a very un-boring development in an otherwise boring week
10.11.2010 - 10.17.2010 60 °F
As most of you probably know, I can be a pretty emotional person. Sometimes that means I cry too easily when my older siblings (mainly that jerk Alison) torment me. In the last couple of years, it's been more of a happy emotional; to describe myself on Facebook, I say "The Olympics make me cry." The idea of the Games is just something really beautiful and when I think about it the feeling is too much for my body and has to escape through my tear ducts. Point being, I'm sure you can all imagine my reaction to the rescue of the Chilean miners on Wednesday. A combination of national pride, family reunions, and the whole world thinking about and hoping for the same thing is my Achilles heel. On top of all of that, they reshowed coverage of when one of the miners interrupted the minister, who was trying to establish that everyone was alright, to ask about the fate of the other men who had been around during the collapse. The cheers of the miners came screaming through the phone when they heard there had been no casualties, and that was a pretty overwhelming scene to watch. I am so overjoyed that everything worked the way it was supposed to and that those men got out of there earlier than had been expected, and it was an incredible experience to be here while it was happening. It's really astonishing to me how much of a link I now feel to this country; it makes me think that maybe if we all just lived in a different country every five months everyone would care about everyone and there would be world peace. If I'm going to make it in the public policy realm, I might need to come up with some cheaper solutions, eh? It sounds like there was pretty good coverage of the rescue across the world, but here in Santiago we also had lots of horn honking and a siren that went off every time another miner came up. I thought President Piñera gave a great speech (I laughed pretty hard when he described Chile as "this country SO far away from the rest of the world."), and it was cute that he repeated it in English for what was probably his first international audience. Another really cool thing that they did here (and maybe showed in the US) was to highlight each of the miners, talking about their families and giving their life stories. All the violence we have in the world nowadays has somewhat sensitized me to what should be startling facts, but watching those stories helped remind me of how significant even just one death would be. I can remember two months ago when the other gringo and I were trying to convince my Chilean family that there was no possibility of the miners still being alive...woops.
I was pretty surprised by how healthy the men looked coming up. I knew they were receiving supplies, but there's only so much you can send through a tube. I suppose their adrenaline was probably off the charts, though, and you gotta look good for TV. The news was making a big deal about the fact that the rescue occurred on October 13, or 10/13/10, because the date adds up to 33. I'm a little suspicious that Piñera had them delay the rescue until after midnight to play up the dramatics, but it all worked out so I guess there's no problem with that. I've also been thinking a lot about what a rescue would have looked like in the US. I don't think that it would have been linked so heavily to national pride; I can't imagine we would have had the miners put up a huge US flag, I'm not sure Obama would start up the national anthem after the last miner came up, and we don't even have a USA chant that we could've used to celebrate each man rescued. I don't think it's that we're not patriotic in the US, but maybe we just show it in a different way. Or maybe I'm just wrong. The topic actually came up in my human rights class Thursday. Apparently foreigners always describe Chileans as being really patriotic, but Chileans themselves disagree and think that the only time they show any patriotism is under extreme circumstances. I think the discrepancy is proof of the fact that Chile suffers far too many extreme circumstances. More proof: the national slogan is "Viva Chile, Mierda," or "Long Live Chile, Damn It!"
The sad news is that another four miners are trapped in Colombia, and although they are not nearly as far down, officials there have declared that the chances of finding the men alive are very small. Two other miners died already there this week in different accidents. Hopefully now that the focus is off of the rescue, these countries can start figuring out better ways of protecting their miners (who create all the national wealth, by the way).
This was a great week for the rescue to happen because the rest of it was uneventful, boring, and/or stressful. Lots of homework, not a lot of anything else, including sleep. It was only a three-day week but it felt a whole lot longer. Wednesday I was so exhausted that I had to take a nap in the computer lab. It's always fun to give Chileans more reasons to stare at the gringa. I did get tickets booked for my mom's visit; she'll be flying down on Thanksgiving and we will have two weeks together exploring the middle of the Atacama Desert, the island of Chiloé, the Patagonian fjords on a four-day ferry trip, and the famous Torres del Paine in Patagonia!
Wednesday night actually was fun for a reason other than the miners. At my volunteer meeting, two of the women we work with brought me gifts. They're just little Chile souvenirs, but it was really sweet. This was followed by everyone wanting to get pictures with me during the snack break. Now, I should explain that I really don't say or do anything while volunteering because Chileans are naturally very quiet and the room is usually so noisy that I can't hear anything anyone says. So the fact that all of these adults like me enough to give me gifts and take pictures with me is really mind-boggling. I guess I'm lucky that the novelty of my blonde hair overpowers the fact that I am a generally uninteresting person in Spanish.
Actually, I have felt huge improvements in my Spanish recently. I even came up with a handy metaphor to describe it. It's like I started at the Atlantic coast of the US with the goal of reaching the Pacific. In the past week or so, I think I made it to the top of the Rocky Mountains. I've still got a long way to go, but the biggest challenge is now over and now it's more a matter of patience. That's at least what it feels like, but we'll see if I just got tricked and am really still in the foothills.
I think it's only appropriate to close with a little Chilean spirit (especially in case you haven't had the chance to hear this great chant): ¡Chi Chi Chi! ¡Le Le Le! ¡Viva Chile!