A Travellerspoint blog

A change of heart

When I first started planning my trip to South America there were 3 things that I definitely wanted to see and had my heart set on: the Igauzu falls, Machu Picchu and The Galapagos Islands. It is now the end of my 4 months and I have done none of those things. Machu Picchu was closed due to flodding, I never made it up to Ecaudor (besides the fact the Galapagos are waayyyy out of my travel budget) and now I will not be making it to Igauzu either haha!!

One thing I have learnt on this trip is to rely very heavily on my intuition and ever since arriving in Buenos Aires all the signs I have had have told me I should not be here. Since arriving I have been miserable, felt sick, haven't been able to sleep, developed acute bronchitus (again!), got ripped off something chronic by a taxi man and got given a fake 100 peso note out of a bank machine from the Retirio bus station. In addition it is almost definite that my flight with BA is cancelled because of the strikes. It is often in these times of sadness and difficulty that one reflects on the things that are really important to them and I have definitely done that over the last few days. All the reasons I have for returning to the UK temporarily: because I have a ticket booked, to try to earn a bit more cash, to collect my stuff and to 'wrap things up in the UK' seem sort of trivial now. On reflection I don't HAVE to take my flight, I CAN survive on the bare minimum until I am working, I can sort things out remotely from Chile and if I really need stuff from home get it shipped over here! I was very much looking forward to seeing all you friends and family and my gorgeous dogs, however I know that everyone will still be there when I return. I know some people drift apart with distance but people you are truely close too will always be there. For these reasons I have decided to not take my flight and return to Chile now. I have left the country twice now and everytime I leave everything feels wrong. I am taking an overnight bus in a few hours and arrive tomorrow afternoon and have honestly never felt happier to be going back!

The new plan is to try to get onto a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course asap and start working right away. As a teacher you are given compulsory vacation in December, January and Febuary because everyone goes on holiday in these times so schools close! I hope to be able to come back to the UK for a month, Xmas and New Year for a visit. I think I will be here for a while so please come visit me, anyone is welcome!! I'm not sure if I will continue with the blog, I guess now I am not travelling there won't be as exciting things to write about but maybe I could start a new one: a gringa living in a foreign land. I don't know I guess I will see how it goes. For now, thanks for reading and please please please keep me updated, just because I am not physically in the UK doesn't mean I don't want to know what's going on! Love you all x x x

Posted by amanda_w24 08:20 Comments (0)

Bye bye Santiago

and back to BA it is!

overcast 20 °C

So I arrived in Buenos Aires this morning after a 22 hour bus ride and I am now sitting in Maccy D's stealing their wifi. Someone might notice in a minute so I might get thrown out but I don't think anyone really gives a toss about that kind of thing here. The sky is grey and heavy like its just about to rain and its almost like it can feel my pain. It was a very sad goodbye leaving Santiago, but I am so incredibly grateful for the love I was shown there. From Alex's Mum, Lizzie and Sanae (his sister and sister's best friend), Vale (his best friend), Grandpa and of course the man himself. Everyone made me feel so welcome and they were so ready to help me whether it be finding out about jobs here, teaching me about the culture or whether just simply helping my decipher Chilean slang! And for that I feel so lucky and grateful. I cooked my mum's recipie of lentil lasagne for them on Friday to say thanks for everything. When I first mentioned what I was going to cook it got a few strange looks but thankfully everyone enjoyed it! They also threw me a 'going away' asado the next day so I could eat my last Chilean steak, pork chops, churipan (sausage in bread) and drink my last Chilean wine and pisco sour's. It did rather feel like the last super but we all got very drunk and merry and I soon forgot my nostalgia.

I have definitely decided to return to Santiago and the plan is to come back for the begining of August. It will be winter here when I return but its a great month to go skiing, the mountains are only a half an hour drive away and the city is supposedly beautiful during this time. So in the meantime I have 4 months in the UK to try to earn as much doe as possible, spend time with friends, family and sort my shit out.

