This evening, I will board a plane to return to the good ol’ USA. Feeling 23423o12987 different emotions right now…

Here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to since I left the States in August, living in Santiago de Chile, and having many a Latin American adventure. I’d say it was a successful year abroad, indeed. :)

During my time here in Chile, I…

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These last nine months have been like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and the few expectations I had made for myself were blown out of the water. I’ve learned of my independence, but also how much better, colorful, and joyful life is when you can share it with those you love. I’ve improved my Spanish, my number one goal, and am excited to use it with my newfound confidence back at home. I’ve met incredible people and made unforgettable memories that have refreshed my excitement for the littlest of things in life, and have shaped my life perspective in a very positive way. I am energized and ready to bring my experiences, lessons learned, and love for Latin America back to my life in Arizona and to share what all of this has meant to me with all of you! ALSO, I have finally conquered my fear of matches and now can handle lighting a match just fine, getting plenty of practicing lighting the calefont for the water heater each time I wanted to shower and each time I wanted to use the stove. That’s growing up, I guess…

Thank you for all of your love and support through this crazy journey! I appreciate all of the kind words and cyber hugs, and have missed you very much! Sharing this journey with you and knowing I could always count on my family and friends at home for support has meant the world to me. Looking forward to many a glorious reunion with each and every one of you!

To my Chilean and gringo friends I have had the pleasure of getting to know this year: You are so wonderful! I’ve really appreciated your friendship and have very much enjoyed spending time with you. Best of luck with everything, and I am sure that will meet again someday soon!

A special thank you to Alex, my partner and my best friend. Ya know I’ve been missin’ ya, boy.

Hello hello! Happy end of April! For some, this means graduation is quickly approaching, summer and relief from class for a few months is so close we can taste it (for Phoenicians, you’re already sweating and can already taste the heat), summer study abroad sessions to Spain and Italy are just around the corner (woo Brittany, Lindsey, Sol, and Frankie!!), and it means that I will be home in just a few short days. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this yet, but more on that later.

The last three weeks have been a blast! It’s been an intense mixture of attempting my hand at an insane coctail of studying for finals, writing and editing the 6 papers I had to complete (1 left, now!), spending as much time with both my Chilean friends and my gringo friends who come from all over the US, soaking up Gina, my host mom, and trying to see as much of the city as possible and binging myself on Latin American and Chilean culture, checking out places I didn’t have the chance to see in Santiago, and revisiting my favorite spots in the city one last time. Needless to say, my head has been spinning, I’m tired of studying, I have been extremely emotional (this is also amplified by an insane lack of sleep), and most of all, my heart is conflicted. Of course I am dying to see Alex, my family, my friends, my dogs, and the places I’ve known as home for my whole life, but it’s complicated.

Okay let’s talk about something a bit more upbeat so I can forget about this impending mushroomcloud doom of emotions to come, at least for just a minute.

Week 14 of school, 3 weeks ago: some highlights
-Watched the sunset and shared some wine, treats, and incredible conversation in a park on a hill at the foot of the Andes that was perched up high enough for us to see the whole of Santiago’s skyline, with the loveliest of people

-Went to a chilean friend of mine’s apartment for a carrete (slang for party) with some of my closest chilean and gringo friends

-Experienced my first pub crawl with my pololas Jean-Claire and Hannah and had a great time. I had a beet sour (made with pisco) and it was magic! I’ve always been a fan of drinks with snacks (smoothies, sangria, ice tea with fruit, EXCLUDING mote con huesillos aka squeeky teeth) and this is a new one for the list.

-Went to Museo de la Memoria (talking about the dictatorship and violations of human rights from 73-90 in Chile) with Brenda, the BEST, most intelligent professor ever, for the fourth time and then had class in the park.

Week 14 of school, 2 weeks ago: more highlights!

-Went to see a french film called “Amour” in my favorite independent single-screening room theatre with Gina. “Amour” talks about death and dying from the perspective of an elderly couple in the midst of dealing with the wife on bedrest for paralysis. It is a gorgeous film and I highly recommend it, and Gina and I shared some very interesting, inspiring, and emotional conversations about it afterward.

-Went to see a delightful concert with Gina and her cousins by a Turkish pianist who knew her stuff. I wasn’t really into the Turkish experimental/contemporary pieces she played, but it was interesting to hear a taste of!

-Wrote my big research paper for Brenda’s class. I chose my topic to be about contemporary Latin America and its move toward its own identity, focusing on indigenous ideology, and how it is distancing itself from western culture and US ideals. I focused on historical events (post US economic crisis, mostly) to explain how they’ve swung back and fourth between the two ideologies many times, and how I believe we’re experiencing another shift. If you read Spanish and are interested, I can certainly send it to you!

-Visited Villa Grimaldi,which,  located about a 30 minute bus ride from my house, was used as a sequestered torture location for the desaparecidos during the Coup de Etat (73-90). Unfortunately, most of it was lost due to the DINA bombing it at the end of the regime in attempts of covering up evidence, but it was still very powerful, and some of the locations around the park-like museum had been reconstructed for better understanding. For example, there were bricks laid in the shape of the individual cells, to give the impression of the amount of space prisoners had, and planted in the middle of the lawn and each brick outlining, was a tree, representing the lives of the people affected. There was an old watertower, reconstructed, and it was located about 60 paces from a swimming pool. The watertower had 4 floors that were incredibly small, and small cells were constructed with enough room for once person to squat, but would force 4 or 5 individuals in there, leaving them to rotate uncomfortable positions so that they might each experience a turn of rest. They lived in complete darkness, amongst sickness, feces, urine, and insects, and meanwhile, families of the DINA would visit the pool and play as if nothing was going on at all. This for me, was the most impactful. There were also houses surrounding the vacinity, which goes to show how well the operations were conducted, and how well people were able to keep themselves ignorant of the horrors of the dictatorship.

-Little Lore, my love from El Hogar, came back for her monthly checkup and I was delighted to see her once more before I left. I was the only USAC volunteer that day, and had my hands full with 8 small children climbing all over me while Lore played with my hair and made me sleepy. A dangerous combination, indeed!

-I went out with some friends for terremotos and then to ExTantra, a gay club in Santiago, and had a great time. It was awesome to see so many people expressing themselves and having a good time freely, without fear of being discriminated against or experiencing violent reprocussions.

-I had a really nice family lunch at Gina’s sister’s house that lasted 5 hours. We also watched a video of a concert conducted by Andre Reiu, a famous dutch violinst. The music was awesome and everyone in the audience was dancing and having a great time, even though it was a formal concert. They even dropped hundreds of balloons at the end on the audience. That evening, I went to Brenda’s (my professor and USAC director) apartment with two other students and another professor that she invited for dinner with her family. Her daughters Leonor (4) and Elena (2.5) look like mini Brendas and were very sweet, as was her husband. We had a great evening!

-I had a cultural day with a good friend, Jean-Claire, taking advantage of the bi-annual free circuit of museums and activities in a sector of the city center. We saw a few films, went to the planetarium and had our minds blown learning about light and space from the IMAX film on the ceiling of the room, and saw a really interesting contemporary dance piece inspired by Violetta Parra, chilean musician/activist extroadinaire.

Week 16 of school, this week!

-Alex’s birthday was Monday! Woooo for turning 23! :)

-I took Gina to Hare Krishna, an awesome restaurant near school where for $4 USD you get a massive plate of yummy REAL salad, some sort of rice dish, a stew or pasta, whole grain bread, delicious ginger infused tea, and a dessert, AND IT’S ALL VEGETARIAN. Shazzing for me! It’s popular amongst the USAC crowd, and Gina’s always wanted to go since last semester, so we finally went. Brenda and Jorge (two of the three directors) came with us, and we had a nice time, laughing and talking about the massive, red cocroaches in Brazil that Brenda saw.

-We had a goodbye/thank you once at El Hogar with the children, their moms, and a few volunteers. It was really nice to go for one last time and sit with everyone together, leaving on a happy note. I’m going to really miss going there each week and the little ones that I’ve gotten to know throughout the year. I’m happy to say that little Sara is doing well, too, and gets to go home soon!

-I gave a talk with a friend of mine, Sisi, to a bunch of chilean students at my university who are studying English. We presented about sex education and from a sex positive perspective, which the idea that proposes that we should not be ashamed of our bodies or our sexualities, nor should we oppress others for expressing themselves, even though the media and popular culture teach us to do so, and that sexuality is to be looked at from a binary, heteronormative perspective. It well, and although there were a few women who told me they really disliked the presentation afterward, I was happy that the majority had positive thoughts and really appreciated us opening the conversation for such an important topic.

-I took two tests this week and killed them. I haven’t gotten my scores back yet, but I studied hard and felt confident going into and then leaving the exams. Woo woo!

-I was also busy this week planning for and compiling money for gifts for our directors and nominations for USAC peer awards for our “cena despedida” (goodbye dinner) Thursday evening. We all had a good laugh about the nominations, guessing which belonged to each of us, and enjoyed a lovely dinner together. I had some really great conversations with a few of my friends, particularly those who’ve also been here for both semesters, about how we’re feeling about leaving in just a few days, which we concluded as being “a hot mess” and “very confused” and “all over the place”. It’s comforting to know there are others who are going through the same thing I am right now. Although it was our final closing banquet, it didn’t feel like it; it just felt like we all got together to hang out and have a good time. I am in serious denial half of the time, and the other half, I just cry alot, haha. After the dinner, a few of us went out to a bar and kept the good times a rollin’. I am very much going to miss these people.

