Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting out of the city

Getting off the plane

So here we are! Arriving in La Serena, about an hour's flight northwest of Santiago. We had a whole trip planned and mostly paid for by IES, which was great. All the students from our program went on the trip, along with one of the directors of IES and the student advisor. We got up early early and arrived at IES at 7:30 am, headed to the airport, and went through security to the gate. By the way, security consisted of throwing one's bag on the belt, walking through, and going to the gate, handing them one's ticket, no ID, and getting on the plane. We then flew to the smallest airport I've ever been to. As you can see, we exited right on to the tarmac. It was like being a movie star! The weather was fine, and we were ready for an adventure. We hopped on the bus, well we really crowded ourselves onto the bus and prepared for a bit of a drive. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and as we drove the clouds cleared and we were able to see more and more of the countryside. This general area is famous for how beautiful it is. It's right between the Andes and the Pacific, but also pretty close to the desert to the north. This makes for a great mix of vegetation. Lots of green in some areas, more cactus-y in others, along with blue sky and mountains wherever you are. Even though we were all tired, the warm sea air was rejuvenating, and I think we all felt the change of scenery start working on us immediately. 

After a bit of a bus ride, we stopped in the municipality of Coquimbo and learned a little bit about the area from some people who work there. It was pretty interesting and it was cool to get a local perspective on education, healthcare, and what it's like to live in the Elqui province in general. After this we went to a lookout point on some dam. It was gorgeous! By this time the day was getting hot and we were all happy to be walking around outside. Although it was a man-made lake, it was still beautiful and the mountains were so peaceful. One of my friends and I were a little slow compared to the rest of the group. We walked around and chatted, taking pictures and taking in the scenery, while the others were waiting to get a group shot. Whoops! After we took the group photo, we headed back to the bus. There were a few cheesy souvenir shops along the way, and while I had no interest in buying stuff from them, I stumbled upon a beverage stand that had papaya nectar. I bought one since it was so dry out, and my throat was parched. I took a drink and the liquid truly reflected its name: Mágico del Sol (magic of the sun). It was delicious, refreshing, and sweet. It had aloe in it too which had a very slight cooling effect and made for a tasty treat on a hot day. 

Next we drove around for a bit longer, but stopped at a little shop on the side of the road that sold papaya products. They had papaya marmalade, syrup, nectar, juice, along with dried and cooked papaya. It was like stepping into heaven! I got some dried papaya, some marmalade, and another nectar for the road. We were all feeling pretty happy after trying the dried fruit, and some of my friends played outside on a playset. It was great seeing everyone act like kids again. Being able to let go of responsibilities and stress and just play is rare, but wonderful when it happens. There was a little field of beautiful flowers and some of us picked them to put in our hair. 

Even though some people made fun of us and called us hippies, we felt good about our new adornments. When we got back on the bus, one of my groupmates asked me, "Hattie, what are you going to give back to the earth?" reminding me that I can't just take from the land without returning something to it. I plan on planting many more times the flowers that I pick, and it was good to have that little reminder.

After we were satiated with papaya, we headed to our lunch destination. I believe it was at one of the Mistral vineyards, but wherever it was, it was delicious and beautiful. We had little rolls and salsa to start with, then a salad made of lettuce, carrot, tomato, and avocado. Our main course was either pork or steak with mashed potatoes. I went with the steak and it was great. Pink, juicy, and tender. For dessert we could choose between papaya or almond-crusted chocolate cake, and since I had my fill of papaya earlier I opted for the chocolate cake. It was cool and creamy, and the strawberry sauce was a perfect addition to the cake. Since we had some time to kill and it was such a beautiful day, we played outside around the restaurant for a while before getting back on the bus.

After the lunch, we made our way to the pisquera named Los Nichos. They make completely organic Pisco, the liquor that Chile is famous for. We took a tour and tried the piscos, which were great, and heard lots of stories from the tour guide. Supposedly, the guy who owned and revolutionized the pisco-making process around the turn of the century had a rule: if you came to drink with him, you had to enter standing up but leave on your back. Sounds like he was quite the rowdy guy! Needless to say, it was pretty cool to tour the only organic pisquera in Chile. 


