Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week 2 or so of Chile...

The days are blurring together but in a really good way. Luis and I have forgotten what day it is several times, so since I can't exactly remember all the dates that's why it's Week 2 "or so"... 

Wow! Can I just tell you that I LOVE Chile! The country is basically consisted of beaches and mountains. Two of my favorite things and wherever I choose to live it has to have at least one of those requirements. Chile has both! 

So we spent another week in Viña del Mar driving around the small coastal towns, going to a museum of Easter Island (we got to take a picture with a real Easter Island head/Moai!), going to the beach, and meeting Veronica’s daughter and husband, Berenice (Luis’s cousin) and Luis #2. We had to come up with a way to differentiate between the two so my Luis became either Luis Estuardo (his middle name) or Lucho, a  nickname Luis had before. 

After Berenice and Luis #2 got there we went to Karaoke that night around 12:30am... 

So let me explain something... Chileans live almost like vampires, nights don’t start until 1:00am and don’t end till 5:00am. They then get up around noon, eat lunch, head to the beach at 2:00pm, stay there til sundown which isn’t until 9:30pm, go home, shower and get ready for the night, eat dinner around 10:30 or 11:00pm, find a club, and start dancing or karaoke around 1:00am! That is a typical summer day for a Chilean! Although even when it’s not summer, clubs still don’t get going until 1:00am.

Apparently karaoke is huge in Chile. No matter what club you go to you will find karaoke any day of the week! Even though I like to sing I have never done karaoke. So we went and I wasn’t going to do it but the DJ of the club said (in spanish) after learning we were from the U.S...

 “What better place to do karaoke? No one knows you!” I couldn’t argue with that statement so I got up there and did it. Karaoke in a Margarita bar, in a beach town, in Chile :), and I was the only one that sang an English song.

Another night hanging out at a restaurant with Veronica, Berenice, and Luis #2.

A funny mini adventure. We jumped down a 10 foot wall to get better pictures of some sea lions and realized it might be a little difficult to get back up again. Luckily there was a piece of wood sticking out of the wall. Luis #2 decided to photograph me getting up. This is when Luis ripped one pair of his jeans!

Reloj de Flores... Clock of Flowers.
We also went to a fair/market where Luis and I purchased a copper plate. Two of the things that Chile is most known for is copper and leather (wish we had room for some nice leather jackets but we are full to the brim in each suitcase!). Our copper plate has an imprint of Easter Island Moai. 

We also celebrated Valentine’s Day in Viña. We started it by walking on the beach the night before and looking at the stars. I got him something inexpensive but cute (seeing as all our money is going towards getting back home!). I got a deck of cards and wrote a reason I loved him on every one. I gave it to him at midnight on Valentine’s Day and the next morning I woke up to flowers and chocolate! Seeing as we were going on a 5 hour bus ride the next day I used one of the flowers in my hair. We then spent the night watching the sunset on the beach. Life could not possibly get better right?! 

Us with Talca in the background.
After Valentine’s day we said goodbye to Viña and the beaches and headed to Berenice’s home in Talca, a 5 hour bus ride from Viña del Mar. Even though Talca is southern, it is farther from the coast so hotter. The temperature soared to the 90’s while there. Good thing we only stayed 2 days!  Talca is one of the towns that suffered the most from the earthquake 2 years ago, so everywhere we looked in Talca was ruined or under construction. We went to another club in Talca, well a Casino, and danced the night away. Then headed on another bus to Concepcion where Veronica lives, a 3 1/2 hour ride from Talca. 

Most stuff ruined from the earthquake were in various stages of repairs. 

Us on the top of the double decker bus! 
*Travel tips, bring a travel pillow! Luis doesn’t like mine but there are different shapes and sizes and it will save your life... and your neck. And if you have a choice of a double decker bus, do the top level. Such a cool way to see the country you’re traveling. On our first bus from Viña to Talca, Luis and I sat in the very front of the second floor and we had an unobstructed view of the Andes and other gorgeous sights. 

Veronica, Berenice, Luis, Me, and Isidora
                   (Berenice's stepdaughter)
We were welcomed to Concepcion with our first rainy and chilly weather, in Chile (no pun intended). We were driven to Veronica’s home in Bio Bio and what a gorgeous place! She actually lives right next to her old home and can see it through her windows! The apartment has three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a closed in porch, a living room, dining room, and a state of the art kitchen. Seriously gorgeous! We are so lucky that Luis’s family was willing to take us around here in Chile. We spent a day in Concepcion driving around and seeing the sights. Concepcion is also a city that suffered greatly from the earthquake. The city has so many different types of buildings, you have the old buildings that survived the earthquake, the old ruined buildings that didn’t, the new modern buildings that have been built after the earthquake, and the construction everywhere. We walked around the city and the University. 