-Last night, I went salsa dancing! I went with my dance teacher and the assistants from last semester, and two of my peers who are currently in the class. We had so much fun dancing the night away, and I found I remembered everything well after a few months of not practicing. I’m glad I got to go once again to end my 9 months in Latin America with such a cliché flair. :)

-Today, Gina and I went to a different feria to try and sell my bike, which didn’t happen. Going to try again tomorrow! We made lunch and long story short, I stuck a spoon in a still spinning blender of pureed cauliflower and it went flying all over the kitchen/onto Gina’s face. It was hilarious and we laughed and laughed and laughed. After a great lunch, I met up with friends at the French bakery and café near my house for chai and conversation. This evening, Gina and I will be going to see Anna Karenina in the theatre. I love our dates!

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Last weekend, I experienced my first music festival, and it happened to be the third Lollapalooza in Chile. I had a BLAST jamming to awesome music that I’d previously known and loved, and to new bands that I had just been acquainted with. It was a great mix of US/European bands and Latin and local bands, which proved to be a grade A recipe for just the right amount of AWESOME. I was with two good friends the whole weekend who definitely helped to make it such a memorable experience! Also, THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE THERE, which made it so much more than just about the music, because the music festival atmosphere and being with thousands of people enjoying and dancing to the same groovy music all weekend was an experience like none other.

I saw:
Carla Morrison
Mecánico
Gepe
Dread Mar I
Of Monsters and Men
The Temper Trap
Passion Pit
Queens of the Stone Age
Pearl Jam
Russian Red
Gary Clark Jr.
Keane
Foals
Franz Ferdinand
Kali Mutsa
Los Tres
THE BLACK KEYS

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If you know me personally, you know that I’ve never enjoyed running, nor have I ever been good at it. Middle school and high school PE testing days to run the mile were always days that I dreaded. I had never been able to get into it. Then, two Sundays ago, my friends Lizzy, Andrew, and I decided we were going to run the Ñuñoa 5k race together. Lizzy and Andrew are both runners, Lizzy having completed a half marathon last year, and Andrew who regularly runs long distances for exercise and pleasure. I warned them “I’m not a runner” and told them I’d be going slow, but they promised to stick with me, saying we were a team. Race day came around and we got to the location an hour early. We goofed off for a while, picked up a free hat, and watched people doing hilariously awkward stretches. Finally, when the gun was fired to begin, we started off. Andrew broke the pact right off the bat and ran ahead; his goal was to win one of the top prize money awards, which we understood. Lizzy stuck with me the entire race, and helped to encourage me, telling me when we’d hit big markers like the first mile, a half a mile left, etc. She gave me some pointers on running, and we just kept going. I ran the entire 3 miles, and didn’t walk once. This is a HUGE achievement for me, seeing as I had never before even been able to run one mile without stopping to walk a few times, much less THREE MILES STRAIGHT. I finished the 5k in 35 minutes and was so proud of myself. The group mentality and just being with everyone in solidarity throughout the race is what really pushed me and gave me the adrenaline and energy to finish strong, I think. I was really thankful to my friends for their support and encouragement, and they celebrated right along with me when I crossed the finish line! 

This year has been full of great accomplishments and achievements for me. Here’s to my first 5k race!

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Hello hello! I am now 21 years old, as of this past Friday, and although it isn’t a huge age milestone in Latin America like it is in the States, I certainly celebrated it well. Gina and I put together a small party for some family members and a few of my friends and I to enjoy the evening with good food and conversation. I am grateful for her generosity in offering to throw me a party and wanting to help make my birthday a special one. We prepared a delicious feast of guacamole, a cream cheese and bell pepper cracker spread, my award-winning cookies, homemade sangria, smoothies, and champagne and a yummy berry kuchen to finish it off. It was a lovely evening, and I enjoyed seeing some of the people I care most about down here all together and having a good time.

The next morning, I left for my first solo trip to spend my birthday weekend on the glorious and magical island that is Rapa Nui, or as most of us know it, Easter Island. If you’re having trouble locating where I went, think of the strange polynesian island that has the mysterious and strange large long-faced stone statues that have a million and one stories behind them. The island is quite far from mainland Chile; it was a five hour flight. We landed around 1pm, and then after being greeted by an incredible amount of humidity that fogged my camera lens when I tried to take a photo of the plane, Carolina, the woman from my hotel, found me and gave me a beautiful lei of magenta flowers. After a short tour of the city called Hanga Roa, we headed back to the hotel for me to get situated. I spent the afternoon walking around and acquainting myself with Hanga Roa, which wasn’t difficult at all because it’s so tiny! The island has a population of 6,000, and they all live in Hanga Roa, save a few farming families who are scattered throughout the small land mass of just 63 square miles. I found myself some dinner, walked to Tahai, (a favorite spot to watch the sunset on the island), and then watched Kevin Costner’s film “Rapa Nui” which was very cheesy and apparently not very historically accurate.

Friday (my birthday), I was able to sleep in a bit, and then was picked up for my full-day island tour at 10 by Patricio. I learned that he’s originally from Santiago, but met his wife who is Rapa Nui, and then made the move to the island when they were married. There was a very nice Slovic family on my tour as well, and I enjoyed hearing about their culture. We started out going to a site called Akahanga, which is where Hotu Matu’a, the island’s first king, is buried. I learned that the famous moai statues are more than just awesome stone figures; they were constructed to represent important people in Rapa Nui life and history, and erected facing in toward the island as a way for them to watch over and protect the people. I was also suprised to learn that they are burial plots not just for the honored, but for anyone else in the culture. This is why we can’t approach the platforms and moai, because we would be stomping around grave sites. After, we stopped at Rano Raraku, which is one of the island’s three volcanoes, (all are long inactive), and was used as the stone quarry where all of the moai were carved from the mountain and brought to life. The history of the island is broken into four stages: the arrival of the first Rapa Nui, the period when the “long ears” were in power and the “short ears” their slaves, and the period after the revolt of the short ears and the literal fall of the moai culture, and then the arrival of the white people and the christianization of the island. The quarry was used as a kind of factory for the moai statues, and then when one was needed to honor someone who had died, they would become the spirit of the person, a sacred artifact, and a sort of demigod. Because of this, there were dozens of incomplete moai scattered all over the place, with some fallen, some broken, some halfway carved in the stone, and some mostly buried. The most impressive moai was a whopping 71 feet, and we couldn’t even see a quarter of it because it was underground. We saw the crater of the volcano that is now a beautiful lagoon, and watched some wild horses playing around the water’s edge. The island is covered in wild horses and cows, which is fun to see, but also alarming because they have caused irrepairable damage to the moai and other historical and arqueological sites, which means that with the combination of the horses with rainfall and natural erosion, we move closer to losing the island’s fascinating history faster than ever. All of the moai statues have a very distint facial structure, representing the “long ear’s” culture, which is a modern name given to the group called Hanau epe in Rapanui. There were two cultural and ethnic groups on the island, called the long ears and short ears as we know them. The long ears were in power over the short ears, or the Hanau momoko, who were shorter, stouter, had round faces and flat noses, and darker skin and hair (picture someone of the Samoan ethnicity). The Hanau epe people had lighter skin, were tall, thin, had reddish hair, and flat noses. It’s interesting that racial discrimination has been around and apart of such ancient cultures since 700 CE. The Hanau momoko people were made to be the Hanau epe’s slaves and were responsible for creating the moai, which was grueling work. Work stopped abruptly somewhere in the 16th century when the Hanau momoko revolted and started a war, which explains the unfinished moai all over the quarry and in the middle of transit all over the island. We also went to Ahu Tongariki, which is the famous site of the 15 moai, which was restored by a Japanese construction company in the 1990′s. This is said to be the best place on the island to watch the sunrise. We also saw some cool petroglyphs that marked child sacrifices and depicted the Rapa Nui creator god, Makemake. These moai were the first I saw with the “hats” on them, called pukao, which are made of a beautiful red volcanic stone. Then, we headed to Ahu Te Pito Kura and saw the rock that legends hold was brought to the island by Hotu Mata’u and emits a special energy force and power called “mana”, which is also how the Rapa Nui people explain the moai to have moved. I was able to sit around the rock and place my hands to it, and actually felt the energy, manifested in a warm tingling sensation in my hands. It was awesome! It also has some sort of magnetic energy, which scientists explain as it being a meteorite, that makes compasses go nuts when you place it on top of the rock. Our last stop of the day was to the peaceful white sandy beach called Anakena. Anakena is a popular tourist spot because it is one of the island’s only beaches, but it holds important cultural meaning, as it is where Hotu Mata’u is said to have landed when they first arrived to the island. After returning to the hotel that evening, I met a nice guy from London, and we walked to Tahai to watch the sunset and then had dinner at a local place.

