Ciao, Chile

I bring this blog to you purely for your entertainment during your self-isolation and the nation’s quarantine.

Actually, I bring this blog to you because, once again, my year abroad is ending in an abrupt, last-minute panic. Oh, de ja vu how I haven’t missed you…

While Latin America is a few weeks behind Europe in terms of the Coronavirus, many countries are already taking severe precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of the virus, such as closing their borders to Europe. Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia have all stopped accepting flights from Europe, and Chile has already closed it ports as it declared a Stage-3 protocol. Although I am in touching distance of the end of my time in Chile and the start of my travels, realistically these are now impossible. I would either get stuck in a different country, or never even make it out. We decided that the sensible thing would be for me to come home now while there are still flights home and before I become stranded in Latin America for the foreseeable future. I know it’s the right option, but “disappointed” really doesn’t cover what I am feeling. I fly home tomorrow.

It feels like so long ago that I left the Costa Rican jungle – that safe, isolated haven. I really miss it. My internship with Magma Partners was wonderful, challenging, and surprisingly fun. I have been in my new internship role with the newspaper for 4 weeks, and spent the last week and a half with my Mum who was visiting. I was already beginning to feel ready to leave Chile, and with some ongoing difficulties at work, perhaps having to go home is a blessing in disguise. Spending the last 10 days being a tourist and ticking off some of the last few things I wanted to do in Santiago was possibly also the best way to say farewell to this country.

I think it’s time for a run-down of my Chile highlights;

The arrival of some more interns at the end of January was a blessing. After spending most of December and January as the only intern and quite alone at times, it was wonderful to once again have some other people to go on adventures with. Undoubtedly, my favourite weekend was a few weeks back when we went out salsa dancing on Friday, went bouldering on Saturday, and then did a hike on Sunday!

We decided to hike Manquehue, a sizeable hill on the edge of Santiago, as many people had recommended it to us for the view of the city from the top. After a strong start entering the park in the wrong place we made it over over Manquecito (“little Manquehue”) in order to tackle the real Manquehue. Towards the top it became a little exciting and we found ourselves rock climbing more than hiking. The way down was equally challenging as it was mainly bare rock and sandy gravel, which meant a lot of slipping and sliding. It’s fair to say that we were all well worn out by the time we got back home. I feel so blessed to have been able to share the past few weeks with these wonderful girls with whom I get on so well. They are kind, funny, and always open to talk – you know who you are, and I just want to say thank you.

In terms of tourist goals, I feel like I have ticked off everything on the Santiago bucket-list: San Cristobal (10/10 running views but it’s a beast to get to the top), La Moneda, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Italia, Barrio Yungay, Barrio Italia, numerous brunch spots, Temple de Ba’hai, Cajon del Maipo (8/10), Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Con Con…
Leaving so suddenly is jolting, and I have not yet quite got my head around the fact that in 36 hours I will be back in the UK. I actually find myself looking forward to the Spring – I never thought I would say it, but I really missed Winter!

It’s hard to put into words how I feel about this city and about Chile in general. My time here has been wonderful, challenging, rewarding, difficult, delicious, lonely, and exciting. No-one ever said living abroad would be easy after all, but until you do it you don’t know how resilient you are. I think my finest moment was fighting off a parasite for 2 months and taking a one-woman tour of Buenos Aires. It hasn’t been the year I had imagined, but I know I’m not the only one in this boat. One thing remains true though, wherever I go, I am amazed by the goodness of humanity and the kindness of people, no matter who they are or where they are from. I have barely scratched the surface of this continent, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be back to find the roots soon.

When faced with such a circumstance as this, it is easy to focus only on the disappointment and what has been missed. I am incredibly frustrated to have to cancel my travel plans as that is what I was most looking forward to out of this whole year. That said, my two months in Costa Rica were some of the best of my life, and working with Magma allowed me to meet so many wonderful people, secure my first real job, and revealed to me more talents than I knew I had. The low parts amongst these highlights (the parasite really was a grim experience) are really what make it real. I survived the jungle. I survived Chile. I survived living abroad for 8 months and not going home. That’s not bad.

If someone had told me in September that this is how my year abroad would end, I would have…I don’t even know, the situation is too absurd. When life gives you lemons, make lemon-scented hand sanitizer. Who knows what I’m going to do with myself for the next 5 months, who knows how I’ll take to being back in the UK.

Maybe I’ll start knitting, I think that’s an excellent quarantine activity.

