September 11 (1973, 2001 and 2014)

As much as I would love to be dramatic and say that this week has been weird or scary, that would be a lie. As you may or may not know, two days ago, a bomb exploded in Escuela Militar, the metro stop where I work. It is also the stop that is two stops away from my house. The bomb injured fourteen people and since then security around metros has increased dramatically. A few weeks ago, a bomb was found in a Metro in Los Dominicos, which is the metro stop I use when I ride my bike to the metro, which is almost daily. Although a bomb was found there, life continued without a second thought of the situation. Obviously, the circumstances of this second situation have changed the environment of the Metro-of Santiago really. People are scared, tense and bothered.

I have not had a situation in Santiago where I have felt unsafe-but I have to admit I was very uneasy riding the metro yesterday to and from school. Usually during Taco (or rush hour), the metro is hot and you’re squished against an average of three to six other individuals, but this time the Taco-hour Metro was full, but not as it normally is because many have opted to take the micros (Santiago’s bus system) as a precaution. Despite the fear, life continues. People take the Metro; people ride the micros- the busy worker bees continue to work. 

Last night, I was unable to switch metro lines because a suspected bomb had been found at Baquedano. This added a twenty minute walk to my already hour long commute home since I had to walk to a stop for the other line. When I boarded the train, I noticed that everyone in the car looked at me. As I snagged an open space to stand against the back window, I noticed that everyone would stare at anyone who boarded the metro. Although eye contact is common on the Metro, more so than in the United States, all eyes on you when you get on the metro was something I had not experienced. As much as I didn’t like this experience, I was equally comforted by everyone’s unanimous concern for the safety and well-being. 

Thirteen years ago, September 11th shaped the history of every United States citizen and left a print on the world that will not be forgotten. Every US citizen I know can recount where they were, whom they were with and their emotions and reactions when realizing maybe the world isn’t as safe as I thought it was; that day remains crystal clear in our minds.

Forty-one years ago, September 11th shaped the history of every Chilean citizen when in 1973 the military coup removed socialist President Salvador Allende from power. The events of the coup still intensely divide Chilean society, and the anniversary is habitually a time of protests that often turn violent. It’s hard to tell whether the bombs of this week are related, but it makes for a better explanation than… no explanation.

Leading up to September 11th, many Chileans as well as the Spaniards I work for have told me I need to be careful on September 11th. People are unnecessarily violent on this day and so it is best to take it easy and head home early. As I have said, I have never(okay maybe once or twice) felt afraid in Santiago, but this week I was afraid of what could happen. With that said, I have continued about my daily life, because if I were to live my life afraid of the bad things that could happen, it is likely I would miss out on all of the good things that do happen.

Luckily for me, I will only be going into the city once in the morning and then in the afternoon I head to San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world. It’s been a busy semester, I’m sorry I haven’t updated you all more, but I promise all is well and I promise to post an update soon since I have a lot to share!

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Buenos Aires

For Semana Santa, I went to Buenos Aires with two of my closest friends. We flew out on Wednesday and had five days to get to know the autonomous city.

Our first day was spent exploring parts of the center close to our hostel. We walked down Florida Street while searching for an accessible atm and we were overwhelmed by the amount of people yelling “Cambio! Cambio!” The black market exchange between US dollars and pesos in Buenos Aires is massive and on one block of Florida Street my friends and I passed at least twenty people asking for exchanges. Later that night, we went out for pizza and Malbec at an Italian Restaurant. Afterwards we decided to get ice cream and go sit by the Obelisk since it was only three blocks from our hostel. Before coming to Buenos Aires, I had read about how it was a very dangerous city and how you have to be very careful wherever you are. I felt as though we had been very careful, but up until that point it seemed as though the danger of the city had been exaggerated. I guess I spoke too soon. While at the obelisk talking about life, love, and whatever else, we heard a woman screaming bloody murder. Immediately I turned around and noticed this woman on the ground with a man standing somewhat in front of her and he began to run away with her necklace in his hands. After that, my friends and I were very shaken up and decided to go back to the hostel to sleep. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, why the heck did I decide to come to a city as dangerous as this one? After that, we were very careful wherever we went and thankfully nothing else bad happened.