Saturday, I went to the museum in the morning and learned a bit more about the island’s heritage, but from a scientific and anthropological perspective. After lunch, I walked over to see a cave with petroglyphs on the ceiling, and when a man saw me having trouble finding it, he came out to help. After making light conversation and telling him that I was from Arizona, he flipped a lid and was so excited, because a friend of his is from Sedona. He continued to tell me about his work with energy forces and such, which is how he is connected to the Sedona man, which was very interesting to hear about. I eventually made it to the cave to check it out, talked with a nice guy and his sister from Buenos Aires, and then made it back into Hanga Roa just in time for a snorkeling trip. We went off the south coast of the island around the three small islands called Motu Kaukau, Motu Iti, and Moto Nui, which mean skinny tall island, small sized small island, and big sized big island. This location is important because of the Rapa Nui cultural practice that happened in the third stage of the history, when the short ears took over. They created a more democratic governing system, and the Tangata manu, or as we know it, the Bird Man, tradition was created to elect a strong and worthy leader of the island for one year. The young man had to climb down an incredibly steep cliff with an alarmingly impossible inclination from Orongo, jump into the water, swim to Moto Nui, race around the island trying to find the first egg of the manutara bird, secure it on a strap on their forehead, swim back to the main island, climb UP THE SAME CRAZY CLIFF, and then be the first to deliver the egg still intact, to win. Being in the water and looking up at the cliff made it seem even more insane that someone dreamt up that competition, and even MORE insane that people actually did that successfully. My first snorkeling experience was amazing, although it took me a minute to realize that I was not going to drown and could breathe underwater with the apparatus. I saw beautiful grey-blue fish, yellow flat fish, and these awesome long, skinny tube-like iradescent fish. It was the coolest feeling, swimming at the side of these schools of fish, and watching them and feeling myself being carried by the ebb and flow of the wave currents. That evening, after treating myself to a yummy dinner of a veggie fajita and another watermelon juice, I went to see a traditional Rapa Nui cultural dance show. It was so fun to watch all of the dancers, and although they do the show several nights a week, I could tell they really enjoyed what they were doing, which made it all the more fun to be a spectator. Their costumes were beautiful skirts made of grass and fabric, with different headpieces and jewlery to embellish. The music was awesome, too, and the live band and older women singing radiated such a powerful energy. At the end, they were pulling some audience members up to the stage to dance, so I got to try out some of my Rapa Nui dance moves. :)

Sunday, I woke up early to hike up the Rano Kau volcano to see the Orongo site and the crater. I was having trouble finding the sendero (pathway), and to my luck, a young man approached me asking if he could help, and offered to do the hike with me. His name was Jesús, born in Viña del Mar in continental Chile, but had moved to the island eight years ago with his aunt. We chitchatted our way up the volcano, talking about music and Chilean versus Rapa Nui culture, and our families. When we got to the top, I saw the beautiful crater-lagoon, and then we walked over to the Orongo national park entrance. There, I saw lots of small, low-to-the-ground houses made of flat slate-like stones with tiny entrances. This was used to maintain comfortable temperatures and keep the elements outside of the shelters. Unfortunately, many of them were in bad shape, because of christian explorers, or rather pirates, going into the homes and stealing the slates that had carvings and paintings on them. I learned a great deal about how distructive the anglosaxon human has been to the Rapa Nui culture and heritage, whether it be from stealing artifacts (stones and actual moai) from the island, or the initial introduction of the Christian religion and western traditions to the culture, which lead to the destruction of the then remaining standing moai as a way for the newly baptized to prove their loyalty to Christianity, and has loosened the islanders’ grip on their roots and culture. Then, it was time for me to say “see you soon” to the island, and I hopped on my flight back to the continent.

Rapa Nui means “big island”, and is also known as the Navel of the World, because it is seen as the world’s most geographically and culturally isolated places. It is Chilean by law, or “by accident” as the Rapa Nui people like to say, but the island’s culture has absolutely nothing to do with Chilean life. Chile annexed the territory in 1888, and take really good of the people economically, as a sort of compensation for historical exploitation of the people and the land when they used it as a massive sheep farm that confined the people to the city of Hanga Roa. The Rapa Nui people have been Chilean citizens since 1966, and are currently fighting for better representation and more sovereignty and power over their own affairs. They don’t feel Chilean, they don’t really want to be Chilean, and they are very proud of their islander identity. This, of course, doesn’t mesh too well with the popular Chilean perspective, which is also a proud one which feels the islanders are taking advantage of the government’s help. It was very interesting to learn about their current political issues from their perspective, having heard about the situation up until then from the other viewpoint.

Taking my very first solo trip was a new experience for me as well, and I felt very “adult”. I learned that I can have a great time by myself, meeting others along the way, and that being “alone” has more to do with independence than loneliness. I appreciated the opportunity to experience it all at my own pace, taking in everything from my own, raw perspective. I did a great deal of thinking, marveling in the sights, and appreciating this incredible gift of life. Experiencing a little bit of this beautiful island culture has also shown me that altough I love being busy and committed to many different causes and organizations, I highly value the slower life. It was a great breath of fresh air (literally, the smog in Santiago is horrible) and a good opportunity for me to center myself before I run full speed back into the crazy pace of life at home in the States in just a few weeks. I now have a new “happy place” to think of when I need to reconnect with myself when stress and the tedious aspects of life start to swallow me, helping to remind me of the things that truly matter in life: seeing the world from a humble, bigger perspective, the people I care about, putting myself in less-comfortable positions as opportunity for growth and change, like traveling alone,  and living to better my community and the world. I had a memorable twenty-first birthday weekend, and am very appreciative of the opportunity to travel to experience a little taste of such a beautiful land and culture, and I can’t wait to return some day!

AND thank you for all of the kind birthday wishes!

Hello hello and happy spring to you! We’ve just celebrated our first day of fall here, so I will be having my birthday in autumn for the first time in my life. We recently had our fall break (aka vacation from vacation) and spent 10 days in the magical land that is southern Chile. Seriously though, it’s where dreams come true. I took FAR too many photos and saw rainbows and unicorns (more on that later). I’m telling you, it’s magical.

We left Friday, March 8th for the airport pretty early in the morning, and landed on the island of Chiloé in the early afternoon. It’s a brand spankin’ new airport, albeit small, so we were the first USAC group to travel directly to the island, rather than landing on continental Chile, and then taking a bus and a ferry over. We immediately went to the Parque Nacional de Chiloé, where everything is green and beautiful. It was a bit rainy that day, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We did some light hiking around through the forest and then to the beach to see the ocean. I spent the entire trip incredibly disoriented, because there were 456,383,989 lakes, and at that part of the country, you’re either in the Andes or on the coastline, because it’s so narrow, so I could never figure out if the water I was looking at was sea or lake. Not that I have a good sense of direction regardless…

The rest of the day was spent exploring and going to lots of artesan craft shops, because sheep wool is in abundance there. We stayed at a hotel called “Hotel Unicornio Azul”, or “Blue Unicorn Hotel” that looked like Barbie’s dream house. I told you I encountered unicorns on this trip, and they were ALL over the hotel in photos, miniature models and sculptures, and lots of porceilain figurines. I stayed in the most adorable room with two good friends, Julie and Brittany, up on another floor through this strange hallway that reminded me of The Shining. The weird thing was, this part of the hotel didn’t have unicorns, but rather abstract oil paintings of chicken carcasses on the walls. Redrum.

The next day we left the city of Castro for another called Dalcahue to do more exploring, craft shopping, and then popped over to the city of Ancud. We spent the afternoon on a little boat to see a penguin reserve. Our guide told us that unfortunately, some had already headed north for the winter, so we probably wouldn’t see so many. So many, my foot! The rocky islands were covered with the fuzzy lil creatures. We even saw some sea otters, and of course everyone, male students alike, were going nuts over seeing all of these adorable sea animals. That night, a large group of us went out to a karaoke bar for some fun. We had the greatest time, singing to classic 80′s and 90′s hits that we hardly needed the aid of the screen. So much wonderful goofy fun!

Sunday was spent visiting several museums, including San Antonio’s Fort, which was the last Spanish fort during the war for independence, the Mythological Museum, which had an entire whale skeleton and told the story of Chiloé’s history, both pre and post colonial, and lastly, the Churches’ Museum, which showed us the island’s Catholic roots and how the churches were built. We  headed for mainland Chile via ferry, which was a beautiful 45 minute ride. We had a bit of free time for lunch and to explore Puerto Montt, and then headed to Puerto Varas, our last city stop of the trip.

Monday was the greatest day of the trip. We left the hotel early in the morning for the day’s adventures. We drove for about 2 hours out of the city to get to the national parks, and it was one of the most incredible drives I’ve experienced. There is a beautiful volcano called Osorno that is absolutely massive, and I was so overwhelmed by the sight of it all. What’s more, our wonderful driver played the most beautiful album of a very talented Mapuche woman musician, and it was simply perfect. We eventually made it to Los Saltos de Petrohué, which were incredible waterfalls and rapids. We did a little bit of hiking, and I met and conversed with a very nice British couple for a while, sharing some travel stories. Then, we drove about 30 more minutes to get to the port on Lago de Todos los Santos (All Saint’s Lake), where we took a huge catamaran across the beautiful emerald green lake, that is like that due to its PH levels. I spent the 2 hour cruise through the lake outside, staring at the scenery that is far too beautiful for words. I can’t hardly explain it, and my photos don’t even do it justice, so you simply must go there yourself! When we made it to Parque Peulla which is where fairies are born and magic happens. Unfortunately, my second battery was running on empty after taking so many photos at the Saltos and on the boat, so I had to conserve it and didn’t take too many photos. We ate lunch next to a waterfall called La Cascada de los Deseos (Waterfall of Desires), which our tour guide told us would give us a wish if we drank from it. It was the most delicious, freshest, most incredible water of my life and I stayed drinking from it for quite a while. After we’d all done so, he told us the folklore of it, that says if you drink once, your wish will come true, but if you drink 2-5 times, your wish will come true but you’ll either become single or married, and if you are especially greedy and fill buckets or bottles (like me, woops), your wish will come true, but you’ll have a sex change. Haha! Strange Chilean folklore. Then, we went on a quick but very steep hike up to the top of a waterfall, hiked back down and hung around the bottom for a while, enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery. Also, this place was COVERED in wild blackberries. I went absolutely nuts and spent my free time there being bear Brielle and picking bushes. It was wonderful! We headed back on the catamaran, drove back to town, and then a group of us hung out in the hotel that evening eating kuchen, which is a traditional German dessert, shared a bottle of wine, and swapped funny embarrassing stories. Southern Chile has a huge German population and is very influed by the German culture, after there was a large migration wave following WW2.

