Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Colin!

In case any of you were unaware, yesterday was a very important day.

"You know those little booties they
make for newborn babies? Well they're
like that, but man-sized! They're
man-sized baby booties!"

Yesterday, our very favorite Chilean adventurer, Colin Dunham, turned 21 years old!

To make up for have to celebrate it far from family and (most) friends, we tried to make it as special as possible, and everyone pitched in!

For starters, just after midnight, when it officially became May 29th, Colin's host family showed up at the door to his bedroom singing the Chilean version of happy birthday and carrying presents. They got him a cozy chaleco (sweater/jacket), and Mama Patty made hand-knit slippers to keep Colin's toesies warm around the house. They are precious.

In case you were wondering, the Spanish
version of Happy Birthday goes like this:

Cumpleaños feliz,
deseamos a ti.
Feliz cumpleaños a Colin,
que los cumplas feliz!

Next, after a good night's sleep, Colin and I met up an hour before class to head to the mall. We went to Dunkin' Donuts, because Colin wanted to share his birthday celebration with our whole class! Unfortunately, the guy working there let us sit around and wait for twenty minutes before he told us that they wouldn't be open until 11:00--exactly when our class starts. Fome. (Lame.) Luckily, we didn't
get too bored, because I used that time to give Colin his birthday present!

Candy, candy, and more candy!
Not to be discouraged by the fact that Dunkin' Donuts was closed, we stopped at a little shop on the way to class and Colin bought our classmates muffins and orange juice instead. We were all very appreciative of both the food and the temporary distraction from normal class. Our good friend Charlene even bought Colin a Mickey Mouse crown to wear so that everyone would know he was el rey del día (king of the day)!

Charlene's so awesome, she even wrote 21 on Colin's crown!
(It's not quite as big a deal when the drinking age is 18...)

After our first class, Colin and I stopped at Mango's Cafe to drink tea, eat croissants, and relax before heading back for our Ortofonía test. Colin invited all of our classmates to his birthday lunch, so after our test, several of us walked to Pizza Hut--Colin's restaurant of choice. We met up with Hilary and Charlene, who had gone back to the store in an attempt to find a piñata. When they couldn't find one, they decided not only to each get him a thoughtful birthday present, but also to buy party favors for the rest of us! (And let me tell you, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are DE-licious.) So we spent the afternoon enjoying deliciously American pizza and some great company.

When our last class of the day ended, Colin and I headed back to his house for torta (cake) and once. Enro was excited to see Colin drinking a Heineken with once, but unfortunately I only planned for Colin's one drink on his birthday, so Enro had to get his own beer instead. Maka picked out a tres leches (three milks) cake, and it was delicious. Mama Patty managed to fit 21 candles on it, and Colin successfully blew them all out in one try.

21 Candles... but did he make a wish?

On top of his Chilean celebration, Facebook, email, and Skype brought Colin's friends and family from 5000 miles away a little closer to us, and I think it was a pretty good day all around.

Happy Birthday, Colin Dunham.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Home is where they speak Spanish, everyday.

Not to be outdone, I will now tell you about the absolute best host family, any gringo could ever wish for. Let me introduce ya'll to the Agurto-Argandoña family!

Patty, Enro, Maka, and Enrique in Maitencillo. 

La Madre: Patricia (Patty)

My Chilean host mother is the sweetest person ever. She has never failed to smile and make me feel at home since the day I arrived. She always greets me with a beso on my cheek and every night before I go to sleep, she says "que amanezcas bien." (This translates literally to something like "that you dawn well," but of course she's always hoping that I get up well-rested and ready for another day in Chile.) Sweet though she may be, Momma Patty is not without her motherly instruction. More than once I've been reminded of proper eating etiquette at the table. Usually it's that I'm trying to saw a piece of meat in half with the edge of my fork and she gently (or not-so-gently) reminds me that knives exist with a strong "Hijo, un cuchillo por favor." (Son, a knife please!) And there's always the "¡No se hace aquí en Chile!" which means that whatever I'm doing at the time shouldn't be done in Chile.

