Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Unlimited space-time. Finite Context.

Under the guise of travel blogging it is acceptable to brag, or rather aggrandizing one’s life occupies a position of new-found meaning: exploring the world is not an activity everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy, for when I post countless photos to the internet and write blog posts detailing how amazing I’m convinced my life is and remind my friends that I am not where they are it is viewed as a product of providence ––rather than the pleadings of a pesky attention seeker, as such things may be received by a US audience if I did the same about daily life in the states. For some, study abroad is an impetus to do more fantastic things ––be it buying a ticket to the next country over or exploring a locale of worldwide fame–– yet it’s not as though we lack any of these in the United States. If anything, as a resident of the contiguous states it is much cheaper for me to fly outside of New York and stay with friends than it is to bus to Argentina and stay at a hostel. Granted, the experiences are not analogous and there certainly are parts of Latin America that cheaper for tourists, but these aren’t the places people studying here tend to want to go ––there is a pretty clear “understanding” of where is safe and where one should not tread (or, more egregiously, where North Americans are not wanted). The fears are founded in little more than expertly wielded (mis)context, but they remain fears nonetheless. Cultural misunderstanding cannot, however, be the only roadblock, for if safety was the only concern people would have no issue traversing most of the US. No, as with many things, it is not simply of matter of what was around us at home but what is around us no that we are in not-home. An exotic outlook does wonders for the mind.

Regardless, I feel compelled, for a moment, to relish in some of the experiences I’ve enjoyed over the past week but have lacked the context to share ––an odd statement coming from a creator of their own context. I’ll touch on them as they existed, fleeting moments tied to the shackles of memory almost as soon as I elected to take them on. It’s as if starting something binds it to a heavy anchor that is immediately pitched overboard, the activity amount to clawing at the deck while the world is tugged underneath us. And so we spend most of our lives drowning, somewhat pleasantly. This is memory.

Given Aconcagua’s proximity to Santiago everything else in Chile is called a hill, including the 6,100 ft mountain I hiked last week. It was nowhere near as difficult as the mountains I’m used to in New Hampshire (often of a similar altitude) as the first 5.5 km of the 7km hike is well-trodden foot paths. The last 1.5 km is a scramble up rock-slides and boulders that has lead to the death of a handful of hikers. It really wears down your legs. Water is plentiful, and, the Friday we went, the mountain vacant. Climbing to the top was supposed to take 4:30 hours but we decided to do it in 3, giving us plenty of time to relax at the summit, enjoy the view of the Andes, and just generally have a good time ––sandwiches taste considerably better at the top of a difficult climb.

Thursday night Chileans packed the stadium in Santiago for a world cup qualifier against Uruguay, we had just lost to another team and needed this victory to move on, but such thoughts were insignificant to the extent that calling them distant memories would have been too charitable. The stadium sits with a decent view of the Andes, a nice concrete monolith and memory to the days of Pinochet; the Uruguayans were corralled into a small section that marked their sanctuary from the sea of red jerseys, and, as the game progressed, Chile’s battle cries of valor and victory quickly turned to a literal “Fuck you Uruguay”. Of course, the Chileans were angry when the referees failed to cite the Uruguayan footballers for the same acts they were joyous to get away with, but such is this double standard of sports. A mirror for the ideologies we partake in daily or, as sports will tell you, it’s called “reading into it too much”.

There are probably more spectacular memories failing to surface, so for now I exit with those. I can’t promise there will be more exciting things on the horizon, but I will.

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