Monday, August 8, 2011

aaaand some more protests

So after being stood up for an advising appointment, after calling about a thousand numbers to try and take advantage of doing a few more interviews and visiting a health center that apparently doesn't seem to exist, and after carting around a banana nut bread in my backpack all day for my advisor, and after turning my outline from a half page to a 5 page monster of a document, I have decided to momentarily stop working, stop trying to academically take advantage of the moment, and recount some moments.

In my last post I wrote about my day during the protests (last thursday?), and now I will explain to you all my night. During the day things were pretty crazy, but were settling down a bit. However, at night people got riled up again, going out to a new march around 6:30pm. A bunch of friends were supposed to come over to have dinner, but with all the craziness during the day we decided to change the location to someone else's house out of the center of the city. As we left to go take the metro, I wanted to take a look at what was going on in el centro. Walking to the metro I could feel the tear gas still in the air, although the bombs hadn't been thrown recently. There were tons of students milling around in the streets and sidewalks, and tons of tanks were stationed around the street in case things started to get out of hand. To get into the metro we had to ask the guards to unlock the padlock from the gates...they were letting people out one at a time and relocking the gate between groups of people. Once we entered the metro the after effects of the tear gas really hit; I had to put more money on my metro card, and I really wished that I had done it earlier, because standing to wait for the quick transaction meant more time spent with eyes burning and prickling. The people working in the metro all wore masks and blinked away tears as they quickly helped customers.

I spent a lovely evening with friends eating machas con parmesana, baked clams with cheese, and while I'm not much of a seafood fan, I'll have to admit that those guys were pretty delicious. (However be warned, to clean those suckers you have to pull squishy, gross clam muck out of its shell...let's just say I entertained everyone with my plethora of noise effects during this cleaning process.) While preparing the machas, at 9pm, we heard as everywhere in Santiago (and all across Chile) people stepped outside of their houses to protest peacefully in the form of a cacerolazo. Basically this is a form of peaceful protest where everyone goes outside and bangs on pots and pans. (The cacerolazos happened a lot during the dictatorship.) Once we were done with the machas, Pauli and Pato offered to drive us home. Instead of stopping at the apartment, we had to stop a few blocks before because about 10 firetrucks were blocking the street. As we walked down a side street we passed La Universidad de Chile, and saw students and policemen still in action around midnight. While we stood there a student appeared out of the fog of the tear gas to throw something back at the police, and then disappeared once again. Walking towards the firetrucks we saw that a huge department store building had been burned completely down. I've seen destruction before--when a tree falls in our neighborhood and crashes through a house, or a car crash in the street--but it was so incredibly powerful and disturbing to see such distruction caused intentionally out of hatered or rage or anarchy or whatever. (The company, La Polar, has been in the news a lot recently for corruption I think, although I'm not entirely sure.) It was so shocking seeing the entire building burning down, especially because it stands less than a block away from my apartment, and I pass it every time I go to the grocery store, right across the street. It has been absolutely incredible to be in Chile during such a historic time when the students are fighting for their rights for education, but before seeing this building charred and in flames, I didn't really realize the amount of hatred that existed or how quickly protests can turn violent. During the day tons of students were taken prisoner, civilians were hurt, police officers were hurt, tons of tear gas was thrown, and millions of dollars of public property was destroyed.

Here are some videos showing the fire:

And here are some of the protests:

For that last one if you look at minutes 00:36, 00:55, and 1:14 they all take place about 4 blocks from my apartment.

Well that's this past week's excitement in protests! This past weekend I went to the beach and it was beautiful! Now I'm spending this week trying to take advantage of doing some last studying, meeting up with friends, and enjoying my time in this wonderful city! Love to all.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Remember all that talk about the students protesting the shitty education system here? Well today I woke up, came downstairs to use the internet, and while in the lobby heard tons of police and emergency vehicles, sirens wailing, pulling up outside my building. I was going to go meet a friend for lunch, and when I went outside there were about 15 police cars, guanacos (giant tanks that spray water hoses at roudy people), and ambulances. As I walked towards the metro, I could feel tear gas in the air as it scratched at my eyes and throat. Once Mauri and I found each other in the chaos, we walked up the street and watched as a giant cloud of smoke, from tear gas and other fires, wafted up in front of the main building of la Universidad de Chile. Today there was a march in the morning, and it ended up turning violent (like many of them do), but this one continued through the day. Protests, authorized and unauthorized, are ocurring today throughout the country: in Santiago, Valparaíso, Concepción, Copiapó. Violence has continued throughout the day, and from what I've been reading, the police have not been acting appropriately, and many people have been injured and imprisoned for their actions. One websited says that around 1pm today, a police officer dropped a tear gas bomb in the metro, making it hard for people to breathe. As my apartment is sandwiched between the la Moneda Palace (house of government) and la universidad de Chile's main campus, Mauri and I were forced to walk into the neighborhood, away from the drama. After eating, we walked back towards the main road, right across from La U de Chile. We were on the other side from where most of the drama tends to take place, but as we were walking, students started to run towards us, away from the advancing guanaco. I don't know why they started moving the guanaco towards the students (it didn't seem like they were actually doing anything) but all of a sudden we were in the middle of running students and an advancing tank. Mauri and I ran in the opposite direction, out of the reach of the hoses just before they started spraying water violently at the students. Being in the middle of this has been amazing and sort of horrifying. It's crazy that the government has been acting this way, and resorting to such extreme messures to deal with education reform. Today president Piñera's rating fell to only 26%. (Check out this website: ) It's been amazing, however, to see the students organize together and fight for their rights to a just education. Needless to say, today I did not follow my plans of going out to the university to study after lunch.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Aaaaah blog! Shoot, I forgot to write here and then a million weeks went did that even happen?

