The Layover

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September 4th 2010
Published: September 6th 2010
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A chapel in Iglesia San Francisco in Santiago.
This semester I will be studying public health and spanish in Chile. My program, SIT's Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment , is based in Arica, a city less than an hour south of the Peruvian border and near the Bolivian border. It is located at the end of the Azapa valley, in the middle of the Atacama desert. On the west side of Arica are a series of beaches, on the east there is farmland for olives and tomatoes. Arica has 5 universities, including Universidad de Tarapaca, where I will take some of my classes. Arica is also a port city, with a lot of international trade.

I landed in Santiago on monday morning at 8 am. Santiago is surrounded by the Andes and during the descent I was able to watch the sun creeping up the mountain slopes. I had a 14 hour layover in Santiago so after dealing with customs and my visa I decided to take a trip into Santiago. I had to figure out what the bus route was, but the taxi drivers at the entrance to the airport were certain that, even though I said I needed a bus, I would

A distant view of the Morro in Arica, sight of the final battle between Peru and Chile in the War of the Pacific.
want to take their taxi for $40. They were helpful in some ways, but very insistent that a taxi was the best way for me to see Santiago. I found a bus that runs between the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez Airport and El Centro, or the Alameda neighborhood of Santiago. It was a gray day with low clouds and, because it is winter here in the southern hemisphere, it was about 55º f the whole time. I walked around on calle Gen. Bernard O'Higgins for a while, which passes by the Universidad de Chile, the Iglesia San Francisco- built in 1586- and the Biblioteca Nacional. It was la almuerza, or a large, late lunch, so there were masses of people on the street. The business district, including stock exchange, and many government buildings are also in this area. I spent some time in the Iglesia to get out of the cold, and practiced my Spanish by reading petitions to the saints. Near the Las Héroes metro stop I found a sandwich shop which was not too crowded and also had vegetarian sandwiches. Mine came with asparagus, tasteless cheese, and a white vegetable that I didn't recognize. I caught the bus

Part of the network of caves in the lava based Playa Los Corazones.
back to the airport afterwards and spent most of the day napping on a bench in the domestic flights terminal.

My flight left Santiago at 10:30 and landed in Arica at 1:20. I was greeted at the airport by our wonderful program director, Rossana. She took me to Hotel los Pasos near central Arica, and I finally got to sleep in a bed. Other students began arriving the next morning at 10 am, and in the afternoon we collected 19 students at the airport. The rest of the week was spent in orientation programs, which were about as fun as they ever are. We received three course meals for both lunch and dinner every day, which is fairly normal in Chile. The entrada is a salad, followed by a main course that is heavier- here we had some delicious fresh tuna and another unidentified fish- and finally el postre, or dessert. Apparently el postre is very important. We were also able to try some tasty Chilean wines in the evening. One day our group went sight-seeing to ex-isla alacrán, or scorpion peninsula, and playa los corazones, el Morro, Valle de Azapa, Cruza de los Esclavos, and the Azapa

Jesus de la Paz, a symbol of peace on top of the Morro with one hand pointing towards Santiago, the other towards Peru.
Valley Museum, where we were able to see Chinchorro mummies. These are the oldest mummies in the world, and are very well preserved due to the dry climate, high salt content, and the fact that is never rains in the Atacama desert. All the water in Arica comes from subterranean rivers formed by Andean streams.

On Friday I met my host sisters, Javiera and Camila, for dinner. They are very fun and helpful in learning about Chilean culture. Also, they make me miss mis hermanas americanas a lot!! On Saturday I moved in with my host family and met my host parents, Jorge and Cecelia. They have been wonderful, and very willing to explain things to me when I am absolutely lost, teach me new words, and show me their take on Chile. So far they have helped me experience el almuerza, el once (a small dinner), empanadas, and they even let me go out to Club Drake in the evening. I didn't take a fully Chilean night out, because I was home by 3 instead of 6 am.

This blog is supposed to be a brief update on my life in Chile for those who are

A view of Arica.
interested. I will not post a lot, but I will try to share interesting intercultural experiences and photographs.


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