Thursday, March 25, 2010

Viaje al Norte

This week has been the usual, extended summer vacation week. I'm trying to embrace it because school finally starts in a couple weeks! I went to Santiago one day this week with Sara and we donated blood and ate Japanese. I've also been going running because I'll be running the 10K Santiago Marathon on April 11. Ha, good luck with that, right?

Tomorrow will begin our second Rotary trip. The last one was so amazing and by far my favorite week in Chile, that I can only imagine how good this one is going to be. We’re going to Northern Chile for 12 days with 20 exchange students and 2 Rotarians! Our itinerary is as follows:

Day 00: Santiago (April 25, 2010)
Day 01: Santiago to Los Vilos, La Serena and Mamalluca
Day 02: La Serena and Copaipo
Day 03: Calama, Chuquicamata, Chiu-Chiu, Lasana, and San Pedro
Day 04: Tatio Geisers, San Pedro, Chaxa, Valle De La Luna
Day 05: San Pedro, Pica, Matilla, La Tirana, Humberstone and Iquique
Day 06: Iquique and Zofri
Day 07: Iquique and Arica
Day 08: Arica and Lago Chungara
Day 09: Arica and Antofogasta
Day 10: Caldera and Bahia Inglesa
Day 11: Caldera and Santiago (April 6, 2010)

As you can see, we’re going to a lot of places. Granted, I’ve been to two of them already, I’m pretty sure it will be completely different. This time will be a completely new experience because of the people I’ll be with. Plus, we’ll be going to different parts, so it will definitely worth it. I originally wasn’t going to go because it seemed silly to pay to go to places I’ve already been, but I talked to my dad and he practically got mad at me and sad “Oh yeah, sure, Emily. Go another time when you have the opportunity…You‘re already there, just go!” So, I’m going. : )

I don’t know what I’ll do without my daily dose of aftershocks though!  I’ve become so accustomed to them, that it will be weird. I was reading a friends blog today and she referenced Mary Poppins, when every day at tea time they braced the furniture and held onto the valuables because they knew that the house was about to shake. Well, that’s kind of what it’s like, except we don’t get the luxury of knowing that it will be exactly at tea time.

Until then…

(I just found this link. This is the son of the family that I'm with right now and his interview after the earthquake.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I am having such a happy day. These past couple days have been so sad and I've wanted nothing more than to just call Rotary and tell them that I'm going home. But today, I woke up with a huge smile on my face and practically skipped around the house. Everything makes me smile and I'm so happy to be living in Chile, despite everything that is happening here and at home. Today is just an amazing day! March 22 will be my seventh month here. I still can't believe how fast this time has gone by. I literally feel like I just got here last month. I have less than three months left here, and although that scares me a lot and makes me very, very sad, I'm going to take advantage of it. :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

sin luz

Last night, almost the entire country blacked out for about an hour. From about Valdivia up to La Serena (if you care to look at the map) was without power. It was wierd. And today was one of the first days without an aftershock. Or at least an aftershock that I felt. I probably just jinxed that...Today, us four exchange students from Talca went to Chinese for lunch and then I went to a get together with my old classmates. It was so good to see all of them agian. Tomorrow Jorge, Fran and I are going to Santiago for the day to take care of some things. Oh, and I was in the newspaper!

Hopefully, I won't have any more strange phenomenons to report back for awhile. But between earthquakes, fires, aftershocks, and blackouts, you can't be too sure...

(There was just a fairly large aftershock...)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

ayuda y mas incendios

School doesn't start for a month or so (thank you, earthquake), so Sara and I have been trying to get involved with all the volunteer organizations that have been going on. Through people that know people that knows a person that knows people we found an organization called "Yo Quiero Reconstruir la Region de Maule" (I want to rebuild the region of Maule) and we spent a few days collecting food to send to Constitucion. We were actually supposed to go with the group today, but at the last minute our host parents teamed up and decided it was too dangerous. Last weekend, we had a few Rotary things where we went to the towns surrounding Talca and handed out boxes. We still haven't really found any solid way of helping, though. I was hoping we would be able to do more hands on, interactive things. So far, its just been handing out pre-made boxes and leaving, which could easily be done without us. I guess I have to be happy with that, because my host parents are too scared of letting me do anything else. Hopefully, things will settle down and I'll be able to find something good.

