Although it may have been to the dismay of my summer loving sister, Bri and I searched for that essence of Chile I missed in the vapid hell of La Serena and European ambience of Santiago. We embarked upon this journey that would leave us wringing out towels, socks, and hats in classy elegant high class style
. Imagine snooty accents and subtly stifled giggles as we sniffed, breathed, swarshed (I believe the "r" is in there to add a proper accent) some of Chile’s finest exported wines at the Concha y Toro vineyard outside of Santiago.
Rather rosy feeling, we snuggled into bus seats and headed down to Pucon in the Region Aracaunia. This is where I begin to really submit to my infatuation with miserable weather as I dragged Bri through Parque Nacional Huerquehue, Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales, and Parque Nacional Chiloe. My friends and I camped at Parque Nacional Huerquehue outside Pucon when the mountainsides were set fire with fall colors. One month later, Bri and I were granted free admission (to celebrate Chile winning their first game in the World Cup…CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE VIVE CHILE!) the park’s crisp fresh first snow air and pudu pudu tracks in the delicate dusting of snow on the mountain’s peaks. I was obsessed, infatuated, completely head over heels in love with this Chile to the point of it being dangerous. Here’s a sappy quote Bri had to hear, “Bri, Bri! Wake up! It’s so beautiful outside! I’m so happy, my heart is having a microcosm series of explosions!!“ If the frozen hiking boots and soggy wools socks weren’t enough, I forced Bri further down the length of Chile to Puerto Varas in the Region de los Lagos in an attempt to almost touch Argentina
. We hiked along the base of the Volcano Osorno amongst lava beds, primary pioneering flora, and stratified rock formations. I should probably remind you all of the Bixby sisters’ ill fated knees and Alaska’s orthoscopic surgeons luck (Bri and I together could buy a small dumpy house with the price of our knees). You can see some wicked knee brace modeling pictures from this hike. The following days my obsession with powerful oceans and the Patagonia teamed up to put Bri and I on a few miserable steamy wetsock like buses to the seashell starred/pounding waves/horse shoe printed beach in Chiloe. Someday you will find this writer, holed up in a small wind and rain warped cabin on this beach or one like it, scraping the beach for more washed up treasures. Bri and I added to our overstuffed backpacks a booty to make Ariel jealous (we even found a love letter in a bottle)!
As our travels were closing we had to start making our way up to Lima, Peru to meet up with my friend Abby. After fifteen hours in bus (this put me at 84 hours of busing in two weeks; my vertebrae hate me), a historical sights day in Santiago, a long day with a couple Argentinians, a French Canadian, an Australian, and a Brazilian, a flight back to Arica, a sneaky taxi across the Chile-Peruvian border, and another flight to Lima, Bri, Abby , and I spent the night attempting to sleep on the cold tiled floor of the Lima airport
. We had a six AM flight to…MACHU PICCHU! Hello one of the seven wonders of the world, yes, I won’t sleep for a week to see you. Machu Picchu, despite its cavernous money hungry claws, is indescribable. We awoke at 4 AM to climb to Wayna Picchu during the sunrise over the Incan ruins and spent the rest of the day wearily awestruck and wandering amongst the perfectly laid ENORMOUS stones that built the city’s walls. My words won’t do Machu Picchu much justice, I hope the pictures can.
So now I find myself in Ayacucho,l Peru. It’s day two of my program and my first working in the clinic. Ayacucho is a smallish city of about 120,000 people nestled into the Andes. The region is one of the poorest regions (65% live in poverty (a family of four living under 2 USD/day)) and unfortunately, as our director mentioned, what exists of the city’s wealth is derived from drug trafficking. About 310 tons of cocaine is grown from the river that lines the border of the region of Ayacucho most of which is trafficked through the city. With absolutely no introduction, except for a short tour given to me by the other volunteer, I spent my morning working in a public health clinic shuffling between triage and the pediatrics room. In triage, I was mostly weighing patients, taking their blood pressure, doing a bit of paperwork, and playing with kids. I can tell I’ll have some emotionally straining days as I had to take a break out of tears and discomfort within the first few hours
. During a lull in the morning, a young girl and a small baby walked in. She was so tiny I thought she might be fourteen. Without looking anyone in the eyes, she said she wanted to talk with the psychologist of the clinic. Could we help direct her there? No. The psychologist wasn’t working today. She sat down, baby in her lap, and began to tell us how she was nearing her end point of dealing with her abusive boyfriend. He had started beating her at 7:40 that morning and she took off. The woman in charge of triage went through a short psychological evaluation with her and repeatedly reminded the nineteen year old girl of her worth, the possibility for a life without abuse alone, and the threats to her life posed by staying with her boyfriend. Zac, the other volunteer, found me trying to clear my mind with the facts about vitamin A absorption from the posters in the halls. He brought me back to pediatrics to show me what he normally does, weighing babies and performing developmental tests. Overall, I am incredibly excited for my placement in the clinic. Zac, who coincidentally is me in a boy’s body from Maine, told me about his night shifts in the hospital where he’s helped with C-sections, live births, and all sorts of emergency surgeries. We also get the chance to learn Quechua (the indigenous language of the area), work with some environmental NGOs if we’d like, become familiar with Quechua traditional medicine, and…. Well, the world’s looking endless right now.
What am I? A pumpkin, a mango, a spring, a sea otter? In the past few years, I've grown rather fond of stereotyping my friends and self not into different social niches, but things. Think of it as finding your spirit animal, but in every category of twenty questions. What have I learned or redefined in the past few months? Although friends always described me as a spring, the desert life desiccated and allowed that fašade to crumble away. Let’s face it; I’m a soggy, rainy, unswimmable thunderous waves pounding beach, cold, damp, first snow and fireplace sort of girl. Thanks Valdez, your rainy summers have soaked my frontal lobe.