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Our second day was spent also exploring the center. We walked to Plaza de Mayo to explore the main square in the center. We went to Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. The cathedral has a transept with three aisles and chapels on the sides that can be reached through corridors. There is also a mausoleum for General José de San Martín, an Argentine general and the prime leader for the southern part of South America’s struggle for independence from the Spanish. The mausoleum has soldiers guarding it all hours and when I saw them changing shifts, I thought about how much I would hate to have that job. Later we went down to Puerto Madero to see Puente de la Mujer and relax for a while in a park. I was amazed by how windy the city was. It’s almost as though I had forgotten what wind felt like, because rarely is it windy in Santiago.

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On the third day, we met up with one of my friends from high school to explore La Boca. Although it was very touristy, I really enjoyed visiting this neighborhood, walking along the colorful houses on Caminito and catching glimpses of tango artists dancing outside of restaurants. I also loved seeing all of the artwork along the streets. There was one man who was painting the most beautiful landscapes with his mouth! Later that night we went to a tango show at Café Tortoni. On our way to the show, I heard the most beautiful choir singing in Plaza de Mayo. Since it wasn’t so far away, my friends and I took a side route to go see what was happening. Since it was Good Friday, the Passion was being read aloud and acted out. There were hundreds of people on the street listening, watching and walking with Jesus and his cross. I loved seeing this because it reminded me that even in this broken city, there are people who have hope and trust in the Lord. As much as I wanted to stay there, we had reservations for the tango show in a few minutes. My friends and I were sitting at our table when a wonderful Brazilian woman asked if she could sit with us. Her name is Lourdes and she was so much fun. There was a young, attractive waiter waiting on the tables next to ours and she was blunt with him and asked if he could be our waiter because he was handsome. He said now and she started whining and then laughing, at that point our whole table was laughing. Throughout the entire show, she sang and danced to the music and she kept pointed out the most attractive male on stage saying how badly she wanted to dance with him. She even bought a very nice bottle of Malbec wine and shared it with us. It turns out she had been traveling to many different cities for the last month: New York, London, and now Buenos Aires, before heading home to Sao Paolo. It seemed like her adventure had been entertaining and here eyes were filling with tears as she was telling the waiter that she was heading home in three days. I don’t like the idea of being old, but Lourdes made me realize life is what you make of it no matter what your age is. The tango show itself was the most sensual thing I have ever seen, a part of a culture I had not known before, and I loved every minute of it. This night was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

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On the fourth day, my friends and I walked to Recoleta and explored the cemetery and the fair outside of it. I’ve talked a lot about cemeteries already, but I cannot emphasize enough how diverse and beautiful they are in Latin America. So if you find yourself in a country in Latin America, be sure to visit a cemetery. After visiting Recoleta, we went on a bike tour of Palermo. The tour was very relaxed, and we rode around the subdivisions of Palermo for four hours. Side story: Sometimes I have weird flashbacks of places in the United States that I miss whether it be the familiar drive to get to Woodfield mall, the walk to my cousin’s house, or my daily walk Marquette’s campus. This last week, I had a flashback of the bike ride through Palermo, twice. Buenos Aires is such a great city and I highly recommend you visit it if you have the opportunity.

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On our Easter Sunday, I went to mass at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral with Lucy and then afterwards we went to the San Telmo Market and San Telmo in general to get to know the area better. It was here that I saw more gringos than I did throughout my entire trip in Buenos Aires. In comparison to the markets in Santiago, I felt that Buenos Aires had more authentic things to offer because what was sold was almost always hand crafted, each stand different from the next-with some occasional similarities of course. Later that day we relaxed, and then returned to San Telmo at night for our final dinner in Buenos Aires. We decided to go to La Brigada, because it is argued as the best steak in Buenos Aires. I don’t believe I am qualified to say whether it is indeed the best steak in Buenos Aires since I only had steak twice while I was there, but it was unquestionably the best steak I have ever had.

