May 19, 2010

Week 3: WHAT?

Hey everybody :)

This week I will tell you a bit more about WHAT Chilean life is like and WHAT goes on here.

Chile is now a democratic country but it has not always been that way. Chile has just elected a new president, Sebastián Piñera, (succeeding Chile's first female president, Michelle Bachelet), and the government is organized alot like ours - there is a president (executive branch), Congress (legislative branch), and a Supreme Court (judicial branch).

President Bachelet:

President Piñera:

The President works in "La Moneda," a large white building in the center of the city:

Chile's political history is interesting but very sad. In 1973, the standing president (Salvador Allende) was overthrown and killed by the Chilean military who wanted to see the government run in a different way. Augosto Pinochet, an army general, became president of Chile in 1974 and ruled until 1990. He was a repressive dictator and killed anyone who opposed him or his government. Over 30,000 people were tortured and killed during that time. Many of the people killed were young people, intellectuals, teachers, and those connected to the Allende government.

These are pictures of some of those who "disappeared" during the dictatorship. Below is a protest of family members carrying a banner that says, "Where are they? The truth is still missing!"

After much protest in the late 1980s, the government agreed to hold a referendum and Pinochet was voted out of office. However, he was named a senator for life and he remained head of the army until 1998. Despite all of the atrocities committed, thousands of people supported Pinochet for his economic policies, which many claim "led Chile to development." Therefore, the country, to this day, still remains divided politically. When Pinochet died at the end of 2006, I was here in Chile studying abroad. Half of the country mourned, half of the country celebrated his death! It was a very bizzare yet powerful cultural experience.

This is Pinochet:

As I've mentioned, Chile is one of the more modern countries in Latin America to the extent that is has access to technology and other modern conveniences. Internet access is common. Almost everyone has internet in their homes and there are internet cafes all over the city of Santiago. All of my classmates have laptops and we constantly communicate with each other, both by email and cell phone. People in the subway are always texting on their cell phones or listening to MP3 players. While technology is readily available and widely used in Santiago, it is alot less common in other parts of the country. In more rural areas, I'm sure internet access is hard to come by, and there are several indigenous areas where it would be hard to even find a computer. But at least for me, I have all the modern conveniences I am used to. I have wifi in my house, and I often take my laptop to a cafe that has wifi to study or chat with my family back home.

Chile has an abundance of natural resources - tons of fruits and veggies are cultivated here and forestry, fishing, and copper mining are some of the major industries. A principal manufactured item is Pisco, a sweet lemon-flavored liquor.

Wine is a major industry as well. Chile's "developed" and "modern" industries sometime clash with traditional methods or traditional communities. Compare the pictures of the industrial fishing vs. traditional fishing, both of which are still vibrant in the country.

Chilean hobbies and leisure activities include going to the movies, going to the mall/shopping center (yes there are tons of malls and people LOVE to go there), and hanging out with family and friends. It is common to see groups of kids just sitting around and hanging out in the parks in the afternoons and evenings. Lots of people ride bikes and skateboard in my neighborhood. There are also gyms and indoor pools where people go work out. Last year I joined a community center in my neighborhood where I go swim laps for exercise.

People walking through Parque Forestal (Forest Park) in downtown Santiago:

Looking forward to your questions. Take care!!

May 10, 2010

Week 2: WHO are Chileans?

Hello everyone,

Hope you enjoyed learning all about the WHEREs of Chile and that you are excited about getting to know WHO Chilean people are...

Chilean People and Culture

My impressions of the Chilean people are very positive. Anyone who visits Chile will learn right away that Chileans are warm, friendly, and very proud of their culture - and therefore they are very eager to help visitors and make them feel welcome. My classmates, for example, were very friendly and outgoing from day one. They were all eager to know whether or not I was comfortable here and have offered to help me in so many ways, like by helping me look for an apartment or offering to help me with class material if there was something in Spanish I didn't understand.

In this picture I am enjoying an "asado" (the Spanish word for cookout) with some American friends as well as Chilean friends.

This is a picture of me with all of my classmates one evening after class!

The culture of Chile is unique, that is, quite distinct from the cultures of its Latin American neighbors. This has to do with the geography as well as the history of the country. Remember how we learned in the WHERE section that the Andes mountains separate Chile from Argentina to the east and that the dry Atacama desert in the north separates Chile from Peru and Bolivia? These geographical barriers made it difficult for settlers to arrive to Chile in the first place, and then once Chile was settled, these barriers kept the Chilean people relatively isolated from their neighboring countries. For this reason, Chilean culture grew and developed in a different way.

