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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Santiago and the COPA Orientation

Yesterday afternoon I moved in with my host family. But to backtrack a little... I got to Santiago last Sunday and spent the day walking around. I went to this museum that had a really great exibit on pre-colonial Mexican artwork. Through email I had got in touch with another girl from the COPA program, Linda, and we met up for dinner. Linda is from LA and goes to Tufts. The next afternoon we met up and spent the day together walking around. We tried to go to Pablo Neruda´s house (one of three - they are in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Isla Negra) but it turns out that all museums are closed on Mondays (though all museums are free on Sundays so that is nice). We were hanging out at my hostal and started talking to this guy who it turned out was in our program to, his name is Zaks and he goes to Cornell. So the three of us had dinner and then I cancelled my second night at the hostal and went and stayed with Linda at a fancy hotel where she had a room that was already paid for. The next morning we made our way over to the hotel where we were supposed to meet the group for orientation. It was nice to already know three people (Linda, Zaks, and Catherine who goes to Bard) but everyone started to get to know eachother right away. There were 28 students at orientation and there are another 11 who we haven´t met yet who are here for a whole year so they have already been here for six months. So the first thing I find out is that we are all going to our host family´s house for dinner that first night. At 8:00 all the families showed up and everyone was looking around trying to recongnize each other from the pictures we recieved.

Paulina, my host mother came with her husband Jaime (who is not the father and also was not on my info sheet). Waiting for them I got really nervous but as soon as they got there and we got into the car I felt really comfortable with them. We held a conversation the whole ride to their house and I told them about my travels and my family and they told me about themselves. I felt really comfortable with my Spanish and although I was making thousands of grammer errors I could actually make myself understood. We got to their house and I met the daughters, Javiera who is 22 and Isidora who is 19 (she doesn´t live here but is around all the time) and Isadora´s boyfriend Marco. Paulina teaches at a school for mentally and physically disabled students, Jaime is and economist and a proffesor (and a musician on the side), and Javiera and Isadora are both university students. They were all so nice and welcoming. Also, they knew that I was a vegitarian and said that was fine and they don ´t eat a lot of meat anyway. I have been eating chicken and fish since traveling but I wanted to avoid red meat and this means I will be able to. So we had a very nice dinner and then they took me back to the hotel.

After one night of orientation at the hotel in Santiago, we went to Olmue which is a small town about two hours outside of orientation. Basically we just stayed in the hotel for four days except for when we had a tour of a local winery and when a couple of us walked into town. On the tour of the winery we stopped in an area that was just filled with eucaliptice trees. Everyone was so fascinated by the trees and the smell but to me it just looked and smelt like Berkeley and Tilden Park. Orientation was conducted exclusively in Spanish. Of course all the socializing was in English but otherwise all in Spanish. It consisted of sitting in a conference room for many hours a day learning some useful things and some not useful things. We had workshops on safety, culture shock, living with a family, chilean specific words and slang (including a whole half hour on curse words). We also got detailed information about the three universities where we can take classes and how to register. For those of you who are familiar with the crazyness of Bard registration, I think this will be like Bard registration but less organized and at multiple schools and in different parts of the city. The people on the program are all really nice and it was good to have time to get to know people. The only danger is that you end up only hanging out with them and not meeting any Chileans.

Yesterday orientation ended and our host families picked us up at the bus. When I got back to my house they had a bunch of friends over and we had a big afternoon bar-b-que which was nice. In terms of Spanish: if I speak I can make myself understood with lots of grammer errors, if they speak to me I can understand, and if they talk to each other I get very lost and catch parts of the conversation here and there but if I concentrate really hard I can get a general sense of what they are talking about, but not the specifics. All in all I would say that is pretty good for my first day and hopefully it will get better. Also, everyone but the mother speaks English so I can ask words if I don´t know them but it is also good because they haven´t spoke any English to me so that I can practice my Spanish.

I have the weekend free to get settled. Next week is orientations for all the universities and I have to figure out classes. Also, I created a Skype account. It is free internet calling so if anyone wants to talk to me you should download Skype and we can talk for free. It is not set up completly yet because I still need to buy a microphone but my username is sarifb. Also in the next couple of days I will be getting a cell phone so email me if you want the number.

PS Has anyone ever heard of underwater hockey? It is a sport that Linda started to play over her break when she was in LA and it is basically hockey at the bottom of a pool, it sounded crazy and I had never heard of it before.


At 8:21 PM, March 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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