Sunday, May 20, 2012

Adios, Chile

I am so sad to say that my adventures in Chile with Plus 3 are over. Sitting back home in West Chester, Pennsylvania reminds me of how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to travel abroad with a group of amazing new friends.

Friday morning I woke up and walked around Viña del Mar for the last time with Kirsten and Caryn. We went to a pastry shop and got breakfast and hot chocolate. Then we stopped at the little market to pick up a few last minute souvenirs. We returned to the hotel and I finished packing - I had to stand on top of my suitcase to get it all the way closed - before meeting the group for lunch at noon. We returned to Tiki Taco, the place we ate the first day, for our final meal. After eating we grabbed our luggage and boarded the tour bus to go to the airport for another day full of travel.

Our first flight was ten hours from Santiago to Dallas, Texas, and our second was three hours back up to Pittsburgh. My grandparents picked me up at the Pittsburgh airport and we made the drive back to my home in West Chester.

I have learned so much from my experiences in Chile! It was wonderful to be able to immerse myself in a different culture and branch out with my travel experience. I loved everything about the trip, and I hope I'll be able to study abroad again in the future.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Giddy-Up, Horsey!

Today was amazing!! I knew I would love it because I've always wanted to ride horses, but it was even better than I could have imagined. We woke up at 9am and went to a little ranch-type place with some animals, centering on the horses. After strapping on some chaps, I got a smaller white horse, which was awesome because I pretended it was a unicorn. I didn't know her actual name, but I called her Isabella.
I cannot even explain how wonderful the 3-hour long ride was. We trekked through all kinds of wilderness - sand dunes, the beach, rivers, and forests. Feeling my hair whip back as we trotted and galloped was exhilarating. Even swimming through water that came up past our feet while we were riding the horse was so much fun. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for even one minute. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. It was one of the best days of the trip by far, and I'm glad that we spent our last full day doing something so fantastic.

After we were done the actual ride, we returned to the main house and had a huge and delicious barbecue with all kinds of salads, red meat, pork, and roasted vegetables. It added to the day by being another great meal. We relaxed and played on some swings and hammocks before getting back on the tour bus to come back to Hotel America.

Now we're going to our last dinner with the Chilean students - pizza! I can't wait to have our last hoorah and celebrate the end of one of the most wonderful experiences of my entire life. We start our voyage home tomorrow afternoon, and I'm really sad that this is our last night together.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Today was a very relaxed day! It's nice to have this second week to slow down after our first week of nonstop activity. We started out with a free morning, so I went with Kirsten, Caryn, Christian, Abby, Kelli, and Allison to go get some fresh bread and pastries and a pasteleria. All of the bread was so delicious! I also had a craving for some chocolate cake, so I got a torta as well. Breakfast of champions.

After eating, we walked a little bit further to a little market. Even though it was obviously directed to tourists, I still couldn't help investing some pesos in a few more souvenirs to bring back home. We left the market to go to the beach since it was such a beautiful day. I wish that winter in Pennsylvania is like winter in Chile - I was out in a tank top and jeans in the warm sunshine!

The whole group met back up at the hotel at 1:45pm to go play paintball with the Chilean students. Chilean paintball is very similar to the paintball I've played back in the United States. We got decked out in full body overalls and vests with facemasks, bearing guns full of paint ammo. The course was all natural terrain - that's the one difference between how I played in the U.S. There were no man-made obstacles to hide behind. But I was on the winning team for all of the games that we played, and I had a lot of fun!

We returned to the hotel and washed all of the dirt off of our bodies before heading out for dinner. We were in the mood for some Chinese food, so we went to a restaurant that we have walked by a few times in the past two weeks. The waiter turned out to be American; he grew up in Arizona and moved to South America three years ago! It was cool to meet someone originally from the U.S., and I really enjoyed my meal. I'm so sad that it's our second to last night here in Chile. I'm going to miss all of the amazing friends that I've made here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Company Visits and Cueca

We started off the day with a visit to Hela, a company that sells paintbrushes and other work tools. This was the first time that Plus 3 has visited Hela, and their website wasn't very informative for the group that researched them, so we didn't really know much about the company beforehand. When we got there, it was basically a huge warehouse full of machines and tools. We got a tour of the factory but it was pretty hard to hear because all of the machinery was so loud. It was still interesting to see all that goes into making the different products, though!

After we finished our visit to Hela, we hopped on the bus and went straight to another company, Centauro. Centauro is a prepared foods and canned foods company. Their most popular product is tomatoes and tomato paste, but they also sell things like soup and canned peaches. We got to try a few samples of food, and it was pretty tasty! Our group was lucky because Centauro had just started producing a batch of pumpkin paste yesterday, for the first time ever, and we got to taste it! I like pumpkin flavored things, so I especially liked that taste test.

