Questions/Comments?Contact Us

64 posts categorized "#Chile"

Mi Liceo - Instituto Maritimo

I spend a lot of time at my school, so I figured it be helpful to give a little background on what my days look like there.

To start off my school here is very different than Mount Mansfield, my school in Vermont. I go to a public school here called Instituto Tecnico Profesional Maritimo Valparaiso (Instituto Maritimo or IMV for short). My school in Vermont is also a public school, but with less than 800 students total, and most classes with less than 20 students.


Big differences

The first apparent difference-- here is we all wear uniforms. In addition to this there is a strict dress-code that is enforced. Apart from the dress, sweater, blazer and other parts of the uniform we are required to wear lab coats during the day. A majority of the professors (all of mine except one) and staff also wear lab coats. The consequence for not wearing it is a "notacion negativo". You can also get a negative notation if you are wearing a sweatshirt or any clothes not "officially" part of the uniform. All girls also have to wear their hair back during all classes and can not wear make up. There is also a 'one piercing per ear' rule, and all other piercings are not allowed. In addition to this all of the guys have to have their hair cut short and "orderly" and nail polish is forbidden.

This "negative notation" is when a professor goes to your page in the class book and writes a comment about what rule you broke. This book is where they take attendance and have all of our grades. Each curso has a list in alphabetical order of the students, and each student has their number, (I'm 30). For example if you come into class late, the teacher asks you for your "number" and they write down that you were late. There exists also the opposite, "positive notations" where the professor leaves a note about something bueno you did.

Another thing I was struck by here was the openness with grades. What I mean by this is, our grades are read aloud in front of the whole class. Everyone knows how everyone else did on the test, who sacó un rojo (who failed) and who got the highest score. Sometimes they read the grades in order of worst to best, and sometimes they just read the list of who didn't pass. I haven't been uncomfortable with this (as my grades are actually the highest in my class), but I was expecting this to have negative results, turning into a competition, or making people feel bad about themselves, but I was really wrong. When we take a test here people move on pretty quickly and don't dwell on how they did or what grade they got, they're not too interested in what other people got and as long as they pass, everything is all good. This was a very cool change coming from a school with classmates who stressed out excessively over their grades and constantly focused on everything they did wrong.

The grades themselves here are on a scale of 1-7, 7 being the highest and equivalent to a 100. Everyone also has a "promedio" here, which is like a GPA, the average from all of your classes.

Another thing that legitimately shocked me was when our profe jefe made people "write lines". The second week of school there was a group in my class who didn't bring in materials for a project and they had to write "I should be responsible and bring in my materials" 100 times. Another time someone was on their phone in class and instead of taking away their phone, the teacher made them copy "I should not use my phone in class" 200 times. This has happened a few other times and it feels very old fashioned and doesn't seem like a productive punishment.


De vez en cuando (once in a while) we have "formacion" that serves a few purposes. Formation is when we all line up outside on the patio where we have recreo (I'll explain this later) by curso. Girls in one line, boys in another, shortest in the front.

Sometimes it's simply to check if everyone is following dress code and to write down names of those who are not. Other times it's for announcements. This is taken very seriously and our profe jefe's come up and down the line making sure everyone is silent and presentable.


Recreo means break, and that's exactly what it is. We go outside and have a little "recess". Normally my friends and I just hang out and talk during these breaks outside in the sun, but there are a lot of things you can do. A lot of people go to the library to do homework or finish projects, some go to the casino (cafeteria) to eat, some try to stay in the classrooms until the inspector shoos them out, but most hang out on the patio. The patio is a little paved basketball court outside and during recreos it fills with people playing tennis soccer, ping pong, jump roping and of course soccer.

Thanks to suggestions by students we now also have music playing over the speakers at all recreos (mostly reggaeton por supuesto!!). On a few occasions we have also had dance battles and rap battles, spontaneously started and then a crowd gathers just like in the movies.

Students also take advantage of our recreo time to sell different foods. It's not uncommon to see students selling, chocolates, candies, waffles, cupcakes, lollipops and really any type of sweet. This was a little strange at first, but it gives a lot of context to why everyone is always asking "tienes cien??".

We had one week that was "semana de convivencia" (coexistence week) which the entire week I thought was "semana de competencia" (competition week). This reminded me a lot of what my school does in VT, for a spirit week/winter carnival activity.  As I've mentioned before each grade is split into 8 "cursos" (A-H) and during this week the cursos were paired with their same letter from the other grade (segundo D and primero D made up one team). Each of these teams competed all week against each other during recreos. Ranging from a dodgeball type game, to soccer tennis, to making poetry (with the theme of coexistence), to having the cleanest classroom, to decorating the patio in someway, to flash challenges, each team was awarded points.

The flash challenges were my favorite and these were when a teacher would say something like "The first group to bring me the principal's signature wins 200 points".

