Last week Wednesday I found myself walking through campus trying to navigate my way across a line of about 150 people all holding on to a rope who were covered in paint, flour, and smelling strongly of vinegar. All of a sudden one broke free of the line and went sprinting for the nearest stairs only to be chased by the ¨chaperones¨ (upper classmen) of this whole event.
I found out that this was traditional of ¨Semana Novata¨ (Freshman Week). Apparently they take their shoes and cell phones and make them walk around all day begging for money. At the end of the day if they earned enough money they´ll give them they´re belongings back and then they take the money to throw a party for the upper classmen. The whole smelling like vinegar thing I have yet to understand.
I thought that perhaps my University was especially intense, but walking through Valdivia (11 hours to the south of Santiago) on Monday there were kids walking all over without shoes and covered in paint and flour, smelling like vinegar.
The crazy part is that these are considered tame Semana Novatas because a few years ago they enacted rules about hazing. In some places the week is called Semana Mechona because ¨mechón¨means a lock of hair, and it used to be ritual that all of the freshman got a lock cut out of their hair. Apparently, a couple people got hurt so they changed the rules and now they just douse students in paint, flour, and vinegar, and steal their shoes and cell phones.
If I were a freshman I think I´d pick to just stay home that day.
On an unrelated note: All of the radio DJs here thinks it´s appropriate to sing loudly along at the beginning and the end of the song that is playing. Apparently DJs do awkward things no matter where in the world you are located. On the off chance that you are a wedding/middle school dance DJ and you´re reading this, take note: we paid you to play the music, we did not ask you to offer your vocal interpretation or accompaniment through out the entire song.