Wednesday, September 5, 2007

La Serena, Vicuna y Coquimbo

Ok, so I had a very busy vacation weekend.

On Thursday, the bus didn’t leave until 5 pm, but I had to have my bag packed before I left for classes. The reason was because I began my volunteer after my classes ended, and the volunteering would go until I had to be at the bus stop. The volunteer coordinator and I travelled into a hill about 2O minutes east of where I live to a very poor part of Viña del Mar. We met a nurse at a consultorio, or cheap neighborhood clinic, and I helped her on her rounds through the surrounding neighborhoods. One lady needed to have an ulcer on her leg cleaned and rebandaged, so I helped hold the leg up while the nurse did all the work. After that, a doctor met up with us and we went to see a woman who has had polio and been paralyzed waist down since she was eleven months old. Another lady we just talked to for a while, because, as the nurse said afterwards, just talking is what some of the people need to feel better.

After the volunteer work, I got into a micro that was going so fast down a hill that when we hit a bump all the passengers were airborne for a bit. I’d say we were going about 5O mph too fast. I got to the bus stop and got settled for a 6 hour ride to La Serena in the north. We watched the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Spanish subtitles and listened to drunken kids in the back of the bus doing sing-a-longs for the rest of the trip.

La Serena turned out to be overcast and cold the entire weekend. We stayed there on Friday and had a sight-seeing tour around it and its sister-city, Coquimbo. The tour guide was extremely easy to understand and nice, so the tour was enjoyable. I’ll have the pictures up by, hopefully, tomorrow. After the tour we had a little free-time and then it was off to the cabana’s restaurant, which was really good. I had some very tender chicken, good bread, and a papaya desert. Papaya is the staple crop grown in La Serena and the surrounding countryside. The night was cloudy, windy, and cold, so we all stayed in and hung out.

The next day, Saturday, we went to a town about an hour away from La Serena called Vicuña. The alcohol company, Capel, has a mixing plant close to there, so we toured the factory. We only got about a mouthwash cap-size amount of alcohol to test, so it turn out the way we were all hoping for, but I tried a baileys-type alcohol, but with an alcohol called pisco instead of whiskey-it was pretty good. Back in Vicuña, we hung out at a hostel where llamas we tied up in the back, but it was a classy place none-the-less. The night, we went to the observatory there for an amazing night of star-gazing.

On the way to the town and alcohol factory, we drove along a highway that took us past a beautiful dam. The lake behind it was really blue, huge, and the wind was so strong that the waves were going against the flow of the water. The banks along most of it were steep cliffs speckled with cacti, but the best part was the shore at the very end on the lake. It was one of the milky light green shorelines, and horses were drinking there. It was pretty cool.

They showed us a slide show of the tribal history of the stars, and then took us onto the rooftop to look at the night sky and use telescopes to see some stars close-up. It was amazing. The moon wasn’t out, so that allowed a lot of stars to be seen. Plus, we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn’t a lot of light pollution. My camera couldn’t capture it, but the Milky Way and Jupiter and 2 other galaxies, among hundreds of stars, were all very easily seen. I got to see 3 shooting stars, too. We used the telescope to see Jupiter and 3 of its moons, all in a line, plus a red giant, white dwarf, a very bright star, and the cloudiness of another galaxy. After the stargazing we had a short concert with a really good folk band. We ended up driving back to La Serena that night, during which most of us slept.

The next day was just for driving back. We were in the bus and travelling by 11 am, which was too early… The day was still cloudy and cold, though. The drive back was uneventful and pretty boring. We watched The Reaping and a Chilean movie which I forget the name of. It was about a school that was being desegregated and the shaky friendship of an inner-city kid and one of the rich ones. It was pretty risky, being Chilean and all, but I ended up falling asleep during most of it. We also watched the VH1 Divas concert for Saving the Music, the one hosted by Celine Dion about 6 months after Titanic came out.

We got home around 5pm, and throughout the entire weekend I was able to read 1 chapter of Don Quixote. I unpacked my stuff, relaxed, and got caught up on the internet.

Tonight, I’m watching Stardust with my home stay sister, in English with Spanish subtitles. I’ll be posting this tomorrow.



Terry L said...

Hello Peter

Sounds like your trip was an authentic experience in Chile! You must have felt you could touch the stars.

I like the perspective of the nurse you are volunteering with. What a great way to meet the local people.


Sara said...

Great post, Pete!

My favorite part was the fact that you guys watched the VH1 Divas concert. We've been watching ANTM reruns of the season when Caridee won, and it made me think of you. Glad you're having such an amazing time! We miss you!