Momma Patty works at La Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María as the personal secretary to some collegiate bigwig. I know she works hard because she always leaves before 8 in the morning and usually doesn't return until 7-8 in the evening. And she's always, ALWAYS dressed to impress. 

El Padre: Enrique

Perhaps my favorite picture of him. 
My Chilean dad is a neat individual. He's kind of like School of Hard Knocks meets ..... well, no he's pretty similar to School of Hard Knocks. Very often my siblings will begin a conversation from which ensues a quasi-argument between them and my Chilean dad wherein he has the benefit of experience on his side. I do a lot of listening when he talks, and from what I can tell he's not unlike any other dad: "back in my day..... kids these days..... why, my generation had to....." 
Firm hand aside, it's easy to see that Enrique loves his children and would do anything to see them succeed. 
He's always been nice to me and always tries to 
correct my only-to-often grammatical errors so 
that I don't look stupid in front of the rest of the world. 

Enrique has two jobs. He is a Veterinarian (dealing mostly with cats and dogs), and he's also a professor of veterinary medicine at La Universidad Viña del Mar. He leaves for classes at about 9 in the morning, coming home to have lunch with my siblings and me at 2, and then goes to his clinic every afternoon where he stays until usually 7-8 in the evening. 
Fun fact: Enrique likes spicy food and is always trying to get me to put some spicy sauce in my food. The one time he succeeded in convincing me it would be good, I felt like I had drank lava! Thus ended Colin accepting food suggestions from mi papá

El Hermano: Enrique (Enro)

My Chilean brother is awesome. The day I arrived he was the first person to let me know that if I ever needed anything, I could call him at anytime. Enro also speaks excellent English. During the first few weeks it wasn't uncommon for me to use him as a translator at times when I wasn't sure if my point was coming across exactly as I wanted it to, but things have gotten better. In fact, I usually try not to speak to him in English since that wouldn't help me learn spanish.

Enro is a whole month older than me and was very excited about this fact, since they've never had a gringo who was younger than him. He is also a university student at La Universidad de Andrés Bello. He was at a different university, but switched just as I arrived. I think he likes it okay. He is studying Ingeniería de Administración de Empresas, mención de Finanzas. I believe this is similar to Business Administration with a minor in Finance. 

Apart from school, my host brother loves soccer with a passion. He's also a self-taught guitarist and pianist, and like any college aged boy, he plays videogames. I really lucked out with having a host brother that is similar in age to me. When I arrived he spent two days showing me how to navigate the city's mass transit systems and labyrinth of streets, and never refuses to help me with my grammar as well. 

La Hermana: Macarena (Maka)

My Chilean sister is quite the character. They tell me she understands English and can speak fairly well, but she never does because she's a little embarrassed about her abilities. (I always think to myself "has she heard me speak Spanish?!") Either way, she's pretty fun. She's always very animated when she's telling us stories at the dinner table and she likes to mischievously pester her dad on a regular basis. Maka loves sushi! (Enro does too, he just doesn't mention it as much.)
Maka attends the same university where her mom works: La Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María. She's always telling me how bad the stairs are to get up to class, and after having walked down them once, I'm inclined to agree with her about the going up part. (No need to experience it myself, of course.) I do know that she is studying Ingeniería Diseño de Productos (Product design management?), and that the education riots last year put her behind a bit. 

Maka is the colorful one of the family. She always wears bright nail polish, an assortment of earrings and her fashion sense is always de la moda. I'm glad I have a little sister replacement here, although she's usually the one picking on me!

La Nana: Isabel (Nana)

Having Nana makes me spoiled. Well, the word used here in Chile is cuico, but let's not talk about that. I wish I knew a little more about Nana, but unfortunately I don't. I do know that she's been with this family for quite sometime (13ish years?) and she's part of the family. Now, I can't comment on what having a maid/nanny is like in the states but here it means that Nana works Monday through Saturday making our food, sweeping our floors, cleaning all the rooms, and doing laundry. My favorite thing about her is that she talks to the plants. When I asked my host parents about this, they assured me that Nana wasn't going crazy, rather just encouraging the plants to grow and be strong!