Other tasks included:

  • being the first to find a bug
  • putting on as many lab-coats as possible
  • bringing back the most hair ties in one minute (also the most keys)
  • singing the school's anthem
  • who could find the most student teachers
  • answering trivia about the school/teachers/school rules



I'm taking eleven classes here and our schedule is pretty much the same as my school in VT. We start at 8:00 and finish at 3:15, (except for Wednesdays when we end at 1, and some Tuesdays when we end at 5). We go through material a lot slower here, because for example I only have biology, physics, chemistry, and environmental science each once a week, where as in the US I would only be taking one of those asignaturas, but with classes every other day.

Classes are just like normal classes, except we start every class standing to greet our teacher and we can't sit until they tell us to sit down.

One thing that strikes me as odd is teachers dictate here. They don't hand out worksheets with questions on them, instead they say the questions or information and we have to write it down. This is a really good way to practice my spelling and accuracy with what they say. I had a physics test the other day that was completely listening to what the teacher said and writing down problems and descriptions.

Related to that I have a few teachers here who use little microphones while they're teaching. It's a big classroom and there are a lot of us noisy students, so for some of them this is the easiest way to be heard.


Views from the classroom window



Sports My school has a long list of "talleres" including some really cool things: Harp, Violin, Kayak, Scuba diving, soccer, basketball, theater, chorus, "hip-hop", band, orchestra. Each of these meet once a week, so if you really wanted to you could do a few at the same time.

Professional school

My school is pretty special in the sense that it's a professional (also called technical) school. Primero and Segundo medios (freshman and sophomores) are in one building taking normal classes and tercero and cuarto medio (juniors and seniors) are in a separate building with a pretty cool schedule. They have normal classes two days a week and the other three they are out either in businesses or out in the field actually learning first hand how things work.

There are five "career options", Gastronomia (Gastronomy), Operaciones Portuatias (Port related careers), mechanica automotriz (Mechanics), quimica laboratorio (Chemistry), and elaboracion industrial de alimentos (learning about food and what goes into it).

I think this is pretty interesting and sounds like a cool way to spend your junior and senior year, but it puts pressure on the students to chose what they want to do at a really young age. On the first day of school I was the only one who didn't know what I want to do after school, or what I want to be, and I'm a year older than all of my classmates.

The last thing I want to talk about is the stigma about public schools here. Even before I got here, I heard a lot about how "bad" public schools in Chile are, and how it would be better to go to a private school. When I got here someone warned me that my classmates would have knives and there would be drugs everywhere and multiple people told me time and time again that I should "be careful" in school and around my classmates. When ever I told someone that I was going to a public school they immediately assumed that there would not be good education there and that all of the students would be stupid. Coincidentally every single person who told me a story about a public school, or warned me that it might be not a good scene, went to a private school.

I would just like to make it clear to all of those people that I have had zero problems in my school and I absolutely love Maritimo and could not be happier here. There is definitely a large range of students who go to IMV, as far as social and financial situations, but I feel that this experience has been so much more real, with real students who represent more of the population in Valparaiso than a tiny private school with just people who have money.

That said, IMV is very good for a municipal school, and there are many people who want to got here for the career options it has. I was talking to one of my friend's friend (who goes to a private school) and she told me that she wanted to go to IMV and it's the best technical school in the area.

On a related note while walking around with one of my exchange student friends (in our school uniforms) a lady approached us on the street to ask if we were from Chile. We then had a little discussion about how no we actually are going to high schools here, and we're staying for five months. She made a comment about how I was going to Maritimo, something along the lines of "wow you're really getting the real deal, normally when exchange students come they stay in the sections with $$, but good for you, you're getting the real deal".

That conversation made me feel really proud, because I am the first long term exchange student to go to Maritimo and as she pointed out, I was "getting the real deal", the real Valpo.

School has been a big part of my life here, it's where I met most of my friends and I've learned a lot here (not actual school stuff, more general stuff). I never really dreaded going to school in the US, but it's really a refreshing feeling waking up in the morning excited to go to school. I don't feel stressed if I don't understand a homework, or don't finish a project in time.

It's a little weird to think that my friends back home are taking their final exams right now, and have taken the SAT, ACT and have been visiting colleges while I'm here trying not to think about any of that.

