Harper Cleves | Santiago, Chile | Post 2
Maldichos y Memorias
I have learned something new every day in Chile. I suppose that this is true at home, and at Vassar as well, but I feel like my learning here has been more pronounced, and more deliberate.
And while, of course, I have done a lot of learning in class, most of my learning has happened outside of the classroom.
Sometimes these life lessons are just silly. For instance, apparently a lot of mistakes Gringos make in Spanish are of a sexual and/or vulgar nature. A lot of us have learned this the hard way. Phrases like, estoy lista (I’m ready) and estoy acabado (I’m finished) can convey sentiments entirely different than those which you are hoping to convey. Saying me gusta to your host mom, can imply that you have a crush on her, which can be an interesting miscommunication to navigate (this happened to a friend of mine!).
Also, it is considered excessively vulgar to ask someone if you can “use” the bathroom, because you are explicitly stating that the toilet will be involved in your visit to said bathroom (um, duh). Instead, it is polite to use the word pasar in all bathroom-related inquiries. Pasar implies that you are just passing through el bano. Sure, the toilet is in there, but you are just checking things out–washing your hands, powdering your nose, giving yourself a little self-guided tour of the premises. Chileans like there to be an heir of mystery in their bathroom experiences.
Mistakes like this, which happen on a daily basis, can be frustrating, but mostly they are just hilarious. I have definitely had to learn to give myself space for imperfection, and laugh at my errors. Many of you probably knew me when the idea of “laughing” at my errors was absolutely inconceivable. I was the kind of kid who cried when she lost a game of Monopoly, got a question wrong on her math homework, or (my personal favorite) unraveled a whole scarf when she realized her cousin was better at knitting than she was. Learning to shake off HORRIBLE miscommunications and go with the flow has been a huge growing experience for me.
I have had to learn to be flexible not only with my expectations for myself, but also with my expectations for life in general. As much as I try to pretend otherwise, I am a creature of habit. At home and at school, I develop very set routines that I hate straying from. I like to eat certain things at certain times. I have pretty regular schedule for running, relaxing, and sleeping. I try not to impose this schedule on others, but I definitely adhere to it myself. Here, I have had to learn to expect that every day is going to be a little different. As a foreigner in a new country, and a new culture, I cannot expect to live the life I lived at home. I have given up being a vegetarian for the sake of this trip. I eat the food I am given-which, while sometimes weird, has been really fun! I have had more mayonnaise, french fries, and chicken than I could ever need or want, but I have had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, and a lot of good conversations because I have been willing to try everything once.
This is not to say I have been a perfect low maintenance traveler-not in the least! I have basically avoided mayonnaise completely since a weird incident with mayonnaise soaked salad. I sometimes get cranky and irritable when I can’t run when I want to, and I definitely miss my schedule. But my attempt at being flexible has been really valuable for me.
I still have so much to learn. I am only beginning to delve into the complexity of the education system, and I am not sure if I will ever be able to really understand the struggle students and teachers face here. I will also always be learning about the social and political tensions that have developed as a result of a dictatorship that ended twenty years ago. These are topics I am going to have to continue to explore, and write about at a different time.
But I am exceedingly grateful for everything I have learned here-for all of the humorous, silly, uncomfortable, frustrating, sad, and life-changing moments. Not everyone gets to go on journeys like this, and I consider myself one lucky gringa.
And now for some unrelated photos!
Sometimes, you just really miss your food staples at home, and have to buy peanut butter, and greens en masse.
My friends and me posing in front of a weird, moving, foam dispensing, spherical object that was a part of the Lollapalooza festivities.
Chorrellano: a lunch composed of a MOUNTAIN of fries, fried egg, onions, and steak…this was rough as a former vegetarian, but also kind of delicious.
Taking a break between shows at Lollapalooza, Chile! This was SO fun. I saw Cage the Elephant, Phoenix, Ellie Goulding, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Portugal the Man, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, and Lorde!
Our last Spanish class! Our teacher, Mabel, was the sweetest and most adorable woman on the continent