a great week in Chile and for Chile
08.16.2010 - 08.22.2010 70 °F
Tonight is a very happy night in Chile! I'm not sure if this has made the news in the US, but for the last 17 days a group of 33 miners has been trapped in the north. I've turned on my TV every morning for the past two weeks to images of the miners' families camped out while the rescue effort made very little progress. Earlier today, after hearing noises from the chamber that the miners' were assumed to be in, a scrap of paper was passed threw a tiny hole and when it was brought back up, someone had written "Estamos bien en el refugio los 33." Unfortunately, the government estimates that it will still be months before they can dig the miners out, but there's enough space that they can pass down food and hydration gels. The fact that they'll have to live in a dark mine for three months with gel for food is still really sad, but I think people were starting to lose hope, so I'd still call it great news. The one good thing that results from tragedies is a renewed sense of unity, and it's been nothing short of tear-jerking to see the reaction of this country. Even though Santiago is about a world away from the mines in the northern desert, the fate of these miners has grabbed and held everyone's attention and I've spent today listening to the honks and cheers of a relieved city. If you need a feel-good moment, search for the footage of the reactions of the rescue crew and families.
In less important news, I've been behaving quite unlike myself. One of my goals for this semester was to be at least a little less obsessed with school. Last semester, I completely surrendered my life to my classes, which is a bad way to live in the US and a really bad way to live in Chile. Of course, I didn't let myself pick the really easy classes (I don't think I'd recognize a life without homework), but I'm doing my best to remember that missing out on life is a lot worse than missing out on an A+. In a completely-unlike-me act, I planned a trip to the Lake District of Chile that will involve me ditching class. Yes, it will be my first time, so if you'd like to send me a congratulatory card I can give you my address. September 18th is Fiestas Patrias (Chilean Independence Day), and every school except mine has the week off. My host mom pushed me pretty hard to forget about class and go south because the celebrations will be more authentic, whereas in Santiago it will mainly just be an excuse to drink. It made me very nervous to even think about missing class at the beginning, but now I'm getting really excited about the idea. And since I'll be staying in hostels and will have to carry my bag with me everywhere, I have to pack light, which means I won't even be able to bring homework on the trip. I feel like I'm about to be a participant on Survivor: Nerd Version.
Wednesday after classes my friend Alison and I spent the afternoon exploring. In the company of Jesus (see picture below), we went to the Museo de Arte Precolombino, which houses collections of mainly ceramics and stone carvings of the indigenous inhabitants of South America. I guess this is the first time I've gone to a "touristy" spot in this city because it was the first time signs were in English and Spanish and the first time someone refused to speak Spanish to me even as I spoke Spanish to them. The art was all pretty impressive, but my favorite part of this museum was being called Hannah Montana by a boy on a school field trip. Next stop was Estación Mapocho, the old train station that was built to connect the city to the north of the country. It's supposedly a cultural center now, although everything but one tiny corner with photographs of indigenous Mapuche women was just open space. Culture or no culture, this is one of my favorite places in this city. The architecture is right up my alley and it's hard not to feel at peace in a giant room flooded with sunlight (especially when there's a girl meditating in the middle). The view of the city from outside the station is also one of the best.
Yesterday my friends and I went on an adventure to climb a hill/mountain. I wasn't really sure. Even thought the mountains are right here, hiking and such is not anywhere near as developed as it is in the US, and it's a little tricky to find information. I chose Cerro Pochoco because it is accessible on local buses. Sort of. We took the bus to the northeast limit of the city and then had a two-mile walk to the trailhead. Right when we got off the bus, an adorable stray dog (that we named Rudy) decided to be our guide. Then Jesus joined in. That's the name of the dog, apparently not stray because he had a collar, that we found coincidentally at a giant crucifix that we were directed to by a sign saying "To Jesus." The hike was short (about 45 minutes up), but almost completely vertical, and it took longer than you would think because the dirt was really loose and it was hard to take a step without slipping three steps backwards. We didn't actually make it to the top because most of the girls had worn tennis shoes (we were all expecting something a little more leisurely), but it was still a great view and there's no really no such thing as a bad hike. Santiago is so interesting to me because there's no pattern. The city is a mix of Spanish colonial architecture and high rise buildings in a backdrop of both palm trees and mountains. The trail we were on was covered in cacti, while to the west there was a purple snow-capped mountain and to the east a brown rocky one. All the contrasts never cease to surprise me. I was a little disappointed because Rudy abandoned us for a different group, but--in true Christ fashion--Jesus stayed with us the whole way (and was rewarded with lunch).
As evidence of my progress with the language, I am now able to make my host mom laugh. On purpose. I've still got a long way to go (with the occasional conversations that leave me completely disheartened), but I consider humor to be a major milestone.
And if you're sad about the end of your summer, I'm happy to brag that on my morning run I was officially (and unexpectedly) welcomed into spring by the spray of a landscaper's hose!