Below are a few links if you find yourself inclined to see a little more Maritimio

School Website


Chao!! Kat

One Month

When this post is published, exactly one month will remain for my time here in Chile. When published it will be 7:40pm June 16th. At 7:40pm on July 16th I will board a plane with my mom to Atlanta, Georgia. I try not to reminisce about my time here, yet it still happens. In my final post I know I will have much more to say about my time here, how hard it will be to leave, and also how good it will be to get back to my family and friends. But at the moment I don't know exactly how it will feel. I will be the first to tell you that I have not made the greatest relationships or had the greatest abroad experience, but for the past four months I have set up and lived a routine, I have become accustomed to the ins and outs of Chile and its people, and leaving any situation like that will be hard. Yet "hard" is not an emotion and part of that I think makes me scared. As humans we generally like to know what situations we will be in and what feelings will come from those. For the most part we are able to receive this type of information. If we want to what it's like to go to high school or college we can ask our parents or an older sibling. Yet going abroad is not as easy. Not only is it fairly unlikely that your parents or siblings have done it, but even if they have, their experience will not be the same as yours. They will have stayed in a different country, with a different family, and gone to a different school. And in this way studying abroad is so unique. At a relatively young age it gives you the chance to see a new part of the world and meet new people, while at the same time forcing you to face the innate fear of the unknown. As my time here draws to a close I still have that fear but getting over it starts with the ability to recognize it. 

I am not trying to count the days down to my departure, although perhaps the title of this post shows the opposite, but I know as the quantity dwindles to only a handful it will be necessary or the fact that I'm leaving will be lost upon me, and to be honest that is not something I want. 


To make up for the writing here's a cool picture of sailboat I took a while back. Manned by a single person it goes sailing into the sunset and perhaps the unknown.

Until next time...NRH

Day by Day

It's been un rato since I've written about what I've been up to, but I'm taking that as a good sign, I've been busy with a lot of cool things.

It's now June and the countdown officially feels on, I've got a list of things I want to do before I leave and only one month left. But as my host mom said one day at onces -- "You can't think about it like that, that you only have one month left. Take it day by day and think about it day by day, and remember to take advantage of every day" (rough translation of course). So that's what I'm doing, aprovechando cada dia.

On that note, this is what I've been up to.
I took another solo trip to Santiago to visit Hugo, a friend who studied abroad at my school in Vermont. Saturday we visited the Costanera Center tower (Gran Torre Santiago) the tallest building in Latin America. It had just snowed and the cordillera (the Andes) was pretty awesome to see.

Comparison, we were in 5 
The City with Smog

We also walked around el parque bicentenario and Hugo showed me his school. That night I got to meet some of his friends and we had a little asado and hung out all night. It was really nice to talk to someone who knows what it's like to go from a little town in Vermont, to living in Chile where it seems almost everything is different.

Sunset on the bus ride back to Valpo Sunday night

The following weekend was a relaxing weekend with my family. Saturday I went to the movies with Fran and we saw "La novia" (the bride). This was a horror movie originally in Russian about a bride who meets her husband's family and, turns out, there are some weird family secrets.

Saturday night my mom, Jorge, Mariela and I played scrabble until eventually everyone got tired and went to bed.

Sunday I had dance in the morning and then in the afternoon my mom, her friend and I took a drive to Concon. We took the drive just for something to do, as a little scenic trip. We drove through Vina, Renaca and eventually through Concon. Once we got there we walked around a little bit and bought empanadas.

Very different feel from the hills of Valpo
So many choices!


Our empanadas! Que rico!

Another new update in my life is I've been going to Kayak club every week and it's been super fun. Currently there are about 15 of us and every Monday we either walk down to the beach, fight over who gets a ride with the profes or take the micro if we're feeling lazy. What we actually do is different every time, we've had lessons on how to properly paddle and turn, how to get on a kayak, we've had times where follow the leader style we do what ever our profe does, but most of all we just do a lot of fun things. For example we've had challenges of who can get through the rocks without crashing, plenty of splashing each other and trying to knock each other off the kayaks, jumping off the docks, looking for little sea creatures and most recently today, a very intense race.

Eight on eight we were split into two teams with four kayaks each. To start we had to run with the kayaks from a line drawn in the sand to send off our first four into the water. They had to row to a buoy, turn around and come back, where we again had to carry the kayaks back up the beach and switch life jackets, helmets, kayaks and paddles and rush our second group of four back to enter the water. They did the same thing and when they returned we sent our first four back towards the buoy again. This time they had to tie two of the kayaks to the buoy and row back two people on each. Our second group waiting started with the two kayaks and four people and raced out to untie the kayaks. 
Our group won, saving us from running laps around the beach, and instead we were sent back to the cabin for hot tea. This is the second fun part about kayak club, even after we finish in the water we all hang out and have tea together for an hour just talking. 
Another awesome part about Kayaking, the sunsets when we finish!
I've also gone to three museums with the CIEE group. Museo Fonck (A history museum with focus on Easter Island and the primitive cultures of Chile), Museo Baburizza (An art museum) and Museo Historico Villa Victoria (One of the "patrimonio" buildings of Valparaiso, that survived the 1906 magnitude 8,2 earthquake)
Maria Paz (our program leader), Rachel, Me, Kelsey, and Mia
View outside of Museo Baburizza 
The past weekend I saw Mujer Maravilla (Wonder Woman) and I felt very proud of myself when I understood it all. On a side note I'd highly recommend this movie. It was awesome!
Sunset at Muelle Baron Sunday night
Happy Friday!

