Basic Info on Seminary / 1st Few Weeks of Seminary Life

September 14, 2014
Seminary Pre-Theo Class 2014

From Left to Right: Back Row: Ray (Honolulu), Robain (San Jose), Zach (San Francisco), Mark (Oakland) Front Row: Ben (San Francisco), Gerardo (San Jose), Cameron (San Francisco), Me (San Francisco)

Facebook Photos of Seminary – CLICK HERE!

Background Information

Name: St. Patrick’s Seminary

Location: Menlo Park, CA (Near Palo Alto/Stanford and between San Jose and San Francisco)

# of Students: 67 in house and 20+ on pastoral year

# of Students in My Pre-Theology 1 Class: 7


PhilosophyDr. Charles James – Learning about the philosophy throughout history and its influence on Catholic teachings from a “chill” former Episcopalian priest turned Catholic.

Catholic Doctrine ISister Paula Jean Miller – Maybe my favorite class because Sister Paula Jean is so knowledgeable and good at making you understand the big-picture of the Catechism and Pope Benedict XVI’s Introduction to Christianity book. Sister Paula Jean was also hand-chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to speak at the last synod or assembly of bishops on the new evangelization through the family.

Intro to Sacred ScriptureFr. Paul Maillet – Covering important people and stories of the Old Testament and how that relates to Jesus and his genealogy. Fr. Paul is a quiet, but holy man who has made the Old Testament more integrated and easy to understand for those new to the subject.

LogicDr. Karen Chan – My professor graduated from Notre Dame where she studied classic Thomas Aquinas work. The class teaches about Plato and Aristotle logic and how to apply to your daily life.

Typical Day in Seminary

  • 6:30-7am – Wake Up
  • 7-7:45 – Morning Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours and/or Sacristan Duty (set up for mass; 1x/month)
  • 8-9 – Breakfast
  • 9:40-10:30 – Class 1
  • 10:30-10:40 – Break 1
  • 10:40-11:30 – Class 2
  • 11:30-11:40 – Break 2
  • 11:40-12:30 – Class 3
  • 12:30-1pm – Lunch
  • 1:00 – 5:00 – Free time
  • 5:00-6:00 – Evening Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharistic Adoration
  • 6-6:45 – Dinner
  • 7-9:30 – Free time
  • 10-11pm – Prepare for bed / Sleep

In addition to our normal schedule, we have:

  • Rosaries – Every Monday and Thursday
  • Days of Recollection – Day of silence and personal prayer – 1x/month
  • Rector Conferences – Archbishop Cordileone, President Rector Fr. Bud and other speakers talk to on various topics – 2x/month
  • Free Weekends – Recently, they have instituted more structured rules for weekends so I get 1x/month
  • Socials – Open bar and food – 1x/ 2-3 weeks

Seminary Life

I love it thus far. My classmates and I are already a tight group which is uncommon for some other class groups here. Normally, you have a couple groups that click better in each class but my class overall clicks very well together. We are all orthodox and want to practice and learn the true teachings of the Church.

The liturgy or music is also very good. We have chanting, Latin prayers and a more reverent environment than what was previously at the seminary.

My classes are incredible thanks to our teachers. The seminary recently cleaned out a lot of the old regime and put into place more orthodox teachers who really know their stuff. I thank the Lord because my 2-year wait actually worked in my favor because all the changes happened this year.  This is an exciting time to be part of this new “reformation” or “re-dedication to Catholic values” in the seminary.

Finally, the attendance of daily mass and other prayer services have made a difference in my life. I feel more at peace, patient and understanding of others now. An acquaintance who visited a few days ago even commented that I “seem different.”

Why San Francisco instead of Sacramento?

  • Closer to home – Only 2.5-3.5hrs away depending on traffic
  • Smaller Diocese – 50-ish mile radius size while Sacramento can go up to the California-Oregon border
  • Better fraternal spirit – I know a lot of the seminarians and priests in this diocese. We share very similar beliefs on the priesthood and how we should practice it.
  • Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone – A strong bishop who cares deeply about his priest and seminarians. He also practices the true teachings of the church and not what we have experienced here in the US for the past 30-40 years. In addition to all of this, he spends time with the San Francisco seminarians and learns our names even though he is in charge of a Metropolitan diocese and my seminary. He even takes time once a year to spend a week retreat with the seminarians.
  • Better response from diocese – Contacted Sacramento but they didn’t put forth any effort to help me move along in my discernment process.

If you have any questions please feel free to send them my way. I hope to have a FAQ blog for my next post.

God bless!

Officially Accepted to Seminary | Special Thanks

August 3, 2014

Hi everyone,

As you may or may not know, I applied to St. Patrick’s seminary to discern the priesthood further and have been officially accepted to enter this upcoming fall. I will be representing the diocese of San Francisco.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people.  Besides the Good Lord of course, I would like to thank:

My Dad for setting a good Catholic example and encouraging me to be open to God’s call

Matt Lancaster (cousin and seminarian) for also setting a good example of living the Catholic faith, answering all my questions throughout the years and being a source of guidance throughout the process

Fr. Kevin and Fr. John (priests from Cal Poly) for demonstrating the joy of priesthood and being my “de facto” spiritual advisers for many years now

Cameron Faller (fellow seminarian) for gently pushing me back towards exploring my vocation

Fr. Tom Martin (priest of the archdiocese of San Francisco) for listening to my concerns with the application process and saying special masses and prayers on my behalf

Alvin Yu (fellow seminarian) for helping my acceptance to the seminary

Fr. Tim Johnson (family friend), Shelly Priddy (high school English teacher), Dan Pineda (friend) and Linda Garcia (my boss at the Newman Catholic Center in college) for taking the time to write letters of recommendation

I am sure I have forgotten a few others but you have not gone unappreciated and please take some peace in helping me towards this point.

Love you all and God bless! 

If you have any questions about the seminary process or the seminary itself, feel free to send me an email at and I will make another blog post with the answers.

My Favorite Spanish Phrases | Entering St. Patrick’s Seminary

July 26, 2014
Goodbye for now my friends. From left to right: Alexis, me, Juan and Danny

Goodbye for now my friends. From left to right: Alexis, me, Juan and Danny


Personal Update:

I returned to California in May and have been working as the morning camp manager at Yuba City Parks and Recreation Summer Camp. I watch between 60-110 kids at a time who are between 5-13 years old. I really enjoy watching and playing with the kids so for me i isn’t really a “job”.

Also barring an unexpected snag with the seminary interviews, I will be entering St. Patrick’s Seminary on August 18th and will be attending there for the foreseeable future. It has been a long journey till this point of my discernment but I trust that God knows this is the best path for me.

If you have any questions about the seminary, feel free to email at

Favorite Spanish Sayings

Phrase in Spanish

English Translation

When Applied / Commentary:

Good Example:

¿Cuál es tu problema?

What is your problem?

Someone creates a problem accidently.

N/A (self explainable)

Nada es sagrada.

Nothing is sacred.

A friend says something dirty or crosses the line.

N/A (self explainable)

Feliz cumpleaños a mí.

Happy birthday to me.

You receive a gift or it´s someone else´s birthday.

(Birthday cake comes out.)

Me: Feliz cumpleaños a mí. Feliz cumpleaños a mí.

(Strange look from everybody)

Todos saben.

Everybody knows.

Your friend makes a mistake.

N/A (self explainable)

En tu cara.

In your face.

Someone shows you up or does something better than you.

N/A (self explainable)

Estoy acá.

I am here.

In the beginning, my friends would talk about me and they thought I didn´t understand which a lot of the time, I only knew they were talking about me.

Friend: Lets try to do this prank on Tom…….(fast Spanish that I can´t understand but I hear my name or they are looking at me)

Me: Estoy acá.

¿Cuántos años tienes?

How old are you?

Your friend does something immature.

N/A (self explainable)

Necesito un momento solo.

Do you need a moment alone?

Someone is really enjoying a food or a drink.

Está roto.

It`s broken.

Someone drops something.

N/A (self explainable)

Es un regalo.

It´s a gift.

I farted and it smells really bad.

Friend: Oh….(they can´t breathe and leave the area)….TOOOMM

Me: Es un regalo. (Laugh)

Me gustaría tomar credito pero no puedo.

I would like to take credit but I can´t.

It smells really bad (normally from a sewer or sometimes actually from me) and my friend thinks I did it.

Friend: (Bad smell) TOOOMMM!?!

Me: Me gustaría tomar credito pero no puedo.

Es tu culpa.

It´s your fault.

Someone does something wrong.

N/A (self explainable)

¿Vas a llorar?

Are you going to cry?

You make fun of somebody and they don´t like it or they make a mistake.

N/A (self explainable)

¿Sin o con amor?

With or without love?

My friend is irritated with me and says “f*** you.”

Friend: F*** you gringo.!

Me: ¿Sin o con amor?

No es mi problema.

It`s not my problem.

Someone talks about a friend’s problem.

N/A (self explainable)

Ellos están aprovechando mi situación de gringo.

They are taking advantage of the fact that I am gringo (white American or European)

You are overcharged for something only because you are a white American or European and they know you have the money (even if you don’t.)

Friend: Yeah, the owner is charging you a lot.

Me: Ellos están aprovechando mi situación de gringo.

¿Puedo tener…..?

Can I have…?

According to my friends, this is how little children order things so it is strange to hear it from an adult.

N/A (self explainable)

¿Necesitaste atención?

Did you need attention?

Someone creates a scene or does something very loud.

N/A (self explainable)

¿Puedo terminar? ¿Puedo terminar? Gracias.

Can I finish? Can I finish? Thanks.

I am trying to explaining something and the person is interrupting me.

N/A (self explainable)

Cala a boca (portuguese)

Shut up!

In Portugues, this is like saying, ¨Shut the f*** up” but I use more casually like “Oh, shut up!”

N/A (self explainable)

Casí morí.

I almost died.

Running across the street to avoid traffic.

N/A (self explainable)

¿Tomaste tu medicina hoy?

Did you take your medicine today?

A friend does or says something strange.

N/A (self explainable)

Tenemos que…..

We have…..

My roommate wants me to do something but says we should do it.

Friend: Tom, tenemos que find an apartment.

Me: We need to find an apartment. As in you and I?

(Friend begins laughing.)

No entiendo como estoy soltero.

I don´t understand how I am single.

I do something weird and have no shame about it.

(I fart and everybody leaves the area momentarily. They return..)

Me: No entiendo como estoy soltero.

No soy un pedazo de carne. Tengo sentamientos.

I am not a piece of meat. I have feelings.

Girls used would comment about the size of my “Portuguese booty” from time to time or how my body changed after I began working out so I would use this line.

N/A (self explainable)

¿Quieres juntarme?

Do you want to join me?

This is a very uncommon way of asking friends to go to places with you. Also my accent made it more memorable.

N/A (self explainable)

Muchaaas grrraciass amigoooo.

Thank you very much my friend.

In the beginning of my Spanish learning, I would always say this line which sounds odd especially with my gringo accent.

N/A (self explainable)

Necesito amigos nuevos.

I need new friends

My friends do something stupid. I usually say this 1-5x/day.

N/A (self explainable)

Yo tampoco.

Me neither.

My friends say they are doing that I am not doing.

Friend: I am going to the market right now.

Me: Oh really……yo tampoco.

Estamos llenos.

We‘re full.

When working at a hostel, I would say this to friends when they wanted to be buzzed in.

N/A (self explainable)

Sangre en mis orejas.

Blood in my ears.

Someone says something dirty and I pretend I am too innocent to have hear it.

N/A (self explainable)

Mis orejas.

My ears!

Same as above.

N/A (self explainable)

Esta es mi vida. (Alguien tiene que vivirla y yo soy alguien.)

This is my life. (Someone has to live it and I am someone.)

Some difficulty or problem arises.

N/A (self explainable)

Tienes que pagarme para usar esta frase.

You have to pay me to use that phrase.

After repeating these phrases for awhile, my friends began to use them. One time my roommate used one of my phrases with another friend in front of me. I told him, “Hey that’s my phrase!”

N/A (self explainable)

Chile: Current and Future Plans + Year in Review

January 25, 2014
My group of international friends (from left to right): Yours truly, Rachael (Oregon, USA), Danny (Chile), Pedro (Poland), Evelyn (Mexico), Mylene (France) and Juan (Columbia)

My group of international friends and I (from left to right): Yours truly (California, USA), Rachael (Oregon, USA), Danny (Chile), Pedro (Poland), Evelyn (Mexico), Juan (Columbia), Mylene (France) and Vinicius (Brazil)

Hey everyone,

So I have been lazy and haven’t written on here in a long time but I hope this post answers questions you may have. Here is what I am currently doing and a list of the biggest things that happened this past year (starting with the most recent):

Current Situation

I have returned to Chile for another latino tour of South America.

Length of Stay:  January 2014 – end of July 2014 (7 months) (Total time in Chile 1 year, 5 months at the end of this current trip)

Housing: 1-Room Apartment with the gay Chilean Danny “Darkwin” (his artistic name) and the Brazilian Michael “his dad gave him Jackson as his middle name because he loved Michael Jackson so much which he would later remove” Rodrigues. I am currently looking for a new place with Michael and Danny is going to be living with other people.

Job: Receptionist – Eco Hostal until I find a job as a server at a restaurant; English teacher – 1 private student for 3x/week and plan on recruiting more.

Future Plans

Entering St. Patrick’s seminary in Menlo Park for the Diocese of San Francisco or going to Brazil to learn Portuguese in September. Going to pray and think about it until I return home in August.

Key Events from 2013 (starting with the most recent):

  1. Christmas and New Year’s Home Visit
    Saw the family shortly after my last visit in September and saw some friends I hadn´t seen since I left for Chile. For Christmas, I received a new Kindle Paperwhite from my sister Amelia and my dad which I am really enjoying thus far. Overall, a nice and relaxing time with the family.

    Seeing sights like these helps me appreciate what God has done for me thus far.