Like I said, I don't know that much about Nana since we don't talk very much. She speaks exceptionally fast and with a little bit of a dialect I don't quite understand. And for my part, my Spanish might as well be Chinese sometimes to her. We do manage to communicate the important things like "Do you have class today, should I pack you lunch?" and "Remember I change the sheets on Mondays so don't make your bed." (Yeah, I don't let Nana make my bed. I guess I'm not totally spoiled.) 

These are the people who I've had the privilege of living with and getting to know for about three months now. They're loving, zany, argumentative, and funny. They're my family.

And we won't say they're better than anyone else's host family-- or at least not out loud. :)


Monday, May 21, 2012

Home is where there are people who love you

The best host mom in the world!
Now that it's been over two and a half months, I figure it's time for ya'll to "meet" my Chilean family!

First and foremost comes Mama Lorena. My host mom is the best one anyone could ask for. (Don't ask Colin though, he's pretty partial to Mama Patty...) Since the very first day I showed up when she greeted me with hugs and kisses at her door, she has never failed to ask me how I'm doing, how my day was, how classes are going, what my plans are, and most importantly, if I'm hungry. Every day. Several times a day. It goes without saying that it would be impossible for me to ever go hungry here, thanks to Mama Lorena. In fact, quite often I have more than I could possibly eat, since apparently the word "no" has no meaning here. That, or secretly it means "yes, please."

Let me give you an example:
*here I am, seated at a typical lunch in my house, table set, food in front of me, ready to eat.*
"Do you need anything, hija?"
"No, Mama, everything looks good."
"Are you sure? We have more meat if you want it..."
"No that's ok, this will be plenty."
"But you didn't eat very much for breakfast this morning."
"Don't worry, I'm not terribly hungry."
"Well... I'll just bring it out for you, just in case."
*at which point she brings a little plate just for me with some more meat on it, with extra silverware and another napkin just in case.*

Now, I'm not complaining, but it does make me laugh.

On top of taking care of the family,
Mama Lorena finds time to do fun things
like go ziplining!
When she's not making me delicious Chilean food for lunch, Lorena spends most of the rest of her day washing/drying/ironing our clothes, sweeping/mopping the floor, dusting, or washing dishes. How three people can make enough work to fill entire days, I'll never know. But then, I've never lived with Sidney before.

My host brother, Sidney, is 27 years old and a kinesiologist. Besides being a great host brother, he's also a walking tornado who could probably create enough housework for five people! He works most afternoons doing physical therapy with his patients, all of whom are over 60 years old. He's currently trying to spend his nights studying for a class that will certify him to do some other kind of therapy, but I'm not sure specifically. However, just like any good Chilean man, when there's a futbol game on, not even food can tear him away from the TV.

Like I said though, he's a great brother, and a fountain of knowledge for the confused foreigner living in his house. He invited Colin and I to his birthday party back in March, where we met his best friend, Francisco. The four of us have gotten together a few times to play Wii and had a blast together!

Knowing Sidney and Lorena, it doesn't surprise me that my "extended family" is equally welcoming and friendly. As I mentioned in the post about our trip to Patagonia, Lorena's daughter Loli and her family pretty much literally took us in off the street one night. Not many people are blessed to find themselves among friends 1400 miles from a place that's already 5000 miles from home, but Loli, Pablo, Benjamin, and Sofia welcomed us with open arms, fed us, talked to us, and even played play-doh with us before they drove us to the airport and sent us on our way back "home."

Loli, Sofia, Benjamin, and Pablo, who took in six gringos far from home

Sofia and I make the BEST play-doh animals!

And not just the younger generation is welcoming. For Mother's Day, Mama Lorena and I went to Los Andes to spend the day with her parents. My "grandparents" also welcomed me into their home, took me to lunch, and wouldn't take no for an answer to anything.

Me and the abuelitos, plus Mama Lorena's neice, Isadora

In short, I couldn't ask for a better Chilean family. I have been truly blessed in knowing them, and they have made this place a home away from home. 

With love from Chile,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Government, minus a dictator.

