Okay, I promise that at some point I will make a post here that actually discusses the things I have been learning about in my classes, to counteract the impression that I do nothing here in Chile but party.
This, however, is not that post.
On Friday our Spanish professors cancelled our afternoon class (we were supposed to have a double Spanish day, 9am-noon and 1-4pm) because Universidad Alberto Hurtado, our host university for our intensive Spanish course, was having a party called a paseo. I don’t mean a few people were having a party; I mean the entire school was having a party. Literally every class besides ours had been cancelled way in advance so the students could go.
Basically what was happening was a kind of super-awesome Chilean version of Welcome Week. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been noticing college-aged kids walking around wearing ripped-up clothes and covered in paint or flour or other grime, asking people on the street for money. We asked our Spanish professor what was going on, and she said that it’s a tradition to have first-year college students go around dressed like that and beg for money at the beginning of the school year; all the money they get is then put towards a giant party thrown in their honor. It seems pretty weird to foreigners (or at least to me), but I guess as hazing rituals go it’s relatively benign. The party Friday was the result of all of the first-years’ hard work, and it was GREAT.
The university had rented an outdoor event space about 20 minutes outside Santiago, and had charter busses running to and from the space. We took one that was supposed to leave at 12:30 and actually left closer to 1:30 (everything here runs on Chilean time, which is to say no less than 30 minutes late). When we got there, we were momentarily stunned. The place was HUGE, with gorgeous grass, multiple enormous swimming pools, lots of shade created by trees and tent-canopy things, various benches and tables, and a big stage where a live band was playing. There were people everywhere, sitting in circles and clumps and pairs, eating food and drinking various drinks (predominantly beer, wine, and pisco) that they had bought beforehand and brought to the park. We found a spot in the shade, next to a group that was cooking hot dogs over a makeshift barbecue that was actually a wheelbarrow with a metal grate over it. We ate our lunches, drank whatever we had bought from the convenience store right after class (water, in my case), and took in the scenery.
We were at the paseo for something like five hours. We did some dancing over by the stage, talked with a bunch of Chilean guys, and generally just had an awesome time. Only two of us had brought bathing suits, but other people went swimming in tank tops and shorts or borrowed bathing suits once the original two girls were done swimming. At 6pm, we rounded everyone up and headed back to the bus. A good time was had by all, the only downside being that Kristi’s shoes managed not to come home with us. Whoops.
We got back to Santiago around 6:30, and then had a few hours to go home and rest before heading over to another party, this one a birthday party for our program’s academic director. We all met up at the appropriate metro station, and his 22-year-old son and a couple of friends drove us to his house. There was music, dancing, drinks, dozens of delicious little passed appetizers, a bunch of Chilean friends and relatives, and (at around 2:30 in the morning) cake. Our director’s 8-year-old son was there the whole time, and still going strong on the dance floor when I left, exhausted, at 3:30am; apparently the reason Chileans can stay out partying until all hours is that their parents train them from a very young age. I loved hanging out with my program-mates more, seeing our director’s house (which is seriously adorable), and just generally having an awesome time without having to go out to a packed club.
Then at 4ish Saturday morning there was apparently a 5.1 earthquake that I slept right through. Just like home!