Sorry for the blurry camera quality, my phone does not have an adequate camera.
Valparaiso is like the Amazon rainforest, just with fewer trees, more people, and less rain. Also, Valparaiso is smellier, and has more stray dogs, and fewer animals, and barely any ants that I’ve seen; so not really like the jungle landscape that I so wanted to see.
Instead of a rich canvas of life, and a sprawling forest utopia, I see an angry city. Instead of the place that sparked the curiosity of the man who “invented” nature, I am in a place where the dockworkers don’t get paid enough. The thing about forests and jungles is that everything is interconnected, from the loudest cawing bird to the stealthiest jaguar Everything has a purpose, and every individual organism is important, vital, to the function of the whole.
The jungle never sleeps, as the animals of the day rest, nocturnal predators emerge from their dens and burrows. The night is crawling with activity. The cycle of interdependency does not care about rudimentary things like the position of the sun. It exists only to sustain itself and crawl forward inch by inch.
At points in the night, it seems like all the animals of the jungle awake, and reveal their opinion about a matter. This is similar to Valparaiso, wherein the middle of the night, the stray dogs unite to unanimously voice their disapproval. The city landscape of Valparaiso comes alive, like that of a jungle, the noise comes from all around — just noise, meaningless, like a stormy ocean, a wave of noise crashes over you, encompasses you, tosses you up, and then down. There is just noise, from above you, below you, around you. And then it’s over.
Like a rainforest, Valparaiso almost breathes, it’s connected, just with pigeons and dogs, instead of more interesting creatures. Like a rainforest, Valparaiso almost breathes, the feeling of being alive is in everything.
Let the bike race commence! Once a year in Valparaiso, there’s a large (and terrifying) bike race called Cerro Abajo. This year my family and I were lucky enough to go see it. The race takes place on one of the many hills of Valparaiso. The bikers go down the hill, through houses, over a bus, and along alleyways only a couple inches wider than the bike. The racers go down flights of stairs and off numerous jumps, all the while attempting to keep dogs and people out of their path.
This year, the race was longer than in past years, and it started further up the hill. My family and I only had time to be there for a couple hours, as I wanted to be back in time to facetime my friends. (something which went incredibly well and was very fun. GG Tobias) Upon arrival to the incredibly packed and ridiculously noisy (there was a DJ in an armored car), we became aware that the bike race hasn’t started yet. With the heat reaching us, we were desperate to find a spot to watch the bikers before I had to go back.
Eventually, we made our way to a somewhat less crowded area by the jump and waited, for an hour, in the full heat of the sun. With no water. I was ready to take a perfect slow-mo video of the bikers jumping off the ramp but got tired of holding my phone after 15 minutes. We had no idea when the bikers were coming down, but we were running out of time. After a while, the security guards came and made sure that there was no one on the race track, and closed the gates leading into it. “This was a good sign,” we thought. “This means that they’re almost ready.” Boy, were we wrong.
It turns out being another thirty minutes before the first racer comes down the mountain. To say the least, we are not prepared. A whistle from up the hill. The crowd goes wild. People bang cowbells against the fence. Another whistle, this time closer. The people all around start cheering. A movement on the ramp. I take out my phone, the bike launches into the air, I attempt to hit record. The biker lands on the other side of the ramp and disappears down the mountain. Everybody goes silent. Just like that, I miss him.
Then another whistle. I hit record, the racer launches himself off the platform and continues down the hill. I check the video; it’s awful, the bike isn’t even in focus. More time goes by, but eventually, another one comes down. This time I get a good slow-mo video. One after another racers come down, each time the crowd goes wild.
In conclusion, the day was fun but the way back to our apartment was blocked by the race. Despite this, I still managed to make it home to the facetime call. From what I saw, I think that this competition means a lot to the people of Valparaiso, and it was celebrated accordingly. It was really fun watching the crowd get excited whenever a person came down. It could have been a little sooner though.
What kind of animal causes this? Scurrying around in your walls, nibbling at the foundations. The thought of these animals can bring shivers down the spine of any homeowner. They are, the termites.
Termites are a kind of insect that most people dread finding in their home. Often called “white ants”, termites, however, are not ants. Termites belong to the order Blattodea, along with another dreaded insect: cockroaches.