Thank you for your dedicated reading these past 8 months. I can only apologise that we never made it to the best chapters of all.

See you soon my loves. Latin America, I’ll be back.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a city made up of different cultures from across the world. Every new street tells a different story, from brightly colored houses in the birth place of tango, to trendy bars emitting smooth jazz and sultry tango tunes in Palermo Soho. There is something for everyone in this city.

THE CITY
The city is divided into different areas, all of which are very different to each other.

Palermo – This area is full of coffee shops, boutique galleries, and fashionable bars and restaurants. It’s a great area to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere, take a break in one of the cafes, or chill out in the one of the little parks.

Recoleta – Recoleta is the residencial area of Buenos Aires, and it feels a lot like the winding streets of Italy with some impressive European architecture; the cobbled streets are decorated with beautiful flowers and lined with balconies.

San Telmo – San Telmo is considered the historical part of Buenos Aires as it is where the Presidential Palace, the Casa Rosada, and the famous Plaza de Mayo are found. It is also famous for the flea market that happens every Sunday morning which is full of handmade trinkets and crafts.

San Telmo market

La Boca – The home of tango. La Boca district is the true heart of Buenos Aires as it is where the city was first built. El caminito is the tourist hub, with brightly coloured houses and tango dancers everywhere.

THE SIGHTS
La Casa Rosada – The “Pink House” is the Presidential palace, situated in the famous Plaza de Mayo where the mothers of the “disappeared” go to protest every Thursday. This ritual has happened every Thursday since the end of the dictatorship, as the mothers of Argentina are still waiting to know what happened to their missing children.

Obelisco – Standing on Avenida 5 de Mayo, which is apparently the widest road in Latin America, the Obelisk is an impressive sight. Also on the Avenida are the famous paintings of Evita, the ex-first lady. On one side of the building Evita is smiling as she looks towards La Boca and the working class area of the city, while on the opposite side she is pictured shouting, criticising the wealthy and petitioning for greater equality between rich and poor.

Teatro Colon – This impressive theatre is well worth a visit. If you have the time, take a guided tour and marvel at the stunning architecture and interior of the theatre!

El Ateneo Gran Splendid – Previously a theatre, the Gran Ateneo is now bookshop where you can peruse literature while enjoying the impressive interior of the building.

Museums – Buenos Aires also offers an array of different museums if you wish to learn more about the culture and the city. From the Bellas Artes Museum, to the History museum and Stargazing museum, there is something for everyone.

Parks – Perhaps one of the best things about the city of Buenos Aires is the amount of green space and parks there are. In the Recoleta district you will find multiple parks which a great for walking, running, and cycling. Take a stroll around the park, find a nice spot to sit with your book, and maybe even go peddle-boating on the lake!

THE FOOD
As a vegan, I was a little apprehensive about the food scene in a city that is famous for its steak. However, Buenos Aires has one of the best vegan/veggie food scenes I have encountered in a while.

Casa Munay – This has to be favourite place of the whole trip, mainly because they offered a gluten-free, vegan, muffin which was divine. The entire menu sounded amazing, and everything I ate was wonderful.

Bio – Tucked away in Palermo Soho, this little restaurant prides itself on offering an almost entirely organic, vegetarian menu. While a little on the expensive side, they offered a range of different food from salads to curry to amazing deserts.

Artemisia – Also in Palermo Soho, Artemisia is the perfect lunch spot. Their might salads are packed full with nourishing goodness, and their handmade bread is the talk of the town – literally.

Buenos Aires Verde – Possibly offering the best vegan (and non-vegan!) brunch options in Buenos Aires, BA Verde is a must when visiting the city; smoothie bowls, chia pudding, avocado on toast, juice, smoothies, coffees, and much more. But be prepared, they get very busy!

Rapanui – The most famous ice cream in Buenos Aires. Originating from Argentinian Patagonia, they offer a huge range of flavours, including a number of vegan one too. The perfect afternoon stop to rest your feet and take a break from the heat.

If you have the opportunity to visit Buenos Aires, be sure to check out these spots. It is a beautiful city with so much culture and life!

Magma Mujeres

Hello friends,
If you can believe it, it’s been 3 months since I arrived in Santiago and started working at Magma Partners. In the past 12 weeks I have learnt more about Bitcoin than I thought possible (I have to admit I didn’t know it existed before), have written articles about almost every online banking company in Latin America, and, of course, greatly improved my Chilean slang, chachai?

When I was first offered the placement with Magma Partners I was a little unsure about whether or not to take it as it was in an industry so outside of my comfort zone. Sure, I would be writing articles and translating from Spanish, but I knew very little about tech or Venture Capital. 12 weeks later and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with this company. It has given me a chance to explore other career options that are open to me using the skills I have, as well as develop new ones and learning such a lot in the process. Perhaps one of the reasons I have enjoyed this placement so much is because of the constant challenges I have faced in learning about something new. Overall, it has been a really valuable and fun experience – I never thought I’d say that about an office job!

Here are some of my highlights:
1) The office views
Being trapped in an office all day is not that fun, but the Magma Partners office has a stunning view of Santiago and the surrounding landscapes, which made it much more bearable. From our office you could see the edge of the Andes mountains and the Cajon del Maipo, a natural park which to the South-East of the city. Frustratingly, the office seemed to be inhabited by vampires who like to avoid sunlight until 3pm, but I was annoyingly keen to open the blinds at every opportunity and work with those stunning views in front of me.

2) The office dogs
Mondays became a lot more fun with the weekly visit from Cookie, the puppy of one of the people in the Founderlist office. There was also a day when two others brought in their dogs as well as one person who was looking after their niece, and the office was suddenly over-run by over-excited small creatures.

3) The banter
I felt that I fully became a part of the Magma team when the banter began. Some of you may know that I have a wonderful talent for miss-pronouncing names or just using the wrong, although very similar, word (and I claim to be an English student…). Well this didn’t change in Chile, and there was an abundance of curious cities and strange surnames to pronounce and spell while writing articles for LatAm List…

4) The adventures
You wouldn’t think that adventures were possible when working in an office, but you would be wrong. I went to interview the founder of one of our portfolio companies for a Q&A and had quite an exciting time trying to get there. Firstly, I went down the metro the wrong way, and then I got off a stop too late because google maps directed me to some back-end residential area instead of the office building. When I eventually found the correct building I then spent 20 minutes riding the very complicated elevator system to find my way to the right floor. All this for what ended up being a very short interview with the founder – he may have been slightly unimpressed with my tardiness, it seems

5) The people
Perhaps most important were the other people in the office. The office is a co-working space, although owned by Magma, and so the other companies working here are all in the Magma portfolio. Everyone I met was so lovely, welcoming and friendly. From lunchtime chats to work BBQs, these people were so much fun and a delight to talk to. Without a doubt, an office or a job is made all the more enjoyable when there are kind, fun, and friendly people to do it with. I hope that we will stay in contact for a long time!

Although my time interning with Magma has come to an end, I still hope to be working with them as I will continue to write articles for LatAm List in a more professional capacity. This week I am off to Buenos Aires for a visa run, and then I’m back to Santiago to start my second internship with a newspaper, Chile Today. I am looking forward to starting this next chapter and see what else I will learn on the way!

Hasta pronto,

Katie xx

Warming Pumpkin Soup

With these long nights and cold, crisp days, there’s nothing better than a warming bowl of delicious soup. Pumpkin is one of my favourite vegetables along with Butternut Squash, and I can think of few things as wonderful as a big bowl of this Ginger and Pumpkin Soup.

Continue reading “Warming Pumpkin Soup”

Cacao Smoothie Bowl

This bowl is absolute indulgence! It is a real treat – creamy, rich and so chocolately. I often have it for brunch or, better still, dessert. The frozen banana makes a creamy texture which is perfect for the rich cacao, packed with skin-loving antioxidants that will help you get your glow on!

Continue reading “Cacao Smoothie Bowl”

Chickpea Burgers

Are you a burger fan? So many people are. When making the switch to a more plant-based diet many people fear they have to stop eating some of their favourite foods. This is so not true! This recipe will satisfy all those cravings and will definately become one of your favourites, regardless of whether or not you’re a burger fanatic.

Continue reading “Chickpea Burgers”

Pichilemu: the Surf Capital of Chile

This week I took myself on a little ‘Christmas’ holiday to explore more of Chile. I packed myself off to Pichilemu, a small coastal town south of Santiago, which is renowned for its long flat beaches and steady flow of perfect waves for surfing. For a girl who loves the sea, this it seemed like the perfect getaway from the slightly oppressive heat and bustle of Santiago.