However I am getting ahead of myself as now its time for me to finish my trip as I started it, on my own and in Buenos Aires. However it is considerably different to when I first arrived and it is only now I realise how far I have come in 4 months. It seems like only yesterday that I arrived and I was sitting in a cafe almost in tears as I had tried to order a coffee and the waitor had brought me a tea! However being in a country that is not your native language you tend to become so accustomed to feeling lost and not understanding anything that you can somtimes forget that learnig is a process. Although I started off here in Buenos Aires, I have spent most of my time in South America in Chile. The Spanish they speak here is the most difficult to understand anywhere in the world. They speak extremely quickly, use a LOT of slang and there are different dialects between social classes. So as you can only imagine coming to Chile and trying to learn Spanish here is similar to a foreign person going to Glasgow to learn English! Anyway arriving in Buneos Aires at the bus terminal, putting my bag in storage, booking another bus ticket, and finding a place with wifi has been a suprisingly easy process - I find I can actually understand people here in Argentina! Even yesterday going through the border I had to do some translating for some Belgian tourists who were in a bit of a flap, and its so funny thinking that that was me, 4 months ago, looking like a rabbit in headlights everytime someone spoke to me! I think its because you don't see the little baby steps that you take every day, you fail to see any progress. I have a loooonnnnggg way to go before being fluent but I am happy that I can now get myself around without a problem, make myself understood, understand enough to keep myself out of trouble and can even make a bit of banter from time to time!

I now have 10 days before returning home, or maybe more as I just read on the BA website that they have announced strikes running up to the 30th March and some flights (including mine) on the 31st will be cancelled. Luckily I have some friends here who I met last time around, and some others who I met in Cuzco so hopefully it should be a fun couple of weeks. I want to go to Uruguay and go up to the Igauzu falls but who knows, everything is so unpredictable in South America every day is a suprise and I have just learnt to go with the flow.

Posted by amanda_w24 07:10 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

A Tribute

sunny

Today's entry is a tribute to my friend Jonny Sedassy who passed away a year ago today after a long and difficult battle with bowel cancer. Jonny - not a day has gone past where I haven't thought about you. You may be gone but you are far from being forgotten. You have given me so much inspiration and for that I really thank you. If it weren't for you I doubt my life would have taken the path it has now. I had a moment of realisation last year where I thought: what if I were the one that got cancer and passed away, what would I want people to say about my life? Would I want people to say 'Oh she had a great career in Pharmaceuticals?' No. Would success matter? No. Would money? No. But would life experiences, yes! Would having great friends in my life, yes!

That was one of the major things that gave me the drive to make, what was to me quite a major decision about my life. Giving up my career, coming to South America on my own, and not being able to speak the language was a big deal for me but now I am here it has been the best experience of my life! I really believe that you Jonny gave me the insipration to do it, because you taught me just how precious life can be, how it can be taken from you at any time and for this reason to make every day count.

Today I am going to climb a big hill which has great views of Santiago and take lots of pictures (another thing you taught me to do!!) I know that you are never far and you can see everything I see but I like to document it anyways. After that I am going to go for coffee and cake, read my book and study. You will probably laugh but I am reading the Twillight book in Spanish. It is a rubbish story (I only just made it through the English version without gagging) but the language is so simple I imagine it is probably suitable for 9-10 year olds. It takes me about 5 minutes to read a page so its slow progress but I love the challenge!

Thanks again J, I have had some strange, wierd and wonderful experiences on my trip so far, and I'm almost certain it is you looking out for me! You must have had some laughs seeing some of the situations I managed to get myself into!

Keep on disco dancing in the sky, I know you will be having a ball up there so keep on shinning!

Love you always x x x

Posted by amanda_w24 05:54 Comments (0)

Earthquake!

The second natural disaster i´ve survived in a month!

So my first Friday night in Santiago, having arrived just a day and a half before was certainly eventful. I went out with Alex and a few of his friends as we were celebrating one of his friends birthday´s. We first went to a Tapas bar to eat some food and drink some Mojitos and Pisco sours before going out to a club. I felt like i´d hit the jackpot as the club we ended up going to was a small, underground club playing techno music. I felt like I was in heaven, having been in Peru for a month I have been deprived of good music and have been reduced to dancing to the Black Eyed Peas, Regatton and Cumbria music, so as i´m sure many of my good friends in London will appreciate - I was a very happy bunny. Well until just before 3.30 am that is.......