    Seeing sights like these helps me appreciate what God has done for me thus far.

  2. Patagonia, Chile
    Stayed with Danny and his family in his hometown of Coyhaique (more specifically Simpson Valley) in southern Chile for 2 weeks. There was tons of natural beauty everywhere. I drank water straight from the river and hitchhiked or hacer dedo to other towns.
    Click any word in this sentence to see pictures.
  3. DELE C1 Exam
    The test was in November which I seriously began studying for at the end of September. I used the methods outlined here by Gabriel Wynner ( <—If you are interested in learning languages, I find this guy’s methods to bethe most logical) and the DELE C1 Cronómetro exam textbook. My Spanish improved substantially but not enough, I believe, to reach the C1 level outlined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. I am still waiting for the results in February but if I don’t pass, I plan on taking the test again in May.
  4. September Home Visit
    I came back home for the first time since leaving Chile in seven months. It was nice seeing family and friends especially my dad and my “hermanita” Eva.

    The Agostini Family and I (clockwise from left to right): Mr. Agostini, Mrs. Agostini, Noele Agostini, Larissa Agostini (my friend) and yours truly

    The Agostini Family and I (clockwise from left to right): Mr. Agostini, Mrs. Agostini, Noele Agostini, Larissa Agostini (my friend) and yours truly

  5. World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    The word “week” should used instead of “day” because it was a great week. It went to all the major events I could including mass on Copacabana beach with the Pope. I also went to a vocation fair and few other prayer events with large crowds.
    The highlight of my trip was getting to know the Agostini family and Brazilian culture (especially the food). I stayed  for two weeks and their hospitality and kindness was incredible. I received my own room and many Brazilian dishes including Farofa and local fruits, vegetables and cheeses. I enjoyed my stay so much that if I don’t enter the seminary, I plan on going back to Rio to live there for a couple months (or depending on how I like it then more) to learn Portuguese. This also fits the part of a potentially bigger plan (until God decides to laugh at it and show me a different route) of being a technology system salesman in South America where I would leverage my English, Spanish and Portuguese.
    Click any word in this sentence for pictures (No facebook account necessary.)
  6. Footsteps Backpackers Hostel closed
    The hostel I lived and made all my friends in for the first seven months closed in September because the owner wanted the building back. It was a very sad moment for everyone who came to know the hostel. The hostel was the perfect place to hang out and have something to do. For example, if it wasn’t for my hostel, I never would had known my Brazilian friend Larissa and her family.
    The closing also put us all in a crunch because the hostel manager gave us eight days to find another place. To put it kindly, it was bullshit inconvenient.
  7. Resigned as English Teacher from 121 English Institute
    This job I enjoyed a lot and loved the method of teaching students (1-2-1 like the name) but ultimately I decided I had to quit if I wanted to improve my Spanish. I have been recommending all of my friends who want to teach in Chile to this Institute.
  8. Buenos Aires Visit
    Outlined here.
  9. 121 English Job
    This helped me develop my own language-learning skills while helping students with theirs.
  10. Terra Extremus Hostel
    At this hostel, I worked four night shifts a week with a crazy bar man who did a good job of keeping me up all night. This was a nice bienvenido to Chile -a completely different world from San Francisco. The experience was okay overall because it opened my eyes to other possibilities besides teaching English.

Overall it was really good self-discovery year. I have reached a communicative level of Spanish and am now just refining it. For this new year, my main goal is to find God’s will for me whether that is to enter the priesthood, have a family or be voluntarily single.

God bless!

P.S. Look for an email for a request of more questions you may have about my experiences thus far.

Buenos Aires Trip

June 30, 2013

Personal Update

It has been over four months since I arrived in Chile.

Nowadays I am busy teaching English at One:One . I am really enjoying teaching especially the relationships I build with my students. I am currently teaching 8 students including a Corporate Lawyer, an Engineer, a Human Resources Manager and Information Technology guys at the Central Bank of Chile. All the classes are on a one to one basis (hence the name) which is a lot better than teaching a whole class. As a part of organization, you have to volunteer  and teach at a school in the poorer part of Santiago. This is perfect for me because I get to teach kids as well as adults which I absolutely love.

I am receiving free living at Footsteps Backpackers hostel in exchange for two 12-hour work shifts. I have enjoyed my time at Footsteps because it forces me to practice my Spanish.

Also I am going to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the middle of July which will be the first time I get to see any Pope live in person. I will be staying with the family of an amiga for about 2 weeks and returning to Santiago at the beginning of August.

Buenos Aires Trip

Argentina showing their love for the new Papa.

Argentina showing their love for the new Papa.

Last month, I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina for 5 days. The buildings were beautiful and the city had plenty of sites to see. The thing that fascinated me the most though was the currency and what is currently happening to it.