Pichilemu is about a 3 hour drive from Santiago and the buses run frequently. It is an easy journey across the sun-scorched plains of central Chile with some impressive views of both mountain ranges that run down either side of the country.

I arrived in Pichilemu at about 3pm and headed to find my hostal.The town, a favourite with surfers from across the country, is peppered with hostals and guest houses. After a little research I had found myself a delightful place just a few minutes from the beach, but still nicely hidden away from the main part of town full of restaurants and tourists.

Hostal Dolegant is a small, quaint house with no more than 10 rooms of only 1-3 people. The price in a dormitory was only £7 a night, with a complementary breakfast included and access to the kitchen space for cooking if you wish. There was one other girl in my room the first night and after that I had the room to myself. I also have to say that it was the comfiest bed I’ve slept on in a while! The hosts were just lovely; so kind and welcoming, and ready to help me with anything I needed, including pointing out where I could rent a bike and recommending some good places to go. I thoroughly recommend this hostal if you visit Pichilemu.

I headed to the beach as soon as I could, walking along the promenade to find a more sheltered corner. Pichilemu beach is very long and flat, which is what lends itself to being such a good surf location, but it also makes the beach quite windy. On my first attempt to find a good spot I quickly discovered that the wind causes the sand to whip up across the beach, which isn’t very enjoyable! However, at the far end of the beach there is some shelter from the wind against the bank. This is also where the surf shops are for renting boards and wetsuits, plus a few little cafes for tea, coffee, and snacks. One peculiar phenomenon I have witnessed here in Chile is that there are people who patrol the beach offering snacks and drinks, shouting their offerings in curiously musical tones. When I was in Vina del Mar, there was one man who had made a little song out of “bebida bebida, solo una lucita, bebida bebida, refrescita”.

There were quite a few of these on the beach!

Although the sun was shining without much cloud, it was a lot cooler than Santiago due to the sea breeze. It became pretty cold in the evening, and I found myself putting on jeans for the first time in about a month. The sea itself is also pretty cold – possibly more so than in England….!

Cafe stop!

On Tuesday I was keen to go to Punto de Lobos, a short way from Pichilemu and a renowned spot for the surf enthusiasts. I rented a bike and cycled down the highway about 30 minutes – it was not very far. On the way, I passed a small gallery of shops and cafes and was delighted to find a vegan café, Curcuma, with an array of different smoothies, brunch and lunch options. I of course stopped for a browse and enjoyed a delicious Banana and Strawberry Smoothie. When I made it to Punto de Lobos I simply sat an admired the view for a while, watching the surfers take on some serious waves and pulling some spectacular stunts.

The beach at Punto de Lobos is considerably more sheltered and so it was the perfect spot to spend the rest of the afternoon reading and enjoying the sun. A word about the sun in Chile – it is powerful. More so, it’s also a bit sneaky and tends to do its work without you really realising until you suddenly find yourself glowing a healthy tomato colour into the evening… I cycled back to Pichilemu in the early evening and ended up paying only £8 for 6 hours of bike rental. Pichilemu is definitely cheaper than Santiago!

Punto de Lobos

Wednesday was Christmas Day, or at least that’s what people kept telling me but nothing special happened other than me opening the stocking my Mum had sent to me, which was a little treat. Chileans don’t really seem to do anything particular for Christmas; most shops and restaurants remained open and largely oblivious, except for perhaps reduced hours, and I don’t even think the majority of churches had a particular service. After chatting to various family members, I headed to the beach and decided it was time to test out my surf skills, which are amateur at best. While I only managed to stand up once or twice, I had a lot of fun out in the waves. They weren’t too big too be impossible, but big enough to give you plenty of chances to have a go. Unfortunately, I only lasted an hour and a half before I lost all feeling in my toes and had to abort due to fear of frost bite. Two hours later and I was still cold, sitting in the full sunshine in jeans and a hoodie! Not your average Christmas activity, but a pretty awesome way to spend the day. I headed back to the beach at about 6pm and watched the sun go down, which was beautiful.

Surfing really took it out of me, and after a slow start on Thursday I headed back to the vegan café for some brunch before enjoying the beach for the rest of the day. The trip was a perfect get away, relaxing on the beach with plenty of sun, sea and sleep! A great way to escape the hustle and enormity of Santiago, which can become a bit oppressive after a while.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to New Year celebrations. I’ve been told that Chileans do actually get a little more excited for New Year than Christmas, so there may be some fun activities to be enjoyed this week.