Us at the University in Concepcion.
School is cheap here. For the good universities it’s only 5,000 dollars a year! Also prices of homes are ridiculously cheap. The food, clothes, electronics, are all the same prices or more expensive than the U.S. However, minimum wage is 360 dollars a month. So even though houses are cheap, it’s harder for Chileans to pay for them. 

Have I mentioned the conversion rate yet? Chilean dollars are called pesos and 1 U.S. dollar is 480 pesos! Luis and I made our first million just coming to Chile! We’ll pretend it’s in dollars and not pesos ;)... 

After our one day in Concepcion we are headed to their beach house in Cocholgue (Co-chol-whey) which is 30 minutes from Veronica’s apartment. Cocholgue is the town next to Dichato, which was the epicenter for the tsunami after the earthquake. It was hit first and the worst. Berenice’s brother was at the beach house when the tsunami hit and saw the whole thing happen! Made me a little apprehensive to go there but they said because of the shape of the bay and the island in front of the beach house, we wouldn’t be hit if there was another tsunami.. uhm..... wish us luck!! 

Friday, February 10, 2012


Wow, Chile is SO different than Guatemala! When we got off the plane in Santiago I felt like I was in Salt Lake City, Utah! The mountains surrounding us where not the tall Andes but smaller and looked barren with a few green bushes. You COULD see the Andes in the distance though. However the weather here is fabulous and the weather in Utah in February is definitely NOT! Since Chile is on the other side of the equator their summer and winter are opposite ours. We stepped off our plane into 80 degree weather! 

Our overnight flight was very long and we waited for 2 hours in the airport for Luis’s Aunt to arrive from Concepcion, Chile. I couldn’t fall asleep on the plane but for some reason I was able to fall asleep in a restaurant booth all curled up very awkwardly and it was less comfortable than the plane! I woke up after 40 minutes with both my legs and one arm full of pins and needles.. miserable! 
20 minutes after that I met Luis’s aunt Veronica, well it’s his Mom’s aunt so I guess it would be Luis’s great aunt. She is the trendiest 70 year old I have ever met and does not look anywhere near 70! I think Luis and I need to move to Central or South America, whatever they do to age so well I hope it would rub off on us. Veronica dresses fabulously and to the nines every day. Clothing, jewelry, shoes, and hats all matching and very fashionable. And since we’ve met her it has been a constant stream of very fast Spanish. I thought Luis talked fast! She LOVES to talk! She asks a question and doesn’t even leave time for Luis to answer. She asks me a question and doesn’t bother waiting for Luis to translate and tell her. She usually tries to speak broken english and with my broken spanish we can usually have a conversation when she has the patience to wait for my answers ;).

After meeting up with her we got on a bus and drove to Vina del Mar, the famous beach town of Chile, like South Beach is in Miami, Florida for the U.S. We arrived at Veronica’s  “beach apartment”. Basically looks like a hotel and her apartment (on a huge hill) is on the 10th floor. We have the most gorgeous view from our room and the balcony of the beach and the surrounding towns. Luis and I walk down a huge set of stairs every night to enjoy the sun setting on the beach. Our lives are terrible right? No fun at all ;)...

We have spent the past week going to the beach and the surrounding towns like Renaca, Valparaiso, Zapallar, Chachagua, Con Con, and Maitencillo. Towns that are basically beach towns but not much history. 

Our time so far in Chile has felt like a vacation from our vacation! In Guatemala we got to know Luis’s amazing family and see the fascinating history of the Mayans. Here in Chile they do have history but it’s more like the U.S. in that the history gets overshadowed by all the modern stuff. 

We spent a day in Santiago, took an hour and a half bus ride and Luis and I walked around the city by ourselves! This was also the day we bought our tickets home (happy and sad) and our tickets to Isla de Pascua.... Easter Island!!! I’m so ridiculously excited! Because of the expenses of our Easter Island trip we have to come home earlier, plus Chile is a more expensive country. And I’m actually really sad to end our trip!

