Sunday, June 11, 2017

5 More Years

About a month and a half ago, I started the process to renew my permanent residency in Chile.

The process is fairly straightforward.  Once you have permanent residency, you just have to bring 3 or 4 documents to the civil registry.  They then take a new photo, ask you a few questions, and give you a temporary ID card until your new one is ready.

I've found that what is straightforward in practice, however, is not always so straightforward in Chile.  Why do I say that?

Well, after carefully reading the requirements on the civil registry's website I made an appointment online (something that is relatively new here) and brought the required documents with me.  At the front door of the area specifically for foreigners renewing their ID cards there was a woman checking everyone's documents.  It turns out that the certificado de permanencia from the international police that I brought from 2012 wasn't valid.  I needed to get an updated one from the international police.  As she told me this I smiled and thanked her, while inside grumbling that while it made sense that I needed an updated one that it made no mention of it on the website.

Getting any document from the international police in the past few years has proven to become a daunting task.  If you need to get a document from them as a foreigner in Santiago you must go to one specific office.  This results in incredibly long lines, and I've heard of people arriving at 5:00 in the morning in order to get in line.  (The office opens at 8.)  After having mistakenly gone to the wrong office to get the document I needed, I then enlisted the help of a lawyer.  If you provide him with the information about the visa and paperwork that you need, he will get it for you.

I made contact and after a few emails he determined he was able to help me.  I went to a notary near my apartment and signed a power of attorney and emailed him scans of the necessary documents to get the certificado de permanencia on my behalf. 

A few days later, he contacted me that he had gone to the office, but they refused to accept a photocopy of my tarjeta de permanencia.  They told him that they needed to see the original.

It's not uncommon for people in government positions to interpret rules and requirements differently, and so if you need a document or visa you are at the mercy of the person helping you.  Apparently in the past he had been able to get the document I needed with a photocopy.  That means that either people in the past had given him paperwork not following the rules of seeing the original document OR the person that was helping him with my paperwork wasn't reading the requirements correctly that a photocopy was acceptable.

In either case, after some internal debate I gave him the original.  The following day he was able to get the document I needed and returned the original to me.  I now had everything I needed!

When I didn't have the necessary paperwork when I went the first time, I booked a new appointment for the week after.  I made my way back to the civil registry in downtown.  I presented all my paperwork to the same woman, and she frowned in disapproval.

According to her, I needed a photocopy of one of the documents IN ADDITION to the original.  I distinctly remember the website making no mention of it, but I knew better than to argue about it.  I went out, made the photocopy, and returned a few minutes later.

I made my way inside, and after waiting a few minutes my number was called.  The woman looked at my paperwork and told me that I didn't need the photocopy of the document I just copied and accepted everything else.  She verified that my address was current, asked me where I'd like to pick up my ID card, and also if I'd like to register to vote.  I told her I'd get my ID card in Ñuñoa and agreed to registering to vote, and then she took my picture.  As is the case every time, the glare off of my glasses and my propensity to blink made the picture-taking process a challenge.  Luckily she was patient.  She handed me a confirmation of my enrollment to vote, a code to check the status of my ID card, and my temporary ID card.

As I walked out, I breathed a sigh of relief.  My ID card was set to expire May 31st, and I had completed the process a few weeks in advance.  My new ID card was supposed to be ready around June 6th, and I got an email that it was ready on the 1st.  

After my Friday morning class last week I went to civil registry office in Ñuñoa and was in and out in 5 minutes.

So, what does this mean and why is it so important?

On the most basic level, I have another 5 years that I can stay in Chile without having to file any paperwork or renew any visas.

But there's so much more to it than that.

As I was catching up with a friend over coffee a few days ago, he told me how much he admired how I came here 7 years ago knowing no one.  Looking back at the journey of starting as a teaching assistant at a school, working at institutes and universities, and now teaching completely independently makes me realize how far I've come professionally. Managing my finances in another country, paying off my loans from graduate school, getting an apartment, and the day to day tasks of cooking, cleaning, and staying healthy while maintaining a social life and growing personally and professionally has been no easy task.  Sometimes I fail to recognize that, and I'm so grateful for the people in my life that give me those reminders.

Another part of it is The American Dream.  The idea that if you go to college and graduate school, study hard, and work hard at your job that you can achieve financial security.  I followed those steps, but the financial stability was already deteriorating when I entered the workforce as a teacher in 2006.  While I didn't expect to be handed a job on a silver plate, given my three teaching credentials and MA in Education I didn't expect to have such a difficult time finding a job and having to accept whatever job offer I got.  I didn't expect having to move from one school and one city to another to follow where an opening was located.  It was very disheartening to pour my heart and soul into a school only to find out that I was being let go due to budget cuts.  The American Dream had failed me.

Chile has given me so many unique opportunities.  I'm able to live in a safe part of Santiago with an incredible view for an affordable price.  I've been able to travel around this beautiful country to see deserts, forests, mountains, and lakes.  I've been able to work with people from all types of industries and present at national teaching conferences.  I've been able to get to know people from all over the world, each from a different walk of life and at varying ages, all in Chile for a variety of reasons.  I've been able to open up my mind to new ways of thinking and adapt in ways that I never thought would be necessary.  I've been able to grow in so many ways that I would have if I had stayed in the United States.

As I type this, I feel immense gratitude to not only Chile but also to all of the people that I have met along the way that have been a part of my experience.  Whether the friendship or relationship was positive or negative or short or long, all of them have helped shape who I am today.

Today I begin my journey of 5 more years in Chile.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Linkin Park Returns to Chile, A Cybersecurity Threat, and Offending a Police Officer

After 7 years, Linkin Park returned to Chile.

I bought 2 tickets when they went on presale back in December, and I was excited about it to put it mildly.  Unfortunately I ended up having an extra ticket at the last minute, and despite my efforts of trying to find someone else to go with my no one was able to go with such short notice.  I was disappointed to not have someone to share the experience with, but I decided to make the best of it and make it a date with myself.

I put on my Linkin Park hoodie that I've had since college, spiked my hair, and headed out.  I had never been to a concert at the Movistar Arena before, so I wasn't sure what to expect with the line and wait to pick up will call tickets.  There were a ton of people, but as I went through the lines for security everything moved quickly.

Then I realized that I needed to show my ticket to get through.  I made my way back and to the area off to the side, and I was able to walk right up to will call.  I passed my ID card through the bars, and then I signed my name, date, and signature to confirm the reception of the tickets.  I opened the sealed envelope and admired the tickets.

I made my way through security with plenty of time to spare.  After walking around to look at the shirts and hats on sale and the food offerings, I settled on a snack of French fries with a soda.  I then made my way to my seat.


It was about 8:20, and Rage Against the Machine was playing.  My seat was left of the stage near the front, and I had a really nice view.  (I sprung from the most expensive tickets that weren't a VIP experience).  I anxiously ran to the restroom at 8:58 and rushed back.

Rage Against The Machine had left the stage, and everyone was waiting in anticipation.  The lights darkened, and at 9:05 the show started.












In case you haven't ever seen them in concert, Linkin Park puts on an AMAZING show.  They play their songs, perform alternate versions of their hits, and get the audience involved.  They played for almost 2 hours, and the feeling of euphoria was indescribable.

As they were on stage saying their goodbyes and waving to the audience, I decided to head out to beat the crowd.  After waiting for buses, then 2 cancelled Ubers, and then waiting for another bus I made it home in at about 12:30.  I had the music running through my head all night, but I eventually fell asleep.

The positive vibes will continue, as their new album One More Light is coming out tomorrow.  In addition, I was able to grab 2  pre-sale tickets to their concert when I'm back in the States in a few months.

The following Sunday I got a rude awakening.  When I tried to check my email, I didn't have an internet connection.  After tying in my password, I was told it was incorrect.  I then noticed that there was a new wireless connection.  It had the same exact name as my wireless connection, but it was open (and therefore unsecured).  

It freaked me out, and I gave the conserje (front door guy) a call.  He told me it was a security issue and that I should call the police right away.  I did so, and in the meantime I posted to Facebook from my phone asking for advice.  I got a stream of helpful and supportive comments, and about half an hour later a police officer arrived.  He was probably in his 50s with greying hair.  As I explained the situation to him and showed him my computer, my doorbell rang again. It was his partner, a female officer probably in her early 30s.  

The male officer seemed reluctant to file a report since there was no evidence that anything had been stolen or damaged at that point, but the female officer told me it would be a good idea to have it as a precaution in case anything happened in the future.

In the end I decided to file a report to be on the safe side.  As she took the report, the male officer spoke into his walkie talkie, and then we got to making small talk.  He brought up foreigners living in Chile and mentioned how when he went to eat in a Korean restaurant and assumed that the people that worked there were from China and called them chinos there were a bit offended and corrected him. 

 As is the case in Chile in general, he didn't seem to notice cultural and ethnic distinctions that people from other countries recognize and consider important.  This is something that irritates me, and I've been working on speaking up when people say things that are ignorant or disrespectful in a tactful way.  In a calm voice, I brought up that if he were in the United States and told people he was from Chile, he might be mistaken for being Mexican, Argentinean, or Peruvian.  The male officer was unphased, but the female officer's eyes turned wide and she was visibly taken aback.  She said that she wouldn't mind being mistaken for Mexican or Argentinean, but (in her words) Peruvians are so lazy that she would be insulted.

The rest of the event went smoothly, and they gave me the necessary information if I needed the police report.

The next step was to call my internet service provider, VTR.  After about 40 minutes, I got a new wireless connection created with a new password.  It worked for a few hours, and then I was once again locked out of it and my password was incorrect.

After another call to VTR, they told me that they needed to send out a technician.  I scheduled a visit for the following day (Monday) between 1 and 4.  In the meantime I consulted the advice I had gotten on Facebook and called a friend that works with computers, and he patiently explained the situation to me.  Basically somebody had figured out my modem's username and password, so no matter how many times I reset a wireless connection they would be able to change it on me.

I used the wireless hotspot from my phone to connect to the internet, and after about 10 minutes I was locked out of that connection and a duplicate open connection appeared.  The situation left me anxious and frustrated, so I gave up on technology for the day.

In the end, everything worked out.  I got a confirmation call from VTR at 11:45 for the service visit, and the technician arrived at 1:45.  He explained everything and helped me set up a much more secure modem username and password as well as a new wireless connection, and he was done by 2:15.  VTR even called me later in the day to be sure that the situation was resolved.

I'm pretty careful about my safety and security, but this situation was a reminder to be more cautious with my cyber security too.  Luckily I didn't lose anything, but it's important to remember that I'm probably a bit more vulnerable than I had thought.  The anxiety that gripped me on Sunday has subsided, and the heightened awareness is a positive feeling.

Part of being alive is feeling range of emotions and seeing the positive sides of things, and I'm in a place that I'm able to do that.  For that I'm grateful.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Puerto Montt, the National Census, and Networking

It's the first full weekend of May, and I'm writing this from a bed and breakfast in Puerto Montt.

I've been down in the south of Chile for the past few days.  The IATEFL Conference was in Puerto Montt this year, and the theme of the conference was meeting the needs of Special Educational Needs (SEN) students.  There were 2 plenary speakers/presenters that really stood out to me: Sally Farley from the University of Kent and Phil Dexter from the British Council UK.  They both have a vast amount of knowledge and expertise in the areas of inclusive education, and they were both very engaging speakers.

There were much fewer people at the conference that I knew this year, and I found myself not in much of a mood to get to know people or socialize.  Having a conference that starts at 8:45 in the morning and goes until 6:30 in the evening on a Saturday makes for a long day, so I'm telling myself that it's not realistic to be "on" during that entire time, especially as an introvert.  Despite that, it was nice seeing what is happening with inclusive education and to see that I'm already doing things that are considered inclusive practices.

Knowing that the conference was going to be an all-day affair, I booked my trip to Puerto Montt giving myself the day before as well as the day after the conference to relax.  Walking through the streets on Friday afternoon was a nice reminder of how much more tranquil southern Chile is compared to Santiago. It's greener and things move more slowly here.  People know each other, and you don't have smog constantly overhead when you look to the mountains.







The experience of traveling here has been so nice.  I stayed at a hospedaje, which is like a bed and breakfast.  The family is warm and welcoming, but they let me go about my business.  I have my own bedroom and share a bathroom, but I haven't actually met any of the other guests.  I got a nice lunch at a restaurant called El Fogoto de Don Pepe, a well-known steakhouse in the area.  I'm not usually one for sopaipillas, but when I saw how fluffy they were I knew I had to try them.  The waitress wasn't lying when she told me that they are the best in Chile.  Granted I'm not a sopaipilla expert, but I wish they were open today to enjoy them again.



That same evening I took the bus to Puerto Varas and got to meet up with a former student.  Natalie was a part of the CORFO class I taught in 2012, and we hadn't seen each other since then.  We ate at a German restaurant and caught up about what has been happening in our lives over the past 5 years, and it was so great reconnecting.


Besides this trip, another "big" event that happened in Chile was the national census on April 19th.  It was a Wednesday, and with the exception of businesses run by their owners everything was supposed to be closed.  At least one person of each household was expected to stay home in order to answer questions when the census takers arrived, and families all over Chile spent the day at home waiting for their doorbell to ring.  Those with children baked cookies or prepared a small meal for them as a sign of their appreciation for the civic duty they were doing.  Chileans shared their stories of the visit from census takers as well as those who were census takers, and it was interesting reading my Facebook news feed to see what everyone's experience was like.  

As for me, I had a Skype call in the morning and then a class to teach in the area around lunchtime.  I spent the morning doing some light cleaning and preparation for classes.  I felt nervous as I headed out to my class, as I saw a census taker sitting in the lobby.  After a relaxed class and chocolate cake that came straight out of the oven from my student, I made my way back home.

I walked into my building at about 2:45, and now there were 4 census takers sitting in the lobby.  I thought I had missed them, and I started to get anxious.
"Perdona, soy del dpto 2103.  ¿Ya pasaron?"  (Excuse me, I'm from apartment 2103.  Have you already visited my apartment?)
No, por nada!  Alguien debe estar en tu piso ahora." (Not at all!  Someone should be on your floor now.)

I breathed a sigh of relief and made my way up to my apartment.  The census taker was knocking on my neighbor's door as I got out of the elevator.  About 10 minutes later, he rang my doorbell.  He was about 18 years old, friendly, but down to business.  A few times I had to ask him to repeat a word that I wasn't sure that I had understood correctly, but he was patient.  It was over in about 10 minutes, and I got my new sticker.


While I wouldn't have gotten in trouble for not being home when they knocked on my door, it would have been a pain to have needed to go to the municipality in person to answer the questions or try to figure out an online form as a foreigner.

As a part of my commitment to maintaining connections as a way to stay happy, I went to the business networking alliance's monthly meeting last week.  It was at a microbrewery in Bellavista, which is the type of place I probably wouldn't go to on my own.  There was a mix of friendly and new faces, and catching up with others while meeting some new people was a really nice experience.  Given that I had had classes earlier in the day and my introverted batteries that drain quite easily, I headed out after a few hours.

The weather is changing as fall sets in, but summer has been teasing us from time to time with a day getting up to 80 or so every once in a while.  While I don't like winter, I am happy to have a change of season as a reminder to myself that just as we experience seasons of the year we also go through different seasons in our life.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Making Progress

I'm sitting at my favorite coffee shop in Santiago, Condi.  It's the day before Easter Sunday, and I'm getting over a cold that started mid week.

When I get sick, it's often a sign to me that something isn't working in my life.  In this case, I haven't been good about managing my time and keeping up with all my professional responsibilities.  I hold myself to a high standard, and when I fall short and fall into a cycle of self criticism, not taking action, and then the cycle repeating.

Taking a day off helped me to pause and evaluate how the year is going so far.  I'm grateful for the wonderful students I have in Santiago.  I'm developing new material for classes and am keeping them fresh while helping students stay engaged with English both in and outside the classroom.  I have wonderful friends here and have made social plans and met up with them on a fairly regular basis.  (Maintaining my social connections and meeting up with friends on a regular basis is one of my goals for this year.)

Despite that, my people-pleasing tendencies and fear of change are holding me back.  It's not always easy for me to turn down potential students and projects and put limits on my time, and it's easy to fall into familiar patterns of escaping from the world through watching excessive television and eating unhealthy rather than engaging in meaningful activities that will help me grow both personally and professionally.  The idea of expanding my independent teaching into a business seems very daunting and overwhelming when I consider the amount of work that would go into it, but it's something I want to do.

Looking at the bright side of things, social gatherings in the past few months have been a wonderful source of joy.  A friend had left Santiago but then decided to move back, and some friends and I organized a surprise party.  It had been his birthday a few weeks before then, so it worked out to be a nice way to bring a group of friends together to start out the year.

There have also been a few birthday parties.  One friend celebrated at a brewery in Talagante.  They had a variety of handcrafted beers, wine, soft drinks, and pizza.  The outdoor space was lovely, and the weather was perfect.  The following day another friend celebrated her birthday by playing laser tag.  I hadn't played it in over 10 years, and it was a lot of fun.  Both of my friends have such interesting social circles with people from all over the world, and I really enjoyed talking with people and the social connection.

My laser tag team.  We ended up winning!
Last but not least, I've started having a weekly lunch date with a friend.  We go to a different picada (a small family-owned restaurant) in downtown each week and catch up about how our classes are going.  It is a great way of being sure we keep in touch, and it's so nice having someone to talk to on a regular basis about our professional lives.

There are always the meetings with friends to play Settlers of Catan too.  There's friendly competition in the group with banter that goes back and forth, and it's always an enjoyable time.

This weekend is a time for me to start taking some steps outside my comfort zone and continue growing.  The first step I've taken is purchasing a courses that interest me from The Great Courses: The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins.  I've always found etymology interesting, and it will be something that will enhance my the knowledge that I bring to my teaching.  Other steps will take time, but I know to be patient with myself and to go at my own pace.

Friday, March 3, 2017

13 Years Later, Back to Europe!

I spent two weeks of February in Europe, and it was awesome.

I split the trip between the Netherlands and Ireland, and it was my first time in both countries.  During that time I was able to meet up with friends in different places in each country, which made it that much better.

To give some background, I spent a year as an exchange student in Germany from 2000 to 2001.  I made some lifelong friends, got to travel to a lot of European countries, and my time there was what sparked my wanderlust.  In college I spent a semester in Granada, Spain and then spent the summer of 2004 in Germany, and that was an equally great experience.  I also took two trips to Mexico after finishing grad school and the year after that, going off the beaten path for most of the time in Mexico City, Tepoztlan, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Puerto Vallarta.

I have wanted to go back to Europe for years, but huge student loans, just starting a career in teaching, and a fragile economy did not make for expensive trips far from the States.  Now that my student loans are paid off and my finances are in better condition, however, I feel in a much better position to follow my passion for travel once again.

This year I've told myself that I'm going to go outside of my technological comfort zone, and so I've made a photo story of my trip.  It's really cool because it scrolls through my photos, has captions and text, and even has music to go with it.  I wanted to share it on here, but it turns out you can only share it on the computer your created it on or by email.

So here are the pictures and details in 4 parts:

Part 1: A Layover, An Ice Bar, and a Bike Tour

I flew with a low cost airline called WOW Air.  After the add ons (paying for my seat, checking a bag, etc) my ticket came to $580 round trip from Newark to Amsterdam with a layover in Reykjavik.  I left Newark at 5:35 PM and arrived in Reykjavik around 3:00 the following morning.  I had an hour and a half layover, which was enough time to wander around the airport in a daze but not enough time to wait in the long lines or sit down for a proper breakfast.  I settled on a yogurt and blt sandwich for breakfast before boarding my flight.




tired travel selfie
I arrived in Amsterdam safe and sound later that morning.  I got checked into my hostel and after crashing for a few hours went out exploring.  I didn't stray too far from where I was staying, but opted to walk around, explore, and get a sense of the things to see and do while I was there.  (I arrived on a Wednesday during the early afternoon and was there until Friday afternoon.)  After booking some tours I got some food and hung out at the hostel for a bit before crashing.



















The next day was my birthday.  I didn't want to make a big deal about it, and it was mostly a day of exploring the city on foot and then going to Amsterdam's Ice Bar.  It's a bit touristy, but I felt like I couldn't pass up the chance to visit a bar completely encased in ice.  I needed to make an appointment to go in, so with ticket in hand I walked in at 5:00 PM.  The entrance ticket gives you 2 free shots from shot glasses made of ice as well as a drink at the traditional bar attached to the ice bar.  There were different flavored types of vodka, and I opted for whipped cream flavor for mine.  After taking some photos and taking advantage of a free drink at the regular bar I headed out.


































That night I saw one of the guys that was in my room the night before, and we got to talking.  I told him it was my birthday, and we went down to the hostel's bar and talked about life over drinks for about 3 hours.  It wasn't a typical birthday, but I enjoyed it.

Friday was a bike tour of Amsterdam.  The weather was unseasonably warm, and at about 50 degrees I got away with wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants.   I never really learned much about Dutch history (besides the standard things you learn about when they settled in the States), so hearing how they were business people and learning about the history of Amsterdam and how the canals affected the city over the years was really interesting.  On part of the tour we stopped at what's supposed to be the oldest bar in the city which is still run by the same family that started it.












After the tour I hopped on the train and was on to the next leg of my adventure: Eindhoven!

obligatory train selfie
Part 2: Magic, Videogames, and Catching Up

What was waiting for me in Eindhoven you may ask?  That would be one of my close friends, Rudolf!  (No, he doesn't have a red nose, and he's not a reindeer!  Admit that you were thinking that right when you read that name!)

We became friends in Chile, but he has since moved back to the Netherlands.  The weekend included playing Magic: The Gathering, Wii U, eating New York Pizza as a pitiful substitute for Papa John's Pizza, walking around the town, and seeing the Phillips Museum.

Rudolf and I are both gamers, and it felt great to reconnect with our hobby.  A new set of Magic had come out, so it was cool trying out the new cards together.  Rudolf took me to a hipsterish indoor market that had things for sale as well as places to eat.  I had currywurst for the first time in 13 years and tried a Dutch food called Stampotten, which is a combination of potatoes and vegetables that are mashed together.  We also went into the shopping area of Eindhoven, and we visited the Phillips Museum.  Rudolf works for Phillips, so he was very proud to show me all the technological innovations that have occurred since the company was founded.  Now they're really working to develop medical equipment for MRIs and such.



























I think the best part, however, was the homemade chocolate croissants he made for breakfast one morning.  



Even though it was just one weekend, it felt so great to spend time together and to get to visit a close friend in his home country.

Part 3: Dublin, Touristy Stuff, and More Social Encounters

After saying goodbye to the Netherlands for a bit, I made my way to Ireland.

I arrived in Dublin, and I had time to get my bearings during the day.  It's a nice city because you can get around to most places on foot.  I really liked how friendly people were and how easy it was to get around.  Unfortunately higher prices come with that, so I tried to be a bit frugal when possible.  In the evening I met up with Martin, and we caught up on what has happened since he left Chile a few years ago.  It was great seeing him and hearing him talk about the history of the country.  Prior to then, I had no idea how big of a history buff he is.



The following day I took a walking tour for a bit and then headed out to Limerick, which is close to the west coast of Ireland.  I stayed with Heather and Terry who are living there.  We became friends when working at the same institute in Santiago back in 2011 or so, and we've stayed in contact since then.  I enjoyed catching up, getting to know their 3 cats, and playing board games together.
















I booked a tour to the Cliffs of Moher for one of the days I was there, and it was amazing.  They're out on the west coast of Ireland, and the beauty of the water crashing against the cliffs is breathtaking.  The tour gave us 2 hours to walk along the coast.  Heather had warned me about the wind, and it was really strong and biting.  I wore my long johns and had a hat and scarf, but even with that I only stayed outside for about 40 minutes of that time.  There was a small museum, gift shop, and cafe inside, so there was still plenty to do.  
























After being in Limerick for a few days, I made my way back to Dublin.  There I caught up with Amanda, another friend and former coworker that I met in Santiago as well as some former students that are studying in Dublin.  I'm not much of a drinker and didn't think I'd like the pub scene in Dublin, but it was actually really nice.  Maintaining social connections is such an important part of staying happy, and seeing that happening with the pubs in Dublin was a very positive part of the culture there.





In addition to catching up, I visited Trinity University and had breakfast at The Buttery (their on campus eatery with great food and very reasonable prices) and took a tour to Powerscourt Gardens and one of the national parks.  Being out in nature was really nice, and the amount of green there was never-ending.























































Part 4: Windmills, Clogs, Cheese, and More

My flight from Dublin to Amsterdam was delayed, and I consequently arrived at about 5 PM instead of 3 PM.  By the time I got check into my hostel the day was shot.  It had snowed earlier in the day, and so I got a taste of what winter is more typically like in Amsterdam.  I got something to eat but was too tired to do much else except book a tour for the following day.












I was up bright and early the following morning to take a tour of the countryside.  We started out by visiting some windmills along the coast.  It was really picturesque, and going inside a windmill was really cool too.  I don't remember learning much about how windmills work or how important they were to world economies throughout history when I was in school, but it was so interesting to see how they used them to cut wood, pulverize flour, and do other things.  It never crossed my mind that windmills could be rotated 360 degrees and that the flaps could be attached or detached as needed based on the wind.











The next part of the tour took us to a shop that makes and sells clogs.  A woman in typical dress showed us the process of how they are made, and afterwards we had time to kill in the shop and were encouraged to buy souvenirs.  After that, we took a ferry that then took us to a cheese factory.  They showed us how round wheels of cheese are made, and we got to taste some of them.  It was interesting to see the different types and ages of the cheeses.
























After a lunch break, we then went to a famous bakery that makes stroopwaffles.  A woman gave a demonstration and showed how the two cookies are made and attached with caramel in the middle.  Apparently there was a married couple with 9 children that lived in the 1800s.  The husband was a fisher, but he died in an accident one day.  The widow was left with 9 children to take care of.  She tried baking bread to sell, but there were plenty of bakeries that already did that in the area.  She then began experimenting with cookies, and she invented the stroopwaffle.  The demonstration occurred in her basement, and they had the original tools that she used on display.  The main floor is now the store/bakery, and it was interesting to see how a woman's entrepreneurial spirit and desire to care for her children had such an impact on Dutch history.











After getting back to Amsterdam, I then hopped on the train to meet up with a friend in Utrecht.  Ty and I met when we were exchange students in Germany in 2000, and since then we've managed to maintain our friendship despite the distance between us.  I believe we've only met up 3 times since then, with the last time being in 2009 in Venice Beach.    His life in Europe and mine in Chile have made catching up in person difficult, but not impossible.   It was great talking about life and catching up, and living outside of the United States we have both encountered a lot of the same challenges despite the differences between Europe and South America.  










By the time I got to my last day in Amsterdam, I was pretty tired of being a tourist.  I dragged myself out to go to the Rijksmuseum, a huge museum that documents a lot of famous Dutch art and history.  The sheer amount of things there was overwhelming (think the L'ouvre in Paris), and after about an hour and a half I was already overloaded with beautiful art, facts, and historical objects.

I do have one huge regret with this trip.  I put off finding information about going to the Anne Frank House.  I naively thought I would be able to just show up and get in, but it turns out that it's recommended to get tickets online a few weeks in advance.  You can only get in from 9 to 3:30 with an online reservation, and then after that you have to wait in line.  By the time I had gotten there, I would have needed to wait in line for a few hours.  While that is nothing compared to the atrocities that happened during the Holocaust, I was a worn out traveler that doesn't tolerate cold weather much more than he has to.  I've resolved that it will be at the top of my to do list for my next trip back.

The trip ended up being more expensive than I was anticipating, and it touched on my anxiety about spending money and getting into debt.  I then have to remind myself that sometimes travel is going to be a bit expensive once you add in transportation and eating out, but ultimately I'd rather have a passport full of stamps and a life full of memories rather than a house full of stuff.

I'm returning to Chile feeling renewed (in Chile they would say con las pilas cargadas, with your batteries recharged) and grateful for the time I had in Europe and back in New Jersey.
I hope everyone else has a great start to the year back in Chile or a wonderful start to 
spring/fall wherever in the world you're reading this from.