I guess it’s the thought that counts…

Today I went to the Universidad Diego Portales central library to check out a book. I went up to the front desk, checked my backpack as usual, and asked for the guest pass so I could get through the turnstile. They asked me for my student ID number, looked me up on a list, and cheerily informed me that my student ID had just arrived that morning.


I had my picture taken the first week of class, and I was told it would be ready in three weeks. They assured me they would send me an email when it was ready because I kept pestering them once a week for the first two months. Then I gave up hope and stopped asking. And now, with two and a half weeks until I leave the country, it finally comes in.


Oh Chilean efficiency, how I will miss you!


I am an Earthquake Survivor!

Yes! Just as I was starting to worry I would leave Chile without ever feeling the earth move under my feet I experienced my first tremor! I happened on Wednesday; I was working in the Universidad Diego Portales library on the fifth floor when I started to feel a slight shaking, as if a big truck were passing. The shaking continued and got a little stronger and the glass started to rattle in the window panes. It felt like when the car engine is idling a little rough. That was the worst it got, after a few more seconds it stopped.

At this point all of the Chilean students, all of whom had likely experienced the big earthquake of 2010, grinned at each other but then returned to thier work. I tried to blend in like it was no big deal but on the inside I was like

OMG cat

Now this is the point at which any of my Chilean friends who are reading this (Or anyone from the west coast of the USA) are like “Gringa, please. That wasn’t an earthquake, that was just someone’s Nokia phone vibrating!” But hey, it was my first and possibly only earthquake so I’m allowed to get excited about it. And don’t worry, in case somethign a bit more impressive than the little hiccup comes along internet cats have taught me exactly what to do:



Keepin it Classy at the Zoo

Yesterday was a really fun day.

First I went to the first class of Art, Museums, and Education at la Universidad Diego Portales. It was an excellent class; its super small (only 8 of us) and the professor speaks really clearly and is mindful of having 2 foreign students in the class (there is also a girl from Germany). For example he mentioned a traditional Chilean dish and made sure we knew what it was before continuing. His teaching style is really progressive, also. We spent the first class jointly constructing definitions for “Museum” and “Education.” I was really excited that the idea I volunteered (Museums are organizations that seek to promote cultural development in society) was incorporated into the class’ definition. It gave me a real confidence boost to feel like people knew I had intelligent thoughts and I could express them in Spanish.

After class I met up with some friends and we went to the Zoológico Nacional de Chile. It was tons of fun. The zoo is built on the side of Cerro San Cristóbal (St. Cristóbal Hill) and is part of the Parque Metropoliano. It houses over 1,000 individual animals spanning 158 species. They have several programs to breed endangered animals as well as one of the leading veterinary programs in South America. The zoo opened in 1925 and to this day is well known as an excellent educational resource.

After the zoo we stopped into the Plaza Bellavista, a very touristy little nook but with interesting artists and souvenirs.


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!

Meet my New Friend, Culture Shock

Oh boy oh boy was today a day that will live on in infamy. Today was a day of multitasking; I failed at all of my endeavors while simultaneously blaming Chile, Transantiago, several Chilean institutes of higher learning, pigeons, street dogs, my bed, the heat, and the Bank of Chile.

So my day started when I turned off my alarm  fell back asleep. Luckily I woke up just in time to throw some butter and jam on some bread, throw on some clothes, scrub my teeth, and catch the bus to the Metro Station.I dashed to the Metro station and just missed the train, so I had to wait a whopping 5 minutes but it felt more like an hour. I felt stressed and mildly irritated at the entire Metro system.

I hopped on, changed lines at Santa Ana, and rode the orange line to the Universidad Diego Portales. I had planned to go to the International Relations Office first to register for the class, but I didn’t have enough time. I got lost for a little bit inside the Communications and Literature building before I found the right classroom. The class before mine seemed to be wrapping up so I waited outside the classroom, but 15 minutes later people were still chatting and there was no sign of my professor coming to clear everyone out. When I finally asked, the professor told me that my class doesn’t start until Wednesday because Monday is the start date for first years only. Now I was feeling pretty annoyed, but trying to keep my cool.

I figured that since I was on campus I could at least register for the class, then my trip wouldn’t have been a waste of my Bip! card money. Except the nice lady told me she would be happy to make an appointment for me to speak with the secretary of the Communications and Literature department but she can’t actually help me. I left the building in a quiet, dignified temper.

I took the Metro back and noticed a bank next to the Micro stop where I catch my bus home. Perfect, I needed to change my last $50 USD bill to pesos. It was  busy, being 1 pm on a Monday, so I waited in line for almost 40 minutes. When it was finally my turn they informed me that only account holders can change money at this location, there was nothing they could do, so sorry, that’s policy, and no there isn’t a location nearby that could. In a calm and collected manner I took the next Micro home (which I felt was very behind schedule).

After I had some chocolate ice cream and a rest in my room I reflected on the day. Really, it had been a learning experience. Now I knew exactly where my class was and how long I need to get there, so on my actual first day I wouldn’t be so stressed. And I won’t ever waste my time at the Bank of Chile again.


What I think was really behind my anger and frustration was culture shock. The “honeymoon” period where everything is novel and awesome and cool is fading quickly, replaced with the distinct sensation that everything is backwards and wrong and inconvenient. I remember thinking things like “what a stupid system” “why would they do it like that?!” “why does everyone do everything so slowly!?” “would someone PLEASE speak some English?!”

I think I’m probably in for a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Maybe knowing that will help me cope, but I might just have to ride it out until I’m more adjusted. Wheeeeee!!!