Dusting off the old travel blog 

Well friends, I’m on my way to Colombia, currently over…South…? Carolina? All I know is I’m in 26A and headed to a new country.

It hasn’t been the easiest start this time around. I’ve been going to sleep the past couple nights with my least favorite best friend: travel anxiety. Complete with four hours a night of wrestling with my covers, obsessive overthinking, and lots of rhythmic breathing exercises. 
Jesus, what happened to us? My anxiety slyly asked, with all the poorly hidden malice of a middle school girl. Maybe we’re just not good at this anymore, it suggested while playing tapes of me forgetting to do something at work before I left. We’re going to fail our class because we haven’t had time to finish our homework for the next two weeks, and what if we forget our passport, or don’t have the right shoes and- 
Breathe in four seconds, hold five seconds, out six seconds. Repeat until sleep comes. Or until you roll over and you can start the cycle all over again. 
Anxiety blows. Travel anxiety blows. Having the fun anticipation for a trip taken away from you by endless worry BLOWS.
I know that anxiety manifests itself in me in a way that seems a lot like laziness or just being extremely carefree when it comes to travel. I just can’t focus on making plans, because that gives me more details to worry about. It’s easier to wing it and not have to worry about the specifics until you come to them, which seems a bit counter intuitive but seems to work okay. 
However, at least once a trip this results in unpleasant and potentially avoidable situations. Most of the time at airports. But this time I totally swear it wasn’t even my fault! 
 I spent the first (extremely early) hours of my day calling LATAM and American Airlines because neither of them could actually figure out whose plane I was going to be leaving on in…. one hour and thirty minutes. 
When I finally finished navigating the maze of customer service representatives and figured out that it was in fact American Airlines, I checked in online. Phew. Done. 

I looked at my tickets. My flight out of Dulles would be leaving at 11:00 A.M. Just in time for me to make my 10:00 A.M. Flight out of Miami to Bogota! F*ck me, right? 
Tearing into American Airlines with about 45 minutes left until when I THOUGHT my plane was supposed to be leaving, the lovely woman at the counter, Carmen, took pity on me and seemed to untangle the mess that was my ticket reservation (route times were flipped, no return ticket from Dallas, etc.) 
I run to the gate on my ticket and see that the doors were closed and the screen was blank. I sweat and wait until the lady at the counter is free, torn between being patient, or just screaming, “I have no idea what the hell is going on!” Final conclusion: I am at the wrong gate and my plane shuts its doors in ten minutes. F*ck me. 
I sprint to the new gate and try to give only the necessary information to the other counter lady, while we debate whether or not I actually bought my ticket for the 6:30 flight (I did), because it’s not on here as changed (Because I didn’t change it, they did) and did I pay the fee to change it? (Of course not, I didn’t change it!). I name dropped Carmen all up and down that conversation, and counter lady finally gave me my ticket.
#lastpersontoboard 
But I’m here, and somehow snagged a nice little window seat out of the whole ordeal. 
My anxiety has been sitting in smug “I told you so” silence ever since we got on the plane, but at least it’s finally shut the hell up. 
And I’m on the way to see one of my MOST favorite micromanagement queen best friends, so there won’t be room in the bed for it anyway. 

Pro Tip: Always wear sneakers at the airport. Barry Lewis has never once in his life let me on a plane without sneakers on. Flip flops be damned with their fragile inability to protect your feet, or allow you to make the inevitable sprint that you’ll need to do on at least one connection. Hasn’t let me down yet. 
Sorry for all the bad words, Ma. I bleeped them out for you. 

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Quiksilver Ceremonial

Hey everyone,
I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but usually I don’t like to write unless I feel inspired. That’s not to say that the past few weeks (oops, months I guess) haven’t been inspiring, they absolutely have, but they’ve also been pretty crazy.
     Anyway, the other day I had a moment. If you’ve studied or lived abroad, or even just in your day-to-day life you can forget why you are where you are, or why you’re doing what you’re doing. Sometimes you just need to extricate yourself to remember.

  So I went surfing. I had spent the whole morning watching some of Chile’s best surfers tear up one of the most famous breaks in the southern hemisphere and I needed to get in the water.