I went to sit down with Alex to rest my weary legs, we had only been sat down for a few minutes when we noticed the couch we were sitting on was moving. The trouble is i´m used to going to banging techno nights where the music is literally so loud you feel like you are vibrating all night anyways! So we didn´t think anything of it and no one even mentioned it. I get up to go get a drink, I start walking across to where the bar is and I start to feel my legs moving beneath me. I remember thinking that I must have been really drunk as everything started to look like it was spinning. I turned round to walk back to the couch where the rest of the gang were sitting and then panic set in as I realised what was going on - it was an earthquake. The whole building was shaking violently, there were these lights hanging from the ceiling and I just remember looking at them and thinking that the building was going to collapse as they were swinging from side to side and exploding. The power went off, music cut out and everyone started screaming and running out the door. Unfortunately at the time everyone realised what was going on I happened to be standing near the doorway so I got caught in all the mayhem and I had to fight against everyone running out. I was in absolute panic as I really thought the building was going to collapse and I couldnt see Alex or his friends. When I managed to fight through the crowd I found them sitting on the couch all very calm, whilst I was somewhat hysterical. ´Don´t panic´ everyone reassured me, ´it happens all the time here we are used to it´. I wasn´t totally convinced but everyone who still remained in the club seemed relatively composed. So then I started to wonder why the music wasn´t coming back on, I mean no big deal right, just a ´lil earthquake?´ ha whatever! The bouncers asked us to leave and we realised the lack of power would mean our night would have to end early. Walking out of the club we all started sobering up, fast. The streets were covered in debris everywhere we looked, I could see huge pieces of concrete that had fallen off the buildings and all I could think was thank god I wasn´t on the street walking past when they started falling off! The drive home was spooky there was no power anywhere so everything was dark, we could hear sirens and alarms everywhere and we saw a burst water pipe. We got home to find Alex´s mum up and waiting for us. There were candles lit around the house because there was no electricity, we sat up and waited out a few of the bigger after shocks together. Luckily only a few glasses were broken and a few cracks in the walls at the house but nothing devastating. The light came back on at about 6.30 and shortly after we all went to bed having no idea the devastation that had swept across the country.

I can only applogise to my mother for not anticipating what was international front page news. I woke at about midday (3pm UK time) having no idea that news of the earthquake had been on the 9am UK news. I also had forgotten that I had told my mother I was going to visit the beach but hadn´t said where or when, only that I had planned to go. Having now seen the images on the TV of what was going on in the rest of the country I can only imagine the panic that my family experienced that morning and for that I appologise sincerely to them! I can however assure everyone that I am absolutely fine. There is some severe damage in Santiago but the majority of the serious damage affected the South of the country, principally Concepcion which is about 9 hours drive south of here. It has been a crazy experience especially watching the news, seeing some of the damage and realising how lucky we all were. There have been aftershocks all week and it has been a week since the disaster now. I can´t help but think I am an incredibly lucky girl and I must have someone looking out for me somewhere as this is the second natural disaster I have been involved in a month and both occasions I have been absolutely fine. What just about sums it up for me is this blog would like me to ´categorise´ this entry, funnily enough there isn´t a category for Natural Disasters, I wonder why??!! Here are a few pics of some of the damage just walking around the next day!
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Posted by amanda_w24 12:14 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Arequipa, Colca and lllooooonnngg bus journeys!!

And some good luck

sunny 25 °C

Firstly, appologies for the lack of blogs recently everything has been quite hectic as you will soon read............ so just to give a quick update I wrapped things up in Cuzco about 2 weeks ago now. I was so sad to say goodbye to everyone as I had such a good time and really made some amazing friends whilst I was there so I was quite tearful when the time came to say goodbye. But hey it was time to move onto the next adventure and at least I wasn´t alone this time. Alex and I travelled by bus overnight to Arequipa a city 12 hours south of Cuzco. From there we ventured into the Colca Canyon which is at a fantastic 3,800 m altitude, still didn´t experience any effects from the altitude I am begining to wonder if altitude sickness is an urban myth! At Colca we took in the spectacular views and observed the Condors which are these gigantic 6m long birds but they look like tiny dots in the sky compared to the size of the Canyon! From Arequipa we were going to go to the beach in Peru but both decided we missed Chile too much and so decided to head back to Santiago. It was an eventful several day trek from Arequipa to Santiago and we had an incredible amout of luck on the way, although I guess that depends on your definition of luck.

