Well, my last week here in Chile has not been exactly what I imagined it to be.
My weekend started out with a hike at La Campana National Park in Ocoa Valley, which was about two hours away from Santiago. This was another USAC organized field trip and definitely one to remember! In total we hiked about nine miles…which was quite grueling for someone who hasn’t worked out in some time and has been eating nothing but carbs. Our USAC on-site staff always tells us to have a partner on all of the field trips so nobody gets lost. Emily and I were partners, and at the beginning of the hike we stopped to take off our jackets since we were getting hot, and sure enough I turned around and the entire group was gone. We walked a little further up the trail and couldn’t find them, nor could we hear anybody talking. It was dead silent. We decided to just continue on the main trail and cross our fingers that we would find them in front of us. We started booking it up the mountain and did not run into anybody from our group. At that point, we took a breather and decided to wait a little bit to see if they were behind us.
Sure enough, we started to hear some voices in the distance. Emily and I looked like lost puppies halfway up the mountain when we saw our USAC group climbing towards us. They had apparently stopped off to the side to take pictures at a lookout, and found a stray dog along the way. When the dog saw me from afar, he ran so fast towards me and jumped into my arms. He started biting my arms and that’s when I called it quits. We had no idea where this dog had come from or if he even had a family. Nonetheless, we decided to name him Kevin and he stayed with us throughout the duration of our hike.
Once we reached the top, we got to see a small waterfall and some of the most beautiful trees, plants, and flowers. It was a view unlike any other. We stopped for a snack break and took lots of pictures. It took us about two hours to hike up and about an hour and a half to hike down. Trust me, going down the mountain was much easier than climbing up. I could feel how sore I was going to be the next day in my legs. Once we got down the mountain, we got empanadas at a restaurant for lunch and drove back to Santiago. It was a tiring day, but also a very cool experience (and a good workout)!
On Saturday, Emily and I went to visit the zoo at Cerro San Cristóbal and the planetarium at one of the universities here. The zoo started out a little sketchy when we didn’t see the tiger in his habitat, but it got a whole lot better. They had some pretty cool animals there. We saw elephants, giraffes, flamingos (Emily’s favorite), a zebra, and of course the llamas! I have determined that llamas are my spirit animal now. I also felt bad for the animals because it gets really cold here in Santiago in the winter time, and all of the animals have outdoor habitats.
We got to the planetarium about an hour before it closed and the line to buy tickets was EXTREMELY long. There was no way we were getting inside before closing time. Luckily for us, some lady came up to us and gave us her tickets because she apparently couldn’t go. The tickets included entry and a movie. We were so thankful for this woman. I let one of the workers know that we had tickets and she escorted us inside (past the long line of waiting people) and told us that the show would start soon. Little did we know, they were running late with their shows, so we had to wait about an hour to get inside the dome. But once we did, it was absolutely amazing. The movie was about the total solar eclipse that Chile will have on July 2nd. I am sad to be missing this event since I go home in a few days, but I got a pretty good idea of it at the planetarium.
Unfortunately, after our hiking trip I started showing symptoms of my ulcerative colitis. The symptoms have progressively gotten worse over the past couple of days, and I have been spending lots of time resting at my homestay and eating bland foods. My poor host mom is so worried about my condition and what to cook for me, but she has been doing a great job! I feel sad that this has to happen here in Chile, especially during my last week when I had last minute sight seeing I wanted to do. My only concern now is just staying healthy and finishing my Spanish class strong. I stayed home from class yesterday to rest and stay close to a bathroom, which was much needed. Each day is different and I feel abdominal pain at different parts of the day. It’s been a challenge to explain to my host family what’s going on in Spanish, but also a really good learning experience for me. Luckily the USAC staff here are fully aware of my condition. One of them even has UC and she gave me some great advice and suggestions on what to eat and drink to feel better. It’s nice having someone who understands what I’m going through.
The good news is that I have a great support system here and I feel comfortable telling my host family what is going on, mostly because it’s necessary that they are aware of my condition. I only have one more full day left in Chile, and I intend on spending it with my host family and thanking them for everything they have done for me. I know that I have a different situation than most students and they have been very welcoming and accommodating from the day I arrived. I am trying to get past the fact that I am very sick, and focus on getting back to the States safely and in one piece. I know I can recover from this and that I will rest as much as needed when I get home. I am a little frustrated that I have to deal with this AGAIN because I just recovered from a flare-up about a month ago. This time I was only in remission for about one month, which isn’t long enough. When I get home I’m gonna get down to the nitty gritty of this disease and get myself on the right track. What other choice do I have?