My Chilean Adventure: A Few Days of the Week

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As I’m falling further behind in my updates I’ve decided I’m going to put a few days into the one post…

Classes continue and we’re being to speak slightly more confidently, however, there’s a long way to go. The day is long but broken up into sections with a lovely long break of lunch where we all get together and practice…or in my case become more frustrated that I can’t seem to understand everything instantly. But hey ho you don’t want to listen to Spanish classes you want to hear about the city, the buildings, the colour, and the various escapades we’ve gotten up too.

Over the next two days we were welcomed with walking tours of Valparaiso. These were our first chances to explore the city as a group and we were a bundle of energy (surprisingly after our long day of brain jumbling Spanish). Catching yet another terrifying bus, which was a feat with all twenty something of us….we basically took up the entire bus.

The First Walk:

Our first tour took us up a steep furnicular, and I mean steep! As someone scared of heights my stomach clenched looking up this incline. But once at the top the views of the city were completely worth it. Colour surrounded us, with the Pacific ahead and hill filled with colour behind us. The sun was shining, reflecting off of our surrounding and put smiles on our faces. There is an almost Caribbean feel to the houses and small enclosed streets. I somewhat expect to hear music pouring from open doors.

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Valparaiso is known for its street art, and we were in for a treat walking through its open air museum. As we turn around each corner we’re blown away by more and more.

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The scale of everything is enormous, not small tacky graffiti but large calling cards for artists. The art seems to have meaning, there are tales within it, the strokes and spray. I could’ve woven so many tales from the portraits on the houses. Many dislike the use of graffiti, this is s common feeling throughout the world, but here it brings life to a city that would otherwise look very delapidated.

As the tour comminuted to wind down the hillside; to my small legs it felt like a mountain, we made our way to Valpos port. Here we boarded a questionable looking boat to view the city from the Pacific.

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The boat trip lasted around forty minutes and silence hit the group (which is a rarity for us). We all became engrossed in the sights of the sun setting behind us, casting a hazy light over the city. Watching the fading sun tuck Valpo into bed, the lights would flicker into life shielding the city from eternal darkness.

It wouldn’t be a night in Chile without our trip to the beach, however, this evening brought a new edition to our monotonous evening tradition. We managed to gain three four legged companions (dogs). Chile is known for its stray dogs. In South American countries and many others throughout the world dogs and pets aren’t views as members of the family as they in others, therefore families tend to tire or get bored of their pets that either don’t make a good guard dog or they’re simply not interested anymore. As a massive dog lover I can’t help but want to take every single dog home and love them, it’s as though they know this here and we seem to find some following the three of us home. As wen continued on out thirty minute journey from the beach to our home stay, we gained another two. Saying goodbye to our new fluffy friends was hard but we managed it…only to be followed by even more the following day.

Walking Tour Two:

Our second tour took us to the Pablos Neruda’s house, a noble prize winning poet. His house overlooked the whole bay of Valporaiso, and the museum had been left to represent how it would have looked whilst he lived there. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any photos within the house but believe me when I say the views were amazing, and I would’ve killed to have lived within the walls of his house.

As the house was set upon yet another of Valpos many hills we wandered back down to view more brilliant art and colour.

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The stairways are one of my favourite parts of the city. I’ve hit a point of disappointment when the stairs don’t tell a story or radiate colour beneath my feet. Through these tours, whether with a guide or silently speculating the walls surrounding you it is clear that Valporaiso is a city with many tales to tell.

My Chilean Adventure: Touch Down Day One

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So if you’ve previously read my ‘Chilean Adventure’ blog posts you’ll be up to speed with the goings on of my latest travel exploits, if you haven’t I suggest you go read them, I won’t be recapping, far too much more to divulge.

Sunday proved a delightful first full day in Chile, we went for a walk along the beach and dipped our toes in the Pacific, had cocktails and watched another sunset. This was the first moment we all came together as a group, three members of the trip flew out on the Saturday so we were joined by them in the evening. The beach has proven a popular spot where we can all talk and relax, get to know one another, and practice our Spanish.

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The Pacific

Another bonding technique of ours was to go for happy hour cocktails; and boy do they free pour in Chile. Back home a single is 25ml, here I reckon it’s half the glass! After a daiquiri and mojito we were all very merry.

Heading back lack to our host family, Yana and I settled in nicely to a family meal of tachos (they were more like fajitas) the food was lovely and soon some Chilean wine was flowing and we tried the local aperitif, Pisco. Again the spirit filled half the glass and after one I said Buenos Noches and headed off to bed.

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Viña del mar

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Viña del Mar

Monday morning, early Monday morning, brought University. Our host accompanied us on the petrifying bus journey to Valparaiso; the buses here don’t adhere to normal bus rules, they’re super small and speed, nor corners, matter.

