Ciao, Chile

Goodbye is the worst part of hello.

As we reclined uncomfortably 30,000 feet above this big, wide world on our plane ride back to the U.S., we had ample time to reflect on our trip – on all of the places we’d been, lessons we’d learned, and wonderful people we’d met. Our time in Santiago, Viña del Mar, and Valparaíso provided us with so many amazing service, experiential, and integrated learning opportunities that were invaluable. But more importantly, we met so many people who would change us for the better. People who will not be easily forgotten. People who make saying goodbye, even for a little while, the hardest word in the dictionary.

Out group toured a FIFA soccer stadium in Vina. We're going to miss these wonderful people. Photo by soccer stadium tour guide

Out group toured a FIFA soccer stadium in Vina. We’re going to miss these wonderful people. Photo by soccer stadium tour guide

Claire, Tommy, and I spent most of the trip keeping an eye out for inequalities within Chilean culture for our final project. We focused in a lot on gender equality. As we toured different businesses in Santiago, we were sure to keep an eye out for females in high-ranking positions. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we noted who was working in low-wage jobs as well. We observed that most security guards were male, while more janitors were female. Our group talked to more professional women than men, but we also couldn’t help but wonder if that was because the men were in positions deemed too important to take time out for a student tour.

Because we focused on equality, our group paid extra attention to posters and signs in markets and other areas. Photo by Molly

Because we focused on equality, our group paid extra attention to posters and signs in markets and other areas. Photo by Molly

Throughout the course of the trip, our group also noticed a lot of class inequalities. After visiting the trash-littered, low-income neighborhood, and comparing that experience with our juxtaposing perceptions of the thriving business districts of Santiago, we saw the strong class division within this developing country first hand. Almost every professional we talked to noted the overwhelming socioeconomic division in the country. It made us sad to realize what a real impact this had on the Chilean citizens, and the more we toured the more we saw class differences everywhere we went – on the beaches in Viña del Mar and Playa Zapallar, in the orphanage, and on the colorful streets of Valparaíso.

We noted vast socioeconomic differences at the beaches on the coast. They were often segregated by class. Photo by Molly

We noted vast socioeconomic differences at the beaches on the coast. They were often segregated by class. Photo by Molly

Keeping an eye out for these inequalities made us much more aware and observant global citizens. We took the time to see things we may not have otherwise, such as posters on the subway about LGBTQ families and gender equality. We gained the cultural intelligence to think before we judged people asking for money by the metro. Our project, and our trip as a whole, made us better travelers, better people, and better friends.

We used our cultural understanding of the country to help us befriend international students at UANDES. Photo by Claire

We used our cultural understanding of the country to help us befriend international students at UANDES. Photo by Claire

We’re so very grateful we had the opportunity to say hello to Chile – and we know that this goodbye isn’t for good.

 

Memories

As our last few days in Chile wind down, we’ve had time to reflect on all of the experiences we’ve gained and how we’ve improved as individuals. Chile has definitely allowed us to redefine ourselves and become more observant global citizens. Whilst working on our equality project, we have become more aware travelers, observing a plethora of cultural cues around us to engage on a more personal level with other Chileans and within our communities, as well as through other educational experiences.

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This is an example of an advertisement that our group has seen through our observational study. “Live As We Live” -Photo by Molly

We’ve collected many memories on this trip to Chile, from sun bathing on the beach to hiking up a mountain. One experience that really sticks out was learning about the 1973 coup d’etat. If you are unaware of this piece of history, as we were prior to this trip, prepare your tear ducts. In the educational systems we were brought up in, none of us were educated about the power struggles that Chile once experienced. In short, the country’s government revolutionized in 1973, resulting in a dictatorship in Chile. The United States’ government offered support and CIA military training during this time, and our country did not stop supplying the dictatorship with support when they discovered the conditions of the government. While we were providing help, Chileans were suffering – we were contributing to that. Consequentially, Americans are called “Gringos” here, which has a slightly negative connotation. This is just a small description of a topic with great depth.

