A week in the life.

Ok, I know. I had these big plans of being a super-ambitious blogger and blogging every day in order to satisfactorily document my trip. And now here I am, Friday, having to recap the entire week. In my defense, however, our group has been kept extremely busy these last several days, as we are still in our “orientation phase.” I am hoping that come this next week, as I enter the “studying and living phase” I will actually be able to keep my blog current and even take some pictures. But now what’s done is done.

On Monday, we had our first CIEE classes. These basic introductory lessons to Valparaíso and Chile we take as an entire group during orientation, then come next week we will be splitting into more specialized courses that will remain with us for the rest of the semester. The two professors that led our classes were both really engaging. One of them is teaching the CIEE course that I want to take for the rest of the semester, so it was reassuring to know that not only do I like the topic of the class, but also the professor.

After class, I went with Coni, her boyfriend Camillo, and a few of my CIEE friends to get ice cream at an heladería called “Bravísimo.” It was heavenly. They have a really interesting ice cream flavor here called “lúcuma.” It is a fruit that is native to the sup-tropical, Andean region, and is super popular in Chile and Peru. Apparently, it even outsells vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream here, but that fun little factoid came straight from Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt.

Tuesday morning I woke up feeling nice and rested, after having fallen asleep watching The DaVinci Code (El Código DaVinci) in my house at 7:30, and then going to bed when it ended. Good thing too, because at 9:00 am I had to be at La Católica, the Chilean school that I am studying at. We had our orientation with other international students in a lecture hall, during which they basically just welcomed us to the school, and then we went out into a courtyard where we ate snacks watched a performance of traditional Chilean dancing. It was so great! During one, the ladies even balanced wine bottles on their heads as they danced. Very Fiddler on the Roof.

But, after having been lulled into complacency with food and entertainment, we were presented with a diagnostic exam to evaluate our language abilities. It went well, but as expected, I was confronted with many grammatical rules I haven’t really studied since high school. But, to my satisfaction, when I got my exam back Wednesday morning, I had done quite well and was told that based on my results and my speaking abilities I have the leisure of choosing whichever Spanish language class I want to take.

Wednesday afternoon, CIEE organized a scavenger hunt for us, which was not only fun, but also quite a workout – it involved walking all over Viña del Mar taking pictures of things on a list (such as a “completo” – a Chilean snack consisting of a hotdog topped with avocado, mayonnaise, and tomato), interviewing Chileans, and doing physical tasks (the “human knot” stopped our group in its tracks). In the end my group finished third (out of four…), but I got to know the area a lot better.

Yesterday, our group went on a tour with the other study abroad groups to see the various parts of the Católica campus that are sprinkled around Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. My favorite building that I saw was that of the history department, which my friend Maya described as “a Spanish Hogwarts.” The architecture is breathtaking, and I am definitely stoked because not only am I taking Chilean history classes but also because it is just right down the street from my house! Very convenient.

The highlight of yesterday, though, had to be our trip to Cerro Bellavista in Valparaíso – the location of one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses in Chile. The house, called “La Sebastiana” has been beautifully preserved and turned into a museum. Just like Neruda, the house was so unique and quirky that I don’t feel at ease describing it in this quick “recap” post. So keep an eye out for a post dedicated to Neruda and La Sebastiana coming soon to a computer near you. Hopefully, I will eventually get to see his other two houses (one in Isla Negra and one in Santiago) also.

This morning, I registered for my classes that I will be taking through Católica. I am taking three history classes about different aspects of Chile and Valparaíso, a Spanish language class, and a folkloric dance class! In addition I will be taking two classes through the CIEE program. I am really excited for all of my classes, and to make it even better, I don’t have class on Friday! Two thumbs up for long weekends.

This afternoon we have a CIEE activity that basically consists of hanging out at a cafe and talking about how we are adjusting so far, and then tonight my host brother is celebrating his birthday! So I will get to spend some good quality time with the extended family celebrating twenty years of Alonso.

¡Hasta pronto! (I promise this time.)

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