Desierto norte de Chile

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Law enforcement warning"?

This morning I saw that the US-National Weather Service had issued another interesting warning. This one is termed "Law enforcement warning." Are there bands of rogue sheriffs roaming around southeast SD? A plea for residents to stay indoors to avoid the dangerous cops?

Hahaha. In reality, it has the same effect as "civil emergency message," although "law enforcement warning" sounds a lot cooler. The area under the advisory had been hit by strong thunderstorms a few hours earlier, and the text advised citizens to use caution (or stay indoors) because of all of the tree damage.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ode to Zach

Today my good friend Zach returned to the US after 3 years teaching english (and other fun activities) in the Czech Republic. I met Zach in his first semester at OU, back when he was immersed in the trend of not wearing shoes and saying things like "huzzah" and such. He changed a little by his sophomore year (starting with wearing shoes more often), and he and I hung out pretty much bi-weekly for the next 2 years. Sometimes we struggled to carry a conversation -- the two of us not always being on the same page - but in those times, we just enjoyed the quietness. Zach graduated with honors in only 3 years! Then he took a plunge very few people ever do - going overseas, to a "needy" place (in terms of few english teachers combined with few believers) - and devoted three full years of his life to the Kralupians. I am very proud of him and the things he has accomplished (he once decided after a few weeks of jogging that he would run the Prague marathon the following week... so with no training whatsoever, he pulled it off!) I'm neither creative nor suave, so I'm publically posting this little composition to my friend Zach. I'm not around to personally welcome you home, friend, so have a strawberry rum daiquiri for me, ok? And celebrate those long days of speaking only english!!
Ode to Zach

Oh, yes you did roam,
In a land far from home,
Where the folk talk all funny all day.
But taught them you did,
They nearly made you their kid,
And for them now you will always pray.

Home, yes Zach is back home,
Where folk still talk funny all day.
Tornadoes and plains; sooner girls, football games,
But for them you will still always pray.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's in my wallet?

So after having a checking account for one month, I am still trying to figure out what it's costing me. To date, here are the charges. I'm hoping that some (most?!) of these are not monthly, but who knows?!

2,800 15/07 PRIMA SEGURO TOTAL *
512 24/07 COMISION MENSUAL POR MANTENCION (for my VISA credit card)
$18,603 = USD $37.20.

I hope I don't have to pay $37.20 each month just to have a checking account! (That's $446 per year!)

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Of lakes and volcanoes

The second half of my weekend excursion to southern Chile last weekend was spent in Pucon, at the foot of the incredibly majestic Volcan Villarrica. I took a morning bus from Valdivia to Villarrica, where I wandered around the lakeshore and snapped over 100 photos of the volcano *see below...I found them spectacular*. Then I hopped the local Vipu-Ray bus company transit to Pucon. My new friend Juan Carlos, from GBU-Beauchef and Comunidad Santiago (my church group and christian student group), hosted me Saturday and Sunday. His dad is a really good cook! I enjoyed some salmon, lomo filete (thin fried beef), vegetable salad, and lots of great palta (avacado/guacamole). Juank and his friends from Pucon put on a concert -- called "Cafe concierto", or "coffee with concert" -- and they rocked the backroom of their church. Juank even dazzled with a Hillsong hit in english! Sunday afternoon, Juan Carlos, his sister, and I took another Jac bus to Temuco, where his mother lives. I ate "la once" (basically supper) with them and then caught my night bus back to Santiago from Temuco. I arrived back in a drizzly, cold Santiago around 7:30 a.m. Monday morning and was at work by around 9 a.m.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A pay raise?

I just signed the second of my revolving four-month contracts. (They can't put me on a full year because then I would be eligible for benefits...!) I was a little surprised to notice that my monthly payments increased. I'm not entirely sure if this is a pay raise, but it sure looks like it! One of the more confusing factors is that my salary is not completely stable ... I make slightly different amounts each month (differing by almost 50,000 pesos per month, or about $100), and I receive my paychecks on random days of the month (usually in the 3rd week, but occasionally the Friday of the second week...) I guess there's always the possibility that I'll hear from one of the secretaries of a random gap in payments (i.e., "We paid you more the past four months because we aren't paying you in X month", or something like that). But there remains the possibility that this is a genuine payraise. Stay tuned!

Mi cuidad ... my city

La noche del día anteayer, llovió mucho, casi 8 milímetros, y ayer el aire era muy limpio! Ve esta foto del diario El Mercurio. Vivo afuera de esta foto (a la derecha), pero las montañas son espectacular, no?

