Wednesday, December 26, 2007


it's been a long (but momentous) day.

it was cold last night and i slept with the balcony door open and froze. considering that i'm not feeling that great, it wasn't so smart. then i discovered that my roommate has eaten my food. and not anything like salt or rice or butter, but my cheese. my cheese! chileans do not have great cheese, so i forked over the dinero for alouette. and she ate it. i don't know how i'm going to confront her in spanish, but i have to, if i want my cheese from now on. i'll let you know how that goes.

then i was off to work. my commute consists of a three minute walk to the metro, about 30 minutes on the train including one line change, and then a 15 minute bus ride and a 10-12 minute walk to the house. it's not so bad, but the worst part is the dogs. there is a serious stray dog problem here, and packs of them roam all over the place (except for my neighborhood, which is nice). so usually, on my walk to the baby house, i pass at least 5 to 10 dogs. the trick is to not make eye contact. seriously. i know at least a couple of other volunteers who got chomped.

a couple of hours playing with the babies, and then the head tia asked me to get the car out. whoa - my first day on my own, and i drove all the way into providencia, which is about a 30 minute drive, to a hospital. my first couple of shifts into first gear were a little jerky (the tias were laughing) but the rest went really well. i was very proud of myself!

whenever i work the morning shift, part of the job is picking up lunch from another hogar. hogar esperanza is the name of the organization that runs two homes - one for older kids and one for the babies. the home for the older kids (casa grande) is not that far from the baby house, and they generally cook a lot of food - over 20 kids live there. so every day, someone from the baby house heads over to casa grande and picks up lunch. usually, it's pretty good. i've had mashed potatoes and tuna cakes, rice/mashed potatoes with fried eggs (that was not so great), spaghetti, stew with chickpeas and veggies, and today we had rice with grilled meat from the christmas fiesta yesterday. it wasn't bad. however, everyone puts mayonnaise on everything. mayo on rice, mayo on spaghetti, mayo on meat, mayo on corn. on everything. it's a little strange.

now, after three attempts to get cash from atms, i'm at a coffee shop close to my apartment, drinking fanta light and eating a donut. life is good. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

a few pictures

at the top: la feria - basically a crazy farmer's market. they're all over the city and they're awesome.

the andes, on the way to one of our institutions

my friend's neighborhood...

Friday, December 21, 2007


I thought a lot about families today. Here in Santiago, I have a "family" of sorts - for the most part, it's the other volunteers. But I also met a Chilean family on Sunday that I'll be hanging out with once a month to learn about Chilean culture and to experience life as part of a Chilean family. Marta and Luis are great - they have four kids, all teenagers or older. Our first meeting was a little awkward as they speak very fast Spanish, and I still don't understand much. She was babysitting a friend's 3 year old, and I mistakenly asked, first, if he was her son (she laughed), and then if she was a grandma (she laughed again). :)

Today was a good day at the baby house. Actually, this whole week has been pretty interesting. I've been driving around (not with any babies yet, because I still have to get my international driver's license), and it's been really good. I still have to practice on a hill somewhere, and figure out the handbrake trick, but other than that, I'm pretty comfortable with the stick shift. If anyone wants to buy a 99 Jetta when I get home, let me know...

So back to today - this morning I could tell something was going on. It turned out that two of the kids went to live with adoptive parents today. I know people that have been adopted, I know people that have adopted kids, but to be there, and to see it happen was so beautiful. I'm not sure how else to describe it, so I'll just leave it at that.

Hope you're all doing well - and getting ready to celebrate a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

diff'rent strokes

it's not that i didn't expect this, but i am slowly adjusting to things down here. for example, today i wanted to make spaghetti for lunch. but the lighter for the stove didn't work and i couldn't find matches. i couldn't even figure out which knob was turning on the gas for which spot on the stove. um, could have been a little dangerous. (like the time i tried to pull a burning piece of toast out of the toaster with a metal knife at the hostel. whoops!)

in the grocery store, when you buy produce, you bag it and then take it to a special man by the scale - he weighs it and slaps a price sticker on the bag for you (and mumbles something strange in spanish - i always smile and say gracias really fast, in case i'm not supposed to say thanks). i got all the way to the front of the line at the grocery store today and realized i had forgotten to do that for my lone onion. ugh...

