¡Bienvenidos a Chile, Gringos! – Jordan Schrage

Alzar School | 20.03.14
We woke up at normal time on Tuesday and were planning on leaving the campus at 8:00, with breakfast at 7:30. We were all a little tight on time and stressed about leaving things behind, which I did. I forgot my headlamp, and some other people may have left a few things as well. We drove to Boise through a pretty heavy snow. Everyone was asleep for the entire car ride. Once we reached the foothills it stopped precipitating on us (and apparently we had just missed a fresh 8″ of snow).  We got to the airport around 10:30 I think and everybody helped out to bring in all of our many many bags, plus a kayak. It took us a very long time to get everyone’s bags checked and passports looked at and all that fun stuff that happens in airports.  Then we went through security and hung out around the airport for a while. We left a few people at the gate while we wandered around looking for food to eat before we got on the plane. I got some guacamole to go with the Juanita’s chips that I had bought (they’re the best kind of chip in Idaho) and a Milky Way Mocha.  Then we got on our flight and I had the entire row to myself until someone else wanted some more space.  It’s okay though because it was only a 1.5 hour flight. Then when we got to Phoenix we just waited a little at the gate. Some people went around the airport again to try and find more food or maybe a Starbucks. We got on the plane and I was in a middle seat next to Jacob and some other woman. I read a book that is actually very good but then I fell asleep for the last part of that flight and then, when we landed in Dallas, it was 8:40……… The exact same time that our flight to Santiago was supposed to be boarding!!! All of us students were freaking out that we would miss out flight and when we got to the screens after we got off the plane, there wasn’t even a gate number for our flight, so Dan tried to figure out which concourse we were in based on previous international flight experience. We got so mixed up and took the wrong trains and everything but then somebody looked up the flight number and we figured it out. We all ran so far up and down stairs and through the airport and we finally made it. Whew! We all sprinted and got on the plane and most of us were next to Chilean people or each other… I tried to watch a movie… They offered some new releases such as Thor: The Dark World, but halfway through the movie it was messing up a lot and I ended up just stopping it.  The I tried watching Finding Nemo but I fell asleep. Then I was sleeping on and off until it said about 4:30 on my watch which was about 8:30 in the morning in Chilean time. I was so tired and confused.  They came around with breakfast… Basically a puny croissant which was delicious, because I was hungry.  Then I just slept for the rest of the time and we arrived in good time.  We went and got our vistas, which they surprisingly do not staple into our passport books, so we have to take special care of them, and then we went through immigration which took a while because the lines were so extremely long.  They asked some of the kids a lot of questions and unfortunately asked Jacob, who is in Spanish 1, a lot of the difficult questions so he actually was struggling to understand what the people were asking him and it was very funny, but difficult for him I think. We got through and then it was time to get our luggage and go through customs. Dan disappeared for a very long time while we hung out on the corner of a wall near baggage claim and we were there for a good hour or so… Maybe longer, before someone asked: “what’s going on?” And Jeff was just like “uhh… I don’t know” (of course he knew… He just didn’t want to worry us with the news). Then Dan appeared again and was like “hear me our before you panic” and then proceeded to tell us that our baggage was still in Dallas and they were trying to sort things out. I find this kind if stuff as more of an adventure, I don’t panic. I think it makes it exciting.
We walked out of the airport and went to a drugstore to pick up toothbrushes for everyone. Then we ate lunch out at the rental cars and we had some fresh fruit! So good… I had two oranges… Even though it was the same fruit as tat home, I felt like it was such a great to eat a Chilean fruit. Then we hopped in a car and tried to get out of Santiago.  Santiago is a lot like Boise because there are lots of foothills everywhere but it’s hot here and feels so good, compared to Boise and Cascade where there is a lot of snow.  It is very polluted though, which made the foothills hard to see.  On the road, I didn’t want to sleep because I want to observe everything around me.  I noticed as we passed an empty looking orchard like thing that there was trash all over it. I wonder what that is about… Also there was some grass on fire next to a side road that I saw and there were also people who rode their bikes on the highway as well as people who stack all of their belongings on top of the bed of their trucks until it’s like 7 feet over the top of the car. Very funny and interesting and odd.  We stopped at a “gas station.” I put it in quotes because it’s not what you think a gas station would look like.  They are so nice and clean and the bathrooms are nicer than any I have ever been in. I bought a Pap which is a Chilean soda type thing. It’s very sweet but pretty darn good! We continued on our way to wherever we’re going.. We didn’t actually know where our final destination was, since we were going by a plan B.
All along the highway there are fruit processing plants. Everywhere. Fruit is one of the biggest industries here I think, because these plants are all over. And if there isn’t a processing  plant, then there is probably a field with fruit growing there.  At every toll booth that we went through there were people trying to sell things like soda or water or cookies with Manjar spread on it… Then we drove through this very cool back road along the foothills… It was so beautiful but everyone was passed out in the car, except for me. We reached an area that was a camp site and a pool.  I think we were supposed to practice rolls in that pool that day but since we didn’t have any gear…….we couldn’t do anything. Dan and Sam talked to the owner, I guess to cancel our reservations or something, I don’t know, but then they sent us to cross the Teno River to get to the pizzeria of the town, a river that they had taken previous groups on, but weren’t going to take us on because it was too shallow this time of year.  They told us how to get there, which was only: “go up the hill on your left and then cross on the swinging bridge. Then ask people for directions once you get to the town.” So we crossed the bridge which was really really rickety, and pretty freaky to cross, but really cool too. We made it and kept walking until we found it.  We sat down to rest and a guy came over and talked to us in Spanish. His name was Otto and said he used to live in Maryland, very close to D.C. We talked with him for a while and then we bought empanadas from a small local shack.  I got a cheese one and it was SO GOOD. Me gustan empanadas. While I was buying my empanada, the teaching fellows drove up with Jose, the last student to join us at the Alzar School.  The way you greet people here is by kissing each other on the cheek while saying hola or something of the sort, so we all greeted Jose with warm welcomes.  Then we walked down a road until we got to a hostel place.  We unloaded the trailers that Sean had brought back (that contained all the river and paddling gear) and then we learned how to wrap up NRS straps. Then I volunteered to be on cook crew and we made burrito type fillings and rice and beans.  We ate quickly and told Jose new things that he should know about us.  His English was very good from the start. Then we cleaned up and went over room assignments for this place.  I was with Brook.  We discussed how our last few days of traveling went and it was okay, then we talked about the next days plans.  Then we all brushed our teeth with the extra toothbrushes that we had bought. For most of us, we hadn’t gotten more than 3 hours of sleep since leaving Cascade on Tuesday morning, so we concluded our long day of travel by crawling into cozy beds in the town of Los Queñes.