My trip abroad… while abroad

Amanda Landaverde
April 21, 2017

This past spring break (or Semana Santa) I went to Chile to visit both Valparaíso and Santiago. What I experienced was unexpected: a bit of culture shock.

From my first ride into Santiago, I could tell that Chile, even in the dark of the night, was starkly different from Buenos Aires. Just the cityscape was vastly different. My first ride into Buenos Aires was marked by passing tons of tall buildings on both sides of Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world. I remember thinking that Santiago looked a bit run down in comparison, much less glamorous than the towering reflective skyscrapers that crowd Buenos Aires. The normal sized buildings and slight shabbiness reminded me more of my own neighborhood back home, that extension of Mission Street that spans beyond the gentrified areas, from Excelsior out to Daly City.

The next morning on our way to Valparaíso I noticed a second huge difference: diversity. I had written about a lack of diversity in a previous blog and how it shocked me, and after being in Buenos Aires I was blown away by how most people actually did not look European. There was actually a wide variety of skin tones and shades. There was a certain comfort that came back to me that I hadn’t even realized I had lost. It reminded me of the same feeling I get when I come home from Minnesota and remember what it’s like to not constantly be surrounded by white people.

When we got to Valparaíso, I instantly felt more at home. I was right next to the Pacific Ocean, I was in a smaller city more akin to San Francisco (or more accurately a beach town), and I was instantly able to recognize why the Mission (or at least the Mission prior to gentrification) looks the way it does: Valparaíso just looked like a large Mission district. The colorful buildings, to murals and street art covering every inch of blank space, the infinite amount of panaderías, and the street vendors all just transported me home. I felt like I hadn’t actually been in Latin America up until that moment. And after that moment, I just felt so utterly comfortable in my own skin in Chile.

I don’t think in my entire time abroad I have had as little anxiety talking in Spanish as I had in Chile. Although most would probably attest that my Spanish is at least decent, my constant issue is that I always get so nervous speaking to people. To be fair, I get just as nervous speaking to people in English, but at least I have a lifetime of practice dealing with that anxiety. In Chile, I didn’t get nervous; I just spoke. And better yet, people understood what I was saying, and were actually nice (for the most part). Maybe I just had better luck in my week in Chile, but it just seemed that people were much more helpful and welcoming compared to the stiffness of Buenos Aires. I felt so much more at ease.

That comfort, however, also could have been due to the fact that Santiago and Valparaíso are much less crowded compared to the streets of Retiro or Recoleta and Chilean drivers aren’t nearly as aggressive. But definitely the interactions were more comfortable as well.

Despite the amazing time I had in Chile, even with the country being shut down for both Easter and the countrywide census, I am glad to be back in Argentina. Hostels are fun and great for meeting people from all over the world, but I do prefer to sleep at home in my own space, rather than share a room with 10 people. Plus, smog isn’t the best for my asthma; I’m still coughing two days later.

Until next time, Chile.

PS: In case you were wondering, Argentine empanadas are better than Chilean ones. 

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Amanda Landaverde

<p>Amanda Landaverde is a 20 year-old Spanish and Psychology student at Gustavus Adolphus College who aims for a career in neuroscience studying generational trauma. In her free time, Amanda likes to creatively illuminate and counteract social injustice through art, writing, and performance with her social justice theatre troupe on campus.</p>

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