Viña, vidi, Valpo (or: the man from Buenos Aires)
Thirty minutes before the American Airlines flight from Miami was about to board I looked up; after a short flight from O’Hare I had been citing in the airport for almost the whole day, waiting, trying to pass time, read to depart for Chile. When the flight information finally came on screen the big text read: “SANTIAGO (STI) – THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC”. Something had gone awry in booking, but it didn’t matter now, I needed to get myself onto another flight. The staff was cordial and able to retrieve my luggage on very short notice, but when they informed me that the next flight to Santiago (SCL), Chile only had first class seats left, and would cost $3,7000 round trip, I decided to sulk back into Miami international. Apparently the mix up happens to many people. This was of little consolation.
The next few hours proceeded with a similar lack of luck; with my luggage not being available for another hour I had hoped to find another flight, but the American Airline’s staff informed me they were booked solid for the next week and that any flight would costs thousands. I was given a voucher ––only redeemable domestically, as it was to the Dominican Republic– and told to check with LAN, a Latin American carrier in terminal J. The fun thing about the Miami airport is that there isn’t any effective transportation, so when it looked like LAN flights would be leaving within the hour I had to sprint to J from terminal D, all luggage in tow. In my frantic rush south I forget to reclaim my passport from the AA agent, who had begun talking to someone else before I left. Arriving at LAN without it ment another mad dash back and forth. As night’s tend to, this one was not getting any brighter. Areolineas told me that I could fly through Argentina if I could acquire the entrance fee, but with the flight leaving in an hour the day was all but lost. I went to the bottom floor where the agents are to speak with American, and prepared to sleep in the airport.
The ladies of the AA travel service tried their best, but were unable to find me any affordable flights. Exasperated, I had the idea of flying back to Chicago with my voucher and restart the whole journey. My parents bought an airport hotel room for me against my will (which was nice, and made for a more relaxing sleep) and I departed in the morning.
From O’hare to Evanston takes an hour by bus, and with Moira in class I headed to the library to wait, unwind, and see what my next steps were. Upon arriving the wifi enabled by to check my email and read the message that said if I could not make it to Santiago the next morning (Thursday), I would be kicked out of the program. At this time it was nearing two, and the only flights leaving Chicago were at four; I needed to buy a ticket and get on the bus in ten minutes time.
Suffice to say, I was unable. By the time I had purchased a flight the bus was already on its way to the airport. In the aftermath, I could barely collect my luggage; my hands shook, and I was filled with the resignation that now I’d need to find a cab or start looking for a flight back home. Moira arrived, had money for a cab, a lunch prepared for me, and was able to print my boarding passes (never waste your time with the Evanston public library printers). Although it felt good to see her again the moment was recognizably ephemeral the minute it began, as if she were a hallucination, the stronger part of my fortitude. By that evening I was in Atlanta International, the mall with an airport attraction, and on my way to Santiago, Chile. Nerves began to calm.
From the airport I took a taxi to Olmue, and on the way passed mountains, fresh fruits stands, and small towns that appeared as quickly as one drives through them, their color vanishing into the flora like a mirage. At the Copihue hotel orientation had begun one day prior, and still in the same oxford and jeans that I had been wearing for three days I had no choice but to jump right in. Orientation is an odd entity, and an uncomfortable one for me; in most cases it is a constant reminder that you are in transition, a body in limbo, someone who must be forced to take time out to relocate their self in space. In this case, it’s learn what it means to be Chilean. Thus, together, we tried to adjust before needing adjustment. In the walled off compound of Copihue we ate meals of four courses, say the teleology of Chileans lain out in power point form, and danced south american dances. On the final night we played a game of soccer against the cooks. Lacking sneakers I went barefoot ––a feat which later gained respect from the Chilean team– and reveled in a game that we lost 2-7. I scored one of our two goals and by the end of the next game (almost three hours later) ready for bed. Most of the IFSA students left so our team continued to play without subs (as the Chileans did). The game of mixed teams ended in a close 9-10, with my feet black with blood and dirt from the concrete we played on. A fantastic night, returning to an old comfort like soccer is always a nice feeling.
Life in Viña and Valpo is off to a fine start. I’m being fed more than I ever endeavor to eat in the U.S. and although my spanish is not up to par with most people living here people assume it is because I speak a different dialect and hail from Buenos Aires. Right now it seems to be perpetually sunny during the day, there are huge flea markets all over the city n select days, and the area is currently home to an international music festival. The travels started off interesting enough, hopes are high.