There are over 3,000 species of termites; only a small portion of them are found in people houses. Some species of termites actually have the ability to digest wood, and thus your house becomes their dinner. This can prove to be harmful to the structural soundness of your house, as termites will begin to munch away. The little pellets that you can see in the picture above are the waste of the termites eating away our house.
However, not all termites are bad. In fact, most termites are beneficial, if not vital, to their ecosystems. Termites aid in breaking down dead or decaying matter. In addition, termites also can make a meal for many animals (like ants!).
Did you know that there are no adult termites? How’s THAT for a society run by kids. Termite colonies can number in the millions. Like ants, there is only one queen laying all the eggs, unlike ants, however, termites never pupate into adults. They have what’s called an “incomplete metamorphosis.”
The life cycle of a termite is like this: termites start out as eggs and then they hatch into larvae. Here, the termites will molt a couple of times, and soon they will be a worker. They can then molt one more time to become a soldier, a type of termite that protects the nest from predators, or they can actually become a queen! That’s right, even the lowliest termite worker can become a queen.
In conclusion, having termites in your house is probably a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean that ALL 3,000 species of termites are bad. Once you get to know them, they can actually be kind of cool! (Ants are still better.) Termites are very important to the world, just not to your house.
We were warned about the dangers of living in the city of Valparaiso. At the fruit markets, they always tell us to protect our wallets and purses. At the soccer field, they say to always keep your bag close to you.
On Thursday I found out the hard way that the concern was warranted. As a part of my daily schedule, I had been walking up the hill to the local soccer field to play pickup soccer with some local kids. After three days in a row without any problem, I walked up the hill with my Dad and my brother on Thursday. We noticed that there were several other teenagers playing soccer, and the normal homeless characters.
We walked into the field and I set my bag down to put on my cleats. I began to play soccer while my Dad and brother were playing frisbee. I wasn’t thinking about where I had set down my bag and I drifted over towards the goal on one end of the field and started shooting. When my brother got tired of frisbee, my dad joined me in playing soccer. None of us were watching my bag.
By the time we were tired, I looked up and realized my bag was missing. Unfortunately, there was not much we could do. It could have been any number of people who come and go from this soccer field. Luckily, I hadn’t put my shoes and water bottle into my bag so they were still lying there. Then I remembered I had put my phone in the zipper of my bag. We looked and tried to ask around but eventually decided just to go home and try to use “Find my iPhone.”
My phone has a lock on it so they will not be able to get in; however, “Find my iPhone” only seems to work if the phone has service or wifi so that was no help. More importantly, I had a key to our apartment in my bag, so we decided to head down to the cops and ask for their advice as to whether it was necessary to change the locks or if criminals usually just steal in the heat of the moment.
We head down to the police station and they tell us they can’t do anything about the bag but that criminals usually don’t follow up by breaking into houses because they do not want to risk being caught. They asked us to file a police report. While filling out the paperwork they asked me to think about everything I had lost, and finally, I remembered.
On the back of my phone, I have a sticky wallet that I keep a debit card in. By this time I was panicking. We were only halfway through the police report paperwork, but somebody had my bank card and could be draining my account as I was talking to the police!
I wanted to run home right away, but we rushed through the rest of the paperwork and finally, we were able to return home. After a panicked call to Atlantic Federal Credit Union, and with the help of my parents, we were able to de-activate the card and confirm that no money had been stolen.
I feel very privileged to live in a place like Brunswick, Maine, where I feel so safe. However, I do feel like I learned a pretty important lesson–and probably will learn many more after five more months in this city. I learned to pay attention to the advice of friends and those looking out for you and to not get too comfortable. Because in this city, the field where I go to practice most days is also where some people sleep every night.
There are a lot of stray dogs here in Valparaiso; this is commonly due to the mistreatment of dogs. People buy puppies as gifts and then abandon the now bigger dogs a few years later. A result of this is that the streets of Valparaiso are now full of stray dogs, and by extension, their feces. Dog poop is everywhere, you have been warned! Some of these dogs possess injuries, such as limps, missing eyes, among other things. One of the worst things that can happen to you, is when a young dog with a limp begins to follow you, begging for food. It takes a will of iron to avoid adopting the most likely flea-ridden dogs.
As of Friday, February 1st, my family has not seen a dog get hit by a car, which is lucky, but we do not expect that luck to hold. Already we have seen some roadkill and a family that we suspected of eating some sort of dog-like animal (My dad believes it was a calf, but I’m not so sure).