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This museum is where we learned all about the 1973 coup d’etat. This was a transformational experience for many  of the group. -Photo by Molly

We believe that this is what we will remember the most because we felt extremely ignorant when our Chilean tour guides described this coup. We had no idea what they were describing, even though the United States played a large role in the 17-year dictatorship. It was disheartening to learn that the educational system that we grew up in failed to provide us with historical information. Prior to this trip, we had mostly heard about the good things that the United States has done, but not the bad and the ugly. We will forever remember all of the torture and suffering that the Chilean people went through.

On a happier note, when we return to Des Moines, we will dearly miss being with this fantastic group of ten Drake University students every day of the week. We have learned so much from each and every one of them, and couldn’t have asked for greater people to share this amazing cultural experience with. We are extremely grateful that we will also be able to spend the next semester with all of these wonderful people. Even though we will not be together every day, we will find a way to get all ten of us back together again during the school year. Salud!

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The group during one of our many dinners together. -Photo by Molly

Smiling: The Universal Language

Today our class continued our journey in Chile by volunteering at Hogar Padre Alfonso, an orphanage located in Viña del Mar. Hogar Padre Alfonso is a home to Chilean children between the ages of four and 12, with parents who cannot take care of them for various reasons. Children placed at the orphanage remain there until they can return to their families or until they are moved to a new home that is for older children.  Today, our class had the privilege of spending time with these wonderful children.

Even though the language barrier made verbal communication difficult, we had a great time playing with the children. After introducing ourselves and doing our best to talk with the kids in Spanish, we had fun playing games. A large group of young boys played soccer with the Drake students, while others hung around the playground. After we played outside, we used our time to help the children at the orphanage learn a few words in English. To do so, we sang the classic song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes,” played Twister, and taught them a ball game that introduced vocabulary.

Many people say that smiling is the universal language, and our time spent at the orphanage proves this to be true. When our words no longer served us, simply spending time with the children at the orphanage seemed to make all the difference. Our first encounters were difficult because the children were shy and so were we. However, after warming up to one another, it was easy to laugh and play together. Smiles were abundant today; the fun we had this morning will not be easily forgotten. It was difficult to leave as we said our goodbyes and gave hugs to the kids.

The reason the goodbye was so bittersweet is because of the time we spent together. Like we did with our service at the nursing home earlier in the week, all we did was share our time. Yes, we passed that time by playing games (Bingo with the elderly and Twister with the kids), but our service was our time. And, truthfully, sometimes giving people your time is the best gift that you can give. We didn’t need verbal communication with the elderly or with the children. All we needed was an open heart and a willingness to love the people around us.

The lesson we learned, to give others our time and our love, will stay with us forever. This type of service is needed all over the world. Globally, there are people that need a hand to hold or a person to kick a ball around with. Sometimes giving is that simple. We must remember the importance of taking care of all people in this world as we travel back to the United States. Regardless of a person’s age or where he or she comes from, we must give our time back to the members of our communities. Doing so, we will continue to be responsible global citizens.

As previously mentioned, it was difficult to say goodbye to the children at the orphanage. However, we were on a strict schedule to continue our tour of Chile. We spent the rest of the day exploring unique beaches and geography; we spent our free time soaking up some rays and enjoying the ocean breeze. Below is an example of what a typical beach looks like in Viña del Mar.

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Brightly colored umbrellas scattered across the sand of the beaches. – Photo by Molly

As we walked by the beach, we also saw a number of canons. These canons point out to the waters from the Las Salinas Naval Base. The canons in the photograph below were large, but people walked up to touch the massive weapon and grab pictures.

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Chilean canons. – Photo by Molly

We met fellow Bulldog, Emily, for dinner tonight. Emily is also currently studying in Chile with ISA. She is here for three weeks, and living with a host family in Viña del Mar. We had a fun time eating with her tonight and swapping stories about our adventures in Chile. Below is a photo we snapped before having dinner with Emily on our walk home from the beaches.

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Clear water and clear skies on this beautiful Chilean night. – Photo by Molly

With views like this and time spent serving others, it will be hard to leave Chile in a few short days. Over the next two days, we will make the most of the time that we have left, while sharing our smiles with those around us.

Sand and concrete

Valparaíso vs. Santiago; sand vs. concrete.