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Before my trip, I had no idea of how different Buenos Aires would be in comparison to Santiago. In Buenos Aires, I loved seeing the European-style architecture, listening to their distinct dialect of castellano, experiencing the tango culture, and the rich food. It was sad for me to think that Buenos Aires has seen better days. Regardless of that, I would highly recommend visiting this city. One could argue that visiting Europe would be just the same, but in Buenos Aires, I was better able to understand European and Latin American characters coexist and together they create this uniqueness that the one could only know through experience.

Cheers to Semana de Santa in Buenos Aires; an adventure of new friends, Malbec every night, tango dancers, travel companions who made me laugh until I cried, and eating too much dulce de leche. Image

Mafalda and I

Valparaíso

Durante mi exploración de lo racional y lo emocional en Valparaíso, me pregunté, “¿Son nuestras acciones emocional o racional?” En la ciudad, me esforcé por entender mejor las acciones de la gente, centrándome en cómo la lógica y las sensaciones afectan lo que hacemos. Yo tenía muchas preguntas sobre cómo la ciudad se convirtió en lo que ahora es. Por ejemplo, ¿Qué impulsa la gente a pintar sus edificios y casas en colores brillantes y llenar las calles con los trabajos de la pintada? En Valparaíso me di la cuenta que cada pieza de la infraestructura ha sido visto como un lienzo en blanco para llenar de vida y autenticidad que coincida con el de la ciudad. Creo que esta acción de pintar esos ‘lienzos en blancos’  es un resultado de la sensación y lo emocional de la gente. La gente de Valparaíso comprende la importancia de ser autentica y compartir sus sentimientos y lo demuestran en las obras de arte que han cubierto los cerros durante muchos años. Por eso, las obras de arte son huellas de los momentos en Valparaíso. Durante la salida, yo observé lugares abandonados con la evidencia de la vida que una vez estuvo allí. Creo que es muy difícil abandonar algo así porque hay muchos sentimientos entre una persona y su hogar, pero en casos como la destrucción de una casa que resulto de un terremoto, puede ser racional y necesario para abandonarlo.

Hay una conceptualización entre lo racional y lo emocional, y dice que ambos están en conflicto o tensión entre sí, pero este pensamiento es de una manera tradicional. La verdad es que hay una harmonía entre lo racional y lo emocional pero puede llevar toda una vida para entenderlo completamente.

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During my exploration of the rational and the emotional in Valparaíso, I asked myself, “Are our actions emotional or rational?” In the city I forced myself to better understand the actions of its people, focusing on how logic and feelings affect what they do. I also found myself wondering how the city came to be what it now is. For example, what drives the people to paint their homes and buildings in bright colors and fill their streets with artwork and graffiti? In Valparaíso, I realized every piece of infrastructure has been viewed as a blank canvas, eager to be filled with the kind of life and authenticity that reflects the city. The city of Valparaíso is authentic to the core and the people share this in the many different forms street art which cover the forty five hills of Valparaíso. During my time in Valparaiso, I observed many abandoned places. I’ve always been curious about how a home or building becomes abandoned, because I believe it is very difficult to abandon one’s home. A home is a place of memories, attachments and familiarity, and I couldn’t understand what emotional or rational action would prompt someone to leave. What I learned is in some cases it was necessary to leave. In this city many homes were abandoned in the past as the result of an earthquake, which seems like a very rational and reasonable reason to leave. 

In this project, I didn’t want to portray the rational and the emotional as terms of conflict. In my opinion, there is absolute harmony between the rational and the emotional, but it can take an entire lifetime to fully understand this kinship.