In the process...
After the tour, we made our way to another town which I don't remember the name of, and had dinner at a quaint restaurant. We had a great salad, similar to the one at lunch but with ham in the avocado halves. The main course was a chicken thigh/leg with rice. Simple, but the service made the night. The people there were incredibly nice (I referred to them in my previous post), and were the definition of helpful. For dessert, we had a traditional Chilean dish which was two dried then soaked peaches in a peachy, cinnamon liquid with barley at the bottom. It was sweet and refreshing. After this, we drove to La Serena, picked up two guides and began our trip up to the observatory. The stargazing in this part of Chile is supposed to be some of the best in the world, and the drive alone proved this to be true. Looking out the bus window, I could see the Milky Way, which was a first for me. I've never seen so many stars. I wanted to cry it was so beautiful. The night was cool and dry, and the sky was breath-taking. After a short presentation, we went to the telescopes. Our guide pointed out different stars, planets, and novas and we all got a chance to look through two different telescopes. I preferred to lay down on the ground and just look at the sky rather than listen to a lecture about who discovered what, and did so. As the moon was rising I ran a little ways up the mountain and watched it finnish its ascent. It was an amazing night. We drove back to our hotel (this was our first arrival there....) and arrived at about 12:45am. Knowing full well that we had to get up early, my roomies for the weekend and I went to bed immediately.

Saturday we got up, well I got up early to shower and get ready for breakfast. We headed down to eat what ended up being a breakfast consisting of endless baskets of toast and plates of ham and cheese. Don't forget the instant coffee! It was a satisfying breakfast, and as usual the people were super nice. We all stocked up on fresh fruit and headed to the bus. We rode for about 2 hours to reach Punta de Choro, where the Humboldt Penguin preserve is. On the way we got to see LLAMAS! So awesome. Supposedly these kinds of llamas don't come down to that part of the land often. They are usually higher up. Either way, I'm glad I got to see them.

We arrived at Punta de Choro and the day was shaping up to be pretty gloomy, but we had fun exploring anyways. We had a little bit of a surprise, however. When we tried to drive into the town, there was an inordinate amount of policemen who stopped us to ask why we were entering the town. After explaining that we were visiting the preserve, they let us go through and explained that President Piñera (the president of Chile) was coming to the town in a few hours. For those of you who don't know (which is probably most since Chilean news doesn't seem to reach the rest of the world very fast), there has been a big debate about installing a thermal energy plant at Punta de Choro. The problem with this is that the plant would pump hot water into the ocean, which would essentially wipe out the wildlife there. The only reason why so much wildlife exists is because of the Humboldt current, which brings very cold water to this area. Obviously, a thermal energy plant would affect this. 

Anyways! We get to the town after hearing the news, and walk around on the beach, chat, find snacks, and wait for the President to arrive. One of my friends had a little accident...he was walking around on the rocks in the ocean and managed to fall in, completely soaking everything he was wearing. He and our program director went on an adventure to find him dry clothes. They walked about a mile outside of the town before they found anyone. A store that sold pretty much whatever you need, plus empanadas and beer, that also functioned as a restaurant was kind enough to help out my friend. The guy who owned it lent him dry clothes and offered to dry the wet ones. Funnily enough, the t-shirt my friend borrowed said what translates to "My first father's day," which we all thought was hilarious. He had a great sense of humor about it, and was pretty happy because the store told us to come back later for empanadas, which we all agreed sounded like a great idea. On top of that, the day turned out to be gorgeous and warm, once again. 

After waiting for a LONG time, the President finally arrived. We all waited as he approached the dock, and when he arrived with his group of people I (being the Hattie that I am) put myself right in the front and met Piñera. I hugged him and kissed his cheek in the traditional Chilean style, and he did the same for me. Although he is conservative, and I do not agree with a lot of his actions, I met him and listened to his speech. 

After his speech (full of lies), we had a little lunch and waited for our turn to go out to the reserve, which is on an island. The president was there for a while, so we weren't sure when we would be able to take boats out there. Then we got the worst news of the whole trip: we couldn't go see the penguins. The waves had gotten too big and since we had to wait until the president got back, we wouldn't be able to go. This was a pretty huge bummer since most of us went on the trip to see penguins in the first place, and I admit I threw a bit of a fit (and apologized for it later). Thankfully we had empanadas and beer to cheer us all up. And they did! I personally had shrimp and cheese, and tomato ham and cheese empanadas. They were homemade and tasted like it. We also met some nice policemen who agreed to take a picture with us ladies. After all the food and beer, we were very sleepy and enjoyed the opportunity to nap that the bus ride afforded us. 

