If my first week here taught me anything, it’s that being an exchange student has some incredible perks as well as some weird side effects. It’s great because you have to make friends really fast, which surprisingly worked out pretty well for me, but you also stick out more than anyone else on the street. As someone with blonde hair and blue eyes in a society where everyone (literally everyone) has dark hair and dark eyes, it’s almost uncomfortable to be in crowded places where kids and adults alike are gawking at you like you’re a rare breed of dinosaur.
After a whirlwind orientation week, several discussions about how not to get robbed, and a few awkward encounters, we finally got our footing in this city. America and I are bus-surfing pros and can now find exactly what we need in the mega grocery stores down here, so I’d say we’re doing alright.
Recently we got to spend a whole day roaming around our sweet Valparaiso just drawing mental maps in our heads for future restaurants to try and the best places for street markets on the weekends. I couldn’t be more grateful for this day because it was like a breath of fresh air to find the artsy district of the city and to take ascensors up the sides of the hills for lunch after having spent a few days in culture shock, not to mention that one time America and I got lost in a weird area on a bus for 2 hours. (Mom, don’t freak out, we were fine.)
I thought our city was pretty rough at first. It’s fast-paced and unfamiliar and doesn’t quite yet feel like home, but now I’ve seen its quirky, fun side. I’ve seen the murals and met the kind people who help me find good pastries (without speaking a lick of english) and tasted the foods this city is known for.
We have officially fallen in love with our sweet Valpo and I hope the feelings are mutual.