Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The End

I'm sitting in an empty room, except for my bag and some luggage in the corner.  Tomorrow, Nick and I take off for Buenos Aires, before continuing north through South America and eventually home to Minnesota.  I am utterly and completely in shock that my time in Santiago has now come to an end.  It feels like just yesterday that I arrived here at 5:00 AM, jobless and homeless.

As many (some) of you probably noticed, I've been pretty slow to post on here of late.  The blogging definitely took a backseat in my daily list of priorities, and honestly I wasn't sure why.  Maybe I tired of it, or maybe I couldn't find anything interesting to say.  But what I think happened was, I found myself feeling less like a foreigner documenting his weird journey through a strange land, and more like a Chilean living the normal life of a 20-something guy down here.  Things ceased to be strange, noteworthy, or blog-notes.  I took less and less pictures, because things stood out less and less to me.  This blog, created to keep me in touch with my friends and family back home, ended up being more of a tool for me to feel a connection to a world I knew.  Blogging about the things I saw, activities I did, or experiences I had helped me maintain this connection to a world thousands of miles away, because I felt no connection to the place.  But slowly, that connection grew and grew, until I suddenly no longer felt the need to pen my thoughts electronically.  I had a world down here that I needed to maintain, and so my electronic world faded into the background.

This isn't to say I'm not excited to return to the US, and to live in a world I (more or less) completely understand.  The US is, and always will be, my home.  But I do feel now that my life has been split into two parts, and I have two countries I feel completely at peace in.  I hope that I can take the lessons and perspective that I've acquired in this past year, and be a more complete and useful human being in the future.

Thank you, Chile.  It's been a most enjoyable ride.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Santiago Sky

A major problem in Santiago is air pollution.  The combination of a lot of industry, little regulation, and living inside a hole in the Andes Mountains has created a basin of fairly contaminated air.  Often, I cannot even see the mountain ranges to the east of the city because of heavy smog.  Here's a couple shots of what the sky looks like when it's particularly bad:

Usually it's not like this, but it's not uncommon to have a quite obscured view.  But it's just something you get used to, and like all things that repeat, we become desensitized.  

But now, we entered the rainy season.  And with the rainy season comes...rain.  Last week, there was a day where it was a light rain essentially all day.  But after getting next to nothing for over 5 months, the streets were insanely slick, and most people ended up just staying home.  On one hand, it was kind of miserable, but it was also really refreshing to get a little humidity in the air.  I got one of my more satisfying night's rests that night.  

And then the next day, the sky completely opened up.  Clear skies, I could see for kilometers (miles) around Santiago, and I finally got a good view of the city I've been living in for over 10 months now.  But really, the show was just beginning.  I got home around 8 pm that day, and stepped out onto my balcony, and saw this:

Sadly, my camera didn't really capture the majesty of this view.  The clouds were this spectacular golden hue, and the sky behind it was pure blue, and evolved into a faded pink in the distance.  Watching the clouds roll by was otherwordly.  Excited, I grabbed my camera and took to the streets.

Once down on the street, the sun had fallen further into the horizon, and the blue sky was giving way to red. Walking around my neighborhood, I was able to take some pretty amazing pictures.

Having your perspective jarred every now and then is a great experience.  It reminds you that so many of the things we do aren't necessarily how they have to be, it's just how we've been doing them for so long.  Routine desensitizes, and if you're not careful it bleeds into other aspects of your life.  Mix it up.  Do things that are not normal for you - scare yourself.  You might just like what you find.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012


This probably isn't the right place for an entry of this nature, but so be it.  'Observations and musings', right?

I have been in love exactly 3 times in my life.  I have also had 3 girls who were confirmed to be in love with me.  Sadly, those situations did not completely mirror each other.  Life is a funny thing that way.

