Tag Archives: spanish
May 9, 2011

Thoughts on Chile

If you’re in South America and ask other travelers what they think about Chile, you’ll hear two different things over and over: Chileans speak fast and everything is much more expensive.  I guess it’s not surprising then that those were pretty much the first two things we noticed when crossing the border from Bolivia into San Pedro de Atacama.


The language, I knew, would sort itself out in time.  They speak Spanish there, like pretty much everywhere else we’d been, they just hurry all their words together.  In previous border crossings, I noticed the weird phenomenon where, on one side, I understood almost everything said to me and on the other, practically nothing.  My Spanish usually isn’t good enough to pick up the reasons why; it could be the speed, the accent, or the slang.  The tiny improvements I gain in comprehension over the next week are too small to notice as they happen, but after seven days or so, I’m usually doing alright again.

I never got to that point in Chile.  We were in and out of the country too fast.

(Interesting note about Chilean English:  We were told that Chileans learn “American English,” rather than “British English.”  Not that there’s a huge amount of difference between the two, but sometimes you notice the changes.  Flat for apartment, that sort of thing.  You would think that learning American English would somehow make their Spanish easier to understand, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong.)

Sticker Shock

The sticker shock in Chile was harder for us to deal with.  Coming from Bolivia, we were used to paying, oh, about $20-25 a night for a nice private room.  Our first place in San Pedro ran us $42 and we had to live with a shared bathroom.  (They even charged us for towels, $2 a piece!)  The hotel reception guy saw our hesitation and asked if we were coming from Bolivia.  We nodded and he said, “Yeah, tourists from Bolivia always want lower prices.  It’s just more expensive here.”

Later on, in La Serena, I wandered into a music store and looked around at the prices.  Figuring the Twilight sensation would be a good place to do a price comparison, I checked out what it would cost to buy a book, a DVD, and a Blu-Ray disc of the first in series.  Roughly: 10,000 pesos for the DVD, 13,000 for the (trade paperback) book, and 22,000 for the Blu-Ray.  That’s $21.25 (DVD), $27.65 (Book), and $46.80 (Blu-ray). Not everything costs more than it does in the US, but media certainly does.

It would have been easy enough for us to stick to our $100/day budget if we were only concerned with food and lodging, but we had two other big expenses to consider: Excursions and transportation.  I haven’t look over the budget too closely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Chile was the first country that broke our budget.  In that respect, it was a good thing we got out of there so quickly.

January 28, 2009

UAS Peru Trip

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You might think that traveling to Peru and bearing witness to the wonders of Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I would have thought so, too, except that I just got back from my third trip there.

I’m always the one advocating some new and exotic locale whenever Oksana and I plan our travels (with the whole world to see, why keep going back to the same places?), but somehow Peru just keeps falling into my lap.

The first time I went was in 1998, when my roommate and I stayed in South America for a couple months after a university trip to Ecuador.  The second time, in 2002, was when I was invited by the university to help lead a class through the country.  Last month, six years later, opportunity came a’knockin’ once again.  Peru had treated me well twice before; how could I say “no?”

Even with my desire to see something new, these recurring trips never disappoint.  The first time there, we flew to Machu Picchu on a helicopter because the train tracks leading to the ruins had washed out in a storm.  The second time, we hiked the Inca Trail and visited many more of the ruins around Cusco.  This time, I was a part of a group that headed down into the Amazon basin for a few days in the jungle.

This was also the first university trip upon which I lugged my video camera around.  The students gave me permission to point my lens in their direction after I promised to make them a great DVD of their adventures.  I shot 14 miniDV tapes worth of footage while we were down there and I plan to add a few more hours of interview footage in the coming weeks.  Before I started editing a project of this magnitude, however, I needed to familiarize myself with what I already had.  It seemed like putting together a short music video would accomplish that goal nicely.

While many of these snippets of video will only mean something to those of us that were in Peru, I trust that the imagery will convey not only the amazing sites we saw, but also how fun, adventurous, diverse, and just downright awesome the people in our group turned out to be.

February 24, 2005

Good Friends, Good Times

Posing for a picture with Alex and MaguIf I had my way, I’d keep all my friends nearby – I’m selfish that way – but I can’t deny that there’s something special about reconnecting with people that have been out of touch. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

Two weeks ago today, a friend sent me a link to a Juneau Empire article. That morning, the newspaper had published a story about an Argentinean couple who were spending a week in Juneau. There was mention of a poetry reading and solo concert at a local plant store, but otherwise it seemed like filler for a very slow news day.

Well, thank God for slow news days! The Argentinean couple turned out to be Magú and Alex Appella – Spanish teachers and friends whom I hadn’t seen in almost three over five years! Before I’d even finished reading the article, I had mentally rearranged my schedule to fit in the “concert” at The Plant People. The only problem was that I had to wait through 36 long hours. That evening after work, I told Oksana the big news and she picked up instantly on my excitement. She was more than happy to go with me to the show and meet the people I’ve often talked about.

October 8, 2003

Parlez-vous Usted English?

I like science fiction. I’m hooked the way lonely housewives are addicted to romance novels and the Lifetime Network. I’ll watch the movies, I’ll quickly commit to a season of episodic television, I’ll read the novels and the short stories. I doubt there’s any one reason why I’m drawn to fantastic descriptions of utopian or dystopian futures, rather it’s probably the same combination of events in my youth that nurtured my fondness for hi-tech gadgets, comic books, and computer games.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the big conceits of sci-fi – interspecies communication. For each movie, show, or book there is usually a God-like device inserted to enable the author to get past the language barrier. Douglas Adams imagined the improbable Babel Fish (appropriately adopted by Altavista search engine geeks as the name for their web page translation tool), but it was Star Trek that introduced The Universal Translator into the public conscience.

Whatever the contrivance, the intent is the same: To shelve the language barrier in deference to the story being told. It’s understandable. As a viewer, can you imaging watching every sci-fi story with a realistic alien language barrier? You would either have to read a lot of subtitles or miss out on half the story. Of course, if written well, the process of communication barriers could be very interesting – but how many authors or scriptwriters have the ability to create entire languages while telling a compelling story?