Nearly a month ago, Mother's Day weekend, the CIEE staff here in Valparaíso took us all on our much anticipated group excursion to San Pedro de Atacama.
Apart from an initial hiccup the trip was absolutey faultless.
The plan: to leave Valparaíso for airport by bus in the very early morning (3:45) on Friday. Everyone made the bus... except for me...
I set an alarm for an appropriate time, perhaps 3:10, to catch an easy uber ride to the meeting place. My mistake was not setting a second or third alarm. After hitting my first alarm I dozed off again and woke up in a panic at 4:45... the bus left without me and was well on its way to Santiago. Fortunately, I must have had some good karma stored up because the uber driver I had turned out to be an upstanding guy. His name was Gorky, which I didn't believe to be a name when he first said it. Gorky? Gorky. Gorky was really helpful and sped me to the airport for what was actually a reasonable price in spite of the dent the expense made in my travel funds. No gifts for the parents this time around.
I got to airport in great time and said thank you to my guardian angel, Gorky, and recieved some shameful stares from the CIEE staff. I think they thought I had died. From there on out things were really unexpectedly amazing. After months of being relatively independent with our travels and schedules, we found a surprising amount of confort in being herded around to various cultural activities, delicious meals, and breathtaking landscapes.
I believe I speak for most of my classmates when I say that one of our favorite activities was having the privilege of going to an Atacameña's farm to part take in four different cultural lessons. We learned about their relationship with the earth and how their cosmovision affects the way crops and livestock are cultivated, pottery, desert life, and music (exceptionally fun). The invaluability of the experience is reflected through our now better understanding of what it has meant to be an original inhabitant of the land and struggle to maintain the integrity of traditional values. Tourism has brought both good and plenty of bad to San Pedro. The mining industry that rules the region has effected things like water supply and contamination of rivers and land. Yet these wonderfully friendly people persist with a shared passion for their way fo life. I left feeling a desire to become a farmer and leave behind the complications of urban life.
So much more great stuff happened on this trip. Salt flats, flamigos, dunes, hacky sack, delicious juices, weird flan (?), gift shopping, etc.. Among other things this trip was an opportunity for us all to be in the same place together as a group for maybe the last time before we all go our separate ways. I believe the smoothness of the trip not only reflects how well CIEE organized everything but how truly incredible this group of students is. I rate this experience a 9.5/10 ( half a point off for my disastrous Friday morning).