South America

Inside Look: Brazilian Quilombo

Monday, October 14th, 2013

by Diana Conde

Diana Brazil

One of the places we traveled to while in Brazil was an indigenous place called a Quilombola. This place as well as many others was a place where Africans who were often runaway slaves stayed. These places are very poor and only have the necessities in order to live. It was shocking for me to learn how slavery was such a big part of their history as well and how much inequality still remains today just like in the United States.

When we visited this place which has housed many generations, many of the people were very happy because today they have a lot more resources than they did many years ago. Their children are receiving better education and most importantly they actually have access to get education. Many people live in this small area which houses 96 families. The leader of the Quilombo is a woman, she is the first to lead the Quilombo as well as having been voted a second time because of how well it has been run. They also made us a typical Quilombo meal which was very delicious.

I learned that there are many quotas that universities have on the amount of afro Brazilian students they have to take in. This is done in order to level the field a bit since they were so disadvantaged in the past. This also exists in the workplace. I learned that they are trying to get more Afro Brazilians educated and in better working positions for the same reason of being disadvantaged in the past. I also learned that they aren’t trying to get them to the higher level positions just a step or two up from where they are now. Even in the government there are no Afro Brazilian people who have an important position.

This really shocked me because their situation is even worse than the United States because they still aren’t trying to be completely equal. What they wish for the most is to be able to be in the position that African descendants are in the United States which is to have the opportunity to be truly successful. While in the Quilombo one of the ladies there was asking us about Obama and how he was doing as the president. She said that they were very proud of him and that they want Brazil’s African descendants to be able to one day be president as well.

I think this visit highlights my time in Brazil because I learned many new things about Brazil. There were similarities between Brazil and the United States but there were many differences. My experience was amazing and I was able to open my eyes to a whole new world full of their own issues and battles. This experience was great and I’m lucky to have been able to participate in it.

No Trek for Amateurs

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Written by: Rebecca Ruh, Foster School Undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Chile


About halfway through my time in Santiago, my fellow Coloradan friend asked me if I would like to join him for a day of hiking just on the outskirts of Las Condes, una comuna in the city of Santiago. Loving the outdoors and hiking, I leapt at the offer.

What began as a leisurely hike soon transformed into a workout for pros. The first hour passed relatively easy but the following five entailed much exhaustion due to the steep incline and lack of tread on my shoes. After all, the desert sand was no match for my indoor running shoes. As we passed the other hikers clad with trekking poles and professional gloves, they scoffed at the sight of these American amateurs. One lady, with a pitying look on her face even gave me one of her poles saying that I would need it for the journey down the mountain and she was more than right.

rebecca2When we finally ascended the summit and trudged through the snow up top, quite different from the desert sand when we began our journey, the smell of victory was in the air. After finishing 15 miles of pure uphill battle 20 minutes from the center of the city, I felt so proud. First it was amazing that such a view lay so close to the heart of Santiago, much less that we could take in the skyline since we had climbed much higher than the view-hindering pollution now below us. Secondly, this was the thrill that I seek – exploring a region, seeing cacti to snow in the matter of several thousand meters, and talking to the locals about this hidden gem of a view that lay before us. Couldn’t get much better than that. The best 11 hours to spend a Sunday. Man, I love this country.

El Dieciocho the Chilean Way

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Written by: Rebecca Ruh, Foster School Undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Chile


For el dieciocho, a Chilean celebration of independence on September 18th, I desired to spend it with Chileans. Some other foreign exchange students invited me to travel with them, but I yearned for the true Chilean experience. After all, spending one of the biggest Chilean holidays with a bunch of gringos wouldn’t give me a true sense of the special day, but more of an Americanized version. So when one of my Chilean friends invited me to join him and 14 of his guy friends in Algarrobo on the coast, I immediately said yes.

To tell you the truth, I’d only talked with this “friend” two times prior to his invitation and so joining him and all of his friends in a house for four days seemed a little risky, but at the same time I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to make more friends and experience la Fiesta Patria the Chilean way. Plus I figured that it is situations like these where putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is more than necessary and often results in spontaneous fun, often better than anything planned.


In a matter of four days, these Chileans introduced me to a holiday to be remembered. The days were filled with the beach, volleyball, paddleball, and flea markets while the evenings with piscolas (pisco and coca cola) and wine paired with enough meat to feed an army. Then when midnight hit, we’d make way to the fonda, a fair, with terremotos and chicha (two famously sweet Chilean drinks), churros with manjar, and la Cueca (a traditional Chilean dance), only to return to the house to continue storytelling.





