Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trains, Mountain Terrain, and Chilean Hotdogs

Once again, to start out I'd like to thank you all again for your concern and emphasize that despite everything that has happened here, I am safe and happy in Santiago.

On Thursday, Chile experienced three more large aftershocks, which (for me) counted as serious earthquakes as all three clocked in between 6.0 and 7.0 on the Richter scale. I was actually in class at the time, and a little bit confused as to what was happening. Only our third lecture at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile, we had discovered two days earlier that our building is very close to Estacion Central, a large train and metro station. So when the windows started rattling I couldn't tell if it was a train or a replica until it lasted longer than a train would have, at which point I started to lose it a little. We exited the building and it subsided, so we returned to our classroom to continue lecture. Only, as the professor was speaking, the image from the overhead projector was shaking and the windows started rattling again. This time we gathered our stuff and got out a lot more quickly, and waited out the rest of the temblores in the safety of a grassy quad.

Aftershocks usually have the dual-effect of raising my heart rate and evoking images of the last big earthquake. It's hard for me not to get emotional with each one that hits us, especially after how frightening my first experience of seismic activity was. Sometimes I'll get dizzy after an aftershock, or I'll convince myself that my room is shaking when it's actually not. When little aftershocks happen during class, our professors always tell us to be calm, but it's hard to focus on past tense verb conjugation or Chilean trade agreements when my instincts are telling me to run out of the building.

All of that being said, I find comfort in the fact that it is very unlikely for another large (8.8) earthquake to hit in the near future. I also know that my apartment building passed inspection earlier this week, so the only damages to our apartment are strictly cosmetic. Additionally, the psychological effects of the earthquake are starting to wear off as I find inner strength to conquer the impulsive fear that envelops my body during an aftershock. Plus I know that I have so many people in the US and UK that are there for me, so even if I do have a bad day, I find solace in a cheerful email or facebook post. I never thought I'd be in a position like this while I was in Chile, but in a way I think I'll come away from this semester as a stronger person who better appreciates the value of life and the human experienceOn a lighter note, this marks the second full week of academic classes of my program - time is shooting by! In light of the earthquake I seemed to have bypassed any discussion of my school activities, so here is a dense summary: I am completing a program with the School of International Training focused on the Social, Economic, and Political Transformations of Chile. A small and personalized program, I am one of seven American students enrolled in this course. I am taking 16 credits of classes, the highlight of which is a seminar with the Government and Economic Department of the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (known here as USACH.) Each class is taught by a different professor completely in Spanish, so sometimes it's a challenge to understand the content when the lecturer has a strong Chilean accent (or he's just talking very quickly.) Another exciting aspect of our program is the month-long Independent Study Project that we complete at the end of our semester. Basically, I get a stipend to travel anywhere in Chile to complete a research project on a related topic to the economic, political, or social issues we have covered in class. Let's just say I'm pretty excited about this upcoming opportunity...

While not studying or worrying about earthquakes, I've been taking the occasional shopping trip to the market, listening to an impressively hilarious mix of music from the apartment next door, playing pick-up soccer with Chileans, or running through Parque Arucano (a gorgeous park two blocks from my apartment.) I also like planning future adventures for the upcoming weekends I have free here, the first of which happened yesterday. I went for my first official hike in the Andes Mountains (insert large smiley face) with some students from my program, and two of my host sisters, one of which had never been on a hike before (brave soul!) Despite receiving some questionable directions from an elderly Chilean woman, we managed to find the trailhead after about two miles of roundabout searching for Aguas de Ramon Parque Natural.
The trail we walked was pretty dusty and arid (a flashback to Modoc National Forest in California) but we were rewarded with a beautiful set of waterfalls at the turnaround point, which really made the hike. Other highlights included the company of three resident trail dogs, eating snacks and fruit that my host mom had packed for us, and great views of the city despite a strong layer of smog that foiled any attempt at photography. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed getting out of the city for a bit, especially after seeing my brother's three part youTube video of his Appalachian Trail photos ( It reminded me of how much I love being outside, and inspired me to get out of the city more and hopefully plan a backpacking trip down to Patagonia. Anybody want to join me? (Cough. My older brother? Cough.)
Today has been a more relaxing day devoted to catching up on a couple readings for class and nursing my first allergic reaction to a bee-sting from yesterday (we're talking a dinner plate size of swelling, but it has luckily gone down since.) Later today, my host sisters are introducing me to a completo, the Chilean hot dog. From what I've heard it's essentially a regular hot dog with lots of things on top like avocado and tomato, but like the garbage plate in Rochester, it's apparently an essential for any visitor to experience. Look for photos later this week!

Thanks again for reading and if you've not done it yet, become a follower!



  1. Hey Flo,
    Sorry I have been out of touch. Just got back from OBX and there was no internet at all. Glad to hear you are having fun. I'm jealous of your potential Patagonia trip. I hear its absolutely beautiful there. Hope to talk to you later this week. lots of love,

  2. Hey Flo - how about another Update?

    Love Dad