 

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Afterlife

One of my favorite things about Latin American culture is visiting the cemeteries. So far, I have been to two cemeteries: Cementerio Curepto and Cementerio General in Santiago. Both times I have been amazed by the amount of life I saw despite the fact that I was in a cemetery. Here, the character of death is colorful- I have seen tombstones in different blues, yellows, and pure whites. The graves are taken care of by tenants who work in the cemeteries and also by the relatives of the deceased. It was uncommon to see a grave without flowers, candles, toys, or notes around it and if that was the case, it usually meant that the family has moved farther away or they too, have passed. Image

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Taken in Cementerio Curepto

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Taken in Cementerio General

In the United States, I never would walk in the cemetery to pass the time. On a large scale, death in the United States is not something to be discussed. I would argue that Americans look at death on a myopic scale until it becomes relevant to the individual, whether that be losing a friend or family member or having a near death experience. In Chile, the cemetery is a communal place. A family could be visiting their deceased loved ones, a couple could be spending the afternoon together, or someone could be enjoying a long run or bike ride. It’s as if there is more faith in death here and in what comes next in the afterlife. Image Image

The Upper Class, Cementerio General

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The Popular Class, Cementerio General

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President Salvador Allende

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Querido Allende // Dear Allende

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Patio 29: 

Patio 29 is known as the burial place of the victims of the 1973 Chilean coup d-état and its military government under Augusto Pinochet. In the 70s, Patio 29 was used for unannounced, unmarked burials. The individuals buried here were victims of mutilation, torture and execution under the Pinochet military government. The graves on the field are lined with rusted iron cross headstones with a date and “NN” for “No Name”. Some of the iron crosses had printed photographs of loved ones who were assumed to have been buried in Patio 29. Los desaparecidos is a term used to describe the individuals who suddenly vanished. The United States doesn’t have a word as profound as los desaparecidos, but the best translation would be “the missing ones” or “the vanished ones”. I could write down my many thoughts about this haunting and peaceful place, but I would rather share the photographs I have taken:

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“Patio 29, recuperación de un espacio público, que nos invita a reflexionar sobre el profundo respeto que debemos tener por la vida y a llenar de sentido el nunca más que todos y todas anhelamos.”

The Interrobang Day (‽)

A lot of things don’t go quite as planned in Chile. I can only plan so much for something I don’t know and I often have expectations that the execution will be graceful and a smooth journey, but often that is not the case.

So where has this lead me? Well, I have been lost more than a few times, it’s taken me longer to get from point A to point B and I have had to get over my pride of ‘being able to do something all on my own’ and ask for direction or help. I’m learning that although Chileans can be timid and may not make the first approach to talk to me, they are more than willing to help whether they lead me to exactly where I need to go, allow me to borrow their phone or shared with me that I need to be walking 15 minutes in the other direction.

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Sunday was a prime example of an interrobang day. My friends and I started the day early by meeting up at the metro station Bellavista de La Florida, excited to spend our day hiking a mountain at Cajon del Maipo- a popular trekking spot which is an hour away from Santiago.

When we got to the town San Jose de Maipo (one of the towns in Cajon del Maipo), my friends and I went in to a little tourist office and began to speak with the woman behind the counter. We told her we wanted to go hiking and she told us about this really beautiful spot just past the river about a kilometer away. She pointed out the directions to us on the map and said, “You are going to go past a private road that says do not enter, enter and cross the bridge and then you will be able to go trekking.” We walked for more than one kilometer and did not find the place we were supposed to enter, so we walked back a bit and found another ‘entrance’ that we suspected would lead us to the bridge. The path led us to the river, but there was no bridge. We made our way back to the street and asked a family near by if they knew where the bridge to the hiking path was located. The mom told us it was about thirty minutes up the road and so we walked.

After about forty-five minutes of walking, we reached the bridge. The bridge was frightening, fifty yards long, with pieces of wood of different lengths and only wire on either side to keep someone from falling in. Thankfully (also unfortunately), there was a door to the bridge that was locked, and so we were unable to cross it. Even though I wanted to be hiking in the mountains, I was glad we didn’t have to cross the bridge. I was really disappointed though. This day that was supposed to be adventurous had turned out to be a bust and even though it was only 12:30, everyone was tired and unmotivated because what we came to do was out of reach(even though mountains were all around us).

