After 17 hours, two flights, and numerous instances of speaking poor Spanish I finally made it to Chile. It was the first time I have ever traveled on my own and, despite my fear of planes, I was not going to let it put a damper on my excitement to spend the next six weeks in Latin American.
Stepping out of the airport in Santiago, Chile, I couldn’t wait to take a communications course, intern for a local company, and practice my Spanish For years, I have studied the history and culture of Latin American countries, and now I will be venturing into South America to experience the culture(s) firsthand.
First time traveling on my own!
Day 1 in Santiago felt like a whole new world. For the first time in my life, I was going to be living in a country where I couldn’t read, speak, nor understand the language. Fortunately, I was able to meet and befriend a few other students who spoke Spanish and would help me get around. We only spent a night in Santiago, but we were able to go on a tour of the city and learn more about the history of Chile.
This stone is a historical landmark in Santiago. Inscribed on the stone is an excerpt from a letter that Pedro de Valdivia wrote to the king of Spain for more troops to defend from neighboring territories.
The next day came in a blink of an eye as we had to wake up at 5 am to catch a flight to Temuco, where we would spend a few days visiting a hydroelectric plant, sawmill factory, and salmon hatchery. The purpose of touring these facilities was to observe how these industries affect the environment and the economy.
Generally, the industries are large contributors to the region’s economy, however, these benefits seem to be taking place at the cost of the environmental retributions. Such as displacing the marine life or the clearing of large forests for the sake of energy and resources.
The first image is the river which the hydroelectric plant was being built upon. As you can see, the water levels seem low because the plant draws water from the stream. The second image was taken at the sawmill factory, which shows the finished clear-cut wood that is ready to be exported (60% of the wood produced is exported). The third image was taken at the salmon hatchery where we were able to witness how the salmon are monitored and bred to produce the best eggs to export to fish farms.
The next stop was Pucon where we would end the first week. We also were able to visit a community of indigenous people called the Mapuche. Here we enjoyed arguably the best Latin American dishes I have ever had, which was cooked by the chieftain of the Trankuran community, Don Silverio. After serving us dinner, he allowed us to tour the Mapuche land, which has been preserved for centuries and offered us his perspective on the development of the growing energy industry in Chile.
The above image on the left is the flag of the Mapuche people, it was created to distinguish themselves from the Chilean people because they felt that the Chileans were wronging them. The above image on the left is of Don Silverio, the Trankuran chieftain who allowed us into his home and explore his land.
All in all, my first week abroad has been nothing short of an adventure. I have made a ton of friends, went sightseeing in the southern regions of Chile, and experienced firsthand the culture and heritage of both the Chilean and Mapuche people.
Me in Temuco, Chile overlooking the city!