Desierto norte de Chile

Monday, March 24, 2008

13 out of 16

So I picked 13 out of the possible 16 correct "Sweet 16" NCAA teams for this year's tournament. Of the first 48 games, I only got 11 wrong! Not bad considering I missed 80% of the season down here in Chile. You guys can follow along with me at (as far as I know, no need to login to view the results).

Here are a few pictures from Friday's climb to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal (Christopher Columbus) in the center of Santiago. My friend Rosiberto from Brasil and I walked to the top a climb of about 7 km and 350 m vertical gain, not bad for a hill in the middle of the metropolis. We took the teleférico (cable car) back down.

This final picture is from the processional that came down my street about 9:00 pm Friday night.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A few things . . .

So I've had time to cool down, reassess, and pray lots, and so I guess it's time to post a rational assessment of last Friday's happenings. Recall that I went on a retreat (retiro) with the youth from church, and we had plans to meet at the train station at 6.30 pm and go south. So I left work at 5:45 to go home, take a shower, shave, finish packing, and take the metro to the train station. When I got to my apartment, I noticed my bed was a little ajar from my wall and that the power cord for my internet connection had been unplugged. Not thinking too much of it (I sometimes get a little active during the night with my tossing & turning...), I plugged the router back in and pushed the bed back against the wall. Then I noticed that my laptop computer was not beside my bed where I had left it that morning. Also missing were my headphones & the power cord for the computer.

It was then obvious that someone had picked my lock sometime that day, entered my apartment, took my laptop, power cord, and headsets, and then let themselves back out. They didn't seem interested in anything else (or didn't have time to look around so much), so the only things stolen were computer-related. To say I was shocked would be underestimating my emotions. I felt betrayed, violated, and overwhelmed by what I had lost (several items not backed up included 3 yrs of digital photos, financial info, contact info, spreadsheets containing months of dissertation research, my blog bookmarks, and so forth...) I felt used because of my "gringo-ness" (the consensus amongst my colleagues at work was that I was targeted...) and perceived wealth. I no longer feel secure in my own apartment, reasoning if "they" can enter once, what will stop them from entering again? Also I've been frustrated by being suspicious of everyone around me ... my neighbors, the concierges, other people in my building --- as if they were the robber(s). Of course they could be (the police sergeant said he gives very high chances to the concierges and/or cleaning people being involved, as they have access to the building), but I like most of them and want to continue building a relationship with them.

So, I ended up taking a later train to the retreat (only 2 hrs late as it turned out), and had a very good time relaxing, making new friends, and thinking and praying. As a side note, we split up into 4 teams Sat afternoon and had several relay races. One of them, my team chose me as the "strongest", and thus their task was to be the quickest to dress me as a baby (bonnet and bib), feed me a jar of carrot baby food (it wasn't disgusting, but not tasty either), give me my bottle (thankfully juice and not milk!), burp me, give me my passifier, and sing me to sleep. We won - kinda - and besides, it was really fun!

Now that I'm back in Santiago, I'm deciding what to do about my apartment (I've changed my locks). I don't really want to move (my colleagues counsel me that moving will not diminish the threat of being robbed), but I still immediately look around every time I come back to my apartment to see if it has been disturbed again (that paranoia and "loss of innocence" is at least as lamentable as the financial loss of the laptop itself).

In other much less depressing news:
- yesterday (Wed.) I connected with a few guys to play ultimate frisbee! Only 3 of us showed up (this week is a holy / holiday week because of Easter, so people's schedules are different), so we only tossed the disc around. Nevertheless it was amazing and I had a great time. My friend Felipe lost his disc afterwards though, which is a major bummer. We might play again on easter sunday, in the afternoon, which would be very cool. I am hoping to find some people who live closer to me to play (yesterday's practice was 40 mins from my apartment... 25 mins with metro and 15 mins walking).

- according to ESPN's international broadcast schedule, they will air the final four and championship games here in Santiago. Woohoo! Now if only UNC can keep up their end of the bargain. I envision watch parties, food, and some difficult explanations of the rules of basketball (in spanish, of course), should that come to pass :-)

- I'm going back to the USA next week for Mary Beth's wedding (MB is my cousin on my dad's side of the family). It'll be great to see the family again, since I think our last time together was during thanksgiving. I'll arrive on Tue and come back to Chile the following Monday.

That is all from here. Have a happy Easter!

PS- if you were a regular blog reader of mine, and you have your own blog, can you drop me a comment, or an email (address way at the bottom of this page) reminding me of your link?? All my blog links were lost in the theft. Thanks!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Over the weekend, I went on a retreat with the young adults / singles from a church I've been visiting in Santiago. We took the Metro Tren south of Santiago to San Francisco de Mostazal and then transferred to a micro (bus) to the Picarquin retreat center. It was a very refreshing time for me -- and a great chance to meet people, practice my spanish, and just enjoy life. Here are a few photos.

Friday, March 14, 2008

83-70 or 82-70 ?

Here in Chile we don't usually receive US sporting events (unless they involve soccer), so today at work I followed the UNC-FSU first-round ACC Tourney game online. I normally use Yahoo Sports for play-by-play because they have the fastest update and reload times (i.e., the scores come in fastest and b/c their pages don't have so many advertisements or graphics, they refresh more quickly than ESPN, CBS, etc.), but I liked ESPN's more detailed play-by-play, so today I followed the game on both sites.

