...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

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! VIVA CHILE!!!

September 18th, this Sunday, is Chile´s independence day and it´s a huge deal. There are flags and red, white, and blue banners everywhere, people are selling guaso (Chilean cowboy) hats and outfits on the streetcorners, and the radio stations are playing cueca music. Just today, before I came up to the computer lab, there were people in traditional guaso costumes dancing the cueca, Chile´s national dance, down in the cafeteria and waiters walking around with trays of empanadas and these delicious shish kabobs whose name I don´t know. It´s so festive and beautiful. I´ve never been in another country on its independence day and I´m really enjoying seeing all of the national spirit and pride. It can go overboard, though--Rocio, a Chilean friend, told Kristin and me on Saturday that all Chilean families are obligated by law to display a large flag in their house and that the carabineros, the Chilean police force, conduct random inspections and fine families that don´t comply.

CIEE, my exchange program, is taking advantage of the long weekend (Monday the 19th is a national holiday, and a lot of professors cancel classes Thursday and Friday, too) to take all of us to La Sirena, a port town about seven hours north of here. I´m so excited! We´re going to visit Vicuña, the birthplace of Gabriela Mistral, one of Chile´s two Nobel-Prize winning poets, a pisco distillery, and a famous observatory. La Sirena is famous for having the clearest skies in the world and a ton of astronomical research is done there. I´m sure they´re not going to let us look through the really heavy duty telescopes, but in my tour book it said that even with the lower-powered ones you can see Saturn´s rings. The next day, I and some other students are going to visit some islands a couple hours further north and the National Humbolt Penguin Reserve. I can´t believe that we´re going to probably see dolphins and penguins at the same time, both in their natural habitats. I love this country!

Some friends and I are going to stay in La Sirena until Monday, to take advantage of the opportunity to do some other things in the region. Like, apparently the desierto florido (the flowering desert) is in bloom--it´s an unpredictable natural phenomenon in which, due to heavy rains in the previous year, all of the seeds that have been lying dormant in the desert for years burst into bloom, all at once. It´s supposed to be incredible, and I hope we have the opportunity to check it out.

To round out this upbeat post, I have another piece of good (and suprising) news: I found out on Monday that I got the highest grade in my Chilean and Hispanoamerican Literature class on our reading test a couple weeks ago! I´m happy but flabbergasted, because I seriously thought I failed that test. I was so surprised when the professor announced the grades in class and I found out that I got a 6.7 (out of 7.0). And that was out of all the students, including the Chileans. It´s pretty reassuring and makes me feel like I know what I´m doing here after all.

Since I´ll be travelling, probably no updates for about a week. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!