The great writer over at Satin and Lace once told me that as I travel, I should remember to avoid getting stuck behind a camera to the point where I only see my surroundings in megapixels. For that reason, the majority of my trip has actually gone (photographically) undocumented. Between my occasional photos, less occasional journal entries, and even less occasional blog posts, I’ve save the rest for my memory and tuition payments. That being said, there are a few mental images I want to share that stand out to me.
I’ve been woken up by many interesting things. The first of these was an earthquake. There are two distinctions of earthquakes here, temblores and terremotos. Temblores are small and very frequent. They occur throughout the country every day and you probably don’t notice them. My first happened at about 4:00 in the morning, and there were two or three small rumbles that shook me awake (wow, I don’t think I’ve ever used that phrase literally before).
The other wake-up, which has happened more frequently, is dog barking. That might sound silly, but there are stray dogs all over this country. The sound of the dogs can be louder than the traffic on the nearby road, and when the dogs right around the house stop barking, I can still hear the baying for miles like a carpet of noise. Eventually, I’m sure I’ll sleep right through it.
One of the most difficult parts of foreign language immersion is that I feel like a child and I’m treated like a child. The best way to come to terms with it is to join everyone in the room and laugh at myself. (Yes, they are laughing at you.) However, it doesn’t shake the urge to try to prove myself. Turns out, though, that I don’t have much to work with.
Monopoly was never a game I enjoyed much as a child; it was too much strategy, too much math, and too long. But I wasn’t going to refuse a good round with my host brothers. On any other day, I would have been stricken with fear; but the immersion experience has definitely shaken a good amount of skin off me in some parts of life. The math turned out to be less difficult than I thought, even though the game uses Chilean pesos.
“You landed on mine! Rent is $5,800.”
“You have a $10,000.”
“Give me the ten, and I’ll give you change.”
Mamá Chilena: “Ross, you better count that change. These guys are tricksters.”
The next day, to my surprise, I was playing Monopoly again. This time, though, I was with family relatives; an older cousin (about age 30) and a younger one (age 9). I began to realize what a poor position the older cousin put herself in. Here was a pesky nine-year-old having a blast gathering houses and miscounting his die, and next to him a blubbering foreigner battling with simple phrases and big numbers. Once dinner began and our game was cut short, I don’t think many of us were disappointed.
A group of gringos went to — or, descended upon — the movie theater at in the mall in Viña del Mar to see Harry Potter Number Seven Part Two Before Anyone Else Ha. A great amount of media in Chile is originally in English and either dubbed or subtitled. Flipping through channels, you’re likely to come across Los Simpson (which is very popular) and some familiar soap operas dubbed into Spanish. Movie theaters often give you the choice between dubbed and subtitled films. As you may imagine, dubbing requires almost a complete overhaul of the sound effects, and creates an odd reality in which the lips don’t quite look right. A few weeks earlier, I watched Transformers 3 with subtitles, and enjoyed comparing the real dialogue with the subtitled translation (not all of the swear words nor American colloquialisms translated quite perfectly). Harry Potter, however, was going to be different; I was determined to look past the subtitles and enjoy myself watching the culmination of one of the staples of my generation. From head to toe, I was entrenched in the world of magic and Hogwarts for one last time.
Emerging from the theater was an awakening. Funny how easy it was to forget, for two hours, that I was in a Spanish-speaking country, where normally my brain is on high speed trying to catch the words flying by me, where expressing an opinion is as difficult as ordering McDonald’s.
Lastly, the sight of where I’m living from the surrounding hills was a spectacular sight. Fortunately, did take a picture of that. Words would be hard to describe this one.