With classes finished and my soccer season with the Chilean team I’ve been playing with winding down, not much has happened in the last week. So I don’t have a grand adventure to tell you all about or something that has radically changed my life in the last week. But as my program is about to finish, and I’m preparing to leave for my last trip in Peru, I have begun to reflect on all of my experiences here in South America. I know I have written a lot about the experiences where I have learned something about myself or things that have made me look at the world in a different way; but for this blog, I want to tell you all about the experiences that I now look back on and laugh. These are the experiences that I will bring back with me to the States and I’ll say, “That one time in Chile . . .” And when I’m with a group of friends and they ask how living in a foreign country was, these are the stories I will tell them.
(I’m going to call these stories los cuentos, which is the word for a small tale in Spanish.)
El Cuento 1: I was driving to one of my soccer games with my friend Jenny and her boyfriend, Felix, was driving the car. We were in a VERY old car, mind you, and it was having a hard time starting. About every 100 feet, Felix had to restart the car and I wasn’t seeing us getting to this game any time soon. I couldn’t quite figure out what Jenny and Felix were discussing in the front of the car but all of sudden Jenny turned to me and said: “Vamos.” So I got out the car, all my gear for the game in my hands, expecting to run to the nearest bus stop to try and catch public transport to the field. Jenny went to the back of the car, which confused me at first, but I just assumed that she was grabbing her things out of the trunk. But instead of popping the trunk, she starts pushing the car. Oh, so we’re pushing the car, I realize. I get behind the car now and start to push. After about 30 seconds of pushing I realize that we’re pushing the car to the nearest gas station about 3 blocks down the road because it’s not the car ignition that is bad, but rather that it has no gas! About 3 minutes into the push, a Chilean comes over to us and helps us start pushing. He doesn’t say a word to either one of us but just joins in. By the third block we are all tired and start looking at each other and laughing as we take turns to rest. As we push the car into the gas station parking lot, the Chilean man who was helping us says Chao and we thank him. Jenny looks back at me and in Spanish says, “Well at least we’re warmed up now.”
El Cuento 2: Speaking in a second language is bound to have its mishaps. From misunderstanding words to not having any idea what is being said, there has definitely been some funny situations I have found myself in. One of the most memorable though was one day after I came back from class and was eating lunch with my host mom. We were discussing what I learned in the class that day and I proceeded to tell her how I had had a lecture in children’s healthcare in Chile. She asked what the presentation was about and I told her how we learned one of the leading causes of death in children in Chile was cancer. “Qué triste,” she remarked. She then started to tell me a long, drawn out story that of course I couldn’t fully understand. She was pointing at the ceiling a lot and I thought she was saying something about her mother’s sister. From the few words I caught I thought she was talking about how her mother’s sister had cancer and was now in “el cielo” (heaven). As I tried to relate this to my host mom, she looked at me very confused. After several minutes of discussion and trying to clarify the story, I realized she was talking about the little girl that lived on the floor above us who had just been diagnosed with cancer. Well, that was a little different from what I got. I proceeded to tell my mom what I had thought she said. As soon as she realized how I had understood the story, we both laughed for about 3 minutes straight. Over the next couple of weeks, my host mom continued to poke jokes at me about “la tia que vive en el cielo.”
El Cuento 3: Early on in the semester, I went out with some friends for a spontaneous night of salsa dancing. I was having a great time dancing with some local Chileans and they were all super nice to me, teaching me the different steps of salsa. One of the guys I danced with, who was probably the only one within 20 years of age to me, seemed to really like me. He kept coming up to my table to ask me to dance again and again. He was really cute and I ended up giving him my number at the end of the night. When we walked out of the club though, I admitted to my friends that I hoped he didn’t call, simply because he talked so fast that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. A couple of weeks later, I noticed that I kept getting a call from someone in my phone named Frank. Not recognizing the name, I thought it was just a contact that had already been in my phone before I received it and that if I just ignored the calls they would eventually stop. One day when I was eating lunch with my host family, the phone rang again, and Frank’s name appeared on the screen. My host mom urged me to answer it and so I did. After about 2 minutes of me trying to figure out who the voice on the other side of the line belonged to, I realized that I was talking to the guy from the salsa club. We arranged to go out that night. However that night was Easter mass, which I had not realized would go so long. After the mass ended about an hour after I expected, I called Frank and told him I was too tired to go out that night but we could do it another time. The next day he texted me asking me to meet him in the metro just for like 15 minutes to talk. My personal red flags went up. This was strange that he just wanted to meet up (very late at night, I might add) and just “see” each other. I told him I couldn’t but every night for the next week, I received the same text. Each time I replied no, now very turned off by this guy and not wanting to hang out with him at all. Over the next couple weeks, I would continuously receive calls from Frank and even text messages that said “Llamame” (Call me.). After a couple weeks of not receiving any calls or texts, I thought he had finally got the message that I didn’t want to hang out. But no. A casual Tuesday, riding home from class on my bike, I heard my phone ringing for a solid 20 minutes straight. When I got back to my apartment, I checked my phone and saw that I had ten missed calls from Frank and about 3 text messages all saying “Llamame.” This was getting out of hand. I had a bit of a stalker on my hands and it needed to stop. Although I felt extremely rude, upfront, and quite honestly a little mean, I proceed to send him a text message saying, “No quiero pasar tiempo contigo ahora o más tarde. Para por favor. Gracias.” (I don’t want to hang with you now or later. Stop, please. Thanks.) He replied back saying, “Ok. Sorry.” I’m not translating this. That is exactly what he said. I never received another call or text message from Frank again.