The sand on Playa Zapallar is blistering, even coarse, but we barely noticed today while we lounged on colorful beach towels, soaking up the radiant UV rays beating down on us like a snare drum. This happy hippie, beach bum lifestyle is one that our group quickly decided we could get used to – and appears to be the everlasting vibe in the twin cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

Beach Bumming at Playa Zapallar. Photo by Molly

Beach Bumming at Playa Zapallar. Photo by Molly

The cities are colorful, but calm – dynamic, but balmy. Music and art are prominent parts of the culture, and it’s hard to turn down one of the narrow streets without coming across a suave guitarist or vibrantly detailed mural. The people we’ve met are friendly, with chill, Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo-esque attitudes.

Art can be found around every corner in this beautiful city. Photo by Molly

Art can be found around every corner in this beautiful city. Photo by Molly

This low-key lifestyle made for a drastic change from Santiago, yet another city that never sleeps. There, we found a fast-paced world of metros, mutual funds, sidewalks, and skyscrapers. People took life more seriously, and many of their tense shoulders seemed to need a spoon full of Viña to recharge.

The bustling city of Santiago. Photo by Claire

The bustling city of Santiago. Photo by Claire

This is not to say that one city is better than the other; both areas have their drawbacks and advantages. Every individual city in the world has it’s own unique energy, and exploring those distinctive cultures and corners is what makes traveling such an amazing adventure.

Adios Santiago, Hola Valparaiso

We made it! We have finally arrived in the coastal city of Valparaiso, with its incredible ocean views and historical city architecture. The city of Valparaiso quickly sparked some interesting sensory functions. Valparaiso rests on a hilltop, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Homes, restaurants, and bars line cobblestone roads that are set at a steep incline all over the city. Today we visited three different hills in Valparaiso that all had a lot of artwork on the houses’ exteriors. They sparked my sight sensory function. Although graffiti art has a negative connotation in the United States, it is encouraged and admired for its beauty in Chile. Most of the artwork that we saw today had so much detail and precision in the painting, which was extremely engaging for the viewers.

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A beautiful picture of a piece of art in the hills of Valparaiso. -Photo by Tommy

On the corners of these cobblestone roads, atop the hills of Valparaiso, you can hear many sounds that bring the streets to life. As we walked from one neighborhood to the next, we heard a wide variety of music. One musician played a simple scale on his violin outside an elevator that transports people up the mountain. Another jazz band featured an upright bass, a trombone, and a woman with a voice that filled the area. We walked by as a large crowd gathered to dance and clap along to the beat of the music. Possibly the most unique music we heard came from an instrument called a handpan.

A handpan is a percussion instrument that looks eerily similar to a saucer that an extraterrestrial might fly in. The handpan sits in one’s lap, and can be played with or without gloved fingers. The man that we found playing the handpan frequently occupies a corner with a view of the ocean, according to our tour guide. With bells around his ankles, the man played the handpan with incredible care and grace. The sounds coming from handpan were similar to sounds of chimes. The instrument was so beautiful, we never wanted to leave. Please enjoy the following video of the man that we listened to this afternoon:

Back to senses – the best thing we touched all day, by far, was the loveable puppies we came across. As we sat on some cool, concrete steps at the port, a caramel brown dog with lonely eyes approached us. He was oh-so-lovey, and nuzzled us accordingly. His fur was matted, but familiar – he reminded us of our own dogs, and his furry, loyal demeanor came with a little lick of home.

After all of the sensory overload today, perhaps the most soothing moments happened when we took the time to stop and smell the flowers. At different points on our walk through the artsy streets of Valparaiso, the summery scents of roses and lilacs penetrated our winter-versed noses. Paired with the salty, warm scent of ocean air, our sniffers really couldn’t have asked for more.

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The beautiful Pacific Ocean that you can smell all throughout Valparaiso. If you look at the right side of the picture, you will see a big picture on the side of a building. Another great example of the artwork we saw today. -Photo by Tommy

But when we walked down to the dock for dinner, our nostrils were bombarded with a far more pungent odor. Shrimp, scallops, salmon, swordfish – the fishy smells were powerful, but completely worth it. It was an exotic precursor to one of the most delicious dinners we’ve eaten since arriving in Chile.

We went to a beachside restaurant that had some of the best seafood our group has ever tasted. It was a magnificent meal with fantastic service. As we are on the coastline, we hope to have more chances to enjoy seafood that tastes this phenomenal at every meal for the remainder of our trip.