Besitos,
Katie xx

Summer in Santiago

Merry Christmas and joyful festivities to you all!

It’s been a while since I gave you an update, so here is a Santiago Christmas special – although if I’m completely honest, with these long sunny days and 30+ degree for the past few weeks, I don’t feel even remotely festive. I wasn’t joking when I said I came to Latin America for 18 months of summer!

Waterfall dips in Quebrada de Manuel

Since our last chat, I have been attempting to fully immerse myself in Chilean life. From learning some Chilean slang to museums and balcony BBQs, I’m making the most of my time here as it is already flying by – I’m over half way through this placement already!

Once the protests had settled down a little and life began to return to normal, I was finally able to visit the Museo de la Memoria, which I have been itching to do since I arrived. We studied Latin America in first year and I have since been fascinated with the history of Chile and Pinochet’s dictatorship. It was a really valuable experience and I really encourage anyone to go when in Santiago. The dictatorship is a fundamental part of Chilean history and I think it also unlocks an understanding of the attitude of the people once you know more about those dark years. There are a lot of museums in Santiago, and I intend to visit most of them. I still haven’t managed to get to the Museo de Bellas Artes yet, but it is next on my list.

Last week we had a BBQ at work – in Chilean an ‘asado’ – as Lee, the other intern in the Magma Office was leaving, and also because they hadn’t had one for ages. At about 5pm, two of the team headed out to the shops and returned armed with meat, veg, bread, and a worrying amount of Pisco. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this potion, it is the Chilean elixir of life, and no dinner, event, party is complete without the sweet, syrupy taste of Pisco. Or so a Chilean would argue. Pisco is a variation of whisky (I think, don’t quote me on this, I’m definitely not an expert on alcohol!), and is customarily drunk with ice and coke. The strange thing is how powerful it is. Yes, I’m a lightweight, but that stuff is stronggg. Perhaps that’s why the Chileans love it so much.

Work Balcony (and BBQ!)

It was a great evening, made even more enjoyable by the stunning sunset we witnessed over the surrounding hills of Santiago, and the subsequent rising of the moon. I’ve never seen a moon ‘rise’ before, and it was quite something to see it climb into the sky from behind the crest of the hill.

The following weekend I headed for the beach at Vina del Mar for some sea and (more) sun. Lots of people warned me that the sea would be freezing, but I don’t think they realised that I come from the UK where the sea is baltic on even the most scorching of summer days. I found the sheer size of the waves much more challenging than their temperature, and found myself getting sucked under a few times… No jellyfish though, which is the MOST. IMPORTANT. THING. I also managed to burn my ankles, knee caps and a small patch on my back that I couldn’t reach, so that not only did I look like that ‘classic Brit’ on the bus ride back, but it also looks like a small child decided to doodle on my back… Made the co-workers laugh though. You’ve got to take one for the team occasionally, you know.

Unfortunately, in the past few weeks I have also had to say goodbye to some of the friends I have made here as many of them finished their term at University and are off travelling or going back to Europe. This included the two other interns here, but there are more coming in January!

I have also steadily been working my way through Santiago’s long list of vegan cafes, with my new favourite definitely being Polen. It’s a beautiful little café tucked away off the main street in Providencia, where I live, and it has the most fabulous array of brunch options, lunch meals and vegan treats. I have a secret aim to try everything on the menu….For a country that is well-known for its love of meat, I am really impressed with the amount of vegan and vegetarian cafes there are here. I still have so many to try out!

All these adventures bring us to today, December 25th! Happy Christmas! I’ve taken a little week of holiday over the Christmas week to the little town of Pichilemu, a renowned surfing hideout. I’m here for 5 days before going back to sweltering Santiago and it’s certainly nice to be in some fresh air and feel a sea breeze for a change. Chileans don’t seem to really celebrate Christmas as most people seem to be away for the summer holidays or just not that interested. I can certainly understand this – the idea of feasting, snowy walks, and burning fires just seem out of place in this little beach town and under the searing heat of the Santiago sun. So this year, apart from a gorgeous little stocking my Mum sent me in my suitcase back in October, I think I’ll probably skip Christmas and try not to get burnt on the beach. I might even improve some of those surfing skills I discovered last summer in Exeter!

Someone please go and eat a mince pie while singing ‘O Holy Night’ as loud as humanly possible and wearing a fabulous festive jumper for me,

Christmas besitos, I miss you all.
xx

For the People or for the Power?

