As my summer abroad program passes the halfway point, I realize that I haven’t shared much of my cultural immersion experiences on my blog as I initially had hoped. Thanks to the structure of my study abroad course, I have not only been able to see the many sides of Santiago and its neighboring cities, but I have also been able to meet its wonderfully prideful and caring people through volunteering. While my experiences in the past three weeks are too many to describe in detail here, I’m going to flash back a bit to some of my favorite periods of cultural immersion while here in Chile.
Now, anyone that REALLY knows me, knows that I love to eat. With that being said, I must also acknowledge the somewhat sad reality that my taste in food can be a bit “picky” at times. Nonetheless, I made an early promise to myself to try new things while I’m away from home because I honestly don’t know if or when I’ll get the chance to do so again. So, I begin my reminiscing with a meal that I shared with other students of my cohort in near Patio Bellavista in Santiago, not too far from the Baquedano Metro Station. After touring Cerro San Cristobal (a beautiful “hill” with a statue of Mary at the top), we were led to a restaurant by our tour guide for lunch. The menu offered burgers, salads, and other fairly familiar foods, but upon suggestion, we realized that many Chilean dishes were also served. Of these dishes, we decided to indulge in a shareable meal known as “Chorrillana”.
Chorrillana is a Chilean dish that is structured as followed: French fries at the base, topped with fried onions, beef (or pork if you so choose), and two fried eggs. The dish is huge so we split three orders among the nine of us. I was sold on the idea after hearing the ingredients alone, but after I saw it before my eyes, I wanted to marry it. Seriously. The meat was seasoned better than any meat I’d eaten in my school dining hall (still love you BC Dining), the onions and eggs were prepared in a new, but tasty way that complimented the meat, and French fries are always awesome. This meal coming in the second week of the program, I was confident that no other original Chilean cuisine could be bad. Since then, my palate has been exposed to completos (Chilean hot dogs), manjar (dulce de leche), Sauvignon Blanc & Noir (as part of a wine tasting), helado (from Emporio La Rosa – a top 25 Ice Cream place in the world), and pebre (a salsa eaten with bread as an appetizer for meals). The colors and flavors of the food go hand-in-hand with the spirit of the city of Santiago.
While food has been an important part of the immersion experience, along with sightseeing and the course itself, another major part of my education about Chile has come to me in the form of friends. Who would have known? As part of my program, I spent six days over the past two weeks working at a men’s homeless shelter run by the Hogar de Cristo organization. Hagar de Cristo is a public charity organization that was founded by St. Alberto Hurtado and this particular branch supports men who do not have a home to go back to after their days out in the city. At this shelter, I worked alongside two classmates and the Hogar de Cristo staff in getting the men present there involved in activities to lighten their moods. Most of the time this meant playing ping-pong or taca taca (foosball), but more recently it meant having conversations with the men regarding sports (Chile is in the COPA America Final by the way!!), politics, history, and their personal lives. The many conversations I had opened my eyes to other parts of Chile, parts that are not often highlighted in the public. Through their generosity and openness, I had the chance to travel to areas far outside of the city without having to stand up.
The culture of Chile is evident in every corner of the city. The pride here in the music, dance, sports, history, etc., is palpable and I have just enough time to maximize my absorption of it all. I realize that my time here in Santiago is coming to an end soon, so my new goal is to explore neighborhoods on the opposite side of the city and to keep eating new foods. I have a long weekend coming up this weekend as a result of the Feast Days of St. Peter and St. Paul, but time is starting to enter “fleeting” mode. Despite this reality, the only thing I want to do about it is explore!