We were very hungry after leaving Centauro, so we decided to go to a place that the Chilean students told us has the best empanadas. I got an empanada with chicken, cheese, and corn, and I liked it! Everyone finished eating and we went to the University to learn how to dance cueca, which is Chile's national dance.

Cueca is a traditional dance where the men wear spurs on their boots and both the man and woman twirl scarves while dancing in a circular motion. It was interesting to learn, but I think I prefer salsa and reggaeton over cueca. I'm glad we got to experience a more traditional Chilean dance, though!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Today was our last morning at the University! Now we're used to waking up bright and early, eating a quick breakfast at the hotel, and taking a public bus to the University. Once we got there today, we got into our small groups and presented about the companies that we researched. I presented with Molly and Caryn on Nature's Farm, or Bosques del Mauco. The other presentations were on LAN, Hela, Viña Indomita, and Centauro. Jaime was with us again as an audience member, and he had a lot of great questions and comments on our presentations.

We ate lunch at the University for the last time, and we wanted to throw Abby and Allison (the birthday girls) into the pool as a celebration. Unfortunately they didn't really like the idea, and we didn't end up following through with the goal. We had a short break at the hotel before heading to a turf soccer field, where we played a girls game and a guys game of fútbol.
Tough girls after our game
After fútbol, we went to the mall again for a little bit. I bought a pair of shoes! While we were standing in a small group at the mall, a few other Americans found us. Four girls from a small school in Alabama were also studying abroad, but they were there for three months. We chatted for a while, and it was nice to speak with some other people from the U.S. We were pretty hungry, so we walked back to the hotel and stopped for empanadas on the way. Compared to last week, today was pretty low key! I'm still loving it here in Chile.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños a Abby y Feliz Día de Mama!

We were lucky enough to have two birthday girls this trip! In addition to Mother's Day, today was Abby's birthday, and it was also a day off for us. Since we could do anything we wanted, everyone slept in a bit and then went our separate ways. Some of the boys plus Allison went surfing with one of the Chilean students, and they said it was amazing! I spent the day with Abby, Kirsten, Christian, Caryn, and Kelli. First we went to lunch at Mango, which was a little coffee-type place. We ordered sandwiches and enjoyed talking before leaving to go to the mall. Before we got to the mall, we passed a few outdoor vendors that were selling handmade items. Naturally, they drew us in and I bought some gifts and souveniers for myself including a leather jacket that I love!

After wearing ourselves out at the vendors, we went into the actual mall to look around a few stores. But we noticed that most of the stores in the mall were international, and the prices were kind of expensive. Since we could buy a lot of equivalent things in the mall in the U.S., we decided to leave and head back to the hotel.

We got back to the hotel, dropped our stuff off, and went back out for ice cream before walking to the beach. The beach was beautiful although the water was very cold. We strolled for a while and took what seemed like hundreds of pictures, then looked through a few more vendors that were alongside the beach. It was almost time for our fancy group dinner, so we went back to the hotel to get ready.
Beautiful beach!
In our suits and dress pants, the entire group went to a fancy dinner at Tierra del Fuego. The three course meal was delicious, and we were all stuffed full by the end. It was the end of yet another wonderful day here in Viña del Mar, Chile!

P.S. - Here's a shout out to the best Mommy ever! Happy Mother's Day, Mama!

Rosa Agustina

I thought that it was going to be hard to beat yesterday, but today was also amazing! We left the hotel around 10:30am to go to what Jorge told us was a "spa". But beforehand, we got a disclaimer that it really wasn't a spa at all - we would be playing the Chilean students in a fútbol game and just relaxing before going to a barbecue. Man, was that an understatement!

We got to Rosa Agustina, and it turned out to be a luxurious resort that reminded me of some of the fancy hotels I've been to on vacation with my family. We were surrounded by palm trees, five different outdoor pools, foosball games, ping pong tables, music playing, free drinks, and an all-you-can-eat delicious buffet. Jorge told us that he wanted it to be a surprise, so that's why he downplayed the resort. As soon as we stopped gawking, we picked up some empanadas from the bar and went to the mini fútbol field that was part of the resort. I can't play soccer for my life, so I just cheered everyone on in what I expected was imminent loss. The Americans actually held their own in the games, and I was pleasantly surprised when they beat the Chilean students in one game. 

After everyone was too tired to play any more, we got lunch at a gigantic buffet. There were so many food choices, it would've been impossible to eat a little bit of everything, which was my original plan. We sat there for a while, making sure to finish everything that was on the table. We couldn't let anything go to waste! When we were finished eating, everyone went separate ways. There were several foosball and ping pong games, some people went swimming, and I laid out on a pool chair with a few other girls.

We left to eat a barbecue dinner at one of the Chilean professor's houses. It was so much fun - we spent hours talking and laughing together over more delicious food as the end to a extraordinary day.