The GoGlobal Blog

Las Vacaciones 2 and Orientation

Las Vacaciones 2 and Orientation

I begin where I left off from my last post, so if you haven’t read my Las Vacaciones post definitely do that first and then come back and read this, they go well together.

After taking three ferries and three buses, I finally arrived in La Serena after traveling all the way from Chaiten, Los Lagos (look it up on a map, it’s over 1,500 km)! There I met my friends Dee and Gaby – Dee had been traveling in the south of Chile as well but Gaby went all the way to Argentina and Uruguay. It was great to be with some friends again after heading off solo. We stayed at a hostel that had a real strange vibe to it. Everything was in English and the people there seemed superficial and not that interested in Chile culture. Although we didn’t enjoy these aspects, it was nice to have some warm meals and a bed after camping.

In La Serena we explored the city (the second oldest in Chile behind Santiago!) and went to the beach where I was able to play sand volleyball with some locals. I almost surfed and crossed something off The List, (shout out to the bros) but I choose volleyball instead. We took a boat tour of a few islands in the Pacific, where we saw dolphins, sea lions, penguins and many other sea birds. That was a great time, plus on the bus ride there we saw guacos (similar to llamas) and a pygmy owl. From La Serena we spent a day in Vicuña, where we climbed un sendero, visited the museum of Gabriela Mistral, and where I saw the best stars of my life!

I then took a bus to Andacollo, a mining town near La Serena, by myself and stayed there for two days and one night. I really wish I had more time there, because it was the best part of my whole vacation! On the second day I met a Chilean miner, Lina, who offered to give me a personal tour of how the mining process works with individual miners like himself (not the big mechanized companies). Basically I followed him around for his whole day of work! We entered a mine 30 meters below the ground, extracted rocks from the mine, worked with electric and manual machines to extract gold from the rocks, and then sold the gold for profit! The whole process was incredible! These individual miners do a lot of work – they leave home at 5:30 AM to walk an hour and a half to the mine and don’t return home until 8:00 PM, making only about $60 a day.

I was only with Lina from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM and it felt like a super long day, especially working on the marays (pre-Hispanic Incan machines that break down the rocks and help separate the gold). The gold they extract isn’t a lot, Lina told me they usually get about 3 grams a day (1 gram is worth 15 mil pesos or $30), and then they have to pay for renting the equipment such as the trapiches (electric machines that break down the rocks), marays, and mercury (which help isolates the gold). All in all, it was an amazing, authentic cultural experience that I am so blessed to have been through! Mining is a central part of Chile’s economy and it was great to get to know the process, see the mines, and actually meet a Chilean miner! If I had another day in Andacollo, Lina was going to take me to the big mine of 150 meters, but unfortunately I had to return to Santiago for orientation. If you want a taste of what the mine is like, go on my Facebook and look at my video with Lina titled Mining (he’s also in my profile picture).

I got back to Santiago and jumped into to a week of orientation. There I met the other international students who had recently arrived from Chile. They come from countries such as Brazil, Germany, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Belgium and a few others. Orientation was great because I got to meet a lot of Chileans all at once. I quickly became friends with the first-year history students (who sure like hanging out with a gringo) and the people on the basketball team (which I am trying out for, read about in my next post).

In the beginning I was signed up to take Chile Colonial, América Colonial, Ética, Pobreza y Desarrollo, Chile Independiente II, and Pueblo Mapuche. However after the first two weeks, I was able to cut it down to the first four classes, giving me 18 credits for the semester in all. Again, I’ll talk more about my classes in the next post.

In short, traveling here has been the best experience I’ve had so far in Chile! The people I met, the things I learned, the places I went. I know I’m sounding very clichéd with all of this, but it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. Traveling alone for a period of time was probably the best decision I made on the trip. It’s so much easier to meat locals that way as it forces you to be social and make friends. To anyone looking to go to Chile, I highly recommend Patagonia and Andacollo, they were my two favorite places during mis vacaciones.

As always, if anyone has questions feel free to comment, shoot me an email, or post something on my Facebook (where you can see the pictures of my trip).

AMDG,

Tom

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