Wine and Dine

Hola todos! Those of you following me from the East Coast of the United States (you know, all you wicked awesome New Englandahs, enjoying some clam chowda with Autocrat coffee milk while weathering another nor’easter) Chile has finally set their clocks back so our clocks have synchronized.

I had a very fun weekend considering I have an 8 page literary analysis due May 6th hanging over my head.  Well, Friday was spent holed up in the library of the Universidad Diego Portales researching for said analysis so that wasn’t very fun. But Saturday and Sunday were pretty great!

On Saturday we had a trip to Viña Viu Manent in Colchagua, about two and a half hours from Santiago. As a vocabulary refresher, a viña is a vineyard. Yes, I know I’ve already posted about visiting a viña but I’m in Chile, therefore there is lots of excellent wine to be sampled!

Our visit included a tour in a horse drawn carriage of the grape fields and a tour of the distillery, where we got to try a red wine directly from the tap of an enormous steel tank. We were shown the machinery used to harvest, separate, and juice the grapes and our guide explained the new eco-friendly procedures the vineyard employs such as recycling the skins and stems of the grapes to use as fertilizer.

Next we were told we would have a chance to make our own wine! We broke into two teams and were given measuring cups, art supplies to make our brand label, and four wines to mix: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Chardonnay (also plenty of crackers and water!). Hilarity ensued while we pretended to know what we were talking about as we tasted and mixed the wines. My group invented the label Las 3 Montañas, and I will upload a picture after my friend sends it to me. Sadly we lost to the opposing team’s label Vio Austin. The prize for each winning team member was a bottle of regular Viu Manent wine as well as a bottle of Viu Austin; the vineyard people reproduced their mixture and also reprinted their label design which was really fun!


You can buy Viu Manent wine in Massachusetts from Bayside Wine and Spirits in Avon, Massachusetts! ¡Cómpralo y disfrutalo! (Buy it and enjoy!)

On Sunday, I enjoyed the extra hour of sleep from moving the clocks back an hour and at noon met up with a group from CAUC (Student organization of the Universidad Cátolica that helps foreign students socialize with chilean students). The event was a cooking workshop, where we had an excellent time eating sopaipillas and learning to make empanadas.

Sopaipillas are a kind of fried dough with pumpkin or squash in the dough. We had it with pebre, which is a kind of salsa made with tomato, onion, garlic, and herbs. They are traditionally made and eaten on rainy days, and are delicious!

Next we learned how to make empanadas, a sort of large dumpling wrapped in a pastry-like dough and fried or baked. Empanadas are a staple in the Chilean diet, and can be purchased on every street corner with a wide variety of fillings. We learned to make the most traditional empanada, pino, which is filled with beef, onions, raisins, black olives, and a hard boiled egg and baked.

If you want to make your own pino empanadas, they’re super fun and easy to make and I’ve linked to a recipe here.

Besides making and eating the food, I had an excellent time socializing and talking with the group. There were three Chilean students from CAUC, a woman from Spain studying for her doctorate in Chile, four students from France, and my gringüita friend and I. We talked about everything from the political systems in our various countries of origin, favorite foods, our living arrangements in Chile, and more. It was lots of fun and great multicultural experience!


How to take a Shower in Chile (with some Famous Chileans and make-believe swearing)

So an important aspect of living somewhere and getting along with the locals is not stinkin’ up the joint with your smelly people odors. Another important aspect is knowing a little bit of the cultural history, such as notable historical figures. To save time, I’ve combined the two. Presenting:


In which I pretend to curse but actually use the names of notable Chileans from history. You can click their names to view their Wikipedia pages, or I’ve tabled them below for quick reference.

  1. Light the Michelle Bachelet-ing heater.
    1. Unlike in most of the United States, the water heaters (or calefón) in Chile are lit by hand as opposed to being always lit, to save on gas which is very expensive. Usually the calefón is mounted on the wall in the kitchen, but in some older homes it may be in the bathroom. This is a Francisca Valenzuela terrible idea because they can emit carbon monoxide if not ventilated properly. But if it is in the kitchen or similar open space, there’s no problem!