Tuesday morning, we went ziplining, and it was a blast! I had a great time playing Tarzan, flying through the treetops. We had a bit of free time afterward for lunch before we loaded up on the bus to return to the airport, so my friend Cedar and I found the cutest café and enjoyed a delicious quiche and salad lunch. We landed back in Santiago around 8pm, and my friend Samantha and I said goodbye to our friends, as we had planned to stay at the airport before our flight for the second half of our holiday. We camped out at the airport for a good 6 hours and got some weird looks from everyone seeing us sitting on the floor and eating snacks in the lobby, because apparently you can only check your bags up to 4 hours before your flight. After a 4 hour flight to Punta Arenas, we grabbed a cab to our hostel, ate breakfast, and then took a nap to recharge our batteries.

We spent Wednesday walking around Punta Arenas and getting to know the city. The Braun family, emigrated from Russia, is one of the first founding families of Punta Arenas, and they were incredibly wealthy from their sheep herding endeavors. The daughter, Sarah Braun, married, though her husband died young, and she was left with the estate, along with her brother, Mauricio. She never had any children, and built an amazing mansion for herself in the middle of the city. We visited the mansion-turned-museum and marveled at all of her gorgeous things. I think it is incredible that a woman in that time (late 1800′s) was such an entrepreneur when women were not normally allowed in positions of power of any kind. We also went to Mauricio’s mansion-mueseum, though her’s was more impressive. We walked along the warf, poked around lots of local artesan shops, where in one we met an incredibly kind woman who spoke with us for a good half hour about places that we should see in the region, and we walked up to the lookout on the hill to see the city at dusk.

Thursday morning, we walked just a few blocks from our hostel to see the city’s cementary, which was immense and gorgeous. It was interesting to see the Latin American style of mausoleums that were stacked some 6 or 7 rows high, where families purchase space for all members to be laid to rest together, and then the European style of flat graves underground. There were beautiful flowers and tall shrubs, and it everything was painted white. I felt a bit strange taking photos there, so I didn’t take my camera out more than twice. That afternoon, Samantha and I went with a guide and a German couple to go sea kayaking in el Estrecho de Magallanes (the Magellan Strait). We encountered some heavy winds, which made paddling a bit difficult, but we had a good time nonetheless. We also got great views of a beautiful peak that can only be seen some 20 days a year, because it is normally covered in clouds. Afterward, we walked around downtown a bit more and had a lovely crepe dinner at a cute diner.

Friday morning we headed out for Puerto Natales, a 3 hour bus ride away. We had planned to stay with a family through an organization called Couch Surfing, in which people post their trip itineraries, and people from all over the world welcome them into their homes for free, as an opportunity to share stories and learn about someone else’s culture. We stayed with Gloria and Oscar and their two children Alyson (13), and Enzo (14). They were Couch Surfing fanatics and had 5 bunkbeds just for travelers. Our first night it was just Samantha and I and the family at dinner, so it was nice to get to know them a bit over a meal we had prepared together. During the day, we walked around the city, walked along the water’s edge, and found the cutest bakery in the world. The young woman was from Argentina and had a beautiful accent. She was very kind and told us about how she and her husband had dreams of traveling to the US and roadtripping on Route 66.

Saturday, we spent all day driving through Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, which is the face of Patagonia. It is an incredible land with gorgeous views, and luckily we visited on a day with perfect weather. When it is rainy and cloudy, you can’t actually see the Torres (massive natural stone towers), so we were thankful we were able to see everything there was to see. Unfortunately, when we booked the tour, we thought we were paying for a driver and a guide, which one would assume is what you get with a full day tour, and we found ourselves with 6 other passengers and a driver who didn’t have any facts or stories or knowlege about the park. So, we had a full 12 hour day of driving through and walking around a gorgeous national park, taking amazing photos, but never having known anything more than the name of the spot we were at. I was bummed about this, but it just motivates me to return someday soon, and to do the famous W 4 day hike through the park. We also visited Lago Grey (Grey Lake), where the water really does look grey, and there are tons of beautiful glaciers. I had been sitting on the beach for a good 10 minutes, just enjoying the view, when I heard a crazy loud thunderous noise, and it took me a minute to realize it was a glacier cracking that was making the rumble! A chunk slid off from a larger piece and then flipped over, revealing it’s crystal blue underside. It was an incredible sight! On our way out of the park, we stopped at another national park called Cueva del Milodon (Milodon’s Cave), which was discovered in the early 1895 by a German explorer. There, he found the skeletal remains of the milodon, which was a prehistoric animal, larger than a bear, but with a similar body structure, but with a long face, much like a sloth. That evening, when we arrived at the house, it was much fuller and noiser than the previous; seven new travelers had arrived after having just finished the 4 day trek through the park. They were Canadian and French, and we had a great evening swapping traveling stories, and getting to know each other over a delicious feast.

Sunday afternoon we headed back to Punta Arenas and went back to the same hostal. We were hanging out in the living room, and two women came in asking if we spoke English first, and then if we could help them with the wifi connection. We learned their names were Jessica and Courtney, and they were both pilots from Colorado. We chatted for a good hour or so, while they were waiting for their dinner reservation, and then they left, and we went into the kitchen to make some pasta for supper. They came back a few minutes after I had just started to boil the water, and told us they wanted to take us out to dinner. We were so suprised! They told us they remember what it was like being in college and trying to save money, and they wanted to treat us to a nice meal. This dinner was a highlight of the trip for me; I couldn’t believe their generosity, and we went to a great French restaurant in town and had a fun evening. We got a few hours of sleep and then took a cab out to the airport Monday morning for our 6am flight. We didn’t have too much time to recenter and prepare ourselves for school, because we had class at 3pm that afternoon, but it all worked out. It was a great trip, and I really liked the south, though I wish I would have had more time to explore and get to know the cities better. But who doesn’t always wish vacations were longer? :)

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Hello and happy March! I hope the month is off to a great start for you. This is going to be quite the month for me, and I still can’t believe it’s here already. Here’s an update from what I’ve been up to since I last wrote here.

Week 5: Coast field trip

I started part 2 of my internship, which is working with the children at Hospital Calvo Mackenna who are seeking treatment in the psychiatric wing. My job is to plan, organize, and execute workshops for them. So basically, I get to have fun craft time with them each week. This week we made clay sculptures and painted, and talked about art and the ways they like to express themselves creatively. It went really well and got me stoked for more visits! The children are great, and I really enjoyed talking and hanging out with them. They are all so sweet, and it was interesting to get a small peak into the world from their eyes; these are children with challenged pasts and rough stories to tell. Although they have experienced a childhood very different than mine, we connected really well.

The other highlight of the week was our USAC group field trip to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar on Friday. We took the same trip last semester, and although I was the only one of us yearlong students that went, I had an awesome time and really enjoyed spending time with and getting to know my peers better. We took a boat tour off of the Valpo harbor, went to a new art museum, had lunch, hiked up Cerro Alegre, and did some exploring. It was a great trip and I was glad to have gone.

Week 6: Siete Tazas

My second workshop at the hospital wasn’t as successful as the first, but it still went well. We built sculptures and miniature skyscrapers out of fruit I had cut into cubes. There was a nurse sitting at the table with us, so the kids weren’t feeling as at ease as the previous week and it was hard to get them to talk and feel comfortable.

I’ve never been nuts about celebrating Valentine’s Day in the States. I normally tell people “Happy birthday, Arizona!” rather than wishing them a happy Valentine’s. This year made for a memorable 101 Arizonan birthday because I went to Parque Nacional Siete Tazas with a small group of friends for some hiking, camping, swimming, and good times. When we got there on Thursday evening after 6 hours of travel (3 from Stgo to Molina, 1 hour wait, 2 hours to the park) we set up camp and enjoyed a yummy dinner, toasting to the holiday with some boxed wine and chocolate for dessert and the largest collection of the brightest stars I think I’ve ever seen. Friday was spent hiking and exploring, and we sat on a large rock on the side of the road, waiting for our sixth member of the group to join us. We had no idea how we were were going to find her, because although I’d given her all the instructions that I could to get her there based off of the research I’d done, we found some of the information different than what we experienced in getting ourselves there. And we were out of cellphone service, so we could only keep our fingers crossed she’d make it there. We were sitting on the rock, jokingly yelling and calling out for Hannah, each time a car passed, and low and behold, when a bus passed, and we yelled Hannah, we spotted her on the bus! We couldn’t believe our luck and ran to meet up with her. The rest of the day was spent swimming in the amazingly blue and clear (and freezing) water. We goofed around, prepared dinner, and relaxed under the stars. It was an incredible day! Saturday, we hiked out to the actual national park entrance to go see the “Siete Tazas” or 7 waterfalls. It was gorgeous, but then we saw a storm was coming in, so we headed back to camp to prepare for the rain. The rain got us, and it got us good. It downpoured, and we were caught quite unprepared. David’s tent had broken, so we were left with a one person tent and the two person tent that I’d brought for 6 people. We ran around trying to get our packs hung up and covered under the trees, putting the rain flies on the tents and whatnot, but it didn’t much help. We got soaked, and our tents got a little wet inside despite our efforts. Most everyone’s packs got wet, (luckily not mine!) soaking their once dry clothes, and even Hannah’s sleeping bag. It was still raining around dinner time, so we chopped veggies and did our best to fight against the rain to cook our rice and veggie dinner. I was laughing and having a great time despite the seemingly unfortunate situation, joking with the others and making them laugh a little to forget about how uncomfortable we were. The last time I was in a similar position, it was 98273948234 times more difficult on the Inka Trail in Peru. So thanks to that experience, I was able to look at this one with a much brighter attitude, and even enjoy myself. After dinner, we all stripped down out of our wet clothes (not completely, haha) and loaded up into the two tents to warm up and call it a night. If you’ve ever been inside a two person tent, you know very well they are not built for four people. WE DEFIED THE SCIENCE OF SPACE. Let me tell you, it wasn’t the most comfortable night of my life, but it was by far one of the most hilarious, most memorable of them all. We were able to lay our heads down, but had our legs bent up, and we were packed in there like sardines. We did a lot of laughing, telling each other embarrassing stories and playing the “would you rather” game. I might have suffered from CO2 poisoning and killed a few brain cells, because I was so uncontrollably giggly. In the morning, we thought the tent had collapsed, because I woke up with it laying on my face. Then, we realized we had moved around sometime in the night and flipped the tent onto it’s side. We wiggled and hopped around in our sleeping bags to resurrect Old Faithful. I was suprised to see it had taken such a beating and survived and is still usable. Cheers to that tent. We packed up camp and headed back to Molina and then Santiago, wrapping up one of the best weekends I’ve had in Chile.

