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!

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT FOR THOSE OVER 21:

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!

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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!

The Leveling Out

Remember when I said culture shock is a roller coaster? The other day, when I posted all those pics of Stitch and pandas and toddlers having tantrums, was definitely one of those wicked  near-vertical drops. The kind of drop when you are screaming and you’re thinking “Oh, god, oh, god, I’m going to die on this roller coaster. I’m going to die of fear/spontaneous coronary combustion and they’re going to have to shut down the park so people in biohazard suits can pick my dismembered pieces off the track and future kids will dare each other to ride that roller coaster “the one that killed that kid, remember?”. It’s not a fun sensation, and during the experience you swear off roller coasters and carnival food forever. But then the track levels out, and you catch your breath and go through an awesome loop and roller coasters are your favorite thing again. Today still wasn’t a loop-d-loop day, but it was definitely a leveling off day.

Today I went to the first class of a course I’ve decided to take: Study of the Chilean Social Reality. The syllabus is  much like another course at the Universidad Catolica, except the Catolica class was full of foreign exchange students and this one only has me. I feel like I will get more value out of a class of actual Chileans as opposed to other Americans who speak English between classes.

After the class, I had an appointment to register for classes with the Secretary of Academics for the School of Literature and Communication, so I was able to register for both the culture class and a literature class I wanted to take. My literature class was scheduled during my appointment so I thought I missed the first day, but the Secretary told me the professor had called out sick so I didn’t actually miss it. Yeay!

Since I was done with class early, I wandered over to the art building so I could figure out where my classroom was for my Art, Museums, and Education class. I hopped on the Metro and went to the San Joaquin campus of the Universidad Catolica to drop the culture class there, but the Secretary was out so I have to go back another day.  I also wanted to register myself to get my Chilean identity card and number, which I need to formally register for my Science and Religion class, but it’s closed so I have to go in the am.

Incidentally, I think I’m really going to enjoy that class. The full title is really interesting in itself: Science and Religion, Thank God We’re Atheists. The professor is also very interesting and he speaks reasonably clearly so I think it’s going to be a very successful semester!

Poor Directions and Orientation at PUC

Today my relaxing weekend was over and I had to rise and shine nice and early to get to the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Hint: If you want to check out the website, there’s a link for English next to the search bar in the top right corner).  It was also my first time using public transportation by myself. It was a little daunting but I made it 15 minutes late. Turns out if you are going somewhere in the morning you should expect to take double the time it would take on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

For security reasons (this page is open to the wide world of internet people) I don’t want to use specifics on my route, so I’m sorry if this sounds a little vague. To get to where I need to be, I can take any bus that goes by the stop near my house because they all pass where I need to get off. Then I walk a few blocks, and then turn and walk some more blocks, and then I turn and walk some more, and then I turn and walk for much longer and then I get there! I reverse everything for the way home, but I need to make sure I take exactly the right color, letter, and number bus. I’m going to lie and say its the pink Z10 bus (doesn’t exist). That’s the only one that will double back to my house, the rest go elsewhere in the city.

The orientation was great, I got some really helpful information about professors and classes from the students there. Also the campus is gorgeous, check it out:

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After a hard day of orientation, I went home and dropped of my bag before going back out to charge my Bip! card, which was running low on funds. Only certain stores charge Bip! cards, and I knew there was a little convenience store not far away where I could do it but I couldn’t remember exactly the direction. So I set off, figuring my odds were 50/50 and if I didn’t find it I could double back and try the other direction. My neighborhood is really safe, lots of families outside with their kids and stuff so I wasn’t worried. I walked for like 5 blocks in one direction and realized that the store was closer than that, I must’ve gone the wrong way. So I turned around, passed the house, and went 6 blocks the other way. I still didn’t find it, so I stopped into the nearby pharmacy to ask for directions. The lady was very nice and pointed me down another road that runs perpendicular to mine. Off I went, 5 blocks that way. Nothing, excpet for this weird street sculpture:

I've heard of big insects in South America but this is ridiculous!

I’ve heard of big insects in South America but this is ridiculous!

There was a lady selling magazines at a kiosk so I asked her, she pointed me the other way down the street and take a right. Off I went again, nothing. This went on for like an hour of me systematically searching the five blocks around my house for this dumb store. In the end the gas station lady gave me the right directions and I found it.

This story illustrates an important cultural feature of Chileans: They hate to say they don’t know, so if they don’t know they will make it up. There’s even a common saying that translates to: “If you don’t know it, invent it.” But in the end, I got my Bip! card charged and went home with much better knowledge of my neighborhood than before!