Buena Onda: a 21 Day Update

Hola y Buenos Días! (I promise I have been practicing and learning more spanish than just these three words.) I’m writing to you today after having arrived three weeks; currently I am looking both backwards at the time I have spent in this beautiful country and the time I have left here. As I will continue to share in this post to you all today, I am both inspired from where I have been and what opportunities await me. A few fun points of learning I have had while here so far, and then I’ll dive right into a recap of my past three weeks, some photos, and an update on my project! So… I’ve learned how special it is to have stable housing (like I did in Denmark). As you will see, I moved four times in one week. I’ve learned to not really call the language here spanish, but rather, Chilean; Cachai? Sipo, yapo (You get me? Yeah, yeah for sure.)! I have learned to welcome and love the friendly, open, and warm culture that exists between people, and I have recognized the increased confidence in myself while being in a new place. As I reflect on why, I think it is both a result of my ability to speak the language here, but also having three months of experience under my belt. I have learned to accept a slow start in a new place. If there was one thing I learned in Denmark about working on my project, was that all good things come in time, and patience is important. I’d also like to give a special shoutout to Cory Willis, who helped me get my feet on the ground. Cory is a mutual friend from back in the states; he helped pick me up from the airport, show me around the city a bit, provided a bed, food, and wonderful porch to spend the evenings on. Cory, thank you!