Adios y hasta luego!

When you step off a plane

As previously alluded to in an earlier blog post, each group on the Chile J-Term trip is tasked with creating a final project that summarizes the knowledge we have learned on this trip. Because the class is titled “Families, Lifestyles, and Annuity Tables” it is each group’s job to focus on one item and relate it back to these three items mentioned in the class title. For our project, we have chosen to focus on the equalities and inequalities that we observe in the social structure of Chile. There are many types of equalities and inequalities that exist throughout the world, so to narrow our topic we have chosen to mainly focus on gender, class, and LGBTQ+ equalities and inequalities. To study these areas in Chile, we have spent time taking careful notes in our meetings with a variety of businesses, exploring and observing the city of Santiago on our own time, and researching online for answers to additional questions we have.  In the short week that we’ve been studying this topic in Santiago, we have already made a number of noteworthy observations.

When we stepped off the plane in Chile, our class of ten students and two faculty members attended an informational session to introduce us to the Chilean culture. Hosted by our trip advisers from ISA, Roxana and Tamara, we learned a number of things about the way gender is viewed in Chile. Our class was warned that Chile is a country with a culture that is historically male-dominated. We were told that work and family roles fit into the traditional viewpoint that once dominated our world (and still sometimes does) – the man works, while the woman takes care of the family. From this traditional view of the home, Chile developed a number of normal qualities to look for in men and women. Specifically, women are expected to be ladylike, conservative in the way they dress, and should not have the opportunity to have abortions when they become pregnant. Meanwhile, men should be breadwinners and should be berated if they make less money than a woman in their household.

These types of inequalities in gender have shaped the direction of Chile, but we have noticed a shift away from the traditional gender norms while we have been here. Our group has observed a number of women in business and advertising jobs during our visits at Channel 13, Principal Financial Group, and Extend. While we noted a large number of women working outside of the household, we cannot truly tell if the career opportunities are equal at this point. For example, Chile has a female president, but only eight of twenty-three ministry positions are held by women, and even smaller representations are found in the government’s undersecretaries and regional authorities. Furthermore, we have observed an equal number of male and female students at the Universidad de los Andes, but we cannot conclude that both genders are studying for comparable careers. While we cannot definitively come to any conclusions about the career opportunities for men and women, it seems as if what we have observed can be marked as progress towards gender equality in the workforce.

The biggest gap in equality that we have noticed is derived from income, separating high and low class citizens. Almost each business we have visited has provided our group with a brief history of Chile’s economic development. From these lectures, we have learned that huge economic inequalities have existed in Chile since the beginning of the country’s history. Historically, citizens were separated into two major groups of people: peasants that worked the land, and owners who benefitted from all of the profits those workers provided. Today, five families still own the majority of wealth and power in Chile.  Two power players always attributed with high economic power are the Luksic and Larrain families. While these notorious families enjoy incredible economic opportunities, the rest of the country still fights to make and maintain a living. For example, Santiago’s financial district cannot entirely represent the entire country’s economic success. Traveling just past the bustling streets of the city’s core, a visitor will find neighborhoods that are home to many Chilean’s struggling to get by each day. Living in houses made of tin roofs, next to schools that need structural attention and parks that need grass, these Chilean citizens do not experience a thriving economic position. We observed subsidized housing and jerry-rigged streetlamps – the people in these communities cannot wait the long periods of time for the government to provide them with basic infrastructure. This does not mark the end of signs we have seen in the fight for economic equality.

Citizens living in Santiago are frequently protesting the wages they earn for a variety of jobs. On one of the first days we spent touring the city, we had to cancel our time at the art museum; it was closed because its employees were on strike to demand higher wages. A second example was when Roxana and Tamara explained to us that universities have been shut down due to protests. When classes are canceled for long periods of time, students and faculty cannot continue education and must suspend all working. Instead of being released at the normal time in January for summer break, students finish their academic year late in March and must immediately start the next year of school. Finally, we have personally viewed protesters walking through the streets of Chile demanding more money for the work they do. Protesters parade in matching colors, chanting a consistent message and using drums to get the attention of Santiago.

