Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Blog!

For anyone who may still be subscribed to this blog, I thought I'd let you know that I know have a new blog for my upcoming trip to Guatemala. Feel free to check it out!

Also, I'd like to apologize (mostly to myself) for never writing a decent wrap-up post. Oh well...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Se Acaba

So, I'm now back in the good ol' United States of America. I feel like I should recap a little bit, and tie some ends together, but it's really hard for two reasons:
1. It already feels like a different world and a different life
2. It's quite sad to throw my mind back to Chile because it forces me to acknowledge that it's something that's over, which reminds me of all of my friends that it will be very hard to ever see again..

So, in the interest of keeping things easier for me and more readable for you, I think I'm going to put out two more posts-- one summing up the happenings of my last month, and one relating the impacts of leaving and returning to the USA and trying to pull something more concrete out of the experiences of my year.

So, I'll start the facts and moments of my last month or so. I can't remember exactly what I did the first couple of weeks of my last month, but I mostly spent it going to school, hanging with friends, going to a couple of goodbye festivities for other exchange students, and trying simultaneously to deny and come to terms with the fact that my time in Chile was running out.

I did however manage to fit in two trips-- the first one was to Concepcion where I stayed with one of my host-mom's really good friends, in the house that my host-sister is also living in while she's in college in Concepcion. My hostess was incredibly kind and friendly, and took me out every day to get to know the area. I decided that if I were to come back to Chile to live, it would be in Concepcion. The city is fairly unremarkable but does have a nice vibe from being the home to a good number of universities. The surrounding area is gorgeous. Talcahuano, the port city just down the river is very cool-- brightly colored, funky, full of personality, industrial city, built all the way up a hillside that goes flat just a little bit before meeting the ocean. All up and down the coastline there are stunning beaches and rocky points, with cute little fishing towns scattered without. And then, if you head inland, it's forested and hilly, and actually looks a good bit like West Virginia. The main epicenter of the February 27th earthquake was quite close to Concepcion and there was some startling damage, but while some bigger buildings fell in Concepcion that what I'd seen, I'd say that downtown Curico was damaged a lot more than downtown Concepcion. However, the coastal towns were absolutely ravaged by tidal waves. I saw plenty of torn-up fishing boats resting casually a good many meters from the ocean, and a couple of towns where one half of the cove was completely destroyed (the little differences in geography made a big difference with respect to the power of the waves that arrived).

After a week there I went back to Curico, had my official Rotary farewell, relaxed a couple of days, then kicked off my week of minimal sleep by waking up at 4 AM in order to meet with friends at 5 AM for the Chile-Honduras World Cup match at 7:30 AM. Chile won. It was fun.

That afternoon, I set off for Santiago, to take care of some final matters. I bought some gifts to take home,
went skiing at El Colorado,
watched the USA-Slovenia World Cup game at a true Gringo bar, checked a few more sights-to-see of Santiago off my list, and participated in some more farewell activities for other exchange students.

That Saturday, I returned to Curico, just in time to get ready for my goodbye party that night. Emily and Liz (my fellow gringo-curicano Rotary Exchange Students at Liceo Zapallar) and I rented a space, paid for a DJ, and threw a pretty slammin' party. Lots of people, lots of dancing, and lots of fun (until the end when the sadness hit me, and a couple of dramas erupted, but it was a triumphant success regardless).
I spent most of Sunday packing, then had a farewell dinner with my family that night.

Monday I went to school to watch the Chile-Switzerland game and say goodbye to all of my classmates. Chile won the game which was great and put everyone in a good mood.
The goodbyes were hard. I had only been in my school for a few months, but I still had made some very close friends. However, because I haven't known many of them for very long, I feel like I barely had time to realize who all the cool kids were and how awesome they were. As hard as it was to leave behind my really close friends, it was almost harder to leave behind the people who I could tell would have become my really close friends if only I'd been able to spend more time with them. Still, the day went well-- I gave gifts to several of my Chilean friends, and a number of them had gifts and/or cards for me. Instead of classes in the afternoon, my class had a farewell barbecue for Emily and I, which was nice. In the evening I went and chilled at my friend Kuko's house, where I said my goodbyes to Kuko, Kaña, and Jesus, my three very close friends from my first school.

