three other small groups of people there, but it still felt like we were the only people on earth.  All you hear is the waves crashing on the shore and the wind blowing.  It’s so incredibly peaceful.  The best part is, hardly anyone knows about it, so it’s like our little secret.

To get to the Laguna Verde… mmm, maybe I should keep it our little secret. 😉  Just kidding!  On the southwest corner of Plaza O’Higgins (just after the Conrgreso Nacional), wait on Victoria close to the intersection with Avenida Uruguay.  Micro 520 will pass every 1/2 hour, and costs about $500 CLP.  Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the Leguna Verde.  The driver will drop you off in the middle of the boonies, and then just ask around for directions to get to Playa Las Docas.  MAKE SURE you ask the bus driver when the last bus to go back to Valparaiso passes through so you don’t get stuck out in the boonies.  You could be walking for 2-3 hours or more if you don’t find someone to give you a ride, so be prepared for that.

La Isla Negra

October 17, 2010

It’s not an island (isla).  And it’s not really black (negra) either.  But it’s another one of Pablo Neruda’s houses!

I couldn’t believe I got out of bed earlier than 8 AM on a Saturday, but Courtney, Angela and I made plans to visit another one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda.  Last weekend, Courtney and I visited the Chascona in Santiago, and Angela has been to the Sebastiana in Valparaíso before.  At our respective tours at the other houses/museums we kept hearing about how awesome the Isla Negra is.  It’s the last home Pablo Neruda built for him and his 3rd and last wife Matilde Urrutia.  It was GORGEOUS.

First of all, funny story, the three of us got up early to go to the Isla Negra, and then missed the bus by a matter of minutes.  Then we chased the bus down the other street, but it didn’t stop for us.  We were sooo close!  Then we waited for 45 minutes for the next bus.  At least it gave Courtney and Angela some time to get to know each other.  Courtney and I have done lots of exploring before, but Angela is a friend from one of my classes that I invited along with Courtney and me.  She is another exchange student, and she’s from Germany.  Also, she’s an amazing person, so we all get along quite well.

Ok, back to the Isla Negra.  We finally made it there, and then we made a short adventure to the sea (read: we got lost) while we were looking for the house/museum.  Once we found it, it was super obvious what it was, and we had just walked right past it the first time.  The house is so long!  It’s all one level because as Neruda got older, he wasn’t able to climb stairs as easily.  Some of the rooms feel more like hallways; they’re wide, but they stretch out longer than double their width.

Neruda has some of the most beautiful collections I have ever seen.  He has all types of different collections: figureheads (ornaments attached at the bow of ships), bottles of all types, wooden stirrups, insects, shells, tiny ships in bottles, masks from Rapa Nui, Mapuche, African and other indigenous tribes, etc.  Many things are paired in couples to represent Pablo and Matilde.  What’s fantastic is that everything in the house is handmade.  EVERYTHING.  He wanted to capture the “alma del pueblo” or “the spirit of the town” from all of the places he had visited by collecting these hand crafted masterpieces.

Usually, I don’t have one specific tangible thing that sticks out as my absolute favorite, but I have one here.  I am such a horse person, and guess what?  Neruda was also a horse person.  He has a collection of horse figurines in his houses to remind him of the rural area he grew up in.  There is one room in the Isla Negra that has a life size sculpture of a horse.  It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  I want one in my house!  Being from a rural area myself, I love the reasoning behind it, plus it’s just really cool to have a life size horse sculpture in your house.

Like all of Neruda’s houses, the Isla Negra is nautical themed.  On the inside there are lots of architectural details that mimic the inside or deck of a ship.  What is so unique about the Isla Negra is that it is right next to the ocean.  The setting for it is perfect.  He placed his bottled ships on shelves in front of windows so that they would look like they were sailing on the ocean.  It gave me the feeling like I was walking on a ship that had run ashore that someone decided to make into their house.

Outside the house are the tombs of Pablo Neruda and his wife Matilde Urrutia.  The tombs are built into a structure of a bow of a ship that looks out to the sea.

Directions to get to the Isla Negra from Valparaíso: take a Pullman bus from the bus terminal in Valparaíso on Pedro Montt.  It cost us $2.900 CLP both ways.  Ask the attendant to let you know when you get to the Isla Negra.  Once you get to the bus stop, you’ll see some tiny buildings filled with handmade crafts.  Take a right, and keep staying right on the path until you get there.  Tours go out pretty often, so you shouldn’t have to wait very long to see the inside of the house.  If you want to get to the cove that we found, take a left at the fork in the road instead of towards the large house-looking thing.

