Thursday: Party at the school with performances by every grade and then a party for the teachers after (last blog post)
Friday: Day/Night-long cookout in the mountains...a lovely, relaxing time filled with delicious food, games, music, dancing, and family. The group consisted of friends from La Serena and nearby. Everyone brought food and smiles. Towards the evening there was live music, and though I may not have understood all of the words, the guitars were beautiful.
Top: One of the music performers and an outgoing father
Bottom: View of the house/patio
Saturday: Celebration at home all day and night...we decorated the patio with balloons and other "fiestas patrias" goodies. Rodrigo grilled out a ton of meat, and grandma came over to make the salads. We ate and then sat around, drank wine, and talked for hours...which then turned into more eating and TONS of dancing! I learned how to dance Cueca (the official dance of Chile), then I taught everyone how to line dance, and then the family showed me how to dance many other dances from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. This night was by far one of my favorite nights in Chile. I had a blast dancing and drinking with the family :) Oh, and, if you notice the attire worn by the family, these are classic, central-northern Chile clothes (they do not wear these clothes all the time. Just for special occasions).
Sunday: Trip to Ovalle (about an hour away in the middle of basically nowhere) to celebrate some more! Rodrigo's mom and brothers live out in Ovalle, so we spent the day with them. This day was fairly uneventful (other than food and conversation), and then we finished the trip with a concert in the center square of Ovalle...Los Jaivas! A very loved and well-known group in Chile. The entire town made it to the concert. On the way home, my "sisters" fell asleep on my shoulders. Needless to say, I feel like I'm a part of the family now. :)
Monday: La Pampilla. The EPIC Pampilla that everyone in Chile knows about. Alvaro, Megan, and I spent about 8 hours at this massive carnival. Nearly 500,000 people in one, small(er) place = mayhem. We met up with some other "gringos" (people from gringolandia/aka America) for a few hours, and it was great to speak some English for a bit. Not only did we have to wipe away layers of dust from our sunglasses, but we also had to fend for our lives to get on the carnival rides. Megan and I (accompanied by the ever-so-wpatient Alvaro) stood in line to ride "Kamikaze" for about an hour and a half. Basically, the closer you got to the front of the line, the more crowded/suffocating it became. We literally didn't have to move my feet bc the crowd just pushed us forward. To actually get up the stairs and onto the ride...I had to use some middle school basketball boxing out skills and then muscle myself through so we wouldn't get pushed out of line and into the crowd of screaming teenagers (and adults). Some Chileans (well, some adolescents) have NO sense of personal space, patience, manners, or organization. What about lines and the people working the ride you may ask?! BAH! The workers could care less and the only way to survive is to push and squeeze right back. After the ride we went to the Americo "concert," which by the time we walked to the concert venue there were so many people that Americo was the size of an ant and the music was barely audible. So, we aborted that mission of listening to music that sounded like the same song over and over again (to listen to Americo's top hit and to get a feel for what all of his music sounds like, click this: Te Vas)...and then went to stuff our face with food that I never thought I would eat in my entire life (see picture).
Tuesday: Recovery. And a nice run to the beach, along the beach, and through the city "centro." :) Also, the ever-so-fabulous Alexis (my host teacher) gave me a bunch of tourist information about Chile, which was a HUGE help! Alexis, you're the best!!
Wednesday: Travel preparations! And Megan's Birthday! Megan's host family is kinda like my second family here. They are all so friendly and nice...and get so excited when I come over. Needless to say, I always have a full stomach and a huge smile on my face every time I go over. To celebrate her birthday we made "cocaidas" (little sugar balls topped with coconut) and ate pizza. Oh, and, drank beer. Yes, Steph went to bed with a smile on her face this night :)
Thursday - Saturday: Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Megan and I jumped on the bus and headed south about 6 hours to absolutely nothing planned About 10 minutes outside of the city her "cousin" called us and invited us to stay at her apt in Vina. She lived about 15 minutes walking distance from the bus stop/city, which was perfect. It was a very relaxing trip--we started the morning by grabbing a "colectivo" (a communal taxi) to Starbucks, walked around Vina del Mar/chased some castles, then jumped on the "micro" (a bus/taxi) to "Valpo" (abbreviation for Valparaiso), boarded a "lancha colectivo" (a communal boat tour) of Valparaiso port, took an "ascensor" (lift/elevator thing) up a hill (picture on right), and had lunch overlooking the city. The view was worth every peso and grain of salt! We made friends with the owner and came to find that the people in Vina and Valpo are really nice and friendly.
PHEW. lots of adventures :) Below are some detailed pictures of all the fun. This blog doesn't do justice, but I think the pictures help illustrate everything a bit more.
Vina del Mar and Valparaiso: