Well, I know I'm a little late on this post, but better late than never, right?
Last Tuesday, Dieciocho, we had a church picnic at a house a little outside of the city. They made their house for this kind of thing: hacienda style. There's a large open space for soccer, a pool, a large patio with plenty of table space, a huge grill, a sprawling house with plenty of bathrooms, and lots more space to spread out. It was a perfect day--warm and sunny. It started off with people just mingling, playing soccer, and eating empanadas. This was a great time for me to talk with different people and practice my Spanish. God really helped me out, and I felt like I understood a good deal. Eventually we sat down for our big meal, which basically consisted of all the different salads the families brought and steak on the grill. It was goooooood. Here's where I quieted down a little, since it's harder for me to understand in large groups, and there were 60 people around one table. Afterwards I drank some coffee and talked with some of the girls I'm getting to know.
Then we all gathered around the pool where a sound system was set up. Some people performed some traditional Chilean songs, and then they read funny poems, another tradition.
After this, they split many of us up into two teams, and I was among those chosen. It was game time. Now, the thing to note is, all the Americans and Chileans who speak English were on the other team. Oh, the irony. So I had several options to try to understand what was going on, and I implemented all of them. I listened hard, feverishly trying to understand, I stayed in the back and watched what the people in front of me were doing, and I ran over to the other team and asked people in English. It was interesting. :o)
The games were relatively familiar, like potato sack races, three-legged races, and balloon popping games. There is a picture of me trying to pop a balloon by hugging another girl, but she was half my height, so it made life interesting. It looks like she's killing me. Haha. You'll see what I mean when you look at the pictures.
After the games was some more milling around and socializing, accompanied with sweets and tea or coffee. Then we sat down to watch the cueca, the Chilean national dance. When I was watching, very few people would do it, maybe one or two couples at a time. Apparently a few more jumped in later, but I was off getting my own lesson, so I missed it. It's a relatively easy dance, but it just takes some practice. It's very interesting to learn something completely in Spanish. But my teacher was very patient with me! :o)
Then there was more socializing and general merriment, and eventually we went home. It was an awesome day, and I so wished that I could understand more (although I did fairly well).
The next day Melissa and I went into town to see the military parade. The park was PACKED, and it was very difficult to get around. We squeezed our way up to the parade area and realized the parade was too far away to see. It was basically only performed in front of a set of bleachers with all the important people (like the President) and the TV cameras. Oh well! So we left and walked around the fonda (fair-type thing), getting some food (which Melissa made me get to practice my Spanish) and watching the various performances. There were several people doing the cueca, one performer from Easter Island, so his performance was similar to something Hawaiian, and several Native American performers. The funny thing is, they were mostly performing North American songs and dances, and were dressed in the North American style, as opposed to this area!
Melissa and I left well before dark, because this particular fonda is known for it's drunkenness, especially towards the end of the holiday week. It was sad to see people already drunk at 4 in the afternoon.
The next day was a school day, back to the grind! No one wanted to be there, including myself, but we managed ok! ;o)
It was a good week, an incredible week, filled with the most Spanish I've had in one week so far. It did a lot to help me learn, but I still have a long way to go!
I'm including a link that will send you to some pictures from the day of the picnic, including a very short video of the cueca. I hope you enjoy it!