Top 10 Experiences in Chile So Far
I've been in Chile for six months, so I figured this is an appropriate time to do some big picture reflection. So here goes: my top ten things I've experienced in Chile so far.
1. San Pedro de Atacama
Luke, my best friend from when I was just a wee-little baby, came to visit for an incredible three weeks with his wonderful wife, Wainani. We decided to spend 4th of July weekend celebrating American Independence with a little independence of our own. The three of us hopped on a plane in Santiago and spent an incredible three days exploring desert valleys, salt flats, Mapuche ruins, and drinking pisco sours.
2. Hiking the W in Patagonia
I've only car-camped before coming to Chile. Sad and surprising, I know, but I just never did it. So of course, the first time I decided to carry in food and supplies for a little backpacking adventure, it had to be done over the course of a five day, 44 miles hike. In all honesty, it wasn't a difficult hike but Erin and I were rewarded with incredible weather, we met awesome people along the way, and we drank water straight off the glacier.
3. Surfing at Punta de Lobos
I've already written about PDL (my abbrev, obvi), but that wave is still up there with some of the best I've ever ridden. It's a left, so of course I can't be completely in love with in the same way I am with Supertubes at J-Bay, but still, it's an incredible wave that, with the right conditions, could make anyone's frown turn upside-down. Luckily, I didn't even have a frown to begin with.
4. Chile's Copa America Victory
I'll admit it, I'm not a huge fútbol fan. I couldn't tell you if Arsenal or Madrid is a better team this year. I enjoy watching the sport because it's beautiful, but I don't get riled up in the same way as when USC takes the field against Notre Dame. But still, it was Chile v. Argentina for the Copa America cup, so of course Luke, Wainani, and I went to a bar to watch with the locals here in Valpo. The victory celebration was incredible, but the most memorable moment was when Messi missed his PK. The place absolutely went berserk. The dream of being back to back champs became a reality for Chile in that moment, and everyone knew it. The city became alive, and as victory became imminent, the whole city just lost it. I am now a Chile fútbol fan. VAMOS CHILE.
5. Being Welcomed by Chileans Everywhere
It's honestly insane how friendly people are here. When our Spanish falters, they are patient. When we don't know where the hell we are going, we get directions. As gringo as Erin and I are, people here don't bat an eye when it comes to making Chile look good. Sure, Chileans are notoriously hard to understand, but that's not their fault, it's cultural, just as is good hospitality. I acknowledge that I'll never be fully Chilean, but damn do these people make me feel close.
6. Hiking in Reserva Naciónal La Campana
Again, I posted about this before, but I gotta reiterate how great it has been to have a huge, 3 sector park in our backyard. Unfortunately the peak with the incredible views is closed from June to August due to rapidly changing winter weather, so I haven't been back to the peak since May. Even with that closure (for my own protection), the hikes that I've done there have ranged from leisurely to difficult, with different flora, fauna, and views in each of the three sectors. My mom even got to see the other-worldly palms section for her time here in Chile last week, and it was a memorable experience for us both. It's always a joy being there.
7. Exploring Valparaíso Street Art
The main reason we picked Valparaíso for our place of residence for the last three months was because of the city's vibrant arts culture. Photography galleries, plays, concerts, juggling festivals (duh), and more are all on display here in Valpo. My favorite venue for all of the incredible art, however, is the street. Talented artists have been hired (or not) to create artwork all over the hills of the city. From the Open Air Museum to parking garage doors, every surface is a canvas, and finding the pieces around the city has been my favorite channel for exploring and learning about this wonderful city.
8. Dat Fish Doe
Normally I'm not a big fish eater. That primarily has to do with the last three years of my life spent in DC. I'm used to Hawaiian poke, and authentic Japanese sushi. I just couldn't get on board with East Coast sea food. I struggled getting the meat out of crabs taken from the Chesapeake. In general, I just feel that the Atlantic Ocean can't be trusted, and that the Pacific is way better. Just ask me, I know these things. So it's been a delight to return to the ocean where the sun sets and re-invigorate my taste buds with excellent swordfish, salmon, conger eel, and tuna. Before I came to Chile, I had probably had ceviche once or twice. I can now make the damn thing. Chile's seafood is more than Chilean Sea Bass; the wealth and quality of excellent sea food here is unrivaled, and the flare which Chilean chefs prepare them is classic, understated, and delicious.
9. Sucking at Making Chilean Friends
Most people would view this as a negative, but it has been a huge learning experience for me over the last six months, and one that I have found incredible valuable. I like to think that I can make friends easily, but I've only tried to make friends in English for the past 28 years. Trying to connect with others in a meaningful way in another language has changed my entire perspective on what learning a language actually means. I value the challenge of finding new ways to connect with people through activities and shared interests when language just isn't an option. On a positive note; when we were in the Atacama I had a legitimate conversation with someone my age about what we were both into, and it was honestly one of the proudest moments I've had. My pursuit of learning Spanish is paying off, and I can't wait to see what the next 6 months bring.
10. Shopping for Veggies and Fruits at the Market
I can haggle like a freaking boss in English. I know a ton about making excellent buying decisions. Apparently these two things are completely useless in the fruit and veggie markets in Chile. Erin navigates these like a pro. Her experience working on farms and running DC farmers markets make her uniquely adept at finding the best produce at a fair price. Me, on the other hand, I get nervous. I don't know what the hell I'm doing, and I end up with shitty avocados and I don't know why. In this case, I usually let Erin take the reigns, because she likes it and I'm more than happy to just observe. She's better at it than me. I know this to be true, and why not let my loved one play to her strengths? Well Erin left me all alone for three weeks to visit America, and I wasn't just going to resort back to my supermarket-loving ways. I braved the market and ended up with some decent apples and some not-too-squished bananas. I'm not sure why shopping for fruits and veggies in the mercado is so nerve-wracking for me, but I love it now, and I don't think I can go back to my old ways.