Street Art in Valpo

If you've heard anything about Valparaiso, you've most likely heard about how colorful it is. Valparaiso is known for its street art and I've had a really fun time exploring its streets plastered with vibrant paintings.

This post is mainly just going to be pictures of paintings I've seen and liked. A majority of these were taken on Cerro Alegre, which is considered one of the more touristy hills.

One could spend days walking around exploring the streets in Valparaiso and still find new pieces

The Famous "Piano Stairs" on Beethoven Street

In general I am not very good at directions, but it's been super helpful to have paintings as landmarks to remember where things are. My micro passes this one every day and so far it's my favorite

It wouldn't be Valparaiso without the dog photobombing 

Someone once told me the people in Valparaiso are like the city itself. She explained that Valpo is a port city that is facing the ocean, open to anything, as are the people, welcoming to anyone. The vibe I get from the city is very laid back, chill and artsy and I've found the people to be the same way.



Part of what has made Valparaiso so special for me is the unique art, that is absolutely everywhere and I'm going to miss passing the giant whale painting on my way into school, and going down the colorful stairs coming home from dance, and the "hijo del cerro" painting waiting for the micro every morning.

Chao for now, Kat

Advice From a Book I Never Read

Note: I thought I had published this post the 22nd of May(it is now the 1st of June), but for some reason it did not decide to happen. I do think I am allowed some leeway with this one as it was only my second post. I only realized it had not posted to CIEE’s website when I posted what I had thought to be my third post, but what only showed as the second. Luckily I had saved it in Google Drive, so I was not triggered out of my mind (as one is when their writing is deleted). 

For those who care about rough times, read on, for those who don’t, at least my stupidity entertained you for a few sentences.

I was planning on writing this post or one similar to it as my time here was coming to a close, but I'm feeling inspired right now so I thought I'd get on with it. That said, I'm not too sure how exactly this will turn out. But it keeping with the theme that I will be trying to express in the coming paragraphs, I'll push on with low expectations. It might get a little personal, but seeing as I'm thousands of miles from anyone who will likely read this, that's OK.

About a two weeks ago I had a pretty massive breakdown in school. As it was quite a while ago I don't exactly remember what went down, but luckily I have kept a journal. Here's an edited excerpt:

Monday night I only got about six hours of sleep, same as the night before. Some people can, and do function on that amount of sleep every day. But I must admit, I am not one of those people.

I got to school and spent 10 minutes before química dozing off. By the end of that class, the lack of sleep, among many other factors had gotten to me, and I was feeling pretty mad at the world around me; I missed my mom, my family, and my house, I was afraid I wasn't learning enough Spanish and was forgetting material taught in the US, I didn't really have any Chilean friends to share these experiences with me, and I was deeply saddened by the realization that the summer I would return to would be the last time my family would be truly fully together. Sitting there at my desk, I started to cry, at first, it was just a little, it had happened before, yet this time, unlike before, it didn't stop. Two girls from my class came over to try and comfort me, but then the feeling that I was doing this in front of people hit me and only made it worse.

I shut and covered my eyes but the tears continued to fall. I made the decision to go the bathroom, to weep alone, and trying to wipe all evidence of my sadness away, I exited the classroom and took the stairs three at a time. I did indeed need to take a piss, taking to the first stall in the bathroom. There I stood, with fists clenched and blurry vision, trying miserably to control my breathing. I checked my watch to see how much time I had to be back in class and realized I needed to hurry. Once again preparing myself for public viewing, I left the stall and headed to the lesser used side of sinks.

A large mirror hung on the wall and from it, my reflection, red eyes, glistening tears streaks and all stared back at me. For a moment I just stood, staring, contemplating my decisions and desires. The white noise of splashing water on cracked and dirtied porcelain washbowls in the background. But those moments of contemplation were broken when Viviana called my name. My eyes averted to her and wiping my dripping hands on my smock I turned to the door, leaving behind my place of somewhat solace.

Yeah, so that is pretty much the worst of what happened. Viviana then led me into the Director's office, we talked, this other teacher came in, blah, blah, blah. What made me write this is what Maria Paz, the director, or at least the person who does everything with the high school program here, talked about when she showed up.

I told her what had happened and the reasons behind it, with Viviana filling in where my Spanish failed me. When we were finished Maria Paz told me what she thought I should do to help myself. The first thing she told me was this: Lower your expectations. Now I know in my introduction(my first post) I didn't introduce who I really am, but I think it can be said that I have high expectations, and for the most part I meet them. That is not saying I expected to come out of Chile fluent, high is different than unrealistic, yet I did feel I could be improving more rapidly. But her line about lowering expectations really struck a chord with me, as well as give me a great feeling of déjà vu.

