It’s been a while! A lot has happened since I left the jungle; I moved from 30 degrees climate to 10 degrees, climbed a snow-capped volcano, started a new job, and got caught in a few protests…so I hope you’ve got your cup of tea ready and have settled in for the long read.
I flew from Costa Rica to Santiago, Chile where my Dad was waiting for me with a suitcase full of delightfully non-mouldy clothes and a stash of teabags which would have seen any Brit through the war. I arrived at 5am (3am Costa Rica time), running on about 2 hours sleep in the past 24 hours of travelling. After unpacking enough to locate my pyjamas and having a good long shower – although not too hot as I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that a hot shower was once again an option -we went for lunch with my co-ordinator/mentor for this next internship before I crashed at about 3pm. I woke up at 6:30 after what was supposed to be a short nap, found some dinner, and went back to bed for another 10 hours!
On Monday, my Dad and I flew south to Puerto Varas, a small town in the Chilean Lakes at the top of Patagonia. Whereas in Santiago it had been an acceptable 24 degrees or so, here it was 10, and I was freezing! We quickly located the nearest café which served hot chocolate , Cafe Cassis – an excellent spot breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacking for vegans and non-vegans alike. As I has a week between the end of my Costa Rica internship and the start of the Santiago one, I had managed to entice my Dad out for a week of adventure in the Chilean Lakes, with the added bonus of a suitcase full of clothes and a nice hotel for a week for me (and his great company of course!).
Puerto Varas is located on the shore of the largest lake in Chile. When it’s not raining, which is a bit rare, there is a stunning view of the 4 volcanoes that surround the lake, one of which we climbed. Volcan Osorno is the tallest of the 4 volcanoes, and we were lucky that it was a perfectly clear day when we went up. Our guide drove us to the start of the summit where to snow line was, and we then walked a fair distance to the ‘Red Crater’. From jungle humidity to fresh crisp snow in under 5 days, I spent the whole time giggling at the absurdity of it – I really couldn’t believe I was stood in snow! The view from the volcano was stunning, and out guide was so lovely, chatty and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, that was the day with the best weather and the rest of the week it was pretty wet, so much so that our kayaking trip was cancelled as the river was too high and dangerous to go out on. Instead Dad and I went and slumped in a Spa – not a bad exchange really. Overall, it was a fun week fuelled by copious amounts of hot chocolate and tea, and we had a lot of fun facing the elements and seeing glorious crystal-blue rivers, snow-capped mountains and some furry llamas. If I’m honest, the week passed in a bit of a blur of excitement and exhaustion, and I didn’t feel like I’d completely recovered from jungle/jet lag when we came back to Santiago!
Dad and I went for brunch on Sunday morning before he flew home, leaving me to settle in to the city that is to be home for the next 3 months. After noting how many lovely little cafés there are on every street corner and climbing up San Cristobal hill in the glorious sunshine, I was in love with the city after just one day. I’ve said it before – nature and sunshine are all I need, but the added bonus of delicious brunches and a never-ending supply of avocado certainly don’t hurt!
The internship I’m doing here is with a large company called Magma Partners. They are a startup investment company, investing in predominantly tech companies across Latin America. My role is again in social media, helping to run LatAm List and hopefully Magma Media too, writing articles about startup news from other sources, sometimes in Spanish. This will be great for my language and I hope to become fully immersed in Spanish here, even if the Chileans have some interesting idioms and phrases! So far, I am really enjoying the work. I am certainly learning a lot about business and entrepreneurship, which may well be useful one day…
Aside from work, I am settling into Santiago the best way I know how: Brunch and boxing! There are two other girls here with the same internship organisation as I am, one of whom works in my office, and we are getting to know each other over some great brunch spreads. There are so many amazing little places with excellent vegetarian and vegan options here that I had to make a list to ensure I would try them all! I also found a great boxing gym, my favourite sport alongside running, and have been going as much as possible. I’m not promising anything, but they may be having a competition with another local gym in January, so watch this space……… I’ve also been making an effort to talk to other people in our accommodation, most of whom are Chilean students. With all the political unrest here at the moment, it is incredibly interesting to talk to people about what they think, especially as it was the student body who started the protests and are very much at the forefront of the conflict. While nearly everyone seems to be agreement with the motives, the increased violence (from all parties) is not widely supported, and people are beginning to tire of the disruption caused; with businesses closing early to avoid the chaos of the protests people can’t buy what they need, and the commute to work is more difficult without the smooth running of the metro.
So far, I have mostly been unaffected as we live and work in a part of the city away from the main centre near Plaza Italia. However, a few days last week the protest spread to our district, with people gathering outside the large shopping centre and marching. The police were out in force, and so was the tear gas. On one particular day, the protesters spread from their march into the surrounding streets, coming down ours too with their drums and whistles, pulling down bins, traffic lights and benches and setting fire to them. While it certainly wasn’t as severe as the protests in downtown Santiago, it perhaps had more of an effect in this strongly middle-class area of the city. Talking to people at work and in our accommodation, I am fascinated to see what happens next. Chile is truly making history as it calls for a reformation of its Constitution – a re-writing of the foundations of this country. If you haven’t yet read the article I wrote for our University magazine, HerCampus Exeter, check it out.
Perhaps the strangest thing about being here is that it’s 30 degrees and yet everywhere people are telling me that Christmas is approaching. There is a giant Christmas tree in the shopping centre, and my Instagram feed is full of people going to Christmas markets! Honestly, I couldn’t feel less festive. But I’m not really complaining – this sunshine is wonderful. Perhaps the only downfall is that Santiago is really lacking in monkeys and turtles, although I do see Mealy Parrots quite regularly, so I guess that will have to do!