This is our calefón, lit and ready to heat my water!

    1. To light the actual calefón, you adjust a slider and hold down the button to let some gas build up. Then you usually press another button to create an electric spark, but ours is broken so we use matches. Once the little flame inside is lit, you adjust the slider to how hot you want the water. For dishes or clothes it only needs to be a little warm, but for this shower you want it Joaquín Toesca hot, so slide that little Bernardo O’Higgins all the way over!
  1. Get your stinky Arturo Prat in the shower!
    1. Now you´re going to need to hurry the Snooki up (Yes, unfortunately I did say Snooki. Turns out she’s actually not Italian, but Chilean). Because utilities such as gas and water are so Gabriela Mistral expensive, it’s best to keep showers brief.
  2. Dry your Quintrala off, put on some clothes, and turn off the Luis Pardo calefón.
  3. Don’t forget to hang up your Violeta Parra towel to air dry, since electricity for the dryer is also expensive!

I hope that you found these directions to be informative and amusing. I couldn’t think of any other way to make directions for using a water heater more interesting. Here is a list of the famous Chileans I listed for your enjoyment

Name Dates of birth/death Famous For…
Michelle Bachelet September 29, 1951- First female President of Chile
Francisca Valenzuela March 17, 1987- Chilean-American singer/songwriter
Joaquín Toesca 1745-
June 11, 1799
Architect who designed the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral and the presidential palace, el Palacio de la Moneda
Bernardo O’Higgins August 20, 1778-
October 24, 1842
Considered one of the founding fathers of modern Chile.
Arturo Prat April 3, 1848-
May 21, 1879
Navy officer, considered a national hero and appears on the 10,000 peso bill.
Snooki November 23, 1987- Born in Santiago and adopted by Italian-American parents, famous for being the first Chilean Oompa Loompa to escape from custody.
Gabriela Mistral April 7, 1889-
January 10, 1957
First Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, currently appears on the 5,000 peso bill.
La Quintrala 1604 – 1665 Aristocratic landowner, noted for her extreme cruelty, accused and tried for over 40 murders.
Luis Pardo September 20, 1882-
February 21, 1935
Captain of the ship that rescued the survivors of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s failed Antarctica expedition.
Violeta Parra October 4, 1917-
February 5, 1967
Internationally well-known folk singer

Valparaíso and Vina del Mar

<importexcuses>Sorry for the delay in posting about my adventures on Saturday but I had an obnoxious number of photos to edit and upload, plus homework and such.</importexcuses> On Saturday we met up at the IFSA office and piled into a bus at about 9 am for the hour and a half or so ride north to Valparaíso, a bustling and historic port city on the Pacific ocean.

Valparaíso, affectionately called “Valpo” , has a unique and interesting history. It was never formally founded, it just pretty much happened informally as sailors made settlements. While it no longer holds the title as Chile’s most important port it maintains its old traditions and fascinating culture and in 2003 was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Affectionately referred to as “Little San Francisco” by international sailors, the city sprawls over about 42 hills, making walking around an excellent workout for the calves and thighs! You can pretty much see the sea from anywhere in the city, and the salty sea breeze was a welcome change from the smog of Santiago. Residents actually often refer to the capital city as Santi-Asco (asco=gross).

We started our day by picking up a guide, a friend of our program coordinator, and taking a bus tour through some major streets to the house of Pablo Neruda. Wait, I thought she said that Neruda’s house was in Santiago? I’m glad you’ve been paying attention, reader! Pablo Neruda owned several houses in Chile and abroad. His house in Valparaíso is called La Sebastiana, and he didn’t really use it much except to watch the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks. The house’s architecture was inspired by a conch shell, and the house winds up a center staircase to a tower study. Photography is prohibited inside of Pablo Neruda’s houses, so I only have exterior shots and pictures of his view, which is stunning. I’ve linked here to the website for the house which has some pictures if you’re interested. We enjoyed an audio tour of the house, which was moderately interesting, before piling back into the bus.