and the laundry. i have two loads - light and dark. all washed with cold water, all dries on a rack. it's great - it goes pretty fast, but it's so different than home. no clothes dryer, no dishwashers, no air conditioning... i don't know how i'm making it!! *cue the melodramatic music*

and by far the weirdest thing is the terrible american 80s music they play in the grocery stores. lately, it's been a mix of that and christmas music - some in spanish, some in english. but the rest is terrible - mostly because i end up singing along and it's a little embarrassing that i know so many of the lyrics.

a couple of other things going on... i have had the weirdest issue with my sinuses/ears lately. it's like my ears have popped and i hear everything the same, even my own breathing. it's strange because it started on sunday, right before church and was the worst when i was in church. then i had it the past couple of mornings when i was at work - and it usually goes away in the afternoon. it's especially significant for me, because listening to people is so critical right now. especially at church :)

and, at the baby house, we just got a new baby this week (well, she had been in the hospital for a week or so, so it's the first time she's at the house permanently) and her mom had been an alcoholic. she has a lot of catching up to do, so please be thinking of her over the next couple of months!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the shakes

saturday afternoon, i had just moved into my apartment about three hours before, my roommates and i were watching tv, and the entire building started to shake. of course, i´ve never felt an earthquake before so i think it´s cool. my roommates started freaking out! the girl who was moving out is from california and she said it was the longest quake she´d ever felt. and we´re on the seventh floor of our building...

monday morning. i´m sleeping, it´s about six thirty, and the whole building starts shaking hard again! i bolted out of bed and into the living room, but my roommates didn´t get up. according to the news, it was a 5.4 on the richter scale... wasn´t as cool this time.

hopefully no more temblors...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

moving day

hurray! in a few minutes, i'm packing up my bags and moving to a new apartment. the hostel has been nice, but it will be great to unpack my suitcase. two weeks out of a suitcase is not okay. i'm living with three other chilenos in a nice part of santiago - and they only speak spanish. wish me luck. usually, i try speaking spanish to people, and they end up trying out their english on me. i stopped in a university the other day to ask about a student housing board, and the security guard took me to the english department. :)

my first week of work went pretty well. i was scheduled to be at two institutions on mondays and wednesdays, and unfortunately, ended up lost in the worst neighborhood in santiago between the two on wednesday afternoon. it was hot, i was tired, my toe hurt and i felt really sorry for myself and cried. then i finally found the institution and cried again when i told everybody what happened. so we made a couple of schedule changes and now i'm going to one institution to work with older girls on the computer on one day, and staying at the baby house the rest of the week.

the baby house is good - everyone in the neighborhood knows where it is, which is cool. the organization itself doesn't seem to be struggling, although i know they can always use extra hands and disinfectant for toys (the kids are always sick!). this week i worked with christy, another ve volunteer, and a couple of chilenos came in on different days to help out as well. the kids love everybody. when things get a little out of control, we watch barney and other kiddie videos. i'm learning a lot.

a chilean word of the day for you: bacan (with an accent on the second "a") it means cool...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

chilena (well, almost)

pictures - hurray!

every day is busy here, so apologies for the random posting. we had a despedida (going away party) for a volunteer on sunday afternoon, and by the time i got up and ready, went grocery shopping and baked cookies with Dana, we had to go and didn't get back until late...

so my first day of work was yesterday, and it was good, but busy. i didn't get to drive just yet, but you will all know as soon as it happens. i'm sure. i did visit a home where i'll be teaching girls about computers, and for the first day, we just walked around and got to talk to the girls. of course, they were playing volleyball, and i jumped in the game with flip flops on. not so smart... entonces, broken toe.

i'm still on the hunt for an apartment, looked at one last night and am looking at another tomorrow night. the travel times are crazy long, so i'll leave tomorrow by 7:30 and not get home until close to 10. at least they feed me well at the baby house... more on that later.

so here is the december 2007 class: quique, shara, logan, josh, dana and me. good lookin' crowd... :)

hope you're all doing well!

