I don’t even know how to begin this story, so we’re just going to dive in and hope for the best.  A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to go to Valdivia, but I talked myself out of it.  It is ten hours away and a little pricey (compared to other destinations).  Then, the man I met on the bus going to Mendoza showed me some pictures and talked me into it.  I looked up prices again and talked myself out of it.  Then, last Thursday, I went to buy a bus ticket for Chillan (a town six hours away, by bus), but the line was too long for me to wait in.  I went to class on Friday and my teacher talked me into Valdivia again.  So I thought about it, went to the ticket office, and bought a one way ticket to Valdivia.  I didn’t buy a return ticket because I wanted the option to stay the whole weekend or maybe stop in another town on the way back to Santiago.  It was late on Friday night when I was at the bus terminal and I was pretty grumpy, as I didn’t sleep well the night before and I was tired.  There was this little girl screaming about twenty yards away and I more or less made up my mind in that moment that I was never having kids.  Her mom put her down, she immediately stopped crying, waddled over to me, and smiled the biggest smile I have ever seen.  So maybe kids aren’t so bad.  Anyway, I got on the bus, fell asleep, woke up a few times in the night, and then it was morning.  At some point we stopped because there was a mechanical problem, we waited about 45 minutes, changed buses and then after a long trip, I arrived in Valdivia around ten in the morning.  The lady in the tourist office (in the bus station, which is the best idea ever and Viña is the only other place that I’ve found that does this) gave me some excellent information and I went on my way.  First thing was first, I needed to find a hostel.  If I couldn’t find one, I was going to go to Chillan in the afternoon, but I knew I wanted to spend more time in Valdivia and that would only be possible if I stayed the night there.  So, I found the most charming hostel yet, with a friendly staff, and a little perrita that made me want to see Emmitt.  I met three people from Germany, one of which had gotten a speeding ticket in Lubbock, Texas, which is where, in fact, I was born.  So, it was raining in Valdivia and I accomplished my primary objective later in the afternoon.  There was also an incident with an umbrella which is just too long to include right now…ask me about it next time I talk to you.  There are really big rivers that converge in Valdivia before they head for the ocean and it is a very lovely place.  The rain made my pants and shoes very wet, but it was okay.  The next morning I left for Chillan.  This was almost a failure.  When I got to Chillan, the bus dropped me off in a very obscure place and I couldn’t find my way.  I had a little map, but the streets didn’t have signs (a common problem in South America) and it was a little sketchy.  The sky was dark, it looked like it was about to rain, and I was very close to giving up.  I probably would have, but I really wanted to take the train back to Santiago and I needed to find the train station.  I have been traveling by bus the past few months and I don’t think I’ve traveled by train.  I was determined to do so.  I really don’t know how I found my way, but I guess when you walk enough you eventually find things.  So.  I completed my three main objectives in Chillan and then I got on a train.  An older gentleman sat down next to me and promptly fell asleep and I only had to think to myself that this whole weekend didn’t go so smoothly and I didn’t even have an older man friend to tell you about.  The train went northbound, I absorbed the whole experience of riding in the train and came up with a long list as to why the train is my favorite mode of transportation…so long as there isn’t a fiery red Corvette available.  I would tell you all about this list, but about three hours into the trip, something happened.  There was a very very loud noise on top of the train, the main cabin lights went out, the train came to a stop, and the people around me look very scared.  I looked at the top of the train, waiting for something to come through the roof or waiting for it to cave in, but neither ever happened.  The old man next to me looked as calm as ever.  A little before this incident, I had asked him about the time, and we became friends.  He spoke English like a refined Brit, he is a medical doctor, and more friendly than I had first anticipated.  We talked about politics, for the first time, I dared to ask a Chilean about his opinion about Pinochet, and he asked how I was doing with Spanish.  I told him that I have a very hard time understanding Chileans.  He then did something very comforting.  He said something, in Spanish, and I understood everything.  Then, he said the same thing in Chilean, and I didn’t understand a word.  He told me they speak a very special form of Spanish.  I agree.  Anyway, after the accident, he sat there very calmly, told me that there had been an accident, and that we would be sitting there for at least two hours.  Interesting.  About an hour later we lost battery power and we sat in the dark, waiting for another train to come pick us up.  They informed us that the electric lines that are used to power the train, contain copper (a very valuable commodity) and someone had cut the lines to steal the copper.  Lovely.  About an hour later, the other train arrived, we transfered trains (which you need long legs to do so gracefully), and I arrived in Santiago about two and half hours later than I was supposed to.  The metro does not operate at one in the morning, so I had to take a cab.  The train station is not in the best part of town and it was important that I get home.  I was pooped.  I’m pretty sure the cab driver stole $20 from me, but he took me home in one piece. 

I have a new class this week.  It is okay.  There is one girl, who seems nice enough, but is as valley girl as it gets.  You can tell she says ‘like’ in English between every other word she says, because she does it when she speaks Spanish too.  I wonder when the teacher is going to tell her that ‘like’ is not a Spanish word.  I hope the teacher doesn’t wait too long, because it’s distracting.

In other news, I’m missing football.  My mom said the Ags won (in a way that is not uncommon when they are playing a team that should be an easy win) by giving up a good lead for a stunning win in 3 OT.  There was a woman in Chillan selling olives outside of a super market wearing a Texas A&M hat.  Random, but interesting.  Additionally, Mr. Tony Romo threw for 345 yards in the season opener.  Good job, Mr. Romo.  I look forward to watching that arm in less than two weeks.

My babies–you know the ones I used to watch on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings in Buffalo?!?  With the help of Ms. Becky they sent me a picture.  It’s beautiful.

So, to sum everything up, I am safely back in Santiago.  After the transportation issues I’ve had I don’t know if I’ll attempt to go anywhere else.  September 18th and 19th (Tuesday and Wednesday) are their Independence Days here.  They have also declared next Monday a holiday, so the festivities are to last from Friday evening until Wednesday evening.  This is a good way to end a very interesting and surprising journey. 

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