Saturday, 30 August 2014

Just two gals trying to get by in the big city

We were told that our year abroad would turn us into more tolerant people. This was inaccurate.

Don't get us wrong, we love this country; there are so many amazing things about it and I'm sure we'll write about them soon.

However we are British, socially awkward and we like to complain so firstly here is a post about some of the key cultural differences and difficult moments we’ve experienced here in the last 2 months.

1. The language barrier

Chilean Spanish is very different to what we’ve learned from European Spanish. Not only is the accent difficult and there are more slang words than la chucha, but even basic words are different; turns out accidentally informing someone that you’re going to make love to a taxi is a conversation killer.

It’s also pretty awkward having a name that in Spanish literally translates to him/he (‘Elle’ sounds the same as ‘él’). E.g If you tell someone you were chatting to Elle, it just means ‘I was chatting to him’ and they give me a weird suspicious look as if they're trying to verify what gender I belong to. My Starbucks coffee cups (middle class white girl) have said ‘El’, ‘L’, ‘Ellel’, ‘Ellen’, ’Helena’ and ‘Elnor’ so now we just make up a name every time to spare the awkwardness.

As accurate as it gets

2. General incompetence

We subjected ourselves to wearing dirty laundry because we had too many questions about the Chilean laundrettes. No more, no less. We don’t wish to expand on that dark time.

After incessant warnings from locals and our placement tutor back home NOT to walk around alone in the middle of the night in unknown territory, we successfully got out the taxi at the wrong place with a drunk smug belief that we were in the right destination and a bid farewell to the driver, who was trying to inform us of our error. ‘That’ll do, good sir!’ was our response and we waved him into the night before eventually bumping into course mates who, in this same time, had walked home and eaten a KFC.

There are too many incidents to mention for this one, including Ben getting charged £25 for a £2 journey in his taxi (he likes it when we tell people this – go tell all your friends).

3. Things we miss
  • The 'slut drop' (No we do not want to salsa dance on a night out thank you, we do not know how and the Pisco won't stay down if you insist on spinning us around like that. Just let us act like the scatty drunk Brits with no dance skills that we truly are).
  • Flushing toilet roll down the toilet.
  • Dry shampoo (not a single Chilean retailer sells this, except for one pharmacy which never has it in stock, and made us feel ashamed for suggesting it because it's apparently for very sick people who can't make it into the shower. Maybe we should just be sanitary human beings and wash our hair as much as we're actually supposed to).
  • Non-compulsory attendance to lectures (90% attendance here otherwise you fail).
  • Sensible numeracy.

This is the 1 peso coin ladies and gents, and it has a relative value of 0.1 pence. Discuss.

Thank God for the extra 1ml.

Bit by bit, however, we’re all slowly adapting to Chilean life. In Bath, if you haven’t left by 2am latest for McDonalds then you should reassess just how much you’re enjoying your night out in XL nightclub. However, we are now just about able to handle getting in from a night out at 5am. This is terrible news given the time difference – it’s advisable to avoid Snapchat stories and conversing with people in the UK where it’s 10am.

And some things don’t change. We still end up in McDonalds. Here’s to embracing the Chilean culture.

Monday, 18 August 2014


Here are some of the ACTIVITIES we’ve been doing in Chile (it's making our heads spin), so we can now justify our all-too-frequent imitations of the following video clip for the past half a year:

Hiking in Parque Aguas de San Ramón

Nip slip

Pensive and at one with nature

We are not in the peak of physical fitness and we are not Bear Grylls. However this hike only takes 3 hours and gives you an awesome view of the city, the mountains and a waterfall.

Horse-riding in Cajón del Maipo

Our little tour guide

Given that we’ve never really done a lot of horse-riding before, we expected there to be some initial basic instructions on how to ride a horse before trotting up steep mountains. There was none. Not to mention our tour guide was an 8-year-old boy. Not to worry though, there was the reassuring safety reminder that a girl went to hospital with a broken rib the day before. For the purposes of putting relatives’ minds at ease, we had extremely comprehensive insurance, we definitely had all our contact and passport details to hand for case of emergency, we had efficiently planned the logistics of the whole day before turning up and getting on a bus, and we didn’t hitchhike back *. All this aside, we had the best time and the view speaks for itself.

* We cannot guarantee the validity of the aforementioned claims.

Zip wiring in Cajón del Maipo

Zip wire man checkin' out the goods

Parque Bicentinario

Tours 4 Tips

La Vega Central

So happy together 

Each of these can hold up to 12 bodies

Meeting bright and early on a Saturday morning (special mention goes to Ally lasting the 4 hour tour on an hour of sleep), we began our ‘Offbeat Santiago’ trip around the lesser-known areas of the city, sampling the sopaipilla and the terremoto as we went. From there the tour led us to the oldest, biggest and most important cemetery of Chile. Currently there are some 2,200,000 bodies buried there, which only fills 3-4% of the available space (an area the size of 117 football pitches). 

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos

Cheers Elle

The museum of memory and human rights was an incredibly moving insight into some of the events which occurred during the Pinochet dictatorship. Interviews with torture victims and letters written by children were two of the most hard-hitting, in a museum that was amazingly modern and well put together. This is, however, just one particular outlook on that period of time. It’s very interesting to hear Chileans arguing their separate cases for both sides.

