Hablo Frespganol

I’ve made it to Chile! I landed at 11am, and  right when the pilot announced, “Bienvenidos a Santiago,” that’s when it hit me.

I took three flights to get here: SFO to DC to Toronto to Santiago. (Yes.)  As much as much as I love travel, I have a huge fear of airplanes.  I always laugh at myself for it. But whenever there’s a jolt of turbulence, I’m convinced with all heart and soul that it’s really the end.

Right now I’m staying at a hostel in Barrio Brasil, a neighborhood in central Santiago with cafes, universities and small streets. It reminds me of parts of Barcelona. Since I’m a few days early, there aren’t other volunteers around yet. Being alone in a new country, with no cellphone, is one of the most exhilarating feelings.

I did find some people from Denver last night, and we went exploring Barrio Brasil’s narrow streets. We found this little place called “Good Drinks”, which has become  become a sort of home base for me. It’s owned by a Peruvian couple who plays Celia Cruz music you can hear from down the street.

We were eating empanadas, when the waiter came over and asked us something. I could only understand two words: “Donde” and “pais”. Lucky for me, “pais” sounds just like the French word for “country”,  so I knew that he asked where we were from.

I’ve been doing this a lot. If don’t know a word or verb, I’ll try it in French. Sometimes it works, other times I just get blank looks. Hablo Frespagnol.

The Denver people left for Patagonia this morning, so I went to Good Drinks to get acclimated to the city and write. The Peruvian couple has been so patient with my basic Spanish. Right now I only know  a handful of verbs in the present tense, and some basic phrases and questions.

I started learning French when I was 13, and I’m starting to realize how intricate the language learning process is. It took years of classroom learning, watching French movies, talking to locals, reading, and exposure to all kinds of French culture, to be able to really understand not just how French is spoken, but how it’s used. When to throw in a filler word, or how to ask question in the local slang is something I took for granted in French.

The Spanish learning is just beginning. Right now I’m just focusing on survival and basic communication. I can’t wait for the day when I can have an actual conversation!

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