For those of you who don’t know, Buenos Aires is experiencing another currency crisis. The 2001 crisis “caused the fall of the government, default on the country’s foreign debt, widespread unemployment, riots, the rise of alternative currencies and the end of the peso’s fixed exchange rate to the US dollar.” (Wikipedia) Today after a “recovery” in 2002, they are still feeling the effects of it. Last year the unofficial inflation rate (according to economists outside of the government influence) was 30%! For comparison, the average inflation rate in the U.S. is around 5-7%. This devalues the purchasing power of their money and gives the citizens no incentive to save.

Another problem they are experiencing with their money is the hoarding of coins by citizens. Right now citizens are hoarding various types of coins because the intrinsic value of the silver in the coin is worth more than the currency itself. To give you an example, a travel buddy I met went to the store to get coins for the public buses since they only accept exact change if you don’t own a public transportation card. She bought the cheapest pack of gum she could find, walked up to the register with a 5 peso bill ($1 USD) and offered to pay for it. The lady at the register asked if she had anything smaller or  coins. My friend said no. The cash register lady looks down at the cash drawer containing a small amount of change, looks up at my friend and tells her she can have the gum FOR FREE! How crazy is that! Imagine going to a store in the U.S. and trying to buy a pack of gum but being told you can have it for free since the store doesn’t want to give up its change.

The inflation and the coins aren’t even the craziest part. Right now, Argentinean citizens cannot own more than $1500 US dollars which is the world’s reserve currency and the best currency to travel with. If you do own any dollars, then all of it must be reported to the government. Also if you want to obtain US dollars, you have to fill out official forms. Talking to a receptionist at the hostel I stayed at, she told me her friends applied to receive US dollars for vacation and after going through all the legal channels necessary, they were still told they couldn’t receive any dollars. If forcing your citizens to own a 30% devaluing currency is not corrupt, then I don’t know what is.

Sites I Saw/Things I did:

  • Camino – A neighborhood full of colorful houses and art
  • La Boca Juniors Stadium – The stadium of the most popular soccer team in Buenos Aires
  • Tango Show – Surprisingly really enjoyed this dance show
  • Plaza de Mayo – The plaza where the main government buildings, the Central Bank and the most well-known Catholic church are


    Palacio Barolo

  • Cafe Tortoni – Over 100 year old coffee establishment. The coffee and medialunas or half moons (sweet croissants) were excellent
  • Obelisco – The Obelisk located in the center of the city was within walking distance of my hostel
  • Evita Perrone Grave Site – The grave site of the famous president’s wife who would eventually be glorified by Madonna and Antonio Banderas in Evita
  • Palacio Barolo – A famous landmark inspired by Dante’s Inferno
  • Ate plenty of “Alfajores” and Argentinean beef – the famous Argentinean dessert and meat were delicious

Here is a link to my photos on Facebook (which will shared to the US government)

Look for another blog post soon.

God bless!

Local Insight: Michael – Hostel Receptionist

April 25, 2013

Brief update on my life:

Everything is going well here. I am working more or less full-time as a teacher now with 7 students total, 15 hours of teaching and the volunteer program with the schools in poorer sections of Santiago. I am living in Footsteps Backpackers hostel now and am loving every minute of it because I have to practice my Spanish. I receive free room and board in exchange for two 12-hour shifts a week.

Below I am beginning a series of interviews to provide more insight into life in Santiago from different people’s perspectives.


Michael working hard at the front desk.

Michael working hard at the front desk.

Name: Michael Rodriguez

Occupation: Hostel Receptionist

Age: 26

Country: Brazil

Languages: Portuguese and Spanish

Total Time in Santiago: 1 Year, 6 months

Why did you choose to live in Santiago?

It is a clean and safe city. I like the climate and the people. There are many places near the city to do all kinds of sports.

Es una ciudad limpia, segura. Me gusta el clima y la gente. Hay muchas lugares cerca de la ciudad para hacer deporte.

You didn’t know Spanish very well in the beginning. How long did it take you to learn Chilean Spanish?

I speak Portuguese which is much easier for me to learn Spanish. It only took me 3 months to learn Spanish.

Yo hablo Portugesa y entonces es mas facil aprender espanol. Solo 3 meses para mi aprender espanol.

Why do you like Santiago so much?

It is a city that receives foreigners like me very well.

Es una ciudad que recibe muy bien los entranjeros como yo.

How is your experience with a “palola” or girlfriend here particulary one from Chile?

It is a good experience because I can exchange cultures with her and family.

Una buena experiencia porque puedo intercambiar las culturales con ella.

What is the craziest thing you have seen as a hostel receptionist?

I have seen people having sex in the kitchen and bathroom of the hostel or in the bed next to me. I have seen too many crazy things to write.