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“DIBAM (Direccion de Bibliotecas, Achivos, y Museos)  on strike” – Photo by Claire

To supplement what we have observed and already learned, we visited the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. This museum is dedicated to providing information and insight to the human rights violations committed in Chile under the military dictatorship beginning in 1973. Prior to 1973, Chile was controlled by socialist president Salvador Allende. On September 11, 1973 Augusto Pinochet used the support he had with the Chilean military to throw a coup on La Moneda (the President’s Palace). Bombing the palace, the Chilean military forced Allende out of his presidency and Pinochet immediately took place as the leader of a military dictatorship in Chile that lasted until 1990. While an exact number of the people that suffered human rights violations in Chile during Pinochet’s rule has not been obtained, the museum estimates that 4,000 people died over the 17 year period.

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This wall contains a list of a rights that all humans deserve around the world. – Photo by Tommy

Citizens of Chile were subject to a number of human rights violations. Chilean citizens caught trying to flee the country or protect their families were detained by the dictatorship and tortured. Some of the torture methods included beating, using electric shock, and killing citizens. During Pinochet’s rule, Chilean citizens lived in fear of death, and were forced to compromise their way of life to protect their lives. The government led by Pinochet censored all media publications, distributed propaganda, and burned the books and art of anything that could defy the regime. Even more, students at universities were restricted from studying subjects like political science, law, social sciences, and art. Due to these historic events, Chile’s government and culture were shaped forever.

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Our blog team stands in front of a museum exhibit featuring art by young people (ages 18 to 25). Each piece depicts human rights violations committed from 1973 to 1990. – Photo by UG

Specifically, a majority of Chilean citizens do not trust their government. As we have witnessed a number of times, Chileans are still skeptical of rampant corruption in the country. Just last year, Michelle Bachelet was involved in a political scandal with her son. As we learned at Extend, even though Bachelet had been voted into office, capturing 62 percent of voters, her approval ratings dropped somewhere between 20 and 30 percent in the aftermath of the scandal. The PR consultants at Extend explained to us that today very few people trust Bachelet because of the way she incorrectly handled the scandal and withheld information from the people of Chile.

While this part of Chilean culture is difficult to discuss, the country flourishes in many ways. Chile is a vibrant city full of thriving businesses and continues to develop for its future. This part of a country’s culture is extremely difficult to observe right when you step off a plane, but is incredibly important to understand when one seeks to truly know an area’s way of life.

Vida, old and new

La vida es corta – but it’s also long.

Marcela*, a down syndrome, elderly Chilean woman residing in the all-women assisted living home, Fundacion Las Rosas, is a prime example of this. As our group entered the yellow stucco building, we were surround by crosses and kind eyes full of knowledge and enlightenment about life. Some of the women were happy and talkative, while a few were pensive and quite. Marcela sat alone in the corner. She had trouble with words, and at times she would burst out in tears for no particular reason. Her small frame was propped up in a wheelchair, and she had dark eyes that seemed bright, though it was clear that the world she saw through her teary, chocolate pupils was a challenging one, to say the least.

It was clear when she took our hands, that her life had been long and full of struggle. She seemed calm and smiled when we sat with her, though we couldn’t communicate, save for a loving palm squeeze.

Soaking up nature in the park. Photo by Molly

Soaking up nature in the park. Photo by Molly

As we sang to these women who had grown up during the military regime, and seen so much life, it seemed that we were making their days. Towards the end of our visit, one woman said “mas feliz.” It was emotional. It was beautiful.

The Natural History Museum in the park. Photo by Molly

The Natural History Museum in the park. Photo by Molly

The day proved to be blossoming with varying, distinct perspectives of the world. At Parque Quinta Normal, we saw new life blooming in cotton candy-colored roses and fire orange carnations. We observed oak leaves floating on the glassy pond, spotted with lovers and friends paddle boating. Children played in the bubbling fountains, full of joy; their effervescing youth radically juxtaposed the vision of Marcela alone in her chair. It really made us think about life as a whole, and about how much change we see on this crazy, wonderful, long, short, beautiful ride called vida.

