The Final Countdown

The final 5 days! A synopsis:

Saturday, David, Caroline, Noah, Anna, and I went to Temple Baha’i, very close to Parque Aguas de Ramón. Though the temple has mostly eastern Asian roots (supposedly Buddhist), it has been declared a sacred place in which all religions are welcome. It was absolutely gorgeous; it has this incredible architecture to make it look like a lotus flower about to bloom. Pictures aren’t allowed inside, unfortunately, but I can say that the space is very open and bright and simple – just long pews facing forward, quotes carved into the walls along the perimeter. We stayed for about an hour, exploring all the gardens and reflecting pools surrounding it. Great idea, Caroline.

View of Santiago from the temple.

The temple is at the top of a tall hill on the eastern edge of the city. The metro doesn’t go very far east, so we met at the closest station and took an Uber from there. After cramming five of us into this tiny Uber, our driver drove us all the way to the top of the temple, the engine straining. He was so impressed by the building upon arrival that David asked, “Want to take a picture with us and the temple?” And he was like, “Yeah!” So we entered the park and took selfies with our Uber driver. To get home, we figured we’d call an Uber at the bottom of the hill. However, as we walked down, this nice Chilean couple offered to give us a lift. So we once again crammed five people into a tiny car, this time with no free passenger seat. The couple was super nice and we thanked them profusely.

That night, we went out for beers with our professor, Andreea, and Nate Goodman made a second appearance! A really fun time had by all, but chilly. The temperatures are definitely are dropping here, and it will be nice to return home to summer.

The following day, Mother’s Day, we had plans to see La Nenita in Viña. Paula and Roberto were up at 8:00 a.m., which is unheard of for them on a weekend! In fact, Paula had barely gotten up at 10:30 the previous morning, as I headed out for the temple. But the reason they were up was to prep. La Nenita hates cooking – always has – so Paula was up to prepare Mother’s Day lunch to bring over. Meanwhile, I went for my second and last run on the highway, it being a Sunday when they close the roads to traffic. It was cloudy and clammy, but there were still tons of bikers, runners, and skaters about. Even some yoga and spinning classes being set up!

We arrived in Viña around 12:30. La Nenita lives in a very residential part of the city in a lovely apartment. Paula’s nephew, Nicolás, lives with her – he’s studying to be a lawyer at University of Chile in Valparaíso. They also have a turtle, and I immediately asked, “Oh, what’s the turtle’s name?” “He doesn’t have a name…” they both responded. Small bummer. Roberto named him “Tortura,” I guess a play on words for the Spanish word for turtle, “Tortuga.” Not his best joke.

We spent the next few hours just hanging out eating chips and drinking “Fanschop.” “Schop” refers to beer and “Fan” is short for Fanta. Dani explained that it’s a very common drink and easy to make. You basically take a simple beer like Corona (we used a Mexican beer, Sol), and mix it half and half with a soda of your choosing, in this case, Fanta. I should mention that Dani was originally not going to come to La Nenita’s because she spent the whole weekend working on her music video for her single, “A Mi Futuro.” She was showing me pictures and videos from the shoot and it’s looking great! There’ll be one more day of filming next week, but she won’t be there – she’s now on vacation in Cartagena, Colombia, for about 10 days. She left Tuesday night. The filming they did this past weekend was of the band playing the song, whereas the next shoot will be filming the story line they’ve created for the it, which doesn’t involve the band members.

At one point while we were snacking it up, I had such a moment of déjà vu. Paula was trying to take a photo on her fancy new cellphone (“It’s Chinese, but I like it well enough…”). She lamented, “Ah, why does everything look so blurry?” Dani took a look at her camera and discovered that Paula had yet to remove its little transparent screen protector. I recalled the time years ago when my dad, the famous Steve, got a new phone. “All of my photos are turning out blurry. Oh wait, there’s this screen on my camera. You think that’s it?” “Dad, I’m sure that’s it.”

For lunch, we ate pastel de choclo, a classic Chilean dish. Paula went out and bought six servings, and they actually came in little clay bowls. We finished it all off with some coffee, then went to the beach to get ice cream. It was also cloudy and clammy in Viña, but the cold ice cream was appreciated regardless. A couple funny things happened along the way, too. I had been thinking just that morning, “Man, I feel like Paula hasn’t roasted anyone in a while.” And then BOOM. We were getting in the car, Roberto driving, Nicolás in the passenger seat, the four of us girls in the back. And Paula just goes, “See, we can fit, we’re skinny…me, La Nenita, Sarah.” And Dani just went, “Ay, que pena!” Dani is not by any stretch of the imagination fat. In fact, she’s the most ideal, healthy weight you could possibly be. But there goes Paula roasting away.

Roberto the Ice Cream King powering his way through.
Feliz Día de la Madre a mis mamás chilenas!

Paula was on a roll. When we ordered our ice creams, we asked for 5 “simples,” single scoops, and 1 “doble,” 2 scoops. Roberto, naturally, ordered the doble. At this place, two scoops was actually so unnecessary since you got a ton of ice cream with just one. Anyway, we go to order and Paula asks for 2 flavors, chocolate chip and banana. The server decides she must be the one “doble” order, so when Roberto goes up, he asks for two flavors and gets denied – “You only ordered one doble, and she [Paula] took  it.” Biggest bummer of Roberto’s day. Thankfully, Paula could barely finish her two scoops and gave about two-thirds of her ice cream to him.