Even though we were all extremely tired, we still managed to go out and hit the bars. We had Terremotos (which means earthquakes). These are made with white wine, sometimes pisco, and a couple scoops of pineapple ice cream. This bar put in different flavors to make them pretty colors too. We had a lot of fun turning one place into a dance club, even though it really wasn't supposed to be. We ended the night in my room with pizza and hung out watching TV for a while. I was the first to fall asleep, and did so feeling less bitter about the penguins than I expected. 

Sunday was a pretty easy day. We got up, had a similar breakfast and got ready to head to the beach. On the way we stopped at an artesian fair/fish market and browsed for about an hour. After that we went to the beach, played in the water for a bit, and then headed to the most gaudy casino/hotel for lunch. It was a tasty buffet with lots of options, but the atmosphere was pretty snobby. Even though we ended the weekend here, it was still a blast and I am so glad we had the opportunity to go to La Serena. I might even go back to see the penguins!  

We ended our sunday driving along the beach back to the airport, and it was a great view to top off a relaxing weekend. 

My universe is so big right now!

One of my new favorite activities is striking up conversations with interesting people wherever I go. One day my friend and I were bored at the IES center, and everyone else was in class so we decided to go on an adventure. After sitting around on our computers for a bit, we decided to go to Plaza de Armas and walk around. Coincidentally, there is a photography mini-museum in the metro station at the Plaza, so we explored that for a bit and the went up to the actual plaza. We walked around for a while, passed an incredible amount of thrift shops, found a part of town we had never been to before, and then worked our way back to the Plaza. It was refreshing to get kind of lost and not worry where we were going. Just to go! Once we got back to Plaza de Armas, we meandered around the art stands. For some reason, a lot of painters always gather in this locale and try to sell their art. Also, there seems to be a lot of african-inspired art. I'm not sure if this is because there are very few black people in Chile, or what. Whatever the reason, it is very interesting.

We came across a man in a camouflage hoodie, dirty jeans, with one of the most content, smiling faces I've ever seen. He was a bearded man and was working on a very abstract painting at the time, but what caught our attention was one particular printed painting thing that was a woman sitting at a table, holding a glass of milk and resting her head on her other hand. Her head, though, was the head of a cow, and her breasts were the teats of a cows udder. It also seemed like there was an explosion of blood coming from behind her head. It was pretty strange and I didn't really get the message. We asked the artist what the painting was saying, and at first he just tried to explain to us the material upon which it was printed, but I made it clear that I really wanted to know the message of the piece and then he enthusiastically explained to us that it had to do with consumption: the cow is holding a glass of her own milk, and this reflective of society; it also had to do with eating meat, as the artist is a vegetarian and has been for about 15 years. He also showed us other pieces that were essentially landscapes, but everything was made of garbage. There was one with a bird standing on top of a hill and the bird is formed from a bunch of garbage all compressed together, and the hills, the river, etc. are all made of garbage. The best thing about this guy was how much he smiled. He asked us about ourselves, where we are from, why we are in Chile. And we asked him about his life. The entire time he was smiling. It was a great interaction and I enjoyed it a lot.

This weekend our entire group went to La Serena and Valle del Elqui. It was beautiful, and I had lots of beautiful interactions with people. It seemed like all the people from this area were super-amable (super nice). The women who worked at the restaurants and at the hotel were so nice, called us all "mi amor" or "mi niño" (my love, my child) and made us feel very at home. We went to Punto Chorro and I noticed these two men were taking pictures of me and filming me. I felt pretty creeped out until I noticed they also filmed and photographed my friends as well. I went up to the photographer and struck up a conversation with him, asking him if they were reporters. He said yes, and we proceeded to have a great conversation about Chile, the upcoming independence day, and politics. He also was super-amable and seemed genuinely interested in my experiences. It's kind of funny, whenever I speak with Chileans, they ask my why I would choose to come to Chile. When I explain to them, they then ask me what I think of people here. I tell them that people in general are nice and helpful.

As my mother put it so well, my universe is so big right now. And I love it!