Viste una paraje teniendo sexo en la cocina, en otra cama cerca de yo, y en el bano.

Any advice on sights to see or things to do in Santiago?

If you like the outdoor sports, there are many parks, climbing walls, gyms and natural terrain to practice outdoor sports. There are many holidays with good parties and people.

Si te gusta deporte, hay muchos parques, muros de escalada, gimnasios, y area natural para practicar deporte. Hay muchos barrios bohemios con buenas fiestas y gente amable.

Why You Should Teach English in Chile!

April 14, 2013
Santiago´s Location in South America

Santiago´s Location in South America

Are you a recent college graduate looking for employment?  Are you a post-graduate or medical school applicant looking to make your application more appealing? Do you want to leave your job and have a new life adventure? Come gain life experience by coming and teaching English in Chile.

Why should you teach in English in Chile you say? Here´s why:

  1. Become more interesting to potential schools and employers 
    If you are hiring manager/applicant reviewer and two people were presented to you with identical resumes except one had the courage and wherewithal to go to a foreign country and learn another language, which one would you hire? Which applicant do you think would be more interesting?Let´s say you became fluent in Spanish. Besides Mandarin, you would be able to speak the 2 of 3 most common languages in the world.
  2. Travel all over South America
    With Santiago, Chile as your home base, you are either a long bus ride or short flight from:

    • Buenos Aires, Argentina
    • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    • Macchu Pichu in Lima, Peru
    • Columbia
    • Bolivia
    • All of the rest the natural terrain in Chile including the driest Desert in the world and cities close to Antartica
  3. Learn how to communicate in Spanish
    Did you know if you learned the first 1,000 most common words in any language you will understand 80% of all texts in the targeted language? Increase that to 2,000 of the most common words, then you understand 90% of all texts.Here is a chart on how that breaks down the # of words you could learn over different periods time:

    # of Days
    # words / day till 1,000
    Till 2,000
    30 (1 month)
    60 (2 months)
    90 (3 months)
    120 (4 months)
    180 (6 months)

    It takes only five words a day for six months to understand 80% of all texts in one language! Look how simple it is to build a ´good enough to communicate´ vocabulary. You could learn 5 words during breakfast everyday.
    You will not be ´´fluent´´ (however that is defined anyhow) right away but you will be communicative and give you a great base to ¨hit the ground running.¨

    For example, right now I wouldn´t say I am fluent but I can understand and communicate enough to comfortably hang out with Spanish speakers only.

    Want to start? Go to, sign up for the Spanish language course 1,000 most common words in Spanish. (I also recommend for grammar)

  4. Assimilate into another culture
    I already mention the differences of culture in the previous post. It fascinating to learn about and see firsthand.
  5. I am your contact and guinea pig
    From my experiences thus far, I can help you with the following:

    • Getting to and from places
    • Finding cheap or even free* (*In return for work) housing which is your main expense
    • Creating a professional teaching resume for South American countries
    • Finding and applying for a English teaching job (and if I fancy you, I will even recommend you to my current English Institution which is full-time and includes a work visa)
    • Gaining and using network of individualsPlus any other mistakes/things I already did for you. I am your free guide to Chile (though dinner or drinks would be appreciated. haha)
  6. Santiago, Chile is safe and modern
    I already mentioned how Chile has a lower crime rate than all of the North American continent. The most common crime is theft (something I just experienced with my laptop) which is better than what you could say about Chicago right now. Also Santiago is very modern:

    • Metro Station
    • Supermarkets
    • Malls including a new (<1 year) six floor mall called Costanera
    • Fast food joints (McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, KFC)
  7. Santiago is cheap (compared to the states)
    Housing, at the maximum, would cost $450 – your main expense. Food prices are a little more or the same.
  8. Meet people from different countries
    Since arriving here and working at a hostel, I have made friends from the following countries:
  • Panama
  • England
  • Australia
  • France
  • Brazil
  • Italia
  • Peru
  • Sweden
  • Czech Republic
  • Poland
  • Switzerland
  • Mexico (VECINOS!)
  • And many more I can´t think of off the top of my head.

Financial Costs

Everything comes down to money so it is important you know upfront the costs of taking such an adventure. To startup comfortably, I would say you need $2,000-$3100 USD. Compared to a trip to Europe or somewhere else, this relatively cheap.


Roundtrip plane ticket from San Francisco – 1,020-1,500 (use or

¨Settling In¨ costs– 200-400

Initial Rent – 300-600

Entertainment – 100-350

Safety net – 300

If you are interested or know anybody who would be, feel free to send the contact information to If you have any further questions as well, I would be happy to answer them.

Q&A – My Experience in Santiago,Chile

April 5, 2013
Santiago beneath the Andes Mountains

Santiago beneath the Andes Mountains

Below are the questions I received from friends and family:

***If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask. I would be happy to answer.***


What the heck are you eating?

