Here in Chile the Dieciocho y the other holidays following the Independence Day are comparable to a combination of the Fourth of July and Christmas. The holidays last around four to five days, and they usually consist of asados, dancing, partying, and the cueca, the traditional Chilean dance. For my Dieciocho holiday I was lucky enough to be invited to La Moya and La Serena by a Chilean friend, and his group of friends, which was basically a soccer team. His dad’s lovely boss let us use her vacation house for the holiday.
Day 1: Sept 17
The first day was spent driving five hours to the north of Chile to the small pueblo of La Moya. Since it is popular to leave the city during this holiday, there were a lot of tacos, the Chilean words for traffic jams. However it was quite refreshing to see countryside outside of the gross smog of Santiago. Once we arrived in La Moya, we had the lovely task of unpacking and getting greeted by a dead lamb hanging outside. It should be noted that I and the other three foreign girls did not know any of our friend’s friends. Since there were a total of 18 people at the house, introductions took a bit of time. After all the room arrangements were made, some of the guys from the soccer team decided to teach us foreign girls the cueca and other Latin American dances. It was so much fun! (American guys should learn a thing or two about dancing from these guys)
Day 2: Sept 18
On the Independence Day, we started the day out with an asado. They considering asado a barbecue, but I consider it grilling. Anyway we had a lovely spread of chicken, beef, choripans, salad, ensalada chilena, and some type of potatoes with mayo (they love mayo in Chile). After lunch terremotos (a typical Chilean alcoholic beverage with pineapple ice cream, wine, and grenidine) were made and we decided to explore the “river” behind the house. This river is more like a small stream, and to my surprise the current was quite strong. The weather was very nice during the day, mid 80s, but once the sun went down I was quickly reminded that I was in the desert. That being said, the night sky was absolutely beautiful as I could see so many stars.
Day 3: Sept 19
During the third day, my friend decided to take the foreign girls on a little tour of the Valley del Elqui. We first went to see the Elqui Dam, and that was neat. The most memorable part of the dam was the park guide who told me and the other gringas that we should visit more because we are too darn white. Next we went to a quaint little town where they had a feria (an outdoor marketing that has booths full of crafts and what not), and my friend bought paper kites for us to fly. Once we returned home, the guys decided to try out the kites. I was amazed at how good some of them were! My gringa friend and I were not so successful and pitifully gave up once we destroyed the kite three times. As the day wore on we played some card games and I practiced my Spanish a lot. Sometimes Chileans are so hard to understand when they are in a good group of friends. I really have to pay attention to all of the slang in order to understand half of what is going on. For dinner, homemade fried cheese empanandas were made. These were the best empanadas ever!! I mean who doesn’t love fried cheese? The night ended with more dancing and a nice bonfire to keep us warm. Note: the dead lamb was still hanging outside and there were flies around it.
Day 4: Sept 20
We all woke up to the awful smell of the dead lamb. During the night someone had moved the lamb inside. It turned out that they guys didn’t know they had to take out the organs of the lamb on the first day. I just shook my head. Anyway on the final day in La Moya, some of the group and I went to the Capel Pisco Factory. Pisco could be considered the national liquor of Chile. After the factory, it was time to eat the lamb. Yes, the lamb that had been sitting around for days. I decided that I was going to try it because after all I am in South America. Y’all should have seen how they cooked this lamb. They had it hanging by a chair over a fire. It was the funniest sight. After lunch everyone packed up their bag and headed up. However my car took a detour to La Serena, where my friend’s parents house was. He decided that we were going to spent the night there.
Day 5: Sept 21
The last day of our holiday was spent exploring the beach town of La Serena. It was quite cold, so no one dared to enter the water. However we were able to collect some pretty seashells (I foreshadow a craft in the future) and take some neat pictures. We also went souvenir shopping and found a really awesome fresh fruit smoothie place. Before we left, my friend’s parents had a nice lunch prepared for us of kebabs and salad. Then around 6 pm we started on our journey home.
At the end of the day I was so grateful to have met so many great people who I can now call my friends during Dieciocho. I felt quite blessed that Chileans took us foreign girls in and let us celebrate the national holiday with them.
Lesson for Future Study Abroad Students: Always try to befriend locals. You will not be disappointed.