Here’s a bit of a thrill if you want to get another beautiful taste of what Valparaíso truly is…
After another couple weeks in Chile, it’s getting easier to call this place my home. Between going to classes twice/day in Valparaíso during the week and coming home midday for lunch with the family, I’m getting the hang of traveling around the city. Nonetheless everyday is different and learn something new each time I leave my bedroom.
SIT is great in the sense that multiple experiential excursions planned for the program through out the semester- a great opportunity to interact the Chilean people on the most authentic level. Last Tuesday, we had class down at the pier and each student individually interviewed local fisherman in order to get a strong sense of the humbling reality, which “Pescadores Artesanales” live every day. To say that the local fishermen’s rights are exploited would be an understatement. In the waters near Valparaíso, huge commercial fishing ships dominate the water while the local fisherman scrounge up whatever is left. After los Pescadores Artesanales real in their catch, their sale profits are then distributed usually between five families. The profits are distributed so because the cost of maintaining even a small fishing boat is so high because of the high taxes and strict regulations placed on the local fishing industry by the government. Meanwhile the government allows the large commercial fishing ships free reign over the waters, little to no taxes, and no regulations all so that the commercial fish sales will bring money into the cities. However consequently, since the big ships have no regulations to when they can fish, the ships end up taking the fish out of the water before they are fully developed and also end up taking the fish eggs out of the water, leaving less and less fish for los Pescadores Artesanales who are forbidden to fish during these regulated times. Needless to say, these hard working fishermen struggle to live on the poverty line and was very humbling to speak to them in person (although I can only understand about every 5th word they say as Chilean Spanish is very hard to understand if someone is not consciously trying to slow down and enunciate- words just bleed into each other in a seemingly slurred dialect).
At the end of the week, SIT took us to Santiago for a day where we ate a huge traditional Chilean meal, visited La Moneda (the Chilean version of the White House), and finished off the day with a tour of El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos that was constructed to commemorate all the missing, tortured, and killed Chileans as a result of Pinochet’s military Golpe del Estado and the succeeding dictatorship. Like the holocaust museums in DC and in Israel, this museum hits hard and is impossible to take in in only one visit.
Like I said in a previous post, leading up to last Wednesday, September 11th, the media and common conversations have been saturated with the commemoration of the 40 anniversary of the Golpe. Certainly strange to be enveloped in this dark aspect of Chile’s recent past on September 11th while recognizing that September 11th means something much different for most Americans…and I believe with this reality comes a bit of ignorance. It’s been extremely interesting and sobering to hear of the US’s involvement/financial aid given to Pinochet during the early 1970’s and yet the majority of Americans are not aware of this unflattering truth.
Last weekend was another chance to get out with Valpo Surf Project for a day with the kids- unfortunately we were unable to get a car to take the surf boards to the beach, so instead we went to a local Valpo beach and played lacrosse and soccer! The kids are so intrigued by the sticks and the way you fling a ball out and get to push each other around (a reflection of my initial interest in the game). Surprisingly or not, it’s the girls who are more willing to pick up the sticks and have a toss after all! I’ll try to put another video together in the next couple weeks.
This week is Chile’s independence celebrations and certainly proving to be the country’s time to shine- a week full of friends, family and food instead of just one day. The past few days have been a chance to eat great food (mostly empanadas and red meat), drink terremotos and chicha, fly kites, and attempt to dance the Cueca, Chile’s national dance. I’ve been schlepped around to multiple family asados at one of Wee Wee’s kids house outside of Viña del Mar and another one in at a beautiful park in Olmue (about an hour into the interior where my family used to own a second house) where we all played some lacrosse too. It’s quite a distinct landscape there in the Chile’s central interior- steep green and lush mountains sprouting out of the valley floor filled with vineyards and farmland.
No Chilean goes this week without a family asado or a trip to Las Ramadas/ La Fonda… “Ramadas feature a dance floor, music, and tables to eat. Fondas, or refreshment stands, offer a wide variety of Chilean food including empanadas, anticuchos (shish kabobs), chicha (alchoholic drink), and more” – pretty much a big fair with people of all types including tourists, dancers, overly drunk teenagers/flaites, and everyone else. Quite a lively scene! And after a night at La Fonda last night, we had one last family asado at the house today then my host brother, Felipe, and I went sand surfing at the sand dunes that line the coast about a 15 min micro ride north of Viña- after a mouth full sand we decided it was our one way to justify all the food we’ve been eating these past few days.
By the end of this weekend, I have to decide where I want to go during my two week excursion in October- either to the northern desert of Chile to experience the Aymara culture or south to Temuco to spend my time with a Mapuche community. There’s definitely no bad decision, yet both present very different landscapes and people.
As every day goes on, I continue to fight against my own desire to do all that I can while I’m here and still stay healthy and exercise regularly. Even so, I am alive and well and looking forward to tomorrow. Love to all.
Some recent footage of lacrosse making its way into the hands of Chileans in Valparaíso, Chile off of my other blog, 3xlax.com
After leading 8 incoming Tufts University freshmen on a very successful, dirty, fun, and exhausting 5-day backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, alongside my co-leader, THE Hannah Bassett, I am immediately changing course and heading on an entirely new adventure in Chile. Our 5 day trip was great- starting near Ethan Pond on the Appalachian Trail and making our way past Thoreau Falls, Zealand Mountain, the Bond Mountains with perfect blue bird weather and finally down the Bondcliff ridge through the wind-ridden clouds, everyone on our trip made it through with a sense of accomplishment and some awesome new friends who certainly who not have been made otherwise.
Now, while back on Tufts campus for a brief moment, there are certainly bittersweet moments of seeing and saying hi/bye to some of my best friends in a matter of minutes, knowing that I will not see many of them for a year. A bit overwhelming, but mostly exciting, and I know that it will definitely be worth it.
As I pack my final bags before the airport, I am extremely grateful for the experiential opportunity I have ahead of me. I will be heading to Valparaíso, Chile, where I will stay with a host-family for 7 weeks while taking a few courses at “Casa SIT” in Valpo. After, I am fortunate enough to be able to spend 14 days in Temuco and delve into the culture of an indigenous Mapuche community. Finally, I will be completing a 4-5 week independent research project (ISP) of my choice before traveling to other areas of South America towards the end of December. For my ISP, I propose to sociologically compare the role of sports/athletics in the lives of Chilean youth as compared to American youth. (A very broad idea that will eventually become more defined and concise). In order to better connect with and communicate with the Chileans around this topic, I want to bring some lacrosse with me to serve as a game/tool, completely unfamiliar to most Chileans, as to hopefully break down some social barriers and ease Chileans’ possible hesitations to talking with and opening up to a gringo like myself.
Fortunately, 3x Lacrosse and Maverik Lacrosse, have generously donated some equipment to me to use during my stay in Chile. “3x Lacrosse” donated two “3x” backyard lacrosse goals and Maverik donated 12 full lacrosse sticks. I could not be more appreciative and I only hope they will prove beneficial and fun over these next few months. I will be posting for 3x Lacrosse on their blog about all my Chilean lacrosse endeavors, as well here. A few more possible writing opportunities may present themselves in these next couple weeks too that I will certainly pass along should they work out.
It’s crazy to think that my study abroad adventure is actually here after all the preparation, anticipation, and distraction during the past few months. Nonetheless, I could not be more excited- for the good, the bad, the ugly. Thank you to everyone who’s helped in my preparation for the trip and I cannot wait to share the stories.
Con mucho amor,