About mid-way through the second half, I noticed that ESPN began reporting that UNC had one more point than Yahoo indicated they had. This discrepancy continued all the way through until the end of the game. I've pasted screen shots of both ESPN and Yahoo "final" numbers. I wonder who was right!?? I guess I'll have to check out other sources to see which site was more correct. For fun, I posted both sites' box scores (which do add up to 82 and 83, respectively, for Yahoo and ESPN).

Regardless, UNC won, and I am glad. But it would have been a little more frustrating if the game was within a point or two!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dollars and sense?

I've posted twice before about the peso-to-dollar decline, and now it seems there's consensus worldwide about the dollar's precipitous fall. Even in Bolivia, where this photo was taken, there is a government-led push to change dollars to euros ("If the dollar falls... save in euros!!"). I'm not an economist, but I think the US deficits -- both in trade and in current accounts -- are not helping. Oh well, I am paid in local currency, so in relative exchange-rate-driven terms, I just got a 15% annual bonus this year (of course assuming that the exchange rate stays at today's level for the next 9 months). What are your thoughts? Is this a problem, or just a consequence of deregulated currency markets?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Un retiro en picarquín

This weekend I'm going with the youth from church for a weekend retreat ("retiro"). We'll spend Fri night, Sat, and Sunday at Picarquín, 50 miles south of Santiago in the central valley. Evidently it often hosts boy scout functions (as evidenced by the logos on their website). Should be an interesting and fun weekend.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Peso update

The US dollar has really taken a nosedive against the Chilean Peso in the past two weeks. Since I last posted, the Pesos-to-dollar rate is now at $433.5 pesos per dollar. That's an appreciation of almost 4% in just under 2 weeks. I'm holding my pesos and trying not to pay for anything with my US credit cards!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Curtains, retreats, and Tar Heels

From this weekend forward, my neighbors are going to have to work much harder to find out what I look like in the morning. That's right, I now have curtains, and what's more, they are self-installed! (I've opened the bidding on how long it takes them to somehow break, as I am definitely not skilled in the mechanical / do-it-yourself area.) I hit a few snafus with the drill -- going through concrete is not as simple as you might think -- but all seems well.

Today after church I signed up to go on the "youth retreat" next weekend. We'll take a bus 2 hrs south of Santiago and spend the weekend in the valley. I might have been told more information, but again my spanish just isn't good enough to catch all the details. So I'm trusting that it will be fine. And regardless, the opportunity to hang out with people and practice my spanish is one I'm not going to pass up. I'll be taking my frisbee, as maybe we'll have space to toss it around (and I can introduce these chilenos to a sport much more fun than futbol!)

Last night UNC beat Duke. Woohoo! Go Tar Heels! I look forward to trying to follow them in the ACC & NCAA tournaments. I have visions of watch parties here, but perhaps that's a little ambitious, as it requires a station here to actually pick up a game or two... if I'm lucky, probably only the championship game, which (1) is very hard for UNC to make it to, and (2) occurs Monday night from 10-12 pm here, not super convenient for watching. But I'm still praying!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Rain, white people, and basketball

This morning it RAINED in Santiago. Okay we only received 2 millimeters (or 0.08 inches), which isnt much at all. But it is still rain. And considering we hadn't had any rain since Dec 3rd when I arrived, it is welcome :)

** EDIT ** This afternoon at 7:04 p.m. I observed lightning (cloud-cloud) and heard thunder about 9 seconds later. We are getting intermittent heavy showers and the cloud bases are just above the skyscrapers. Woohoo!

One of my friends pointed out this quite stereotypically funny website making fun of the quirks of white people. It's called "Stuff White People Like". Warning: I spent over 30 mins yesterday laughing my head off at some of his interests. I would characterize myself as 50% white based on his list. I do read the NY Times, like to travel, enjoy the outdoors, jog for exercise, and have a ph.d. I am not into arts, drinking coffee, NPR, Apple Inc. products, or recycling. Yes, the list could be renamed "stuff wealthy yuppy white people like", but I guess I might fall into that category (minus the part about the wealth).

Tomorrow UNC and Duke renew their basketball rivalry. I think that the UNC team is very good this year, but as always they have trouble with Duke. I'm not convinced that Duke is that good, but I was thinking it over while brushing my teeth this morning and concluded that they do play well as a team. I found an article on that rated each team's starting five against the other's, and UNC won 4 of the 5 positions (with only DeMarcus Nelson ahead). Yet they only picked UNC to win by 3. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see how everything pans out!

Monday, March 03, 2008

One of the funnier t-shirts to date

At church on Sunday I met a girl wearing this t-shirt. Don't know if she was trying to make a statement, or if she didn't exactly know what the shirt meant. Either way, I found it pretty funny!

Wal-Mart is how big?

According to the NY Times, the annual sales of Wal-Mart have topped US$400.000.000.000, or $400 billion. By my calculations, that means that if it were a country, Wal-Mart's gross domestic product (GDP), measured solely by its annual sales (I know it's a bad measure, as GDP = C + I + G + (X - M), where

C = private spending
I = business investment (facilities, equipment, etc)
G = government spending
X = exports
M = imports )

would make it the 18th largest country, as measured by GDP, with more economic output than Austria, Norway, Chile, or Indonesia. (We know that much of what Wal-Mart sells is imported (meaning M is large), so the figures don't work exactly. But humor me here!)

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