Valpo Or Bust

11/03/2010

Perdónenme

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christian @ 00:35

Forgive me, guys, for the epic lack of updates since the earthquake.  I wanted to get an update out immediately after the quake just to give everybody a sense of what was happening here in Chile, and of course to let everyone know that I was all right, but as of late I’ve been remiss about updating.  Boo.

A brief chronological synopsis:

The Saturday of the quake (it technically occurred at 3:34 AM), our study abroad program, International Studies Abroad, moved us to a resort in a small country town called Olmué, about half an hour away from Valparaíso and and hour or so from Santiago.  There is very little to say about my stay there, except to commend ISA for their actions.  I know several of my fellow students complained a lot about staying in such a remote, quiet town where there is no night life to speak of, and to tell the truth, even as someone who hates big parties, I thought it was pretty dull.  But after living through the fifth (I think?) strongest earthquake in recorded history, a little boredom was a welcome change of pace.  ISA kept us safe and made the right decisions every step of the way; I cannot thank them enough.

After two days in Olmué, we were distributed to our host families.

And let me tell you, my host family is amazing, although not really in a way that I can describe in words.  All the standard adjectives fit: nice, kind, understanding, fun, etc.  But try describing your own family in so many words in a virtual journal – it doesn’t really work.  Suffice it to say that although I had a great childhood as an only child, I’m very much into having siblings for these five months.  I’ve actually even found a new Canasta partner in my hermanita, Dani.

Since I arrived last Monday (1/3/10, which is the Spanish dating system, by the way), most of my time has been dedicated to exploring Viña del Mar, the city in which I reside, and Valparaíso, the city where  my university is located.  My experience so far has been a growing experience, obviously, in more ways than one: of course, the language barrier has an impact on everything I do here, but almost as importantly, acclimatizing myself to city life has been quite an experience.  I’m used to American individualism – if you want to go somewhere, you take your car and you just go.  All my life, I’ve traveled from place to place via car maybe 98% of the time.  The point then becomes moot when I’m at Messiah  – a five minute walk will take me anywhere I desire.

Here, though, public transportation constitutes 98% of my transit from place to place – a completely new concept to my suburbian mind.  Here in Chile, public transportation comes in three flavors: metro (self-explanatory), buses (colloquially called “micros” here), and colectivos.  Literally translating to – you guessed it – “collective” in English, colectivos are, if I’m not mistaken, a form of taxi that is indigenous to the Andean region.  Essentially, it’s a car that works in the form of a bus – rather than one passenger entering and selecting a destination, colectivos follow predetermined routes.  The advantage to colectivos is that they can get to places that traditional buses can’t; here, among the tall cerros of Valpo and Viña, a bus is more of a liability than a help, and I can imagine that most buses would instinctually run away from some of the hills (read: mountains) in this region.

All good things must come to an end, however, and after more than a full week of descanso, of vacationing and relaxing and exploring my new home, it’s time to get to work.  Today was my first day of formal orientation in La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (or simply La Católica for short), and though the orientation itself, which consisted in viewing a presentation and some traditional and modern Chilean music and dance, was not too strenuous, the class lists we received reminded us that things are about to get very busy very fast.

Even before I set foot inside a classroom on my first day of classes, this Monday (15/3), I will undoubtedly have to endure the epic headache that class selection will be.

It goes something like this:

Here at La Católica, there are two different types of classes I can choose from: classes with extranjeros (that is, classes with just international students, and classes that integrate international students with Chilean students in one classroom.  Though I can take some classes with extranjeros, how many I can take is, to the best of my knowledge, a limited number.  That number is a mystery to me.  Also, whereas Messiah College is set on a 3-credit class standard (almost every class I take in Grantham is worth 3 credits), here they dispense credit numbers at random: there are far more 2, 4, 5 and even 6 credit classes than there are 3 credit classes (at La Católica). To add to this mess, a class that counts as 2 credits here (at La Católica) isn’t necessary worth three credits back home at Messiah.  To combat this insanity, Messiah has what is called a Course Equivalency Database, an online database that establishes what classes abroad count as in Messiah language.  But because this program is so new (only its second semester with Messiah), there’s hardly anything in this database for us…which is a total fracaso (fail).

Whew.

At any rate, by Friday night, this will all be figured out, and classes will start Monday.  At 8:15 in the morning.  By then my house will have water (we lost it for 72 hours starting yesterday for pipe repair), and what will be life as normal will begin.

More updates then. =)

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1 Comment »

  1. I guess you can’t just take what Shaina did last semester?! Did all her courses transfer? Does the shutdown of the ISA offices Friday afternoon make this more difficult? Good luck!

    Comment by Mom — 11/03/2010 @ 05:44


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