October 2011 Archives

Social Networking

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I apologize to those who in the audience who do not care for social networking, but as a part of the generation I am in it would be imprudent to not discuss the differences at some point.

Social Networking, as some of you may have learned through the events of the Arab Spring, is becoming quite worldwide. Chile is no exception. The use of Facebook (especially), Twitter, and others have infected the entire nation.

If I were to say one thing about Facebook use in Latin America, I would say that it is abused. EVERYONE has a Facebook account, and EVERYONE spends way too much time on it. For example, my host mother (70, who I adore) spends a majority of her free time on Facebook (3-4 hours actively/day). She will post a status, and then choose to "like it". For those who understand, that just isn't done.

In my family alone, my host brothers (39 and 27), my host sisters (45 and 43), host nephews (16, 13, and 12) and my host grandmother (90 something). The only one to have held off is my host-father. In that respect, I think his stubbornness is acceptable. The problem of Facebook is not just a problem in my family, but many others. Some students (one in particular I don't care for) have gotten in trouble from their families for translating a post/comment to Spanish from English ripping into their host family.

Twitter isn't nearly at the level that Facebook is in Chile, yet still has its presence. Twitter has played a serious role in the student movement currently sweeping the nation. Just as in the U.S. and other countries currently with manifestations, Twitter has been a source of organizations and support for such movements.

Being that much of the population lives in Santiago and Valparaíso, this is where the majority of the "tweeting" is centralized. My city of 300,000 hasn't quite got the "Tweeter-Fever" yet, but I am sure it is on its way.

Social Networking, no matter your opinion on the issue, is ubiquitous and omnipresent. I find this to be a shame, but the majority of the youth (and seemingly increasing amount of the older generations) would not agree with me.

Smiley Faces

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Warning: this post may seem unfitting for some of my older viewers.

For those who may communicate via texting, chat, or anything in our modern technological time, you will know the "dialect" with which communication is presented. It is a rare form of language that has many contractions and abbreviations that fit the fast-paced form of the internet. This also includes the use of smiley faces.

In Chile (yes they use phones for texting and Facebook [probably more than most of us in the U.S.]), the use of these contractions are very common, just like anywhere else among the world's youth. However, one thing seems to stand out more than others: The OVERUSE of smiley faces. For some of my older viewers, any "computer" language may seem excessive, yet my generation should probably understand. They (Chileans or Latin Americans could even be used) will put a smiley face behind anything that has a positive sentiment. For us in the U.S., I feel that the use of smiley faces is more "on occasion" than here in Latin American. And especially for males.

This habit caught me off guard and honestly made me feel a little uncomfortable at first, but have been getting used to it. That said, however, I think I'll return to the more impersonal, less smiley form of computer communication when I come back to the U.S.


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Nationalism is a touchy subject in Chile. As some of you may know, they had a fascist military dictatorship take over in 1973 (on September 11th, no less) and there were many inhumane acts committed. Augusto Pinochet and his regime has had long lasting impacts in the current culture and laws of Chile. An interesting example of this is the law against Chilean Flags. Only during the Independence Week is it allowed for households to have flags up around their house. Otherwise they cannot put out flags, only government institutions and companies can. Interestingly enough, however, there is still patriotism present in the form of nationalism in that Chileans are subjectively proud of being Chileans. We hear every time we talk about a different country how in Chile this is what happens and how it is a great idea. It is almost as if they do not care to say that they are better than everyone else.

Indeed, this happens in the United States. I actually think that in the United States it is much easier and more accepted to express nationalistic views based on ignorant views of the world. I have a strong opinion of this, so I won't go any further into it, but it is very interesting to see that other countries deal with the same problem even with laws to sustain it.

Music in Chile

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One passion of mine includes expanding my musical horizons. Unfortunately, that is not exactly possible in Chile. The music that is listened to by the majority of the young people, as well as the older generation (to my surprise) is what would appear on the American Top 40 combined with a little bit of Latin music (I'll get to that in a second). I expect to hear Ryan Seacrest's voice appear between each song when we are listening to the radio. I feel it is unfortunate as I expected a little bit more authentic latino music. As soon as I arrived, I found out I was completely wrong as I heard Brittany Spears to Kings of Leon to Katy Perry.

One of the most ironic things about this is the fact that Chileans don't know the lyrics they are singing. And unlike radio stations in the U.S., the swearwords in English are not bleeped out. Thus, it is really entertaining to hear a person singing along to the song (because they listen to these songs over and over they often know every word by heart, just not the meanings) and suddenly the say a very dirty thing.

