Greetings from Viña! Our first week was a great success. The students are getting to know their host families and have enjoyed outings to the market and watching soccer games together. They have great things to say about their families and feel very welcome in their new homes. We also had the opportunity to take tours of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso so that the students become more familiar with the cities where we will be spending so much of our time. We are eager to start the first week of classes and afternoon activities tomorrow!
To recap the week, we landed in Santiago around 10:15am on Wednesday and immediately headed to the bus that took us to meet the host families in Viña. The ride from the Santiago airport was beautiful! After a 2 hour bus ride, we arrived at the church where the students will have classes each day. The families were already there waiting for us and each student was presented to their family individually.
It was a wonderful ceremony and it was great to see each student meet their family for the first time. After the students and families met, we were welcomed with traditional dances from all over the country. The students had the opportunity to see many types of Chilean dance, some of which they will learn during our dance workshops this summer. It was a great way to kick off the program and the students really enjoyed themselves.
On Thursday, the students took their placement exam in the morning and had an orientation to the program in the afternoon. They learned about money and transportation in Chile and we discussed the differences between family life in Chile vs. in the US. The students received their Chilean cell phones on Thursday as well. Most people in Chile have smartphones, but for the purposes of the program, we decided to save money and use older phones. Everyone had to learn how to use what we might now consider antiques! The students are also learning to navigate the streets of Viña as they make their way to school.
On Friday we went on a tour of Valparaíso, which is the city is right next to Viña. We had a wonderful tour guide, Vania, who taught us a lot about the history of the city. We did a lot of walking, rode up mountains in funiculars to see the different neighborhoods in the city, saw lots of urban art, and even had the chance to take a boat ride to see the city from a new perspective. The students experienced five forms of transportation that day: metro, funicular, microbus, boat and walking! Each neighborhood had its own personality and the students enjoyed exploring their new surroundings. At the right is a picture of the group on the boat before we left the dock. This picture was taken before all the life jackets were passed out, but everyone was wearing one!
On Saturday, we took a tour of Viña del Mar and Recreo, the neighborhood where the majority of the students are living this summer. We had another fantastic tour guide, Cynthia, who taught us all about the history of the city. The tour ended with a beautiful view of the sunset (below). Our first few days in Viña have been spectacular. We have already seen so much of this wonderful country and we are looking forward to beginning our daily routine tomorrow morning. Please check back for another post next week!