A few Christmases ago my dad gave me a book written by Tony Hillerman called Seldom Disappointed. Unlike most books my dad gives me, I actually started this one. But like most books my dad gives me, I didn't finish it. I only made my way through about twenty pages or so before giving up (forgive me, but I was 13 or 14 and it starts off pretty depressing). But the grand ideology of the autobiography was this: If one learns not to have unrealistic expectations, one will often be pleasantly surprised and seldom disappointed. Disclosure: If anyone actually does any research into this you will find that this line comes from the Wikipedia page, know that this realization hit me long before I returned home and sat in front of my computer.

I cannot say that I have fully accepted this manner of thinking or ever plan to do so in the future. I strongly believe one will achieve more if one believes they can achieve more. However lowering your expectations at times can, and will, benefit you.

I can say that I have lowered my expectations somewhat and that without a doubt, this past week has been the best one in a while.

I can also say that this post turned out pretty well, or at least better than I was expecting.

Until next time...NRH

Words and Mannerisms of Chileans

Today is the first of June, marking about six weeks of my time left here in Chile. In the months that I have lived here my Spanish has greatly improved, and while still far from fluent, I have picked up on many sayings, words, and mannerisms of the Chilean people. I will try to include all that I know but it is likely there will be many missing. That said, the list will hopefully be a helpful list to future travelers. I'm not sure where to start so the order in which words or habits occur is not at all related to their importance. 

Nicknames. In the United States, or perhaps only where I'm from, nicknames or commonly just a shortened version of one's given name. For example, my name is Nathan, I am often called Nate. I have a friend who goes by Will although his full name William. However here nicknames are rarely a version of a longer name, instead they are based on physical characteristics or traits of a person, even if they are perhaps derogatory. Here is a short list of the most commonly used nicknames I have heard in my time here, english translations included:    

flaco - skinny                   gordo - fat/fatty                negro - black                blanco - white            mono - monkey

Chiquillos - This word means "kids" and is used to refer to groups of people, not only children. I hear it multiple times every day.

Cabros - Meaning "goats" this words is used in the same way "chiquillos" is. I have found it is often used more often with younger kids. 

It should also be noted that the word "profe" or "profesor" is used with more than just teachers.  I am playing both basketball and soccer here and in both sports the players regularly refer to the referees as well as to the coaches as "profe."

Cleanliness. I'm not trying to hate to much but I also think I should give those who come here a good understanding of what to expect. And with that said, do not expect the streets or your school to be clean. The house situation will depend on who you are and who your family is. 

A few examples before some pictures, or just skip the writing if you don't want to read. First it should be noted I'm not that messy a person, but I also don't have OCD, or anything near that. 

A few days ago in the locker room of my school, as he was getting ready to leave, this guy was eating a banana. He took the final bite as he got up and then continued to throw the peel of the banana on the top shelf of lockers, before exiting. I know for a fact there is a trash can less than 30 feet down the hall. 

Kathleen, another student in the program, and I went for a hike in Curauma, a suburb outside of Valparaíso. The road along which we walked was littered with dumped trash of all sorts. I think we even spotted some furniture and and a refrigerator.

IMG_20170522_143117238_HDR IMG_20170522_143144525

Some pictures from the Curauma hike. 


A picture from my classroom. It is supposed to read: Respeto - Perseverancia. Hard not to find that amusing.

In addition to these signs falling down, my classroom is never clean. When people shoot a paper ball into the trash and miss it is rare to see them go pick it up.  

A Culture of Fear. I again don't want to hate too much but I think that is what it is best described as. These are mostly things that have been passed down from generation to generation without anyone actually testing to see if they are true or not. To be honest I get a little triggered just by how dumb some of these beliefs are. Some examples:

  1. They are scared of the dark. Perhaps this comes with good reason, I've heard stories of people being robbed, in fact during orientation one of the students was robbed, but it is also due to what they show on the news. After the telenovela my family follows the news comes on. This runs from nine to ten at night. On it I have seen a clip of a woman getting run over, a video in which she would later die. As well as an open gun fight between thieves and an off duty police man. Both were captured on security cameras, of which there seems to be an abundance of. I can understand that you want to educate the public, but there is not a need to scare them. Chile has a murder rate half that of the US, but its people are scared to leave after the sun sets. What is shown on the news is largely to blame.  
  2. I was eating with a classmate and standing up while doing it. She sat down and told me to do the same. I asked why, and she told me eating standing up is bad for your digestion. Perhaps it is but I have never had any consequences from running out the door with a bagel in my hand late to school. Straw man #1.
  3. I have come home sweaty from basketball multiple times to my mom telling me to take a shower "al tiro." While this is understandable because most people find it gross when one is sweaty, her reasoning comes in the form that I will catch a cold if a don't shower. This catching a cold thing is a recurring theme.
  4. "Wear your socks and shoes" is also something I have been told many times. And if I don't? I'll catch a cold.
  5. They also tell me to (blow) dry my hair after a shower, so, you guessed it, I don't catch a cold. I went to bed almost every night from when I was about 7 to 14 with wet hair and was never affected by it. Although this might be due to how much of a goddamn savage I am.