  • Saturday, October 7: On my first day in Chile, after having tried to adjust a bit more to the time change, Cory and I grabbed a late breakfast and drove out towards El Cajon del Maipo, west of the city and into the Andes! Flying into Santiago, I caught a glimpse of the mountains, but I didn’t think I would be walking in them the next day! We drove until we couldn’t any more, often getting out to walk around, take pictures and marvel at the snow-crested mountain peaks that we found ourselves in. We grabbed dinner at a restaurant on the road back home, ate good, traditional Chilean food and called it a night.
  • Sunday, October 8: Day two consisted of a little orienteering. I bought a SIM Card and returned only to find it non-functioning, so I set out on a mission through the city, winding up in probably the largest mall I have ever been in, La Costanera Center, but I managed to make it work and navigated my way through it all in spanish! It felt good to be using my Spanish and know that I could carry a conversation when needed!
  • Monday, October 9: I spent the morning beginning a search for longer term housing that would suit for more time here. I went out on my first of what has already totaled to many Chilean runs, and set back out to see another part of the city that I had not seen yet.
  • Tuesday, October 10: In the morning I researched the Ambulance Services here in Santiago. Walking the streets in the first week, I was able to see that there was a clear multitude of services, which excited me about the possibly of gaining access to one or more of them over time! I spent the afternoon meeting a a potential group of people to live with. They welcomed me into their home and showed me around the place. In the evening, I went to an event I had found on Facebook called, Spanglish Party. The rules of the event are that you speak in spanish for 20 – 30 minutes and then switch to English. This rotation continues for about 2 hours and then people begin to have a little more fun, dancing, sharing drinks and good company! It is a great idea and it has been great to meet so many different people through this event!
  • Wednesday, October 11: In the morning I visited another potential house, explored the city a bit more and did some shopping for things I realized that I needed after having settled in a bit more.
  • Thursday, October 12: I spent this Thursday doing more project planning, finally having a more extensive list to work with. I began sending emails to different agencies around the city, hoping my spanish would convey my point accurately in appropriately! A nice afternoon run, with a little more exploration rounded out the day very nicely. I have found how nice it is to not try and see everything all at once, but rather approach each day with the intent of finding something new, something unseen. It has keep the adventure going and always gives me excitement for what else I will see while I am here!
  • Friday, October 13: A week into my stay in Chile, I got out on the town and began my visits to some local ambulance agencies. I went first to Help, a large private agency that covers the entire metropolitan region. I worked out a time for an appointment in the following week and was excited about what opportunities it may hold. I then went to SAMU, which is the public service here in Santiago. I talked to some people at the station, learned a little more about the work they do, and how it relates to the public versus private health sector. I also received some names of people to contact further, which I thought was a step in the right direction!
  • Saturday, October 14: As I wrote in my first Quarterly Report, I have tried to be more regular about time off, such as weekends. I know as I go, this structure may not always be divided between weekdays and weekends, but as I am here in Santiago, it matches up with the city, and there is a clear lull in traffic and work, and a large influx in outdoor activity! Cory and I went to a delicious place called El Camino BBQ, and I spent my evening grabbing a drink with someone I had met in the week before.
  • Sunday, October 15: In the morning, I went on an awesome long run through Cerro San Cristóbal, the big hill/park that’s sits within the city. On Saturdays and Sunday’s, there are tons of people out walking, running, and biking through the hills. It’s lovely to see how many people are out and enjoying themselves.
  • Monday, October 16: On the 16th, I moved in (for the 1st time) into a place I had previously checked out. I had my meeting with two members in Help, and planned to work with them on future opportunities on engagement and learning through their service. In the evening, for various circumstances, I grew increasingly unsettled with where I was staying, and had to make the tough choice of moving out. Luckily I still had a few days to stay in Cory’s (move #2), and I had to part ways. I know the quick change was not the best thing, but I learned something important in this moment. I need to find places to stay that I can feel safe, comfortable and okay returning to at the end of the day. Your bed deserves to be a place of comfort, no matter where you are, and I made the decision to look for a different one!
  • Tuesday, October 17: I actually already had another spot to stay lined up; it had been another option and I felt good about where I would be, so on the 17th, I moved again (for the 3rd time). Moving in, all felt well. I was in a good spot, it was with a family, and I was comfortable with where I was! It felt good to be able to say that. In the evening I headed back to the Spanglish Party event and enjoyed more good conversations with new faces in both english and spanish.
  • Wednesday, October 18: You may start laughing at this by now, but I learned I could stay at Cory’s. Long term, it would save me quite a bit, and give me a really great space to stay, so I moved again (move #4!). At this point I have become what I would call a semi-pro at packing, and unpacking, and it has also helped reveal a few things I may not need to keep with me for a full year abroad. In the evening I grabbed drinks with the cousin of a family friend from back home. Ian was friendly and welcoming, always asking what he could do to help me get adjusted to life here in Chile.
  • Thursday, October 19: I spent the morning catching up documenting some of what I have seen and learned, went on a nice run and set back out to find some ambulance services I could potentially talk to. Both had very closed doors, and I knew I had to rely (and hope) on an email response from them!
  • Friday, October 20: I visited the World Health Organization, hoping to maybe hear about any programs they are involved in here. I received an email to follow up with. (This is something I am growing much more accustomed to experiencing.) I then headed to another ambulance agency called Ambulancias Santiago where I was able to set up a meeting for the following week! Coming back closer to my apartment I stopped in a building that housed different non-profit organizations and enjoyed talking to a few different groups about their work and how I could potentially get engaged in the work they do!
  • Saturday, October 21: This past Saturday, I hiked up a volcano called Manquehue! The top was over a mile high and revealed a stunning view of all of Santiago. From up above, you can really see the smog that the Andes keeps trapped within the city, but as the day continued, it mostly was burned off by the sun!
  • Sunday, October 22: On Sunday I watched my home church’s service online from the porch and set out on another great long run through Cerro San Cristóbal! I took the evening to pack my things again.
  • Monday, October 23: On Monday I moved once more (#5!) and now feel really good about where I am! I live with a brother and sister near the a lot of great spots. It is quiet, yet central, and close to the metro! In the afternoon I went biking to a different park in the city with a friend I have met here!
  • Tuesday, October 24: Getting situated in my new home, I took the morning to run and get to know the area I was living in, in the afternoon I went out exploring some more unseen parts of the city. In the evening I went back to Spanglish Party. Having been the third time I have gone, it was really fun to see familiar faces, and pick back up on good conversations from the weeks before.
  • Wednesday, October 25: This past Wednesday morning, I went back for a meeting with Ambulancias Santiago. I got to spend some time learning abut their service as well as the others that work in this area. I left with having confirmed time on Monday to ride with two medics!
  • Thursday, October 26: Yesterday, I was took some time at a coffee shop to reflect on the past three weeks. I have come to enjoy time within my day to write, but I have not given myself as much time recently! It felt good to take the morning to do so. Back out in the city in the afternoon, explored the Plaza de Armas, Lastarria, and Cerro Santa Lucia.
  • Friday, October 27: This Friday was the National Day of the Evangelical and Protestant Churches, and just about everything is closed! People take days off seriously here and welcome a day off when. I’m here in a great coffee shop called, The Original Green Roasters, writing and reflecting on these wonderful first three weeks.

Check out some great photos below and scroll on for more updates on my project!

Panoramic view of El Cajon del Maipo
Standing in El Cajon del Maipo!
Snow melt en El Cajon, lots of sediment and rocks being carried with the water
Panoramic view from atop Cerro San Cristóbal
View from atop Cerro San Cristóbal
Views from atop Manquehue
Views from atop Manquehue cont.
Views from atop Manquehue cont.
Staging for photos and loving every minute of the climb!
Standing on El Cumbre (the peak) of Manquehue
Taking in the view of 6 million below from a mile high!
Blurry but fun selfie with the family I hiked with!
Panoramic view in the Bicentennial Park: Costanera Center to the left, part of Cerro San Cristóbal center, and Manquehue off to the right!
Enjoying a ride through Bicentennial Park, Vitacura, Santiago
A glimpse into what bike shopping looks like here in Chile!
A photo at the peak of Cerro Santa Lucía in the center of Santiago

Time for some project updates!