The other day, I was on the bus going through downtown Talca and all of the sudden I looked out the window and there were giant black clouds of smoke coming from one of the buildings. Naturally, I got off the bus and went to check it out, but there were so many people that all I could do was take pictures, but everyone was staring at me because there I was, the gringa taking pictures at all the horrible things that are happening. I've found that Chileans really don't like when you take pictures of tragic things because they think you're laughing at them. Nonetheless, I've never seen a fire (except the one in the field just days before), so I wanted pictures.

On the news, they were saying that flights to Buenos Aires, Argentina are only $50, and so Jorge (host dad) is  figuring out when we can go!! I'm so excited!

The most recent aftershocks were pretty scary for me. I had two of my exchange friends over at my house and we were woken up by the first one. It wasn't as strong as Rancagua (epicenter) but equally as scary! I freaked out because I thought that my little sister was home, so I ran upstairs screaming her name, but she was at a friends house, so I was upstairs during the earthquake for nothing. Then, 10 minutes later, another. And then another. I was a little upset. I think that they should stop now...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Although naturally, the aftermath of the earthquake is still here, its definitely settled down a lot. The roads are getting fixed, the rubbish is getting swept into piles and cleared away, and contact is being made with unaccounted family and friends. Things are going back to their normal routine, taking into consideration that there will always be little reminders of what happened- whether that be candles, pictures, and flowers in windows, a caved in roof, a crack in the wall, or a missing family member.

The amount of support that Chile has received has been incredible. A fundraising telethon was held last weekend called “Chile ayuda a Chile” (aka, Chile helps Chile) and people from all over the nation donated, including the giant franchises and wealthiest families. It doubled its goal with an amazing $60 million. The Red Cross and other organizations have been working non-stop to send relief down to the more badly hit areas. Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to go to Constitucion with a group to hand out care packages. Because the Universities have been postponed until April and many schools are too damaged to use, an amazing amount of volunteers have surfaced adding to the amount of support.

And last night, I witnessed another first. We were on our way home and when we turned onto our road, we saw thick puffs of black smoke coming from right where our house is. When we got a little further, we saw giant orange flames coming from the fields right in front of our house. All of the blackberry bushes and dead grass had caught on fire, and being an abnormally windy day already, it caught the entire field on fire. From the inside of the house, it looked like a lake of fire. I went out to take pictures and by that time the fire fighters had arrived and I watched them put it out. (Chile doesn’t have fire fighting as a profession. Its purely volunteer based.)  And then, I went to bed, because God knows, we’ve gone through enough weird things this month, that nothing really phases me anymore.

Friday, March 5, 2010

terremoto 2010

Well…I’m alive.

