Monday, October 21, 2013

Gone South

Yeah, okay. Let me just sum up an incredibly inspiring and extremely packed two week excursion to Southern Chile and Argentina. No problem.

I think I’ll just use lots of photos and then I’ll go into detail about a few of my favorite events. But first let me just explain exactly where we were and what we were doing.

We left on October 2 and flew from Arica, the most northern city in Chile, to Temuco, which is in the IX region of Chile, about 400 miles south of Santiago (if that helps you at all). The main purpose of this excursion was to expose us to the Mapuche population that lives in Chile, and for us to better understand their beliefs and use of traditional medicine. The Mapuche are an indigenous population that make up about over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile, and about 4% of the total Chilean population. Similar to the Native Americans in the US, Mapuche had their land taken away from them and continue to face issues of discrimination and identity today. The word Mapuche means “people of the land,” so the loss of their land meant a lot more and lead to a loss of culture and identity. (I highly suggest checking out Project Odakniwa’s home page to read more about the Mapuche and the amazing organization my friend has established to work with the Mapuche)

Highlights of the trip:

Temuco- We got to visit Temuco, which is the city where I’ll be staying for my Independent Study Proposal for the month of November. It’s a bit colder in the south, but there’s so much more green!!!

Makewe, Chol-Chol, Nuevo Imperial- These are all names of towns around Temuco that have strong Mapuche influences. We visited each of the hospitals/clinics in these towns and learned about the intercultural health care systems they have, combining traditional Mapuche medicine with occidental practices.

Pucon- We took a day trip to Pucon, a lovely little tourist town that looks a lot like Canada! We checked out the volcano, the hot springs, and enjoyed some lovely german pastries (there’s a large german population and influence in southern Chile… who knew?!)

Puerto Saavedra- So we had this activity called “Pueblo Drop Off,” and basically, we were split up into groups of 4 and given the name of a town where we would be spending the next 3 days. Technically it wasn’t even a drop-off because we had to find our own bus from Temuco to get there. So Puerto Saavedra was my destination, and I absolutely fell in love with this little beach town. It used to be a main port in southern Chile, but in 1960 there was a huge earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the entire town. It’s since been rebuilt, but it’s much smaller now and the port is no longer in use. This was an amazing experience to prepare us all for our Independent Study Projects because we had to get to know the town, the health care system, the school system, the politics, everything about this town using whatever resources we could. Oh, and we also had to find our own place to stay for these 3 days. It was such an incredible experience to be so independent in our own learning!

Bariloche, Argentina- Did I mention we got to hang out in Argentina? 14 hours on a bus (3 of those were spent at a restaurant for lunch) and we were there! But it was 14 hours with an AMAZING view. Bariloche is like the gateway to Patagonia, and it also happens to be the chocolate capital of Latin America. Not a bad city to spend a few days in.

Day with the Mapuche- While we were in Argentina, we got to spend a day with a Mapuche community. It was beyond incredible hearing their stories and learning about their struggles and triumphs. They were so open and welcoming. And OH MY the food they cooked for us… Wow. They cooked all of these veggies underground—meaning, they used the coals from a fire and then placed the veggies on top and coverd them in a tarp, and then covered the tarp with dirt to lock in the heat. 2 hours later we had one of the most delicious meals.

To end our two weeks there, we had a lovely dinner at our bus driver’s house ☺ Tons of delicious salads, chicken, steak, and the most delicious homemade ice cream I’ve ever had (sorry Ruth).

I can’t wait to go back in November!

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