Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Independence Week Adventures

Hi all! As promised, here's my post about my travels during Chile's Independence Week.

Chile’s real Independence Day is in February, but the country celebrates on September 18th and continues the celebration for the entire week in which the 18th falls. Since classes were cancelled for this week, I wanted to travel and see more of this beautiful country. Since my Chilean family wasn't planning on doing any traveling for the week of vacations, my fellow GV study abroad student Hayley and her family kindly invited me to join them on their trip to a southern portion of Chile, and I gladly accepted. James also came with, and he rode with me on the bus to Valdivia, where we spent the first three days of our trip. We arrived late at night in Valdivia, a German-esque town on el Río Calle-Calle. Since we had been sitting all day in vehicles, Hayley, James, and I took a midnight stroll along the river, and while we meandered along, we came upon a sea lion just hanging out in the middle of the sidewalk under a street lamp. Yay more sea lions! I’m not quite sure why I get so excited about them, but I do. 

Empanadas and pisco sour... yum!

The next day, September 18th, was Chile's Independence Day, and we went to Hayley's Chilean "grandparents'" beach house to celebrate. A good amount of her family's family, neighbors, and friends came, too, making it a pretty full house. We listened to traditional Chilean music, shared stories, laughed a lot, and ate soooooooooo much food I was afraid my stomach would burst! 
The view from the backyard

While it was great to spend time with a Chilean family and experience their culture during this important week, this day really made me miss my family a lot because so much of this celebration felt like a Thanksgiving gathering with my family. Later we went down to the beach until rain snuck up on us and drove us back to the house. In the evening we went to a type of
More view from the backyard
fair where we watched a little bit of a show featuring professional dancers performing la cueca (Chile's national dance) with members of the audience (who all knew how to dance la cueca as well --- Chileans are all such great dancers and I’m jealous), wandered through the vendors hawking homemade items and sweets, and played foos-ball and the balloon dart game. So much fun packed into one day!

La cueca

On Thursday we had the opportunity to visit Valdivia and a little of the surrounding area. I went with James, Hayley, and Hayley's Chilean sister Antonia around the city and we explored the towns on both sides of the river. We visited a local history and anthropology museum, took a boat tour on the river to the pre-Hispanic hamlet of Punucapa to see Valdivia's oldest church, and basically acted like the tourists we were all day. I really loved standing on the bridge and looking out over the city --- Valdivia is just so beautiful and I couldn’t get enough of the view.
The church at Punucapa

One of the things that really surprised me about the city was the fact that it didn't feel like Chile to me; since the city was founded by a Germanic colony, the names, architecture and house structure, and general flavor of the city are essentially German. The city also attracts a lot of tourists, so I didn't stand out nearly as much as I do in Chillán --- yay for blending in! 

Puerto Varas

We all traveled even farther south on Friday to the lakeside city of Puerto Varas. We GV students took a bus early in the morning to the city, and we decided to spend the day exploring the town. This city is also rather touristy and German, and actually reminded me a lot of Sault Ste. Marie, MI --- except that nearly everyone spoke Spanish and from the beach one can view Volcán Osorno, a volcano which is located across the lake. 

El Parroquía Sagrado Corazón de Jesús

After a delicious lunch (the first time I'd eaten pizza while in Chile!) we all trekked through the rain to see El Parroquía Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, a church that is also a Chilean national monument and one of the most famous attractions of the town. We then walked the rocky beach (which is becoming a tradition whenever we’re next to any body of water) and just admired the view. After this, we found a café drank hot chocolate (also becoming a tradition) while waiting for Hayley’s family to arrive in Puerto Varas.
Hayley and I with El Volcán Osorno in the background

Saturday was a really great day, too. James went off on his own to tour el Volcán Osorno and the surrounding park, and Hayley and I spent the day with her family at her Chilean aunt’s house. We played tag with her Chilean sister and cousins (oh, how I’d missed being around little kids), had another asado, or backyard barbeque, and ate even more delicious food with her entire family. Someone told me that on average Chileans gain about five pounds just during the Independence Week alone, and I believe it wholeheartedly with the amount of food that is available during all of the celebrations! 
El Teatro del Lago

In the evening, we went to a concert in Frutillar, another little town sharing the same lake as Puerto Varas. The concert hall, called Teatro del Lago, is built out over the lake so that three out of the four side are above the water, and it was absolutely beautiful. The group playing in the concert was Los Jaivas, a traditional Chilean band of five men who have been playing for fifty years! It was really cool to listen to their songs and experience traditional Chilean music made by so many instruments that I’d never known existed; some of the instruments were those used by the indigenous groups in Chile, and are very difficult to play. I’ll link a couple of videos of Los Jaivas to the blog so that you can take a look/listen (: Here is a link to my favorite song by them.
Los Jaivas!
Me with a piano sculpture next to the lake
Last day in Valdivia!

Sunday was the last day of my trip. Since there were no buses going straight from Puerto Varas to Chillán, James and I took a bus back to Valdivia in the early morning and wandered around the city waiting for our evening bus back to Chillán. We had the chance to explore Valdivia in more depth and with a little more freedom than what we’d had before, since we’d been with the family, and that was really nice to feel like adults and make our own “plans”, if that makes any sense. 
I was able to "walk" all of Chile in Valdivia!
One last look

Now, of course, I’m back in Chillán, and I have to get back into the school groove after a week of pure relaxation. I will admit that this short vacation made me so excited to travel more after the semester’s over without having homework and projects looming over my head. 

Thanks for reading! I promise I’ll post again soon! Love and thoughts from Chile!


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