Tuesday I woke up, did the last of my packing, and journeyed to the airport. At 2:30 I set off with my host-mom, and 4 hours, 1 taxi, and 2 buses later, we arrived at the airport. Some friends from Santiago came to the airport to say goodbye, as well as some classmates who surprised us (I was flying with Liz and Anna).
After procrastinating the departure as long as possible, I passed through the gates, and was the very last person to board the plane. Liz and I read all of the messages our classmates had written us and told us to read on the plane, which was sweet and sad, and fortunately not quite as emotional as I'd expected (my capacity for sadness from the farewells ran out the moment the airplane wheels lifted off, and I was no longer on Chilean soil.) I arrived in Atlanta, spent forever going through customs, said goodbye to Liz and Anna, then rushed through the 3 terminals (the train was closed) to get to my flight, once again, in the nick of time. At that point, Chile already started to feel like dream and the people began to feel like memories, but after a rough moment, I managed to focus on the excitement of going home and leave the immense sadness from leaving in the recesses of my mind. I slept almost all of the flight to Pittsburgh, and woke up just as we touched down. I had arrived, and was once again walking on familiar American soil.

Friday, May 21, 2010

El Tiempo Pasa Volando

I could have sworn that I posted my last blog entry just over a week ago, but what do I know, it's been a month. More concerning to me though is the other result of quickly passing time-- I know have less than a month left in Chile. How do I feel about this? Quite honestly I don't know. I feel good about the amount of things I've done and places I've been during my year in Chile, but now with the time winding down, so are my possibilities. I have to come to grips with the fact that I won't get to do everything. The human front is more difficult to explain. I have real friends here, both Chilean and otherwise, some of them I'm very very close with. However, the hard reality is, there's no way I will be seeing them again with any real consistency. These people have really shaped my life and my perspective over the last year, so it's tough to say the least. Leaving my friends and acquaintances at my new school adds another layer of complication- I have made some good friendships, but there are a number of people who I find really interesting and good-company that I haven't really gotten to know yet, and sadly, I may never actually get to know some of them. It really just adds on to my feeling that I can't fit in everything that I want.

Although there is a lot of sadness in leaving what has been my home for the last 9 months, I know that there are a lot of things to look forward to when I come home-- friends, family, summer, heading off to college. It should be good, but I'm a spot nervous about possibility that it won't, given that life in Morgantown will probably seem less special, less exciting, and less interesting. Hopefully that will all be overpowered by the fact that Morgantown has always been home.

Reflection aside, I have gotten to do a lot of cool stuff lately.(Though it's been long enough that I've probably forgotten a lot of things). The biggest happening since my last post was my Rotary Trip to Easter Island, which was quite definitely quite cool. However, before I get into that, I want at least mention the days before. We left for Easter Island on a Tuesday, and the Friday night before was a big ol' rave-- Sensation. I first heard about Sensation back in September, and ever since had been making sure I had people to go with. I ended up going with Peter (Chilean) and Liz (Michigander), and meeting up with other exchange students there. It was a lot of fun. eight straight hours of dancing. Lots of lights, loud music, dancers, decorations, etc. The coolest part about Sensation is that everyone has to come dressed completely in white-- it makes for quite a sweet atmosphere.

Back to the trip, first some background for those of you who aren't familiar -- Easter Island,more correctly referred to as Rapa Nui (the name in Rapa Nui's native language) is one of the most isolated inhabited locations in the world-- it's closest inhabited neighbor is more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) away. However, it's big claim to fame are the giant, somewhat ominous, and very distinct stone statues that are found all over the island, known as Moai.