Love has never been something I've had a great handle on.  Feelings like jealousy, anger, admiration, and embarrassment often work to subvert any deeper feelings which may underwrite a given situation, and it becomes easy to mistake the forest for the trees.  Often it becomes easier to think about what just happened, rather than the big picture.  Often it becomes easier to react to one specific action, rather than acknowledge the volatility of human emotion.  People have good days, and people have bad days.  And for those of us (almost everyone) who have trouble reading other people, miscommunications can often lead us down some very dark and undesired paths.

But as I've aged, and accumulated experiences and memories along the trail I've bivouacked, I've found that both the devil and the angels reside in the details.  It is what you can notice when nobody thinks you're looking that give you the answers that you may be searching for.  For your consideration, here are two examples.

Recently, I was seeing a fellow extranjera in Santiago.  She was a sweet girl, a native English speaker with a flair for the sarcastic and biting.  I was immediately drawn to her sense of humor and her intelligence.  It also helped that we were both these islands, afloat in a sea of latin culture and looking for a sounding board for our inner dialogues.  We immediately connected.  But after a while, it became clear that our chemistry was largely based upon circumstance and superficialities, rather than a personal connection.  I was able to notice things like this only rarely, but it became obvious that she would not internalize comments I made, just as I would forget things she would tell me about her situation or things that happened to her.  Slowly we drifted apart, and things came to an unceremonious end.

Around the same time things were unraveling with my extranjera, I met a Chilean girl.  She was incredibly reserved, quiet, and initially unimpressive.  We ran in mutual circles, and over time we shared a few constipated conversations about mundane things.  Things between us were always congenial, and her disposition was never short of saccharine.  But things never seemed to click.  We would dance together, smile, and share snippets of humor across the language barrier, but things seemed to stall out there.  I was convinced that nothing could ever breach the wall set before us, and so things stayed.  Then one day we had lunch together.  And while the two of us ate, I picked up on something.  When we talked in our constipated unnative dialects, there was something resonating beneath the surface.  As she talked, I found myself drawn to every word she uttered, entranced by her mannerisms and expressions.  And I noticed when I was talking, no matter how stupid the things exiting my brain were, she hung on every word.  There was a look in her eyes - a look of admiration, affection, and (dare I say) love.  The words almost seemed unimportant.

The moral of the story is, anybody can put a good foot forward.  People can look you in the eyes and lie, people can tell you one thing and think another, and people can logically explain away almost anything.  But nobody can be 'on' all the time.  Over time, everybody flashes you a view of the cards they are holding, it's only up to you to look for them.  It's when they think you are not looking that they tell you everything you need to know.

Funny, the things you learn thousands of miles from home.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Foods I look forward to eating/drinking upon returning to the US

- All natural extra chunky peanut butter
- Cooler Ranch Doritos
- Mountain Dew
- Taco Bell Gorditas
- General Tso's chicken
- Davanni's supreme pizza
- Qdoba/Chipotle burrito
- Arby's
- Chicken tikka masala

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I've realized that by now, there is too much to write about in the past.  I have done too many things at this point, and it has become daunting to have to put it all down in the blog so I've avoided it.  Thus, I am starting anew here with present day activities.  If you would like to ask me about Lollapalooza, Pablo Neruda's house, the rest of Torres del Paine, Ushuaia, Dad's visit, or other things I've done in the past couple months, please do and I will respond completely.  Otherwise, these things are just going to trickle into the blog as I keep up with the more or less daily grind.  It's for the best, I promise.

Anyway, today we went to a rodeo!  It was on the outskirts of the city, just south of the really nice part of town.  I met my German friends Andreas and Luisa there at about noon.  The place itself was pretty wild, as we had to walk through a holding pen for public busses, and then into a little wooded area before we got to the gate for the rodeo.

Once inside, it was impossible to tell we were still in Santiago...

 Not exactly what I've come to expect within our little hole in the mountains.

The rodeo had been underway since about 8 AM, when the sun was significantly weaker.  Here, we 3 WASPs felt her in her full glory as we watched teams of Chilean cowboys mull around the rodeo ring.