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Punta de lobos, Pichilemu, Chile

I pulled on my wetsuit and walked to the beach lugging a 9 foot longboard (of course I went to a significantly less dangerous wave than the aforementioned Punta de lobos). It was a choppy day and the current was strong but I was determined! I jumped in and paddled as hard as I could– and was immediately carried down almost the entire length of the beach, resulting in a substantial walk back to my original starting point. I set out again and battled for a little against the waves until I let go and bobbed for a while. I just laid my chin on my hands and faced the waves as they came in.
     As I was laying there I had a moment, a “Oh my god, right now I’m alone, in the pacific ocean, on this giant surf board off of the coast of Chile,” kind of moment.
It’s so easy, at least for me, to get caught up in the cycle of the week and forget how cool it is to be here. The second thought I had was how many people and  moments had brought me to that exact point. The list is essentially endless, from the people that physically brought me there, to people who who taught me to surf, to travel, or to love Chile and learning Spanish. Along with that the people that donated money and who never told me I was crazy for wanting to come here, because they knew it was something I really believed in. I thought of all of you while I was out there on that big-ass orange and red surfboard.
     These past couple have months have been really hard at times, from tiny things like having a difficult class, and adjusting to a 40 hour work week, built up on the harder personal things like my Nana passing away in February. Its been tough, but moments like that bring me out of the whirlwind.
   The week we went to Pichilemu was probably one of the coolest in my life, we spent two days watching some of the best big wave surfers in the world during the Quiksilver Ceremonial.
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We woke up each morning before dawn, and drove our van to the point to beat the crowds. Picture pulling up in the darkness to the crash of 30 foot waves in the distance (although we couldn’t see them yet) and slowly watching the waves come into view as the sun rose, mixing in with Kashmir, Stairway, and Immigrant song. It was epic.
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The VSP crew on the point checking out the waves. Photo Cred VSP Facebook Page

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I saw the biggest waves I have ever seen in my life, being from Maryland I don’t often get the chance to see swells like this, let alone people surfing them. I’m not really into watching sports either, but this was more like a fair-beach party-surf competition, all rolled into one. Every moment was exciting, when a huge wave came up the crowd would start to whistle and cheer. I felt like we were all little kids seeing the ocean for the first time, we just kept yelling, “Mira esa olatza! — Whoa, look at that huge wave!”
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The collective groans or cheers of the crowd as the surfers decided whether or not to take the wave was a cool feeling of community that I definitely don’t get from watching football, or even soccer. It made me feel like a huge kook watching so many amazing surfers, but in a way that makes me want to get better and keep submerging myself into this culture so I can keep having experiences like this forever.
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Ramon Navarro, Chile’s most famous surfer

I hope I’ve made up for the blog posts I’ve been missing! They’ll be more frequent from now on, but if you want to keep reading about VSP and what I’m doing go check out the Valpo Surf Project website and blog here http://valposurfproject.com/ 🙂
– Paige

Surf Skills Update

I’ve written about Chile, about the reasons I’m here, and the experience of working with the kids so far, but I’ve neglected to bring you all up to speed with how my own surfing skills are panning out.

I’m amazing.
I’ve already mastered it and I am seriously contemplating officially becoming a Chilean citizen, after recieving a more than generous offer from the national government to join their olympic surfing team.
Yeah, not at all.
It’s been a while since I’ve tried to learn a new skill, at least something like this. And I’m not going to lie to you all, I’ve tried surfing a couple times and I’ve really sucked at it. Like, bad.
When I tried again this time I still wasn’t good, but on the plus side, I never realized how fun it can be to be terrible at something until I started learning to surf. I can fall off twenty times, but the one time I stand up is worth it. It’s neat to start from scratch at something and see myself progress bit by itty bitty bit. For example; the other week I stood up before the white water (the foam  in front of a wave), and this week I actually dropped in for the first time, which was a crazy cool feeling.
I’m a firm believer in beginner’s luck and these past couple weeks have definitely supported that, with little bursts of reinforcement in many, many, many instances in which I’ve failed, (see; face plants, wipe outs, belly flops, and other things of that nature).
I leave you with the wise words of Phil Dunphy; “If you don’t fall off the horse, how can you expect to get back on again?”IMG_5160

I’m a Tía!

The first thing that I have to address is that Chileans, and to my experience Latin Americans in general, tend to be very free-flowing with nicknames, diminutives, and terms of endearment. I’ve got a lot of titles under my belt stemming from my time in South America. If you’ve lived in Spanish speaking countries, or even just made friends with  people who are from Latin America you’ve probably realized that they can be pretty blunt, at least by U.S. standards.

