Cachando Chile had a great idea to do a first impressions post. Since I have been off the blogging bandwagon for a while, I thought this would be a great way to get back on. If nothing else, because it can be a bullet post!
Background: I arrived in Rancagua, Chile in 1996 as a Rotary exchange student. I was one of 9 in Rancauga which is a very small place. Over the course of the year, I would change schools, change host families, and change my life. I would meet life long friends (mi familia, Lu, Seba, K-ro, Maca, Marisol, estoy mirando uds.), I would meet my husband, I would obtain a Spanish accent that would drive my Spanish proffessors in the states crazy, I would learn to eat and then to love mayonnaise, and I would dance to my heart’s content.
But… impressions change, but here were some of mine:
- The food is so salty!
- People do not understand what vegetarian means (except Maca). I repeatedly was told I was being served a hot dog because I was vegetarian.
- All the houses were such bright, beautiful colors.
- I certainly learned that I did not speak Spanish as well as I thought I did — or really at all.
- I learned that being told I danced like a Chilean was not a complement (so I took classes on cueca, merengue, salsa). Being able to dance cueca as a gringa automatically makes you a huge hit (in fact, at a chilean friend’s wedding, she didn’t know how to dance it– so she threw me in!).
- Cold coffee with ice cream and whip cream is delicious! Cafe helado!
- Chile winning any soccer game would immediately make the night the best of my life. In Rancagua, it meant getting a big flag and going out into the streets. It meant meeting your neighbor and sharing something beautiful with them. It meant car horns and spontaneous parades. I had never experienced anything like it. Even in other larger Chilean cities– I preferred for the big Chile games to return to Rancagua.
- People had all kinds of crazy ideas about America. No I do not know the stars. No I do not live in a mansion. Yes, I have seen a robbery before; it is not necessary to have the cops give me a tour when the neighbors house is broken into. Yes, white people can and do live in Chicago.
- I learned, as most did, that pisco is stronger than it seems.
- I learned that in 1996 people were still not ready to talk about Chile’s recent political past. I watched this change over the years. I watched people who were still afraid to speak out vote for a communist candidate, not because they were communist, but because they didn’t want to feel defeated or silenced or inconsequential anymore. I was there in 2000 when Pinochet was in custody in London. I was there for the last elections. I have seen all three of the last presidents in person.
A quick photo of me way back when:
Other bloggers on this topic (please add a comment if you decide to participate):
- Margaret at Cachando Chile: Chile June 1991
- Vicki at Futalandia: Chile September 2006- First Impressions (Santiago and Chile’s deep south, 2006)
- Lydia at Just Smile and Nod: First Impressions of Chile (Santiago and Valparaíso)
- Abby at Abby’s Line: Thoughts on my First Day in Chile (Santiago, January 2007)
- Eileen at bearshapedsphere: Pucha I don’t speak Cellphone! (Santiago, April 2004)
- Emily at Don’t Call Me Gringa: First Impressions (arrived in Santiago, June 2005)