In addition to experiencing and learning so much about Chilean culture, I met some great friends who welcomed me with open arms and included me in every activity. I felt beyond comfortable and anything but anxious and worrisome. I’m so thankful for days like these and the adventurous spirit that pushes me to test my boundaries.


Bucket List Item #22…Check

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

by Rebecca Ruh, Foster School Undergraduate, Foster Exchange in Chile

This past weekend Diego, my Peruvian friend, and Lisbeth, my Spanish amiga, accompanied me to Valparaíso, a port city about an hour and a half from Santiago. Amongst our exploring of the city filled with the brightest walls, an interesting stay at a hostel, visiting one of Pablo Neruda’s houses, and sampling anticuchos (cow heart) and sopapillas from street vendors, we made our way a little further up the coast to Con Con to take a whirl at sandboarding















When we arrived I was shocked to see such a view – sand dunes towering high above the ocean with its majestic blue waters directly below us. With only three other small groups there, it felt like we had the land to ourselves, all the better so fewer people could gape at our amateur boarding skills and smirk at our clumsy wipeouts (even though I found great pleasure in laughing at my ineptness). Our first attempts down the massive dunes culminated in trips and spills, becoming very familiar with the rough sand. But soon, paving our way down the dunes became more natural and my confidence in my sandboarding abilities grew. As we descended the hills and the sun cast its rays on the water, I soaked in the skyline, ingraining it on my mind, vowing to never forget this moment directly before my eyes. I couldn’t believe it – crossing bucket list item #22, sand-boarding, from my list for a grand total of $3 with some of the most breathtaking scenery halfway around the world and great company. You could say I am one lucky girl.

Finding Home Abroad

Monday, November 14th, 2011

By: Nicole Winjum,  Foster Undergraduate

My time in Santiago has been great. I have been meeting people from around the globe, trying new food, seeing new sights, and hearing Spanish 24/7. Though I have never been the type of person to get homesick, I sometimes find myself longing for something a little less exotic and a little more familiar. Santiago really isn’t that different from any major city in the US, but it’s the small differences that really stand out. They have the same kinds of cell phones, but the carriers are different. They have department stores and malls, but most of the stores are different. People chat as they walk down the street, but the language is different. These slight deviations underline that I am in a foreign city far from home, and though I love the newness and the excitement this city brings, there are times when I just want the simplicity and familiarity of the US.

This is when I love that there are American stores here. Don’t get me wrong, I love discovering local stores and restaurants, but to me, being a business student and a fan of capitalism, nothing screams USA (and home) louder than an international corporation. I love that I can walk into a mall here and buy an overpriced vegan conditioner from Lush like I would at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. I love that I can walk through an Apple store and play with their iPads like I often do at U Village. I love that there is a Ruby Tuesday’s down the street from my house (even though I have never eaten there, here or in the US). But mostly I love that I can walk into a Starbucks here and buy an iced peppermint latte that tastes exactly the same as the latte I would buy on the Ave on my way to class. More than any other American store, Starbucks represents home for me. Probably because I live in Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, and because I have been going to Starbucks for as long as I can remember. Even when I was younger we went, though my parents would make me get hot chocolate or decaf coffee. Yes it’s overpriced, even more so here than in the states, but paying $6 for a latte and a reminder that I am not so far removed from home as I sometimes feel, is totally worth it.

A Few Facts About Santiago, Chile

Monday, September 12th, 2011

By: Nicole Winjum, Foster Undergraduate

I have been working on this blog post for awhile, making note of differences and simple facts of life I have seen while living in Santiago, Chile. It’s certainly not a complete list, and I am sure I’m forgetting something, but here are a few of the things I’ve noticed.

PDA: There is a lot of it, and not just the hand-holding, brief kiss on the lips kind. I’m talking making out on the subway, literally lying on top of each other in the park, openly groping each other in the street kind. In the United States, PDA is usually frowned upon, and while you might see the occasional couple going at it, those sightings are few and far between. But not here. If you are young and in love in Santiago, you are all for displaying that love for everybody to see. Seeing couples being so touchy-feely in public has definitely taken some getting used to.

Dogs: They are everywhere. Not only does just about every Chilean family seem to own a dog or three, but there is an abundance of street dogs with no apparent home. You can always hear dogs barking at all hours of the day and night and everywhere you look there are dogs laying about in the sun. And the truly surprising thing is that, unlike the half-starved mangy dogs in Costa Rica, these dogs all seem to be fairly well fed.

