Diana Spulber Santiago
Bienvenidos a Chile! The past few weeks have been full of beautiful scenery and radical changes. It started out at a preprogram organized by Notre Dame, where we spent two weeks learning about Chilean culture and practicing our Spanish at an ex-seminary located in rural Chile. This place was so rural that we did not have service for two weeks! On top of not being able to check the 100 emails we receive on a daily basis, it was worth it to be able to form strong friendships with all of the Notre Dame cohort and to reconnect with nature. Most of our activities such as classes, dancing, and cooking took place outside since it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. With lush vegetation and views of the mountains, the time spent there was very good for the soul.
The best part about the pueblo we were in, Vilches, was that it was in the foothills of the mountains. We took a trip one day to see a waterfall called the “Invertible Cascade”. The strong winds common in the area will blow water from the river upwards so that the waterfall appears to be moving backward. Unfortunately, this was not the case when we visited, but it was still cool to see nonetheless. The nature in Chile is incredible; from Patagonia in the south to the Atacama desert in the north, there exist all different climates and vegetation. My favorite thing about the landscape in Chile though is that no matter where you are, you can see a mountain range in the distance! Dorothy this isn’t South Bend anymore.
A large portion of our cultural education was dancing. The first dance we learned is Chile’s national dance, the cueca. Partners dance around in a circle following certain steps while spinning a handkerchief in the air. It is extremely fun and not super hard for those of us that are slightly uncoordinated. Another dance we learned was the flamenco (even though it is Spanish not Chilean?). I had no idea that the focus of flamenco is actually on the hand movements, not the feet. There are also two different types of claps apparently? Either way, very bacán (Chilean slang for “cool”).
After a few weeks, we migrated over to Santiago, a city with a population of 5.5 million. It is a very different vibe from rural Chile. Traffic jams exist at all hours of the day, the buses decide not to show up on time, and walking in 90-degree weather results in profuse sweating. Since I have never lived in a city before, it has been a big adjustment for me. There is a constant noise that does not allow for peace and quiet. Although there are some parks and trees scattered around, the city is overwhelmed by tall gray buildings. The vastness of Santiago means that you have to take the metro to get anywhere. However, the city is great because of all the activities available. Parks and museums are free, there are more malls than are needed, and every night has a different concert. Last night we went to a concert for a songwriter named Manuel Garcia. His show explored Chile’s history and culture; he sang about the Revolution, communism, the culture of the countryside, feminism, and what it means to be part of Chile’s youth. Music was an incredible medium to share these themes with us.
That’s all for now, but more updates very soon. Chau!