La Chascona

October 17, 2010

For the past two months, Courtney has been studying absolutely everything about Pablo Neruda: his work, his family, his quirks, his political beliefs, etc.  The Tuesday after we got back from Santiago, she had a huge presentation to present on Pablo Neruda.  Naturally, we had to visit one of the homes of Pablo Neruda, La Chascona, during this visit.  (We couldn’t take pictures inside the home/museum, but I do have pictures of the garden and the patios outside.)

Neruda built this house for his lover and later 3rd wife, Matilde Urrutia.    Chascona is the Spanish word for unruly hair, and he named it this for Matilde’s unruly hair.  Initially, he built the house for her to live in, and to be a safe place for him to visit her. They later lived there together before moving to the Isla Negra.  The house is built in a sort of circle on the side of a hill.  Neruda added two additions to the original house including a library.  Sadly, most of the things inside the house are not originals to the house (they’re from the Isla Negra) because most of the original things were burned or thrown when his house was ransacked during the dictatorship.  Neruda was a communist and famous Salvador Allende supporter.  For this, the local police under Pinochet invaded this house, put all of his communist books on the bed and burned them.  So much was destroyed.  Some things were smuggled out before the police arrived, but a lot was destroyed.  They Pablo Neruda foundation has done a great job restoring the house as best they could.

The sea was one of Neruda’s favorite things, so the architecture inside the house and especially the top patio resemble characteristics of a ship.  There are large columns inside in the centers of the room like tall masts, and the top patio is shaped like half of a bow of a ship.  The main dining area is below the majority of the rest of the house just like how the sailors dine below deck on a ship.  The bedroom is above in a sort of look out area of the city.  The bedroom and top patio have a beautiful view of the Andes too.

Outside the house there is a concert or speech area.  Between the seats, there are cracks where water runs down to this large font.  I can’t explain it very well, but it’s a really neat idea, and again, very nautical.

At the end of the tour, several of the other guests got into an argument about what color the sand was at the Isla Negra.  Courtney and I decided that that would be our next adventure to see if the sand was actually black or not.

La Iglesia de San Francisco

October 17, 2010

I LOVE this tour guide book (seriously, invest in a good one before you explore a new country).  Did you know that la Iglesia de San Francisco is the oldest surviving colonial building in Santiago?  It broke ground in 1586.  That means it’s survived Chile’s earthquakes for 424 years, including the devastating and strongest earthquakes of 1906, 1960 and 2010.  Alongside is the Museo Colonial de San Francisco.  It was of course closed on a Sunday (seemed a little odd to us), so we weren’t able to go in.  Here are pictures of the outside though!

Parque de las Esculturas

October 17, 2010

Before Courtney and I left Valpo, we were trying to put together an itinerary for what to do in Santiago.  While searching for places on the web, I found this Sculpture Park or Parque de las Esculturas.  I have a fabulous tour guide book that has a great map and directions for how to get there.  It’s right by the Mapocho River in Santiago in Barrio Providencia.  The history I read about the place said that it was a very popular area that flooded from the area, and the buildings along the river were completely ruined.  To create something beautiful from all of the damage, they started a sculpture park with art by Chilean artists.

It’s a very local place, and not a major tourist venue at all.  There were lots of people staring at us taking pictures with all of the statues.  Of course, we did get a little silly with some of them as you will see.  There are many people who take advantage of the spaciousness and peacefulness of the park to go for jogs, bike rides, power walks or just take the pups out.

Directions to get to the Parque de las Esculturas: Take the red line to Los Leones, leave the station using the Providencia side exit, from Providencia take Avda Suecia across the river until Avda Santa María, hang a left, keep walking and you’ll see it.  Entrance is free.


October 17, 2010

It had been over 3 years since I had seen my good friend Patty.  She is this wonderful Chilean chica who studied abroad at my high school for a year, and we have kept in touch online since she left.  We have been talking since my first year in college about planning for me to study abroad in visit her in Chile, and now it finally happened!!

She studies veterinary science at the Universidad de Chile, and she is suuuuper busy with classes.  She is currently taking 9 courses this semester, and has exams nearly every other day.  It’s insane.  She is in class for probably about 9 hours a day, 5 days a week.  She will have no problems shifting into a full time job.  Her exam schedule in November is a little less demanding, so I’m hoping that we can go back to see her during that time.  While we were staying with her though, she was studying her 98 pages of notes on all of the functions of the liver.  She was responsible for all of the material for her test the following Thursday.  I can’t even imagine…

Patty met up with us at about 8:30 PM on Friday because it was the soonest she could get in to the city after class.  After that, we walked to her apartment to drop our stuff off before going out.  Her apartment is BEAUTIFUL!!  She shares it with her older brother Roberto who is a Spanish and history teacher at a high school.  He was super sweet and welcoming as well.  He answered our grammar and Chilean history questions we had.  He is very intellectual and considerate, and I’m glad he had time to spend with us on Saturday.

