Checking In

This post was copied from cerroladrando.com.

Hello all and welcome to by Off Campus Study blog. On this platform, I will share my experiences studying abroad during the 2019-2020 academic year in Chile. Brace yourselves. This is a long post.

With the assistance of the Walker Grant for Latin American Studies, I received the financial support necessary to travel to the capital of Chile, Santiago, for an internship before beginning my first semester at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV).

Over a seven week period, I interned with Catapultame, a crowdsourcing group based in Santiago. The business was started by Chilean entrepreneur Andrés Reid. I conveniently met Andres while I was working in Arica, Chile (with the financial support of Provost Margrett McFadden, the Walker Grant for Latin American Studies, and the Hollis Grant for Environmental Studies) on an interview and photography project entitled: Trade Disputes and the Effects of Pipelines on Local Populations in Bolivia and Chile. I shared my black and white photographs and pertinent parts of interviews during the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium (CLAS) in May 2019.

Andres’ enterprise, Catapultame, focuses on financing various campaigns looking to generate capital while maintaining independence. Each campaign is unique. In the past we worked to support an independent journalists, a sex change, and scholarships for at-risk youth. During my unpaid internship, I served as a project manager and focused on the communication and the logistics of reward-based campaigns.

Working in Santiago was exciting for me because the work culture was very realistic and I was able to explore Chile during the weekends.

During my first weekend in Chile, a friend I met over Jan Plan in Arica, Martin Collins, who conveniently works in Santiago, invited me to join him and his crew for a trip south to Punta de Lobos. Punta de Lobos is a world class surf spot known for its machine-like waves that break for as long as one kilometer. During my first trip to Punta de Lobos, I crashed at Martin’s pad. His cabin is equip with a wood burning stove and all the simple necessities one needs in life. The cabin even has hot water – something that is not always accessible in Chile. The group was filled with very  intelligent and informed individuals. During my time in Santiago, we made various trips together. Conversation was never a bore. Since we all were working in the capital and wanted to surf our brains out on the weekends, our friendship was ideal. It turned out that one of Martin’s buddies who also rents in Pichilemu with eight friends, Samuel Hurtadou, has an opening in their house for the foreseeable future. The price of monthly rent is $25.000 CLP. I am officially renting with Chileans.

After finishing my internship in Santiago with Catapultame, my dad met up with me and we made the trip back to Punta de Lobos. Over that week, we rented a house at a very modest price on a dirt road with a view of the wave from the one-room living space. There was no hot water nor heat in that house. To take a warm shower, we boiled water using the propane stove and then diluted the boiling water with the tap in the kitchen. The solution was ideal.

During that week in Pichilemu, the town where Punta de Lobos is located, my dad and I had an epic sleep schedule set. We fell asleep by nine and were awake again by six thirty, well before the sunrise. When we arrived, the surf was head high to overhead. Then we had two days of solid fifteen foot surf. After that, a colossal swell arrived.

On the second day of moderate surf, the leash plug of my dad’s board broke. As the wave in Pichilemu is one of the longest in the world, there is a considerable amount of current moving down the point with the arriving swell. The locals call this current which consists primarily of white water “el avalancha.” As the current moves down the point, the mammoth amount of water needs somewhere to go; el avalancha creates an eddy where the point meets the beach towards the east. The backcurrent of water moving west to the sea is sizeable. This backcurrent surely took my father’s coveted 7’10” semi gun. Ultimately, the adrift surfboard on its journey north is the reason I was able to surf the biggest waves of my life later that week.

The next day, my spry and aging father who is equally present yet aware of the inevitable physical decline that is aging, purchased a replacement. The 8’6” x 20 ⅝” x 3 ⅜” he bought from one of the locals is shaped by a Brazillian who does lots of work with the big wave surfers in Pichilemu. The previous owner had surfed it only a few times and the gun was built over a year ago. The light use over the past year allowed the fiberglass to harden sufficiently. My father was very excited and certain when he made the purchase. Although surfboards are generally more expensive in Chile as materials such as polyurethane foam, fiberglass and resin, are manufactured and shipped from the United States, the price was just. During one conversation on the way to check the waves one morning, my father speculated that the board had been sitting in the rafters a long time and its previous owner was keen to part ways with the gun as quick as possible. After making this monumental purchase, my dad and I shared some very long lefts in the evening light. There were not many people in the water due to the strengthening wind from the south – and indication of the imminent arrival of XXL surf.

During the last three days of the trip, the swell was easily larger than twenty foot. With past years of experience in waves that size, my father wisely chose not to enter the water. However, he did manage to capture a few digital sills of me (see photographs below).  Throughout the trip, I spoke a lot with some locals in the carpark regularly. By the time that swell arrived, they were keen to show me all their tricks. On one of the days of XXL surf, I wore my Patagonia impact vest for additional protection as the swell demanded a serious level of respect from the surfers who chose to enter the ocean. I surfed with a very conservative approach and thankfully did not have any terrifying falls nor hold downs. Most of the time, I sat in the safety of the channel watching the locals and digesting the intense characteristics of Punta de Lobos. Over those three days, there is no question I experienced the largest waves I have ever seen in with my two eyes.