A spewing fountain, where care-free children played. Photo by Molly

A spewing fountain, where care-free children played. Photo by Molly

* indicates a name change to protect a source

 

PDA is okay, and other social differences

Hola! We have officially been traveling for one week starting today; it has gone by so fast. Today we visited a public relations firm called Extend that works for many businesses in Chile to help businesses with corporate, digital, and internal communications, crisis, public affairs, branding, workshops, community relations, and event planning. Their most popular field of work is crisis management. They shared a PR plan with us that recently won an award for the best PR plan in South America as well as some Chilean challenges the face their company. The plan was for a cemetery, translated to Remembrance Park, who wanted to extend the use of their property to be used for the public, similar to the purposes of a public park. In order to attract the community to the park, they had concerts in the park, Mother’s Day events, and a Remembrance Day which had the community write the names of love ones lost on a balloon and release the balloon in the air.

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Extend’s logo in their lobby. -Photo by Tommy

Extend is successful because they are able to provide innovative and unique ideas for their consumers that make sure the business is being represented correctly. When meeting with two of the employees, they gave many examples of the amazing work that they do at Extend. We asked them questions that dealt with how to handle certain situations, and they told us that the most important thing is that you advise your client to tell the truth within a timely manner. Once a client tells a lie, it is very hard to come back from that and some clients may not be able to trust if there is commonalities of dishonesty. The cemetery and Extend are both B Corporations, which is a certification showing that the company is providing opportunities to help the community and planet as well as their shareholders. This can have a large impact on whether a company has success or not. Since Extend is a business-to-business company, it is important that the business they are working for is able to see that they are willing to help in many different aspects than just to make a profit.

We had the afternoon off so that we could work on our group projects for the course. We decided that our project is going to be discussing the inequalities that are present in Chile. This includes, but is not limited to, economic differences, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, as well as anything that we may find while observing the culture. During our free time today, we had a brainstorming session and walked to the Costanera Center.  On our way to the Costanera Center, we came across an advertisement that for WOM 4G cellular plans featuring angry women with picket signs reading “Sexistas” and “F*CK WOM”. Next to these women was the slogan, “Say what you want.” We interpreted this ad as a satirical play on some of the recent social movements in Chile.

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WOM’s billboard with the Costanera Center in the background. -Photo by Molly

The billboard was relevant to our groups project on inequality – particularly, gender inequality. At first glance, the sign appears to be a social justice campaign advocating for women. (Especially if your Spanish is limited and you can’t read the text.)

Another observation we made today that focused on gender inequality was inside the Costanera Center. As we rode on the escalators, we noticed that the handicap signs near the bottom of each silver staircase depicted sexist images. The images of people with children and strollers, depicted figures with skirts – a familiar instance of gender binaries in relation to family.

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Costanera Center escalator sign. -Photo by Molly

Another component of our day that related to our inequality project was the heart-wrenching trip to one of the low-income areas in Santiago. We were able to view the litter-spotted streets, lined with buildings ripe with graffiti marks and impoverishment. This low-income area is located primarily on the outskirts of the city – a solid 15 minutes, at least, away from the high-class business districts. The districts offer housing at incredibly economical rates; the term “bargain” is an understatement. Government support for this housing system has been expansive and sustained since Pinochet’s dictatorship. We found this interesting, especially paired with the reality that Chile’s unemployment rate stands at 6.6 percent, according to the National Statistics Institute. Comparing this fact with the United States’ 5.5 percent unemployment rate, we deduced that there may be a correlation between strong housing assistance and jobless Chileans. However, on the other side of that, we noted that Chile is still a developing country and the rate is considerably low compared with other developing countries, as such as Argentina, who’s rate was 8.2 percent in 2014. Garbage and poverty are not only found in these neighborhoods. You can find these sights in the heart of Santiago.

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This is subsidized housing here in Chile. As you can see, there is a large amount of garbage sitting at the front of the house. -Photo by Capris

Running through Santiago (with its origins in the Andes Mountains) is the Mapocho River, dividing the city into two parts. We took a minute today to stop and admire the river, and we were surprised to see that the Mapocho River is home to a large amount of trash. Garbage consisting of glass bottles, discarded paper, and plastic bags sat on the riverbanks. Enclosing the river was a wall on either side, plastered with graffiti. The most notable part of the Mapocho River was its color: a chocolate milk brown.

