Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back To Work

Hello everyone! I hear that I am missing a wonderfully long lasting winter back at home, to that I want to talk about what the fall climate is like here in Santiago.

First of all, it does get cold here. I am doing runs in the morning and it is about 40-45 degrees. You might be like that isn't cold it's 20 degrees out right now as I am reading your blog. But the difference here is that it still gets to 80 degrees during the day, so your body never truly gets used to the cold.

Also, there is absolutely no form of heating in these houses. We have an electric stove for the kitchen, and lots of wool. The houses also don't have very good (if any) insulation, so at nights the house gets quite cold. All in all, to battle the cold here in Santiago, you just have to get used to layering. But I wore my winter coat the other day when it was 60F, so there is that. A little fun fact that I have learned about the cold (and getting a cold) here is to always wear socks, if you don't you might catch a cold according to most Chileans.


Secondly, I got to go to Llollaplooza two weeks ago. It was held in Parque O'Higgins, which is a beautiful park in a historic neighbourhood. I was impressed with the logistics of the whole operation, given this is South America, everything went smoothly. Things like transportation, bathrooms, picnic areas, waiting lines, and food were well managed.

The music was great, I got to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ellie Goulding, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Capital Cities, Phoenix, Zedd, and many more. Apart from the great music, we were able to get a glimpse at some of the last remaining hippies here in Chile.

We sat here and listened to Red Hot Chili Peppers throughout the night.


Since I have returned from my Patagonia trip, Santiago has been back in full swing. During January, Feburary, and up to mid March, people were on vacation. Barrio Univisterio, the neighboorhood where I go to school was practically a ghost town. Now it's like a regular college number of people around.

Since everyone is back to work, the streets are much busier. They aren't overwhelmingly crowded, you just have to learn how to wait in line. Waiting in line is just behind watering the cement here on Chile's top past times list. But really, for a city, the people walk very slow and take their time on the streets. It is actually a nice break from the trot that most people break out into to go from building to building in between classes in the United States.

That's all for now. This is a special week, Semanna Santa, I will be sure to get a post up about how it goes by next week. I just wanted to give a quick update of the past weeks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



I spent the last week in Chile's side of Patagonia, the region at the far south of South America. I hiked the W loop of Torres del Paine and then spent two days in Puerto Natales. I loved every bit of it.

Welcome to Chile's Patagonia

I started out by flying into Punta Arenas and then taking a bus to Puerto Natales where we stayed the night in order to catch the 7:30am bus to the park. For reference, this is a South America with Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales marked.

Day 1
We caught the bus to the park the next morning, there was a slight drizzle and we soon encountered many others making the same journey to catch the bus to the park. When we reached the park we paid the entrance fee and took the shuttle to Pudeto. At Pudeto we got to take the ferry across Lago Pehoé. The lake was incredibly beautiful, it reminded me of the lakes in Michigan, minus the mountains of course.

This was one of the many beautiful views from the deck of the ferry.
From there we started our hike to Refugio Grey. By then the rain had cleared and the sun peeked out through the clouds, making it a great afternoon for a hike. After 3.5 hours of hiking we made it to the campsite around 5pm, set up the tent and set off to cook our first of many instant dinners. We then headed out to see the glacier before the sunset.

Sarah, Stephan, and I standing in front of the mighty Glacier Grey

Day 2

On the second day, we hiked back towards Paine Grande and then headed up to the French valley. It was a long day with our packs, about 8 hours in total, but we took our time so that we could enjoy the pristine nature that surrounded us. We arrived at Campamento Italiano, one of the free campsites, meaning it was a true campsite, the Refugios have running water and a light in a little shed that you can cook inside of. This campsite just had a shack to protect you from the rain and you got your water straight from the creek since all of the water in the park is drinkable. Italiano was my favorite place to camp during the entire trip.

"Don't cross more than two people at a time" - The sign we were greeted with as we crossed over to Italiano.

Day 3

The third day may have been my favorite, we woke up and hiked up the French valley. We got a little off the beaten path and found ourselves at a beautiful vantage point of the entire valley. Other than the strong gusts at times, the weather was perfect. We did the hike up the valley and back without our packs, which made the hike even more enjoyable. It was like I had an entire load off my back.
A typical sight in the valley when looking up.

Cerro Aleta de Tiburón from the valley.

After we returned to Italiano, we had lunch and made our way to Cuernos, a refuge on Lago Nordenskjold. It took us about 3 hours because we stopped to have a rest on the beach. That night we had tremendous winds, with gusts well over 100km/h, needless to say it kept us from having a sound sleep that night, but it was worth every bit to be there in the park.

Day 4

The fourth day was a longer hike, as we needed to get to Campamento Torres. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful morning trek along Lago Nordenskjold. The winds were very strong here, so strong that they would carry water from the lake and spray you. A very nice side effect was that it produced a perfect rainbow.

