Max, outbound to Chile

Fiesta. Siesta. Repeat.
Sounds pretty great, right? I think so. I’ve only been in Chile for a bit more than two weeks, and I’m already having the time of my life, but let’s start at the beginning.

I arrived in Santiago, Chile bright and early after a long night of travelling. Seeing the rising sun reflect of the Andes Mountains from the plane window is definitely a sight I will never forget, and it made the perfect welcome to my Chilean adventure.

When I got off the plane and cleared customs, I was greeted by my host family waving a big sign with my name on it, the Chilean and American flags, and a big fat cartoon alligator. I love them. Of course, I was expecting my host parents and sister to greet me at the airport; that was no surprise. What I didn’t expect was to see all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and even my 86-year-old abuela there as well! Latin families are so big and so close, and they were so fast to adopt me as their own. A group of Rotarians even performed La Cueca, the Chilean national dance for us at the airport to welcome all the new exchange students.

Upon leaving the airport, two things became immediately apparent: the weather and the mountains. Reading through the blogs of my fellow outbounds, I’ve noticed that many of them have mentioned the heat in their host countries. However, I’m having the opposite problem. It’s winter in South America, and I’m the only South American outbound far enough south to truly experience winter. Yes, it’s chilly in Chile. And yes, I’ve been waiting to make that pun for about 8 months now. Also, Santiago has some of the tallest buildings in South America, but you would never realize it because they are dwarfed by the mountains that surround the city. Seeing the beautiful mountains every day is definitely one of my greatest experiences so far. It’s as if they peak from behind the clouds to say “Oye, Max, you aren’t in Florida anymore.”

Chilean food is not what most people would expect. None of it is spicy. The chili pepper has an entirely different linguistic origin, and thus the only spicy food I’ve eaten is that seasoned with the sauce I brought from home. Every day we eat an obscene amount of bread and drink an absurd amount of coffee, even before bed. Chileans eat about 3.5 meals a day, give or take. The only constants are breakfast and lunch—the main meal, eaten at home. (Actually, I eat lunch at my abuela’s house because she lives closer to school). In the evening there is once, which is most like tea time, accompanied with bread, cheese, butter, and frequently avocado. La cena, or dinner, is only eaten sometimes. In my family, we usually merge it with once on the weekdays. When we do have dinner, it is usually the leftovers from lunch.

I was surprised to learn that Chileans don’t eat a lot meat, but when they do, shellfish is a very common choice. I have eaten shellfish of all shapes and sizes, including mussels, clams, shrimp, and abalone. My favorite meat, though, is the completo: a really big hot dog with avocado, onions, tomatoes, ample mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.

In my short time south of the equator, my favorite part has definitely been school. At school, I’m a celebrity. The younger students follow me around, and I shake more hands and pose for more pictures than I can count. Once, I was even late to history class because everyone wanted to talk to the gringo with blonde hair and green eyes. Fortunately, my uniform helps me to blend in—until I open my mouth.

That’s all for now. I’m off to take a siesta. Chao, hasta luego!
Max

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