It's hard to think about getting back into "school mode" when you have just seen mountains, but unfortunately we had to. After a day of rest, we continued our week with classes like normal. Somewhat of a cultural shock came Tuesday night when our professor announced that he would be changing the class time each week. We were upset about this, because Rachel worked rather hard to assure that we would not have classes on Monday or Friday. However, change it he did. We now have half the class on Monday at 12:20pm and the other half on Tuesday at 6:00pm (the original time). The reason he did this was to make it easier for more of our classmates to attend. Firstly, they shouldn't have signed up for a class they wouldn't be able to attend. Secondly, we had our first class on the new Monday time today, and there were even less people than usual. (Okay, I've now vented; but, this a very strange Chilean practice that I've never heard of in the States that I wanted to inform you all about.)

Last Friday a handful of other gringos, Rachel, and I had the chance to go to El Congreso Nacional (the Chilean legislative building). I was pretty impressed with the building itself, and also learning about Chilean government from our informative tour guide.
In general, Chile's government is very similar to that of the U.S. They have a President (executive branch), bicameral congress (legislative branch), and a supreme court (judicial branch) although I'm pretty sure the supreme court is independent of the other parts of government. Within congress you have los senadores (senators) and los diputados (deputies-very similar to representatives.) There are 38 senators and 120 diputados of varying parties. Fun Fact #1: the congress building is located in Valparaíso because that's where the ex-dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, put it and they left it there ever after.
two rooms, two parts of congress, not (two) terribly different looking.
These days the Republic of Chile is a pretty tranquil place, politically speaking. Sure there are riots about varying problems every now and then, but overall I hear Chile is one of the (if not the) safest South American countries. For a more complete history and background on Chilean government, click here. ;)

A (copy) proclamation sent to Spain declaring the independence of Chile!

the signature of "the liberator." read all about him, here.

Oh-so-many stairs to get to the top.  the price of an education.
The rest of the day we spent wandering around Valparaíso and walking back to Viña del Mar. We did stop along the way to visit Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, where my host mom works, and my host sister attends. This university is beautiful. My sister told me that the majority of the students there are on scholarship or have loans. We enjoyed wandering the campus and taking pictures before heading home.

Saturday morning we had to get up at some ungodly hour (7am) in order to catch a bus at 8:15 to go to La Campana, yet another national park! This place was gorgeous. I would say it was known for its palm trees, but our guide also boasted about the high(ish) mountain that is also visible in the park. The trek wasn't very hard and our group of gringos had more fun talking and taking silly pictures with each other. It was a wonderful trip, although we didn't have enough time in my opinion.
Fun Fact #2: Palm trees aren't really trees at all, but rather grass the grows together tightly intertwined.

Palm Trees everywhere! Our guide said it always reminded him of Jurassic Park.

Speaking of Jurassic Park..... (I did say we took silly pictures, did I not?)

Nobody loves a Palm Tree like Rachel loves a Palm Tree.

After we returned from the park, I went with my host family to Santiago to celebrate Mother's Day with my host dad's family. I had a wonderful time, and what's more, the extended family told me that I spoke Spanish very well. I was even able to get a cousin (12 year old Nacho) to teach me some useful Chilean slang. All in all we had a fabulous time and I was really glad to meet my host dad's family, especially his mother.

We are back to school again this week, but are perhaps thinking about traveling since we have a long weekend coming up. Either way we'll keep ya'll posted.

And a very special shout-out to our friend Kristen Clingan, who is in Honduras on a medical mission trip! Both Rachel and I are very proud of you and are praying for your success. (Just promise me you'll try and speak Spanish to everyone you meet!)


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Patagonia Adventure

The Adventurers:
Me and Colin, obvi. Also, Hilary Gibson, who goes to OU, Katie Fialko, from Colorado, and Charlene Melindo and Sara Lebowitz, who are from New York.

Hilary, Sara, Charlene, Katie, Colin, and me!

The Plan:
1) Have a blast.
2) Go with the flow. Things will not go as planned. Guaranteed.
3) Overestimate. Unexpected costs will pop up, and the trip will probably cost more than anticipated.
4) Have a blast.