Unfortunately the weather ended up turning on us towards the end of the day. We were greeted with some gray clouds as we approached Chileano and then some rain. Fortunately, we had decent rain gear and the last part of the hike was through a forest, so we got some protection from there. Our worst fear was that it was going to continue to rain throughout the next morning and we would miss the Torres at sunrise. We arrived to the campsite (a real campsite, like Italiano) and it was still raining, with no end in sight. So we made dinner and went to sleep early, hoping that morning would bring an end to the rain.

Day 5

The last day of the trek, the morning could not have come quick enough. We got up at 6am in order to make the hour hike up to the infamous Torres. The rain had stopped around 4am and the clouds were beginning to give way to the rising sun as we started the hike. We reached the Torres with a half hour to spare until sunrise, we then waited in cold for the sun to come up and shine on the Torres.

Unfortuately, the camera did not perform incredibly well in the low light sunrise. But I managed to get this as the sunlight hit the Torres before the clouds covered them up. This was the grand finale that we had hoped for. We were so lucky to have the cooperation of the weather. We then hiked all the way down to the Hotel, where we were took a shuttle to get on the bus back to Puerto Natales.

Puerto Natales

The main road down to the gulf in Puerto Natales

I really enjoyed my stay in Puerto Natales, it was almost like being in a small tourist town in northern Michigan. Everything was catered to people going to the park. One interesting thing though is that they have a statue of a milidon that greets you when you come into town. The milidon was a giant land sloth that used to roam Patagonia over ten thousand years ago. It is extinct now and there is a cave close to the town where they have found the remains of many milidons. I had to take the obligatory tourist picture with the milidon.

The legendary milidon.
And so my trip came to an end, I couldn't have been more pleased with how it went. We met tons of people from all over the world and shared each others stories while we ate our instant rice dinners in the middle of some of the best nature the planet has to offer.

I have put together an album of all my best pictures from the trip for you to see below as well as a map of the park with my hikes outlined by day. Starting with the red line from the east. Each color represents a different day.

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 Que les vaya bien!

Sunday, March 2, 2014



Time has flown by so quickly, to me it feels like I have just arrived. The Chilean summer is coming to an end and Santiago is slowly returning to work. I am not kidding when I say that literally half the city shuts down over the summer. Vacations are top priority in their culture, even the street performers go on vacations.

This past week, my host family invited me to Cachagua to stay with them for the weekend at their beach house. Cachagua is a small beach town on the coast, it is about an hour north of Viña del Mar. It can best be described as a place where it is not uncommon for people to fly in on their helicopters, play a polo match, and fly back. We were 100m from the beach, the following was a typical morning sight.

To the north there was also and island called "Los Pingüinos", yeah there were penguins, altough a bit hard to see, they still put on a show.

We then got hungry and decided to eat some food. If you know the kind of food that I normally eat, you would be in shock at the food I tried here. Look at all of these shellfish, mixed in with everything.

Round 2 was a classic Chilean barbecue, I ate so much meat.

We then headed north to a little town called Zapallar, from there we took a long walk on the beach and climbed up to a point where we could see the coast. Again, it was pristine.

All in all it was a great weekend, I am so thankful to my host family for sharing their vacation with me. I leave for Torres del Paine in a week. I am doing the W trek through the park. I'll be sure to write a post dedicated to how I survived my Patagonian adventure.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pomaire, Isla Negra, Viña, and Valpo

Hello, sorry it has been a bit since I have posted. Don't worry though, I have a lot to talk about.

First, I have finally gotten used to life in Santiago. Santiago has dirt paths for running and bike lanes all throughout the city, so I have been riding my bike to school, which is about 10km (6.25 miles) from my house and running throughout the city. I enjoy going through different parts of the city; everyday is its own little adventure. I also have been going on various hikes in the Andes, my goal is to hit all of the major Cerros close to Santiago. Here is a picture from the latest, Cerro Pochoco!

Second, we have gone to a couple places outside of Santiago, first was Pomaire, the ceramic capital of Chile. Everything there is made by hand, we watched them make a few pots and bowls. As interesting as clay making gets, it was great to see their tradition still alive and thriving. Almost every clay piece here in Chile is made in Pomaire. Including ET.

We also went to Isla Negra as well, played on the beach and climbed some rocks. It was nice to get outside the city and learn more about the non metropolitan life in Chile. Oh yeah, and there is this poet, Pablo Neruda, who has a house in Isla Negra. It's okay, basically if you have ever seen a nice house before that is what it looks like. I took a picture of his neighbors house. At least he has a nice view.

Finally, Viña del Mar and Valparaiso. Viña del Mar, literally translates to vineyard by the sea. A lot of people are on vacations now, so the beaches at Viña are pretty full, so we spent the day walking the boardwalk and visiting the muesum where they have one of the original Easter Island stone statues. These statues were created around 1100 and are still in excellent condition.