As my first few weeks in Denmark went, so too has been my time here. I have felt a mixture of both ups and downs, but know that I am continuing to move in the right direction.

A few quick notes on what I have learned from observation: Perhaps it is because I am in a major city (over three times the size of Copenhagen), but ambulances are everywhere. I have definitely seen ambulances of the same service, but it seems almost as if I see a new ambulance here every day. They’re out on the roads all the time, and often always have their lights on, but very rarely have I seen the sirens blaring as well. Something that has stuck out to me though is that cars aren’t moving often when there is an ambulance with lights flashing behind them. I will be interested to learn more about this: whether lights flashing is standard, and thus cars react less, or its more a result of the way drivers share the road with each other. Something that has been repeated to me here in Santiago is that people are always so friendly, helpful, and open, but on the road and behind the wheel the story is different. Horns blaze and people drive much more sporadically than I am used to. Additionally, coming into Chile, I knew there were both public and private services, and I have been able to at talk to members on both sides of the spectrum, but it is clear who holds the dominate presence in Santiago: that is the multiple different private services. Solely from observation on the streets as well as some research online, these services are a mix of both hospital run ambulances as well as private services stationed in and around the city.

Some facts I have learned in conversation at different agencies: It was my first assumption that you had to subscribe to these different services in order for them to respond to you. Ambulances around the city all have different phone numbers tied to them, and I originally thought that individuals who subscribed to a specific service would call their service number for care. I have now learned that anyone can make the call; it is just that the bill comes later. To me, it sounds a little similar to what I know from back home, except that all of these private services have their own numbers, and dispatching centers that receive and direct calls. Now, only speaking for what I have seen with Ambulancias Santiago, but I learned a little bit more about the structure of the ambulance, medics, and what is/is not stocked on the ambulance. All medics who work for their service are trained and certified with a national level of certification. The ambulances in service are all the basic level, and consist of a medic and a driver. The back of the ambulance is stocked with your standard level of basic equipment, but one thing that stuck out to me was that there were no AEDs on the trucks. The station had them; I learned that in the instance of a cardiac issue, which would also be a call above the “basic” level of care, a higher trained tech would bring both medicine and an AED on board and respond to the call with the medic and driver who were already on board. I’ll be interested to learn a little more about this. As I shared from Denmark, the access to AEDs there were just about on every corner of every street. Talking more with Ambulancias Santiago, I continued to learn more about the public service, SAMU. The issue that was expressed to me is their lack of numbers. Frankly, there just are not enough ambulances in service at a given time to create reliable public access. It was hard to wrap my head around this because of what I saw when I visited SAMU’s dispatching center. The facility resembled what I had seen in Denmark: monitors everywhere, people who received the calls were trained health care professionals, and dispatchers were on the other side of the room directing the ambulances where they needed to be. Knowing these two things, it seems like there is a lot of potential for the service, but it currently is not quite at capacity to cover the six million strong population within this city.

Some thoughts I have learned from talking with people here: Chile has one of the largest disparity gaps among any country in the world. I can only imagine at this point that access to rapid medical care is a major factor into contributing and perpetuating this gap. A lot of people I have talked to here have had some choice words to say about the services here. It’s hard to fully understand, especially since I so often see ambulances driving around the city, but I think it is important to note the consistent trend I have observed in conversation. On the other hand, I know these are not the only thoughts, and I will continue to seek out different perspectives. For now, it has been really great to start engaging in more conversations about my project with other people I meet. I am looking forward to more and how my conversations will continue to grow and develop as I speak with more people.

Well, that gives a pretty good summary of how things have been going so far. It has all been so great: the language, the people, the places, the views, and myself in the midst of it all. I am excited to ride with the medics at the beginning of this week and for what else I will continue to do in the days to come. There are some big plans in the works for my time to come and I am excited to continue working to make them possible. I am working on heading to the southern parts of Chile. I am beginning to realize as well as long for different experiences of engagement. I have seen the big city, I have both grown up in one and lived in one while in Europe, and I have seen the rural aspects of life while at Sewanee. In my Watson Proposal, I planned to get into these communities more, and that’s the goal here! I’ll keep you updated.

As always, thanks for sticking around, checking in, and reading about this wild and amazing year. I expressed in my first Quarterly Report my gratitude towards the Foundation, but I also want to share my gratitude to you all. So, readers, thank you!!

Ciao, Nos vemos!

One thought on “Buena Onda: a 21 Day Update

  1. Mary Kate

    You should go reread this post, Markie — the first paragraph in particular! Slow starts are fine and good things come. Can’t wait to hear about that medic ride! 4312!!!


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