The bus from Arequipa took 8 hours to Tacna (the border of Chile) as the bus burst one of its tyres, so we got stuck in the middle of the desert for about an hour. One might think this is bad luck however it allowed me to get off the bus and take a serupticious wee behind a sand dune. As there was no toilet on the bus this was veryyyyyy lucky for me as it was another 3 hour drive to the border! When we finally arrived in Tacna about 9pm we realised that we only had 1 hour to make it through the border which was cutting it VERY fine. We had forgotten that Chile is two hours ahead of Peru and that because the border closes midnight Chilean time we had to make it through before 10pm Peru time. As most border towns are, Tacna is a most unpleasant place and there was no way we wanted to stay overnight, however if we made it though the Peruvian border and the Chilean border was closed it would mean spending a night in the middle of the desert!!! There was a ´queue´ (or their definition of a queue which is a bunch of people standing around) of about 50 Chileans waiting for Chilean taxi drivers to take them through the border. Somehow I don´t know how but one of the taxi drivers pointed at Alex and I out of the crowd of people and agreed to take us. Alex is convinced it is because the guy spotted me, ahh sometimes the joys of being a white and female! We made it through the Chilean border just as the clock ticked 12.01 yeeeeaaaahhhh baby! After spending the night in Arica we went to the bus terminal to see about tickets to Santiago. We were informed by several people that there were no tickets to Santiago at all that day and we would have to wait until the next day. Another stroke of luck and we managed to find tickets for that day leaving in a few hours time for cheaper than what we should have paid. Again I didn´t understand how we did it but I have learnt not to question things anymore. We later found out that the bus company had sold us the very two back seats of the bus which are usually not sold as they are seats for the bus conductor! The bus journey from Arica to Santiago is meant to take between 30 and 35 hours. When we got on the bus we were informed that it would only be taking 24 hours as everyone was travelling to Santiago so it would be travelling direct. This still sounds like a long time right? But distances in South America are long! I am so used to it now that it doesn´t bother me especially when you have a good book, an ipod a bottle of boxed wine and a man to snuggle up to!

We arrived in Santiago, a little jaded but as I was going to stay with Alex at his house I was going to see where he lived, meet his friends and family and I was excited! Luckily Mum was out when we got home so it gave me a chance to scrub up. We met very briefly that evening but as it was late the full initiation was saved until the next day! And I was certainly thrown in the deep end as it was business lunch with Dad and tea and cakes with Mum. They are amazingly welcoming and really made me feel at home. Las Condes is a lovely area of Santiago , which is very green, safe and on a good day you have fantastic views of the Andes! The plan now is to stay here for 3 weeks. I am going back to school to do a few more Spanish classes and just generally want to spend time here, hang out, practice the language and see if this is a place I could potentially live. I decided a while ago I wanted to come back to South America to live, teach English and learn Spanish at the same time. I love the culture and the language and the fact I have also met someone here is an amazing bonus! This wasn´t really in my life plan, I mean I was supost to return to England, complete a Masters course get a high powered career in Pharmacuticals be loaded, buy a flat in London, flashy car, a Mulbery bag etc etc etc. Now I am potentially moving to Chile, giving up my career so I can teach English on a potentially very average wage, and am quite possibly going to be poor. One of the things I have learnt on this trip is to follow my heart and do what makes me happy and that´s what I am going to do. I used to think you were only allowed one thing, money or happiness but not both but I am now hoping that somewhere along the way I might happen to find a way to make a living whilst doing something that does make me happy. So far I love Santiago and I have a good vibe but we will wait and see what happens!
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Posted by amanda_w24 10:11 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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