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We decided it was time to go back into town and start over-we thought we could find somewhere new to hike for a while, since the bus didn’t leave until 5:30. One problem, it was going to take a while to get into town, and no one wanted to walk back. Being in the situation that we were in, I stood on the side of the road, stuck my thumb up, in hopes of some kind person to give us a ride back to town. While I was standing there waiting for someone to pull over, I could not help but question everything from the morning up until that point-the website made this place look easy to navigate, but why has it been so difficult?-I would call this the interrogative point of my interrobang day because I had no idea what to do.

After ten minutes or so, a young woman pulled over and asked us where we needed to go. The situation seemed safe, and so my friends and I got into her car and rode to the town. The woman was so kind, she told us how she was working at this festival at one of the campgrounds near by. When we asked her what kind of festival it was, she told is it was a Cannabis festival and invited us to come. We declined because we had to return to Santiago later in the evening and also had no interest in going to a Cannabis festival.

Once in the town, we waited for another bus to take us to another hiking trail. While waiting, recognized my friends two French students, Margot and Flora, who are studying at La Católica this semester and we asked them where they were headed. It turned out that they too, were unable to navigate the area because the tourist office was closed and one of the girl’s credit cards was not working. We told them to join us on our adventure for the rest of the day, and they did. Once we got on the next bus, we were dropped off at this dark tunnel and were told to walk through to get to a hiking path and observatory. The tunnel was pitch black, comparable to Gollum’s cave. I had no ability to know if my next step would be solid or not and could have easily fallen into a hole in the middle of the tunnel if one had been there. At one point Margot was holding onto me out of fear, a girl I had barely just met. What a weird day. I’m learning how easily and quickly friendships can develop, and for that I am grateful.

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Once we got to the other side, we hit another roadblock. The hiking path was closed and locked. It was at that point where I really started to lose faith in the thought that I would be on top of a mountain that day. We asked someone else about a hiking trail and were told that there was a path up the road, ten minutes by car. We were not masters of hitchhiking, but we stuck our thumbs up in hopes that someone would pick us up. I wasn’t very hopeful though because we were in a group of seven people, we would have needed a van to fit us all. Thankfully a bus was driving by and pulled over and took us up the road free of charge.

We made it to our final destination around 3pm. It was an abandoned town that had been evacuated in the past because of a volcanic eruption. I was really thankful for that abandoned little town, because as eerie as abandoned places can be, they are aesthetically pleasing in my opinion and they allow me to imagine the lives once lived in that place. We didn’t really know how to get to the mountains, but thankfully a man who lived in the area was walking by, and led us to a path that he said would lead us to a trail. A few minutes went by and we walked across a bridge over the clearest river I have ever seen, and were finally making our way up toward the mountain. Unfortunately, we only had two hours until our bus would leave for Santiago, and we knew that wasn’t a sufficient amount of time to hike to the top of the mountain and back, but we decided to hike as much as we could in the next hour before making our way back.

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We hiked up towards the mountain for about forty-five minutes and then took a break. I sat on a boulder and thought about how the day hadn’t quite gone as I thought it would have. I had expected to be on top of a mountain that day. I had expected for trails to be simply navigated and for simple transportation. As frustrating as the first half of the day was, I sat on that boulder admiring the mountains that surrounded me-the way some of their outlines curved and others were sharp and jagged. I looked at the rocks on which I had hiked up to that point, and was amazed by their natural purple and green colors. My Chilean friend, Kevin, had joined us for the day and brought maté to share. I need to take a moment and say how thankful I was to have had Kevin with us that day, because he was able to understand the people who were helping us get to where we wanted to go and when I couldn’t understand, he could. It was at this point where I experienced the exclamatory part of my interrobang day. Today may have been difficult in the beginning, but look at how it ended up!

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I’ve decided to make my catch phrase for each day in Chile: “Here goes something‽” Because I am learning that in order to better understand Chile, I have to do things even if it means getting lost a few hours longer or being uncomfortable. Although Sunday in particular was an interrobang day, every day in Chile is an interrobang day filled with mistakes and difficulties but also excitement and joy. Execution is everything.

