I'm starting out this post with my little public service announcement; GO VOTE. We live in a country where we have the right and responsibility to elect our officials. So go participate in democracy!
The last week or so here in Chile has been a mix of excitement and stress. First, I went on a trip with the organization CIEE that runs all the logistics of the program here! We went about 6 hours north of Santiago to the semi arid region known as "Norte Chico". It was an extreme trip. We biked over 70 kilometers over two days. Our bike guide was from the region so he knew all the little back roads. Going on bike is an awesome way to really see a place. The one problem was that in parts the road was so bumpy and washboarded that it became a bit uncomfortable to sit on a bike...there were many sore butts at the end of the day. In the middle of the rides we stopped at different places to do things. The second day we stopped at a Pisco distillery. After our pisco tasting we continued on bike...more or less steadily...
In addition to the great bike adventure we also went to an observatory. The northern region of Chile is the best place in the world to see starts. Some combination if it being the driest desert in the world, the cool air from the Pacific Ocean, and the protective wall of the Andes makes the area perfect for stargazing. The observatory was on the top of a little mountain and the sky was so clear. So many stars! Because this is South America and the Southern Hemisphere, a lot of the stars and constellations are different. We learned how to find the Southern Cross and how to use it to navigate! Probably the highlight of the trip though was our day at the Humboldt Penguin Reserve! Penguins are basically the cutest animals ever. And they really waddle. It was an incredible experience to see these animals in the wild. There were also a lot of seals and dolphins! The day after the Penguins we saw a bunch of Guanacos! Quite the wildlife trip.
After getting back to Santiago I was once again plunged into the world that is university here. The school I am taking most of my classes at is La Universidad de Chile, the big public university. Chilean college students are in the midst of a huge movement to improve the educational system in the country. They protest and go on strike. This is a new experience for me. I haven't had much class because the students are striking, but since I am an exchange student the professors continue the class for me (I'm the only foreigner in most classes) by continuing readings and responses and things. We occasionally meet. It's kind of hard to figure out what is going on because Chileans have a really different attitude about life. Everything here is way more laid back. Deadlines are almost never absolute and professors don't have office hours. It's a change to go from a pretty structured system like in the USA to this. I'm getting used to it a little though. Sort of. The thing my Chilean friends and professors most often say to me is "relax! This is Chile".
That's all for now, stay tuned for more South America fun next week! As always send me your comments, concerns, hopes and dreams at firstname.lastname@example.org