The Adventure: 
After a day of frantic packing and buying last-minute necessities (like toilet paper, which we almost forgot), the six of us met up at the bus station in Viña to start our trip. First, we had to take a bus to Santiago, where we would get off at the bus terminal at Pajaritos and catch another to the airport. Unplanned event number one happened when, as we were getting on the bus, the conductor told us he only stopped at Las Rejas, not Pajaritos. It's ok, breathe... It's Santiago, there's bound to be public transportation. At Las Rejas, we went into the metro station and after looking a lot like lost tourists with giant backpacks on, a metro guard let us ride free to Pajaritos. Lucky break number one.

Unplanned event number two: It turns out when you show up at a bus terminal at 11:45pm, you should probably expect it to be closed. Fortunately, there was a taxi waiting on the curb who was willing to fit all of us and our backpacks in his car for $4 apiece. After that, the arrival went smoothly. We checked in, checked our bags, and headed to Dunkin' Donuts to kill a few hours while we waited for our 1:50am flight.

Colin and Katie at Dunkin' Donuts in the airport
Hilary and Charlene

Sadly, this is probably the best sleep we got all night.
The lines between days get a little blurry when you don't sleep until 6am, but I suppose the flight was technically Thursday morning. It was uneventful, and also unrestful. We arrived in Punta Arenas at 5:15, gathered our bags, and promptly fell asleep. On benches in the airport lobby. Katie (by far the MVP of the adventure) called a bus company at 7am to ensure we would indeed be able to get to Puerto Natales, the town nearest Torres del Paine. At 8:00 we woke everyone from their oh-so-comfortable naps and all piled into our second bus in 12 hours. Three hours later, we emerged into a drizzly, cloudy Puerto Natales and began the search for transportation to the park. After walking mostly aimlessly up and down several streets worth of hostels and travel agencies, we ended up outside the carabinero station. This was our first experience with the famed Southern Hospitality (which, interestingly, exists in Chile as well). Two very kind carabineros came out and told us that the only buses to Torres del Paine leave at 8am, but they directed us to a cheap hostel that also rented the equipment we'd be needing. Lucky break number two.

When we arrived at Lili Patagonico's, a man named Ivan was there to welcome us in out of the drizzle. He was super buena onda (Chilean for "he was a really great guy.") When we had settled into our warm, cozy rooms, we headed back out to the grocery store for lunch, dinner, and camping provisions. After little to no sleep followed by wandering around in the rain, crema de pollo soup,, and sandwiches make a pretty delicious lunch.

The amount of steam coming off the bowls is directly
representative of how delicious crema de pollo soup is.

This face means: What in the world are we going to do?
After lunch, we went to the informational meeting that Ivan gave about hiking in Torres del Paine. I find it noteworthy that there were two groups at the meeting, us and some Australians, so Ivan gave one version in English and one version in Spanish. Guess who the Spanish was for! That's right, we speak Spanish! Anyway, he was super helpful and called the bus company for us to see if he could arrange something that would fit our time schedule better. We spent what felt like hours deliberating how best to spend our short time while avoiding freezing to death at night, but we finally (with Ivan's help) came up with a plan. That settled, we finally had time to nap, and nap we did.

Sarah and Hilary working the sandwich assembly line.
As our final preparations, we made and packed thirty ham and cheese sandwiches, twelve apples, four pears, six sleeves of crackers, and two boxes of cereal for our excursion in the morning. For dinner we made spaghetti, sauce, and green beans. The taste of hot food plus the sound of pouring rain on the roof can only be made better by the thought that we had planned to be in a tent, but were instead in a warm, cozy hostel. Lucky break number three.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and... still really tired. But SO MUCH EXCITEMENT! Needless to say, after chowing down on a delicious free breakfast provided by the hostel, we all fell back asleep on our early morning, two hour bus ride. Maybe all the people in the south really are nicer, because our bus driver was awesome. After stopping for a bathroom break at the normal spot, he took advantage of the lovely weather and stopped again just so all his passengers could take pictures with the Torres in the distance. Awesome bus driver = lucky break number four.

We were so excited!

