Se Fue el Semestre

Everything coming to a close now after a successful reception of my independent study project and lots of play (surfing, concerts, pool parties…the rough life) these past couple weeks for which one must sacrifice some sleep! Nonetheless la vida es buena and I am grateful and a bit nostalgic for all that these past few months in Valparaíso has given me and am super psyched for the month ahead of me. Tomorrow I will hopefully head to Pichilemu with a few friends to camp, surf, and explore the area for 4 days until heading to Lima, Peru to meet up with the rest of my fam for what’s sure to be a great 10 day vacation. Then I will be returning to Valpo on Xmas-Eve to spend a few days with my Chilean host family before heading down to northern Patagonia in San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina to spend a few days with a friend through the new year and then finally back to Colorado on the 3rd of the year. So to say that life is sweet would be an understatement. Still, can’t wait to get back to everything and everyone that awaits me back in CO, skiing included, and Boston, lacrosse included.

Mi mamá, WiWi, y yo en nuestra cena final

Mi mamá, WiWi, y yo en nuestra cena final

If any of you have interest or Spanish skills and would like to check out my project, the link below will direct you to my written project and the complementary video that I hope to get some English subtitles on at some point. Hope you all enjoy! Abrazos gigantes.

ISP Escrito



Manola Verdejo

Chico Trujillo



Play, Work, Live

After spending another week in northern Chile (5 days of which I spent living with on other student in a small pueblo of ~30 people, Socoroma, living the daily life in the fields, helping out at the school, and studying the town’s current water and irrigation system), I arrived back to Valparaíso at the beginning of November with a whole lot of work ahead of me as I entered the Independent Research Project period. Before any work could begin though, much play and friends had to come first. Two of my best friends from Tufts, Abbie and Janie who are studying in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, came to Valpo/Viña to get a taste of the high life staying with Wee Wee and fam at my house for the 1-3 of November. Between being spoiled by Wee Wee, going to a beer festival, taking a tour of Pablo Neruda’s house, lounging on the dunes, and having a an asado and playing beer pong with Wee Wee, I’m pretty sure the girls had a successful weekend here.

Me, Abbie, Janie

Me, Abbie, Janie

Daniel, Isabela, Sebastian, Me in Socoromo

Daniel, Isabela, Sebastian, Me in Socoroma

After the girls left, I was immediately greeted with a meeting with my advisor, a sociologist at the University of Chile, who assured me I still did not have a grasp of a specific research question that I could use for my project (something I’ve been told for the past month and a half). After that heart-warming meeting and a few days of scurrying, article rummaging and Google translate, I finally was able to create a concrete enough idea to get off the ground with. As a quick summary, I’ve decided to observe social interactions, specifically competitive behavior, in two socioeconomically contrasting physical education environments by entering into a public and private school to teach 3 sessions of lacrosse in each school. To complement my behavioral observational field study, I will also conduct interviews through out the month in order to comprehend the sources and influences of the kids’ healthy or delinquent daily habits and values in and outside of school. Even after my first intervention in the public school, I already began to pick up on many behavioral subtleties, and with the aid of a fantastic person and physical ed teacher, I have been able to focus in even further on a few key concepts/examples of the student’s behavior that I will continue to build upon in the next few weeks.

No matter how intense or time consuming the project is, I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to do hands on field-based research about a topic that I’m passionate about.  Everyone has been so supportive of my ideas here and it even seems as though my original idea of making a mini documentary will turn out! In the past couple months, I did make another short film of my lacrosse ventures before heading on my excursion to the north. Check out the video here…

Still, can’t let my time pass here in Chile without seeing or experiences something new every day. Lsat weekend, I made a trip about an hour south of Valpo to Algarrobo, where I stayed with an incredibly hospitable family (like the majority of Chileans), whom I met back in Colorado this summer. (The inlaws of my sister’s Chilean nanny). Although a strange connection, it was another reassurance to me of just how strong Chilean warmth really is- to have faith in someone you know by 4 degrees of separation, to welcome them into your home and treat them as if you’d know them for years and years. A truly special, beautiful, calm weekend complemented by the world’s largest man-made salt-water lagoon, beautiful walks on the beach, a family reunion/asado while watching Chile’s most prominent soccer teams faceoff (truly experiencing South American love of fútbol), a community parade celebrating the Festival of Spring, and some home made empanadas.