Week 7:

This week, I spent quite a bit of time working on applications for scholarships and activities. I’ve already heard back from one of the organizations, and I’m going to be returning to The Edge program at NAU this fall for the second time as an “Edgitator”, as we call them. Finding out that great news made me jazzed to get back to the States and Flagstaff for my senior year. But not too soon. :)

This week for the workshop at the hospital, I had us creating multi-media collages. I brought craft feathers, tree leaves, and magazine photos. We had a good time and I was glad to have a better and more comfortable conversation with the kids than the previous week. Saturday, I traveled with some friends an hour outside of Santiago to a town called Los Andes, where my friends Oscar, Benja, and Daniel grew up. Daniel invited a group of us to his house for an asado (barbeque) and to go swimming. Their house is gorgeous, with a huge backyard decked out with a nice pool, a cool gazebo and grill, and lots of fruit trees. We had an awesome afternoon, swimming and eating, and listening to music. One of the things I miss most about being home is the ability to hang out and have friends over without feeling like we’re  imposing on their home and inconveniencing them.  It was really great to just be with friends, without an agenda, and without feeling like we needed to leave quickly.

Week 8:

Tuesday after class, I went over to my friend Jean-Claire’s house and she, Hannah, and I ate gourmet popcorn and vegetarian sushi and watched a documentary about child magicians, especially enjoying seeing all of the “wizard hair”. Sounds odd enough, but it was AWESOME. We wanted to go to the international magic competition after the film (that was supposed to serve as our magic warm-up), but the tickets were pricier than we thought and more than we wanted to pay. Nonetheless, it was a very successful evening.

Wednesdays was a big day! The workshop was the best yet. There were three boys there, and they were all so sweet and fun and excited to participate. We handpainted and made murals. I painted a park scene, with a palm tree with coconuts and a bench and a sun, and when I looked over to see their work, I discovered that they had copied everything I had painted. It was so sweet! Next week is supposed to be the fifth and final workshop of my internship there, but I am enjoying it so much, I want to ask Jorge if I can continue working there. After, I had lunch with some friends at the local vegetarian Hare Krishna restaurant, and then we went on a class field trip about 45 minutes out of the city to el Museo Andino, which had a huge collection of precolonial art as well as artifacts from early Chilean history. It was gorgeous, and the museum is surrounded by vineyards, which made for a beautiful setting for the Golden Hour. After, I went with some friends to my fellow NAU’er Lizzie’s birthday party. We had a great time, and I enjoyed meeting her family. Chileans are so warm and welcoming, always offering food and drink and telling me to return whenever I wish. After the party, I went with Gina to see “Lincoln”, which I thought was very good.

Yesterday, I had volunteering at El Hogar and had a fabulous time. I’d brought Sam with me as a sub volunteer, and she and Matt and I were very entertained by Connie the firecracker who is always telling us to “Ven!” (come!). I was so excited to finally see my little Sarita, too. She was one that I spent a great deal of time with last semester, and has been around, but either at home or in treatment whenever I came this semester. Although she had lost her hair from her chemo, she was strong and energetic and beautiful. After volunteering, I went out with some friends to have a picnic at a park while we watched some local short documentaries. We had quite the set up and put everyone else’s storebought empanadas to shame. My friend Andrew and I had quite the journey home on the metro, laughing all the way and being silly. It was a lovely evening!

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I’m on a role with these blog updates.

I began my spring semester in the Chilean summer on January 8th. We’ve just wrapped up week 5 of classes (WHUT), and it’s already flying by! I’m really enjoying all of my classes this semester, though some more than others. I’m taking a Latin American cinema class, a Women in Latin America class, a Latin American cultures class (basically anthropology), and a Modern Latin American class. All of my classes meet only once a week, which means they’re all 3 hour long sessions, and they’re all in the afternoon, which means Brielle is a sleepy student. I’m trying to get into a better groove to make my mornings more productive, since by the time I get home, I just want to eat dinner, shower, and sleep.

Imma break it down for you now by week:

Week 1:

I started classes, met the newbies, and tried to refocus myself from an awesome holiday back into work mode. Still working on that one. We kicked off the weekend early and, I went to a jazz festival in the park with my new and old friends on Thursday night. We listened in from the other side of the river for free. Then, a few of us went out for terremotos and dancing afterward. It was a very fun way to kick off the semester! I spent the day on Friday by the pool at Gina’s neice’s house with Gina and a few family members. Saturday evening, I went to my friend Hannah’s for dinner and drinks before the Gepe concert. We had A BLAST and goofy-danced all up in that business. Sunday was spent organizing my folders for class, and skyping with friends from home.

Week 2:

Classes were starting to pick up, although I still felt like I was on vacation. Oh, I bought a bike! I spent just over $100 USD on the bike, helmet, chain, and a tune up, and my hope is to save money riding to and from school as much as possible. Basically I need to ride it about 100 times instead of public transportation, for it to pay itself off. I originally thought it was going to save me time, too, but it takes me almost exactly the same amount of time as it did on the metro/bus. The good thing is now I’m getting in LOTS of exercise each day. Each way, I ride 7.5 miles, which puts me at an average of 17 miles each day (not including Wednesdays when I go a bit further for my internship). I spent a few days that week picking out a good helmet and a chain and lock. Thursday, my good friend Elena from my program last semester, came back into Santiago for a few days before her flight back to Nevada. She stayed in the south with her Chilean boyfriend, Matias, and his family during the holiday. I went to his apartment and the three of us spent a few hours by the pool, catching up and soaking up the sun. I was sad to see her leave, but hey, we live on the same side of the US! That Saturday, I went to an “asado” (barbeque) at Cerro San Cristobal put on by one of the USAC students and her host sister. There were lots of gringos and Chileans, so it was great to meet some new friends and get better acquainted with my new peers. My good Chilean friend from last semester, Oscar, came too, and that was the first I’d seen him since early December. That night, I went to see a play about a group of young people revolting and conspiring against the government during the dictatorship called “Escuela” with Amaya and Jean-Claire.

Week 3:

I began riding my bike on Monday, and discovered the necessity of bringing an extra shirt and towel with me every time I ride because it’s ridiculously hot here in the summer. That night, I went over to Jean-Claire’s for a yummy vegan dinner with some other students after our cinema class. Tuesday was the second dance class of the semester. I’m taking it again for extra practice and so I don’t forget everything from last semester, though it’s slightly less exciting this time around. It’s a good way for me to get to know the new students, though. Wednesday after class, I met up with Oscar and some other Chilean friends and brought two of the other NAU girls along with. We went to La Piojera, which is a grungy bar in the center where you can never get a table because it’s always so crowded during all hours of the day, and I love it. They’re famous for their terremotos (wine, pineapple sherbet). That Thursday, I started my internship. It’s going to be a two-part project, one being a volunteer coordinator for all of the USAC students who want to volunteer at the Hogar (the same place I worked with the children with cancer last semester), and the other being that I’ll lead workshops to children ages 8-14 who are getting treatment for mental disorders in the psychiatric wing of a local hospital. I took the newbies to the Hogar to check it out and show them the ropes. Right away, the fell in love with the little ones, just like I did. I’m really excited to be taking on a leadership role with the Hogar, and also to be starting the new one! Friday, USAC took a day trip to two small towns. First we went to Pomaire, which is about 2 hours southeast of Santiago. Pomaire is known for their ceramic clay work, especially their little clay piggy banks. They took us to one man’s workshop, and they showed us around. They even let a few of us try out the wheel! I was so excited for the opportunity to throw again; it’s been MONTHS. It certainly wasn’t anything special, but it felt so good to work with clay again! We had time to shop and have lunch, and then we headed 30 minutes to the coast to a town called Isla Negra, named after Pablo Neruda’s most famous home of the three. We hung out at the beach for about an hour, and then got to tour his home. He was buried there with his third wife, so that was cool to see. (Now I’ve been to all three; check that off the bucket list!) That night, I went to my friend Daniel’s apartment to hang out. Any gathering that ends in a sporadic dance party equals a good time in my book. Saturday, I went to see a tango dance/music presentation in Ñuñoa with Gina. The mayor was there, and he’s a tango fanatic, so he got up on stage and sang a duet! Sunday, I went to see “The Impossible” about the 2004 tsunami with my friend Samantha. I enjoyed the tear-fest, yes.