Katie and Colin, trekking toward our
campsite... and Las Torres!
When we arrived at the park, we got to use our Chilean ID cards to pay as Chileans instead of foreigners, so it only cost us $6.00 to get into the park. Then we commenced the two hour walk to our campsite. The views just kept getting more and more beautiful as we got closer to the mountains, so we took lots of pictures along the way. It's a good thing we had decided to make camp at the bottom of the mountain, because I don't know if the six of us plus our hiking backpacks plus our camping gear would have made it very far otherwise. As we unloaded and made camp in the warm sun on the absolutely most perfect day for hiking, it was hard to imagine the below freezing temperatures predicted for the night. Perfect    weather = lucky break number five. We ate lunch at our campsite and then set off wonderfully backpack-less to hike the mountain.

The setting up of the tents!

"Let's sit down for a second, guys... again."
And it's a good thing, too. That hike was HARD. The worst part may have been that the farther you went, the steeper it got. Thankfully, most of us had approximately the same level of ability to climb mountains, so our frequent rest stops were welcomed by all. At one point it was so steep that even Katie, our most experienced hiker, yelled to the mountain, "Why didn't they make switchbacks?!" Our sentiments exactly. On top of that, we all dressed for below-freezing, snowy conditions with several layers of clothes each. Don't get me wrong, I will never complain about the absolutely perfect weather,
Filling the water bottle... practically straight from
the glacier!
but it did make for a very different experience than what we were prepared for. Speaking of being prepared, we each had one water bottle with us. And what do you do when you run out of water hiking up a mountain in a national park? That's right.... drink glacier water! Straight from the stream running down the mountain. Don't worry, we're not completely irresponsible, Katie (MVP, like I said) brought iodine tablets, but three different park people told us that all the water was drinkable, and not to worry about it. Let me tell you, there's a reason bottled water tries to sell itself as glacier water. It may have been the best water I've ever had. You can practically taste the purity.

The highest point on our hike! Definitely worth the effort.
We didn't make it all the way to the mirador (lookout place), but that was in the plan, so no one was terribly disappointed. We turned around in time to make it back to camp before it was too dark, and started heading down the mountain. On the way down, we ran into a group of Mexican exchange students who are also studying in Viña with us, so we hiked down with them and heard all about their week-long trip through Chile.

When we got back to camp, we had about enough light to find our food, so we ate dinner in the almost-dark and then... went to bed. When it's pretty much too dark to see and fire's not allowed (poor Colin) and the temperature is rapidly approaching zero degrees Celsius, that's really all there is to do. Even if it's only 7:30pm. While at some point during the night I must have reached warm-enough-to-sleep, it sure did seem to take a while.

(Sidenote from Colin: This was my first camping experience ever where I was actually "roughing it." 
I slept terribly. 
It was so cold, and the ground was terribly hard. 
I hope to never have to camp again. Nature, you're cruel, but beautiful.)

When you wake up from the cold and the hard ground at 5am, getting up at 6:45 doesn't seem too bad after all. We had to wake up, eat breakfast, and tear down camp by 8 in order to make the two hour trek back to where the bus would pick us up. In case you've never been hiking, I want to let you know right now that two hours feels a LOT longer after a hike than it does beforehand. Miraculously, about 30 minutes into our walk, a nice man in a pickup truck asked us if we wanted a ride! As difficult as it is to fit six people and six backpacks into the bed of a small pickup, the time and effort he saved us was deeply appreciated. Lucky break number six.

This was the best I could do with one free hand on a
bumpy road. That's Sarah, Katie, and Hilary, and you
can see Charlene's hair on the right and my hand and
Colin's arm on the left. No one could move.

Having saved so much time in the pickup, we had time to relax and chow down on some more cereal while waiting for the bus. Meanwhile, walking right toward us as if they didn't even know we were there, came a herd of guanacos! My understanding is that this is the Chilean version of a llama. They're pretty cute.

Llamas in the north, guanacos in the south. Furry creatures runnin' around all over the place!