After a five-to-six hour flight from Santiago, our group of thirty-some exchange students and four Rotarians arrived in Rapa Nui . We arrived around 2 in the afternoon, and had free time until dinner. So, with some friends, we walked around the little town and the surrounding area, getting ourselves oriented, and enjoying the mild climate--a departure from the winter chill that was already arriving in mainland Chile. We saw our first moai and sea turtle, then went to quench our thirst on an ocean-view balcony, that was also overlooking a very old cemetary in which some horses decided to hang out.Within a few hours, the island's laid-back atmosphere was definitely sinking in. The island life is a nice life.
The next couple of days we mostly spent touring the island. Sites visited include:
-One of the Island's two sandy beaches (the rest are rocky)

-A volcano that once served as the base for the process of selecting each year's ruling clan (determined by whose competitor snatched the first egg laid by the seagulls), which now provides fresh water to the islanders, by way of the rain water that collects in the crater

-A cave with cave paintings and lava rocks that showed how the lava flowed

-Another volcano, the site of the quarry from which the moai were carved. There are a whole bunch of moai sitting around, some which were waiting to be transported and some which were still being finished. Work on the moai stopped pretty suddenly when there was a giant ecological/political/resource collapse.
-Many many moai
-We also stopped by a school nearby to drop off some donations we'd brought with us on the plane (everything's expensive on the island because it has to be brought in by boat or plane) and chat with the kids

Each night we ended up with a different production of native dance, of various levels of polish and touristy-ness. They always called people out of the crowd to dance with them. Because they gave generally gave little (no) instruction, hilarity was abound. Eventually though, we caught on.

At some point, there was a free afternoon, which a friend and I decided to make use of to go horseback riding. We'd befriended a Rapa Nui (the term refers to the place, the language, and the people) who had a friend with a couple of horses he said would rent them to us. When we came by, a group of them were sitting down, a little bit intoxicated. We asked them about the horses, and they pointed to a couple that were walking around, but said they didn't have saddles. We decided to man-up and go anyway. The problem was that neither of us has much if any experience with horses. We crossed the field, and their our problems began. My friends horse only wanted to keep climbing up the hill, while mine found a nice patch of grass that it was determined to eat, no matter what. I managed to move from that patch of grass, only to get stopped at another one. There I sat on the horse for about 20 minutes, trying to give it enough time to eat that it might want to cooperate, then leading it a couple of yards before it got frustrated and angry again. Eventually, I saw a couple of friends passing in the distance. I shouted to them for help, and they pulled/led my horse back to where I'd come from. I told our Rapa Nui friends that my friend on the other horse was MIA somewhere up the hill, so one of them jumped on my horse, and without problem went after him. I can't say it was particularly pleasant, sitting nervously on a stubborn horse, but it was certainly an experience.
Our last full day on the island was characterized by torrential rain. Plans to go to the beach were scrapped, so my friends and I took the morning to go Scuba diving. It was way awesome. 10 meters down, swimming among a coral reef, just off the coast of Easter Island. Fantastic. That afternoon, I spent with a couple of friends getting to know some of the Easter Island characters. On the way back from Scuba, we passed a barbecue for Rapa Nui Indepence, just outside a municipal building. They invited us to try some meat, and we ended up talking for a while with one particularly drunk Rapa Nui man. I was a little confused that it was an Independence Day celebration, given that Rapa Nui is a part of Chile, and the people there were of no help-- everyone I asked told me that Rapa Nui always has and always will be independent. We went back to the hotel to grab some lunch, then headed back out to visit our friend who had the horse connection. We played a little chess and just hung out for the rest of the afternoon.
Our last morning in Rapa Nui, everyone scrambled into town for some last minute souvenir shopping, then jumped in the bus to head to the airport. Our bus driver Jimmy has a musical taste that centers on very poppy upbeat electronica, and he seemed to just have one 5-10 song mix that he put on loop, so we all became very familiar with all of the songs. There was one song we all became very attached to, and as we drove up to the airport, he put the song on, and we all went crazy dancing, singing, screaming, and jumping. It was a nice last hurrah before getting on the plane ride.

The ride back wasn't painful (LAN Chile airplanes have the sweet personal touchscreen, and have all of the games and movies and such free) but was a bit sad as people passed around flags for other people to sign, and prepared to say their last goodbyes.