I have been eating out quite bit. Empanadas, lots of papas fritas (aka french fries), fast food and a lot of other unhealthy foods. Recently, I began eating in more and therefore healthier food.

Side note: Dunkin Donuts is here and I have already eaten there two times. lol The coffee quality is pretty bad here though. They offer only instant coffee at most places and it is uncommon for you to have a coffee machine in your home. I miss good coffee.

What is your favorite Chilean dish?



My favorite Chilean dish is called Chorrillana. It starts with french fries as a base and a ton of different meats and eggs.

What kind of foods have you tried?

Mote con Huesillos (Peach Juice)

Mote con Huesillos (Peach Juice)

I have tried a popular soup of Chile (the name escapes me), Chorrillana, completos/italianos (hot dogs with tomatoes, mayo and palta), mote con huesillos (peach juice with peaches and small wheat clusters), local German-influence food and Peruvian food. All of it has been very good. :)

How’s the ice cream?

Typical McDonald's Ice Cream Stands

Typical McDonald’s Ice Cream Stands

This is a funny one to answer because CHILEANS LOVE ICE CREAM. McDonald’s has whole stands dedicated to serving only ice cream. The supermarkets have whole aisles with only ice cream as well. It is not an uncommon sight to see a person with an ice cream cone any where you go.


Have any cultural differences shocked you?

Kissing in the Plaza de Armas

Kissing in the Plaza de Armas

Many cultural differences have surprised me but the main one has been the level of PDA here. If you go to the park in my neighborhood, you will see at least 5 or more people just “macking out”. There is no certain demographic either. Young or old–it does not matter.

Few other surprising things:

  • Lots of homosexuals in Santiago. I have met many homosexuals including a transvestite. I am tolerable and friendly but I don’t like the really flamboyant ones.
  • Many babies are left at hospitals since abortion is outlawed and the parents do not want to take care of the child.
  • 70% of all married women in Chile have had an extramarital affair according to a study my friend heard on the radio.
  • Many married couples are separated instead divorced since the legalization of divorce only became recent in 2004 and the Catholic/family culture still has influence in these proceedings.

What is the weather like?

The weather has been caliente thus far since it is summer but it is now becoming more like fall and heading into winter.

What sticks to you the most about where you live?

The pro-business culture sticks out most to me. The government is pushing a lot of pro-business initiatives including tax credits for English classes, allowing people to sell things on the streets, providing funds for startups from all over the world and streamlining the process of opening a corporation in Chile to only one day online. If you have a business idea, you should test it here – similar American market and less “red tape.”

What is your means of transportation?

Santiago Metro

Santiago Metro

My main means of transportation is the metro system. It is by far the most efficient, in terms of time and money, way of traveling around Santiago. During rush hours though, you are literally rubbing up against everyone in the metro.

Does the moon look different from Chile?

Yes, the moon does look different. The color is the same but the seeable cavities are different.


How do you like Chile overall?

I like Chile overall. Santiago, Chile is really only an extension of the United States. They have a metro system, many of the same large corporations, and many of the same amenities as the U.S. Chile is very large and has lots to offer in terms of terrain and natural beauty.

Are you happy?

Yes, I am actually very happy here. I am happy to be contributing to a society once again and learning a new language. My Spanish has gotten to the point where I can comfortably go out with only Spanish-speaking people. I probably only understand the conversation about 50-60% of the time but it is enough to not be a burden and actually contribute to the conversation.

How are things going with the ladies there? You must have met somebody working nights at a party place.

Any woman for your “very very high standards ” ?

You could say things are going well with the ladies especially since I am a blue-eyed gringo. I have received a warm reception from them but none that have met my very high standards except for a girl from Brazil who was here only for a few days. This all still depends on God’s will for me.

Are girls hotter or colder than America?

In my opinion, girls are more attractive here because they are less stuck-up than American women. I am also biased since I tend to like Latin American women. haha

How long do you see yourself living abroad?

How long do you plan stay?

Would you ever move there?

Right now, I have flight back to the U.S. at the end of August but I believe I will push it back till Christmas time. I want to get a work visa and work here for awhile so if I wanted to move here, then I have established a good record with the government to receive permanent residency.

If I did move here, it would do more with what is happening to America than how much I enjoy Chile. Expect a future blog post on this.

Whilst in Chile, boxers or briefs?

Briefs. haha

Have you had any crazy travel experiences?

I haven’t had chance to travel much yet but I have met many people from many different countries already. It is interesting to hear their viewpoint on America and different day-to-day things.

Have you made any good friends that seem to be with you for the long run yet?