The dogs here are like pandas, at least, during the day; all they do is lounge around and sleep. Once night falls, things change, however, as the once lethargic dogs begin vying for territory. The result: lots of barking. I mean, LOTS of barking. A ridiculous amount. Definitely keeps some people up.
Starting today we plan to post a picture each week and write a story that explains the picture.
This week’s picture is of my newfound friends on the soccer team, Selección Quinta Cordillera, I plan to train with. I met the boy in the red hat at a pickup soccer game. He turned out to be a goalkeeper and so I played with him after the game was finished. He was clearly very good so I got to talking to him about how or where I could play soccer here in Valparaiso.
With the help of my father, we were able to overcome the language barrier and understand that he was inviting me to practice with his select team. We were told to meet him at 4:00 back at the same field on Wednesday so that we could pick up a bus to Quilpué, a town nearly an hour away from Valparaíso. I got his contact information and he stressed to me that I should be there at 4:00.
So on Wednesday, my father and I walked up to the field at 3:55. We ended up waiting for twenty-five minutes until the boy and two of his friends finally strolled down the hill. Instead of catching a bus we followed them down the hills of Valparaíso for a few kilometers to the downtown area.
As we walked, their friends called and told them they were late so we had to run. We finally met up with the rest of the players from Valparaíso. There were seven including a Bolivian and a Colombian. We got on the bus and I learned all of their names. When we got off they said we were going to walk to the field. After about five minutes they waved down a truck and all of us (including my dad) hopped in the back to go to practice.
At practice, we did conditioning at the start of practice and even before we finished two laps people were falling on the ground and refusing to run. However, once we started playing a scrimmage something changed as they all became faster and sprinted around for the next hour of practice.
After practice, I got their contact information and one of the guys took me to get a haircut. They have been on summer vacation for the past few weeks but I am looking forward to connecting with them again. I have been very impressed with how nice and inclusive the Chileans I have met have been.
Now that we have returned to Valparaíso our home schooling begins in earnest. We try to get up and to the library to write each morning by around ten o’clock. I read the sports section of the local newspaper each day, and I am giving Spanish lessons to my Mom and brother. I am also in the process of finding a trumpet teacher. I am staying busy by studying for four AP tests. I enjoy the freedom of learning what I want.
I also try to play soccer every day. The local soccer field almost always has a pickup game going. My soccer team has been on vacation but they are coming back shortly and I am excited to play and hang out with them more soon this summer.
Living here comes with the challenge of eating here. With a small kitchen and no oven it is difficult to feed four people. We are exploring our neighborhood for a good cheap restaurant but are yet to find one. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables from the markets and we are experimenting to try and recreate the great strawberry mint lemonades we have had here. We have also tried to make a completo, a popular food here. Completo’s consist of a hot dog filled with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise.
Returning to Valparaiso wasn’t exciting or exhilarating: the only emotions that I felt was that of relief, that the Patagonia trip was over.
The final days were spent in Santiago, with my family staying in a hotel room. We then left to find a subway, with all of our luggage. We shoved, pushed, pulled, yanked, and kicked our luggage down the bustling streets to the nearest entrance, which was, of course, closed. Four blocks and one broken suitcase wheel later, my family and I arrived at another subway entrance, this time, it was blocked off by the police. Yay.
After a very cramped taxi (yes we managed to fit all of us in one taxi), we arrived at the place where we supposedly get tickets or a bus to Valparaiso; nothing is ever as easy as it seems. We looked and looked for the ticket terminal, and realized, that it’s at a mall a couple of blocks away. Upon arrival to this mall, we learned that the bus terminal is actually down the street, four blocks away.
Eventually, we managed to sort everything out, we got tickets and was to board a bus at station 8 or 9, either one works. We stand around for a while until some nice person tells us that the bus we’re looking for is on the other side of the complex. That figured out, we finally board the CORRECT bus, and head back to Valparaiso, finally.
My family hopes you all had happy holidays and that your new year is off to a great start. Ours certainly is. We have been exploring the South of Chile and Argentina for the past two weeks and wanted to share some of our experiences with you.
Tierra Del Fuego
We flew in to Punta Arenas, a very cold and windy city in the South of Chile. From there we were able to pick up our camper van and stock it with food and supplies for our upcoming adventures. First we crossed the Strait of Magellan on a ferry and landed on the windswept and chilly island known as Tierra Del Fuego which translates to land of fire. We stayed entirely on the Chilean side. Our first stop was Karukinka National Park. This park is said to host only 400 visitors annually.