I'm still really liking my new school. The kids are really nice, and it's great that I can actually communicate with them. After school every day, I walk to the Centro with some of my classmates, and then the people who don't have pre-U (college prep classes to help prepare for the big ol' standardized test), mosey around and accompany whoever happens to have errands to run. The other day was student's day which, is basically a condensed, toned-down version of the school's Anniversary. A bunch of little competitions, which was good fun.

My Brazilian friend Breno is leaving tomorrow (as I write this, by the time this is posted, he's probably already gone) and I've taken part in a lot of his goodbye activities. Especially since I now share my room with him-- he moved back in with my family after problems with his second family. Among them were his goodbye party (disappointing atmosphere, but still a fun and very interesting night), and a couple of soccer/barbecue nights with 40-something-year-old men and Breno. One of the two was their farewell to Breno, so instead of doing their typical asado, they did a discada-- a many-meat-mixture cooked in the disc-shaped blade of a harvester. It is unbelievably delicious. It was also a really cool experience just hanging out with a group of Chilean men, seeing how they talk and behave when they're just hanging out with each other. Plus I got to play soccer, which is never bad.

Mostly, as always, I've just been living life. Planning adventures (at the moment, my goodbye party), and adventuring (like a friend's goodbye party in Santo Domingo, or going to the transvestite circus, which was actually quite dreadful). I don't think I'm ready to give up my pace of life. But no matter how easy or hard it is, I'm going to have to say goodbye and I'm going to have get used to living life back in Gringolandia.

three things that are different here

1. Chileans have a different stance on sexuality. For one, PDA is everywhere-- every park and plaza will have some neckin' going on. Also, Chilean TV is way more direct in using sex to draw people in, and after 10 or 11 ( I forget the time) they show everything but genitalia on network TV. Another poignant example would be some of the student's day activities-- among them, a very blatantly sensual dance choreographed by a teacher and a few freshman girls, a game where paper is passed mouth to mouth down a line of 40 some students (if the paper drops, you're kissing), and one competition in which a teams of one guy and one girl competed to "best" pass a tiny gummy candy from mouth to mouth, that is to say, who would have the most passionate kiss in front of the whole school. The fact that Chileans are okay with all of these things is added to by the fact that Chileans are much more physically touchy-- air- kisses on the cheek are given every time a a girl says hi to a girl, to a guy, or even between two guys who are close friends, and no one thinks anything of it. Despite all of this, when there was a debate (given, at my other, more conservative school) on gay marriage, I was the only one in the whole class who willingly argued in favor.

2. When a member of a teacher/administrator's immediate family dies, the whole school gets out. Happened to me the first time the other day. I can't imagine how that works (if they do it) at the really really big schools.

3.The family-owned corner store is not at all dead in Chile. In fact, I live in one (upstairs). If I had to guess, I'd say it has to do with the culture being much less car-centric, but be that or whatever reason, as much as Lider tries to become Walmart, it doesn't seem to be taking over too terribly quickly, if at all.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vacaciones Terminan: Viajo al Norte y Colegio Empieza

This entry was written was written a couple of weeks ago, I just took forever to put the pictures in and finally post it... expect another update soon focusing on my trip to easter, among other adventures.

So, after coming back from Hualañé, I spent just enough time in Curicó to wash my clothes and say goodbye to Rafaela( my Brazilian friend who just went home) then went al tiro to Santiago to head out on the Rotary trip to the North of Chile. The trip consisted of 12 days with 20 some exchange students from the US (the majority), Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia on a bus, roadtripping 1,250 miles (2,000 km) north to Arica, and then back. We had many a laugh, chuckle, and giggle-snort; slept very,very little; and saw countless churches and plazas (every towns fall-back tourist attraction), as well as many simply fantastic views.
Some highlights:
-Seeing geysers at the break of dawn
-Visiting what I dubbed "llama-town", where there were llama pens and llama kabobs
-Exploring a canyon after our bus broke down in the middle of the desert for the fourth time in a half-hour
-Seeing flamingos in the lagoon in the middle of a giant salt flat with Volcanoes in the background
-The views and sunset in Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), which is truly otherworldly.
-Midnight full moon sandboarding in La Valle de la Muerte (The Valley of Death)
[I'd like to note that all of the highlights to this point happened in one thoroughly awesome day]