The following list is far from comprehensive but I think it will give any traveler a good start. Some words are commonplace in any Spanish classroom, some I had never heard before (however I hadn't heard a lot of words before coming). For a list with other Chilenismos as well as where I stole from of these from, click the following: Chilenismos #1 Chilenismos #2 

  1. Chao. This might seem a little odd to have on a vocab list as it is a well known word, but I thought I should put it on because of its usage rate. The word "adios" is almost never used. I can still recall the first time myself and the other students were in the CIEE office for the first time doing some icebreaker activities. When the guy who was leading them left all of us said "adios" while he and the other leaders from CIEE used "chao," one of the first of many learning moments.
  2. Que te vaya bien. Meaning "Have a good one" or literally "That you go well," this saying is often used in conjunction with "chao" as well as word #3.
  3. Cuidate. This means "Take care of yourself" and is another common parting word.
  4. The suffix "ai." This is a Chilean conjugation for -ar verbs in the "tú" present tense. It is most commonly used with estar, with "¿Cómo estai?" being very the most frequent manner in which it is used.
  5. The suffixes "ito/ita." While you have mostly likely already been taught these, it is less likely you use them regularly. In Chile they are used constantly, so a little practice with hearing them on words will help you down the road.
  6. Once. Often used with the previous suffix as "oncecita," this literally refers to a late afternoon snack, however, it is always used in place of "cena."  
  7. Dale. I had never heard this word in as it is customarily used here, however that could be said for a lot of words. It means "go for it" or "do it" and is commonly used in a sporting context. 
  8. Po. As far as I know this word has no literal meaning, instead it is used for emphasis. Yet I have found this is not always the case, at times people just are really impatient or just toss it in. It is frequently used with "ya" like in the following example: "Ya po, dámelo. " - Give me it. 
  9. Al tiro. Literally meaning "at the shot" it is Chilean for "right away."
  10. ¿Cachai?. This word utilizes the aforementioned suffix "ai". Literally meaning "to catch", it figuratively means "to understand." It is almost always used in the place of entender, and here it means "do you understand." 
  11. Weon. If I had to pick the single most used word in Chilean Spanish this would be it. It means both "dude" or "idiot," and yes, I do find the difference hard to pick apart as it is used in a school setting where swear words are more rampant than the stray street dogs, and that's saying something. 

Alright, I hope that gives you a better understanding of some of the language and actions of the Chilean people. If not hopefully the provided links will. I know I have yet to actually write a real blog post in which I recount my actions of days past, but one of those will be written this coming weekend. 

Until then...NRH

Life Lesson From The Micro

Happy Friday everyone! This week I've been thinking a lot about how fast my time in Chile has been going, and reflecting on the reality that there is still a long list of things I would like to see, visit, do or experience in Chile before July comes around.

I thought I'd share this story from my first week in Chile as a reminder that even though I haven't done everything yet, February was a long time ago and a lot of awesome things have happened since then and I've learned a lot.

The first time I took the micro (a bus, the main form of transportation in Valparaiso) by myself I remember being fixated on staring out the window. I got on the bus (number 505!), payed the driver with exactly 400 pesos, promptly sat down, didn't say a word and peered out the window.

I was looking for the landmarks my host sister told me about; first the bus would go down the hill and then turn left onto a highway type road where the buses all drive super fast and don't stop. Next it would turn left and go into the city. It would make a lot of stops here but I didn't have to worry about bajando until I saw Lider (a grocery store). When we passed Lider this was my cue to get up and get off the bus at the next stop. I watched all of the buildings pass, street after street of a completely new city. I watched a collection of strangers get on and off the bus, and after what seemed like forever I finally saw Lider. I confidently got up pressed the timbre and got off the bus. I was prematurely feeling a little proud of myself, thinking how easy it was going to be getting around the city.

A few seconds later looking around I realized that this was not the right place.

I had followed my sisters instructions and I got off the bus when I saw Lider, but I was definitely not where I was supposed to be. I didn't recognize the area and just stood there wondering what I was going to do, and if I was lost.

Picking a random direction that "seemed right" I started walking pretending I knew where I was going, meanwhile thinking about all of the bad things that could possibly happen to me right then. I walked a few more blocks before I realized, I could very possibly be going in the wrong direction. At this point I considered my options. I could call my host mom or sister and explain that I got lost my first time taking the bus. It would be embarrassing, but my host mom would probably pick me up and drive me to where I was supposed to go. I could call my program director and do the same thing. She would most likely give me directions and make sure I got there. Or, I could try to figure it out on my own. Yeah, with no form of GPS or map and limited Spanish skills I could wander around, a sixteen year old gringa in the center of Valparaiso by myself. Sounds like the best option.