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The distant blue water of the Mapocho River collides with the brown city water. Take note of the trash in the right riverbank and graffiti on either wall. – Photo by Claire

As you can see in the photo above, part of the river is a clear crystal blue (sourced from the Andes Mountains); the other part of the river is a muddy brown (sourced from the city of Santiago). According to the Gobierno de Chile, mining waste from the top of the Andes Mountains, as well as liquid waste from the city pollutes the Mapocho River. The Gobierno de Chile cites sewage discharge as the main pollutant in the river, and notes that a treatment facility is in place to clean the water for drinking. As we walked next to the river, we saw the effects of pollution in the brown color of the water. While the government of Chile may spend a lot of money to treat the water so its citizens can safely drink the water, it is quite shocking to see brown water run throughout the city. This brown river (in addition to trash and graffiti) is a true contrast to the vibrant greenery visible on almost all Santiago street corners.

After wandering by the Mapohco River, we found ourselves walking through a park located nearby. The city of Santiago is home to a large number of green areas; it is clear that the city takes pride in keeping its open spaces well-maintained for all visitors. With an abundance of shade trees, park benches, and walking paths, this park was no exception to what we have seen before. There was a large amount of couples, friends, and families enjoying a beautiful day in Santiago in the grass throughout the park. Some people were eating, some people were reading, and an overwhelming number of couples were simply laying in the grass admiring and kissing one another. It is rare to find a park full of couples in Des Moines enjoying public displays of affection, but we have noticed that this is completely normal in Santiago. We say, “More power to the people!”

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Couples enjoying freedom to express PDA. – Photo by Claire

Adios y hasta luego!

Foreign Relations

As countries across the world come together to collaborate, an emphasis on foreign relations has become increasingly important for a majority of global countries. Yesterday, our class learned how international relations can produce economic benefits for businesses during our trip to Principal Financial Group. Today, we continued to learn about the ways in which international relations can positively guide foreign policy and education.

We started our day with a trip to the United States Embassy to learn about the way in which the United States interacts and aids Chile on a daily basis. Our class was greeted by a U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer (FSO) who previously worked at a number of embassy locations, like Washington D.C., Dominican Republic, and South Africa. The FSO presented our class with a lecture on the general purpose of the U.S. Embassy in Chile.

The U.S. Embassy is divided into five main parts: political, public diplomacy, management, economic, consular. Each of these U.S. Embassy sectors works in Chile to promote the American and Chilean interests together. The most widely known use of the U.S. Embassy is the consular, because it is the most accessible for American citizens for visa and passport services. The management portion of the U.S. Embassy monitors items like budgets, hiring, and firing. The other three parts of the U.S. Embassy work together to keep the United States updated about current events happening in Chile, and work to further the political and economic interests of the United States and Chile.

Many things have been done in the past and present at the U.S. Embassy in Chile to further democracy, trade agreements, and security. For example, in a past initiative to increase GDP growth in sectors other than natural resources, the U.S. Embassy has brought possibilities for change to the table in Chile. Specifically, the U.S. Embassy has discussed with Chile the advantages of creating and supporting American corporations currently located in Chile. By supporting these businesses that have strong establishments in the United States, the U.S. Embassy can suggest to Chile ways in which they can grow GDP in other facets. Currently, the biggest focus of the U.S. Embassy is on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While the U.S. Embassy does not have any true negotiating power, it is the U.S. Embassy’s job to promote foreign relationships and initiatives that will benefit the United States and Chile.

Our class continued our learning about foreign relations at a local Chilean university. We spent lunch on a summery patio at the Universidad de los Andes (UANDES) stuffing ourselves with sopaipillas, empanadas, and mote con huesillo, a Chilean dessert containing peach nectar, the dried remains of the fruit, and corn. But the most culturally enriching part of the afternoon, by far, was interacting with the international students at the university.

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Professor Garza speaks with UANDES students during our visit over lunch.

We spoke to two students in particular who were incredibly friendly – perhaps more personable immediately than students you’d come across in the states. They let us in on some native knowledge about Santiago, Valparaiso, and Viña Del Mar. We talked about everything from break dancing to skiing, and arranged to have the locals show us around the city later on in our trip.

Collaborating with international students is the most rewarding (and fun and exciting) part of studying abroad. Interacting with people from around the world broadens your view of the world. You can read a million books, but it is difficult to say you’re culturally intelligent without making friends abroad. At UANDES, the international program has thrived in the last few years. The international offices have expanded and remodeled, and it’s an incredibly attractive place for a students like ourselves to spend a semester.