You know those people who go to one vacation spot their whole lives? They spend all their time pining for one place, saving money for one place, and not even thinking about any other vacation spot, which would almost feel like a betrayal on your vacation home. Well, I was one of those people. My family and I would go to the Thousand Islands (on the border of New York and Canada) every summer. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE that place and loved every summer up there and miss it when I don't go. However, Luis and I have traveled a bit and I realized I was seriously missing out! I haven’t given any tips in a while so here is one. TRAVEL! This world we live in is amazing and has so many different things to offer that you could just end up loving. We have had so much fun and have learned so much about ourselves and the world around us and we’ve only visited 2 different countries! So for those very reasons I will be extremely sad when our trip comes to an end. I want to travel more, experience more, live more... Part of me feels like when we come back to the States we’ll never do any traveling again. But Luis has promised we will, just smaller trips :). Plus our adventures will turn from world traveling to trying to start and raise a family, that alone is scary and exciting! 

Well, our travels aren’t over yet. We still get to go to a southern area of Chile and see the other climates of this extremely long country!

Here are some pictures of our first week :)...
Veronica's apartment building. We are on the 10th floor!


The view from our balcony :)

Luis on the balcony enjoying the view. The sun looks red because there was a forest fire 40 miles away and we were getting all the smoke and ash from that fire. You can see all the smoke!
Renaca Beach!
A Playstation advertisement.. Us with a bunch of video game characters. My favorite of course was Drake from the Uncharted video games :).. He's on the far right holding the big gun.

Look at the size of that corn!

                         What happens in Chile stays in Chile.. good thing these tattoos are temporary!

On our way to Santiago on a bus!

Veronica's friend and driver. He was a Chilean equivalent of a U.S. Navy Seal that retired and started a taxi business! 
Vina del Mar in the background.
Me and Luis watching the sunset :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Final thoughts

We leave today to go to Chile and I don't know when we'll have internet again so here's one more post until... I don't know when!

Things I miss from the U.S.-
Smooth Roads
Mac & Cheese

Things I will miss from Guatemala-
Real tortillas
Real refried beans
Coconut Candy
The History and culture

Guatemala City in the background. Adios!

Final thoughts about Guatemala and the time we spent here...

Women in native dress, and in the
back, women in modern dress.
Guatemala is a world between times. There are indigenous people steeped in their culture and firm in replicating the Mayan traditions. You see women dressed in typical Mayan fashion walking down the streets with baskets or other things balanced on their heads. Right behind them you see a woman walking wearing the latest fashion trends you would see in the U.S. carrying a purse, talking on a cell phone, and drinking out of a coffee cup.

The buildings are the same way. In some parts of Guatemala you see very old and run down buildings, sometimes looking like ruins, and right next to that dilapidated building is a McDonalds or a beautiful and large mall fancier than I've seen in the U.S! Guatemala is struggling to find its happy medium but while it does you can just breathe in the culture that thrives here.

We'll never get used to the driving here. No one uses their blinkers, red lights are optional, and most people do not stop at stop signs. However, if you learned to drive in Guatemala you could drive anywhere. They are very defensive drivers and because of the bad roads, potholes, and confusing street signs they do know how to drive. Also, in trucks and motorcycles the capacity limit is stretched passed the limit! In a typical truck the capacity is about 2 or 3 right? Well capacity in Guatemala is "As many as you can fit!" We've seen trucks with the back filled to 15 or 20 people! And they go passed cops with no problem. Motorcycles can barely fit 2 most of the time but here they fit up to 4 people and a dog! I wish we had gotten a picture of that but they passed by us to quickly. Just another thing that is unique to Guatemala. 

The people of Guatemala, more importantly, Luis's family, are amazing. They have such an ingrained sense of service. They want to make you happy and do anything they possibly can for you. One time, going to dinner with a member of Luis's family we tried very hard to pay for ourselves. The family member got momentarily frustrated and made a point to say, "You are here, let US take care of you." After that we didn't try as hard to pay our own way :). We definitely still tried and still offered but once someone said no we would usually drop it. Saying goodbye to another family member, they said thank you for everything. They thanked us! They fed us, took us places, let us sleep in their homes, bought us presents, invited us everywhere, and they THANKED us for everything we did. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly it is we did!

We are utterly grateful for Luis's family and in their debt. They made our time in Guatemala amazing. We saw things we never thought we would and did things we can't wait to brag about all because of Luis's family. We have learned so much and we both are surprised at how sad we are about leaving. Luis got closer to his family and heritage and I got new friends and a newfound respect for Spanish and Guatemalan history.

Guatemala has definitely left a big impression in our lives and we will be counting down the days til we get to return. Thank you so much to those who helped us and made this trip so amazing!

On to the next adventure! I wonder what new things Chile will bring?