Surf and Turf

Could it be? Posts two days in a row? You bet! While school winds down, life speeds up. More accurately, I’ve entered the, “Oh, I only have a month left with no responsibility? Time to live it up!” mentality.

Consequently, my last two weekends have been enviably eventful. Craving more after San Pedro, the next morning I joined a German friend for a day trip to Concón, a small beach town just north of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso and three hours northwest of Santiago. “But Andrew, it’s winter down there. Why would you go to the beach?” Well, we lucked out with a phenomenon equivalent to our politically incorrect “Indian summer” called El veranito de San Juan or San Juan’s mini-summer. According to some quick Wikipedia research, this happens pretty consistently around the winter solstice and The Night of San Juan (Saint John the Baptist), hence the name.
So, despite the onset of winter and some of the southern hemisphere’s longest nights, it was a beach day, with adequate temperatures to stuff the fleece into my backpack and break out my beloved flip-flops. Regardless of the weather, however, Andrea (the German) and I were going to the beach. The reason: it was finally time for me to fulfill my stereotypical looks and learn how to surf.
We arrived in Concón around 1 in the afternoon and, after a quick lunch, suited up for the frigid Pacific waters. Our instructor had us warm up with a quick jog up and down the beach, during which a family’s horse-dog Great Dane decided to join and run through our legs. We then learned the basic technique for standing up on the board while it held steady in the sand. He wasted no time in getting us into the water, though, only having us practice on dry land for about five minutes.
The Pacific Ocean during the winter is cold. Actually, it’s always cold, but now it’s colder. On the bright side, it still felt warmer than the river when I went hydrospeeding in Pucón back in April. My appendages quickly numbed themselves and my wetsuit kept my body warm enough to survive, which was all I really needed, because surfing is awesomeand worth the cold.
After figuring out how to jump onto the board, we swam out to the waves and stared at them stupidly until our instructor told us which ones to chase. He held the board until it was time for us to (attempt to) stand. Being awesome, I managed to stand up on the first wave I rode. And it was thrilling. While I fell a lot thereafter, I think my standing-up percentage was pretty successful. My numb feet and quickly tired muscles (I’ve slacked on exercise here) caught up to me quickly, however. Over the course of the next two hours I increasingly suffered from my right leg getting stuck under me, and I would ride out a wave sitting on the board rather than standing.
Eventually, Andrea and I decided that our inability to stand up anymore meant it was time to pack it in for the day. We changed in the surf shack where the owner blasted Sublime and talked to me about smoking his way through California, and then hobbled next door to a restaurant, ordering a mountain of empanadas and beers to reward ourselves for the day’s work.
I’ve always been one for feeling particularly sentimental about picture-perfect moments in life. This was one of them: sipping beer and eating empanadas on the beach, breathing the salt air and listening to the waves crash just a hundred meters from the table. All after my first experience with something I’ve wanted to do for years. Needless to say, I will always look back on this day very fondly.

We couldn’t take pictures while surfing, so they only exist of aftwerwards
This past weekend I spent inland. My Saturday adventures started with a wine tour at the Concha y Toro vineyard, way down at the bottom of Santiago’s metro system (about 45 minutes on the metro and ten more on the bus). These vintners are apparently the second largest growers and producers in the world. So, they make a lot of wine.
The main attraction of the tour, apart from still trying to learn the basics of why certain wines taste certain ways, was the tasting session – with cheese! I’ve recently decided to try more cheeses than American and mozzarella, so learning about wine and exploring how to pair it with cheese seemed like a great opportunity. It did not disappoint. And I got to keep the cheese board, so now I can fuel the false sense of classiness innate in AU students when we have people at the apartment this fall.
Because nothing is classier than having cheese at a party

After what ended up being seven cups of wine, I met up with a friend I met in Pucón, her friends, and her friends’ friends, who are Colombian (important detail for future reference). The reason this Saturday night outing is blog-worthy is because I’m assuming at least some of the people reading this are aware of how well I dance. This, next to the naturally (and I’m pretty sure genetically pre-disposed) dancing ability of Colombians is a very stark contrast. Naturally, I wanted them to teach me. We found a salsa club in Bella Vista, a neighborhood that my host brother comically describes as “naughty,” and the Colombians proceeded to suffer through teaching me concepts of “rhythm” and “moving your hips.”

Salsa’s base consists of relatively basic steps, and then good dancers manage to add on and make it look good. My only other experience with this was the one AU Salsa Club lesson I attended in which my feet were magnetically attracted to my partners’ and she ended up punching me in the face when we tried to do a turn. Despite my gringo adversity, I’m still determined to learn!
As a result, through the course of the night, my newfound instructors matter-of-factly told me to “do what I feel” with the music, because obvio it’s that easy. I assured them that was a terrible idea. However, I did manage to graduate from pinning the Colombians’ feet under mine to occasionally kicking their toes. I consider that pretty significant. More excitingly, after a semester of South American girls taking pity on me and trying to teach me to use my hips – they moved! If I stood still, I could almost make a respectable movement, but it all disappeared when I had to use my feet as well.
Ultimately, after certainly making a fool of myself, I’d say I made progress. Even though the Colombians shook their heads exasperatedly most of the night, and probably had to ice their feet after I pummeled them, it was a good time, and there is still hope for the Andrew Shuffle, as lovingly coined by some AU friends, to not scare people away.
Thus two more things have entered my “to practice” list. As I plan out all of the things I want to learn and practice in the future, I’m having a lot of trouble finding where it will all fit. But if at the very least I get brief encounters with them throughout my life, I will be content. Getting to participate in these great things, either by bonding with current friends (surfing) or meeting new ones in the process, especially those that are willing to teach you, is what makes life so exciting. May it never end!

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