Looking up at the university though I realised, I’m basically going to school in Hogwarts. The architecture is spectacular. The building s were built in 1933 but at a glance you would assume they’ve stood astride the hill for centuries.

After taking a walking tour of the grounds we finally made our way towards classes. The rooms were freezing, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the walls built for hot summer weather. As we all bundled up, scarves now being used as blankets and jumpers being wrapped warmer we began with our culture teacher; Felipe.

Now as he strode about the class, waving his pen as though it were a sword added to the fact he has a goatee and a fringe that does the whole Loreal flick he was quickly labelled the fifth musketeer. Soon though the faces of the class changed from smiles to confusion, frowns growing, and the what’s app group exploding with various quips about the tangents our musketeer was going off on.

While the class ended with confusion, we were met with sun and the sea as we walked out of the campus towards the buses. While day one of Spanish may have been confusing, Valpariaso proved to be a beautiful city. Our host took us up a funicular where we could see across the port town towards Viña del Mar. The frigid air only added to the tranquility of the evening and I could have stood on the hillside gazebo for hours watching the city move and breath.

Valpariaso by night

Valpariaso by night

Chilean Adventure: Time to Travel

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The day arrived, actually let me rephrase myself, the days have arrived. Leaving my lovely apartment in London, home, I set off on my adventure to South America. I begin with a smile, a suitcase and my backpack, this smile may disappear in about five hours.

Meeting up with a few others that are heading off to Heathrow we sit and nervously wait for the tube to chug along as we conjure up images of Chile within our minds. I wring my hands, and check, double check, and triple check that I have my passport and my pesos. I’m unsure whether I’ve remembered to pack my toothbrush but who cares I’ve just checked in, wandered through security and am ready to depart for stop one;

Oh how I love airports, I’m always there early and I sit in my seat and watch. I watch everyone, I conjure lasts and futures for them. I decide where people are traveling and why, and I lose myself to my imagination until the moment I sit aboard a Boeing. Once this moment arrives the shakes begin. I’m a nervous flyer, one of the downfalls of my brain. I’m usually thankful for the ability to conjure great images for me to write, now though, now I wish I couldn’t even think. As the flight rumbles and moves I try to not let the tears fall. I am not a flyer, it is unatural to be so high above the ground and I all I can see is this piece of metal hurtling towards the ground, or perhaps the ocean.

After we touched down in Amsterdam, the short but horrifically turbulent flight made me question hopping on the next 18 hour flight down to Buenos Aries and across to Santiago. After a few hours in the airport though and a pep talk from a few members of the group I manned up and waltzed onto the plane, sitting down and immediately watching The Longest Ride (a nice Nicholas Sparks film would get my mind off of the  flight). Once the film finished the travel tablets kicked in and I was out for the rest of the flight, well the majority of it until my bum got too numb and I needed another movie kick (Ratatouille this time).

As we drew close to our final destination the Andes appeared and they took my breath away. From the sky the view was beyond beautiful, perfect and peaceful.

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This was one of the best welcomes to Chile. Having landed and headed through the airport into the new unknown I was met with crisp autumnal air. Immediately I smiled. Having made it through the 30 hours travel, the three plane journeys, and immigration. I was met with air and sky as clear and clean as my home in Scotland. This was a delightful change to the smog of London.

Traveling another couple of hours we made it to our host family. Luckily I’m sharing a room and host with Yana, a Bulgarian girl fro, University who’s direct and spunky personality immediately made me feel at ease and calmed the nerves of our arrival. Speaking no more Spanish than Hola I feared the welcome and realised soon they may grow tired of my single word, however, the family are lovely and Yana helps as she too is learning from scratch (even if she is picking it up super quickly).

To end our first day on Chilean soil we wandered five minutes to the beach where we stumbled onto the Pacific. Our arduous journey was rewarded with yet another view meant not for words, hence why I can only describe the views in pictures.

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My Chilean Adventure….. Pre departure

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I suppose that the best place to start would be the beginning, while this may be unoriginal it fits in quite nicely as a way of easing you into my many tales of Chile, and the adventures of the amigos.

My Univeristy, Greenwich, sent out an email roughly a month ago saying that ‘any interested in studying an intensive Spanish programme in Chile were to fill out the application form and sign up.’ Sat at home in Southampton, visiting my family and having a moments respite from the big smoke, I thought should I? Could I? Is this the right type of trip for me?

The truth is, as many of you who follow me on Twitter or Insagram know, I’m a traveler. My blood sings for adventure and the discovery of far away cultures, cuisines, and accents that don’t scream Britain. So the thought of South America, Latin, Hispanic, and so completely new to me made me rush to download the application, fill out all the forms and write a 500 word essay as to how I thought the trip would benfit me.

