Welcome to Iquique! The adventure continues. I was up early on Saturday to catch my bus, after a late night out with my friends from school. I am going to miss the school, and all the people I’ve met there. I’m looking forward to seeing Madison again at Easter Island. 

They always ask the students to say a few words when they are departing. I attempted to use my speech to say thank you, and to demonstrate that I had learned a few things in the 5 weeks I was there. I was grateful for my professors, for their patience with me (!) as I struggled to learn Spanish, and that I felt ready for my travels. To me, this was the most important aspect and the whole reason I had started this adventure with school. I wanted to learn enough Spanish so I could get through my travel. I wanted not to be petrified that I would get on the wrong bus, make a wrong turn, or do something more disastrous. I wanted to feel confident that I could do this. And I did.

The premium seat lived up to its reputation! You can see my luxury accommodations below. Seriously, it was like having a first-class seat on an airplane. I had all the latest U.S. movies (in English with Spanish subtitles), privacy curtains and someone bringing me food every few hours. Of course, the food was really bad, but you can’t have everything. 😉 And my fully reclining chair was perfect for sleeping. I arrived in Iquique after a 24 hour bus ride feeling rested and ready to go. I highly recommend it, and am looking forward to my return trip. 

Iquique is lovely, sunny and warm. It is still summer here (being the desert). I have explored the city a bit, found the beach (of course) and spoken with several different people to ask for directions, where my hostel is located, get a taxi, etc. In all, I’ve been really happy thus far with my Spanish abilities. Until I tried to book a tour. There it finally failed me. And when the lady said, English? After I struggled for a couple of minutes, I sighed and responded, yes. Ah well – lots more to learn! 🙂

The tours have been a bit difficult to book. It seems that a combination of things are happening. First, summer is actually over. So there are less tourists. Second, I am looking for an English-speaking tour. I had done tours with the school that were all in Spanish (they take the Spanish immersion aspect seriously), but found I did not get much out of them. So I did not enjoy them, and would really prefer an English-speaking tour if I can find one.

Here I will pause for a moment to talk a little bit about immersion. Everyone says immersion is absolutely the best way to learn a language. And I agree. Of course, being me, I have to add a caveat. Immersion has been great for me when I’ve been forced to use the language (the bus, the grocery store, the mall). As frustrating as those experiences were, I had to learn to communicate. But, I was also searching for specific words and phrases. I learned a very specific vocabulary to go with those situations. There, immersion is immensely useful because I learned immediately to associate words with what I needed.

In other instances (like tours, cooking classes) I have found that – for me – immersion is far less helpful. Without the requisite vocabulary (and believe me, I have learned exactly how big our vocabularies are) the conversation is far less useful simply because I do not have the words. Tours have been a complete waste of time. So I stopped going. I found I would rather stay home, study, watch movies to learn how to use the language or translate books (well, parts of books). One of my teachers sent me a bunch of books on PDF in Spanish (the entire Lord of the Rings collection!). I love this part, though it does seem arduous to translate books. For me, that is how I expanded my vocabulary in English. I read books, lots and lots of books. As I read, I learned new words; I learned how they were used in sentences and eventually I began using them in sentences. It was fabulous way to learn, and I’m hoping the experience will be similar in Spanish. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m looking forward to the journey.

Back to Iquique. On my run this morning, I noticed a bunch of Army soldiers out taking their PT test (the soldier with the stopwatch, the safety vehicle and the corpsman gave it away). Their desert digital utility pattern is almost identical to the U.S. Marine Corps. Their PT uniform almost exactly mimics the U.S. Army: grey T-shirts with black shorts, all the way down to “Ejercito” (Army) on the back. I wanted to shout encouragement to them on their return run, but restrained myself. I thought anything I could say in Spanish might come across as awkward or inappropriate. 😉

The hostel here has the best-used kitchen I have seen yet. It also has the biggest kitchen I have seen in a hostel. There is a self-lighting burner (thank goodness!), but no measuring cups or pans with any non-stick left on them. Well, I’ve certainly mastered the ability to make dinner without any of the above, so no worries. (Have I mentioned I’m basically living on quinoa and eggs?) I’m just so happy I can cook what I want. And the people are friendly as always. Up until today, it has been mostly Chilenos and French in the hostel (French!). Today, we had the British-Australia invasion of surfer dudes and random others. Just when I thought no English-speaking came this far north, they all arrive in one evening.

Lots of pictures for this post. Hope you enjoy them. 

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