We drove to Valpo’s historical district, where the bus dropped us off so we could take a walking tour. The streets are all made of cobblestone that was used as ballast in the many ships that visited the port. Houses in the historical district have to be built or restored in the iconic style of the golden era of the city. They are built with wood or plaster and then faced with sheets of metal to insulate them from the cruel sea wind, winter cold, and summer heat. This metal was also ship ballast, so it was a plentiful raw material. Right away the bright and diverse colors of the houses catches the eye; traditionally ship captains that built houses here would paint them to match their vessels. This area is also full of hostels, restaurants, antique shops, and swanky hotels.

Besides the brightness of the houses, the entire city seems to be a canvas for street artists. Any unclaimed wall seems to have been taken over with gorgeous murals, carefully transcribed poetry, and funny doodles. Walking through the city is like walking through a free open air modern art museum.

Once upon a time, funiculars were the main mode for residents to get up and down the city’s steepest slopes. Now only 15 or 16 remain in operation, and we took one down to the seaside to meet up with the bus and have lunch. Funiculars are hard to explain, here’s the Wikipedia page on them if you don’t know what they are (I’m like 99% sure the picture on the Wikipedia page is the one we rode!). We ate lunch while gazing out at the mighty Pacific and listening to the chatter of tourists from the cruise ship that was docked nearby.

After lunch, we heading down to a dock and were treated to a boat tour of some of the waters off Valpo on a motorboat I’m pretty sure was called the S.S. RinkyDinky but was perfect for our little group. After being away from the sea for so long it felt so nice to be back on the water again. We got to see wild sea lions from about 6 feet away (in Spanish they are called Marine Wolves) as well as a few penguins and pelicans! We scooted by some huge navy battleships (which we were not allowed to photograph) and I saw a diver scrubbing barnacles off the hull, much to the delight of the sea lions that were eagerly splashing about and gobbling them up. We were waved at by people relaxing on a cruise ship that towered several stories above us and workers on a freight ship enjoying lunch.

Back on terra firma and back in the bus, we endured a 10 minute drive to Vina del Mar. We visited the city’s iconic Reloj de Flores (Clock of Flowers) and had a photo op, and then went to a little cafe right on the beach where we could sip coffee and tea and watch the massive Pacific waves crashing down on the sand. Some of us were a little too entranced by the majesty of the waves, and my shoes and socks were baptized in the aquamarine waters of the world’s largest ocean. Now I’ve been in two of the world’s oceans! (SPOILER ALERT: The Pacific is just as wet and cold as the Atlantic, and equally as unpleasant to have in one’s shoes).

Sadly we could not linger for long on the sun-kissed shores, by now the Reloj de Flores read 5:30 so we piled back into the bus and most of us slept all the way back to Santiago. If you are ever in that neck of the woods I highly recommend spending at least an afternoon in the beautiful cobblestone streets of Valpo.  I leave you with a slideshow of my photos and a lovely poem by the very same Pablo Neruda, titled Ode to Valparaiso.

Ode to Valparaiso
By: Pablo Neruda
Translated by: Laney SullivanWhat nonsense
You are
What a crazy
Insane Port.
Your mounded head
You never finish combing your hair
Life has always surprised you
Death woke you
In your undershirt and long underwear
Fringed with color
With a name tattooed on the stomach
And with a cap
The earthquake grabbed you
You ran
Broke your fingernails
It moved
The waters and the stones
And seas
The night,
You would sleep
In the ground
From your sailing
And the furious earth
Lifted its waves
More stormy
Than a tempest
The dust
Covered you
The eyes
The flames
Burned your shoes
The solid
Houses of bankers
Like wounded whales
While above
The houses of the poor
Into nothingness
Like captive birds
Testing their wings

