Tuesday, May 8, 2012

La Universidad Téchnica de Santa María

Today was our first full day in Chile! Javier picked us up bright and early at 8:30am to take a public bus to La Universidad Téchnica de Santa María in the city of Valparaíso. Wow, that bus ride was interesting. It is very different from the Port Authority bus system back at home in Pittsburgh; the drivers are very aggressive, drive very quickly, and seem to speed up around the many turns in the road. Anyone who has to stand should hold on very tight, and even then you might fall into a stranger's lap! On the upside, public transportation in Chile is relatively cheap and affordable. We pay 400 Chilean pesos each to take the bus from a stop near our hotel to the university, which is equivalent to about 80 cents.

After the slightly overwhelming bus ride, we arrived at the University! The campus is absolutely beautiful and has an incredible location right on the water. We took a few pictures outside then headed inside to meet Camilo, another one of the Chilean students assigned to be our guides for these two weeks. Camilo and Javier gave us a tour of campus, after which we went to a classroom and received a lecture about Chilean culture from Jaime, a professor at the University. After lecture we got lunch in the University cafeteria, which was very crowded. This marks another cultural difference between the United States and Chile - in Chile, the main meal is lunch, whereas dinner is the bigger meal at home. Chileans typically have a large lunch and then a second breakfast called once around 5pm, followed by a late dinner around 9pm. One of the many awesome things I've learned about Chilean culture!

After lunch we took a bus tour of both Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with Valería and Daniela. I thought that I was used to hills from living in Oakland, but Valparaíso is even steeper! The houses are built so that you enter and take stairs down to the bedrooms rather than up like traditional houses, which accompanies the architecture of being on a hill. Along the tour we saw all of the highlights of both cities. Moments that stood out to me were going up an old incline, maneuvering around small streets in a huge tour bus, seeing a marathon runner from Australia pass by chance while looking at a monument for General Arturo Prat, and taking pictures of countless paintings covering the walls and stairs outside an entire hostel. The tour was really fun and informative but also very exhausting.

We made a friend! The marathon runner that we found in Valparaíso.
After losing loved ones to cancer, he seeks to raise funds for the Cancer Foundation by running over 3700 kilometers. Check out his website: http://www.runchile.com/run-chile/
(Also, notice the stray dogs in the corner)

After the tour we went to a little restaurant for once and ate empanadas. Empanadas are a Chilean snack; it is almost like a pastry filled with queso and anything else you can think of. After eating we rushed back to the University for a salsa dancing class! This was so much fun - we learned the very basics of salsa, both partnering and alone. We were all exhausted after dance class, but we ended a great, long day by going out and singing karaoke together.

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