Reflections: Month 1--ish

Well estimado amigos, I have passed one month mark of my fantastic trip here in Santiago. All I can say is that it's be cussin' amazing and fun, and I am excited for the next 3 months! I was thinking today, while waiting for my Mapuche professor to show up, about the last few weeks, and how I felt at the beginning versus how I feel now. I think part of what made me so reflective was our poetry reading in my other class today. During the first week of classes, we had to write a poem that reflected, represented, summed up, etc. our feelings upon first arriving in Santiago. Listening to everyone's poems, I realized a lot of us had similar experiences and it got me thinking. My favorite poem was written by a guy from UCSB and it was about the Chilean phrases, asking people for directions, getting lost, etc. and I really identified with how he expressed the confusion of being in a new place. Even though his poem was obviously meant to be funny, I felt like it was genuine and played on the emotions of us all during the first weeks here.

I think the most present memories from the first week here were trying to figure out how to use the bus/metro system and trying to find where I was going. There was a lot of waiting, wrong directions, getting lost, and pulling out my map in the middle of a street to figure out where we were. It was scary, confusing, embarrassing, and fun. I spent a lot of time with the people on my program, getting to know them, figuring out who I might be able to connect with, and who I might want to party with. We definitely partied a lot, trying to get our bearings in this huge city and realizing that we are going to be in this place for the next four months of our lives. While four months is essentially a moment in a person's lifetime, I was constantly told in the year leading up to my study abroad experience that it would be the most amazing one of my life, the one I would never forget, the one that would change me, the one where I would figure out who I am, the one that would shape my perspective, etc. etc. I don't know if it will be as grandiose as all that, but it's certainly been pretty amazing so far. My friends and I constantly talk about this experience as unreal, like we aren't in the real world, like we are all going to wake up at any moment and face reality. The beautiful thing is that this IS reality.

My favorite moments in Chile are the spontaneous and momentary vistas of nature I manage to capture to hold my memory.  Sometimes it happens when I'm walking down the street after class. I'm absorbed in my own thoughts and then the Andes hit me like a blast of cold air. The sun setting on the snowy peaks takes my breath away every single time. I stop, just for a moment, to realize how amazing something like mountains can be. That something so huge can be made by this earth, and that I get to see them. Sometimes it's so beautiful that I can hardly stand it, and maybe even a tear or two try to sneak out of my eyes. Maybe it's because I grew up on the flat (but beautiful!) plains of the midwest, and that mountains aren't present, but there is just something about them that gets me. I remember as a child going to Wyoming and seeing the Grand Teton's for the first time. I would wake up before everyone in the house (can you believe it?) and just sit on the floor marveling at that mountain range through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's so humbling, and I love that feeling here in Chile.

Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm here living this new life, with all these new people, and I am doing great! I don't feel too homesick, although I have my moments. Every now and then I just really want a bowl of my mom's soup, a plate of my dad's clam fettucini, or a cup of Gong Fu tea or Zanzibar's coffee,  but I'm willing to forego these comforts for an amazing trip in Santiago.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Miracles are possible!

Within the last hour, Chileans received the news they have been waiting for for the last 17 days: the miners are ALL still alive. The rescue workers heard noises this morning as they approached the refuge, and this afternoon the miners gave a note written with red pencil saying "We are fine, in the refuge, all 33." This is indeed a miraculous day for Chileans and all those affected by such a tragedy. Hopefully in the next few hours the rescue workers will be able to make contact with the miners via cameras, and then send food, water, oxygen, and medicine to the miners. I can't even imagine how happy the families must be at this moment. Today is a day to celebrate!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chilean Tragedy

Hello my family and friends. While I have been having fun and experiencing the Chilean life as best I can, many Chileans are living in fear. For those of you who haven't heard or been following the San Jose mining collapse, here is a bit of information.

In San Jose, northern Chile, 10 days ago there was a collapse in the mine there. 33 miners have been trapped there since the 5th, and attempts to rescue them have not only failed thus far, another collapse occurred. No communication has been made with the miners since this collapse. Rather than try to directly access the miners for extrication, the rescue crews are working to transport food, water, and oxygen to the miners. Family and friends of the trapped have gathered en masse at the site of the mine, and President Piñera is addressing the problems that led to the collapse. There is much hope that the miners are all still alive, and many are doing what they can to support the families and friends of the miners. Please keep the miners, their families, and any who are close to them in your hearts. Send out requests to the universe, prayers, or ask whatever deity you put faith in that these miners can make it out alive.

