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First Half in the Books: Thoughts and Ruminations

Dearest readers,

To the dedicated few of you that still exist, apologies for the lack of updates in recent weeks. I just finished a three-week stint out on the road, with the first week dedicated to the lush, wet, cold, beautiful, and intriguingly German-flared Chilean South, and the second and third to Peru, where I visited a rather well-known modern marvel in Cuzco (bet you can’t guess it), and did some canyon trekking in Arequipa. I’ll delve more into those adventures in the next installment! In any case, as your dearest gringo vagabond is officially reaching the 5-month mark as of Wednesday this week, I figured that some introspection and reflection on my time spent in this wonderful country was well-deserved.

In a nutshell, I have come to the full-on realization that, regarding just about everything in my life at this point, I am a very fortunate human being. I guess that’s what happens when you turn 23 years old smack dab in the middle of a 32-hour bus ride going through nothing but vast, endless desert; tiresome, restless, bored of listening to music, and finished with my one book, time to be pensive was certainly at my disposal.

First of all, my school is absolutely great. I’m starting to actually feel like an impactful teacher; yet, this impact has less to do with my students’ comprehension of the English language, and more with their excitement at just being present in my classroom (which, let me tell you, is much welcomed improvement from Day 1). I’m starting to take note that the whole experience of an out-of-towner like myself being in a classroom with a bunch of Chilean tykes transcends English language learning, and is more about a mutual exchange of viewpoints, perspective, customs, culture, and all that jazz. I’m starting to really forge some good relationships with my kids, almost to the point where I’m kind of already dreading the point where I will be forced to say farewell. Along those lines, as of late May, I have been conducting a weekly basketball taller, or workshop, where I teach the few and willing about the game, practice dribbling, do drills, run laps, play horse, around the world, and all of other forms of playground hoop. Fresh off vacation, we just had the first full day of classes today, and I must say that I’m beyond pumped for second semester!

Secondly, my host family has begun to feel like a genuine second family as of late. Going into this trip, I was initially keeping my fingers crossed for placement into a bigger family, as I thought it might be nice if there were lots of people around and always somebody to chat with.  But, being just one adolescent in the household with two adults has really benefitted me, first with forging a solid relationship with both of my host parents as well as forcing me to be diligent and just about always be in Spanish-speaking mode.

Lastly, with respect to my host pops, starting in April I managed to finagle my way into his asado club, known colloquially around these parts of central Chile as a “Club de Toby”. Basically, somebody in the group of about 12-13 people brings steak, sausages, or whatever to throw on the grill, while everybody else brings some sort of vino, whiskey, coke, or preferred beverage to sip on. In the meantime, it’s pretty much good ol’ fashioned fuckery at its finest, with everybody sitting around, ragging on the next person about nothing in particular, swearing in the most indecipherable form of an already incomprehensible regional dialect of the Spanish language, and enjoying one another’s company. I will definitely be exporting this ritual back with me to the States…

…which brings me to my last bit. Chile, as a country, is quite amazing. Amid it’s particularities and quirky qualities, it’s managed to carve out a rather unique identity among it’s Latin American counterparts. As i’m quite fond of this place, I thought it’d be handy to highlight some pros and cons, as well as some things from home that are seriously missing from my life. So, here goes:

Things i’m diggin’ so far:

*ASADO, or anything that vaguely resembles this blessed ritual. The Latin American equivalent to a back-home BBQ.

*Mate, or ‘Yerba Mate’, has become my principal beverage in recent months. Sipped through a metal straw out of a gourd with mate leaves and piping hot water. Especially clutch as the coffee here leaves much to be desired.

*Chilean music in general, with special mention to Cumbia, traditional folk, and rock.

*Choripan

*Cheap eats and booze (probably more of a perk of living in a small town more than anything)

*Valparaiso: after a dozen or so romps through this lovely little port city, I think it’s safe to say that it’s probably one of my favorite places on earth.

*Chilean Spanish, otherwise known as pura wea, which has been formed and established on a national level gradually over the past few decades, is really fun to speak once you get past the fact that it can be ridiculous sometimes.

Things i’m not:

*Street dogs. I’ve really tried to take it in stride, but the truth is, I still think it’s a pretty repulsive thing that the streets here are crawling with dirty, abandoned animals.

*Chilean food. It’s not too terrible actually, just a bit bland and sometimes repetitive (just to be sure, my host mom’s cooking is exempt from this bullet point!)

*Coffee. Nescafe’s got a monopoly on the Chilean market, without a doubt. Although I’ve warmed up to it quite a bit since I arrived, at the end of the day it’s still instant coffee (see below).

Things i’m missing from the PNW:

*THAI FOOD. Words cannot describe the unrelenting hankering I have for this heavenly cuisine. Not surprisingly, nowhere to be found in this country.

*Good coffee. At this point in my Nescafe existence, would definitely not mind a freshly-brewed french press with Stumptown hairbender.

*IPA. Although Chile really has a nice beer scene, and has a wide variety of good local and national brewers, styles and types are a bit limited. Missing those dark, unnecessarily hoppy, double-strong Northwest IPA’s.

*Last, but certainly not least, my friends and family! No description needed.

And…that’s all I got right now. More coming soon! Peace, love, and saludos.

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