Skiing in La Parva

Amelia pooed her pants

That's pretty much the final thought we'd like to leave you with there.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

We're here, we're queer

We spent the first three weeks of our year abroad as wasters whilst the others were settling into their full-time jobs, which was pretty great. We saw some cool stuff, became well acquainted with Piscos and Terremotos (if an alcoholic beverage literally translates to ‘earthquake’ you know it won’t end well), and got pretty damn good at lying around the flat eating Chilean chocolate bars (THEY COST 15P. LET THAT SINK IN) while watching thrilling daytime sitcoms with their high quality acting: highlights include ‘my mother-in-law hates me’ and the chef who dreams of being a famous singer.

When the time finally came to start our studies at the Pontificia Universidad Católica we were of course totally unprepared. At this point Chilean Spanish was still about as familiar to us as Japanese (smiling and nodding blankly is a daily occurrence), so turning up to a lecture as the only exchange students filled us with unspeakable fear and distress. We awkwardly introduced ourselves to the class as the new kids we were, telling them all our ‘fun facts’ about ourselves; there's nothing fun about the social anxiety induced from pressuring us into making a class full of Chileans laugh with our quirky anecdotes. We were certain that our broken Spanish had lost all chances of finding a group for the dreaded upcoming coursework project.

However, turns out being the only pasty white girls in a class full of Chilean guys will get you far in life no matter how useless you are. At the end of the class before we’d even left our seats, we were approached and propositioned for a group with two eager and opportunistic males. You can’t argue with their hospitality and openness to exchange students but they’re gonna regret that one.

Casa Central, the main PUC campus

San Joaquín Campus

San Joaquín Campus

Unfortunately, there’s just no avoiding sticking out like a sore thumb. The students applauded us enthusiastically while we paraded around as a line of foreigners on a tour of the campus (the tour guide had a flag and everything). Likewise, Tinder is absolutely going off. Shout out to our boy Esteban:

*Swipes right*

A tribute to Miercoles Po: For any exchange students starting a new semester in Santiago, it's the quintessential first night-out. For any Chileans it is a mockery and to be avoided at all costs, unless your plan is to chirpse on the exchange students. Entry was free for foreign girls, 5000 pesos for foreign guys, and if you’re a local it’ll cost you your life savings plus probably your own mother. The drinks are expensive, the music is poor, but each week it moves around different locations in the city and attracts thousands to its questionable carretes. Mostly we just enjoyed tweeting socially unacceptable messages to be displayed on the big screen. 

The place of dreams

We promise we'll write a culturally informative post soon like we're supposed to. Until then, here’s a nice Chilean man on the metro:


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Home is where the skateboarding dog is

After 3 weeks in Chile, we'd like to kick off our blog with the following invaluable life lessons we've learned thus far.

Life Lesson 1: Organisation and preparation is a waste of time.

Thanks to our careful planning and coordination (as per usual), for no particular reason we embarked upon the journey from Heathrow to Santiago on separate flights, airlines and well, weeks. After 24 hours door-to-door travelling from Portsmouth to the hostel, and an entire seven days of separation, no one was more surprised than ourselves when we arrived safely with all luggage in tow.

Descent into Santiago
With no place to live, we booked into Castillo Surfista for the next 2 weeks. Some people might try to tell you that choosing a hostel in the middle of South America requires thorough research, prioritising factors such as personal safety, cleanliness etc. Those same people may also try and tell you that choosing a hostel based solely on its skateboarding dog is a rash decision. On both accounts, those people would be wrong.

Shout out to our main man Duke

Life Lesson 2: Life favours the lazy and unambitious

After exhaustively trawling through flat-share websites for days, we were on the verge of losing all hope of finding anywhere half-decent to live. Case in point, crazy landlady in the following link:

We pretty much gave up and spent our time lying in beds on Facebook, and thanks to this we saw the advertisement for the apartment we are currently sitting in, the moment it was posted to our newsfeed. Thus bringing us to our second life lesson. Go-getters: 0. Elle and Amelia: 1.

Leaving the comfort of the hostel for our Parque Bustamante apartment and its panoramic views of the local skate park/drug den/mating ground, we were excited (socially anxious) about meeting our new housemates. Upon arrival, we discovered we were not the only young couple living the dream under this roof. Elle and I would be living with a Chilean couple and a German couple, and for the first week we'd be sharing a cosy bed together. Such jokes often made to us, it was nice to truly live up to the expectations. Ah to be young, in love and abroad.

View from the apartment

Life Lesson 3: Chileans are the ultimate example of life lesson 1

At the risk of stereotyping, the Chilean race is lax, unsystematic and unpunctual. When your crazy tour guide landlord promises to bring you essentials such as bed sheets and a key the following day, expect him approximately one week later with no key, the wrong bedding in one hand, and a bottle of Pisco (local Chilean liquor) for Monday night shots in the other.

That said, once you adapt to the chaos, the people here are unbelievably friendly and helpful. After two days Elle received an invitation to a Chilean wedding, not to mention countless BBQs and parties. The city itself is also really cool, with a permanent view of the Andes almost anywhere you go (see edgy year abroad pics below).

Sadly our three weeks of doing sod all have come to an end as our university semester starts this week. Commence future blog posts about failed social interactions in an educational environment.

Disclaimer: we accept no responsibility for any mishaps that occur from following these life lessons.

La Parva

Chased by a semi-agressive mountain dog

Walking up San Cristobal

The Virgin Mazza, top gal