Rescue worker after second collapse

Friday, August 13, 2010

Other nights in Santiago

While my friends and I all try to be creative about what we do each day and night, sometimes we don't always succeed. We do, however, succeed in laughing a lot, and having fun. Recently UChile played a Mexican team, and since we've heard so many crazy stories about what happens on game night, we all decided to hit a bar and watch the game. I unfortunately didn't make it until the second half, and unfortunately there wasn't much going on, but this was probably better for us in the end. So there we are, gringos as we are, essentially the only ones sitting in this bar called Mi Lounge watching the futbol game. I thought it was pretty funny, and it was a great time. We all called the night pretty early and decided to rest up. Especially those unfortunate ones who had classes the next day.

When we can't think of anything else to do, we usually end up hanging out at someone's house. This is my personal favorite because we all get to talk a lot more, relax a bit more, and sit on comfy couches too. One of my friend's family has an apartment and are usually happy to have us all over. We spend a lot of time youtubing and goofing off at her place. Always a fun time.

Sometimes we go out to Las Condes, the very affluent part of Santiago, and sip wine and beer with class. I like to call this photo "The Family Portrait" since it kind of encapsulates our group. 

The Family Portrat

One day when we were walking around near La Moneda (the president's house) I realized that a fair few of us were wearing Ray Bans or knockoffs so we decided we would be a good group to advertise for Ray Ban and took the liberty of doing the photo shoot ourselves. 

As much fun as I've had going out and bein a little loca, there are pretty frustrating moments here too. Trying to deal with all the problems with my computer, charge my transportation card, charge my phone while the pharmacy is being robbed, explain to someone what q-tips are, and get cold medicine can be challenging and stressful. One very frustrating day was when I was trying to find a class at UChile. First, it took forever and a day to get there, then I had to ask about 8 people where to go before I figured out I was at the completely wrong campus and had missed the class. So I decided to head home and call it a day, but I got on the wrong bus and went the opposite direction from home. Just when I was feeling really down, I looked up and saw the sun setting on the Andes and it took my breath away. 

I think this is the most rewarding thing about living in Santiago. You can be walking, riding the bus, or getting lost but every now and then, between the sky scrapers and smog you catch a glimpse like this one and you're reminded of how beautiful the world is. 

More Explorations

One night we were all craving Mexican food, so we found a Mexican restaurant and met up. It was terrible food but we all enjoyed ourselves and it was, as always, good to spend the evening in good company.

Another day some of us decided to grab a beer and some food in the afternoon and then head to the market. We had some intense conversations about religion, politics, morals, and beliefs in general. It's really great that we are all so different, but can have intelligent conversations about our differing ideas without it changing our friendship. We also had some goofy moments, how could we not when I'm around?

After the beers we went and climbed up a Palacio of some kind. The view was amazing and it was a pretty peaceful spot. The Andes are awe-inspiring, even though my pictures don't quite do them justice. 

After the climb, we ended up going to a market, where I FINALLY got an animal sweater. I'm pretty proud of my alpaca wool sweater with llamas on it. 

One night while we were all partying at a friend's apartment, I got a little artsy and took some pictures of my friends. 

I am surrounded by creative people, in all different ways. Two people are photographers, one plays guitar and sings amazingly, another is an opera singer. And others are into sports like rugby and lacrosse. The mixture, like I've said before, is so awesome and I feel super lucky to have all these people around me and I am loving getting to know each of them. 

Valparaíso y la Casa de Pablo Neruda

Our first major fieldtrip that we took as a group was to Valparaíso, the main port of Chile. While it's not the biggest city or port in Chile, it is the primary one. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the proximity to the sea made it even warmer. We got to nap on the way up to the city, which was good since it was a bit too early for some of us. Once we got to Valparaíso itself, we walked around the town a bit, and then went up to the top of one of the little peak/neighborhoods. The view was incredibly gorgeous and it was a fun ride up to the top. It was interesting seeing the architectural difference between Valparaíso and Santiago. In Santiago, it's much more industrial and the contrast between old and new is much more stark. In Valparaíso, all the houses are brightly colored and the industrial architecture hasn't creeped in so much. The above picture doesn't quite do justice to the dappled cityscape of this lovely port town, but you get the general idea. It was as if someone scattered pebbles of every bright color imaginable across the landscape and houses sprang up all squished together from the pebbles. It was fun and beautiful. 