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Learning Castellano de Chile

Chilean Spanish, or Castellano de Chile, is different from the Spanish I’ve been learning for the last eight years. It is distinct because of the many modismos, or Chilenismos that are used. Chilenismos are Chilean words and phrases that are only used in Chile. These words are idiosyncratic and it is easy to catch Chileans using them. For example, Chileans use ‘cachai’ when explaining something as a way to say “Do you get it?” or “Do you understand?

Before the Spanish came to Chile, the indigenous Mapuche people lived throughout Chile. As the two cultures mixed, the Spanish adopted Mapuchan words, which are commonly used in conversation. Sometimes students use Mapuchan words in my class and when they do, I become lost in translation.

Another chilenismo is ‘po’ which is included at the end of si(po), no(po), or other words. This chilenismo is a shortened form of the word ‘pues’ and is used to add emphasis to certain words. I can vouch for the Chileans that once you start using ‘po’, you cannot stop.

My favorite Chilenismo is ‘huevon’, but it sounds like ‘weon’. Huevon is the Chilean equivalent of dude or friend, but it is also a term used to describe someone who is mean, rude or strange. It’s pretty entertaining to use, and every time I say it, my Chilean friends laugh, so I’m going to continue to use it.

Before coming to Chile, I had very little knowledge of Castellano de Chile and how it differs from the formal Spanish I’ve been learning. With that said, I really love what I am learning and I am thankful for my Chilean friends and family, who have been teaching me Chilenismos.

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Photo taken in Bella Vista. 12.03.2014

Santiago

Santiago

This city is home to over six million people.

Home is an intimate subject for me to talk about. A home is not a home just because am a resident. For me, it takes a variety of experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Santiago-I love the busyness of its subway and streets, the different cultures of its people, and the great mountains around the city-but I cannot say that this city is my home yet.

On my first day in Santiago, I went with two of my friends to explore the Central Campus of La Católica. I walked fifteen minutes to get to the Metro, met up with my friends at one of the stops, and we then rode the Metro for twenty more minutes. One difference between cities in the United States in comparison with Santiago is in the United States, there are lights with crosswalks every block or so, that is not the case in Santiago. If you don’t cross the street where you need to, you may end up walking another seven to ten minutes until you reach the next crosswalk. My friends and I may have had to do this a few times and eventually we made it to the campus, although it was right in front of us the whole time. We walked into a beautiful hallway and then outside again into a courtyard in the middle of all of the classes, it was cool, contrary to the humid Metro we had been riding on earlier. (Sidenote: the heat in the Metro has me convinced that Chileans most definitely have a higher blood temperature than gringos like myself.)

After our little tour, we decided to continue exploring what the area had to offer and fresh blueberry ice cream was one of those things. Yum! At one point, we stopped inside a ‘beauty store’, which could be comparable to Ulta, but is about the size of a MAC store. In order to purchase facewash, deodorant, makeup, my friend Kaitlyn had to take a number and wait until her number was called. It was so weird.

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On one of our journeys to find a crosswalk, we noticed this beautiful, yellow, palace-like building and of course we had to go figure out what it was. When we finally reached it, we realized that we could continue to walk up more stairs to an even higher place -of course we had to keep climbing. At the top of the stairs was a beautiful little deck that overlooked the city and the mountains that surround it. As I looked out, I felt small in comparison to the vast landscape of buildings that surrounded me, and even smaller in comparison to the enormous mountains. Regardless of how uncomfortable it made me feel, I think it was important to understand how small I am in this world-but not insignificant- and to remember that life keeps moving around me, whether I am there or not.

Santiago is not my home yet, but as I to get to know the city and befriend its beautiful residents, it grows on me. What is most important is that I see God here. He is at work in this city, in the lives of its residents, and in me. Over the next few months, I hope that He makes Santiago my home and I hope I can be used to love its people well.

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