Streets: Nobody cleans them. I mean, not every street is covered in stuff, but many are. This was most noticeable in Valparaiso, but it’s true in Santiago too. The other day when I was riding the Micro (that’s the bus system) we passed by a street that looked like an entire farmers market worth of vegetables got thrown about. It was crazy. And it isn’t just vegetables and pieces of plastic. Due to the abundance of dogs I mentioned earlier, there is dog crap everywhere. You have to constantly be on the lookout so you don’t accidentally step in something gross.

Bread: Eaten with every meal. Which is actually something I am quite thrilled with. I love bread and, due to my somewhat finicky eating habits, it is often the only food I can eat while traveling to foreign countries. But the Chileans eat bread as often as the French. It’s primarily sold in these funny little 4-roll loaves (see photo). For breakfast you might have one or two rolls slathered in butter and jam with a cup of tea. For lunch and dinner, you may use a roll to clean your plate or as an appetizer. For dessert, a little bit of manjar spread on some bread can not be beat. I was surprised by the sheer amount of bread consumed here, but I am not complaining!

Smoking: Everybody does it. I’m no stranger to smoking. My mom smokes, and I know a lot of people who might smoke a cigarette or two while drinking, but most of the people I know back home really do not smoke. Which is not that surprising considering the ad campaigns and research studies we are inundated with, telling us that smoking kills. But here it is as if nobody is getting those messages. I have heard about places like France having a lot of smokers, but I just was not really expecting it here. The most surprising is the number of younger Chileans that smoke, college age and even younger. In the US, it seems like the majority of smokers that I know are older, people who have been smoking before the health risks became so well known. But in any case, this has been one of the harder things to become accustomed too, since I really can’t stand the smoke.

Lemons: They love them. Seriously, I never knew people could like lemons so much; they put it on everything. You ordered a salad? Squeeze some lemon juice on it. You’re eating some fish? It’ll taste better with some lemon juice on it. You want a snack? Just snack on a lemon. I have literally seen people on the bus just sucking on a lemon. With dinner every night we usually have a side salad, which is iceberg lettuce with lemon juice, oil, and salt. Sometime we will have a carrot salad or a broccoli salad or a cauliflower salad. Which just involves said vegetable, lemon juice, oil, and salt. I believe I’m actually becoming quite fond of lemons. :)

A few other things to note…

  • The typical greeting is the one-cheek kiss, and it can get awkward if you go for the handshake and they go for your face.
  • They are big fans of avocado here, which surprised me for some reason, but I love avocado so it’s okay with me.
  • There is a sad lack of cheese here, and the few types they have are pretty expensive. I want to eat more or less like a local, so it isn’t so bad, but I am definitely missing cheese.
  • Names can get a bit confusing: In my 25-person Marketing class, there are 7 girls named Maria.
  • This isn’t the Spanish you have been learning in class. Yes the words are more or less the same, but their vocab is a little different and some phrases have different connotations. They also speak very fast here and sometimes drop the “s”. The youth say cachai? after almost every sentence which basically means “you know” “understand?”
  • Ciao is the customary goodbye around here. I know I lot of countries use Ciao as a goodbye, but I still associate it with Europe, so it caught me a bit off guard.

Thanksgiving in the Summertime!

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!Chile, Sara2

 Having never been responsible for an entire thanksgiving dinner myself, I would like to start out by saying that I am exhausted!  It’s much harder to celebrate family and food in a country where your family isn’t and with food that’s just not the same… but we made do and as far as I’m concerned our potluck style Thanksgiving was a complete success.

 Two other gringas and myself have been planning this meal since we got here in August (which was the middle of winter and seemed like a much more appropriate time to be eating turkey and pumpkin pie than it does right now since it’s about 90 degrees outside).  I even asked my parents to bring me some Thanksgiving essentials when they came to visit (Thanks you guys!) but that didn’t keep us from running into a few problems.

 Our first issue was the fact that turkeys are out of season in Chile at the moment.  As a replacement, we settled for BBQing every other kind of meet people could get their hands on.

 I myself spent the better part of the day trying to recreate an already untraditional pumpkin pie that my family makes every year.  What I ended up with was a really untraditional pumpkin pie a la Chile.  Besides the obvious aesthetic differences between my “pie” and the original, I lost track of how many alterations I made to the recipe.  It’s easy to say “Pop over to the store and get vanilla pudding mix, heavy whipping cream, and ginger”… but the execution of that HERE is a little tricky, given issues with translation and the fact that some of that stuff (specifically vanilla pudding mix) just doesn’t seem to exist here.  I think it must have turned out alright since there was none left by the end!