You forget
the tears
and you return
to hanging your dwellings
to paint doors
You transform into a boat
Your are
The patched bow
Of a small
The crowns nest
With foam
Your rope lines that sing
And the light of the ocean
That shakes the masts
And flags
In your indestructible swaying

Dark star
You are
From far away
In the height of the coast
And soon
You surrender
Your hidden fire
The rocking
Of your deaf alleys
The naturalness
Of your movement
The clarity
Of your seamanship
Here ends this ode

So small
Like a cloth
Ragged in a Window
In the Wind
of the ocean
With all the pain
Of your ground
The dew
Of the sea, the kiss
Of the wild angry sea
That with all of its power
Beat the rocks
It could not
Knock you down
Because on your southern chest
Is tattooed
The struggle
The hope
The solidarity
And the joy
As anchors
The waves of the earth.

After our lovely little cruise

Ghost Tour of the Cementerio General

So on Friday night I went on a nocturnal tour of the Cementerio General with CAUC, which is a student organization through the Universidad Católica to help exchange students make friends and have cultural experiences. You may remember my post about the Cementerio General, the second largest cemetery of South America (Click on the blue text above for a refresher).

The tour started at 9:30 pm, well after the sun had set. The group was fairly large, besides our group there were many Chileans and other tourists so all together we were about fifty people. Our tour guide was an excellent actor who wore a hunchback costume and walked with a wooden plank as a staff. His character was an orphan who grew up and grew old in the cemetery, and he was hilarious, as much a comedian as an educator. I learned much about the cemetery that I would never have known about from visiting on my own.

For example, he told us the tale of the undertaker who was working late one night to seal a fresh tomb when he heard a strong thumping from within. He quickly got out his chisel and cut away the newly spread cement, and when he opened the casket the newly interred “dead man” jumped out, bruised from banging on the walls of his casket but otherwise fine. The guide raised his finger and sternly reminded us that when we lay our friends and family to rest, we should therefore always make sure their cell phone is bien cargado (fully charged).

He also told us about the man who was in a coma when his beloved wife passed away. When he awoke, he was told she was buried in the general mausoleum. He ran up and down the halls, searching desperately for her final resting place. Overcome with grief and despair, the threw himself off the fourth floor to his death. Our guide tells us that to this day his ghost walks the halls, a black shadow who often fills visitors with sadness, panic, and anguish. Our guide then told us we would be embarking on a ghost hunt to try to find this wandering spirit, and so we were asked to turn off all of our lights and we walked through the near pitch-black halls of the huge mausoleum. Cemetery staff members were lurking to jump out, touch our hair, and generally be terrifying. I hated this part, having a phobia of haunted houses, but if you are someone who likes to be scared in the dark it is right up your ally.

We visited the animitas of La Novia and La Carmencita, as well as the graves of some well known singers and writers. We also visited the graves of the unknown dead, assassinated as political enemies during the first days  of Pinochet’s dictatorship and to this day buried without names, two or three to a grave, under a sea of crosses.

At the end of our tour, our guide showed us the most humble section of the cemetery, where the poor lay their dead to rest under crumbling stones, but with flowers and makeshift canopies. He reminded us that the necropolis reflects the metropolis; the dead are laid to rest as they lived, with means and grandeur, or without.

I don’t have any pictures since my camera’s flash is about as useful as a glowstick on a foggy moonless night in a dark cave with a blindfold on, but you can click here to see my flickr album of daytime pictures.

Tomorrow I will post about my adventures in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, I have SO MANY pictures that I have to upload and edit first. Until then, thanks for reading and ¡Hast Luego!

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You!

Hey followers of An Abby Abroad! Here’s an inspirational quote for you:

“Your imagination is your preview to life’s coming attractions”

-Albert Einstein

Actually, Einstein never said anything of the sort. That was a lie. What is not a lie is that very soon I will post about my adventures in the Cementerio General and also in Valpariso and Vina del Mar. I will tell you all about my encounters with sea lions, the Pacific ocean, ghost stories, unidentified bodies, Pablo Neruda’s other house, hills, funiculars, and much more. But right now I am exhausted so expect several posts in quick succession at some point tomorrow after I finish my pile of homework.

