Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saturday, April 12

Today I had to wake up early to be waiting at the bus stop with all the other Rancagua exchange students at 7:00. We got on the bus, which had already picked up the exchangers from Talca and Curico and places more south, and went up to San Bernardo, where we met up with all the kids from Santiago. It was cool because this was the first time when all of us were together (since not everyone goes on the trips) and it was almost overwhelming how many of us there were. I think we were almost 70! We took 2 buses up to Vina, and then left our bags on the bus and walked around Vina for a while. I have been there 3 times already, so it wasn’t anything new for me, but it was still fun just to be around exchange students.
In Vina, we went to Castillo Wulf and took pictures of the view out over the water, and then we went to the Quinta Vergara, which is a big park where they hold the concert called Festival de Vina.
There was some sort of comicon going on there, and it was absolutely filled with people in costume. For once, 70 foreign kids speaking English, French, Dutch, and German did not even stand out.
We walked over to a nearby restaurant to eat a buffet lunch, and then we took the bus over to Valparaiso to start the walking tour of my favorite city in Chile.
We walked to this beautiful observation point, and then through a bunch of back streets covered with the gorgeous graffiti that I love. We stopped in another part, and while the tour guide was giving us some history of the city, someone shouted that smoke was coming up from another hill. We all watched at the smoke spiraled into the sky.
The guide told us that fires were common in Valpo and very dangerous because the streets are so narrow and the houses so jumbled together that a lot of times the fire trucks can’t get to where the fire is. As we continued the tour, ash began to fall around us, into our hair, and even into our mouths if we opened them for too long.
We watched street performers and took lots of pictures, and then eventually made our way down to the harbor. We watched a show of two men with drums on their backs and strings attached to their ankles that they would pull to beat the drums. They danced around and spun in fast circles to make the drums play. Apparently that’s a traditional military thing in Chile (it’s kind of hard to describe and better to look up on YouTube). We all got back onto the bus and went over to the other side of the harbor by the port.
There was a tall ship festival going on, and we got on board the ships to look around. Meanwhile, the smoke from the fire had painted the sky gray, and that mixed with the colors of the setting sun made for an eerie looking backdrop. It was then that we realized that this was no house fire and seemed to be spreading fast. We all got back on the bus and drove for about an hour and a half to Olmhue, where some relation to the Rotary club had leant us their country club to spend the night. I was in a cabin with Jodie, Anika, Stella, and Victor Hugo, our head counselor, which was a little awkward because he is a man, but whatever. We ate dinner in the dining hall, and then the counselors put on a “dance” for us. They pushed the tables to the sides, turned off the lights, and put on music. It was really incredibly awkward and uncomfortable but I danced anyway because it was my friend Brenna’s birthday and I wanted her to have fun. I guess it was pretty cool that she got sung Happy Birthday to in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and Finnish. Anyway, the awkwardness finally ended around 1 and we all went to sleep.

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