Chile, Sara1 Over 40 people ended up coming, and it wasn’t just Americans that wanted to celebrate either.  Folks from Canada, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Finland, El Salvador, and Chile (obviously) all showed up.  I don’t think any one person knew everyone that was there (not even Matt, who essentially hosted this whole event on the roof of his apartment building).  I certainly hadn’t met everyone before!  We left the invitation open so some people brought boyfriends and girlfriends from other universities in Santiago, some people brought cousins or host family members, some people brought friends they’d made at church, and of course there were classmates as well.

 Besides just being a really enjoyable evening and a nice break from studying, it was also a perfect close to the school year.  A couple people showed up with guitars towards the end so they played and we sang and it just felt like the end of camp.  Also, as depressing as this thought is, it was the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to a bunch of people that I’m probably never going to see again. 

 As unconventional as our feast was, I have to say it was probably one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever had.

Escape from the Smog!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Sarah Peterson ChileSo I started a blog about a bunch of useful things to know for living in Santiago, but it was exceptionally boring and part of the fun of living abroad is figuring these things out for yourself… so I started over.

If you need to get out of the city and the smog, its fairly easy to buy a bus ticket and go someplace outside of Santiago for the weekend.  I’ve taken some great trips with other students from la Catolica but one of my favorites was last weekend when a group of 8 of us when down south to Pucon.

Pucon is mostly a tourist destination for the outdoor enthusiast but it’s also, so I’m told, a good place to find a party on the beach during the summer.  There’s hiking, horseback riding, rafting, bikes for rent, a volcano to climb and a whole street full of “tourist agencies” where you can sign up for these activities. 

After visiting a couple different places to compare prices etc. we decided to go “hidrospeeding”, which is similar to white water rafting… except that you, individually, are in the water and I think it’s illegal in some parts of the US.  If you’re curious, look it up on youtube!  Its well worth going in my opinion!! (this is the video the guide made of our group.  I guess my name is Salan now)

We had planned on hiking the volcano the next day (which is about a 6 hr trip give or take an hour or two depending on your group and your guide) but it was pouring rain so we went horseback riding instead.  We chose a trail through a Mapuche community and up a mountain, which turned into a 20 minute hike in the mud at the end since the horses couldn’t make it up the slope.  We got back home soaking wet, muddy, full of really good mapuche food and really happy that we’d sucked it up and gone despite the rain.

On Sunday we finally got to climb the volcano, Villarica, which was by far the highlight of the weekend and probably one of the most intense things I have ever done.  Because of all the rain the day before, the higher parts of the climb were PURE ICE and it was terrifying (for me anyway!).  Besides making it to the summit in one piece, the best part was getting to strap on a huge diaper-ish thing and sliding all the way back down the mountain on your butt… which is also much more intense than it sounds!

But don’t take my word for it!


Monday, March 15th, 2010

In every country there is a learning curve, and this post will attempt to explain my experience with Chile’s learning curve thus far.

At this moment, I am sitting in a computer lab on campus, enjoying the internet for the first time since my last blog post.  As I write this, I am constantly hitting wrong keys and putting accidental accent marks of various sorts on letters, as this key board is very different than what I am used to.  I am still making a few mistakes here and there, but as I type more, I find that it is becoming easier and easier to avoid those wrong keys.  However I am not completely free from typos yet, as it takes more than just a day to erase years of practiced hand-placement on a keyboard.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

One thing I have found problematic here is finding my way around new parts of the city.  It is not the public transportation’s fault–if nothing else, the metro has been an absolute lifesaver.  The problem, I believe, lies in the Chileans’ ability (or lack thereof) to give good directions.  Those who do know how to point me in the right direction tend to give poor explanations, such as “it is on that corner,” said while waving in a vague direction, meaning my destination could lie at any one of six different “corners.”  Thanks.

And then there are those who don’t know the answer to my queries for directions.  However, as I have learned, it is cultural to just give an answer, albeit absolutely false, instead of admiting that you don’t know your way around your own city.  This has lead me down many an incorrect road.  I realized today, after having to ask 5 different people how to get to a certain building downtown, that there must be a way to tell who actually knows where they are sending me and who is just being “polite.”  My mission: figure out the difference; the small variations in intonation between those who know what they are saying and those who do not.  I am sure I will still be given lots of incorrect information as I continue to navigate the city, but with experience, it should become easier to find my way flawlessly across this unfamilliar city, this strange keyboard.