The next stop was Caleta Maria, the end of the road in Tierra del Fuego. A truly incredible place.
There is a small group of shacks at the edge of a bay with mountains rising so high on either side that snow was visible in the middle of summer. The locals told us that elephant seals and penguins lived in the bay and that on one island, albatross land to mate. This was the most remote place we visited during the trip, and it would take almost a full day of driving from ferry docks, but we would highly recommend anyone traveling in this area to see it for themselves.
Torres Del Paine
Next we drove North and visited arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Patagonia: Torres del Paine national park.
This was another gorgeous park full of mountains, waterfalls and glacial lakes. The three pointy mountains in the center were the main attraction; the hike to the closest viewpoint of them became quite crowded. However, it was such a big park that it was possible to get away from the crowds and still see the incredible views.
Los Glaciares National Park
We drove across the Argentinian border and all the way up to El Chaltén a touristy village with incredible views at the base of the FitzRoy mountain range. We took our longest hike of the trip up to the base of Mount Fitzroy.
We saw several glaciers on our hike up to Mount Fitzroy, but we were able to drive to Calafate, a nearby town, that was closer to a larger glacier. We were lucky enough to see it calve before our eyes which was an incredible experience.
Patagonia is a stunning natural area. We found that no matter where we went we saw incredible views. Because of that we recommend that you escape the crowds by going to a place like Caleta Maria or even just pulling off of main highways and exploring the dirt country roads. Ultimately, Patagonia is an incredible place no matter if you see it alongside thousands of other people or alone in the wilderness.
Please enjoy some poetic musings that Tierra del Fuego inspired my brother to write.
Tierra del Fuego
Land of Fire
The wind hurls itself across the open plains; like a starving animal it claws its way over the scraggly grasses. The wind launches itself at the mountains, sweeping away all in its path. The few animals still out, hunker down, desperately seeking refuge. It whips past the rivers, screaming like that of the dead seeking vengeance upon the living. Clawing at all in its wake, eternal, hungry. Its cold hands reach out from the south, like an uncaged creature, ravenous, it lunges for you. Sweeping across. Consuming all.
The clouds sweep across the sky, like a thick blanket of grey, blocking all warmth from the sun. The light fades, but the night does not rise, the sun lays just behind the hill, shining, empty warmth reminding you of the cold. The sky remains palely lit, the clouds suffocating.
Still, the wind howls, its dark grasp ever present. It whips over the ridge, grasping at the loose earth. It strips you bare, holding you in its icy grasp. There is no escape. It hurls itself at the world, trying to shake it down, to raze it to the ground. The very foundations of reality quake, shake, quiver, before the howling gale.
The sun sets, what little warmth has fled from the encroaching cold. The perpetual twilight that is night emerges, the wind howling in victory. It shakes the room, smashes the windows, bangs the door, the fire snuffs out, finally defeated, the last resistance is gone.
Here are some quick tips I can give anyone interested in traveling to Valparaiso.
First of all, if you are allergic to dogs, this city would be a very difficult place to visit. I have found that the dogs seem to understand who the tourists are and follow them begging for food. It is important that you do not pet the dogs, and pay no attention to them. As no matter how cute they may be, they are still stray dogs.
Secondly before visiting understand that this city is a colourful picturesque city filled with art, which is even more impressive in person, however, it is also one of the poorest cities in Chile. Because of this, some areas can become dangerous to visit specifically the tops of the hills. Also currently with a labour strike going on downtown, there are armoured military vehicles prepared to control the situation. Therefore a pretty and safe place to live would be at the base of a hill.
I believe this city will show you the real culture of the Chilean people. I have found Chileans to be very kind and inclusive. I showed up to a park and was asked to join a basketball game right away. In addition, our family was invited to watch a soccer game of our friendly tour guide.
So far in Chile, we have done a tour for tips which was educational and I would highly recommend. We also took a Chilean cuisine cooking class that taught us about the importance of only buying seafood from the indoor fish market.
Aquí son alguna aconsejo de viajan a valparaíso Chile. Son muchos perros en esta ciudad, pero no da los perros comida o atención. Segundo, este ciudad es muy bonito, pero además muy pobre. Es poco peligroso alto en los cerros y en el puerto. Un buen lugar para vivir sería el fondo de los cerros. Esta ciudad te enseñará sobre la cultura de Chile. Los chilenos son muy amables y te incluyen. Mi familia hizo una clase de cocina y un paseo que fue benéfica.
