The leaves are starting to change in Chile, and, even though it’s mid-April, we’re having some beautiful fall weather. Because Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are flipped. So, from mid-November to the end of February it’s summer in Chile. Right now, it’s fall down here (my favorite season), and I’m trying to enjoy every bit of it before winter starts in June. It’s already getting a little chilly, the first hints of the quickly-approaching winter. I’ve heard that winter in Valpo isn’t that extreme; it’s mostly just windy and rainy, but it’s definitely going to be weird to have the height of winter be in July which, for me, is normally one of the hottest months.
This weekend I had the opportunity to go to the sand dunes in the neighboring town of Concón where I enjoyed the last bit of this warm weather. I went with some kids from my program, and we all rented tablas (boards) to surf down the dunes. It was incredible, even though I was covered in sand by the end of the day. We climbed to the top of the dunes to watch the sun set over the water – all in all, a perfect day.
Also, this weekend was my host mom’s birthday, so we had a huge family lunch on Saturday to celebrate. We started off with a delicious fish soup (and obviously bread–the main-staple of Chilean cuisine) but the main course was the star. My host uncles had a massive pot filled with various shellfish cooked with white wine and vegetables. There were clams, mussels, and other various shellfish I didn’t recognize. Each of us got a bowl filled to the brim with this mix of seafood and broth. I was in heaven.
My real family is from Baltimore, Maryland, so I’ve basically been eating seafood since I’ve been in diapers. Although Chilean-style shellfish is significantly different than Maryland-style (with no Old Bay to be found, unfortunately), it’s still delicious. And the best part is that I got to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day! For dessert, we had a pastry called brazo de reina (queen’s arm); it’s a type of cake roll that’s filled with gooey manjar, the Chilean version of dulce de leche.
Tomorrow, I start volunteering at MingaValpo. It’s an organization dedicated to providing a safe space for children in one of the neighborhoods of Valparaíso, and I’m pretty excited. Being that tomorrow is my first day, I still don’t have many details about my role in the organization, but I do know that I will be helping in the garden workshop where I’ll be teaching kids from the community about how to grow their own fruits and vegetables in an urban environment (along with having fun and playing some games). I’ll definitely have more updates in the weeks to come, but for now, wish me luck!