While my first thought was adventure this question asked me to think about the language, Spanish, and why did I want to spend twelve days learning it intensively. This led me to a quote by Nelson Mandela; “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Before I left High School, in my final year before university, my English teacher told me this and it wasn’t until this moment that I thought ‘I haven’t actually done anything with this piece of advice’. So thus my essay explained how I wanted to begin basic Spanish to have a foundation of throwing away ignorance and bringing forth knowledge, allowing me to speak to the hearts of those from the new cultures I seek and the adventurous travels I hike.

Having succeeded with this stage and my impulsive application I found myself sitting opposite two others who grilled me with questions as to why I wished to be on the trip and what made an applicant they should be interested in. It’s safe to say my answers secured me a place on the trip as an hour later I was told that within a month I would be saying hasta luego London and buenos dias Santiago!

Students Union President Interview

The new President has arrived….No not that one! Harry Hodges has recently been named as the new Student’s Union President after months of campaigning and subsequent elections. Sat now, opposite me, he is cool and collected; comfortably positioned in his chair and a far different Harry to the one that had to deal with elections only a month ago.

Starting from the beginning I decided that we needed to get to know Harry before he talks us through his Presidential ambitions. Harry hails from Devon, in the South of England, and came to Greenwich University to study Psychology, always having been a member of the Student’s Union he decided, in his final year, to actually become a volunteer officer and this is where the interview begins.

When asking Harry why he chose to join the Student’s Union as an officer a couple of years ago, he explained his love for working to help the students. His role then was Equality, Diversity and Disability Officer (President is a breath of fresh air compared to that lengthy title). Harry believed this role “opened his eyes to the students union and really showed him what little was being done”. Even now he sits up straight and speaks with heightened emotion.

“We constantly challenged the sabbatical officers when myself and Ed Oakes were Equality officers; we pushed them to do more. At the end of the year we felt we’d be some of the best people to lead the Union.”

Harry has had a large involvement with activities and societies before his role as Vice President of Student Activities, and soon to be President. As a student he was a member of Greenwich’s Hockey and Cricket Teams as well as being a member of the Psychology Society. Having such a firm standing within the student body Harry had a clear idea of what he wanted to do and achieve within the Students Union.

When asked about his role as Vice President of Student Activities and what he’s achieved this past year a smile crossed Harry’s face as he leaned forward and excitedly told me the numbers.

“We wanted to at least have a thousand new members join societies this year, and we’ve had two thousand and fifty! Sports are constantly growing as well!” A number to be proud of, surpassing targets set at the beginning of the year, not only this but the number of societies available to students has also doubled.

After talking to him about background work we discussed what he wants to do as President, his role commencing June 1st.

Quoting his manifesto from the election process he spoke passionately about “Greenwich apathy”. Harry firmly believes that there is a lack of feeling when it comes to students and the SU and even the University.

“I want to ensure that I bridge the gap between the University and Students. A lot of the staff for the University, especially those in high positions, have no time for the students and really don’t understand them.” Shaking his head Harry rolls his eyes at the idea of this unseeing higher board of educators.

The role of President can become heavily administrative; you sit on a lot of boards and talk to a lot of staff. I want to achieve communication between all three parties; the Students Union, University Staff, and Students. I have the ability to and I want to make sure I use it.”

The elections process is a long and arduous task that takes months of preparation and a lot of decisions have had to be made. Harry was part of “Team Red”, a group of students who all had the same objectives and motives that allowed them to group together and run as a kind of political party. (All members of Team Red were elected in the campaign).

Having run in multiple elections now Harry spoke of how this was an “interesting year” as there were no “large groups or slates running against us, it was mainly independents”. When asked how this made him feel and if he found this to be an easier election campaign than previous years he quickly responded with “No, it was still difficult and hard work. This was the first year of really positive campaigning and there were a strong group of candidates who all had the best intentions.” Asked if running as a group made a difference he replied, “When people run as a group though they bring with them a large group of people with various backings, however, independents don’t have this they tend to only have a few or themselves. This doesn’t mean the campaign was easy though, anyone could’ve won.” If he had lost Harry fondly maintains the knowledge that “the other candidates would’ve done a really good job too.”

When asked what the first thing he thought of when winning he replied “Thank God!”.

Speaking of his future Harry simply laughs, a lot! “I don’t know, I think I would like to enter the volunteering sector, specialise in crisis. But all I know is I need to take a break from the higher education sector.”

When the interview was over Harry smiled and asked if he could relax, laughing I told him he’d been relaxed throughout. Clearly he’s going to be good SU president.

Where is Home?