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A patio at UANDES where students and faculty can interact during the day.

Studying abroad in Chile is easier than one might think. UANDES has a partnership with Drake University and many other schools that eases the transition for abroad students. It also doesn’t hurt that tuition at most private schools in Chile are similarly priced or cheaper than public universities. The employees at UANDES are eager to invite students from Drake University and are more than willing to adjust studies and research to fit the strengths and interests of the individual visiting Chile.After meeting with the study abroad office and Chilean students, we had time for a tour of the campus.

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This Louvre-look-alike building is currently under construction at UANDES.

This campus is gorgeous! Stunning buildings, lovely people, and wide-open green space filled with beautiful trees covered the campus. Since the university was founded less than thirty years ago, many of the buildings are modern and the campus has a very open feel. Also, there is construction happening across campus to perfect the campus aesthetic. Our tour guide mentioned that they own a lot of land and are able to expand their campus to even larger distances. After seeing this campus, I definitely understand how they are the 3rd best university in Chile.

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Every day, students at UANDES enjoy the view of the mountains from their campus.

After spending time at the U.S. Embassy and UANDES, we can clearly see the importance of investing time in foreign relations. While we only have eight days left in Chile, we may all hope to come back one day in the future.

Cutting Chilean Corners

When Channel 13, Chile’s most important TV station, shoots shows like Bienvenidos and Master Chef, they never show the corners of the room. This makes the area seem larger, more impressive. But while the camera cuts corners, the channel itself certainly does not.

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Views from the main lobby of Channel 13, Chile’s most important news station.

The media outlet is a well-oiled machine, complete with switchboards, celebrity anchors, and 14 studios. Our group watched a live production of the channel’s morning show. As we watched, six TV personalities sat around a table discussing the daily horoscope. As the cameras panned from one host to the next, the offscreen players used their phones to check Facebook and Instagram. Commercial breaks were also spent looking down casually at an iPhone. This low-key, casual work environment is part of what makes the Chilean work culture so laid back.

Many of the workers make their own schedules, signing labor codes that state they are free to leave work at their leisure, as long as the work gets done. This despreocupada attitude is prevalent throughout Chilean culture, in and outside of the workplace.

Though the pressure of a mandatory schedule is seemingly low, there is really no such thing as a slow day when it comes to reporting the news. The journalists at the TV station were constantly on the move, working diligently to cover the many stories on the sidewalks of Santiago. The station is also persistently evaluating their ratings.  Unlike the U.S., where ratings are updated every 15 minutes, reflecting the percentage of viewers tuned into the show, Chile adds one point to a rating for every 80,000 people watching the Channel every minute.

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look out Anderson Cooper, we’re coming for you.

Ratings affect what companies want to do advertising with the station. Advertising is the main source of revenue for a TV station, it is important to sell commercials at high prices. During the commercial breaks, a number of advertisements played for products – cream to erase stretch marks, beer, you name it. During the Bienvenidos’ commercial break, one of the main hosts read a live advertisement for a company. Our tour guide noted that this is the most expensive and most effective ad, because TV viewers will not change the channel when they see the main host speaking. We gained an even more informed perspective of that later in the day, when we toured Principal Financial.

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The beautiful Costanera Center.

But before we crossed a moat to enter the lovely fiscal world, we had the opportunity to witness a few other sectors in Chile that don’t cut corners: We visited the Costanera Center, the largest building in all of South America. It’s 64 floors and the largest mall in Latin America on the first five floors. Unlike in the U.S., everything was organized. Home and sports were on the fourth floor, with women’s and men’s fashion on the floors below.  The fifth floor was mostly restaurants while the fourth floor was all sports and technology.

Comparing the Costanera Center to the Jordan Creek Town Center, the mall in West Des Moines, you can see a plethora of differences in organization and size. However, a mall is a mall. People drag their kids and shopping bags around, in hopes that Banana Republic will have a shoe sale. One major difference was the level of security in the mall. The front of most stores had a security guard on duty. This mall ran a tight ship – and it was easy to see that the last thing The Costanera would cut was a corner.