Friends I have made thus far

Friends I have made thus far

Yes, I made friends with a family from Colorado who moved from the US to escape the current “nanny” state of things. I have also made a lot of short-term friends with some having long-term potential.

What’s the weirdest thing that has happened so far in the hostel?

Many weird things have happened:

  • Having to leave the room once or twice so my roommate could be with a girl
  • One of my roommates being gay (nice guy though)
  • Transvestite staying in our room. I didn’t know “Shim” was staying until the morning. Thankfully I was leaving that day.

Funniest Spanish speaking moment thus far?

My funniest Spanish speaking moment thus far has been “que asco!” thinking it meant “that’s gross” but it actually means “that sucks.” haha Thankfully, the difference wasn’t too significant.

Has your experience abroad helped you figure out what you want to do and focus on?

The experience has helped me figure out my next step. During my time here, I have figured out I do not like the state and direction of America and should look to move elsewhere. I am also still discerning the priesthood and my career choice.


What was the reaction in Chile to Pope Frances being elected from South America? Is that a source of unity & pride among the countries?

Surprisingly mild. I was in the Plaza de Armas (with the Church of Santiago) when the announcement was made. Church bells were ringing but nobody seemed to care. The culture in Santiago unfortunately is very western and secular. I think for some people it is a source of pride but from what I gathered amongst people I know, they don’t care.

How did you or will you celebrate Easter week?

What are you / did you do for the Holy Days?

Since I began my job during Holy week, I haven’t had much time to attend services. On Good Friday, I was going to go to confession but no priests were there – a typical Chilean move. haha I ended following a group of priests and nuns saying prayers at different religious monuments in the city during the time Jesus died (12pm-3pm). I ended up making it to confession Easter Sunday.

How is your relationship with God?

My relationship with God is going fairly well. My prayer life hasn’t been as consistent as I would like but God has still been in the forefront of my mind when it comes to how I treat others and important decisions.

Amelia’s Visit and Another New Job

March 24, 2013
Amelia and I

Amelia and I

PICTURES – Click here

A lot has happened since my last post. My older sister Amelia came to visit me for her Spring Break and a new development occurred with my day to day living. Amelia was here for the week and we mainly explored Santiago with a quick visit to the neighboring beach towns of Valparaíso and Viña Del Mar.

The first thing we did was visited Plaza de Armas and walked around the city. Later, we went up San Cristobal Hill to see the giant Virgin Mary and gorgeous views of Santiago

San Cristobál Hill with the Virgin Mary

San Cristobál Hill with the Virgin Mary

We also visited Santa Lucia Hill which contains very European architecture. Amelia finished her trip going to a local winery Concho y Toro and visiting Pablo Neruda’s house. Of course, we ate luxurious meals in between including some muy rico Peruvian dishes and seafood.

The new development is another new job. God has blessed me again by having things fall right into my lap. It all happened when Amelia, myself and a group of my “gringo” friends went out for the dinner Amelia’s first night here. It just so happened that one of the girls with us worked at a hybrid profit/nonprofit English Institution. She told me I could receive a work Visa (something I desperately wanted) and they pay fairly well. She put me in contact with her boss and we set up an interview from there.

I went into the interview expecting an 8-10 hour/week job (the standard starting out at institutions) which would compliment my hostel job and provide me money for food and other expenditures. Afterward the interview, I came away with a full-time job which pays more than nearly all the other English institutes, provides the opportunity to work with adults  and kids and allows me to quit my hostel job where I only worked nights (midnight-8am) and threw my days off.

I am now searching for an apartment and will hopefully have one by the end of next week.

Following new Pope Francis’s example, I request you keep me in your prayers!

New Job

March 5, 2013

The Hostel

I recently found a job……..not teaching English. Now, I am sure you are like “What the heck is Tom doing now?” Fair question. 

My new job is………drum roll please……..working at a hostel in exchange for room and board. The hostel is called Terra Extremus (was going to add their original website but it has been hacked by the group known as Anonymous) and it is around the corner from my old hostel. Terra Extremus is located in the nice and SAFE neighborhood Providencia. I will be working 4 eight-hour night shifts a week and can work my way up into the regular paid shifts. It is a party hostel but I will learn to work around that since I don’t party much any more. Also as for food costs, I can make up the cost through either private tutoring or doing odd jobs around the hostel.

Another question you probably have is “Why work at a hostel and not teach English?” My reasons are the following:

  1. Helps achieve ultimate goal of becoming fluent in Spanish
  2. Gives me more free time during the day since I will be working nights
  3. Will be more tranquilo than teaching English. One lady at an English Institute even said you need to “slave and save” if you are teaching English. Does not sound too enticing to me.
  4. Fits my personality better

As for mi español, it is coming along fairly well. I have really started to open up and speak the language. I am still making many mistakes but that is ok because I am still learning.



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