By Caroline M., CE Adviser in Chile

My first meal in Chile: a sandwich called the Jarros Luco.
It’s named after a former president who just
loved his meat and cheese sandwiches. He and I have
that in common.

Well, 2 days of Orientation have passed without a hitch. The official name of this program that I’m doing is English Opens Doors (which will henceforth be referred to as EOD) and is put on by the Government of Chile, who is partnered with Cultural Embrace in Austin. The people running EOD are a fun group of Chileans, American ex-pats, and a delightfully random Kiwi from New Zealand. So far Orientation has consisted of several workshops on classroom management and lesson planning (which for a novice like myself will prove to be invaluable).

What wasn’t so fun was today’s presentation on health safety; although super informative, it had to address the nasty little subjects of earthquakes and tsunamis. For those of you who know me well, you know that I have a teensy bit of anxiety when it comes to storms/natural disasters… and when I say teensy, I mean a lot. As a kid, I was the paranoid freak wearing a football helmet while hiding in the hall closet with a handheld radio and a flashlight whenever there was a tornado watch. Turns out I never really got over it (I blame my mother for forcing me to go with her when she was trying her hand as an amateur storm-chaser). Anyways, needless to say that during today’s presentation I was a bit on edge. We were told that there are often earthquake tremors in the north, especially in Iquique – in fact, they had one 2 weeks ago (I think it was a 5.6). They tried to tell us that this was a good thing because it means that the earth is releasing its built up stress regularly instead of being quiet for years and going absolutely nuts like it did in southern Chile in February. Stay tuned for the blog that comes after I experience my first tremor: I have a feeling that I will have a hard time seeing it as a good thing then. They also said that there are several tsunami drills in Iquique over the course of the year without warning so that people will always be on their toes. The blog that I write the day after I’m woken up at 3 a.m. and told to run for the hills should be a delightful read as well.

The view from Melissa’s window of her new apartment.
Yeah, those are the Andes.

After Orientation I’ve been able to hang out with the girls that I’m rooming with as well as Melissa, my new friend from Mexico. Luckily, she was able to find an apartment that has an AMAZING view of Santiago (I’m talking postcard worthy). In our free time we’ve mostly been walking around the city while trying new places for meals and sightseeing – I feel like the blisters I’ve gotten from the countless miles that I’ve walked in my new shoes are necessary evils because I’ve seen a lot of Santiago and have eaten really amazing food so far. These Chileans love their meat; Texans can rest assured that they will feel right at home here (not to mention that their national flag is pretty darn close to the Texan flag).

Some of my new friends: Melissa (left) from Mexico and
Amanda (right) from Houston
Since I got here about 2 days before everyone else and have had some time to learn the streets of Santiago, I’ve been elected the unofficial city navigator among my little group of friends. I find this hilarious because I’m never the person who volunteers to carry the map and find out where to go; I’m a very content follower and leave the ‘taking charge’ role to my friends like Emily Quant :-). Even so, I’ve not gotten too terribly lost yet and I’m pretty darn proud of myself. I just can’t get over the fact that people keep asking me how to get places and I actually know… it’s the darndest thing. Also, while going through the streets of Santiago, one can’t help but notice the huge number of stray dogs wandering all over the place. Although this fact makes me pretty sad since it forces me to imagine my Buddy as a jaded little street-wiener, I am comforted by the fact that some dog-loving Chileans have taken it upon themselves to equip about 90% of the street dogs with their own little doggie sweaters so that they can stay warm – these are probably some of the most chic homeless pooches in the world.

Hostel living hasn’t been too bad so far; it’s no Holiday Inn, but it has free internet and hot water so I’m moderately comfortable. There are only 3 girls living with me in this little room and they are all super nice. Even so, living in such close quarters has some drawbacks. Since I know that I’m not someone who can sleep through loud snoring, I came prepared with earplugs. However, there is some snoring so thunderous that even earplugs can’t block it out, and because of this I’m about to take a much-needed siesta. 

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