If you ask my parents they might describe me as a little stubborn. I guess it was this stubbornness that didn't want to admit to anyone that I had failed my first time taking the bus by myself. I thought if I couldn't even take one bus to get to where I wanted to go, how was I going to survive in Chile, more specifically in Valparaiso a city of 275,000 people, with a language I hardly understood.

I was 'deeply pondering' these things when another 505 bus passed, and I realized I could just follow it. I basically chased the bus, following it as fast as I could, until it turned right and the green and orange bus was out of my sight. I walked to the point where I had lost the bus and waited for another 505 bus to pass so I could follow it. I did this for a total of three times times until I recognized where I was. Up there was Plaza Victoria, and then that glass building, then Santa Isabel and then finally I saw a Lider.

This was how I learned that there are four Lider's in Valparaiso, and that my bus passes two of them and I am supposed to get off at the second one. In the end I was only walking around for only about 20 minutes following buses like a crazy person.

The very next day I took the bus by myself and sat tight as we passed the first Lider. As soon as I saw the second Lider way out ahead of us I jumped up and pressed el timbre. The bus stopped immediately even though Lider was still a bit further away. I got off the bus this time three stops too early.

On my third day of taking the micro solo I told myself that I was not going to get off the bus too early. And I certainly didn't. On this day, I missed my stop and got off one stop later than I was supposed to.

Obviously there was no harm done in me walking a few extra blocks, but thinking back to my first week on the micro I have to laugh. I had absolutely no idea where I was going and all I knew in Valparaiso was how to get to my house. Now taking the bus is part of my daily routine, and it feels normal. I take two or three buses every day, know the route, where to stand up, when to get off, and know how to get around to more than just my house and school.

A long time ago I read this quote (I believe on another blog), and I think it really applies to my life here studying and living abroad.

"A day on my surfboard when I don't catch a single wave (which still happens more often that I'd like to admit) isn't a bust, because the end goal was never to go out and have a picture-perfect awesome session. The goal was to get out there, push myself, and learn something."

I didn't come to Chile with the expectation of becoming fluent in Spanish, perfectly navigating the city or partying every weekend surrounded by a plethora of new Chilean friends. I think this is important, because there are a lot of days here where I don't understand what people are saying, or how to respond, and there are also days where even if my Spanish is good, I can still manage to do things like get off the micro at the wrong stop. When I first got here, I was truly a beginner. There were no expectations and I was just a rookie, la gringa, who is allowed to ask countless questions, make mistakes, and embarrass myself a lot.

As cliche as it sounds I've learned a lot from my mistakes here. It's also really cool that there was so much I didn't know when I first got here, that I've been able to learn everyday. I've started to notice my daily routine here, things I'm doing that were strange when I first got here. I've also noticed how it's easier to follow a conversation and how much progress I've made. That's one of the biggest things I've learned so far; progress is important. It was very apparent after my first few weeks that I am not going to leave Chile fluent in Spanish, nor close to it. Without that goal in mind I've been able to laugh a lot at my mistakes and have more patience when I don't understand things.

Other mistakes/Mishaps for your entertainment:

I took a freezing shower, because I didn't turn on the californ the right way. As soon as I got out of the shower I heard my host mom very worriedly asking if I had turned on the water heater before showering, and yelling something about cold water. Turns out in addition to turning on the gas heater, lighting the match and spinning the little knobs, you have to turn on another dial for the water to become hot. Now I know to check the sink water in the kitchen before every shower!

Another time I thought my host sister and I were only taking one bus, so I didn't bring enough money for the four we were going to take round trip. We had to walk home from the center of Valparaiso. As much as my host sister said she hated it, we had an awesome view of the sunset and it was a good chance to get to know my sister.

Sunset from that night

I got stuck in an elevator for a brief scary time, all by myself. I was on a micro that hit another micro and I just decided I could get off and walk to where I was going. I've mixed up so many Spanish words; for example I was saying Juego instead of Jugo for the first full week before someone finally corrected me.

To balance out all of those words here are some pictures from yesterday:

Looking down on plaza Anibal Pinto

Hopefully that give a little insight to what I've been up to and thinking about,

Chao, Kat


An Introduction



My name is Nathan Harmon. I am from Seattle, Washington but for three months I have been living in Chile. I know it's a little odd that I'm starting a blog more than halfway into my stay here, but going through some of the other blogs, I thought it would be a great way to remember, as well as share the experience. Although months have passed from my arrival here and the vast amount of experiences and feelings that came with it, I think many more experiences remain to be shared. Along with these experiences I will also try to show differences between life here and the US, in addition to anything else that I feel could be useful to future travelers.


