Saludos from Santiago Chile! I’m Hayley Folkard and I’ll be spending the fall semester of my junior year at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile studying Communications and whatever else they throw are me! I have been here for about 6 weeks now (I’m sorry it look me so long to write this, Stephen!) but I promise this won’t be a long and winding essay about my day to day activities! I’ll keep it short and sweet. I am living with a host family in La Reina which is a commune in Chile located in Santiago. I am living with a host mom and three host brothers aged 9, 13, and 16 so there’s always something going on! At any given moment there is either heavy electronic music thumping through every room of the house, reggaeton blasting from my host mom’s phone, or the background noises of Assassin’s Creed on full blast in the living room. Most of the time it’s all three at the same time! Sometimes living with a host family can be difficult because I live so far away from most of my friends in student houses but I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to be immersed in Chile’s culture in a completely different way than everyone else.
In these short 6 weeks I have fallen completely in love with this place and its people. Do you believe in love at first site? Because after looking up at the snowcapped Andes Mountains set in the foreground of a clear blue sky I fell hard. I am surprised that BC’s program in Chile isn’t more popular! I will definitely be taking it upon myself to advertise it when I get back in the spring! I have really gotten into the street food here and basically anything “a la pobre” (roughly translated to for the poor) which is basically anything with meat and potatoes. My favorite dish here also happens to be one of the most unhealthy, whoops! It’s called Chorillana and is usually eaten after many Piscolas on a night out. It’s a huge plate of fries with meat, sausage, onion, and two fried eggs on top. The toppings can differ and I’ve even had one with about a pound of cheese on top but I can safely say I won’t be doing that again! These dishes are meant to be shared but sometimes I get a little carried away…The rest of the traditional Chilean food for the most part is quite bland. Mounds of salt are added to everything and merken, a smoked chili pepper is used frequently to season dishes. However, they do know how to make a mean hotdog. They’re called “completos” here and if you ever visit ask for a Completo Italiano. Whenever something is Italiano is just means there’s mayonnaise, chopped up tomatoes, and avocado on top. You will never be the same. As for the desserts, manjar (dulce de leche) is added to absolutely EVERYTHING. And I certainly don’t hate it! One of my favorite things in Chile are probably the ferias which are HUGE markets filled with cheap fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices. I bought enough fruits and vegetables to last about a week and a half and spent no more than $8! I now feel guilty whenever I buy produce from a grocery store.
I told myself that I would try absolutely everything and anything in my first month here and not worry about how much bagged mayonnaise was put on top of it. It is now week 6 and my mentality is the same…But I don’t think twice about it! The day I regret a chorillana is the day I will quit everything and live in a cave. Life won’t be worth living! One of the other things that has taken a lot of getting used to is the metro. It’s actually incredibly easy and accessible but I always end up getting lost or going completely in the opposite direction! Because Santiago is such a huge economically booming city, the amount of commuters on the metro is unreal and it is almost always packed. With that being said, I love it. It’s awkward and it’s fun and whenever you’re on the metro it means you’re moving and going somewhere. It’s always an adventure!
The language barrier has definitely been quite difficult. From day one in my intensive spanish class at Catolica I was told that the Chileans do not speak spanish, they speak Chileno complete with new slang and tone of voice! During the 3 weeks in the spanish class we were taught Chilean slang and how to use it properly (although I’m not fooling anyone, it is very obvious that i’m a gringa- but proud!). I kind of had a leg up on all the slang because my mom is from Chile and I just grew up with some of the words. For example, “po” is basically used after every statement. “Are you hungry?” “Si po! I haven’t eaten since breakfast!” Or “Can we swing by my house before we go to the zoo?” “Si po, obvio!” It’s strange how natural this sounds to me now! One of my favorites is “catchai” which comes from the English phrase “to catch.” So it’s kind of like saying “do you understand?” “I need you to feed the dog today, catchai?” And just like every spanish word there is a conjugation! So you could respond “si, yo catcho.” I just love it. It’s like I get to learn two languages now!
Since I’ve been here I have spent a lot of time exploring Santiago but I also had the opportunity to go to La Serena and Valle del Elqui a few weeks ago which was about a 7 hour bus ride north of Santiago. It was unreal. Since Chile is so long and skinny it has this really unique and diverse geographic makeup. It really has absolutely everything to offer and I think that is what makes it so attractive to travelers. I am looking forward to traveling within South America but I am making Chile my number one priority, I want to see it all and eat my way through Chile’s mountains, beaches, and deserts.
I know a lot of people are already moving back to BC or preparing to move in and I am thinking of you all! Gotta admit, I’m a little jealous. Santiago may be my new leading lady but BC will always be my ride or die. And to all those abroad or preparing to go abroad GOOD LUCK. You will absolutely love it and I encourage you to always say “yes.” (unless it’s dangerous or you don’t feel comfortable of course) My motto here has become “por que no?” and I think that can explain the amount of french fries and manjar I have ingested. I am sorry this post was a little long, but I look forward to sharing all of my experiences (mostly the food) you with all! GO EAGLES!