-Gorgeous extremely high altitude lake view from somewhere near Bolivia
-Alpaca clothing (I snagged a sweater, socks, and gloves), hippy pants, and tunics
-Joke time on the bus
-Moments of absolute beauty out the window after hours of nondescript-to-ugly desert monotony
-Testing the waves everytime we stopped anywhere with ocean
-The view from Embalse Puclaro, a big ol' dam
-Iquique, which is just a cool city

After the North trip, I came back to Curicó, I had a couple of days to get everything ready for me to start school the following Monday, then had to head back to Santiago for the annual Rotary District conference. The conference was a bit pointless-- they basically just wanted us to make an appearance, then found ways to occupy our time the rest of the day, but i had a good time with my exchange student friends anyway.

Monday I started at my new school-- Liceo Zapallar. It's Curicós public school "of excellence" which means that the kids there have to do well on a standardized test and have to maintain a 6 average (~85%). There are also more than four times as many kids in my grade. Given that, and the fact that this school is public (free) while my other school was a very expensive private school, things are a lot different. Starting at a new school this time was a lot easier because A- my Spanish is so much better than it was when I arrived, B-I'd already met a number of these kids and already had a few good friends at this school so it wasn't easy to join their friend group.
I'm quite happy with my new school. The kids are nice and interesting, and having changed has definitely given me a new set of experiences.

I managed to make it up to Santiago one other time recently to see Matisyahu (Jewish Reggae-Rap Fusion that is actually quite popular/mainstream) in concert. I went with a bunch of exchange students and we had a good time. Matisyahu was great, and even though the crowd was sub-par, we still had a blast dancing and singing the whole time. I also managed to grab some scrumptious Thai food the next day before I headed back to Curicó, ebbing my constant cravings for ethnic food which is much harder to come by here than it is in the US.

Upcoming excitement includes a big ol' electronica concert and the Rotary trip to Easter Island.

Also, my return date is set. I leave Santiago the night of the 22nd and arrive in Pittsburgh the morning of June 23rd. I don't know how I feel about it. I get a bit panicked thinking about how little time is left, but there is also definitely a part of me that appreciates and looks forward to all of the positives that being home will bring. I guess the best thing to do is not worry about it too much, and use any related stress as motivation to take advantage of as much as I can.

1.Chilean grades are given on a scale of 1-7. 4 is passing, and it seems to me that there are a lot more kids who don't pass. Failing grades are known as promedios rojos or failing averages.

2. Chileans aren't as big on strong flavors and a lot of things are only seasoned with some combination of lemon, salt, and/or oil, such as salad and avocado. I miss the abundant and flavorful sauces of the US from time to time.

3. When people talk about where they've visited in the US, they have to list cities, states, and regions. In Chile, you just have to mention two places-- the furthest south you've been. For instance, I would say, Conozco desde Punta Arenas hasta Arica.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Harto Ha Pasado...

Other than the update on the earthquake, it's been almost 3 months since I actually went through and described what's been happening in my life. I'm halfway considering just letting it stay in the past and turning a bit more away from a daily narrative and a bit more toward an observation journal, but I think I'd like to sum up what's happened, even if it ends up being extremely long, condensed, or both.

I wrote my last blog right before I went off to a lakehouse on Lago Villarrica (between Villarrica and Pucón). I was there for 2 weeks and it was fairly fun. It was a bit of a shock going from a few weeks travelling without and away from my family to being exclusively with them for two weeks, but it's gorgeous there and I had a good time, mostly just lying out on the beach.
Some highlights:
A wee-hours-of-the-morning outing on the lake with my brothers friend in a little rowboat;
Seeing Chancho en Piedra, a Chilean band with a really good bassist;
Playing cacho (a game with dice) and hanging with the cousins;
Winning $20 in my first and only jaunt into a Casino;
Conversing with Hube, the nana (maid, more or less);
Driving down the main street of Villarrica with a Piñera flag sticking out the sunroof, honking the horn, as we came to town just as that day's presidential election results were announced (the Donoso-Azocar family likes Piñera very much).Actually Piñera deserves a lot more mention, so I'll throw in at least a tidbit more. Piñera is from the right. Chile hasn't had a president from the right since democracy was restored after General Pinochet. Among other things, that means that anyone who didn't vote before 1955 and who has always voted for the right has never voted for a winning presidential candidate. Both of my last host-parents were in that catergory.