Saturday, December 8, 2007


only a few minutes this morning before we take off for a little repair project at one of our institutions... a few interesting things about chile:

- they clean the sidewalks (brush the trash/leaves away) with big palm branches
- the food is generally pretty bland (lots of rice/pasta)
- they add "po" to everything and it has no meaning, e.g., sipo, nopo, yapo
- they do not drink coffee, they drink nescafe (aaaahhhh!!!)

i start work on monday, that's when i'll learn how to drive... ha ha ha. please, cross your fingers for me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

days like this

We met with a director from Harvard today who runs a Latin studies institution here in Santiago, and talked about the Chilean education system, the political structure, gender issues - I guess you could say it was a crash course in Chilean sociology? Then we went to the park and learned Chilean slang for lame and whatever (fome y filo)... Tomorrow we visit an institution and have a party tomorrow night celebrating VE's fourth year.

There are times during the day that I'm a little lost or frustrated with the language, but I could not be more excited about being here. I walked to the grocery store this morning, just feeling thankful - for the opportunity to be here, for the beautiful weather, for whatever it was in my life that motivated me to come here, for the people who are supporting this, both here in Santiago and back home. The last few years have been better preparation than I realized...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


It's been a good first couple of days. Well, it's only been two days, it's beautiful and I get to speak a lot of English with other volunteers, but it's been a good transition...

Yesterday we had several presentations - a lot in Spanish - but I made it through. It's a good way to make yourself learn as fast as possible. We also had a scavenger hunt around the city (we'd actually walked a lot of it the night before) but it was still interesting. My favorite part was the top of Santa Lucia, which has a great view of the city. Well, actually maybe my favorite part is in the picture. :)

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Have only had a couple of "what am I doing??" moments so far :)

I met another volunteer in the airport in Atlanta, and we shared the plane down to Chile with a very large group of elderly folks getting ready to go on a cruise. Good times. I sat next to Raquel, a woman from Chile who now lives in Denver - she is visiting her son in Santiago, and was nice enough to help me stumble through my broken Spanish.

We got in this morning around 10, made it through customs with only one invitation to go dancing later, and now I'm sitting at Hostal Sammy having something to eat before we get in our room. Yes, our room. Six of us new volunteers in one room for the week. Fortunately, the hostel is pretty nice with a nice patio, lots of shade and free wi-fi.

And for all you Michiganders... it's beautiful. Flowers, sun, green leaves everywhere. It's hot! I'll post pictures soon...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Babies and learning to drive

So I found out yesterday that I'll be working with babies for the next few months - kids from a few days to two years old. The home is called Hogar Esperanza: Casa de Lactantes, and the goal is for each baby to be adopted. So excited - but here's the catch: part of the job involves driving the kids to preschool or to doctor's appointments. In a car with a manual transmission.

I don't know how to drive stick just yet (I've practiced a couple of times, stalling in McDonald's drive-thru, of course) - Christy, a current volunteer will teach me - but this is going to be interesting. I'm the girl you see on the road, talking on the phone, drinking coffee, putting on chapstick, reaching in the backseat for a CD, driving with her left foot up on the seat, because she clearly does not have to shift (or has no fear of accidents??). SO not happening in Santiago...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mi hermana

One person I will miss for three months. Lynn and I talk almost every day, live six houses from each other, borrow clothes, fight, have lunch together, laugh at each other and keep each other in check. I'll miss ya feef!

Monday, November 19, 2007


Less than two weeks. I don’t think I ever really thought I would do this, but yeah, I’m on my way. Working with kids in Santiago, Chile for a few months (at least) and adjusting to life in another continent, country, culture. Learning Spanish as fast as I can, and trying as hard as possible not to give in to the temptation to lapse back into English whenever possible. Hopefully traveling with other volunteers or friends, and experiencing life to the nth degree.

What will I do when I get back? I have no idea. Definitely have options, definitely have responsibilities in Grand Rapids, but nothing locked into place. I can’t predict how I will have changed by the time I get back, so in the words of my wise mother, I’m taking things one day at a time. Lord knows I understand that patience is a virtue… and besides, right now I’m still working on a packing list.