As crazy as it might sound, despite the fact that an 8.8 earthquake hit Chile, I am so glad I was here for those three minutes and x seconds. Chile doesn’t have a lot of stick houses built on mud, so it wasn’t nearly as destructive as Haiti, but nonetheless, its done a lot of damage. The epicenter was in Concepcion, the second largest city in Chile, which is about 80 kilometers away from where I live in Talca. By some sort of luck I was in Santiago that night so it was only about a 7.2ish and wasn’t quite as strong (although strong!).  We were at a birthday party that night and then a group of us exchange students broke off to go to a discotec. We had literally just gotten there and went up the escalators and were standing on the balcony trying to get in for free (because we’re gringos) when it started. At first, all of us looked at each other and said, “Wow. That music is so loud, it’s shaking the building!” Then, the tiles started to fall off the building, the lights went out, and everyone ran out of the door of the disco screaming. Across the street you could see the entire building flexing and some of the windows breaking. The ground level was just tons and tons of chairs and tables, and people were just running and shoving them out of their way. The balcony we were on felt like it was about to snap off the building or that the giant glass panels were going to fall down on us. So, another exchange student and I ran down the stopped escalators that had cracks in them and by that time, it had kind of “calmed” down, so we just sat down in some chairs and waited for the rest of our group. I think we were all more shocked than scared. It’s definitely not something you expect to happen…
By the time we decided we should probably go home, there were no more buses or taxis or collectivos or metro. Nothing. So, we just stayed on the sidewalk and waited. At about 5 in the morning half of the group left and when they came back, they brought bread and cheese and this 27 year old guy who then invited us back to his house so that we could get a little sleep. I thought it was incredibly sketchy, but we went anyways and just sat around his dining room table in the dark until the sun came up and we could go look for a way to get home. Of course, there was nothing. We waited for the bus for about an hour and experienced the first aftershock before some guy in a truck (sketchyyy) picked us up and took us home, to Andrew‘s house. The house had power so we just watched the news all day. We tried to sleep, but the aftershocks and phone calls were a bit preventative of that. For some reason, Andrew was drying a sock on a stick that was attached to his TV, and we used that as our  “Aftershock Detector” because it jumped so much. The news was crazy to watch. We didn’t really know how bad it was, especially in Concepcion and Talca and it was scary to see all of it. My host family was coming home from the beach that day, so they picked Sara and I up to go back to Talca. The ride home was ridiculous. The roads are so bad. There are just giant holes in them and huge elevated parts and ripples and the pedestrian overpasses all fell. At one point there was an hour and a half detour through hills and farms just to skip a 10 kilometer strip of highway. We got to Talca at night but we had to drive through town a little bit to drop off Sara. It was bad. Everyone was outside, either with fires or sleeping in tents or cars. We didn’t feel the earthquake like we would have in Talca, but it was pretty clear how bad it was just by how no one wanted to be near their houses. A lot happened to Talca, not just because it’s old, but because a lot of the houses are made of adobe.  On the way to my house there is (or rather, was) this long fence and giant house made entirely of adobe and brick and now its completely gone. My  neighbor’s house(who is also another exchange student) was pretty badly hit. He was sleeping when it happened but woke up to his host dad screaming his name out. So he ran out of his room right before his light fixture crashed down on to his bed, and made it down the stairs right as the books were falling off the shelf and finally out of the house as all the statues and glass knick-knacks shattered. Their fence fell down completely (rod iron and brick) as well as all the other fences in our ‘neighborhood’.  My host mom’s brother cleaned up our house before we got there, so I’m still not quite sure how bad it was, but they said that all the wine bottles fell in the kitchen and a few things fell off tables but nothing serious. The book shelves in my room broke, but everything was very fixable.
I went straight to bed when I got home, as I hadn’t slept in awhile and woke up the next morning to what they call an “aftershock”. It was totally another earthquake. It was like a 5 or 6 on the Richter scale. My family made fun of me because I jumped out my window.
That day they had to go visit a friend, so they dropped Matt and I off in downtown Talca. It was awful. Almost all the buildings were either on the ground or pretty badly hit. There was glass and bricks and rubbish all over the street. And there were police everywhere. Apparently they were shooting anyone they caught looting because the first night a lot of places got robbed.  There was another strong aftershock that night and I couldn’t sleep the entire night. I got about two hours of sleep and woke up sick and couldn’t eat anything. The aftershocks didn’t scare me at first. But they still haven’t stopped and its almost been a week. Monday and Tuesday we didn’t really do anything. The power still wasn’t on which meant no water either. That was gross. Almost 6 days without a shower…We had to go to a friend of Jorge’s house to take showers.  Wednesday I woke up early and went to Sara’s house so we could go help out downtown. I spent the night there with Chanel. We played Pictionary and Bullshit and made S’mores. In the morning, Sara and I went to help again. We went to the supermarket to buy hygiene products to send to Constitucion.

The stories are really hard to hear though. There were a few women that had babies during or directly after the earthquake. Nobody can communicate with people from Concepcion or Constitucion and a lot of people have lost family and friends there. People got hurt getting out of there houses. The Universities and office buildings are destroyed and no one can really work yet. Obviously, not a lot of good came from it. But things are finally getting back to normal, though. There aren’t mile long lines at the gas stations or overly priced food and water. The armed soldiers outside of the grocery stores are reducing and the buses are starting to run again. And we got power today! School still hasn’t started and for a lot of kids it won’t start for a couple weeks. Some schools are getting completely demolished. But for the schools that weren’t really damaged, they all start Monday.
I really don’t know what to say. Its been weirdly crazy. Yet fun.

Happy 1st Birthday, Sophia Marie. You have no idea how much I miss you.