The Latin music played in Chile consists of some Cumbia styled songs from Colombia and a music called reggaeton. Raggaeton is like raggae combined with latin rap to make a combination that is interesting. I know some people that enjoy it, but those are the people who like to dance. Other than that, collectively it isn't liked.

The main hypothesis that I have concerning the music in Chile is that the music is centered around the functionality of it. If you can't dance to a certain type of music, it is crap to them. Chileans love to dance, and I respect them for it as I have not a clue how to dance well or even how to appreciate it. Yet, I don't respect their lack of respect for music that does not have any danceable features (most of my taste in music).

Chilean Independence Day

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The Chilean Independence Day is celebrated as 18 September every year. It is different from that of the U.S. because it is celebrated for an 4 days however. The days are filled with family time, barbequeing, drinking (heavily, might I add). Please forgive the tardiness of this post. Here are some pictures that demonstrate some of the common occurrences during the 4 days:

These tasty-looking things are empanadas. They are a common food here in Chile but specifically during the Independence week. The are baked in a dough with a variety of different ingredients inside. These were "Empanadas de pino" which means they have beef, onions, a quarter of a hardboiled egg, and a pitted black olive. They are super tasty. I plan on bringing the recipe and knowledge home to make them for myself.

This next picture demonstrates what happens every day during the week. Grill like you can't grill the next day. The "Asados" they are called, result in meet that in all honesty is not nearly as good as that of the U.S. It isn't comparable. However it has been fun to test out their methods of grilling. In this photo appears Bradley Erickson, my roommate (and fellow UMD student), my host father, and host sister.

In this picture we see two different types of pebre (salsa in English; salsa in Spanish means sauce). The one on the left is made with Ají (the hot pepper native to Chile) and the one on the right is not.

This bottle is of Chicha, a type of alcohol only drank during this week of Independence. It is made from newly grown grapes, thus it isn't allowed to ferment as long as wine is. It is rich, but causes quite the gut rot, and if drank in excess, a hell of a hangover.

This is a picture of all of the family sitting around the pool enjoying the nice day while eating meat typical of Independence week. It was a great to spend time with everyone.

This next picture is of "Choripan" which is a essentially a cooked sausage inside of a bun with pebre on top. This very chilean food is quite good and very commonplace during the week.

This is a picture of all of the international students learning to dance the Cueca, the national dance of Chile. We had an event organized through our school to learn all the normal Chilean activities during this Independence week. During the week (or in this case it was on over a weekend) we danced the Cueca everyday. If I say so myself, I got pretty good. The dance is not a body-body dance like that of other latin dances. It is best described as doing a specific motion similar to playing cat and mouse where the man "chases" the woman to a certain type of music. One could make an observation that this dance represents the interpersonal relationship between males and females in Chile.


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This is a small post meant to elaborate on the names of the cities I have been around.

Viña del Mar translates to be Vineyard by the Sea. This is an appropriate name taking into account the ubiquity of vineyards in the region. This is the city that I live and take classes in.
Valparaíso was formed from two words, "Valle" and "paraíso". Combining those two words, it means Paradise Valley. This is the city adjacent to Viña del Mar as well as the name of the region of which we are a part of.


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Pisco is the most common form of alcohol in Chile. Born of grapes, this brandy is considered the national beverage of Chile and Peru. It is strong between 35-45% alcohol content. It is rarely taken in shot form, but in mixed drinks. The above picture is of the Pisco brand Alto del Carmen, a higher quality pisco. Comically, this picture was taken because it was the day I arrived in Chile and I was served pisco. This drink (being I am 20 years old) was the first legal alcoholic drink I had ever taken.

First there is a Piscosour, which is a prepared drink that include pisco, egg white, lemon or lime juice, and sometimes simple syrup. This is topped off with the top of the glass rimmed in sugar. Some people cannot stand the thickness of the drink, or its potency, however I have come to enjoy it. This drink is common on the weekends when with family. It is considered a summer drink.

Next there Piscola which is a combination of Pisco and Coca-Cola. This might be the most common/inexpensive form of hard-alcohol in Chile. This is often bought at the clubs/bars.