When I got back from Pucón, I expected to change families right away. However, because of various confusions and complications, I didn't end up changing for another week and a half. It was a bit surreal leaving the other house behind and really turning the page to another chapter, but I'm really happy with my new house/family. They're very very warm and friendly.

After just a couple of days with them, I headed up to Santiago to meet my mom at the airport. The first day, we hung out with some of my friends and relaxed so she could recuperate from the flight. The next day, we saw a whole bunch of Santiago, including Cerro San Cristobal, La Moneda, La Plaza de Armas, and Pablo Neruda's Santiago House, La Chascona. Day 3 consisted of a trip to the nearby mountains, more specifically to Cascada de Animas in Cajon de Maipo, which my mom fell in love with.

Day 4 we headed out to Isla Negra, a pretty little ocean town which is known for being the site of Pablo Neruda's main house. We went there and looked around, and it was cool and had gorgeous scenery, but I have to say I liked the one in Santiago better. From Isla Negra, we headed up to Valparaiso, where we spent the next 3 nights. My mom agrees with me that Valparaiso is a cool place. We did a whole lot of walking there, and got to know the nearest arbitrarilly named and divided hills(they say there are 45 but it just seems like one big thing). Most of our last couple of days in the Valparaiso area was spent in Viña del Mar, the very vacationy foil to the industrial-yet-chic Valparaiso. We went to the synagogue in Viña for shabbas (my first in Chile) and met some nice Jewish folk (the first non-Israeli Jews I'd met in Chile). It was cool to see and the people we met were nice-- they even invited me to come up to Santiago for a good ol' Jewish weekend. Viña was quite happening while we were there because just after we left, the Viña Song Festival started, which is kind of a really big deal. Among the things that were there as part of the excitement were huge hoards of people, an airshow, and an orchestra playing in the street for tips.

After Valparaiso and Viña, we headed south to Chiloé-- a beautiful green island that has retained a distinct flavor, culture, and mystical ambience. After an overnight busride, we came to Ancud, where 10 minutes after arriving in our hostel, we jumped in a van and took advantage of some last minute cancellations to go on a penguin tour boat ride. Our other touristy adventure was a kayak trip across the Bay of Ancud (it has another name, but that's what everyone called it) and back through a really cool American ex-pat run tourist agency, but we also did a good bit of exploring of the town on our own. I think our coolest find was a restaurant called "El Mundo de la Papa" which translates to "The World of the Potato". Every single dish on the menu used potato as its main ingredient, in celebration of the fact that there are more than 300 species of potato native to Chiloé. It actually all tasted quite good, even the chocolate potato cake.
From Ancud, we headed south to Castro, where we stayed in a palafitos-- a house on stilts. I chatted a lot with deskclerk there-- he's a sculptor and a really cool guy. Check out his blog if you're interested in seeing his art. From Castro, we took a guided bike trip to the National Park on the intensely-green west coast of Chiloé. Like just about everyone else we met who worked in the tourist industry in Chiloé, our guide was really nice and genuinely interesting. He biked with us while his 6 month pregnant wife followed the route in a truck with food and water and such. She was actually even cooler than he was.

The next day we took a bus out to Dalcahue and the Quinchao Island, where you can find little villages and what are probably the most genuine crafts in Chile. Lots of cool stuff made from wool, including some sweet slippers with a sheep skin sole (fur on the inside) and a woven top.
From Castro, we headed to the Chepú Valley, in the Northwestern corner of Chiloé. It is known for it's sunken forests-- rivers full of dead trees, killed by salt water that came with the tsunami of the Earthquake of Valdivia in 1960 (strongest earthquake ever recorded). We stayed in a cabin in an ecocampsite run by two genuine characters. The owners, a married couple, had fled to nature from Santiago and started all kinds of conservation projects in the area. They came off as a bit passive aggressive, which I think is a result of what their campsite was going through. They'd put up the campsite just to be for backpackers so that they could experience the pristine beauty of the area, but just last year they were featured in Lonely Planet, which is making them figure out how they're going to deal with a larger amount of customers, and more than that, a clientèle that's less into roughing it than the backpackers that they're used to. It's a bit of a predicament for them considering that they're extremely hardcore environmentalists and also half-way retired and not wanting to work too much. That was a long tangent.

