After exploring Santiago on my own for a few days, about a dozen other volunteers arrived on Saturday, with more to follow tomorrow. So far, we have people from the UK, Australia, California, Colorado, New York and Texas. It was so reassuring to meet everyone else. As expected, I started questioning my sanity on the plane from Toronto to Santiago. “What am I doing?” was on repeat as we pulled out from the gate. But after meeting this group this weekend, I realize that Chile is exactly where I need to be.
The only thing that was a little unnerving were the three earthquakes, or “terremotos”, I’ve felt since landing here. The first one woke everyone in my hostel room up at 4:30 am. A few days later a 7.2-er shook the Maule Region, about 150 miles south of Santiago. I’ve noticed that the earthquakes in Chile last longer, but they don’t feel as sharp as the quick jolts that rock California. A “terremoto” is also one of Chile’s national cocktails. (It would be.) It’s basically white wine served with pineapple ice-cream…like root beer float. They’re dizzying and overwhelmingly sweet.
Apart from the quakes, Spanish has been going alright. I’m picking up the language quicker than I thought, but the Chilean accent is notoriously difficult, even for people in my program who’ve studied Spanish for years. Along with weaving in dozens of slang words, Chileans drop the ‘s’ from everything. “Gracias” becomes “Gracia” and “buenos dias” turns into “bueno dia.” They also pronounce double l’s as a “j’. So “lluvia” sounds like “joo-vea” and “calle” becomes “Ki-jay.” Wierd!
But the most important Chilean word is “Cachai”. They throw it on the end of sentences as a way of saying “You know? Ya feel me?”.