After 4 weeks of defiant protest on the streets of Chile, the voice of the people finally seems to have reached politicians. On Sunday, President Piñera made a speech to the nation, celebrating Chile and promising a new constitution written with the input and consent of the people. This breakthrough did not come without significant struggle however, and the last month has seen Chile balancing on the edge of its own history, barely 30 years since the brutal dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Protests in Chile, 1974

For 20 years, Chile shrivelled under one of the most brutal and repressive dictatorships seen in Latin America; the exact number of people abducted, imprisoned or killed, remains unknown during this time. It was an era of fear and violence, as many were taken from the beds at night, disappearing into the unknown, as ‘order’ was enforced by the military. Nubia Becker, a survivor, remembers Villa Grimaldi where he was imprisoned by Pinochet’s army as “a terrible place…a that place that really meant horror. Day and night you could hear the screams of the tortured. Such painful memories have been pushed far back into Chile’s history, but the past 4 weeks have unearthed an anger and a violence in Chile strongly reminiscent of those dark years.

From anger at metro fares and non-existent pensions, to the extortionate price of water – a basic human commodity, Chile is a nation boiling with resentment for the social injustices they suffer through every day, which many believe stem from an outdated constitution and the system of Neo-liberalism born from the Pinochet era. was only a matter of time before it spilled over and the people called out “Ya basta!”, enough is enough.

Violence has escalated on the streets of Santiago in recent weeks

With the escalating violence on the streets that showed no sign of stopping, Chile was becoming increasingly damaged both on a ground level and an international one. Tourism was seen to drop by 40%, house rent fell by 10% in the wealthier areas of the city, and the peso has been steadily falling in the global market since the end of October.

President Piñera was faced with two options; “Por la razon o la fuerza” – “By force or by reason”. This is the motto of Chile. In the past, political leaders have always chosen la fuerza, and the last 4 weeks are certainly a testimony to this; over 15,000 people have been injured, 24 killed, and more than 7,000 injured since protests began. The misty hue of tear gas catches your throat on the morning commute to work, the same gas used to ‘restore the peace’ under Pinochet. Yet even more worrying is the story of the boy who reportedly ‘killed himself’ in a police cell after being arrested at a public protest, and the memories of similar stories from an era that many thought long gone have come rushing back. Walking the streets of Santiago, one feels the tenseness in the air; a nation holding its breath to see what happens next, to see which side the country will fall.

Protests in Plaza Italia, Santiago

Last Tuesday when President Piñera appeared half an hour late to address the nation, it was not a classic display of Chilean tardiness, but rather a moment of stalling as a plan went wrong. The President had prepared a speech in which he would authorise military control of the country, exactly as it was under Pinochet. The Chilean army were ready to agree to this, yet demanded political immunity from international bodies such as the UN, Amnesty International, and other Human Rights associations who have already been calling out on the brutality and violence of the army; Barbara Sepulveda Hales of the feminist network of lawyers and her team have taken matters into their own hand, going to police stations to check on detainees where sexual violence is a big problem; women being stripped in front of others, and raped too.

These are dark echoes of time that many would prefer to forget. It is clear that the violent years of the Pinochet era still smother Chile. It took nothing more than a scratch to open the reeking wound left by the dictator, and for a moment it seemed that Chile would return to that bleak past it fought so hard to leave behind.

Yet Piñera stalled. Unable to guarantee protection for the army, the plan fell through. The question was, would they go ahead and declare military control regardless? All week the city of Santiago lay tense and coiled, ready to strike out and defend itself; demonstrations continued in Plaza Italia, the hub of the protests – just as it had been in 1974. Nobody could say which way the President would turn.

On Sunday evening, President Piñera once again addressed the nation with an entirely different tone to that of his previous speeches. He acknowledged the violence of the armed forces, going as far as to say that “abuses and crimes were committed, and the rights of all were not respected”. Chile is a changing nation on the brink of a brand new era; Piñera and his government have agreed to a public referendum to determine whether or not the people want a new constitution.

In his speech, Piñera told the nation that a new Chile would be born, asking for patience as the government addressed some of the issues raised by the protestors. With a little time, a lot of careful politics, and good communication with the people, a well-written constitution could be the start of a new era for Chile, a country which has worked so hard to shake off the shadows of its past and establish itself both in Latin America and world.

From Jungle to Snow

Dear readers,
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!

Glacial Rivers from the Andes Mountains

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!

Hasta pronto,
Katie xxx