Chile – Week One

JackieOnBeachWell, I have been in Santiago for almost a week now! When I arrived last Sunday, March 6, my first impressions of Chile were that it is pretty nice. The streets are very clean and with all the different plants, everything looks nice. Add to that the beautiful views of the Andes to the east and it is very surreal. The Andes rise up just east of the city, and are very steep with no trees. The people here  say they are even more beautiful after a rain because the smog is gone for a little while. The smog hangs over the city in a visible haze, but doesn’t obscure views of the mountains in the summer.

As for the people, the rumors are true! Everyone I have met so far has been extremely nice and helpful. I stayed with the family of one of the geology graduate students, Gisella, from the university in their home in the La Reina neighborhood. It is a quiet residential neighborhood right below the Andes. They were extremely welcoming and made me feel right at home. Gisella showed me the city and the university, and gave me a tour of some of the neighborhoods I could look for an apartment in.

Fulbright orientation

On the 8th and 9th, I had orientation to meet the other students and people in charge of me while I am here. The first day all of the 12 Fulbright recipients gave a presentation about what they would be working on while in Chile. Wow, are the projects diverse! Everyone is so nice and unique. There are 4 social science projects, focusing on distance to public services, disability visability, maternal depression, and impacts of hydropower in southern Chile. There are 5 physical science projects: how the Andes affect
snowfall, climate-change impacts of marine phytoplankton, marine microorganism biodiversity and inter-relatedness, the progression of an invasive bee species in Patagonia, as well as my project. There are 2 artists: a poet who will be translating and writing peoms and a music producer who will be working on shedding light on the underground electronic music of Latin America. And there is a historian who will study the relations between Chile and Peru during a cholera outbreak in the 1880’s. We all got to know each other at lunch after the presentations, and I am so glad I got this opportunity to meet all these amazing people.

The second day of orientation we all went to the Chilean coast to tour on of Pablo Neruda’s homes. Neruda is a very famous and influential Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. It was a beautiful drive to the coast, and the house was absolutely amazing! Neruda collected so many interesting things: bottles, ship heads, beetles, butterflies, figurines, masks, and much more. The house overlooks the ocean and it is very relaxing to hear the waves crashing in on the rocks.

University of Chile

I’ve spend a little time at the university this week meeting everyone and learning my way around. The geology department is located in the campus of physical sciences and math. Basically, the campus of geology, engineering, chemistry, and physics. It is in Santiago Centro, in the center of the city. I have a desk in one of the graduate student offices in the geology building on campus! There are about 15 other students in the same office, and there’s a second office upstairs. A lot of grad students! There aren’t only students from Chile, but from Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, and Italy. Very diverse.
It is 100 times easier to understand the non-Chilean students because they speak much more clearly and not nearly as fast as Chilean Spanish. On Friday Dr. Reich had the weekly group meeting. I met most of the other students who work under him and the projects they are doing. To be honest I only understood half of what they were saying, but I’m really working on my Spanish so hopefully next week I can get 55%! Also, the keyboards here are extremely difficult to get used to! There isn’t an apostrophe
and the symbols are all switched around. Coding would be nearly impossible until you got the hang of it!

I have an apartment! It is really nice and the perfect size. It is only about 5 blocks from the university so I don’t have far to walk at all! It is also less than a block away from the supermarket. One of the best things about Santiago so far has been the awesome fresh fruit and vegetables! On almost every street there is a tiny store that sells really good fruits and veggies for dirt cheap! Yesterday I bought two bags worth of produce for less than $5 USD. I can get used to this. The supermarket is another story, though, and is more expensive than in the USA.