After hearing my father’s stories about surfing XXL swells during his youth, seeing prints in the magazines, an endless amount of push ups, and much anticipation for that opportunity, I was in pure ecstasy while connecting with the ocean. I approach the Pacific with pure respect and awe for its might.

After the trip in Pichilemu, my dad drove me to Valparaíso and dropped me off for my first day of orientation. As I am direct enrolling in the school, I attended many talks by the faculty at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. My favorite moment was listening to a speech by the Academic Vice President of PUCV, Dr. Arturo Chicano Jiménez. According to Dr. Arturo Chicano Jiménez, academia is nothing more than an attempt to understanding the world. It sent chills down my spine.

Valparaíso roughly translates to “go to paradise.” Va which translates “to go” and paraíso meaning “paradise.” As the Spanish language has strong overlaps with Arabic, one cannot help but consider the connotation of Valparaíso without recognizing the indisputable connection between the words “paradise” and “heaven” in Islam. In Valparaíso, residents appear to know much of the population and stop regularly for endearing conversation which usually last less than three minutes. It is paradise and an ideal place to study Spanish.

While Valparaíso is filled with people who have lived here their entire lives, many Chilean artist move to the city and live in the center, similar to literary groups from El Siglo de Oro such as Los Numantinos who published works criticizing the monarchy in Madrid. I have spontaneously met some of these playwrights, musicians, and actors. As I enjoy spending lots of time on my own, it has been very easy to strike up stimulating conversation. One one occasion I played piano in a flat with some musicians. I am forever grateful for my modest background in hispanohablante literature and feel very comfortable candidly connecting associated works. However, I wish I had a  better understanding of the complex history of Chile, especially during the 20th century. Nevertheless, during my time here I plan to inform myself as much as possible.

I named this blog “Cerro Ladrando” which translates to “Barking Hill” in English. Valparaíso is well-known for its steep hills and stray dogs who bark incessantly. In this respect, the city is similar to places such as San Francisco and Lisbon. During my time blogging for “Off Mayflower Hill” I will concentrate on sharing photography-based content accompanied by text explaining the context of my pictures. Some of the Chileans I have meet offered to introduce me to their friend who is a photographer and has a private darkroom. I hope to shoot frequently on black and white film and print my own photos in that darkroom. The opportunity of this project excites me as I will be able to continue pursuing my interest in photography and alternative processes while simultaneously meeting improving my Spanish in an inviting social setting (similar to my independent study over Jan Plan).

On a glowing spring day a few months ago while sitting on Colby’s Miller Lawn, a good friend and one of the most influential people in my life, David Berle, made a profound statement. “Student of many, expert of none.” Those six words resonated with me. Over the last two years of my liberal arts education, I feel that statement sums up my academic approach accurately.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV) was founded in 1928 and is associated with both Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (located in Santiago) and the Roman Catholic Church. I will be taking most of my classes at La Casa Central which is the main building built with exquisite brownstone. Although the school of architecture at PUCV is the institution’s most widely-known school, there are 63 undergraduate programs. My decision to direct enroll in the university has allowed me to take courses taught by various departments. With my liberal arts background, this is very exciting and as I will take art, entrepreneurship, history, and climate science courses. During my academic journey, I have found that courses are easier and more enjoyable when I have a personal relationship with my professors. I hope to connect with my professors outside class and during office hours. This year of study abroad will enhance my perspective and I hope to make lasting and genuine friendships with both my peers and professors.

The past week here has been very hectic. As I will be studying here for a year, I am also looking for a flat and other students to live with. Those who have learned the process of renting a house may relate to my situation. I am currently juggling that process, meeting fellow students (which are both interconnect naturally), attending introductory meetings, finalizing my academic schedule, and riding the bus to the beach for a quick surf when I can. By highway, the beach is 15 minutes from the center of the city. However, as I do not have a car, I take the bus and the journey is a little longer. La Boca Con Con is one of the waves I have been surfing a lot and I actually tucked into some long barrels at low tide before dark this evening!

I recognize I will always speak Spanish with an accent. After traveling to countries such as Spain, Panama, and Bolivia, I use words and phrases from each country that are widely-know. The amalgamation of language endlessly fascinates me. Why should a foreign student not synthesize various expressions they learned while living in various countries? Although some may criticize this approach, but I maintain its relevance.

I do not plan to travel back to the US for at least one year. This summer in the southern hemisphere, I hope to put my savings into a Toyota Hilux pickup truck equipped with a cap, bed built over the wheel wells (with storage underneath for gear). I am planning to spend the months of December, January, and February writing a film script in Spanish while camping and living in Patagonia. The idea for this script has been in my head for quite some time now. The classes I am taking this semester will improve my understanding of Chile and help me write an accurate story. I hope everything comes together.

The future is bright and everyday I recognize the never-ending generocity of Colby College, my professors (Dr. Ben Fallaw, Dr. Philip Nyhus, Dr. María Dolores Bollo-Pandero, Dr. Luis Millones Figueroa, Dr. Arne Koch, and Professor Gary Green), my friends, and my supportive family. I promise the coming posts will be much shorter. Signing off.