Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Al Fin del Mundo

Before the Christmas vacation we had our Rotary trip al Sur, it was incredible. We took a flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas (one of the southern most cities in the world). The first thing I got acustomed to was the wind- te juro que I´d never been in plane that landed with so much trubulence. Now, in STGO it was upwards to 90 degrees, but as the plane doors opened in PA we stepped into 40 degree weather with wind that blew the rain sideways... We were a group of about 25 exchange students from Finnland, Denmark, Canada, Germany, and the US and we drove all over in a coach bus piloted by an absolutely crazy driver. The first thing we did was vist a tiny hacienda where we ate a typical cordero asado and greeted the Rotarians of the Punta Arenas club. After, we retreated to our hotel in the center a Punta Arenas- where I quickly went out to buy some a mate and a cheap gord. Unfortunately-- Chileans dont drink as much mate as I had hoped, but in the South you can find it everywhere! We took a city tour the following morning and saw all the sights. In Punta Arenas you can see a view of La Tierra del Fuego in the distance. The peguins were in like a zoo- I suppose you could call it- but luego en el día fuimos to see a colony of penguins in their true habitat. Our next destination was Puerto Natales, which is a bout 3 hours north of Punta Arenas and at the out skirts of the Parque Nacional Los Torres del Paine. We stayed at the Hotel Glaciers- and I was psyched to see some ice. Through out the whole trip I was on a mission to find this book titled In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. Every thing I had read prior to the trip refered to this Englishman´s travels in the Patagonia, however, it was very difficult to find. Every tourist and souvenir store we went to I asked and I got the same response each time, "No, lo siento no lo tenemos en este momento, pero es un libro que siempre debría estar..." Well, genial... We set off for Los Torres de Paine 6am the following morning after stopping at La Cuerva de Milodon- a giant cave that had been carved out by the melting glaciers.
In the above picture, im with my buddy Javier Rojas at the first sight of the famous blue towers. The flag were holding is the flag of the 12th region in Chile also known as the flag of Magallanes (Magellan). The yellow represents the plains of the Patagonia (pampas), they meet the white Andes mountains, and in the sky is the southern cross. I think its awesome. For the longest time I had no idea who they were refering to when they said Magallanes...not becuase of my lack of a proper history class (grandma), but becuase the pronunciation is completely different... In the park, or for most of the trip rather, we were in the bus... which at times absolutely killed me. Nonetheless, it really was amazing and I expect ill be back- hopefully to do the 10 day loop throughout the whole park. Nearly 100% of park visitors are foreign... My camera battery died once we entered.... We prepared traditional whisky cocktails using ice from Glacier Grey, ran around with the guanacos (type of llama), and ate lunch on this hotel with an incredible view which was located on an island in one of the glacial lakes...

The next day, again at 6am, we departed for the Argentinian side of the Patagonia to Calafate. It was a six hour drive..... but what we saw was worth while. The Glacier Perrito Moreno- for some unknown reason this glacier is one of the only slabs of ice that sustains its size year after year. While all other glaciers are receding as much as 4 meters anually, Perrito Moreno gains back all the mass it loses during the summer months. The view was incredible.

It was in Calafate that I finally found my book! And so that was our last day in the Patagonia. The trip was short, but we were constantly doing something. The following day of travel consisted of a 2.5 hour bus ride to Punta Arenas, 4 hour plane ride to STGO, followed by a 7 hour bus ride back to LA. Exhausting... pero te juro impresionante!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday and I wasnt going to let it just pass by while out of the country. My friend down the road Emily and I had big plans for preparing a thanksgiving feast for our family and friends- traditional, but with some chilean estilo. We split up family recepies and came up with a brief menu- turkey, mash patatoes, green beans, gingered carrots, corn, salad, cranberry sause, pumpkin and apple pies, stuffing... the works. I was in charge of the bird. Now, I thought stuffing a turkey was normal, but apparently its not a universal technique. My host father, who was also a first time turkey chef, was very concerned about our stuffing recepie and I kept on telling him were just going to "wing in", make this mix of almost everything we´ve got, and throw it in the bird. Saturday morning (thanksgiving was on saturday in Chile becuase we didn´t have time off) we woke up "early" 11:00am and began to prepare. Rubbed and stuffed we tossed her in the oven and let her cook. The ovens down here don´t have temperature dials-- so we turned the controls to what I would call "sorta hot" and set a tentative timer. Six hours later, that little red button popped up and my host dad and I got overly excited. At 8:30 our gests began to arrive. Emily and her family, the other exchange students in LA, and the two Españoles (I mean Basques, pardon me). We had a brief cocktail hour before thanksgiving which included home made pisco sours and appetizers- we had too much food. My parents even bought an eletric knife... just to carve the turkey. It was a little exessive, yet funny watching Ricardo and Oscar, Emilys dad, figure out how to cut it... The Pumpkin pie was a hit- they intially didnt like the idea, but the two pies were gone in the end. Oscar, who is an absolute character I wish everyone could meet him, insisted on bringin chamange- im not even sure if thats custom for thanksgiving, but we had it. We were definetly on a differnt time frame. At home we´d eat early in the evening then roll over and fall sleep in front of a football game. In Chile, we ate and conversed until about 1 in the morning and then all the kids went out.... Nonetheless it was a typical and traditional thanksgiving and I was glad to share with people here in Chile.