Thanks for reading and ¡hasta luego!

Modern Art is Just Wierd

¡Hola! I’m sorry that it has been a while since my last post. My classes have started to pick up speed so I’ve been slightly pressed for time lately as I try to keep up with all the reading that comes from taking classes in the humanities field. I have a literature class, a culture class, a religion/science philosophy type class, and an education/art class. My poor highlighters! So much reading!

I did manage to carve out some time this weekend to visit the park at Quinta Normal with a friend of mine in the program. The park itself is gorgeous. It features a pond where you can pedal boat and look at ducks, many fountains, and several museums: the Chilean National Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, the Science and Technology Museum and the Railway Museum.

We took a stroll over to the MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo/Museum of Contemporary Art) and that’s when things got weird. At least I think modern art is pretty weird. Sometimes I think its actually just a contest between the artists to see who can be wierder. Getting in was super cheap for students-only $800 and free with a Universidad de Chile student ID, which I don’t have yet. Its a fairly small museum but worth the visit. There were several of these small rooms with black curtains over the doorway and it was always a little bit terrifying to pull back the curtain to see what was inside. Especially because the first curtain we came to opened into a tiny pitch black room with a projector showing nightmarish laughing clowns with pointy teeth. After that, you get a little thrill of terror every time you pull back a curtain.

Here are the pictures I took, again to see more information just click the full screen button in the bottom right hand corner and then click show info at the top of the screen!


Semana Santa and Día del Joven Combatiente

¡Hola a todos! I just finished up a delightful long weekend in which I was really busy doing pretty much nothing. Well, I hung out with my host brothers and played a ton of video games with them and put off my homework. Fun!

My long weekend actually started on Thursday. Classes were scheduled, but my program director and my professor recommended I stay home because of the Día del Joven Combatiente. This day, celebrated on the 29th of March, commemorates the murder of the Vergara Toledo brothers Rafael and Eduardo in 1985 during Pinochet´s regime. Whereas most commemorations of this kind are peaceful and involve candlelight vigils, el Día del Joven Combatiente is traditionally recognized with violent clashes between students and police, often resulting in destruction of private and public property, fires, power outages, and many arrests. This year at least two cars were incinerated with Molotov Cocktails and 8 arrests were made. These events occur at night and are concentrated around Estacion Central, which is luckily a long way off from me. Because the 29th fell on Good Friday this year, the ¨festivities¨happened on Thursday the 28th. To play it safe I stayed in the house all day Thursday, as I recommend any other foreign student to do.

Good Friday was also spent in the house, not for any external factors other than there being nothing much to do since everything was closed. I spent some time with my host grandma, a lovely woman affectionately called ¨La Cuka¨by the boys, no one knows why.

Saturday was pretty lazy too until the evening. I attended a Catholic mass at a little church with some friends, which was interesting because I am not Catholic but have attended some Catholic masses during my brief stint (incarceration?) in a private Catholic high school. Seeing the similarities and differences between the two experiences was very interesting. The church had this awesome statue of Jesus that seemed to be floating off the cross on the wall, I was fascinated by it

After the mass, which ended earlier than advertised but still pretty late, we decided to get a bite to eat so we walked over to La Jardin, an awesome little restaurant that you would have to see to believe. It was absolutely gorgeous, not over-the-top expensive, but you did pay a little extra for the atmosphere. The food was fantastic, I split a shrimp salad and four cheese pizza with my friend and it was delicious. According to my friend´s host parents, the owner of this restaurant is a rich guy who travels the world starting restaurants and incorporating elements from all over the globe in them.

Click here to see pictures of the place, you really should it is GORGEOUS

That´s all the semi-interesting news I have for now, I will keep you updated as usual! Chao!