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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!”


Couples enjoying freedom to express PDA. – Photo by Claire

Adios y hasta luego!

Walking, Walking, Walking…

Oh what a day! Coming from a country that uses cars as their primary mode of transportation, it was definitely a hard transition to walk to most of our destinations today. The theme of the day today was learning about the history and lifestyle of Chile. We started our historical journey with a subway ride to La Moneda Palace (the president’s palace).


Picture of the President’s Palace

Unfortunately during our tour, the President was not working at the time, so we were not able to see her; however, our tour guide taught gave us a great tour and taught us about the unique Chilean past. While the president does not live inside today, it used to house the president as well as provide them with the ability to work on their governmental duties. As we toured some of the rooms inside the palace, we noticed that cooper was a common element used in many of their artwork and framework. Our tour guide mentioned that copper is so prominent in the palace because it is Chile’s largest export. Another common property was the Chilean flag seen below. The white represents snow, the blue represents the sky and ocean, and the red represents the blood of military men who fought for their freedom. The star in the corner represents the freedom and democracy of the country. Whenever the president is using the flag, the coat of arms is put in the middle to show respect.


The Chilean flag

During the second half of our day, we took a walking tour of the city, so that we could understand and grasp the lifestyle. Although there are many lifestyle characteristics that we saw today, we are choosing to focus on a few of the most noteworthy observations. The walking tour took us to three different markets that included fresh fruits, vegetables and meat for the locals. While visiting these markets, many of us got to try some of the unique food that was available to us.


Claire eating a vegetable unique to Chile

The foods were marked at a cheaper price than what you would find at a supermarket (grocery) store, which is a great draw for some of the locals. These markets are in very tight buildings with little to no sanitation but are crowded with consumers. I was fascinated to see this type of lifestyle experience, however, many of us were called out by the locals for looking like Americans.


During our walking tour, we were also greeted by many animals, specifically dogs, cats, and one rat. We were told that it is common to see a lot of stray dogs and cats roam the streets of Santiago because many families just want the anima when they are puppies and get rid of them when they get older. Since many of our class are animal lovers, it was hard to watch the poor little animals search for food, water, shelter, and for someone to give them some love.


One example of a stray dog

As I end this blog, I want to leave you with the picture below. During the last stretch of our walk, I noticed this artwork stating, men equal women. For some reason, this really hit me because Chile has a stereotypical masculine society. To see this picture means that there is change in the air and someone is trying to make a difference. Having a female president for the first time in their country’s history is also recognizing a historic change coming to this country.


Equality wins!

Adios y hasta luego!