Hi friends,

I’m so excited to write you about this little adventure, that I’m going to do it from La Serena.  So, a few weeks ago I decided that I wasn’t doing enough adventuring and I needed to go somewhere.  So, I bought bus fare to La Serena, a town north of Santiago.  I was trying to do thing South American style and not plan tours or hostels or anything, just go with the flow.  My teacher commented that he thought North Americans, from his experience, were very organized and prepared.  I told him that I was that, but I was trying to adapt.  I did ask a couple people if I would have trouble finding a hostel and they said I wouldn’t…

So I went to the University de Santiago metro stop to catch my bus at one in the afternoon on Friday.  I didn’t really try to figure out how long it was going to take me, remember, I’m trying to go with the flow.  Well, a very nice old man sat next to me.  I feel like I should reiterate that I really have the hardest time understanding Chileans.  He was patient with me and we ended up being able to understand each other after a while.  He told me he was going to visit his newest grandson, that he didn’t play any instruments (but he sings a little and his mom played the guitar), and he shared his bus stop snack with me.  They were these chocolates that I hope to bring to you.  He gave me one, I tasted it, decided it was pretty darn good, then asked him if it was made in Chile.  He said yes.  I looked at the wrapper and it said made in Argentina, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him.  I still might try to bring you some Argetino chocolate.  This was about three hours into the trip.  At about this time during the trip, the Panamericana highway meets the west coast and the view is awesome.  The waves were big, there were large cliffs and small islands in their way, and all along the sun was going down.  It was magnificent.  At about five hours, I unpacked my two sandwiches (of matequilla and marmelade) and gave him one.  It was fun to share.  At about seven hours, we arrived in Coquimbo and he served as my personal tour guide.  He pointed out the large monument thing and a really big cross.  About twenty minutes later, I was in La Serena.  The bus dropped me off and I started to look for a hostel.  I found one, it was full, and they told me not to go up the street, because the one there was full too.  So, I went to another, it too was full.  Then, I had some luck.  I found this charming little hideaway where the rooms are connected in a patio-like atmosphere.  The people are very friendly, breakfast is included, and it is close to the center of town.  I’m calling it charming, most of you would call it otherwise.  I was tired when I finally settled in and had already decided that I would plan better for my next adventure. 

That was yesterday.  Today was a good taste of Chile.  My first objective was to go to the beach.  There’s something about water that I connect with.  The ocean is something I do not know very well and when I’m confronted by it, it overwhelms me.  How on earth does all that water maintain its boundaries.  I mean, what keeps it from going other places.  This is a little abstract, so I’ll continue with the story.  I stayed at the beach for the better part of the morning and decided I should go into town and return for sunset.  Little did I know, today is the anniversary of La Serena, 457 years, I think.  Anyway, there was music, food, people, things, all typical of Chile.  I got to see traditional Chilean folklore dance, some modern Chilean cheerleaders, and ate some traditional Chilean food.  I walked around the markets looking for a birthday present for Leah (Happy Birthday, Li), to no avail.  I’ll find something in Santiago.  It was quite the event to stumble onto.  It was getting close to time for sunset, so I walked all the way back to the beach.  The pink Pumas are going to be retired after this vacation, they have more miles on them…  I was watching the water and playing with the sand and a certain gentleman, whom I had noticed earlier, asked me if I wanted to play soccer.  I informed him that I was not a useful soccer player and he went on.  I was a little sad, because he and his friends looked fun, but soccer isn’t a good idea.  A little later, another gentleman approached me.  He only spoke Spanish and our entire conversation was in Spanish.  If I didn’t understand something he would explain it to me.  The BEST part about this, was I really think he came over to witness to me.  We were talking about small things at first, but eventually he told me he went to semanario (semanary).  At first, I didnt’ think that I was translating it right, but then he said he wasn’t catholico, but evagelico.  I told him that was interesting, then asked him ‘Entonces, ¿Jesus es tu salvador?’  He said yes and asked if I was cristiana.  We became fantastic friends and talked for over an hour.  We talked all about Chile, where he was from, things that are great about his country, etc.  He had to go, we exchanged email addresses, and I told him I would pray for him.  He said he’d do the same for me and asked if it would be okay if he prayed right then.  Imagine, sitting on the beach, with the sun setting in the background, your new Chilean friend prays (in Spanish), and then he went on his way.  I quietly thanked the Lord for the moment.  It was great.

I am going to try to go to Elqui Valley tomorrow.  In my vain effort to go with the flow, there aren’t any tours available.  I can guide myself (which I’m finding is better anyway), but I have to do the unknown bus thing again!

Mom and Dad, Skype was down so I couldn’t call you before I left.  I’ll call you when I get home.  Emmitt, at the beach today, I saw a boxer.  He was wearing a red harness just like you.  He came up to me and said hi.  I asked his owners how you say Boxer in Spanish.  It’s Boxer.  Li, I hope you had a good birthday and I will call you too.  Amy, I might need to tweak the transfer plans a little, so I need to call you.  Is there anyone else I need to call?

Love you.