But despite the language barrier, Chile was a wonderful experience. We stayed in a refugio in the middle of the Andes mountains the first few days. I’ve always been a beach over mountains lover, but when you are in the middle of the Andes Mountains, you can’t help be completely enveloped by their awesome beauty. Also, we went a little crazy due to elevation and lack of oxygen. My friend (same one who had the awkward Miami interaction) had a slight panic attack while staying there because they turned the electricity off at night to save money and power. It was very au natural and most of us enjoyed it. She, on the other hand, freaked, and documented her freak out on her ITouch. (“Yes, I love technology, but not as much as you, you see, but I still love technologyyyyy, always and forever.”). She survived and we hiked the Andes because our cowboy never showed up to take us to go horseback riding tour. The park ranger kindly explained that the cowboy was probably just drunk, and not to take it personally. That’s just how they roll in Chile.
After the mountains we went to the bohemian port town of Valparaiso to spend a few days on the beach, visiting Vina del Mar and other small beaches. Valparaiso can be explained in two words: hills and colors. The whole town is built on a hill/cliff and is decorated with houses and apartments painted every difference shade of the rainbow. And the hills are steep…to the point that you take an elevator-like ride from our hotel down to the sea-level business part of the city. But it’s a bustling and vibrant place with cute little restaurants and bars around each winding corner. You can’t walk a foot before seeing a roaming dog or fashionable mullet (both which were common ALL over Chile, but I especially noticed the dogs in Valpo).
We also had time to explore the capital city of Santiago. Santiago isn’t that much different from many other major cities, but what stood out most to me was the warm hospitality we received from my friend’s host family. They welcomed us into their home and treated us like we were family, and not strangers they had just met. When we arrived they invited us over for a Chilean meal of ceviche and pisco sours, and lots of wine. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and although my friends and I spoke little Spanish and the family little English, we all managed to communicate and laugh and laugh. (Much of this laugher was due to our friend teaching their 12-year old son to say “Make it rain” …imagine the trill on the “R” and a cute, chubby little Chilean boy saying this and only this, as it was the only thing he learned, at the most random times. Complete with hand gesture.) They also invited us over for their daughter’s graduation party. This party involved their ENTIRE extended family, and we were welcomed with open arms. And boy, do they know how to throw a party. It didn’t even get started until 11 pm and lasted until the early morning hours. At one point they even broke out the Cuban rum. When the old aunts and uncles start shouting inappropriate English words they know (VAGINA! CLIT!) you truly have a rockin' fiesta.
So, my heart now goes out to Chile and its people after suffering this devastating earthquake. My friend has been home for months and thankfully her host family is all alright. But I pray for those less fortunate and the country as a whole. During our short time there these people welcomed us as their own and I hope we can do a little something to give back to them. The Chilean Embassy in DC is accepting donations to go towards the relief fund. Anything you can give will help! Gracias!