The literature class I am taking here gives assigned readings every week, and to get the readings one must go to a little photocopy shop on campus where all the classes’ readings can be purchased.  Last week I bought the readings for my lit class, intending to complete them this weekend.  Yesterday, I opened up the readings only to find that they were about Greek cultural history.  Quick check against the syllabus: suspicions confirmed.  The photocopy center had given me the wrong thing.  So today, despite not having any classes, I trekked my way down to campus to pick up the correct readings.  I had to wait in line for an hour just to get to the front of the line.  When I finally got my readings, I checked to make sure they were the real thing as I walked away.  Wrong again.  Turning around, I fought my way to the front to inform the guy behind the counter of the mistake.  Long story short, I had to wait another half hour just for him to correct the mistake.

Lesson?  Always check to make sure your photocopies are correct on the spot. One fewer typo to make as I go about my business every day here in Santiago.

I could go on and on with examples of how I have been slowly learning how things operate here in Chile, but they all tend to have the same moral at the end of the story.  Learning how to live in another culture takes time.  Now that I have been here going on three weeks, I have at least gotten to the point where I understand that the learning curve exists, and although I have learned a lot in the last few weeks, I have a long way to go.  I still find myself getting frustrated by Chileans’ horrible directions, as well as their overall lack of promptness and efficiency, but I have learned enough now to feel confident in my ability to figure out the rest.  But like typing on this godforsaken keyboard, I know it will take lots of practice before I am typo free here in Chile.

Living la Vida Loca

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I know it’s a lame title, but I couldn’t possibly keep a blog in Latin America without using it at least once.

After a weekend of searching, I am pleased to say that I have found a place to live!  It is located in Providencia, the area of town that was far and away my first choice.  The apartment is close to a metro station, and lots of nightlife.  The apartment itself is pretty nice–OK by U.S. standards, but way better than some of the other apartments I’ve seen here.  My room has access to an outdoor terrace where I can watch people walk by down below and get some semi-fresh air.  I will post pictures one I get a chance to move in, which will probably be tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a brief update on my activities so far:

Barrio Bella Vista. AKA, where the action's at.

Barrio Bella Vista. AKA, where the action's at.

A few nights ago I went out to experience Chilean nightlife at its best–in the neighborhood called Bella Vista.  Bella Vista is probably one of, if not the hub of activity here in Santiago.  To give you an idea, it is a neighborhood that consists solely of brightly-painted bars, discotecas and restaurants. Every weekend it is absolutely packed with people and interesting things to do. I went with a couple exchange friends, where we promptly met a large group of other Americans from Notre Dame (woot woot!) who are also here as exchange students.  We all decided to navigate the craziness together, finally settling upon a discoteca in which to enter.  To give you an idea of how Chilean nightlife works, our group of about ten people went into this club, and in doing so probably doubled the number of people inside.  That was at 2am.  The clubs here don’t even get busy until 3am or later.  Quite a different schedule than I’m used to all the way around, but I’m not complaining.

Since then, I have spent approximately 8 hours walking around Santiago looking at various apartments, following leads, etc.  Today was the lucky day, as this morning we finally found the right place.  And the best part?  It’s 5 minutes away from Bella Vista.

Today was the first day of classes for the PUC.  I didn’t have any classes today, but tomorrow the locura really begins (as if it hadn’t already).  I found choosing classes to take quite the challenge.  There’s no shortage of interesting classes, the only problem is that I’ve already taken the equivalent for most of them.  The classes I have left to take are either not offered here, or are classes that I don’t want to attempt due to their intensly quantative nature.  (Taking classes in a different language is a challenge, taking math and science classes in a different language torture.) After hours spent studying the course catelog, I think I have finally settled upon a few classes to take.  I am nervous, as I still feel that people here speak lightning fast and with lots of vocab I’m not familliar with.  But I guess that’s all part of the experience, eh?

Luckily this week is only three days long–two for me, since I didn’t have class today.  The reason is because a new president is assuming office on Thursday, so everyone here just decided to take Thursday and Friday off.  No complaints here.  I don’t think I could have chosen a more interesting time to be in Chile if I tried. Go figure…for once, I feel like I’m exactly in the center of the action, all the way around.