So what makes Chile's culture different? Chilean people, I find, are much more reserved and conservative than most Latin Americans. They are hard-working and tend to always arrive places on time (while most Latin American cultures are notorious for people always being late!). Chileans are very religious, almost all are Catholic. Family life is very important here. Families are very united and kids live with their parents until they get married - so most people live at home until they are almost 30!

Here in Chile, you will find people working in many of the same jobs you would imagine in the States - people are bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, psychologists. One major difference, however, is that there are more people who have small businesses out of their homes or who own small corner stores. While there are supermarkets and large shopping centers, the smaller store (that only sells one type of thing, like just school supplies or just vegetables, for example) is more common.

A Chilean "corner store" in Valparaiso, a city on the coast, about an hour from Santiago:

(Remember how I told you guys that 500 Chilean pesos equals 1 american dollar? Look at the sign in this picture where it says "Pan $920." "Pan" means bread... what would you do if you were walking through the grocery store and saw a sign that said "Bread $920"... needless to say, the difference in currency took some getting used to!)

This is a picture from the Santiago marathon last year, which was a great example of the Chilean society coming together for a city-wide sporting event:

Finally, I want to add a little tidbit about Chilean art. Chileans, while somewhat reserved in general, have proven to be powerfully expressive when it comes to visual art and literature! I have loved visiting museums here in Chile and reading Chileans books and poetry. One of the world's most beloved poets is Pablo Neruda, a Chilean. You may have also heard of the author Isabel Allende who has written some amazing novels.

This is Pablo Neruda:

The next three pictures were taken in Valparaiso, a wonderfully quirky city known for its street art, among other interesting cultural features.

These are two examples of art painted on the sides of buildings:

A mosaic in the sidewalk:

Hope you enjoyed! Am looking forward to your questions this week.

Sending you all warm greetings from Chile,


Apr 18, 2009


WHERE is Chile?

The country of Chile is located in the Southern Hemisphere on the west coast of South America. You will notice on this topographic map that the Andes mountains divide the two countries of Chile and Argentina. I live in the capital, Santiago, at the base of the Andes.

As you can tell from the map, Chile is a very long, narrow country. (The good news is that no matter where you are in the country, you can never be more than 2 hours from the beach!) However, because Chile spans such a long distance from north to south, there are several different geographies and climates that comprise the country.

The northern region is very dry with lots of deserts. The Atacama
desert is located here, and it is technically the driest desert in the world as it receives the least amount of rainfall of anywhere on earth! I loved visiting this desert because it is composed of salt basins. Here in the north you can find interesting animals like flamingos and vicunas.

Santiago is located in the central region of Chile, which is green and fertile. 80% of Chile's entire population lives here because of its agreeable climate and beautiful landscapes. (The climate is very much like North Carolina's - hot summers, mild winters.)

The South of Chile is chilly! But in my opinion, the south has some of the most striking and gorgeous landscapes on earth. Here you can find immense glaciers, huge native forests, crystal lakes, and looming mountain landscapes. I recently visited the famous Torres del Paine National Park where I had the opportunity to hike and camp in this beautiful terrain.

WHERE is Santiago?

I have been in Santiago for about 14 months now, and I really love living here. Santiago is a huge, modern city with approximately 6 million inhabitants (about one-third of the entire population of Chile). Santiago is divided into different neighborhoods, called "comunas;" some are very quiet and tranquil with lots of trees, while others feel more urban with modern transportation and tall buildings. Two years ago, Santiago opened its subway system so it still feels very clean and new. I either get around the city on the subway or on my new bicycle!

I am currently living in an apartment in the center of Santiago. I love my neighborhood because it's full of art, culture, and life. There are several cafes, stores, and even a small independent movie theater on my street, but I also have nice parks and green space close by. I live close to the center of the city and therefore I can walk or ride my bike almost anywhere I need to go - to school, to the grocery store, to friends' houses!

I have class at the University of Chile three days a week three hours in the evening. While the school is located in a busier part of town, the school building is surrounded by a gate and the inside has lots of trees and outdoor areas for students to socialize and study. Here is a photo of the building where I have class every day. There is a lot of student-created art around the campus, like the drawings you see here on the walls.

Hello from Chile!

Hello to the 6th grade classes at Magellan!

My name is Shepard Daniel, and I am a 24-year old student living in Santiago, Chile. I attend a Chilean university where I will study Environmental Planning for two years. I am delighted to have the opportunity to communicate with you all and share stories about life here in South America.