Sitting on my bed now, looking out at the trees blowing in the wind and a blue sky that allows the sun to filter in through my ancient windows, I can’t help but wonder; is this home?

The answer is usually ‘home is where the heart is’, however, where is my heart?

I have no answer to my sudden question. Sometimes I feel like a little nomadic camel moving from place to place. Having lived in Dorset as a young girl some may say this is my home, however, I know that it is not. I don’t feel euphoric when I visit Dorset. There is no rush of excitement or one perfect exhale that allows all of the muscles in my body to relax. So no; this is not home.

My next stop was Scotland. Having spent many years in this Northern country I could almost say that this is home. I refer to it as that, with its rolling hills, curving rivers and emerald green landscape. Scotland was where I did all of my growing up; I made friends here, created a life and had a staple place in the community. I finished school here and learnt valuable life lessons, however, now that’s neither I or nor my parents reside here is this home? After my parents returned to Dorset after are many years in the ‘barren wilderness’ can I refer to Scotland as my home with no house on its beautiful land?

Then I moved to London; the large sprawling urban jungle that is alive throughout the day and night. University was calling and London answered. Here I’ve met life long friends, had dream internships and found my feet. Here my ambition has only grown. My dreams getting bigger at every passing moment and I feel that life is there for the taking. London is thrilling; one large adrenaline rush of people and work. I somewhat get that relaxing exhale I have always dreamed of; but not quite, not completely. I may call London home to those who ask. Alas in my heart I know that it’s not quite the truth.

I wonder, as I walk around this amazing city; have I found home yet? Is it possible that I don’t have the place to call home, as I haven’t yet located it? I know where I want to call home; an even bigger city with much taller buildings. You know? That city on an island beginning with man? But even if this dream home doesn’t exist there, I suppose I will find it eventually. A girl just has to be patient and wait. Much like you have to wait for love, I’ve decided to wait for my home.

So what I’m saying is that it’s possible to never fit in or feel safe where your family calls home, or where your friends call home. These can simply places that you’re visiting on your journey to the place that you want to call home. I know that while I’m close I’m not quite there yet. Home is calling me, but I won’t be able to settle in for a few years.

Does ‘the one’ exist?

I have always been a dreamer; I have always wanted to have ‘the one’.

While we question our choices on a daily basis can the loss of attraction be fixed? When a wedge of distance begins to grow amongst a couple is there a way to fix it? Endless hours of getting to know one another and gazing into each other’s eyes doesn’t really exist. I suppose I always thought that couples would last forever, that when I finally chose someone that that would be me set.

Forever, I am beginning to realise is an extremely long time and filling this time with a relationship is becoming ever harder. When someone does one thing to put a dent in that relationship it’s fixable, when they carry on to have minor blips, those too, are fixable, however, what can you do when you begin to lose sight of the person you fell in love with.

I ask myself this question now more than ever. I look at him and think are you changing or am I?

Entering into a relationship in your early twenties is hard. We both still have so much growing up to do, we haven’t formed into the people of our future, perhaps we are simply growing apart or perhaps we’re becoming different people. This doesn’t make me feel any less guilty though. It doesn’t stop me from hating myself for not seeing the man I fell in love with. Can we though, fall in love with our first love? This is yet another question I pose to myself.

I watch my friend’s parents; they’ve been together since they were fifteen and they’ve made it work, so how come now I can’t seem to? I know that I love him but is he my boyfriend or simply friend?

I don’t know what to do and I don’t know how I feel. One minute I see a future with him, I see our forever; and then another minute I can’t see anything.

Boys, I have decided are extremely confusing individuals and ones I can’t read.

Should I have to bring all of the happiness to the relationship? Should I bring the money or should we be equal? Tiring is the word. Relationships are far too overrated (sometimes). I love him and I know he loves me but sometimes looking past the blips and the growing, looking past the changing is hard. But is it worth it? This question is soon to be answered.

I am still a dreamer; I still believe that there is one special person for everyone. I want to believe in fairy tales, however, now I know that life is a little more complicated than happily ever afters. Life has problems and mountains to climb and I suppose that now, now I have begun to enter a world filled with adult questions and choices.

While I believe that ‘the one’ exists I now realise that it’s not all about roses and hearts. It’s about growing together and learning how each other work and move. ‘The One’ can’t be discovered after a first date, it takes months and years of decisions and arguments to decide. So I suppose what I’m trying to say is that we can find or soulmate but we have to work for it. Life isn’t a fairytale it wasn’t meant to be easy.

I am still a dreamer; I still believe that there is one special person for everyone. I want to believe in fairy tales, however, now I know that life is a little more complicated than happily ever afters. Life has problems and mountains to climb and I suppose that now, now I have begun to enter a world filled with adult questions and choices.