Okay, so here's what's been going on...

SIP! Sometime after being here for about a month, things went from studying in the library, to actually meeting up with people, interviewing, sharing stories and food, and baaaam, SIPing turned much more interesting!

First, I contacted a woman who lives in a neighborhood called Cerro Navia, where there is a Mapuche ruka ( as part of a mapuche community center. I spent a long time walking around with her, looking at the center: The community fought for their right to create a center and gain this piece of land, which is situated between the trickle of a river, Mapocho, and nestled within a neighborhood of little resources. As we walked around, she pointed up and showed me how buzzing, hulking electric wires twist their way above the field where the ruka is situated. She explained that the community of course was given the piece of land that no one else wanted, because no construction can be done there. We were standing in the field next to an altar that religious figures climb up during ceremonies, one of the most sacred experiences that happens because this person is attempting to get closer to god. All I could think about was how the power lines must take a lot away from this experience, especially for a people who hold nature in the highest regard. After walking around the land, my contact and I went to her friends house. We walked through a neighborhood that is starkely different from any other area that I know in Santiago. "Do you see this extreme poverty where you live? I don't think so," she told me. The houses there are made out of thin boards, with tin roofes to cover them from the elements. Giant gates guard each house, showing the protections that people take against violence in the area. We went to her friends house, and there I spent hours talking with the two women about their experiences fighting for their rights as women, as Mapuche. I was amazed at how open they were with my, how they shared their food, their stories, and how passionately they have been fighting their entire lives for the rights of their people. I feel so lucky to have met these incredible women, and to have had this experience. Coming to Chile the first time, I had been told about the inequality that exists in the country and in Santiago, but until the day that I spent in Cerro Navia, I did not truly understand the huge disparities that exist within this country nor within the city that I've spent cumulatively 8 months living in.

Last week I went to a workshop in San Antonio, a small town on the coast about an hour and half away. The worksop was at the Health Center in San Antonio, and was about the Mapuche Cosmovision. There I got to talk to a few people, which lead to interviews later in the week! Win!

Ok, I have more stories but my fingers are freezing off!

Basically, I've been having a great time seeing the Kalamazoo kids here in Santiago, meeting up with friends here, going to see the Andes mountains after the rain, which leaves them clean and beautiful from the normal smog, traveling constantly to the coast to meet people and do interviews, dodging the ocassional tear gas and police water hoses, joining in protests, going dancing, seeing my host family, and generally enjoying my time here.

Love to all, I'll post again when I can feel my fingers!

Friday, July 15, 2011


I remembered to upload pictures! Wahoo!

In San Antonio, exploring before the Wetripantu ceremony started. Beeeeach :)

Gay rights march outside of La Moneda...I keep forgetting to bring my camera to the student protest marches, but they are pretty impressive, not only for the number of participants, but also because each universidad and colegio carries their own giant banners, and there are usually tons of people dancing, playing drums, and singing.

At the Wetripantu


Beautiful, beautiful Santiago.

Celebrating Renato's 3rd birthday and Leonor's 1st birthday. Mega tot bash!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


WOW I do not want to work on my SIP. I will, it'll happen, but wowwww this week has been a struggle. I have seven websites to read through today, and at the moment they're just sitting prettily in their own separate tabs on my screen. Something about being in the library for 2.5 hours has just completely shut my brain off.

In other news, the other day I went out to watch Chile play Peru in the Copa America. The two countries have been rivals for a looong time (in everything, not just soccer), so this was an important game. My friends and I went out to Paseo Ahumada, a street shut off to traffic, to watch the game as it was played on a huge screen over the street. There were a million billion people in the street, lots and lots of flaites, all rowdy and excited for the game. We pushed our way through the crowd (I was with a group of half gringos, half chileans), and being on of two blonds in the middle of all that hubub, got a lot of attention. While the shouts and stares annoyed me a lot when I first got here, I'm pretty much used to it now, and can take it all with a grain of salt; When people shout out "Hey, where are you from!" I say, "Where do YOU think I'm from?". For some reason it really throws people off when the gringa talks back, and I get to be the one laughing as I walk away. They yell back, "You're from Germany! Brazil!", and I get to yell back, "Uh huh, I'm from BOTH of those places". Clearly puro weando and not making any sense, but I sure get a kick out of it. (The other blond girl who was with us had only been in the country for 3 weeks, and I think she took a lot more offense to it than I did.) Anyway, we watched the game jam packed with all the bajillions of others in the street. The teams had been tied 0-0 for the entire game, but when Chile made the winning goal within the last 4 minutes, the entire street erupted...everyone started jumping up and down all at once, firecrackers and flares went off, and people started honking horns. The jumping thing was fun for a bit, until it became a sea of jumping and pushing, and hoping that you didn't fall over and get trampled in the middle of everyone. Definitely, going out into the street to watch the game was a great, great idea.

Today there was another student march for education reform (I keep running into these guys), and I had a nice time walking with the march for about a half hour before getting to the library. Needless to say, I forgot my camera again. Oops.

Well now that I have procrastinated and run my computer's battery dangerously low, it seems that the SIP is calling. Poop.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wetripantu, tear gas, and baby parties

It appears that this is the start of my fourth week in Chile, and true to my habits I seem to have let the blog fall to the wayside. So here goes! Mega post for the win. Here are some quick updates of what I've been up to:

- The first weekend I was here I went to a celebration for the Mapuche new year, which falls on the winter solstice. I got up early on saturday, and Seba and I took a bus to San Antonio, a small town about an hour and a half outside of Santiago, located on the coast. Since I tend to have absolutely horrible luck with buses (see: New Years in Valparaíso; Puerto Natales, Chile; Arequipa to Cuzco, Peru; and February bus-meets-blizzard from NYC) I decided to leave us ample time. We arrived about an hour and a half early, to a blustery, freezing cold morning on the sea. While I get many stares for being a gringa in Santiago, I turn even more heads in the tiny towns. Seba and I walked through someone's backyard (whoops), behind some cow pastures, a dirt tennis court, and through some giant mounds of dirt, in order to reach the ocean. While I'm not much of a morning person, it was really amazing to be standing at the side of the ocean with a crisp, winter sun shining overhead. The beach was uninhabitted by tourists or condos; only a few early risers were walking along, enjoying the beauty of the early morning as we were. After tromping around through the hills of sand, we turned back into the village to head towards the Wetripantu (Mapuche new year, in "mapudungun"). I really enjoyed being able to participate in the celebration with the group of people there. About 15-20 people from a Mapuche community in Valparaiso had come for the day, dressed in traditional Mapuche clothes, to share their traditions for celebrating the Wetripantu. The celebration, like most other new years celebrations, welcomes in the new year. We initially started by just watching the celebration, but after only a few minutes were invited to join in. We followed behind the community members, mimicking the dance/steps that they were doing. I didn't really know what to expect from this event, but it was so nice to be included in their celebration, and be able to share this tradition with the people there. We shared in a delicious lunch (at these sorts of gatherings one never goes hungry), and had a fun time talking with other visitors around the lunch table. While in San Antonio, I got to know 2 of the CIEE kids from this past semester, one of whom had stayed in my host family's friend's house. Such a small world! All in all, it was an amazing event to go to, and at the end of the day the lonko (leader of the community) was handing out pamphlets about Intercultural Health; just perfect for my SIP topic!

- I keep running into protests! I live RIGHT outside of La Moneda, and just a few blocks from the main campus of La Chile (where they have been having 24 hours of music blasting through the streets), so I keep accidentally running into all these events. One day we walked out onto Alameda, the main street, and bumped straight into the annual gay rights parade. People were spilling out from the street, onto the side walks, waving rainbow flags, and just being generally happy. Instead of skirting around the crowd to get to the metro, we decided to walk the 10 or 12 blocks to our destination, joining along. The other day I stepped out of my appartment, intending to put some quality hours in at the library (hah) and ran smack dab into another huge protest, this one about the education system. (Pretty much all highschools and universities have been on strike for the past month or so, and are demanding education reform from the government. Newspapers have reported that Chile hasn't seen this many people demonstrating since the end of the dictatorship in the late 1980s...should be interesting to see what happens!)