Anyway, we were staying there at Chepu when the earthquake hit. You should read my last entry for the details on that. In the morning, we went kayaking in the sunken forest, before realizing how serious things were and making our way immediately to Ancud and then to Puerto Varas.

We stayed in Puerto Varas for a few days, as a way to pass the time before we could catch a bus north. The view from Puerto Varas's lakefront is truly absoultely breathtaking. A gorgeous lake with several volcanoes peaking out behind it. We mostly just explored the town and lazed about, but we did have one day of big adventure-- in the morning we hiked around the foothills of a volcano( a gorgeous trail) to some absolutely stunning waterfalls. The waterfalls weren't so much cascades as overgrown rapids, but the power and the color of the water made it a site to see. Just after the hike, we went white water rafting. We put in just a bit below the falls, and the rafting was great. My mom was terrified and pretty pessimistic before we started, but we both ended up having a really good time.

After another overnight bus ride, we arrived Santiago, where we found that all the things we were planning on doing were closed. We did go to a nice market/cultural center for the afternoon, then dilly-dallied around the centro for a while until my mom had to catch her bus to the airport. We said our goodbyes, she went to the just-reopened-for-international-flights airport and I jumped on a bus back to Curicó.

Arriving in Curicó at 11:00 was quite a shock. I didn't realize it, but Curicó was under a midnight curfew, so there were already lots of cops, military police, firemen, and other types of sirened vehicles patrolling the streets. I got home, glad to see my family safe and sound, and slept like a baby. I spent the next couple of weeks pretty much just helping out (details on the first days in the last entry), mostly at the red cross, and then occasionally grabbing a meal with friends afterwards. Several truckloads of aid came from the North, which meant there were several truckloads to unload, sort, and assemble into packages that we could distribute.

I also went on a few outings with the red cross. The first one was a trip to Iloca, the closest beach town which was hit really hard. We went around interviewing people to see what was needed. The damage and the sadness that we found there were tremendous.

Our second trip was to a rural town just outside of Curicó where we went to distribute supplies, just for an afternoon.

Our third Red Cross outing was much bigger. Liz (an exchange student in Curicó from Michigan) and I went with some other Red Cross youth volunteers to help out in a field hospital in Hualañé for a week. Half of the hospital there had collapsed, so the Red Cross brought in a team of Spaniards to set up a clinic. Most of our time there was spent taking down tents and putting up sturdier, bigger, and more weatherproof tents so that the hospital would better be able to function during Chile's upcoming rainy winter. I also spent some time helping out the doctors. The concept of the hospital was actually pretty cool. About 25 Spaniards came with all the supplies and know-how to run and set up a hospital.With the help of about the same number of Chilean volunteers, they set things up and got the hospital running. After a month, the team of Spaniards left and 12 new Spaniards arrived, also to stay for a month. The idea is that the hospital gradually loses its dependence on the Spaniards, and after a month more, it should be running but with only Chilean labor. Helping out there was a really good experience because on top of being able to help out in a meaningful way, I met some really cool people, both Chilean and Spanish (I'm definitely going to take advantage of my open invitation to stay in Barcelona).

There's still a lot to go for me to catch up to today (a Rotary trip to the North, starting at my new school, etc.) but I'm gonna go ahead and post here so that A. this post isn't too absurdly long, and B. I can finally get something posted.

three things that are different here
1. Pretty much everyone has a couple of round scars on their bicep from immunizations. What kind, I don't know.

2. Racial sensitivities are different. Look at this shoe store's name and image.
3. Everyone brushes their teeth after every meal. When people eat lunch at school, there's a nice social group brushing afterward.

Keep tuned!