We finally left Viña at 5:00 p.m., making the whole excursion “just for lunch” a total of 8 hours. But I had fun all the same and was happy to have such quality time with my Chilean family.

Fam selfie – Dani, Nicolás, La Nenita, Paula, Roberto, me.

Monday was our last day of “real” class. We discussed some of the final readings, then had a visitor. I didn’t catch his name, but he was a Colombian immigrant who works for an organization that helps Chilean immigrants find work and a place to live in Chile. I really enjoyed getting an up-to-date perspective on immigration here, especially from an immigrant himself. He talked about the biggest challenges immigrants face now, including health care, securing documentation to work, social discrimination, etc.

We spent the afternoon banging out our final critical essays. The relief I felt pressing the send button on that email was enormous; junior year, case closed.

Losing our minds doing our homework at a cafe, for the final time.

With that, I went home, did a lot of free reading, then said goodbye to Dani. She left for Cartagena, scrambling, with Paula clucking her tongue. The next morning, we had a late class in which we discussed the last couple readings we still hadn’t gotten to (we couldn’t keep to schedule this block; every discussion went way longer than expected) and discussed the broad takeaways of the course. We kind of all just hung out/went our separate ways that afternoon, then met up for drinks with Andreea before our “goodbye dinner.” Dinner itself was a marathon – lots of fancy appetizers, more gnocchi, and some absurdly good tres leches cake topped with broiled marshmallow fluff. Talk about bacán.

Pre-goodbye dinner.
Beers with a beautiful sunset.

4th Wednesday was very bittersweet and full of goodbyes! David, Austin, and I ran to the statue of the Virgin Mary one last time and gazed out at Santiago. I definitely got a little teary-eyed. We then had “class” at school, where we celebrated Austin’s graduation, Jaysha and Ula’s birthdays, and our time in Chile. Isa and her three assistants, Claudia, Domi, and Alice, gave us IFSA mugs and little clay penguins, made by a woman we met in Pomaire named Marisol. We also ate the most decadent chocolate cake I have eaten in a while. In return, we gave our gifts to the IFSA girls and Andreea – a scarf for Isa, chocolate for the assistants, and wine for Andreea, plus cards for all. Everyone was in good spirits.

Santiago skyline, one last time.
The graduate gets a cap from the IFSA girls.

We then stepped out of the office for about an hour to watch a huge women’s march taking place on the highway. The signs and chants were very empowering and badass, and the whole event was cool to watch. As “tourists,” we’re not allowed to participate in demonstrations, but we still kind of felt like a part of it due to its lively atmosphere. I’m glad to say I got to see an important march like this one before leaving.

Austin and Alice at the march.

After, we all just retreated to our houses to pack up with mixed feelings. Eventually Austin, Emily, and I met up a last time to see Nate Goodman, our fearless traveler. His latest news was he was bit by a dog, was receiving rabies shots, and had befriended some Peruvian drug dealers. I would expect nothing less. 

The boys.

Finally, today! Austin and I went climbing in an area on the outskirts of the city, to the northeast. Our Uber driver was baffled as we snaked our way up and up along the mountainside through a really expensive neighborhood. We finally arrived more or less at the trail, then trekked up. The trail was completely unclear, just lots of loose dirt that got us filthy. Thankfully, we arrived at the crag quickly and then did a few quick pitches before we had to hurry home. The air was fresh and the city view was perfect. 

Toprope tough girl.

We hiked down and got even filthier, since the loose dirt was even more dangerous descending. My Chilean phone wouldn’t load Uber, so we kept walking down the road, making hitch hike attempts. Eventually a guy in a big truck stopped for us. While bringing us to a gas station to get WiFi and call a real Uber, he explained to us how he’d been to the US back in October. Rigby, Idaho, oddly. He wants to go back this June because it was too cold for him in the fall. His name was Nacho, short for Ignacio. 

Our second Uber driver chatted us up as well. We talked about the women’s march the previous day and he said it was nonsense. He claimed that abuse is all related to power, not gender. Ugh. He did make a fair point that the march, like most in Chile, ended in some violence. Good marches here, in his opinion, have clearer goals and don’t end in violence. Not the highlight of the conversation, but he was interesting to talk to. 

I had about an hour and a half after that to eat lunch, shower, and finish packing. Roberto ate quickly with us, since he had a meeting. The women in the universities have effectively shut down the schools for the past two weeks, so he’s been at home twiddling his thumbs. The meeting would hopefully make it clearer what would be done. He and I were both in high spirits since Paula had bought us blackberry ice cream after an ice cream dry spell for nearly 2 weeks!

Paula and I chatted for a while waiting for my taxi, then finally said goodbye. I was sad, but I also felt ready to go. Paula roasted my driver for being late, and I can’t see a more classic send-off happening. 

Now I’m at the airport preparing for the long ride home. It’s been swell here in Chile and I’m super grateful for my experience. But now it’s time to see some friends and family graduate back in the states!

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