Week 4:

Monday evening I went to see a play called “Convergüenza” in Ñuñoa with Gina. Wednesday was my big day: I left the house early to take a tour of the hospital for part 2 of my internship. It’s terribly sad that these young chilren and teens are admitted for things like depression, anorexia, attempted suicide, and drug abuse, amongst others, but I am looking forward to spending time with them, getting to know them, and seeing what life lessons they might teach me. Afterward, I went to the city’s department of toursim for some information for my trips planned for the rest of the semester. Then, I headed over to El Museo de Carabineros (Police museum) to do some research for my project for my women’s studies class on women in the Chilean police force. I met a woman who was apart of the very first woman’s brigade in 1962, so that was cool! I took myself out to a lovely lunch at a vegetarian restaraunt nearby, and then headed over to La Moneda to see a film with my class. We watched “No”, which is nominated for an Academy Award, and is about the plebiscite vote to end the dictatorship in 1989. Then, I biked home, had dinner with Gina and a professor from last semester, Marcela, who is our neighbor and a good friend of Gina’s, and then we went to see the world’s worst play to have ever existed, called “Gorda”. It was full of horribly mean fat jokes, and the entire thing was about a guy being ashamed to be seen in public with his “fat” girlfriend who was the only character in the play with integrity and any good qualities. And in the end, she was made to look pathetic and alone, as it ended with him leaving her because he had to be true to his heart that he could never change and not be a shallow asshole, and the curtains closed with dark lighting, sad music, and her crying all alone. The most disgusting part was that people laughed at the jokes. And the cruel irony of earlier that day, just having met a 13 year old girl who is getting treatment for her anorexia at the hospital just but the cherry on the cake. At least the rest of the day was good. Thursday, I went out salsa dancing with some friends, and we had a good time. Friday, I had my first shift at el Hogar since last semester. I walked in and saw a cute little girl with dark, short hair sitting on the couch. I had to do a double take, but it was Lore, the little girl I got close with last semester! She was back in town for a check up, but she had a full head of hair, and looked so healthy. My heart sang to see her so happy and strong and on her way back to a normal life. Saturday, I went to Jean-Claire’s for a barbeque and had a lovely evening! Summer nights in Santiago, don’t you ever end.

Week 5:

This has been a productive and focused week for me. I’ve been getting lots of school work done, working on my 100 Club Scholarship application, and trying to gear myself toward school a little more. Wednesday, I had my first session with the kids at the hospital. I held a workshop on painting and handbuilding with clay, though it was more of a hang-out-and-lets-do-crafts time, rather than me “teaching” them how to do it. It was great meeting them and starting to get to know them. Gillian, the sweet and softspoken girl I met the first time I went to tour the place who has anorexia was still there. She hand built a snowman out of clay. I felt like it went really well; I got all 4 of them to particpate, and everyone was smiling and laughing and having a good time. After the session, I went to a library/café to eat lunch and get some work done. Hurrah for being productive!

we head out for another USAC field trip to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, like last semester. I think I’m the only returning student going on the fild trip, but I appreciate every opportunity to spend time with and get to know the new students better! Photos to follow!

The majority of this post’s photos are from the Pomaire/Isla Negra trip. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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So, keeping on the theme of Brielle’s procrastination, I’m just now writing about when my family and Alex came for a visit December 25-January 8. Let’s blame it on me being so busying immersed in the culture and embracing my experience here in Santiago I haven’t had time to update this blog. Yeah, that’s it. ;)

So, my family arrived early Christmas morning, and I couldn’t have asked for a better present than their presence! I picked them up from the bus terminal and boy were they happy to see their personal translator had finally arrived! They made it through customs and through the airport just fine, though to this day my Mom still gripes about how customs took her bag of dried fruit and nuts. She basically told the guy to enjoy eating the nuts, and we told her that they just throw them away and that just made her more mad, haha. We spent the day taking family naps (twice), searching for open places to eat in the area, and checked out Cerro Santa Lucia (a city park built on a hill). We spent the next three days doing lots of sightseeing, some museums, lots of eating, and LOTS of sleeping. For me, it didn’t really matter so much what we were doing; I was just excited to be with them. (They might feel differently after spending $1,400 per person on flights, haha).

Finally, Alex arrived! I picked him up from the airport, because he was all alone. What a lovely reunion that was! It felt like no time had passed at all, and things felt natural and easy, just as they always have. Three cheers for your partner coming to visit!

That same night, Gina had us over for dinner, and she spared no expense. Felipe, her son, was over too, so he could meet the family. We started in the dining room with small sweets and Chilean and Venezuelan “tragos” (alcoholic beverages), which Spencer was happy that Mom and Dad let him try them. Then, we sat outside in the patio and had delicious empanadas, and then Gina’s famous zucchini and eggplant lasagna, and then a yummy egg souflé made by Felipe (who went to culinary school), and then fruit and dessert. We all basically rolled ourselves home on our fat bellies. Felipe speaks English well, and Gina tries really hard. It’s weird to hear them speak English, but very endearing. Gina loved my family and Alex and they loved them! Spencer raved for days after about how awesome Gina’s lasagna was AND it was vegetarian. ;)

We spent the next few days doing a walking tour of the city, going to el Museo de Memoria (museum on Chilean military coup), going to La Vega (HUGE and cheap veggie/fruit market), going to La Moneda (main government building), La Chascona (Pablo Neruda’s Santiago home), and lots of relaxing in the apartment. We stayed in the bohemian part of Santiago, called “Lastarria”, which is chalked full of awesome cafés, cute restaurants, art museums, and yummy ice cream parlors. On New Year’s Eve, we had the weirdest lunch ever at this underground (literally) Chinese restaraunt. It was the kind of place from a horror movie, and we were certain we weren’t going to make it out alive. There was dark green carpet on the floors and walls, and it was decked out in gaudy gold and red dragons and chandeliers and such. We got there right when it opened at noon and noone was there yet, (Chileans eat lunch around 2 or 3), so that just added to the creepy vibes. Our private dining room was even decked out with Chinese kareoke playing on the tv. The food was great, and we ended up surviving the experience, which is always good. That night, Alex and I made pizza for everyone for dinner, and we relaxed in the apartment until just before midnight. Then, we took our glasses up to the room and watched the 3 separate firework shows from the best view in the city to ring in the new year. Such a fun memory!

Later that week, we went two hours west to the coast for a beach day at Viña del Mar. We spent the day lazing on the sand and working on our burns. Well, my Mom nor I got burnt, but everyone else did. We had dinner, and headed back to the city.

A day later, we packed our bags and hopped on an overnight bus 10 hours south to Pucon, Chile. Pucon is the most enchantingly adorable town in the world and I fell in love! The whole town was blooming with my favorite flowers, hydrangeas, and Alex and I went nuts with our DSLR’s, having a few photo “competitions”. We walked around the downtown, walked along the edge of the lake, and ate yummy food. The next day, we set out on our adventure to hike the active volcano, Villarrica. This was, by far, my favorite memory of their visit. It was hard work ascending, but the descent made it SO worth it. We climbed to it’s 9,341 peak in about 4.5 hours and DIED in the view of the land. It was incredible, although we could only stay at the top for about 20 minutes, because the fumes from the volcano were so toxic. It was making my throat and nose burn, so we were eager to start the descent. The company we traveled with outfitted us with some intense gear, which came in handy on our way down. We slid on our bums all the way down the volcano, and what took us almost 5 hours to ascend, took us about an hour to descend. I can’t hardly explain how fun it was, and what beautiful, silly, giddy, adventurous, joyful fun it was! For the majority of it, we slid straight on our bums on the snow in these carved out slides, (I felt like I was in Cool Runnings,) but for parts of it, we sat on a little plastic shovel-like sleds so we’d go faster. A few times, one of us would slow down, and the next would plow into their back and give them a push down the hill. Alex was behind me, and once, he started going so fast he actually did a front flip. I wish I would’ve seen that! Another time we were going so fast the two of us flew out of the designated groove and we jumped lanes to the next one. Both my parents and Spencer said they had an awesome time, and I loved sharing such a fun adventure with some of my favorite people! After climbing Villarrica, we headed back into town, changed, and headed out for the thermal pools just outside of town. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay too long, because we had to catch the last bus back into town, but we had a great time, nonetheless! Then, we had dinner at a pizza place, grabbed our belongings from the hostel, and hopped on another overnight bus back to Santiago.

Another of my favorite parts of the visit was getting to go on three dimensional dates with Alex for the first time in 4 months. For one, we went to see The Hobbit, and then went out for dinner and sangria. Another, we went out for dinner and drinks. We definitely got in some good time together that will hold us over until I see him again on May 4th!Unfortunately, the trip had to come to an end, and I took Alex to the airport Monday evening. The airline almost didn’t let him on the flight, because the traffic in the city had made our bus so late, (we’d left with plenty of time to get there,) but after panickingly pleading “por favor, por favor” for like 5 minutes, they finally agreed to let him on. Thank goodness! (Though I wouldn’t have been too crushed if he were stuck in Chile.) We said our “see you soon’s” and I took a bus back home. That wasn’t a teary-eyed ride at all.