El Cuento 4: One afternoon my friend and I decided we wanted to get out and go to the Pablo Neruda’s house that was located in Santiago. When we got there, we decided to take the tour in English, simply because the next Spanish tour wasn’t for another 45 minutes. We enjoyed the tour and afterwards my friend and I were standing at the front of the museum, deciding what we wanted to do next when a couple guys from our tour came up to us and introduced themselves. They told us how they were all traveling around South America, and we told them that we were studying in Santiago for the semester. We got to talking for a couple minutes and when we asked what they were doing with the rest of their day, they asked if we wanted to accompany them to a fair that they had heard about. We said yes, and continued to walk across the city with these boys. After a couple of hours, we found ourselves in a famous bar in Chile where they primarily serve a Chilean alcoholic drink called Terremotos. This place was unlike any I had ever seen before. The definition of a hole in the wall. The floor was dirt, the tables had food on it half eaten, with no waiters in sight to clear it off. We ordered drinks and since the place was so crowded (it was only 3 in the afternoon) we stood in a corner next to a half eaten order of French fries and empty plastic glasses. We were conversing with our new friends when a clown came over to us and asked if we wanted a balloon animal. Yes, you heard right. A clown. In a bar. We kindly declined. After about 2 minutes he returned, this time with a man dressed in attire that looked as if he had just come from a war in the 1800s. What was going on??? These costumed men continued to gush over me and my friend, telling us how “preciosa” we were. They asked how we knew all these men that we were with. We thought it would be funny to make up a story that two of the men in our group were dating. This freaked the clown and military man out and then continued to back away from us while still trying to converse with me and my friend. After we finished our drinks we had to inform the two costumed men that we were leaving. After many comments about how beautiful we were and many kisses on the cheek, we finally escaped from the bar. As we walked into daylight my friend quickly informed me that I had clown makeup smeared on my cheek. After wiping off the white cream on my face, we said goodbye to our new friends and walked home, reminiscing about the funny situation we had all just experienced.
El Cuento 5: Looking back on this experience, I would definitely constitute it as one of the strangest experiences I have had. With the same friend from the story above, we decided to go to a fair on the weekend that we had heard about. We weren’t quite sure what the fair was for but once we got there, we saw there was a lot of food, dance and music performances, and some traditional Mapuche ceremonies. The first strange thing we saw there was a hut in the ground where people would crawl out of, in tiny bikinis and covered in sweat. They would kiss the ground and start crying, hugging the people around them. Me and my friend, Nadeen, didn’t really understand and even asking a few bystanders what the scene was about, all we really found out was that it had something to do with the Mapuche culture. (The Mapuche are the native people of Chile). In the afternoon there was a workshop being held called Bio Dance and me and Nadeen thought we would check it out before we left. We walked into a crowded room where everyone was huddled in a circle. The teacher turned some music on and we started to walk around in a circle, smiling brightly, as she told us. Through an hour and a half class, I did some of the strangest things I have ever done, with strangers no less. For one minute I had a boy touch me all over my body, breathing on my hair and running his hands over my arms, legs and feet. I continued to do the same to him. The point of the exercise, I’m still unclear on. Another exercise involved the class splitting up into girls and boys and each of us bowing to each other to symbolize how we respected the other sex. At the end of the class we went around to everyone, hugging and kissing one another as if we were family and whispering in each other’s ears what we appreciated about one another. Having to tell a stranger what you appreciate about them, in another language, was quite a challenge. I would say things like your smile, your hair, your love. And at the end of every very awkward interaction, we would tell each other “Te quiero” o “Te amo” (I love you). Leaving the room, I felt very uplifted and like it was one of the coolest things I had ever experienced. Now looking back on it, I simply laugh and ask myself what I was thinking. What a strange hour and a half I lived where I was crowded into a tiny room with at least 35 other Chileans, kissing them and touching them. Whispering things in their ears as if they were my mother. What can I say, they’re a little more affectionate with strangers down here.
There are so many more cuentos I could tell you all, but this blog post is becoming very long and I’m sure you all are tired of listening. These cuentos, I believe are the real experiences that define my time here. They’re the times that although they may have seemed insignificant when they transpired, they are the things that I will look back on and laugh. I will look back and think, “Wow, I miss that time. I wish I could do it again.”