My host family is incredible! After 4 weeks of living together with them at the house, I have already felt to be a member of the family for a long time. In Chile, it is really popular for the family to have “once” instead of a typical dinner at night. It is like the afternoon tea in England that the local people simply eat bread with cheese or butter and have a cup of tea or coffee for dinner. However, my host mom is super nice that she always prepares me with a separate dinner in case I am hungry. She is a great cook! She cooks different local food for me every day. She makes me start to expect every new meal since they all become an opportunity to taste the real and delicious Chilean food. I am used to have dinner plus “once” at the table with my Chilean family while having some TV shows played at the background.
For a typical weekday, I normally come back home at around 5:30pm and finish my homework before eat. The dinner is my favorite time with the family since we can talk on various topics for couple hours and watch the Chilean drama or comedy together. My host mom was once a social worker, and I was working at a Catholic Worker House in Rochester last summer. So our conversations often revolve around community service, different culture of the countries and music as well. On weekends, my host mom often introduces me to her friends or other family members, or takes me to different local places, such as “la playa verde”, “la feria”, and the biggest shopping mall in the city. Among all of them, I enjoy the “feria” most. It is a huge open market for vegetables and fruits that only comes out on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The fruits and vegetables are super fresh and cheap that all the local families will grab a small cart and buy everything they need for a whole week.
After 4 weeks of staying in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, I have been to a lot of interesting places. The three most famous “cerros” in Valpo witness the history and represent every aspect of the city. There are so many street paintings in these “cerros”, so colorful and artistic; many small shops selling manufacture products like earrings an post cards; a lot of stray dogs walking around as they are the real master of this place; several cute cafes for a quick rest and a glance of the beautiful view; and of course a couple of fancy restaurants with huge windows and phenomenal foods. Compared to Valpo, Viña is less commercial, but more about a residential area for the Chileans. The city is new and modern with a street of restaurants and pubs along the coastline and a huge shopping center for the residents. The community is quiet but well rounded. The two cities connect to each other by the convenient public transportation that people can easily travel around.
During my time here, the government is trying to make an education reform that doesn’t really satisfy the students. Therefore, a lot of college students go out on strike and don’t show up in class. Most colleges have no choice but to cancel class and end the semester earlier. Students go on streets and start the movement in order to show their dissatisfaction with the authority and fight for their rights. I am not quite familiar with the Chilean politics and can’t say much about this issue or speak up for anybody. But it gives me a distinct perspective to better understand the country and its society, and makes me think more like a Chilean.