- I experienced my first encounter with tear gas! Like I said, I live in a pretty central location, and one day as I was getting off of the bus to walk the few bus home, I stepped out into the streets and immediately felt my eyes start stinging. People everywhere were walking with their scarves up over their mouth and nose, and store owners were rapidly pulling the metal shutters closed in front of their property. Some stores had kept the shutters open half way, so that potential customers could duck under and into their stores. As I walked home, eyes and face prickling from the gas, I looked over as a commotion started on the other side of the street. About 50 young people seemed to have gotten riled up and carried away after the days' protests, and had proceeded to tear down the protective metal railings that the police had put up for the protesters. I crossed the street, and saw that they were dragging large pieces of trash and paper into the street, and suddenly a large blaze jumped up out of the concrete. Seconds later, the police who had already been milling around, started moving in. Police cars (which look like someone smushed 4 giant hummers together with walls about 7 feet thick) arrived at the scene shortly thereafter. As much as I love sticking around to see what is going on in the street, I decided that that was a good time to head home (you can stop worrying now, mom :D ). Just another normal day in the city.

- For the 4th of July I decided to make a good ole american dinner. Some friends came over and we ate cheesburgers, corn on the cob, roasted veggies, and brownies with creamcheese topping, yummm. Right now the Copa America (soccerrr) is going on, and that night Chile played, and won. So it was sort of an American/Chilean celebration night. Unfortunately, being an idiot, I decided that night to cook my hamburger nice and raw, while I made all the others cooked all the way through. While that might seem like a delicious idea, which it was at the time, the next morning I realized how horrible of a decision that was. Sparing you the details, let me just say that my digestive system and I were very unhappy for the next 2 days.

- This past Saturday was the doble fiesta for Renato and Leonor's birthdays! Renatito turned 3 and Leo 1, and my family had a giant baby bash for them. Anna visited for the carrete, so she, Seba, and I showed up to celebrate with the tots. I spent the first chunk of time in the kitchen, helping Héctor make anticucho, a meat shiskabob thing; these had beef, chicken, and sausage, cooked on the grill. So good! Then we spent the rest of the night playing with the kids, and acting like 5 year olds. Anna and I spent most of our time sitting on the floor, wrapped in streamers, wearing children's party hats (none of the kids wanted to wear them), and playing with the tots. Most of the adults just sort of started at us with the "what the hell is that gringa doing?" look on their faces. Great great night.

- Regarding my SIP, I have mostly been doing research via the internet/in libraries here. Today I met with my advisor for the first time, which was really helpful. I had sort of been feeling like the library work I was doing wouldn't actually end up being that useful, but today talking with my profe, I realized that I've gained a lot of knowledge doing all of these research. I still have a long way to go, but it was nice to realize that I have actually advance. It was also really helpful to meet with her, because I was able to talk through the thesis and start to focus it a little better on what I'm really going to talk about. No suprise, but my SIP has sort of taken a 180 degree turn from where I thought it would be going in the first place. It's sort of fun to see where SIP will end up, it's almost as if it has a life of its own (wooOOoooOoooOOooo...).

- Harry Potter comes out here on July 14th, what nowwwww USA.

That's it for now! Maybe I will be better at updating this with more frecuency (hah), but for now enjoy this monster of a post. Pictures to come soon!

Friday, July 1, 2011



Well, it seems as though I have somehow managed to unknowingly reactivate my student status at La Universidad Catolica, and now have the superpower of being able to sneak through the library security gates. Yesterday I came to meet up with my friend, Mauri, and after catching up for a little bit, we decided to head down to the library to do some work. I told him, no way no how is my student ID going to work to let me through the library’s (absurd) security turnstiles. After scoffing at how silly he was being, thinking that I could actually get back in, I swiped the card, ready to give him a triumphant “told ya so” look, and watched as the little green light showed and the turnstiles unlocked to let me in. Hah. So I spent a nice few hours reading through materials, taking notes, and watching as freezing bullets of rain pounded on the glass ceiling above, happy to be tucked away inside a warm library. However, a few hours later my growling stomach would not let me continue working, so I decided to take a quick break to get some lunch. On the way out, my magic student ID card failed me. The befuzzled security guard let me out through a side gate, and I continued on my way, knowing that going back through to gather my books and meet back up with Mauri would be a challenge. Sure enough, magic student ID card failed me. The guard insisted that I come over and that he could help me out. At this point I didn’t really know which route to take. The options were, “Of course I’m a student here this semester”, in very broken Spanish with “dumb gringa” written across my face; or, “Hahahah, well see I went here last year”, smileee. I went with option number two, and either the man didn’t understand the situation or me, but it seems as though he reactivated my card. SIP research is about to be a whole lot easier. Yet again, pushing the rules and playing the gringa card have gone in my favor.