It wasn't what I expected the rodeo to be.  No ropes were used at all during the entire competition, the only way the cowboys would control the cow was with the bodies of their horses.  Every so often they would have to turn the cow around 180 degrees, and they would then be given points according to some measurable degree of proficiency.

 Here we see 2 of the cowboys going at it with the cow.  It looked quite hard - I expect it takes a lot of training to get one's horse to perform this task proficiently.

From the left: Me, Luisa, Andres, 2 chumps.

For the intermission, we went over to the outdoor restaurant and had a couple cokes.  Pisco was considered, but ultimately declined.

Horses penned up outside.  It was like a scene from the wild west.

The lineup of cows waiting to play.  They had 30+ cows in line, which seemed like overkill to me.  Chileans do not know moderation when it comes to planning, it's either way too much, or not at all.

We moved over to the other side for the second half of the competition.  Before being let loose in the big ring, the cows would run through this little mini-ring, presumably to burn off some of their pent-up energy.

Me, elated.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

MN Visit

Anybody who is in MN - come see me between April 12-17!  I'll be back for a few days doing an orientation at the Carlson School of Management, and then spending a little time with the fam before returning to the far south.


People, I'm sorry for the intermittance of posting recently.  Truth is, life has picked up its pace a little bit more of late, and the normal down time I had reserved for blogging has disappeared into the bowels of the metro and innards of classrooms and offices all over Santiago.  So, I plan to continue with my daily trip postings from Patagonia, while also mixing in some daily anecdotes and other short-form posts which will help to cover more ground.  Something's better than nothing, right?

This past weekend was a long one for us, thanks to Good Friday (here, it's called "semana santa", or holy week).  Friday morning, we took off in the car with Felipe, Arturo, and Kelsey to Algarrobo, a city on the coast just south of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.  The drive out is one I know well at this point, but I still can't help but take pictures every time we go.  The surrounding countryside is still otherworldly to me.

The last picture is in Valle de casablanca, apparently one of the best places in the world to grow Chardonnay.  Can't say I know the wine from there, but likely soon.

After driving a while, we arrived in Algarrobo.

The neighborhood was surrounded by these large trees, which is something of an abnormality for Chile.  I assume they were artificially planted there.
Me, in my hipster glasses, ready to party.
Kelsey making a common salsa for barbecues here - a mix of chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, salt, lemon juice, and some veggie oil.  It's delicious on chorizo and bread.

For the night, we went to Arturo's friend's house, where we took some of his cornucopia of wood to fuel the fires for the weekend.

Fresh meat, right off the grill.  It got cold outside quickly by the coast, so we ended up eating inside.

Relaxing the next morning with Micheladas - a mix of light beer, lemon juice, and salt.  They are actually quite refreshing.

A light lunch - ceviche and mariscos (whitefish with onions and citrus juice, and a mix of shellfish)

The beers started flowing much more quickly after lunch.
Headed to the beach.
The beach was a bit of a hike, but it was well worth the effort.

Felipe, aka the mountain goat, making his way down to the playa.

After the day, we walked back along the coast until we were forced to hike up the hill.  This was kind of a cool view we had as the sun was setting around the other side of the hill.
It's difficult to see in this picture, but there is some fungus that completely ate away all the pine needles in this one section of tree, and covered it with a strange fuzzy substance.  I've noticed some very nasty, aggressive fungi in the trees in my time down here.
Night 2 - the barbecue continues
From the left: Wasi, me, Felipe, Arturo
All of us, with 2 of Arturo's friends for the barbecue.
Pil pil - pork pieces cooked over the stove with spices, then spread over toasted bread.  It was amazing.
Our last meal, before taking off for home.
We found out that there was a huge traffic jam thanks to an accident very close to Santiago, so we took this back road that led us through the mountains over dirt roads and switchbacks galore.  It took us 2 hours, but the traffic jam was taking people more than 4 hours to get back, so we ended up saving time while also seeing a cool, backcountry side of the outskirts of Santiago.  This picture was taken from the top of one of the cordilleras we drove over, as we took a break to stretch our legs.

Happy belated Easter!