What is some advice for people who want to travel to Valparaiso?
1. Don’t spend too much time in Santiago.
Santiago is Chile’s capital, and as such, is actually quite a rich city, with many chain restaurants that can be found also be found in other countries. If you spend too much time in Santiago, you will have a harder time adjusting to the WAY poorer Valparaiso.
2. Don’t be scared to see stuff!
You may have heard that Valparaiso is a dangerous city, and you might get robbed. Valparaiso is just like any other big city. You might get pickpocketed in New York! If you just use common sense, you should be fine.
3. Enjoy all the amazing activities you can!
Look at all the beautiful graffiti! There are tons of really great restaurants and places to go and things to see! After all, it’s not every day that you spend in Valparaiso!
¡La gente aquí es muy amable! Además, la comida también es muy buena.
Santiago is hot like I thought, but only during midday, when the sun is out. It reached upwards of the mid ’80s in the sun, however before 10:00 AM and after 8:00 PM the temperature drops to mid-’70s and is very enjoyable. These times also happen to be when many people flock to the beautiful public parks. I found a nice park a few blocks from our apartment and was able to play a one on one game of basketball.
The city has many parks and a surprising number of trees for how dry the climate feels. The city does have a river running through it, but the river is nearly all dried up at this time and the surrounding mountains are quite sparse and dusty.
Chilean food seems to consist mostly of cheese and bread, for example, we had pizza the first day, empanadas on the second and a ham and cheese sandwich on the third. We found several people who spoke English and helped us when we needed it, but a surprising amount of people spoke only Spanish.
Santiago is busy and like most cities, there is no room for trash so it ends up on the sidewalk or street making the sidewalks smell like garbage. Overall I’m not a big fan of cities so I will admit my bias, that said Santiago seems like a relatively safe and well-kept city but not somewhere I would want to live for six months.
The truth about Valparaiso
Valparaiso is a picturesque city with street art everywhere. In addition, Valparaiso showed us a side of Chile we did not see in our apartment in Santiago. We watched on TV as we ate in an empanada restaurant downtown that the port workers in Valparaiso were protesting and that they had been on strike for a month. The very next day our tour met in the square where the protest had begun the day before and the teargas left over made my eyes tear up and my nose run.
Overall Valparaiso has a strong connection to protesting and standing up to the greed of the wealthier classes. We learned that workers in Valparaiso sometimes make less than ten dollars in a whole day. Because of this poverty, Valparaiso is not very well kept, a problem that becomes obvious no matter which block you walk down is the stray dogs and dog poop that is not being cleaned up.
Valparaiso is made up of several different hills and some of the streets are so steep that cars can barely make it up. There are so many alleys and staircases throughout the different hills that it can be very confusing to get around. I was intimidated when I first saw the City but it is already growing on me and I am enjoying exploring new areas every day and seeing beautiful murals and views everywhere I look.
My first impressions of Chile are somewhat mixed. On one hand, I am now living in a city that’s sunny and warm, on the other, I’m now living in a city that has active protests and riots. Valparaiso is very nice, it has some lovely murals, but it’s dirty, poor, and potentially dangerous. Chile is very nice, but it has a lot of problems. On top of that, I don’t speak Spanish very well, and the heat gets to me easily. I am not very sure how I feel about Chile.
Valparaiso looks like a beautiful city, there are hills everywhere, and colourful murals on the sides of buildings. The people here are very nice, they seem welcoming and inclusive from what I could tell of them. The food here is different than in America, with a lot of restaurants serving variations of ham, cheese, and bread. I’ve had to expand my pallet a lot and its only been a week here. Yes, Valparaiso is a big city, but it seems nice.
Unfortunately, Valparaiso has a lot of problems. It seems that half the city has gone on strike at some point, and currently there are semi-violent protests that are happening in the streets. Valparaiso is also one of the poorest cities in all of Chile. Since Valparaiso is a big city, it’s smelly and gross. People don’t seem to be protecting this city, even though Valparaiso is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Chile.
All in all, I’m unsure of the next couple of months in Valparaiso; it should be interesting. I just hope that at some point, people realize how beautiful Valpo could be. But, until then, I’m waiting.