Friday night we met up with Patty’s pololo (boyfriend) Diego and a few of her friends and headed out to Crazy Bar!  We started out listening to a live band in one section of the venue where Courtney and I tried our first Pisco Sours.  They were a bit strong, but I still liked it.  After the band finished playing, they had a dj start playing some tunes.  So we started a dance party in the middle of the room!  After people got tired out from dancing, we went in to the karaoke area.  It was suuuper fun.  There was an older fellow in very good spirits who waved his arms and clapped to every fast song and got out his lighter for every slow song.  Later he got up and sang himself, and all the guys at my table sang along and cheered for him.  Patty and I sang one of the last songs of the night at about 4 AM, Juanes “Adios le pido,” one of my all time fav Juanes songs.  However, I forgot how fast that song is, and at 4 AM it was not easy to get all of the words out.  Patty sang beautifully though!  We left shortly after that, and I think the clock said 5 AM as I was drifting off to sleep.

We slept in the next day, obviously, and took our time eating breakfast.  Courtney and I had been under the impression that Patty needed the day to study, so we were getting ready to head out when she asked if we wanted to have lunch with her too.  While out getting some groceries, we also wandered to the Feria Santa Lucía and through a park.  We had “lunch” at about 6 that night.  Of course, we had to make cinnamon rolls for dessert, so Courtney and I didn’t leave until just about 8.  We made plans to stay at a hostel that night, so we said our goodbyes and headed out.

After leaving Santiago, we kept talking about everything we still wanted to do and how much fun we had with Patty.  I can’t let this be the only time I see Miss Patty while I’m here, so we will definitely be going back here before we leave in December.

Cerro Santa Lucía

October 17, 2010

We found Cerro Santa Lucía on Friday night, but it was closed by the time we got there.  We had some time on Sunday, so we went exploring.  It is a deeply historical place with Castillo Hidalgo, monuments, fountains, etc.  It also has one of the most spectacular views from any point in Barrio Central.  Courtney and I took lots of pictures overlooking the city and of the breathtaking Andes not too far away.  This is where the Chileans hang out on their weekends.  It was really great to see some place that is a local favorite too.

Directions to Cerro Santa Lucía: Take the red line to Santa Lucía, walk past the Biblioteca Nacional, take a left on Miraflores, take a right in front of Plaza Vicuña Mackenna (small park with a monument in the middle, go up the stairs and you’re there.  Entrance is free.

Santiago Centro/Central Santiago

October 12, 2010

This weekend my friend Courtney and I went to Santiago to explore and to visit my friend Patty.  We arrived 5 1/2 hours before Patty was to meet up with us, so we did some touristy things.  Look at the pictures, we definitely look like tourists too!  With backpacks and travel guide in hand, Friday afternoon we went to: Barrio Centro, Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda, and Bar Nacional 3.

El Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda is a cultural museum that is underneath the government building Plaza de la Ciudadanía, where the president of Chile works.  This is where we spent the majority of our time, and they had two special exhibitions inside.  On Thursday, I had just given a presentation on the folk singer/artist/poet Violeta Parra, and there was an art exhibit of her work at la Moneda!  It was so exciting to see her work in person!  They also had “Oro y Plata,” which translates to “Gold and Silver.”  This exhibition included metal works from the colonial period: Incan jewelry, indigenous instruments, crowns and tiaras, Communion cups and serving plates, old stirrups and bridles.  It was absolutely gorgeous!  I don’t think we were supposed to take pictures, but Courtney took a few for you to see some of the artifacts.  They also had two gift shops of hand made, Chilean artwork with information about how they are made on one of the walls.  There was a much shorter exhibit tucked away in a small hallway that was called “RE Hecho de Chile” or “RE Made in Chile” of useful products made from recycled materials.  We spent probably 3 hours walking through this museum, and I was thankful they had storage space for travelers to leave their backpacks and belongings.

After we were at the museum, most things started to close down around 6 or 7, so we just started walking around the neighborhood to get the feel of it.  We found the Biblioteca Nacional or National Library, but that was closing by the time we got there.  El Parque Municipal or Municipal Park had just closed, but we took some pictures outside of it.  We returned on Sunday to walk around inside, and you have to see pictures because it was one of the most beautiful places we visited.  We went to the Bar Nacional 3 for some tea/coffee and a place to sit.  In the non-smokers section there was a karaoke singer who was waaaaay too loud, so we weren’t really able to talk to each other.  He had a nice voice, but when he stopped singing, we both said, “Thank goodness.”  We were pretty exhausted by this time, but we managed to salvage some energy when we went out with Patty later… (read the next post!)