My siblings in the United States, from left: my brother, Blake, my sister, Corinne, and myself.



My mother, Maria, and I on the deck of my house here in Chile. 



My mother works on the first floor of our house, making ravioli and other pastas that she delivers to restaurants. My father, Quintin, works in an Italian restaurant in Viña del Mar. Viviana, my sister, works at the school that I attend, and my cousin, Fernando, attends University, and spends much of his free time on his bike.

I know that was very brief but I thought I should at least introduce those who read this to people I will likely reference down the road. I will hopefully be writing some more posts in the coming days and weeks about a multitude of things. Stay tuned. 

Until then...NRH



I just got back from an amazing weekend in the south of Chile. Friday we drove to the airport in Santiago, took a short flight to Temunco and drove another hour to get to our cabin in Pucon. 


La Cabana

Saturday morning we took a guided hike up Villarrica Volcano and the views were absolutely stunning.


Villarrica is considered an active volcano and it erupted in 2015
Exploring some of the lava tubes

IMG_5072 IMG_5072
IMG_5072 IMG_0895IMG_0895

It was fun to get out of the city and into the woods for a few days

In the evening we went to las termas (hot springs). It was about a two hour drive from the cabin and it was really nice to relax there.

Sunday we started the day by kayaking on Villarrica lake with a view of the volcano. IMG_5262

We went horseback riding in the afternoon. The trail went through the woods, followed an old lava flow and then back into the woods. 


Leaving Pucon was a little sad, as the south was so pretty and it also was the official halfway mark of our stay in Chile. Only nine weeks remain and it really feels like I just got here, staring in awe at the Valparaiso hills, and listening to the crazy fast Chilean Spanish for the first time. I'm definitely not ready to go and July just keeps getting closer and closer.


Chao for now,



Hola from Valpo!

A lot has happened the past few weeks. Starting two weeks ago there have been a huge amount of small earthquakes, called "temblors" here. Ranging in size from un-noticeable to prompting a tsunami warning, they persisted all week. The first few big ones I was a little confused what was happening, (in Vermont there are no earthquakes), but now don't think much of them.

They've been pretty strong (most ranging from 4-6), enough to wake me up during the night, or for us to stop whatever we're doing to say "oh tembló!".

Throughout the weekend they were pretty consistent every few hours and there was one big one (5.9) during the night. This caused my group chat from school to go crazy, but there was no damage.

Monday in school we reviewed what to do in case of an earthquake and practiced operation daisy (the earthquake plan). There were a few more temblors during the day that we felt in our classroom, but nothing big enough to stop the lesson.

After school Monday there was a little bit of chaos. I was taking the micro home from kayaking at the beach (I joined the kayaking club at my school!) when we had to go a little bit of a different route home. There was a fire in one of the buildings in the center so we took a little detour. We were almost to my stop and as I was standing up to go ring the bell the bus started moving around a lot. I just assumed it was the usual bumping around from going up the hill, but as soon as I walked in the gate to go inside our house I realized that was probably not the case.

My host sister was outside with the dogs, who had been going crazy. Turns out that was a 6.9 earthquake that I had felt on the shaking Micro. We went inside and as soon as we closed the door alarms started going off. Both of our phones were beeping and alerting us that there was an emergency evacuation of Valparaiso because there was a Tsunami risk. There was also a siren sounding outside warning people to get to high places.

My sister and I ran around the house unplugging everything with all of the alarms going crazy. A few minutes later they shut off and the evacuation was cancelled. My host mom got home shortly after and was very concerned if we were all okay. The next hour we were each on our phones letting people know we were safe, and checking in on friends to make sure they were alright. We spent the rest of the night watching the news from the center of Valparaiso. There were some public transportation that stopped working and many people were running around crazily. In addition to the first fire in Valparaiso my host sister told me that there was also a fire in Vina (both before the earthquake, just adding to the chaos).

In the end there wasn't much damage, just a lot of confusion. Chile is used to this intensity of earthquakes and therefore the buildings were all make to withstand events like this. All public schools cancelled classes for students the next day so teachers could have a day to check for any structural damage, and review earthquake protocol.

With my day off I went on a walk with my host sister and one of our dogs, Cachorra. 

Everyone calls her Cachorra which means puppy, but her real name is Dawn

All of my classmates were very curious how I felt about the earthquakes and if I was scared of them. They are all so used to temblors, most of them didn't react much. They thought it was so cool that in Vermont there are no earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes or volcanoes, and when I mentioned we have snowstorms, they thought this was so cool. It never snows here in Valparaiso, so the idea of just playing in the snow, having a snowball fight, making a snowman or snow angel seems so cool to them.

Look for pictures from my weekend in Pucon soon.

Chao for now!