I feel like these past few weeks have been full of everything and nothing, business and pure bliss, productivity and procrastination. In between writing essays and doing presentations I’ve been learning about indigenous culture, hanging out with friends and teaching my family a little bit about my culture as well. A couple of weekends ago we explored the southern part of Chile, which was absolutely gorgeous. Now I love the beach but there’s something about the way freshly fallen rain makes the grass and trees look more vibrant than any shade of green I’ve ever seen. In addition to taking in the natural beauty of the south we also spent a lot of our time learning about the indigenous, Mapuche, culture. In Chile, like many parts of the world, was colonized and to this day the rights given to indigenous people is short from just. Particularly, a couple of points that stood out to me were the concepts of ownership, multiculturalism and identity. First, ownership is a very interesting topic because while it’s fair to say that the Mapuche people lived on the land first, they actually didn’t have any desire to have ownership of it. That is to say that they didn’t consider themselves as owners or conquerors of the land, rather inhabitants that have the privilege and honor to use its resources and use the space to spend their days and live their lives. This is very novel from a western perspective where we tend to dub things as our own. I thought this was a really cool way of looking at things and impressive how they built a system based on trust and respect for land rather than possessiveness and power. The second point is the concept of multiculturalism. Today the majority, if not all, Mapuche speak Spanish fluently and share their culture with tourists, such as us, and also interact with Chileans on a more social level through social media and also visit the cities quite often. However, multiculturalism also suggests that there is a relationship between where the two cultures learn from and about each other. However, it is important to note that while the Mapuche people learn Spanish and integrate themselves into Chilean culture that Chileans have little to no understanding of any aspect of the Mapuche culture. Which leads me to my last take away of identity. Now that Chile is considerably developed as a nation what exactly does it mean to be a Chilean? Does is mean you come from a piece of land because if that were the case then why do Mapuche not technically consider themselves Chileans? And even for the Mapuche people who have lost so much of their culture when it comes to language, practices and familial and political structures—what preserves the ability to consider oneself Maphuche? These are all very thought provoking questions that I think stem back to whom you come from and how it affects who you are today. Whether it be traditions or just the color of your skin, I think that it is remarkable how we each come from distinct histories and that each culture should be remembered and valued equally.
In addition to these heavier themed talks we also managed to have a lot of fun integrating ourselves into the culture and learned how to make wool blankets, hiked an island and a mountain, fed horses, danced to indigenous music and of course cooked and ate a ton of amazing food! We also did a few touristy things like going to hot springs, zip lining through a forest and rafting. I was so scared during zip lining through some of the lines because we had to climb up a lot of trees and although there were ladders I couldn’t help but feel queasy every time I looked down and realized how high we were. But of course it was completely worth it for the out of body sensation of feeling like a bird defying gravity and soaring above rivers and trees. Rafting is something that I’ve never done before and was unexpectedly scary because of the possibility of falling out especially as we crashed over rapids… I now officially understand what white water means.
After a few days in the south it was back to the old grind of classes, and lots of playing in between. My psychology class has been particularly interesting lately where we’ve been doing a lot of interactive analytical activities such as learning about communication styles through representing abstract ideas without using words a.k.a. advanced charades, and examining what makes us who were are by seeing different roles we have as children, friends and partners and where those beliefs and behaviors come from. The kids at the Escuela España have been amazing and the first graders in particular have been up to some shenanigans where we play outside the classroom before class and two of the boys stole my backpack and jacket to model and later the whole class asked me to sing an English song that they were learning in their book! Other than that my life consists of walking and reading for hours on the beach, sleepovers with Karrin, doing homework alongside Seba, watching the baby Leo when her mom is busy and catching up with Claudia, my friend from church, over ice cream every chance that I get 🙂 There’s always also the lovely impromptu game nights even if they’re until 2am on a school night and spinning, singing and dancing with the babies at all hours as well!
One other last fun thing I did last weekend was “la noche Mexicana” complete with carne, pollo, salsa, guacamole, frijoles, arroz, tequila and horchata! It was so nice to finally eat a good burrito here and Chile and my host family was very appreciative to experience new food 😀 It was also quite an experience trying tequila for the first time with them and oddly strange that I had no reaction to it—guess it’s in my blood 😀 Hehe and now for the last month of school—things are about to get real serious real fast, wish me luck <3