Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday, March 13

Today we had to wake up at 7:30 to be down eating breakfast at 8 with our suitcases packed up and ready. We had only gotten 2 hours of sleep the night before, and it showed on everyone’s faces. Before we left for the day’s activities, the counselors called a meeting in the lobby. After we had returned from the club the night before, Victor, the counselor, had found me, Cassidy, and Michelle waiting outside our room because Brenna was the only one with a key and she hadn’t arrived yet. Victor went across the hall to Louis’s room to look for her, since they are really good friends. When he entered the boys’ room, he discovered Nigel on the balcony with a cigarette. He told us how disappointed he was in this betrayal of trust, and the girl counselors even started crying because they were sad that they would have to tell their bosses what had happened and it would “reflect badly on the north trip and on them”. I admit that they’d had to put up with a lot, but at the same time, I think crying was just a little much. Anyway, from there we got on the bus and we all slept the hour ride to the Oficina Salitre de Humberstone, which was a salt peter mine where Chile made most of its money during the first and second world wars.
Now it is a supposed ghost town. We walked all through it while the guide told us the history of the place. We saw old artifacts and tools, rooms where the people lived, slept, had their market, their hospital, their theater, and their school.

The guide told us to take lots of pictures so that maybe we could capture the ghosts on film.
Also, during that trip, I was walking the whole time with a group of Germans. It was normal for the Germans to talk amongst themselves in German and then talk to me in English, so I thought nothing of it. They were explaining to me how the school system works in Germany. They told me that the teachers can hit the students, that students must remain absolutely quiet in classes and stand straight when the teacher enters, and they told me horror stories and scars from the punishments they themselves had received for being bad in school. A bunch of Germans were confirming the story, so I had no reason to doubt it, and they strung me along for like 20 minutes with these horrible stories until Fritz and Stella finally told me that it had all been a giant lie. The huge group of Germans around me all burst out laughing. They had been telling each other about the lie in German and then feeding me fake stories in English. I was so mad but I had to admit it was a really awesome prank, and I laughed with them. After Humberstone, we went back to the Iquique harbor to get a boat tour.
We went out to a famous bouey painted with the colors of Chile, and we saw the “gorilla face” in the mountain. We saw sea lions and lots of big cargo boats.
Iquique is also one of the naval bases in Chile. Basically, most people just slept on the boat because everyone was so dead from the night before, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to miss anything. After the boat ride, we walked into the center for lunch. After lunch, the counselors started calling us up in groups (we had 5 groups, I was in verde) to give us an end-of-trip present. When they called green group up, Victor told me to sit down without getting a present. I was confused but just sat down and figured they would call me up with another group. Then, at the very end, they called the 5 of us up that hadn’t received presents and said that we had been chosen as the stand-outs of the trip for our attitude and positivity. They gave us a different type of bag as a present. It was super sweet to be recognized like that, and I felt really awesome. They asked me to give a little speech about the experience, and I thanked everyone for the best trip ever and told them that they would forever and always be my family.
After the trip, we had to go straight to the hotel to load the suitcases onto the bus and then drive to the airport. From the airport, we bought a few souvenirs (because we had been promised that we would be able to go to the feria again and we hadn’t had time) and got on the plane. I was sitting between Vincent and the counselor. I talked to Vincent for a while, and I kind of had to give myself a reality check when I realized how cool it was to be in Chile debating religion and the existence of God with someone from Germany. Then I talked with the counselor Analia. It was nice to realize that my Spanish hadn’t actually deteriorated that much after 6 days without speaking it much. She was super hilarious and actually gossiped with me about the other exchangers and what the counselors thought about them. Then we noticed that Victor was sleeping and we got up to take selfies with him. It was cool to finally see her like a person and not like a witch who was there to stop all our fun. When we arrived in the airport in Santiago at 9:30, we got our suitcases, and then came the hardest part of the trip. We all had to say goodbye. There is still another trip that we’re taking to Isla de Pascua, but not everyone is going on that one. Also, there is Larkin, who had to cut his exchange short in order to go to college and is leaving in 5 days. We were all crying and hugging and crying some more because in the ever-changing world of exchange students, you never know when you’ll see your friends again. The fact that Larkin was leaving just made everything 10 times harder because he is the first of us to leave, and it just kind of made it more real that in 4 months, none of us will be left in Chile and we will all have had to say goodbye to each other. I still feel so new here, and it’s impossible for me to believe that I’ve been here for 7 and a half months and I only have 4 left (date of return—July 13). Anyway, Louis’s dad picked us up at the airport and after we talked to him for a little while about the trip in the car, we all slept the rest of the way. I was shocked to find that Louis talks to his dad in only English, and even more annoyed when his dad spoke to me in broken English as well. I get really angry when people here talk to me in English because I know my Spanish is better than their English and I feel like they’re taking away my opportunities to learn and grow and practice. By the time I got home around 11:30, I was absolutely dead tired, so I said sorry to my family for not being able to tell them about the trip, and went immediately to sleep.

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