Charlotte Macchi Watts

Charlotte is in Chile on her year abroad with Project Trust. She is linked with Largs Academy in North Ayrshire.

A Big Long Catch Up

Hello all, and Merry Christmas/ Happy New Year for what now feels like a very long time ago. 


Apologies for the EXTREMELY long delay in my blogs - these past months have been too busy.


Since I left you off in September, I’ll try to cover all the months from that point onwards, although most have been filled with working at my school in Santiago. 


To simplify things a little, here’s a breakdown of months and observations/ events/ facts I was able to experience: 


  • September: For starters, I’ll begin with one of the first natural wonders I saw in Chile: the Atacama Desert. You may or may not know that this is in fact the driest desert in the world, however, (due to global warming!) random spells of heavy rainfall sometimes cause this desert to bloom over completely with flowers. This phenomenon used to happen only every 6 years or so, but sadly it is now a much more regular thing thanks to climate change. Chile seems to be getting the lot when it comes to the effects of calentamiento global! Namely, forest fires, holes in the ozone layer which mean 100% UV radiation from the sun on some days, summers filled with all kinds of inconsistent weather patterns. 
  • The MAIN event in September is what every Chilean waits for: Las Fiestas Patrias, or more commonly known as, Dieciocho. September 18th is a national holiday (which extends on for about a week on average), celebrating Chile’s independence from Spanish rule in 1810. I mean, the day itself is madness - in a nutshell, all you do is dance all day waving skewer after skewer of meat around because you EAT SO MUCH OF IT. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d get sick of eating good meat. But it came. Sadly.  
  • I think one of my favourite things has most certainly been the music. In the blog post which I will post afterwards I will leave you with a sort of playlist for all tastes, as well as some explanations into the history of the genres. Music is pretty much my way into discovering cultures really so I hope it gives you all a flavour of exactly where I am right now. (Best of all, I’ve now travelled to Brazil and Peru which are a whole different story when it comes to traditional and modern music.) 
  • October/ November: I will spare the details. A blog post dedicated to explaining the work I do, the social constructs of Chile, social classes, economy, poverty, welfare systems...etc, will be needed, because I’ve now become incredibly invested in trying to make sense of the way South American countries work. The pattern seems to be striving towards an economically healthy state of affairs (a common misconception of how development should be measured) whilst completely forgetting about the social aspects of things : i.e. pretty much essential to the development of a country. It’s easy to show monetary statistics and think a country is doing fine, when the reality the non-99% face is far from it. 
  • December: A lighter note! Christmas in December was, obviously, different. Christmas is celebrated on the 24th in the evening with a big dinner (sin pavo, papas, yorkshire puddings etc) until midnight where all the presents are opened. The 25th is an untouched day simply enjoyed relaxing with family, however in Chile there surprisingly seemed to be no leftovers at all for a meat-free dinner. Skipping forward a little bit, I spent New Years on the top of one of the hills in Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile about an hour and a half from Santiago. The Viña Del Mar/ Valparaiso area is a favourite of mine, particularly because one of my mum’s best friends from youth lives nearby, so I get to have yet another mother figure in Chile!


Well, that was not a simple list at all, but I hope some big gaps have been filled in for you all.


Now for some teaching. My favourite thing about having learnt Spanish here, is that I’ve learnt a whole new slang and way of speaking that only Chileans use. Here are some below.


  • Cachai? : Basically meaning ‘you get me?’ or ‘y’know?’. I’ve heard it came from the English word ‘to catch’, and you add it on to sentences in colloquial conversations with people you know. Helpful when explaining things or ranting and you’re lost for a word. 
  • La raja : Basically means the best thing/best time ever. Someone might say ‘Oye, pásala la raja!’, as in they hope you have the best time.
  • Que lata : This is used when something is really inconvenient, a pain. For example, ‘No me digas. Te cancelaron el vuelo? Pucha que lata...’
  • Ya - This reminds me of the Italian word, ‘Già’, which both mean ‘already’, but are used so often as an expression of agreement or to say yes. It’s heard literally everywhere all the time here, especially with people talking on the phone. Ya ya ya...ah ya! 
  • Po : Commonly added onto Ya, ‘Ya po!’, Po can be added to any sentence or little word, just because. I’ve noticed it more being used when expressing things that you think are so obvious, for example, ‘Pero era obvio po!’ ‘Ya po yo ya te dije! Ponlo acá po!’. They add a whole new element of expression to a phrase. Each South American country will have their variation of the ‘po’.
  • Fome : Boring, dull, a nuisance.
  • Weon: Not necessarily a bad word but it’s definitely used in colloquial conversations with friends, not with your teacher, for example. It’s basically a word (officially spelt ‘Huevon’ but pronounced ‘Weon’) to call your friends, similar to a ‘Po’, it’s added on to pretty much all sentences. You will hear weon (or weona, for a female) more times in a sentence with a young person than any other word. Example. ‘Siiiiiiii po weon, pero lo digo en serio po weon te juro que no fui yo! Si lo hubiera hecho te lo diría po!’ 
  • A difference between South American Spanish and mainland Spain Spanish is the use of the form ‘ustedes’ for you plural in formal and informal sense. By this I mean we don’t use the ‘vosotros’ form and a lot of children are even unaware it exists. 


Let me know if you want to know any other words/ any parts of the language you’re interested in! Chilean Spanish is very colloquial and very fun to speak, especially because of the exteeeeeeeeended voweeeeeeeels they use when streeeeeeeeessing how looooooooong or booooooooring something is.


I realise this is now extremely long. There is too much to say! I can’t tell you how good it feels to be so taken into a culture that you’re mistaken for a Chilean most of the time. Accent and all! 


To “sum up” - not at all - here’s another long, long explanation of how spectacular this experience has been. 


Probably the most important thing I’ve taken from my first 5, verging on 6, months here is the importance of learning languages. A dialect, variation of a language, or creole is even better. As soon as you’ve mastered Spanish I can assure you that every other Latin-derived language will be a breeze. I can’t stress enough how many windows it will open for you! Knowing an additional language besides English helps enormously in the understand of your own first language, not to mention an understanding of the world around you. (English really is a fun mix of every language in the world, really.)


Living and practicing my (Chilean) Spanish in another country has made me understand SO many things about the UK and why we are the way we are and why we do the things we do. It truly is a brilliant feeling, being accepted into someone else’s home/culture and being able to share these observations with each other. With a bit of optimism, I’d like to see how many of the world’s problems could be helped if people left a bit of room for understanding each others’ way of lives/ languages/ customs. A little effort from both sides goes a long way. 

Nos vemos pronto amigos.

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