While at the top taking in this view, I asked Maricarmen, the funny advisor at IES to take a picture with me. When we got ready and posed, she suddenly asked me in her quirky and endearing way, "What is your name again?" and I proceeded to tell her. The moment was captured in the cutest picture I have from my trip to date. We got to take a hike around the neighborhood on our way to our lunch place and I fell in love with the graffiti and street art. Some pieces were simple and powerful while others were complex and amazing. 

The lunch we had was pretty amazing. First the brought out bread drizzled with an herbed oil. Next came a light soup that was pumpkin, curry, and ginger puree. The main dish was either fish or steak over a creamy, shrimp, and snail risotto, with a curry sauce on the side. The dessert was incredible. It was a spicy apple crumble with lucuma/dulce de leche ice cream and topped with a caramel candy. It was muy rico and delicious. 

After we ate lunch, we walked down the little mountain through more colorful houses and more awesome graffiti. Next we went to Pablo Neruda's house at Isla Negra. It was a sweet house that had so many collections of crazy stuff, beautiful architecture, and intricately ascetic rooms that all had their own purpose. Neruda picked a great location with beautiful views of the ocean. His love of the sea is apparent in his house and the stories about his life and poetry. It was a peaceful place (other than all the tourists) and all the different viewpoints on the property were picturesque. I had a great day with my new friends and ended it with a beautiful sunset. I thought about many friends and family who would have LOVED both Valparaíso and Pablo Neruda's house and I wish you could have been there to see it. 

Nights on the Town: ¡Carrete!

Hello my followers! I am sorry it has been so long since my last post, but my computer has been MIA. Now that I temporarily have a functioning computer, I can update you all on my adventures of the last 2 weeks. 
Boys being silly

Needless to say, the nightlife here in Santiago is a bit more loca than I'm used to at home. The lack of classes and responsibilities definitely makes for too many opportunities to go out with the friends. It's been super fun discovering new places to go. I like planning out places to go, even though some of my compatriots don't always agree with my choices. One of the evenings that we went out, my host mother gave me a suggestion for a dance club that was pretty close to where I live. I gave everyone the heads up and we met up in Parque Ñuñoa, found the club, and decided to wait at a sushi bar and have a few drinks before our whole group showed up. We had the usual Pisco Sours, Escudos, and some people got adventurous and had Fanschop's which are beer and Fanta mixed. Yum! After spending a little too long in the sushi bar, where incidentally we were the only people in the whole place, and after listening to the endless, bass pumping weird techno music that nobody liked, we moved on to La Batuta, the supposed "discotech." While dancing did occur at this club, the night we went there happened to be an 80's, christian, hair, metal, and who knows what else band called Jesus Cristo Metal Star. 
Jesus Cristo Metal Star
Friends having fun
While at first we were all pretty apprehensive about staying at the concert, we ended up having a great time and just went with it. It was refreshing to let go of any kind of judgements, preconceptions, or fears and experience something totally new and different. It was a blast and I was there with good friends. What more can you need? It was so crazy and hilarious all you could do was shrug your shoulders and rock out. The atmosphere was fantastic. The entire crowd was singing along and was obviously full of dedicated fans. While it wasn't the night any of us expected, we were all happy to have a new and unexpected experience. 

Another night we all, almost literally ALL of us met up and went to get drinks. It was fun, albeit a bit difficult, to get all of our group into one place. After we had some laughs, our group split up and went to different places. The bar that I ended up at turned out to be quite interesting. I don't know if I've explained this to all of you, but pololos (couples) are very very into PDA in Chile. They all make out all over the place in all public locations. It's pretty weird. So one couple at this bar was just going at it and we were all pretty weirded out. To take the edge off the strange situation, my friend decided we should do a shot and ordered one that looked tasty. We realized after she ordered that the shots were flaming and we had to take them through straw. They were good and fun anyways. Don't get any bad ideas about me, friends and family, I'm just living it up here in a FUN and Responsible manner. 

When we're not going out on the town, we usually spend a few hours a day in the IES center just hanging out, catching up on the latest stories we all have to share, and sipping tea and instant coffee. It's a comfortable and relaxing environment, with people coming in and out, hanging out on couches and chatting with all the IES staff. It's a great home base. Alrighty! On to the next update! Look forward to lots of pictures from Valparaíso!