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!)



  1. AHHH COLIN! Okay, I will be honest. I was worried about reading this post, because I hate anything to do with government. But I decided to just keep going, and I am so happy that I did! I would have missed my shout out otherwise! Thank you for your prayers! And I'm happy to report to you that I was chatting it up with tons of little niños today, and I made friends with an entire family of children! I will have more details on my blog later.

    1. Also, I love your silly pictures.

  2. Look at me, Rachel, reading and commenting on the blog! First of all, I agree, Colin, that scheduling classes thing makes no sense. Secondly, interesting fact about the trees/grass. I didn't know that. Thirdly, I like the dinosaur pic ;)

  3. I agree with your guide. It looks like Jurassic Park!

  4. I must say I'm very impressed over how you and Rachel are getting the most out of your time in Chile. From your photos and blog entries, getting up at ungodly hours to experience every aspect of their culture and geography seems to be well worth it. Thanks for sharing!