Water in Chile

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In Chile, the water is quite safe to drink. Unlike many Latin American countries, we do not have the issues with the running water where it is necessary to purchase bottled-water all the time. The International Abroad Office stressed this fact at the beginning of our trip to make sure we knew to trust the water. I have been in contact with a family friend (shout-out to Helen Stecklien) who spent a year and a half here in Chile in 1968. She has told me that the water needed to be boiled at all times before consumption. They had to be very careful. Apparently Chile's water treatment has gotten much better in the last 50 years or so. However, the water is not nearly as pure or tasty as in Duluth (haven't tasted water quite like that of the Northland) or even Minnesota in general.

Curiously, the water that you bathe in has chlorine in it. I didn't really realize (I have a pool at home, so I am used to it) this until someone told me, but it definitely has it. I am not quite sure why they do this but it is interesting.

Public Transportation

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Public transportation in Viña del Mar is outstanding. In the U.S. we have always heard that it the public transportation systems were better in other countries and that is definitely the case in Chile. There are 4 types of public transportation available to everyone in the urban region of Valparaíso:


1. We have Micros (above) which are the buses. They are super cheap ($.25-2.50 depending on how far you go;the latter price I paid for a two hour trip north) and very available. Unlike the U.S., you can catch a micro going to a populated place (such as the mall) practically every minutes. I would struggle to say that there as many buses as personal cars on the roads.


The Metro is the region's subway system. It runs from the edge of Valparaíso to the countryside northeast of Viña (an hour long ride). This is a little more costly to get around, however still less than $1 if you already have the card ($8). I used to use this more when my girlfriend lived along the metro, however have only used it to get to Valparaíso since she moved.


Colectivos (Collectives)

Colectivos (above) are my favorite mode of transportation in Chile. They run like a Taxi where they can bring up to 4 people yet function like a bus because they only run along certain routes. Depending on the time of day it can cost between $1-$2 for a ride per person. These are my favorite because when I come back late at night, I don't want to have to stand up on a bus for a longer period of time, whereas I can take a colectivo which provides privacy and quicker transportation. It is also easier to start conversations with the driver being it is is more private (less embarrassing).


Taxis in Chile are very similar to those in the U.S. where they will take you wherever you need to go. They are also alike in that they are very expensive. In all honesty I have not used one because I live so close to a colectivo/micro route. This is more popular option for women because they can be dropped off right at their door.

Chilean Identification

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This is the Chilean ID we (those with student visas) had to obtain in order to be legal in the country for so long. Interestingly enough, the process to get this ID took a solid 5 hours of waiting in lines. For those who complain at long lines at the DMV, try to be thankful.

I think the coolest parts of this ID are the fact that: 1. There is a watermark of my own picture on the front, and 2. It includes my right thumbprint on the back. This is something I will show off for my entire life.

University Endorsement of Alcohol Consumption

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In Chile the legal age for everything is 18. That being said, almost everyone enrolled in the universities are of age to drink. This difference has been quite noticeable as the International Student Office at Universidad Viña del Mar wants to give us the "typical Chilean experience". Thus, we have had events facilitated by the University where we receive free alcoholic beverages.

The second Friday of our stay here in Chile we were invited to go to the International Party at a local club. It started at 11pm and we got coupons for free drinks from the staff of the University. We danced, drank, and had a great time until 3 or 4am (the bars/clubs in Chile don't close until some time after 5am). The funniest part of it was the fact that our Program Director (~55 years old) was there with us the whole time!

Sometime in late August, we had a special event at Castillo Wulff (blogged about earlier) where red wine and champagne was served for us (with cheese, nuts, and chocolate...how classy, I know).

In early September, our group went to the countryside between Viña del Mar and Santiago to tour 2 wineries. This was a ton of fun and I learned a lot about the process of making wine (specifically white wine because of the unique climate of Central Chile). At both wineries, a wine tasting was provided (the picture above).

Before the Chilean Independence Weekend (blog coming) we had an event at the main campus that was meant to show us some classic Chilean activities, dances, and food. Of course this meant that there would be Chicha (a newly fermented wine) that is very common during this season.

Needless to say, there have been some students who have taken a little too much advantage of the free alcohol. I'll let you all imagine further. All in all, university-provided alcohol usually makes for a good story after.


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In Chile, foreigners are called, "Gringos". This does not imply anything offensive (in Mexico it can), however. It probably comes from the word "peregringo" meaning "wayfarer, stranger" in the Spanish Romani language, Caló. I found this to be a little offensive at first, but have gotten used to it. Typically a gringo implies someone from North America or Europe.

It has been quite interesting noticing how ubiquitously it is used. Experiences can differ from a waiter writing "Gringos" on the tab to drunk Chileans trying to holler at you on the street.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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