Night before last night, it rained quite a bit, almost 0.3 inches, and yesterday the air was really clean. Look at this picture, taken by the newspaper El Mercurio. I live off to the right of this picture, but the mountains are spectacular! Today we are back with clouds and some smog. But yesterday had some really great views!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thunderstorms in Santiago, and Vista SP1

Two more things tonight: first, tonight we are having only the second thunderstorm since I arrived in Santiago (since December). The wind is gusty and the rain coming in squalls. It should be an interesting night!

Second, I was prompted earlier this afternoon to install Windows Vista Service Pack 1. Since I've only had vista for a few months, it seemed weird to already be installing SP1, but I guess there are enough problems that Microsoft has put one together (usually the updates come out one by one, or a few at a time, and I understand the "service packs" to be major updates). During the initial install prompt, I was alerted to close all my programs and keep my laptop plugged in, as the install "could take up to 1 hour" to complete. Are you kidding me? I'm going to start it when I go to bed, but of course knowing Microsoft and Vista, I will undoubtedly be prompted to click "OK" at multiple points during the install. Furthermore, Microsoft knows it is virtually impossible to close all running programs (a simple CTRL-ALT-DEL reveals that at any given time, between 20 and 40 applications are active... many of them executed by Windows itself). Anyway, I'll give SP1 my best shot, and we'll see what comes in the morning.

Score one for the NHC (well, maybe 0.8 out of 1)

As hurricane Dolly bears down on far south Texas tonight, I went back and checked the accuracy of the National Hurricane Center's track forecast. The image at left is the first forecast issued for Dolly, and it is about as good as it gets. The subsequent track forecasts wobbled a few tens of kilometers north or south, but essentially stayed focused right on the US/Mexico border region. I give 0.8 out of 1 because the speed & intensity, two elements certainly important in any hurricane forecast, were not correct. Officially, then, the 48 hr error will be around 300 km and the intensity error probably around 20 knots (if Dolly makes landfall as a 75 kt hurricane). Regardless, I think Dolly is another clear example of a successful forecasting effort from NHC, and the people of south Texas and northern Mexico were very well served by their efforts.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To the south: Valdivia!

After more than two straight months in Santiago, last weekend I took a short vacation to the south of Chile, exploring Valdivia, Villarrica, and Pucon. I brought a few clothes (although only a backpack worth), some snack foods, and two books, one of which was my bible. I was inspired to take this trip by my friends Leo, Pris, and Claudia, who are also here in Santiago, but ended up not being able to come. So I left Santiago solo, around 10 pm Thursday night, on the Jac busline (, departing from terminal Sazie (which is conveniently close to where I live). The total trip south took about 10 hours, with a stop in Temuco to unload passengers. I arrived in Valdivia around 8 a.m. and set out to find the youth hostel "Aires Buenos" (clearly a play on the words "Buenos Aires"). Jesy let me in and showed me to my room. I changed clothes and promptly headed out exploring.

In Valdivia, I found a town with mostly new buildings. Nearly every building was destroyed in 1960 in the great 9.5 magnitude earthquake - which to date is still the strongest earthquake ever measured in the world. I found the Banco de Chile building, retrieved my paycheck "Vale Vista", and promptly re-deposited it into my checking account. I walked down to the waterfront, taking pictures of the boats and the fresh seafood market. At the waterfront, I was offered a boat tour package by a nice - but clearly seaworthy - man. I turned him down (really said "I'll consider it"), and set off down the embarcadero. There I found the sea lions - which were actually completely unprotected from us (and us from them), lounging just in the water. I think one of them even spit on me while it was snorting at another lion.

I crossed the Pedro de Valdivia (an explorer and firs royal governor of Chile) bridge and next visited the Austral University of Chile (kinda like "University of South Chile"). Their campus is much more tranquil than ours at Beauchef; they don't even have fences or a guard. I think it reflects the security of Valdivia more than anything else. I found their student center and rested there for an hour, reading my book and relaxing. I then caught the minibus out to the coast (about 10 miles away), to the town of Niebla and its famous fort. Niebla is also where the Valdivia river empties into the Pacific ocean. Not wanting to pay the $1.25 entry fee to the fort, I scrambled around the back side and ended up finding a spectacular view point, secluded and sunny. So I sat there, again reading and resting, and munching on potato chips. And having an amazing time. Imagine the peaceful post-drizzle bright warm sunshine, the sound of breaking waves below, a few gulls chirping nearby, and otherwise silence. It was great!

I did get sore eventually after sitting on rock for a couple of hours, so I decided to go back into Valdivia and see if I could find any other tourists at the youth hostel who wanted to eat dinner. I got back, took a shower, read some more, and not finding any of my fellow hostel-goers, I went back into Valdivia in search of seafood. I managed to find some marginally-average salmon for $6 (including the rice), but it was a nice warm place to rest (after the sun set, it got cold again!)

I went back to the hostel, chatted with a few other travelers, and then called it a night. It was relaxation at it's best!

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