My last day with my family was also my first day of class, so after lunch, I left them to fend for themselves for a few hours to go shopping and last minute sight-seeing. We went out for our last yummy dinner in Lastarria, packed everything up, and hopped on a bus to the airport. Saying “see you soon” this time was much more difficult for me than when I left Phoenix.

Thank you a million times over for coming to visit, Mom, Dad, Spencer, and Alex. It means the world to me to have been able to share a little bit of my new world with you for two weeks, and for you to leave your marks here for me to remember. I love and miss you, always!

The only thing that would’ve made this adventure better, would’ve been if Corey Giesemann could’ve joined. I love and miss you, Hermano Oso! Proud of you and excited for your upcoming new adventure. :)

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So this post is QUITE overdue, seeing as it’s now February and I left for this trip exactly 2 months ago…yikes. Better late than never though, right? Alright, December 7th-December 21st Peruvian and Bolivian blog post recap: GO.

*Disclaimer: my English writing and speaking skills have noticeably deterriorated, so if you catch stupid grammar/spelling mistakes that I wouldn’t have been caught dead committing before I came, ¡perdóname!

We left early morning on Friday, December 7th. Our flight was so early that Wayne’s Chilena girlfriend’s family said we could all stay the night there, and that her dad would bring us to the airport at 5am. It definitely pays to have connections. We flew from Santiago to Lima, Peru, and had a connection to Cusco. When we landed, we met Eyner, the young man who I’d organized to come pick us up, and became friends right away. He’s studying economics at a local university and proved to be the best relationship we’d make during our trip. We checked into our hostel and relaxed for a bit. Cusqueños are incredibly hospitable and very welcoming. A woman who works at the hostel chatted with us for a bit and taught us a few words in Quechua (that we forgot pretty quickly). That night, Fidel, Wayne, and I went out looking for dinner and passed by a place that looked SUPER fancy and expensive, until we saw the menu posted outside. We were shocked to see that a plate of pasta that was incredibly delicious, fantastic service, and a beautiful restaraunt costed us only 22 soles each, which is about $8 USD. Throughout our trip, we got a bit of a rude awakening realizing that not all of Latin America has such “solid” (this is debatable) economies as Chile. Although Chile has an incredibly high poverty rate, we’re definitely spoiled living in Santiago and don’t see much of this side of the society. It made me sad to think that an $8 plate of food would warrant such incredible service and fine china in Cusco, because you’d pay about $25 USD for that kind of dinner in the States. An $8 plate of food is out of reach for the great majority of Cusqueños, and it was obvious they catered to tourists. All of Cusco is that way. We had a great time during that dinner, naming ourselves after the Seven Dwarves, and coming up with our group name: Huevos Rancheros. Fidel spit his juice out all over the table from laughing when I was trying to pour more water in my glass and ended up flooding my pasta dish. Weird memories.

After dinner, we wanted to check out the club scene in Cusco and had the GREATEST NIGHT EVER. I fit right in with the boys because we’re all so silly and love goofy dancing. We went to a club where everyone was showing off and dancing like they really meant it, and meanwhile we derped all over that dance floor and got a wide range of weird looks. We had to leave suddenly though, after Fidel had tried to dip Wayne and dropped him on a girl dancing. Poor girl, but it was HILARIOUS.

Eyner became our personal tour guide all around Cusco and the surrounding areas. He took us out for two days to show us the long list of Incan ruins inside and outside of the city. We did ALOT of driving. First, we went to the top of a big hill to get a view of the city. Then we were on our own for a few hours while he had a class, and it DUMPED on us. The entire city flooded. We walked through a crazy meat market and I almost died from the smell and how graphic it was. There were entire cow/horse/pig snouts, feet, huge slabs of bloody meat dangling, snake wine (with the snakes in there), and cuy, which are small guinea pigs and a staple in the Peruvian diet. Even if I weren’t a vegetarian, I don’t know if I would’ve been brave enough to try the cuy. It comes completely intact. After lunch, Eyner took us to Koricancha, whihc is an old Incan temple the Catholics built their cathedral on top of to hide it, after the Spanish arrived. Let me tell you, although it’s over 500 years old, the Inka’s construction holds up WAY better than that of the Spanish. The Incas had a special method of construction: they split and cut granite in perfectly smooth blocks, and to build walls, they stacked these extremely heavy blocks on top of each other. Get this: THEY NEVER USED ANY SORT OF CEMENT OR GLUE OR ANYTHING. The even crazier thing was that they cut the stones so incredibly perfectly, and they were so flush together, that you cannot even stick a needle in between the cracks. They made things so perfect so they’d withhold seismic activity and have continued to stand after 500 years of earthquakes, weathering from rain, Spanish conquests, etc. They even built all of their walls at a slight angle, because they understood how it would hold better during earthquakes. One Inca would spend months shaping just one block (around 300 tons, 28 ft tall) and then as a team, they would lift them into place, and by trial and error of seeing how each block fit into the jigsaw wall, they would lower it and reshape it until perfection. WHAT. Looking at the Spanish’s architechture, it is quite obvious who’s is of better quality and who was actually more intelligent. So who conquested who, again?

We saw a whole slew of other ruins, called Sachsaywaman (big ol’ field and HUGE walls used for winter solstice celebrations/sacrifices), Tambomachay (a traveler’s resting place where they would wash their spirit in the water of a natural fountain before continuing to their holy capital), and Q’enqo (place of sacrificing and mummification). I’ll spare you the pages upon pages of details, but you should DEFINITELY look it up for yourself. There are a TON of crazy stories behind these places with incredible details that I can’t wrap my head around, like a tunnel that leads from Sachsaywaman that goes all the way to Koricancha (a VERY long way), and two young men, probably in their 20′s, entered this pitch black tunnel, walked for 8 days, and only one exited. He left with a huge beard and looked like he was 80 years old. He didn’t know what had happened to his friend and the Spanish priest who had to move a stone to get him out of the tunnel couldn’t explain it either. CRAZY INCA MAGIC.

I would also like to point out that THE INCA EMPIRE LASTED ONLY 90 YEARS AND WAS STILL THE BIGGEST EMPIRE IN PRECOLOMBIAN AMERICA. Okay but really, how the hell did they manage to accomplish all of that in 90 years?

Anyway, day 2 of our trip with Eyner was spent traveling through the Sacred Valley, which is also called Pisaq. It’s beautiful and it’s covered by coca leaf and corn fields. It was definitely the most incredible drive I’ve ever experienced. We hiked around the Valley and saw a few ruins, including the Temple of the Sun. We ran down the main hill until we got to the town of Pisaq and did a little bit of shopping. Then, we drove out to Ollantaytambo which was used as the final gateway and fortress before Machu Picchu (even though it was still another 32 miles). It was also used for astronomical observations and dry food storage. It’s now used as the train port for tourists wanting to get into MP quickly in a 30 minute train ride. Ollantaytambo was the last ruin the Incas were working on before the Spanish arrived, and you can tell, because there are tons of “piedras cansadas” (resting rocks) scattered all over the ruin. It was a beautiful monument, and would’ve been even more incredible, if not for the Spanish. Good job, Fransisco Pizarro. We visited Moras Moray, which kind of looks like an alien crop circle, but was actually the Inca’s agricultural system. That was one of my favorite ruins. On our way back to Cusco, we stopped at the Salineras, which are massive salt pans in which the Incas mined the salt from thermal springs. Then, we saw THE MOST INCREDIBLE DOUBLE RAINBOW, and what’s more, WE SAW THE END OF THE RAINBOW. We couldn’t believe our eyes, and our cameras didn’t even come close to capturing their staggering beauty, but it happened. Of course we took our fair share of silly photos, and you should’ve seen how absolutely nuts those boys went over the rainbows.

