My Chilean Adventure: Touch Down Day One

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

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Chilean Adventure: Time to Travel

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!

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.

Rush Hour

commute So this week I’m traveling into Central London every morning and then out again at night. Living in Greenwich the journey should take me roughly 30 minutes. At rush hour though? Well that’s a different story. The train came into the station this morning packed to the brim with a variety of people, mainly suits, but also children and families (though I question their sanity for choosing to visit the capital at a time when we’re packed into trains and shoved and pushed for the smallest spot possible on a tube). Personal space doesn’t exist at these two times of the day. No, no personal space. last night I was being suffocated by two different arms. I may be small at 5ft 4 but just because you’re above 6ft does not give you the right to smother me! However, you say nothing because it is rush hour and you have your small spot on the tube, this you don’t give up for anything.

3.4 billion people used the underground system to commute last year. That’s like cramming half the world into the underground. And on average 277 hours a year are wasted in London on commute time. Putting it into perspective you realize how crazy it all sounds.

This morning I got off of the 8:45 train to London Bridge and as I moved in the wave people (this is the only way to describe it), it was like a tsunami I of suits and briefcases heading towards their offices or the underground. I preceded to stand and wait in a crowd of around 30 at one set of door on my Jubilee line train (that’s 30 around 1 set of doors, 1!).

Rush hour is not only something infuriating but also something kind of beautiful. Everyone striding with a single purpose. The walk is a silent one only interrupted by the noise of the trains. No one speaks, this is a taboo of the underground. If you went anywhere else with such a crowd of people, compacted into small hallways and crevices, all stood waiting for their journey, it would be loud.

So as I take part in this great migration of the commute I take a breath at the height of my frustration and I take in the purity of the situation, and the one time that as a species we all seem to come together and adopt the same social rules.

Washington DC

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This photo offers a lot of inspiration whenever I take a quick glance. Earlier this year I travelled down the East Coast of the USA for a month with two of my friends. It was a magical time where I met a lot of amazing people and learned a lot about American culture. Having seen the sights on NYC and exploring Disneyland in Florida I still settle by saying, Washington was the place I truly discovered.

When originally planning the trip I added in Washington simply because ‘I want to see the White House’, who doesn’t? When we arrived though we discovered this charm and character that the place has. The people where friendly (which was a nice change to the urban sprawl of miserable New Yorkers) it was clean, and there was a patriotic sense that you never receive in the UK.

Walking from Capitol down to Lincoln Memorial there is nothing but Museums and culture on either side of you, it as though the heart of America surrounds you. When we finally (after three days of stopping at every museum imaginable) arrive at the Lincoln memorial, looking back over my shoulder the shadow of the Washington Monument falls over us. Turning I sit at the edge of the reflection pool and breath out at the sight before me.

I think of the last week I had spent in the city I had dreamed of visiting; New York. Washington was just a pit stop, New York was my main goal. Though while I felt the city was amazing I was a little disappointed, New York wasn’t quite the fairy-tale I hoped for. Washington though, lived and surpassed any expectations. I now know that at some point in my future, I am going to have to call DC home (and maybe hang with the president).

With birds chirping in the distance and school children laughing in the background I feel nothing but comfort. Relaxing I sit while the sun goes down and I pray I never leave Washington.