...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Not to delve too far into the depths of Too Much Information, but...

Remember last month when I was thinking about Where I Would Be In Two Weeks, and I was all, ´´Next time I get my period, I´ll have been in Chile for a while?

I´ve been in Chile about two weeks now, and I vacillate back and forth on whether it feels like A While or not. In some ways, it does. I´ve been in Valparaiso and Viña only ten days or so, yet I feel like I can pretty much find my way around, or that I know how to access resources (asking shop-keepers, my family, etc) that will help me find my way around. Ten days into college, I couldn´t even find Powell´s. I feel as though I´ve known some of my friends in the program for more than just two weeks--there´s something about being tossed into a completely foreign situation that breeds solidarity, I guess. But then, without fail, something will come up in the course of conversation that will remind me that we´ve only known each other for two weeks. Kristin, a friend of mine here who´s from Grinnell College in Iowa, and I were talking the other day and I mentioned in an off-hand sort of way something one of the kids at the Migrant Summer School had told me. She reacted with surprise and I realized that we had never talked about the migrant stuff. With my family, too, I feel both as though I´ve been with them for a long time (I feel very close to them and feel comfortable telling Ambar pretty much anything) and that we´re still sort of figuring each other out.

I´m here in Valparaiso with the organization CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange, or something like that). There are forty-three of us here with CIEE, from all different colleges and universities across the US. Of those forty-three, six of us are from Lewis & Clark: Carla, Julie, Mariah, Danielle, Alexis, and me. For some reason, I had assumed that we CIEErs would be the only international students at La Catolica, the university here in Valpo. Alas, it is not so. This week was the official beginning of the PIIE (Programa de Intercambio Internacional Estudiantil) orientation, with all of the two hundred international students who will be studying at La Catolica. There are students from several European countries, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, as well as a ton more students from the US who are here independently or through other programs. I think a lot of them have only arrived recently in Chile (not us! Having been here for two whole weeks, we´re experts) and need a lot of hand-holding. Yesterday all of us--all two hundred of us--went on a tour of the different department buildings that are scattered around Viña and Valparaiso, and by the end of it, I was feeling really irritable and anxious to separate from the group a little.

Luckily, the afternoon and evening went perfectly, better than I could have expected. Kristin and I walked to an awesome cafe that was at the top of Cerro Concepcion, one of the hills in Valparaiso. We had to take an ascensor to get to the top. The cafe had a bohemian, intellectual flavor, with postcards, vintage posters, and flags tacked up on the walls. It was like an independent cafe that you´d find in Portland. We had a great conversation about religion over a glass of wine (me) and fresh fruit juice (her). After going home and chilling with my family, and enjoying my host father´s excellent panqueques con manjar (thin, crepe-like pancakes spread with manjar, a dulce de leche kind of caramel) I went back into Valparaiso to meet the group at La Piedra Feliz for the Wednesday night jazz band. It´s the second week in a row we´ve met there on Wednesdays, and granted, we´ve only been in Chile for two weeks, but I hope we´re going to keep it up. I like having routines like that, things that I know I´ll be doing and can count on.

I´ll finish this long and rambling post on a kind of humorous note. On my way home last night, the colectivo driver told me that I looked ´´French. Or...Canadian. You look French Canadian. You know, like Quebecois.´´ I can honestly say that I´ve never heard that before, but okay, and I´m glad that at least one person couldn´t immediately tell that I was a gringa.