October 30, 2011 - 8:00 PM
This Thursday I left for Argentina to meet Sierra, a girl I met at my IE3 orientation. I ended finding a great deal and knew I need to take advantage of my two weeks off.
My first stop was Iguazu, Argentina. I left Santiago and had a three hour layover in Buenos Aires. I thought I had plenty of time so I leisurely collected my suitcase and made my way of the LAN airline counter to get my connecting flight ticket. I quickly learned that my ticket wasn't connecting since it was from a different airport! Buenos Aires has two airports and my other flight was from the other one! I had very few Argentine Pesos and wasn't sure how far away the two airports were from each other. I exchanged all the Chilean pesos I had and tried to get a taxi. I had about 140 pesos on me. The first taxis were asking for 230 to take me. I knew I could get a better deal, but really wasn't sure if I could get them to go as low as I needed. I couldn't find any ATMs close to me so I kept trying. I showed a group of taxi drivers my money exchange receipt so they'd know that was literally the only money I had on me so they wouldn't even bother ripping me off. I man said he'd take me and I'd jumped in his taxi. Right away I tried to reconfirm that 140 was enough. He was being very unclear and wouldn't give me a straight answer. I demanded he either accept or let me out. He kept driving and started saying he needed more. I should him my wallet to prove I didn't have more and if he didn't want to accept it than to return me and let me out. After a couple minutes of arguing he pulled over on the highway and started yelling at me to get out. At this point, I was freaking out. I told him it wasn't fair because I was clear with how much money I had and asked to get out at the airport. He just continued to demand that I get out on the side of a five lane freeway. I started panicking and luckily found 7 Argentine pesos in coins in the bottom of my backpack. They were left over from trip to Mendoza a few weeks ago. I begged him to accept 147 and after I started crying he finally agreed. We proceeded to not talk for the rest of the ride. The taxi ride ended up being an hour long and I made right in time to board my flight.
Iguazu is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life. The falls were absolutely breathtaking and the weather was so hot on the first day. We went on a boat ride and were able to get super close to the falls. Sierra and I were screaming in excitement the whole time were at the park. We were like little kids at Disney Land.
Later in the day we went on a ziplining and rappel tour in the forest. It was so nice to be out of a big city and in nature. Yesterday morning we returned to the falls. We were caught in a downpour. There was lighting and the ground was flooding. It made the experience even more epic! We went to Garganta Del Diablo (part of the falls) and were completely blown away. The stress I experienced in Buenos Aires was totally worth it.
After visiting the falls my friend and I BARELY missed our flight because of the huge storm. We were on a train back and it broke down and then when we finally got off there were no taxis driving so we had to pay a police officer to take us to the airport. Our flight ended up turning around anyway because of the weather. Then, 5 proceeding flights were canceled due to the weather. BUT here is when the problems got worse. Sierra and I were first in line to figure out what to do. We wanted to know what flight we were going to be put on and even just if we should just leave that night try to come back the next day to be put on standby. At that point we didn't really care which flight we'd be put on, but just wanted to know if we should leave the airport and get it figured out the next day. The LAN employee told us that we needed to wait because they were going to help other flights before ours. We returned an hour and a half later and were once again rejected after waiting in a two hour line. At this point we had waited three and a half hours. For the next four hours we were told many incorrect things including to get out of the line because they were helping other flights first. A LAN employee told us that it was all going to fine and they were going to pay for our hotel, food, and transportation as long as we kept waiting in back and not standing in line. Finally after being in the airport for seven hours we had enough and seeked helped. They told us they would put us on a flight three days later and wouldn't pay for anything because our flight was canceled due to weather issues and it wasn't their fault. The employee was confused why we waited so long to get in line and told us that our flight and even later ones got better tickets than us and were flying out as soon as possible.
We were also incredibly disappointed to find out were told incorrectly that anything was going to be paid for by LAN. We explained that we were told to get out of line several times ad she told us that she doesn't know why anyone would tell us that. At this point, we were very upset and demanding we get on a better flight. It wasn't fair that we waited longer (by at least 4 hours) than anyone else on the airport, but were the last to be helped. Finally, she told us that there was a chance we'd get on a 9 a.m. flight the next day, but we wouldn't know till later in the night. So, we paid another 100 pesos to return to our old hostel and paid for another night and waited eagerly by the phone. We were thrilled to receive the new that we could join the flight.
October 26, 2011 - 10:00 PM
This past week has been rather rough for me. Lately, I have been feeling like a nuisance for my host family. All four of us girls share a bathroom and the apartment is really small and I just feel like I am always in the way. I could be being paranoid, but I really don't think so. I have felt from a beginning that this was more of a business deal for them, but lately I have been really wanted more of a host family type setting.
On top of that, last week I saw a dog get hit by a car and die. Last week continued to get worse with more problems with my internship. Contact Chile wasn't able to find me any indigenous options. The two they have so far aren't really what I am hoping for. One is down south helping "tsunami victims", but every Chilean keeps telling me that they weren't even affected and that the earthquake and tsunami only hit Central Chile. So, I am not even really sure why that internship is an option. Currently, my only other choice is a homeless shelter here in Santiago. I think working at a homeless shelter here would be a really good experience; however, I have already done volunteering in the homeless community in the United States so I was wanting to do something different. I am hoping with a few more days another option will pop up.
This past weekend I went away with my friend Annie to Pichilemu, a surf town about three hours from Santiago. We both needed to get away from the city and the trip really left us feeling more positive. Pichilemu is tiny, but is bursting with character. The people are calm and the weather is warm. It was a perfect gettaway and we are eager to return.