The first time I told my roommate about some guy at a party who called me “gordita” or “fatty”, she was promptly scandalized. Even more so when I informed her that it didn’t bother me, one of my host sisters is “la gorda”, in my family along with “la negra” and “la suca”, the dark one and the blonde one, respectively. Along with “gorda”, I’ve been called gringa, flacca (skinny), loca (crazy) , equatoriana (ecuadorian), suca (blonde), chilena (chilean), altita (tall), coqueta (flirt), and many more.

Now I get to add Tía to that list, and it’s probably my favorite one so far (coqueta gunning for a not-so-close second). Tía is a Spanish word that means “aunt” and is used as a term of respect for someone who is older than you are, they don’t have to be a blood relation. I’ve got to say, it’s pretty neat being called Tía, it’s more personal than being called “miss”, and more respectful than a simple name. It’s basically a representation, at least from my perspective, of the space I occupy here. Being a Tía means that I have to be an example for these kids, the hardest part so far for me is curbing my colorful assortment of swearwords (both in Spanish and English).

Photo cred to the Valpo Surf Project Facebook page!

The Montedonico kids and my fellow Tías                                                           Photo cred to the Valpo Surf Project Facebook

And it’s so cool to be a witness to these guys having the time of their lives. We went surfing today with a group from Montedonico, a barrio of Valpo that gets a pretty bad rap for being sketchy at best, but the kids are amazing. They warmed up to us immediately, we spent a good amount of time doing flips off of surfboards and having sand fights. One of my favorite moments today was when one of the boys, Juanito, was getting ready to go into the ocean and he yelled at me, “Tía, venga conmigo!”, Tía, come with me! I took an inordinate amount of pride in the fact that this ten year old kid wanted to hang out with me. And we had a blast. Its probably one of the best things ever to help a kid catch a wave, see them stand, jump off their board, and immediately look back for your approval with a huge grin on their face, “Usted me miró, Tïa?!“, did you see me, Tía?! The proper response, of course, being to jump around and holler compliments like it was the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in your life, and not to be super corny, but it kind of is.

Back to Chile

I’m in Viña and I couldn’t be happier! After 36 hours of travel I finally got here, my awesome primo (my chilean cousin) Zyadd, surprised me at the bus stop and helped me carry my stuff home around midnight. Getting here was pretty rough though, 36 straight hours of traveling is crazy. And it’s only my second time writing in this blog but I think I’ve already developed a superstition: No writing about something while I’m still doing it.

Just to give you an idea of what I mean, here’s something I wrote on the plane; “As some of you may know, I have a bit of a knack for getting into annoying airport hangups, mostly resulting from my failure to pre-plan and an inability to lie to authority figures. Surprisingly, today has mostly gone flawlessly AND I was almost all packed before noon, (my flight left at 3:00) I triple and quadruple checked all of my chargers, papers, my passport etc. etc. etc. We loaded up the car, and I haven’t had a single ‘oh shit’ moment yet, then again I have 14 hours in Panama to think about it so I’ll let you know.”

Well, I tempted the hell out of fate on that one.

I think I went at least twenty four hours without contacting my parents since the Tocumen Airport only allows 2 hours of free wifi per day and I used mine unknowingly as soon as I got there (sorry, Ma). All of the restaurants were closed in the airport so I had to eat chips and a five dollar hot dog (which gave me food poisoning all day yesterday). I also have a pretty sore elbow and hip after a 5 hour stint on the floor next to the pillar at gate 23, which I think qualifies me to add, “professional airport sleeper” to my resume.

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Shout out to the pillar at gate 23

Apparently I can sleep even while there are several people buffing the floor and with “Bailando–the remix” blasting behind me. After all this I had to wait about ten more hours to get on my plane to Chile, which was five hours, fight my way through the hoards of people buying bus tickets to Viña, and grab a ticket (I got the last bus of the night), to take a two hour bus ride to finally get here.

I know, right?

At the end of it I was so grateful to finally have a shower and fall asleep in a real bed with real food in my stomach. It was a pretty hard couple of days but honestly, traveling isn’t always (actually, at least for me, it almost never is) comfortable, but it is always a good story. Plus, it was totally worth it because it’s gorgeous outside! I feel like it’s the Fourth of July instead of the last day of December.

Tonight we’re all going to watch fireworks from the beach and probably go dancing. People are selling insane amounts of stuff on the street to prepare for New Year’s Eve, hats, horns, confetti, wigs, and underwear. Yeah, underwear. Apparently its a New Year’s tradition for people who want to find love next year to wear yellow underwear, which I think is fantastic. Although, I think I’m going to go for green to attract money or pistachio ice cream or something instead.

Feliz año nuevo a todos!

-Paige