Tuesday, August 7, 2012


A full week of adventure! I can't believe it was only 7 days ago that I left home. I arrived in Santiago on Thursday morning, after having an unexpected day in Bogota, Colombia due to flight delays in DC.

 I've been Couch Surfing here in Santiago, which has been absolutely wonderful. My host, Jo, is extremely welcoming and generous and has taught me a lot already about Chile and the people here. She's an English teacher here, and its been nice to have a home-base where I don't have to push my language skills constantly.
Sunset view from Jo's apartment
On Thursday and Friday, I did some exploring by myself, walking around town and seeing the sights. On Friday I went to el Parque Metropolitano de Santiago, which I assumed would be something like Central Park in New York. Fountains, fields, paths, trees, etc. Turns out instead it was a small mountain right in the city. The top is marked by a famous statue of the Virgin Mary, overlooking all of Santiago. There were steep muddy trails leading to the summit, and here lies the age-old question: What is a hike, and what is a walk? The sign indicated a hike (terrain, incline, difficulty):

...but perhaps my fahsion-boot/dress combo indicated a walk. Either way, I wasn't going to ignore my ever-present desire to climb to the highest point possible because of my shoe choice. Here's me at the summit:

The neighborhood around the park, Bellavista, was also very cool and full of a lot of wonderful murals and street art. Some favorites:

(In the first one, you can see the statue of the Virgin Mary statue and the park in the background.)

Solo adventuring was great since I just walked all day and planned what I wanted to do. But the real beauty of my trip so far was my terrific weekend with Jo and her friends. Friday night, we went out for a friend's birthday, and I got to experience a little big of local Santiago night-life. Saturday, Jo invited me to go with her friends, Felipe and Alonso, for a trip to the mountains. After starting to drive, we decided to go to the beach instead. We made it just in time for sunset.

As it got darker, the stars came out. Absolutely incredible. I saw constellations I'd never seen before, and I don't yet know how to identify. I know I saw the Southern Cross, and will need to learn the others in my time here. I didn´t have my tripod, but here is my first unofficial night photo, using only a rock and my purse for camera balance and having very little time to get the exposure time decent:
After leaving the beach, we were going to go to Valpariso for dinner  before heading back to Santiago. But,  a quick bathroom stop at a friends house turned into a night of laughter and conversation (which, of course, I understood very little of), and in fact we never made it to Valpo. Instead, we sat a big table with the entire family of this friend -- mother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, friends... and the four of us. While I didn't understand many of the stories told, I could appreciate the phsycial gestures used in the story-telling and the rolling laughter that I was constantly surrounded by.

We came back to Santiago in the morning, and I knew that I wanted to spend the day going to the Santiago Planetarium, which is only open to the public on weekends. I convinced Felipe and Alonso to come too, since Jo had to work.

3D movie "A journey to the Big Bang"
So much fun!!! The language barrior did prove challenging at times (neither guys speak English), but they're both very funny and it became easy to make jokes with just physical humor or very basic Spanish. And the Planetarium was great. Definitely the kind of place I could see myself working. They not only have planetarium shows, but also other films (like the 3D one we saw), exhibits, and an interactive game room:
They're open to the public on weekends, and have special school programs during the week. They also have a "mobile planetarium" that goes to visit schools. AWESOME.

Monday I went to the Astronomy Department at U de Chile, way on the outskirts of the city on a remote hill. I talked with people there about the outreach activities that happen on the premises, as well as the challenges they face. They have about 10 domes, but only some of them actually have telescopes inside, including their largest dome, which is now being used as a storage space. It all comes down to funding, as always... They hope that in the future, they can turn the big dome into their own planetarium and be more accessible to the Santiago community.
large dome, now used as storage space

one of the many observatories on the department's campus

And tomorrow I go to La Serena! A 7ish hour bus ride north to a place known for its night skies and the telescopes that observe them.

I apologize for this long post! I think I'll either need to have fewer adventures or write more often. Thanks for reading!


  1. I suggest more posts rather than fewer adventures! Sounds like you have met some amazing and generous people and have seen so much in just a week! Love u Maya!

  2. Hard to believe that one week ago you were just heading out. You have had so many adventures and met so many wonderful new people already! That's our Galaxy Gurl! Keep the wonderful blog posts comin' Babe! We love you!

  3. Little Maya and the big world!!! Yay, I'm so proud of you!! Very excited to read and hear about everything to come.