Today I spent my last day at the preschool. I am truly so sad. It has been an amazing experience bonding with these children and watching them grow. It's crazy how you can see friendships form and children come out of their shell in such a short time. I finally know all the names of my students, which I never thought I'd be able to accomplish. They have started calling my "Aunt Chelsea" (or more like "Jealsie) instead of just "aunt". It makes me feel really good. I really feel like working at the preschool has taught so much about working with toddlers. It gave me more patience, strength, and a reassurance that I need to have a career with children.
October 16, 2011 - 10:40 PM
I had a really good day yesterday. I met up with a girl I have been talking to online. IE3 had made a Facebook page for this year students and I made a post asking if anyone was going to Chile. Two girls replied. Annie who is 25 years old and internship is in Santiago and Lindsey who is 23 and is in Concepcion. Annie and I met up for lunch today. We were joking about how it was a blind date because we had only talked on the internet. The day turned out really good. I immediately felt comfortable with her. She's super friendly and our sense of humor is the same. We ended up spending the whole day together going to different markets and getting ice cream. She is having problems with her internship too. It's not at all what she was told it was about and has experienced a lot of other issues with the program. She has to travel 2 hours just to get to work every day. I am worried that once I switch jobs I will have to do the same. Santiago is huge and it's likely I won't be placed near my home. To be honest, I haven't met one IE3 student that is stationed in Latin America who has so far had a positive experience with their internships.
Today Annie and I went out to a park and enjoyed the sun. We started talking about different travel plans for the upcoming weekends. We both want to see as much as we can while we are here. Next weekend we're visiting Lindsey, the other IE3 student I mentioned earlier. I will be nice to finally get to travel with someone. It's not that I mind traveling alone, it's actually really peaceful. It's kind of magical too; it's a liberating sensation being in a completely foreign country without anyone with you to comfort you or remind you of home. However, it will be nice to not have to everything alone like eating at a restaurant and have someone share this awesome experience with.
October 13, 2011 - 6:00 PM
I just had my second week of work at my internship. I am growing more and more attached to these sweet babies and forming stronger relationships; however, I have decided this isn't what I should be doing here. I am just frustrated because I feel like I paid a lot of money for IE3 to find me an indigenous internship or something that related to international relief and human rights, and that's not what I received. Even though the preschool is free, it is quite obvious the families aren't very poor. I could do this internship in any city, and really I could have found a better one that fits my needs for free. To be honest I haven't really had a positive experience so far with IE3. I was warned before that they are unorganized, but I really wanted to do an internship rather than study abroad. That's because I wanted to do something meaningful; however, with how things have turned up I think I would have been much happier in a study abroad program. I would be getting Spanish credits (which I desperately need) and right now I'm only getting 8 credits that go to my major. I do think it's ridiculous I am not getting Spanish credits. I haven't spoken a word of English since I have started my internship and moved in with my host family; however, I know many study abroad students speak English all day with one another and get a year worth of Spanish credits in one term. Also, I just feel like going on a study abroad program would be a lot more fun for me because I'd know other student to hang out with. I knew would be lonely going into this, but I thought I was going to be worth it because I'd be doing something meaningful. Doing something that helped others in need would make up for the fact that I was all alone.
I have kept a positive attitude while working this week. I truly do enjoy working at the kindergarten and will miss my student a lot. I plan to go back any day I don't have to work at my new job. I am nervous to tell the staff that I am leaving. I just am afraid it will be awkward and I don't want them to think I didn't enjoy my time there. I really do appreciate them giving me that opportunity. I go in Monday to ContactChile's office figure out what other internship options they have for me. There is a possibility I will be moving out of Santiago. If I want to work with Mapuche people then I will have to move down south. I told them that I am also open to any type of social work options in Santiago. It doesn't have to be Mapuche at this point. I kind of want to stay in Santiago because I am finally meeting friends and have heard about some cool housing options for next month here.
October 9, 2011 - 11:30 PM
This weekend I took a spontaneous trip to Mendoza, Argentina. I don't work Fridays and this Monday I don't have work because of Columbus day. I didn't have anyone to go with me, so I was a little hesitant at first. About an hour before the last bus left, I decided it would be stupid for me to not take advantage of this long weekend. My bus ticket was only about $20. I find it amazing I can go to another country for so cheap. The buses are nice too. Very comfortable with reclining chairs, serve food like a plane does, and have TVs. They can be chilly at night though.
My host family doesn't have a washer, so I have to take it to a company on the street. It's about $3 to wash a small load and another $3 to dry it. I decided I would only have them wash my clothes and just planned to hang dry them to save money. Unfortunately, since my trip was so last minute all my clothes were still wet. I wore them damp anyways because I didn't have any other clothes besides dresses, which I wasn't going to wear on an overnight bus. To my surprise three hours into the bus ride, I was woken up at 1 am to go through customs at the border. The customs happened to take place on the top of the Andes in below freezing temperature. The winds nearly knocked me over and I thought my damp clothes were freezing unto my body. I have never been so cold in my life. We had to hop off and on the bus a couple of times to have them do our paper work and then go through our luggage. In that moment I realized two things: that I made a huge mistake having my mom take back my winter coat and that I was going to take a returning bus in the afternoon. I actually learned from other tourists that a bus in the afternoon is an absolute must. The route from Santiago to Mendoza is famous because it goes through the Andes. I guess the view is incredible.
Overall, I would say this weekend has just been alright. Mendoza has probably been my least favorite city I have seen so far. The people are nice, the food is good, but there hasn't really been much that has really impressed me. It is cheaper than Santiago, so I have been treating myself to restaurants and souvenirs. I have just been spending the past few days walking around the city, meeting other tourists in my hostel (I have been staying in the dorm area which has about 5 bunk beds in one room), and went on a tour through the Andes about an hour outside of the city. Tomorrow my bus is at 7:30 a.m., so I will now get some rest before my long journey home.