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An awkward start to a fantastic adventure

I've been in Chillan, Chile, a total of four weeks already. Four weeks of trying to understand what people are saying, trying new foods, meeting new people and wandering about my city. It's hard to believe that just five weeks ago I was back at Camp Wilderness. It seems like just yesterday I hopped on the plane to Chicago.

My first week here was, to say the least, amazing but frustrating. Everyone welcomed me like I had been their best friend since kindergarten. The students showed me around, taught me new words (not always nice ones), introduced me to people and showed me around the city. They couldn't believe that I came from a town of less than 200,000 people. They just couldn't imagine it.

Along with my amazing new friends, I've had many new experiences. The first time I rode in a taxi was quite the interesting ride. I had only been here four days and I was riding in it all by myself. I still didn't know what the heck people were saying to me and the taxi driver seemed to talk especially speedy.

He started talking and all I could mumble out was "No habla espanol...?" He looked at me like I had 10 heads and then continued to talk. I managed to inform him of where I wanted to go and we arrived there safely. Paying him, that was the trick. I had to fill out this slip of paper that had abbreviations on it. I feel like the abbreviations would have been easier to read if I had known Spanish.

I said a few choice words to myself and made up some stuff and hurried out of the cab before he could stop me. (I figured out later that I had done it right.)

The second week was just as interesting as the first. It started off with me calling my physics teacher, "Senor Bigote." (Bigote means mustache.) See, Mr. Mustache has this amazing mustache that everyone knows him for.

Then on Tuesday, I got hit by a car. Don't worry, it was just a nice little love tap. My host mom, sister and cousins thought it was pretty funny. In a way, it was kind of theatrical. I'll play out the scene for you.

I was walking across the street through moving traffic, (what a combination of being safe and smart, right?) when a car so kindly slowed down to hit me. After the love tap, I then proceeded to do a nice dramatic roll over the headlights of the car. The roll landed me right next to the door of our car. I got in nonchalantly and then burst out laughing with my family. Apparently that's a normal thing here-- to get hit by cars. As much as I love it, I hope it doesn't turn into routine for me.

My third week in Chile was fantastic. One day, my friend Oskar (who just so happens to be my host cousin's boyfriend) asked me to go downtown with him. It was a little weird going on a "date" with my cousin's boyfriend, but we had tons of fun. We bought ice cream, candied apples, paintings and a birthday present for my brother Dylan. When I say "we" I really mean him.

He bought me my ice cream, my candied apple and a painting. You could say he's kind of nice.

We also went to the bank to visit his mother and to a thrift store to look around. At the thrift store, I found a University of Wisconsin shirt. It was quite strange. The whole time we were at the thrift store I couldn't help thinking of all the great times Siri and I shared at the thrift store in Detroit Lakes.

This past weekend, I finally met my host brother. I couldn't have asked for a more awkward first hello. He arrived after I went to bed on Friday night so I didn't know he was here until our awkward meeting.

In order for me to get to the kitchen I have to walk by his room and I noticed that his door was open, which it usually isn't. So as I walked by, I glanced in and for a split second I made eye contact with Cristobal as he was laying there looking out his door. I kept walking like nothing happened, but inside I was freaking out. I couldn't believe how awkward it was.

Then the awkward continued when I walked by a second time to put my dishes back in the kitchen. This time he was noticeably up and looking out the door so I said, "hola!" and he said, "hola" back. Instead of continuing to walk like any other person would, I stopped and made weird arm motions in a gesture of hello. He laughed at me and I quickly made my way to the kitchen.

Here comes the best part: On my way from the kitchen I ran into him as he was walking around in his underwear. I was so caught off guard, I didn't even know what to do.

My adventure so far is turning out great. I love my family, my friends, my city and Chile. Some things are taking some time getting used to, but I know I'll soon be able to call it home.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School but is studying aboard this year in Chile.