Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

Hostel Living
June 15, 2010, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Chile

For the past ten days I’ve been living in a room with seven other strangers and was awoken each night, and morning, by unusual sounds each day.  There is always someone snoring heavily, someone speaking nonsense in their sleep, someone stumbling in after a long night of partying, or someone packing up to catch a bus to move on to their next destination of discovery. So many interesting things happen in hostel living; countries represented by travelers from all over the world for differing purposes lugging with them different perspectives, varying backgrounds and all sorts of new catch phrases to learn. I absolutely love it. I stayed at a place called La Casa Roja, where the architecture is gorgeous and it is kept up really well by the house keepers.  However, I was able to move into my apartment on Sunday and I must say I also love having my own room, sleeping through the night and the luxury of unpacking the things in my suitcase. To have my cake and eat it too, I live in the center of the city and I have a breathtaking view of the city right from my bedroom.

This past week was orientation week with VE Global, the organization I am going to be volunteering with.  The orientation was so much fun and it was all in Spanish, which was helpful, but also frustrating for someone who’s comprehension level for listening ranges between 20 and 50% depending on the amount of concentration I put in and the speaker’s accent.

I did more exploring of Santiago with my fellow volunteers along with a lot of cheesy ice-breaker games which made me feel like I was back at Uni, as the Brits call it. And if anyone is looking to adopt a dog there are plenty, available and eager, wandering the streets of Santiago. Stray animals are not controlled here like they are in the states. In one fifteen minute walk you could end up passing a gang of up to nine dogs like I did last night on my way to the super market.

We also learned all about the institutions we will be working in. VE is an NGO that partners with 8 institutions within Santiago, some schools and some orphanages. VE provides the institutions with an extra set of hands for free with a goal to improve the quality of life for the children they serve. I will be working at Colegio Anakena, an elementary school for disabilities.  Teachers in Chile are referred to as “tias” and “tios”, which literally mean aunts and uncles in Spanish. The tia I was supposed to be working with went on pregnancy leave as of Friday so I will be starting fresh with the new tia they hire. As you might assume, I am both scared and excited.  My Spanish language skills will be tried and tested.

Thus far, I would unquestionably recommend working for VE to anyone who is thinking about doing volunteer work in South America; more info to come.


Foreign Aeropuertos, Cafe Con Piernas, and Pick Pocketing
June 4, 2010, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Chile

I began getting really excited about my trip when I arrived at the airport in Panama City.  Latin music fills the halls of each concourse as it is being played in all the tiendas selling electronics. I love the feeling I get from the music because it reminds me of the discotechas I went to in Ecuador. As soon as I heard it I thought to myself, “yep, this is my place”.

When I got to the airport in Santiago I had to pay a reciprocity fee of $131 and they only accept it in US currency. Unfortunately I had just exchanged most of my cash at the airport in Houston for Chilean pesos. So I had to exchange the pesos back to USD for a hefty commission fee. My Spanish understanding was tested. I got my traveler’s visa and my passport stamped and I was off to look for the best way to get to the hostel. The easiest way to get to the hostel as a gringo with elementary Spanish was to use TransVIP.  For about $10 USD they take you in a van directly to your destination. It costs much less than a taxi and is much less of a hassle than the public transportation.

When I arrived at La Casa Roja, I went to sleep immediately wearing my jeans and all. I didn’t want to dig through my bags for clothes and a toothbrush and wake the other sleeping travelers in my dorm.  I met some cool people from the UK over breakfast who told me about a free tour going on later. Of course I was game because I had no idea what I was going to do that day. After breakfast my competitive nature arose and I challenged them to ping pong and lost; literally got killed.

The first place the tour stopped at was a regular coffee shop, known as a con pierna, where the coffee is served by women in thongs and is only open for business hours. They don’t serve alcohol, only coffee tea and juice. It was so bizarre how normal and accepted this was. It was quite funny to me and most others in the group, with the exception of a couple guys who were thrilled by the abundant cleavage and flawless culo.  We walked the streets of down town and stopped at the fish market that was filled with loads of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, and meat.  I stopped and bought the juiciest mango my taste buds have ever experienced.  The last stop of the tour was at a bar called Piojera, which means head lice in English, interestingly enough. There they serve an authentic Chilean drink called the terremoto which means earthquake. It is a homemade wine served with ice cream and you are supposed to let the ice cream melt and mix in the drink. It was tasty. We took the extremely crowded subway on the way back to the hostel and we lost some people from the group. First lesson: when you hear the beep while trying to enter or exit the subway push really hard to make your way through.

The next day I walked back down to the fish market to get some fresh fruits and vegetables. The streets are very crowded during the day in the centro of the city and on my way back from the market I experienced my first almost pick pocketing. I was shoulder to shoulder surrounded by Chileans and I felt a small tug on my backpack. I turned around to find a short woman slyly trying to unzip my backpack. I gave her a nasty American stare and she bashfully pretended to shuffle through her friends bag. Luckily even if she was successful she would only be going home with a sweet and juicy apple.