It's been almost 2 weeks since I arrived here in Chile.
Language is a daily challenge, but I can definitely feel it getting easier to speak and understand. It is difficult, though, because Chile is so isolated (physically by the mountains) and this has caused a distinct difference in the language they speak here. They have endless amounts of slang that only they understand, and many of them speak terribly fast and don't feel the need to pronounce the words fully. These things combined make Chile one of the most difficult places to learn Spanish. (wish i would've known that before!) But on the bright side, I've also been told that if you can understand "Chilean" Spanish, you can understand Spanish anywhere.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted at the Airport by my host parents, Marjorie and Juan. I quickly learned that I was the 3rd exchange student from the US program that they have hosted. My host mom was eager to tell me a few stories about the previous 2 girls living with them. She also layed down some house rules almost immediately after my arrival. A few of them were:
- Keeping my room tidy (though she makes the bed and vacuums it daily)
- Not coming home from partying too late (coming in past 5am would be pushing it, but some people don't come home until 10am)
- No boys in my room
- I have to tell her where I am going/where I will be at all times.
If there were any more rules, they were lost in translation. (My mom here is one of those people that speaks way too fast, uses lots of Chilean slang, and has terrible pronunciation.) For an North American girl who's used to living on her own and making her own rules, this is definitely a change of pace. I'm not used to having to check in with anyone but myself. But in Chile, it is common for children to live with their parents past high school and they usually don't move out until marriage. This was the case with my host sister, Macarena (absolutely one of the sweetest people I've ever met). She is 27 and she lived at home until she got married 3 years ago. She still only lives less than a mile from us, and often comes over for lunch and dinner. Although I love and appreciate my parents VERY much, I still value my independence and thank them for raising me to be strong and capable of taking care of myself.
My mother, Marjorie may be a bit tightly wound, but she has the best intentions, and can be very sweet. And my host dad, Juan, is super easy-going, very kind, and likes to laugh a lot.
When it comes to meals and eating, both of my parents wait on me hand and foot. They set the table, prepare and serve the food, pour hot water for my tea, and definitely won't hear of me clearing my own dishes, much less helping to wash them.
As far as weather goes, they are just finishing up their winter. It's not nearly as harsh as the midwest winters I'm used to, but it is still quite windy, cold and rainy. Last wednesday we had class from 9-12 and it was pouring the whole time. By the time we got out of class, the university was flooding and we had to cross a street filled with so much water that it came up to my thighs. It was fun at first, but the cold made it miserable after a while.
As far as school goes, I have 1 class monday, 1 on wednesday and 3 on thursday. That leaves friday open for exploring on long weekends! I've made some pretty good friends already with some people in my program, and almost everyone is a blast to hang out with. A few of my american classmates and I are already planning a trip to Chillán, 2 hours northeast of Chile. We plan to stay a few nights in a cabin and go snowboarding and visit the hot springs there.