Welcome to Patagonia!

Where do I even start… Finally trying to catch up on this blog, sorry for the sporatic updates. The last few weeks have been so busy! Obviously not with teaching because the paro continued up until the last day of the program. Luckily I was able to stop by the school to say goodbye to the other staff and teachers and my students. Hopefully they did learn something, and some of them had really nice things to say, so I was more sad to leave than I thought I’d be. I wish I had the last week there to actually spend more time saying goodbye in my own classroom instead of just stopping by, but I guess that’s just the way it is. Teaching was quite an experience, it was incredibly difficult in an extremely different school environment. Hearing the stories from other volunteers was good though because supportive co-teachers made a HUGE difference and the interest levels of students really ranged, so I think I might try teaching again sometime… not too soon though haha.

Anyways, definitely what I’ll miss most about Mejillones is my friends. It was really sad to say goodbye and hopefully I’ll be able to make it back there again someday or before I leave South America. It would have been a completely different Chile without our friends – probably wouldn’t have learned spanish as well as I have, camping trips, and just hanging out and meeting more people. Nothing short of absolutely amazing individuals.

From Mejillones, we spent 2 days in Antofagasta for closing regional ceremonies and more good-byes, then headed to Santiago for 2 more days of national ceremonies which basically consisted of a big dinner, a spanish test, and receiving a certificate and getting to take lots of pictures! Great to see everyone again that I hadn’t seen since orientation and hear about everyone’s experiences and travel plans… Plenty of people to try to meet up with at some point, some staying for a few weeks, some a few months, and others indefinitely as well. But good news – on the BULATS test to measure spanish proficiency (internationally used by businesses), I scored an intermediate! I’m going to call it a flat intermediate because technically my overall score put me in the upper end of the lower-intermediate range, but my listening score alone was actually in upper-intermediate! Much better than my original score from the test we took at orientation (upper beginner) and even better than others who had done more spanish studies! So hooray, apparently I can survive in spanish! Hopefully will be fluent by the time I leave the continent!

From Santiago, I flew to Punta Arenas with two friends from the program, and we hopped on a bus from the airport to get to Puerto Natales. Got in around 11pm at night and were on a mad dash for a hostel – near impossible in this launchpad town for Torres del Paine. Next day was the hunt for rental equipment, food, and then we took off for the park to trek the infamous W trail. 4 nights, 4 days in the beautiful national park of glaciers, valleys, lakes, and other landscapes. I will never forget the trek, and neither will my BODY. Lots of muscle soreness and blisters now, but well-worth it. We hiked over 80km in 4 days, usually with camping gear on our backs. Long days ranging from snow and wind to the hot sun blasting down on us. The trails were intense, plenty of inclines to climb and even some parts where we were literally climbing up rocks, but the park also came with the freshest air and water we could drink from the streams! Didn’t cost much since we spent half of our nights in free camping grounds, brought rations of food (which we probably could have increased a bit), and I can’t even explain the sites we saw. Also met some interested folks with different travel stories, including a group that had just come from a trip to Antarctica, another who did the circuit (more intense trek that includes the W trail) in only 4 days… Crazy!!! Pictures are coming today, so check out the links on the side! I have more from the last month to post too but I will get the Torres del Paine ones up first.

That’s about it for now… We are spending some more time recovering in Puerto Natales, making plans to go to back to Punta Arenas to spend some actual time there outside of the airport, Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego on the Argentina side, then go to a few other southern cities in Argentina… planning for El Calafate and El Chalten, Puerto Madryn and then Bariloche before crossing back into Chile to explore southern Chile until I get back up to Santiago. If all goes well, I can do this before December 14th because I just found out that I can work at some English Summer Camps through my teaching program and get my same monthly stipend for just a week of work! There are 3 sessions and I might try to do all 3. First one is on December 14th so if I can get done with most of my traveling by then, that would be perfect. Then I have some time before the 2nd and 3rd sessions (from January 4-16th) to finish exploring Chile, maybe squeeze in a trip north since the program will fly me to my camp location from wherever I am. Those are the rough plans for the next month and a half for now… very likely to change but we’ll see! After I’m done earning some extra money from the camps, I will be going back into Argentina through Mendoza, Cordoba and a few others, making my way to Buenos Aires. From there I will stop in Montevideo, Uruguay before flying or bussing to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in time for Carnaval! My friend has lived in Rio for the last 2 years or so and so I will have a place to stay and settle for a bit to regroup and plans for my next move in South America from there. I found an offer to work there for 3 months as well, so who knows where I will end up and for how long… We shall see!

Thanks for all the support from family and friends, along with the great carepackages!!! And sorry about all of the mail hassles, but hopefully we won’t deal with any more. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, I know I am so thankful for the last year – graduating, working and spending time with friends in Boston; making the big move to Chile to teach and as a result meeting great friends, learning spanish, and now traveling; and again all the support that people have given me while I’ve taken off on this crazy unknown adventure!!! So THANK YOU again!!!


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