When the bus showed up, it was none other than our favorite bus driver from the day before! And he was kind enough to take us from Hosteria Las Torres to the Salto Grande, another part of the park, even though it was out of his way and not really part of the ride we had paid for. (All arranged by Ivan, of course.) He even let us leave our bags on the bus so we wouldn't have to hike with them. Lucky break number seven. We were more than happy to use the rest of our time in the park making a short trek to the mirador for Los Cuernos and the Glaciar del Frances. Comparatively, this was an easy, one-hour hike, and it was well worth the effort. The view from the mirador was beautiful and it made the perfect place to eat our lunch. Even though Saturday was chilly and much cloudier than Friday, it somehow still managed to be the perfect weather for glacier-viewing, since the clouds made the colors of the snow and ice more visible. Lucky break number eight.

Los Cuernos- the horns. Incredible, albeit a little crooked.

Glaciar del Frances- No really! There's frozen water on top of that mountain!

Good food, Great company, Grandeur of a view

On the way back to catch the same bus, we stopped at the Salto Grande, a waterfall that I can only assume comes directly from the surrounding glaciers. Pretty awesome.


On the bus ride back to the hostel, we ran into some of our other gringo friends who had showed up a few days before us. We had a few hours of story-swapping on the bus ride, and they ended up at the same hostel we were staying at, but only long enough to shower and eat and leave to catch their flight. We spent our evening enjoying the hot showers and cooking more spaghetti. This time we treated ourselves to real meat sauce, french bread, and wine. Our warm, fluffy beds were even more welcome than they had been Thursday night.

We finally got to sleep in Sunday morning, which is to say, we woke up at 7:30. We enjoyed a much more leisurely breakfast and loaded up in yet another bus, this time back to Punta Arenas. We arrived at about lunchtime, so we pulled out our tourist guide book and looked for something relatively cheap. I hate to admit that we ate hamburgers in Chile, but they sure were delicious. And when they come with mayo and palta, I feel like they still count as Chilean.

After lunch, we hung around the central plaza for a while and looked at souvenirs. Then I called Loli, Mama Lorena's daughter who lives in Punta Arenas, because Mama Lorena gave me a birthday gift to give her. When she heard we were in the plaza, she asked us if we wanted to go to the shopping center in Punta Arenas because it's cheaper, and she and her family drove us there. We spent a little while in what amounted to a mall, and we bought some delicious chocolates. We got bored pretty quickly because nearly everything was closed, so we decided to head back to the center of town.

If anyone makes it this far south on a rickety
boat, they deserve a statue.

Me and my "host sister" Loli

Punta Arenas really does have better chocolate than the rest of Chile!

Then comes one of my favorite parts of the whole trip: we walked from the plaza down to the water and put our feet in THE STRAIT OF MAGELLAN. And it was freezing. Very close to literally. Then, since we had nothing else to do, we sat on the beach, watched the sun set and drank the leftover wine from Saturday night. After the sun went down, the temperature dropped quickly, so we walked around til we found a cute Colombian cafe, where we warmed up with hot chocolate and tea.

It was cold, pero vale la pena

The sunset over Punta Arenas

Hot chocolate in a Colombian cafe

We called Loli again because we had nothing else to do and nowhere to go, and she invited us to her house for once and offered us a ride to the airport. She fed us a delicious once and then we sat around talking until they came up with the idea to take us out to a lookout where you can see the city and the Strait. When we got back to her house, she took pity on the poor hungry gringos and basically gave us another once. Her precious kids, Sofia and Benjamin, played with play-doh with us as we talked until late. At 12:30am, Loli's husband Pablo drove us to the airport for another night of sleeping on benches while we waited for our 6:20am flight. He even walked us in to make sure we could all check in before he left.

I'm teaching them to make play-dough turtles

A tiger!

Again, I guess this is technically Monday now. We spent the night trying to sleep, but since we weren't quite as exhausted, it was much more difficult this time. I spent most of our time in the airport wishing I was already on the plane, and most of the time in the plane wishing I was already on the bus, and most of the time I was on the bus wishing I was already in my bed. But that's how it goes, I suppose. All legs of travel went smoothly, and we made it back no worse for the wear. The most difficult decision I had to make Monday was whether to shower, eat, or nap first.

In short, our adventure was better than I could have possibly imagined. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers while were gone.