Hello Americans,

How are you?  You know, I have less than five weeks left?!?  Amazing.  I’m back in Santiago and have another adventure for you!  I don’t have pictures with me, maybe I’ll post them next time.  It’s a lot of work plugging that doodad in.  I might just wait and show you when I see you.

Okay.  So yesterday.  After I stowed my belongings in the closet of the place I was stayng, I was off.  I even left my map.  That might appear ignorant, but it’s very much something like travelling alone.  Here’s the deal.  If I travel with someone, I will either speak English with them or they will end up speaking Spanish for me.  Not good.  It also isn’t inviting for strangers.  People are much more likely to approach you if you are alone than if you are with someone.  Some of you are thinking that’s a good thing, but it’s only a good thing sometimes.  I would’ve missed a handful of great conversations (in Spanish) if I were with someone.  Just like not taking a map.  Unless a town/city only has two one way streets (with distinctly different names), I am going to get lost.  This forces me to ask people where things are.  And alas, the Spanish and confidence gets better.  So it’s not necessary practical or efficient, but it worked.  I eventually made it to the bus terminal, bought a ticket to Vicuña, and went on my way.  Vicuña is a town about 60 kilometers east of La Serena.  The ride showed me 60 kilometers of big, dry, cactus covered hills.  It’s part of the Atacama dessert, the dryest in the world.  It’s most famous for it’s vineyards and the production of pisco, one of Chile’s favorite productions.  Pisco is a brandy-like spirit distilled from grapes.  This area extends on further and makes up the Elqui Valley, with dry hills, but fertile land for the grapes. I went on Sunday, which is a good day to avoid tourists, but not a good day to see the distillery.  The center of town was as cute and clean as I have seen since of been here.  It was quaint.  A few kids were playing, two artisans selling their craft, and open air restaurants casually inviting you in.  It was very much like a movie scene.  I walked around the town for a few hours, found a gift item, bought some papaya juice (famous in these parts), and went back to the little bus terminal.  As I was waiting for my bus, an old man was curious about me.  He asked me a few questions and started telling me all about his life.  Four kids from his first marriage, three from his second, he works in business, and writes for a journal in Brazil.  His mom was Chilean, his dad Peruvian, and he ended up in Chile for business.  He wants to retire in Brazil, though.  I got on a bus back to La Serena late in the afternoon, almost got dropped off at the wrong stop, but then made it to the correct place.  I walked to the hotel, retreived my items from the closet (which was more difficult that it sounds), had a lovely conversation with the old man hotel owner, told him I enjoyed my time and if I am able to return, I would see him again.  I had a little time before I had to catch the red-eye bus ride back to Santiago so I settled in to a Schopdog.  Schopdog is one of the few restaurant chains here.  A very curious old man (are we sensing a trend and the real me coming back?) who works there, of all things, asked me about the beer from my country.  He thought I was from Germany.  We talked for a little bit after I placed my order and then I took a seat to watch the futbol game.  After the game, he came over to see if I needed anything else and we had a marvelous conversation about Chile.  He gave me a few suggestions of things to do and try.  I told him that it is absoultely imperative to get out of Santiago to see Chile.  My experience of these towns was fantastic.  The people I met have a quiet respect for their country and it doesn’t take long before you instictively build the same respect for it.

Now commences a week of more classes and studying.  Maybe I can get a little better at this Spanish speaking game before I leave.