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A true treat it was, but now back to work!…I did come here to study.

Atacama Desert

Made it up to Arica, a costal city in Chile’s Atacama Desert and the pathway to the precordillera and the altiplano of Bolivia/Peru/Chile, with half of the SIT program (the other half is down south in Temuco with a Mapuche community). The weather is pretty consistent on the coast year round at about 18 degrees Celsius during the day and night making for a very calm and pleasant climate.

After resting a bit at the beach and hotel on Wednesday upon arrival, we immediately picked classes back up on Thursday morning- consisting of Aymara Cosmovision and Cultural Patrimony. Through being taught by local community members and Aymara people, it’s been very intriguing learning about the Aymara’s way of life and their incredible respect for mother nature (Pachamama), a sense of balance (equilibrio) in all aspects of life- material and spiritual, and expectation of reciprocity in all encounters. On Friday morning, our classes consisted of Chilenization (basically the history of how the State has discriminated against the indigenous Aymara people and how the Aymara still persist in preserving their culture and human rights) and Aymara medicine (two Aymara women came in to show and explain to us a bunch of different herbs, flowers, remedies that are used in the Aymara methodology of health treatment- all so natural and pure).

On Thursday afternoon, as our gift of reciprocity to the communities that will be receiving us during our time in the precordillera, we began preparing for a small theater play to present to the children of Putre, a small pueblo west of Arica in the precordillera at around 3800 meters above sea-level, where we will spend the second half of our excursion before heading out to other small pueblos in the region to live with Aymara families. On Friday afternoon, we went to a textile-producing community of Aymara women outside of Arica in the Azapa Valley, and were graciously welcomed by the women, who create beautiful ponchos, scarves, and bags out of alpaca wool. We were taught about the entire process and actually got to try it out! It was extremely wonderful to be taught the techniques by these women who were so friendly, generous, and excited to teach us how to make the yarn from the raw alpaca wool, prepare the weave and finally realize the clothing- all of which is a very tedious process that requires much patience and cariño. A truly beautiful interaction with this community ended with a spectacular sunset over the desert hills- a great complement to the sunrise that a friend and I saw earlier that morning after hiking to the top of the cliffs overlooking Arica.

Later on Friday night, we gathered in Arica to join an Aymara community would had traveled to the coast from their pueblo, Guallatiri (close to the Bolivian/Argentinian border in the Altiplano), to share some special traditions of the culture. First, the night started with a common Pawa ceremony, a way to ask permission, give thanks and respect to the Pachamama, los Mallku (spirits living in the hills), the sun god, ancestors, and to welcome the participating members of the gathering. Following the ceremony, the people of Guallatiri had prepared two traditional Aymara dances for us which we reciprocated by singing them Marvin’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to the best of our abilities. The night ended with more dancing and conversing together over a rico spread of traditional food of the altiplano including multiple types of potatoes, avocado, llama, altpaca, choclo/maiz, olives, cheese, and chicken soup. A beautiful and special experience that all of us are extremely grateful for.

Saturday was spent climbing 3800 meters in altitude to Putre. We took the trip very slow a to avoid altitude sickness and thus were able to take in all the dramatic, stunning landscape through out the entire day. Now being high above the ocean in the driest desert in the world, the sunset is stunning, reminding me of Colorado’s mountain sunsets, and the temperature significantly drops (good thing I forgot my long-johns back in Valpo!). I’ll hopefully find a warm pair of pants and moccasins tomorrow to wear this week. We’ll be here in Putre until Wednesday morning before our short homestays (10/23-10/27) and will take Tuesday to travel up to the altiplano, visit one of the highest lakes, have a picnic and swim in hotsprings. Should be another great day.

These past 4 days have already proved very distinct from the past 8 weeks in Valparaíso, now drinking Mate, chewing coca leaves, and learning some of the Aymara language. The SIT staff is so wonderful, warm, welcoming, and caring wherever we go and I’m extremely thankful for their incredible organization that’s gone into these trips to make sure us as students can get the most of out our time in Chile, and now specifically in the desert (even if it does mean falling asleep in our alpaca and chicken soup at the end of the day).