Mendoza (11/20-11/24), Santiago (11/24-11/27), and Viña del Mar and Valapraíso (11/27-11/29)

I’ve been in the USA for almost two weeks now and finally have a minute to write some blog posts. Between catching up with old friends, running errands, going to various appointments (dentist, haircut, car repair, etc.) and the holidays, time has flown by! Oh, also, my computer totally crashed and had to be wiped and restored completely from the external HD. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and have finally been able to edit my pictures and get this post published!

MENDOZA

I left Salta back on November 20th. It was weird leaving and knowing I wouldn’t be back until December 13th! But I boarded the bus and prepared for an 18-hour overnight journey. The busses in Argentina are REALLY nice – super wide seats that recline way back and almost turn into beds, full service and a “bus attendant” who will bring you water and whatnot, several meals including wine, and a few movies. They are also really safe, so you can sleep without worrying constantly  that someone will pickpocket you. I arrived in the morning after sleeping a solid 8 hours. I had one day to relax and prepare for my exam the next day.

DELE Exam

In addition to wanting to see Mendoza just for tourism purposes, I also took an international Spanish exam that isn’t offered in Salta. It is through the Instituto Cervantes in Spain and called the Diploma de Español Como Lengua Extranjera (DELE, Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language). I took the C1 which is a professional level of Spanish and shows that you are basically fluent. So when I arrived in Mendoza I finished my final vocabulary flashcards, found the university where I would be taking the test, went to Starbucks, and wandered around downtown.

Main plaza in Mendoza

Main plaza in Mendoza

The next morning I got up at 6:30 so I would be sure I would be at the university by 8:15. When I arrived, in true Argentine style, no one knew where to go for the exam and it was poorly organized. I found the room, which had no A/D or fan and it was set to get up to 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) by mid-day. Great. The proctor divided us into two rooms, one for those taking the B2 exam (intermediate) and the two of us who were taking the C1. I was with a middle-aged Italian woman who moved to Mendoza 8 years ago. Her Spanish was better than mine. Awkward.

The exam began and the proctors were sitting in the back of the room chatting with each other during the reading and language section. I need quiet when I take an exam so I kept turning around to get them to stop and even asked them to stop – no success. Then we did listening and one of the recordings was so bad I couldn’t understand half of it. Great. I have to file a “reclamo” (complaint) with Instituto Cervantes for these two things. The next part was writing which was fine, we broke for lunch, and came back and did speaking which was fine as well. I get my score in 3 months so we will see if I passed or not!

Bodegas

The next day was my last full day in Mendoza and I went to Maipú by train. It is a city about 30 minutes outside Mendoza and they have many bodegas and wineries. I did one tour which was free and included a tasting, and also had lunch at another bodega. It was about 97 degrees out with no breeze, so afterwards I was really exhausted and out of it so I went back home and just relaxed the rest of the day. The next morning I had a bus to Santiago, Chile. I kind of liked Mendoza but not nearly as much as Córdoba. It was very congested, the busses were confusing, it was really hot and I just wasn’t really impressed by it. Also the wineries were just okay, I much prefer the ones in Cafayate in Salta Province.

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That afternoon I just relaxed and boarded a bus to Santiago the next morning.

SANTIAGO

One of my best friends, Brittany, studied abroad in Santiago, Chile in 2009. She always talked about how much she loved her host family and since I was in Mendoza already, I took advantage of the opportunity to goto Chile for a few days before my mom arrived in Buenos Aires. After a long 8-hour bus ride across the Andes, a long border crossing process, a metro ride and a taxi I finally made it to her host family’s house. Her host mom, Patricia, kindly offered to let me stay at her home even though she has two sons, two exchange students from the USA, and a Colombian guy who is getting his bachelor’s degree in Santiago (full house!)

Their house is beautiful and located in a nice and residential part of the city about 40 minutes from downtown Santiago. Ben is a student from Colorado and Kelcey is from San Diego but goes to Marquette actually (coincidence)! It was awesome hanging out with them and Ben showed me around my second day in Santiago and took me to the end-of-semester showing of his salsa dancing class at the Catholic university.

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Salsa 🙂

I LOVED Santiago. It is a very clean and organized city, I felt safe the entire time, they have excellent public transportation that reminded me of the metro in Madrid! and the people are super super nice. Anytime I needed directions someone was able to give me an answer and everyone was just really kind. I did a tour in Spanish of “La Moneda,” the Chilean government building (originally the federal mint, which is why it’s called la Moneda), and i learned more about the rough history of Chile during the 1970s.

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At “La Moneda” in Santiago

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Gorgeous – right in the middle of downtown!

I think my favorite thing was the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos which is a museum dedicated to the military dictatorship under Pinochet. It was chilling but really well-done and super informative, and there was an incredible (yet depressing) display outside the museum of human rights abuses all around Latin America.

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Display outside the museum

I also liked this international craft fair that was going on! There were artisans from many countries like Mexico, Peru! Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Uruguay and of course Chile. I got some letters that spell out Srta. Thompson which I can use in my future classroom!

The artisan fair

The artisan fair

After 3 days in Santiago I went to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso ready to learn more about the cities where my high school friend Beth spent a semester abroad!

VIÑA DEL MAR AND VALPARAÍSO 

My high school friend Beth studied abroad there and she gave me some great tips. I started in Viña, spent a day at the beach and wandering around, got super sunburnt, ate some churros and relaxed.

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Great day by the ocean!

The next day (which was actually Thanksgiving) I spent in Valparaíso, which is just about 15 minutes away and connected by a little highway that runs along the ocean. Valparaíso is a port city and has a rough feel compared to Viña’s shoreline and big condo buildings.

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Woah.

Valparaíso also has a lot more hills and it is much harder to navigate…. I was constantly lost. It’s so hilly they even built these elevators into the sides of the hills.

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Straight up!

I went to Pablo Neruda’s house and really enjoyed the visit – it was cool to imagine him sitting in his living room writing his great poetry.

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Neruda’s house

I also liked all of the artsy stuff – beautiful murals and street art everywhere, funky jewelry, cool photography and little shops, etc. Not a bad Thanksgiving if you ask me! I got a cool ring and some art to put on my future classroom walls.

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Amazing art just painted on the side of a random building

The next morning began my long, 23-hour journey to Buenos Aires. My first bus was Viña del Mar to Mendoza (8 hours) and the next was Mendoza to Buenos Aires (13 hours) with a 2-hour layover in between. It was… fine. I finally made it and was instantly reminded that I do not like Buenos Aires. And that Buenos Aires is much more expensive than Salta. I made it to the Air B&B apartment where my mom and I would be staying and waited about 2 hours for her to arrive from the international airport, Ezeiza, located about an hour outside BA. More about our trip together in the next post!

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