The next day, we started our 4 day, 3 night, and 32 mile trek through the Andes mountains to Machu Picchu at an 8,000 foot elevation (which you’d think I’d be used to, living in Flagstaff at 7,000 feet). We trekked through rain, fog, more rain, and lots more rain. I ended up getting altitude sickness, despite the coca leaves I chewed and the coca tea I was constantly drinking when we were at camp, and screwed up my left knee. I also dealt with a mean cold as a result from the cold and wet the rain. All gripes and whining aside, I had an incredible time. We were a group of 12: myself and the 3 boys, a Brazilian man, a Swedish couple, 4 young Aussies, and our guide, David. The first day we hiked 6 miles, which was mainly flatland. We were lucky to start of great, sunny weather, but apparently someone forgot to knock on wood because we got DUMPED on the next three days. I was immediately taken aback by how “fancy” things were for a backpacking trip. Each company hires porters, or what I think would be a more appropriate name for how they’re treated, slaves, so they packed in all of the food, gear, and such, with the exception of our personal belongings, sleeping bags, and mats. I spent a lot of time talking with David, our native Cusqueño guide about the porter system and how unjust the system is. These men were hiking with probably 60-80 pounds of gear on their backs in sacks with absolutely no support. They also hiked, or rather I should say ran, the trail in sandals. As I mentioned earlier, this trip has been a huge sight into the injustices in South America, and how privilege is a much more obvious slapping-you-in-the-face issue here. These men basically work on tips, and make about $100 USD for backbreaking labor for the 4 days. This work is so hard they can only do it for about 10 years before their bodies quit on them. Most porters are in their 30′s, but I met incredible man who was in his late 50′s and working as a porter. They run the trail each day to get it done in less than half the time it takes the gringos, so they can set up camp, (all of the tents, cooking tent, and dining tent, complete with table cloths) for it all to be ready by the time we arrived. Each day we woke up around 6am, which meant they were up at 5 to start breakfast and to bring each of us a morning cup of tea to our tent. I have more respect for those porters than anyone, and felt more comfortable conversing with each of them rather than my fellow trekkers each evening. I could tell that wasn’t something they were used to, and it took a day or so for them to get accustomed to the idea of talking and befriending one of the people they’re supposed to be serving. We sang, talked, and laughed, and I experienced some of the most incredible humility and genuine kindness I have ever come across. Day 2, we hiked about 8 miles, and it was all uphill. I hiked slower than most everybody in my group and spent some good alone time hiking with my thoughts in the amazing jungle. There are about 50 companies who trek the Inka Trail, at a 500 maximum capacity each day (it is always full), so I certainly wasn’t alone. I actually met a girl also from Phoenix who went to Xavier, and with whom I share mutual friends. Small world! The rest of the day, I enjoyed the company of my good friend Fidel, and we shared some great conversation. Just as we made it up to Dead Woman’s Pass (named so because apparently a handful of women have kicked the bucket at the top), it began to rain. We still had about an hour’s worth of descent before we made it to camp, and we basically slid down the side of the mountain that quickly became a rushing river. We had no choice but to continue, though risk of seriously hurting ourselves was frighteningly high. Each of us only slipped and fell once, which is an amazing feat. This is starting to sound like a bad drama tv program, and I swear I’m not exaggerating. Day 3 was a day of 9.5 miles of pure downhill, which I was looking forward to, until the constant impact started wearing on my knees. We descended the mountain for 6 hours in the rain, convinced the trail would never end. In the last hour, when I was past the point of exhaustion and unbearable pain from my knee, I had the strangest out of body experience. I was present, but not at the same time. I felt like my spirit was walking beside my physical body, and my mind went to another planet, and I had the most intensely immaginative thoughts. When I spoke, I swore I was listening to someone else. Although I’ve never experienced narcotics, that is exactly how I imagine being on a crazy drug trip would feel. I don’t understand it either. Our last day began at 4am. By this time, I had an awesome combination of shakes and a nausious somach from the altitudesickness and my cold, and a throbbing knee. We only had 3 miles to go on the last day, but it was raining again and we were exhausted by this point. When we finally got to the Sun Gate, which is supposed to be the “classic Machu Picchu photo” and the best sight of the sanctuary, all we could see was a thick blanket of fog. We had about another mile until we were actually there, and fortunately we were able to see it better. Everyone was already down at the bottom, huddling for warmth under the poor excuse for a ramada. David was supposed to give us a two hour tour of the monument, but decided to shorten it to a very cold, windy, and miserable 45 minutes. We walked around Machu Picchu, seeing all of the main rooms where the priests stayed, prayed, where crops were grown (Machu Picchu is 70% agricultural), and lots of other fascinating places that we had a very hard time focusing our minds on. We quickly snapped our “we made it!” photos, and called it a day. At first I was disappointed I didn’t get the breathtaking and classic MP photo, with unimaginably blue skies, the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, and the cutest llamas frolicking in the background. Then, I realized (warning: cliché moment) that it really was about the journey rather than the destination. I am different after that trek. This was by far the most physically demanding 4 days of my life, and although my body was screaming at me the majority of the trek, I had the time of my life. I am thankful a million times over for this experience.

We had about 6 hours before our train departed, so we spent it relaxing in a cozy restaraunt, drying our boots out in the fireplace, eating pizzas, and resting our tired bodies. The Aussies and the Swedish enjoyed enough alcohol to sustain a small army, but I stuck to my water and pain killers. We enjoyed great conversation and silly (very drunken) humor. It was great to see everyone relaxed and comfortable, and to finally get to know them. We finally borded the train, and I had a conversation with two of the Aussies about their politics, social programs, etc on what felt like the quickest 30 minutes of my life. As soon as we got in the van back to Cusco, we all passed out for the hour-long ride back to the city.

The next few days were a whirlwind of dealing with wet, smelly clothes, trying to get bus tickets, traveling, crossing borders, dealing with a very ill Brielle, and sightseeing. Eyner helped us the next afternoon zip off to Puno, Peru on the last bus possible. We were sad to say “hasta luego” because he’d become such an incredible friend. We are not forgetting our promise. We made it into Puno in the evening, had supper, and called it a day. Saturday, we did an early tour of las Islas Flotantes (Floating Islands) on the famous Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca holds the title of being the largest lake in South America, as well as at the highest elevation of all the lakes on the planet at 12,000 feet. We took a boat tour of the islands called Urus, which is a clump of about 44 floating islands, and a total of around 2,000 inhabitants. Each individual island houses about 3 families and each elects their own president. We took a tour of one of the islands and they showed us how they construct their islands (LOTS of layered reeds), showed us some of their traditional trading practices, and their individual homes where they lead a very modest life. They make their livelihood on tourism and depend on us buying their beautiful handwoven tapestries and toy boats and such woven out of reeds. The people were incredible, and I was thankful for the beautiful weather (CHECK OUT THE SKY IN THESE PHOTOS. UNBELIEVABLE!). That afternoon, we hopped on a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia and things got crazy. Because the United States makes it excrutiatingly difficult for people to travel there, many other countries make it difficult for US citizens to enter their countries, too. We encountered the essence of this leaving Peru and entering Bolivia. I experienced, for the first time in my life, blatant racial discrimination. Sure, in South Africa I was in the minority being a white person, and the same visiting Mexican border towns, but never have I been made to feel ashamed and dirty based on the color of my skin. I’ve felt discrimination before for being young, for being a woman, but never for being white. I have always been one to empathize with minority populations, and of course I am not going to say now I “get” their experience after only 30 minutes of discomfort when they experience a lifetime and beyond of it, but I have a newfound and much deeper understanding and appreciation for the minority experience. Shannon and I got through the Peruvian border just fine, but Wayne encountered problems when the border patrol discovered he didn’t have a stamp in his passport saying he entered the country (he’d used his Chilean ID). Fidel also had difficulties because he’d entered with his US passport, and was trying to leave with his Mexican one, to try to avoid the Bolivian reciprocity (entrance) fee. Long story short, the bus driver was an asshole and although we were all (everyone on the bus) pleading desperately for him to stop and wait 5 more minutes, or at least let Shannon and I off of the bus, he ignored us, telling me that unless I wanted to pay for everyone who had a connection to catch to buy a new ticket, we couldn’t wait. We left Wayne and Fidel at the border without an explanation. We ended up driving the 10 minutes into town, dropping our stuff off at the hotel, finding an ATM to take out Bolivianos, grabbing a taxi to take us to the border patrol, only to find out we had JUST missed them by 5 minutes; they’d already made it back to town. They told us that they had to pay off the Peruvian police to let them out of the country (around $150 USD), and then Wayne had to pay another $140 USD to enter Bolivia. They didn’t have enough cash for Wayne to enter after having given it all to the corrupt police who pocketed it, so they grabbed a taxi into town, found an ATM, went back to the border, only to discover Wayne hadn’t taken out enough. They left Wayne’s passport with them and the officers let him go, because they were closing, with the promise of returning to pay them and pick up his passport in the morning. I was already in bad shape from being sick, and then worrying about the boys and runing around for 45 minutes trying to rescue them at the border didn’t help anything. We made a consecutive decision to cancel our plans to go to southern Bolivia to see the salt plains and Sucree, one because I was too ill to keep moving without giving my body any chance to recouperate, and two, Wayne had basically used up his money with the border fiasco. We spent three days in Copacabana, relaxing and resting. It definitely helped, but I was disappointed to be holding the group back and that we weren’t going to get to see everything we’d set out to. We finally left Copacabana and headed to La Paz, one of the two capitals of Bolivia with a population of 2.5 million residents within city limits. We did some sightseeing, shopping, and exploring with the two days we had there. On our last full day of the trip, we took a trip out to Tiwanaku, which is Bolivia’s Machu Picchu and big brother, boasting a history of inhabitants as early as 1500 BC, although the main periods of the empire began in 300 AD and lasted 700 years. Unfortunately, the combination of the Spanish doing more damage to the Tiwanaku ruins than they did to those of the Inca, and with it being so much older, not very much is left. They had similar architechtural techniques, though the Inca were slightly more advanced. Like the Inca, they lacked a written language (which is mind blowing to me). We spent the afternoon touring the Tiwanaku capital, had lunch, and headed back to La Paz. Bolivia has an even higher poverty rate than does Peru, and it shows. La Paz was much more overcrowded, dirty, and riddled with crime. My favorite part of Bolivia was that in the women’s traditional outfit, they wear tiny hats on their heads that serve absolutely no purpose of shading their face nor providing warmth. I have no information or facts about these hats other than that they were awesomely adorable. I wish I could’ve seen more of Bolivia, and in better health. Fortunately, my Bolivian tourist visa is good for 10 years, so I’ll definitely be going back before then.

We flew back early afternoon on the 21st, and after dealing with LAN being late for both of our flights, we finally made it back to Santiago. I enjoyed the adventure, but I was nearly kissing the ground to be back in my home base of Santiago when we landed at midnight. Gina was very happy to see that I’d survived, too, and greeted me with a ferocious kiss on both of my cheeks to prove it. I’d missed her, too.

Right, so if you’d made it through that 4,000 word count on my two week adventure, I commend you. This isn’t even comprehensive, haha. I kept a journal, too. Enjoy the photos!

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