Jacob Surface ’11 – I have been in Chile for about a month and half now, since just after the earthquake or ‘terremoto’. While it sounds like a long time, I can still vividly remember boarding the plane in Miami with my new study abroad compatriots. We arrived for our brief orientation of three days that was supposed to prepare us for the shock of Chilean culture, complete with salsa lessons! But nothing could have prepared me for Chilean Spanish. With filler words that mean absolutely nothing, elongated syllables, dropped consonants, and a variety of colloquial expressions that confuse and stun the new ‘gringos’, Chilean Spanish is a murmured dialect with a musical flow that leaves you lost in the tones, wondering, “What just happened?” I am still picking up language skills everyday.
The geography of this rugged area is definitely one of the highlights. In fact, I spent my Easter Sunday closer to God hiking around Mt. Aconcagua National Park, the highest mountain in the Americas, where I couldn’t resist trying my legs for a two mile run at altitude. Talk about a workout! After a brief respite on a hill with a perfect view of the snow covered mountain, I turned to see if my hiking group had caught up to me. Unfortunately, we missed each other and I ended up running a mile back in the opposite direction just to find out that they were down by a mountain stream off the beaten path.
The experience of being all alone and slightly lost at the top of the world was well worth it however and I will not soon forget the pure blue sky and crisp air of that place. I have also seen much of the 5th region, where I live in Vina del Mar/ Valparaiso. Valpo is a busy sea port with a history peppered with international immigration, commerce, art, and of course earthquakes. Vina is the more residential, middle class part of the urban area, with quiet streets perfect for running.
Speaking of running, I recently competed in a 5-mile race over the toughest terrain I have ever seen. Apparently ‘Cross’ isn’t the same as U.S. Cross Country where rolling hills and grassy straight-aways optimize competition. Rather, it signifies a tough race over impossible hills on a dirt road with no flat ground in between to catch your breath, with a few stray dogs for extra motivation on the return trip. I came in seventh and got a fancy medal for my efforts, but was left panting after my first race since early March. I got a chance to meet the oldest Chilean ever to complete a marathon, 80+ with 14 international marathons under his belt. We will see if Coach Busch can last that long. In the meantime, I plan to try my luck again on an easier course!
The fruits and veggies here have a freshness unlike that of produce from home, although bread and avocado, or ‘pan y palta’, tend to rule the table. I also had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting while in Argentina where the Malbec is most popular, and have also sampled the Chilean Carmenere, which is smoother than its peppery Argentine cousin. I also went parasailing off of the Andean foothills in Argentina, although I assure you that was well before the wine tasting.
I miss the blooms of our little campus in summer as the cool sea breezes bring winter here to Chile. But I have learned an extraordinary amount of language, culture, history and even some patience in just the last weeks. I am glad I made the decision to study abroad, one that, without Wabash’s unparalleled assistance, would have never been possible.
Back in a few… In Wabash, Jacob
In photo, Jacob with his host brother.