Valparaiso, is one the poorer sides of cities that I have seen so far. Stray dogs are very common as well as people on the streets. The city also smells like a bathroom depending on where you are at and I don't think they know what a garbage can is. There isn't a divide between the rich and the poor like in Santiago, in Valparaiso, its not terribly poor, but there are no signs of wealth like Santiago has. Despite all of this, the people there are wonderful, we rode the trolley, went to the top of the many Cerros to see the incredible architecture, and I got to play a couple rounds of chess with some old timers in the park. Also, I have never seen a city party so hard in my entire life. On Sunday morning there were still bars open at 8am. It seemed to me like when the sun went down, the city woke up. Nevertheless, I want to give Valparaiso another chance, it is a city with filled with great potential and great people.

PS. While there I met a French guy who had just graduated with a degree in Computer Science, he currently is traveling the world without money. Offering his service in exchange for food and travel. He's been out a year right now and is looking for a job on a freighter to Australia. What an adventure.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The weekends

Last weekend we went to Pichilemu and had a wonderful time at the beach. It was great to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and explore more of what Chile has to offer. We stayed in a hostel right on the coast call Surfarm, it was a shame that we only could stay one night there. I would go back in a heartbeat. The water was just as refreshing as Lake Superior in the summertime and after playing in the waves all day, we topped it off by having bonfire on the beach and gazing at the souther hemisphere sky.

This weekend we stayed in Santiago. Friday and Saturday night we went to the Festival de Jazz. We relaxed on the riverbank and listened to Phil Woods play his sax while the sun set over Cerro San Cristóbal. This was the first of many music festivals in Santiago this summer. If you like music Santiago has it all!

We finished off the weekend by hiking Cerro Manquhue (Mon - k - whey). Manquhue is a popular hike, we encountered people of all ages and nationalities. The trails were well developed, but the terrain did present some difficulty when we near the top. All in all, it took us a good 4 hours total and was worth every step. Santiago has an incredible number of hills and mountains to hike. Hopefully, I will have a chance to do most of them, but if I don't I guess that means I'll have to come back in the future!

That is all I have for now, we have trips planned to Isla Negra and Valparaiso in the coming weeks, so look for those soon. Chao!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Santiago, la ciudad que nunca duerme


This post will be my about my first impressions of Santiago, remember some of these impressions will probably change over the next couple months. But I think first impressions of a grand city like Santiago are important enough to warrant a post.

First and foremost, the smog. This city suffers greatly from the inversion effect, much like Los Angles. Right now the smog is especially bad because there are some forest fires in the central valley (near Valparaiso). Its almost too dangerous to do much physical activity and you can't even see the Andes which are no more than 15 kilometers away from downtown. Think about that mountain lovers: Sam, Kyle, Rachel, and Claire if you are reading this.

The view from Cerro Santa Lucia

Second, the graffiti and dogs. Graffiti is everywhere throughout the city, the universities, windows, banks, and even churches. It almost seems like they just let children run around with spray paint. There is a movement to "beautify" the marks, but it hasn't taken off in most parts yet. Also, stray dogs are commonplace, almost like how we see squirrels. They don't bother though and there is a movement to sedate them going on, but of course there is some opposition.

I should say that these problems are mostly downtown, Bellas Artes, and Rebública. In addition, the smog from the fires will clear up in the coming weeks. Where I live it is clean, nice, and full of fresh, clean air.

Even though the city might not be the prettiest, the people are amazing. Which brings me to my third and most important part of the city, the people. They are extremely nice and friendly. You can have a conversation with almost anyone about anything, and it will go on for hours, despite my broken Spanish. My family, teachers, and new friends are all wonderful people that I look forward to seeing everyday.

Please don't judge this city by its cover, that's my first impression.

We are all gathered at a restaurant near Plaza de Armas. Era muy rico.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mi familia


I am all moved in to the house and living with my host family. They are wonderful people who are really helping me develop my Spanish skills. Julia is my host mother, Eduardo is the father, and they have a daughter, Jes, who coincidently shares the same birthday as me but is one year younger.

Yesterday we took care of getting a phone, my metro pass, and some food. We went to a store call "Jumbo" which is like our Walmart. One thing that I noticed at the Jumbo was that all the cashiers were sitting in chairs, unlike in the United States.

We then went to the metro station to load up my Bip! card, so I could use the metro. Then, to a "Cruze Verde" to add credits to my phone. Cruz Verde was similar to our CVS. Another thing about the stores was that when going to the counter, you had to take a ticket number, even if you were the only one in line or they wouldn't serve you.

Next was dinner, which consisted of delicious pork chops, mashed potatoes (plain), and some salad (also plain) so I was a happy camper. We then talked for a while about the history of Chile.

 Here is a picture of them!