Semanas inolvidables

You may be surprised to learn that while you are reading this blogpost, I am currently taking exams (or more like making a zillion group projects). That’s right, folks. I’ve been in class while you’ve all been vacationing. It’s cool.

But in all seriousness, I can’t believe that it’s finals already. There’s no way I’m about to leave this amazing country that I’ve called home for the past 4 months.

Where do I start? So many things have happened since you’ve last heard from me. So let’s go down memory lane, shall we?

San Pedro de Atacama was absolutely incredibly beautiful! As on other trips, I found myself repeating, “this is not real life.” From the Geysers del Tatio to the copious amounts of salt on the ground, everywhere you looked in the Atacama desert took your breath away. (Fun fact: the salt flats in Atacama make up two-thirds of the world’s lithium.) Even a person with a horrible camera couldn’t take a bad picture in Atacama. It’s literally so amazing. Among visits to Valle de la Luna/Valle de la Muerte, the flamingo reserve, Laguna Altiplánico, the geysers and Ojos de Salar, my favorite spot might have to be Laguna Cejar, a lake with a salt content almost as high as the Dead Sea. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to sink! After floating for a bit, the girls and I hopped out of the lagoon covered in salt, and traveled to Laguna Tebinquinche, a shallow lagoon where many people go to see the sunset. The appearance of the mountains as the sun is going down is UNreal. We continued to watch the breathtaking sunset as we took pictures that looked like we were standing on water.

Walkin on water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballet in Atacama <3

Soooo beautiful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we please just talk about how beautiful this is?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, back in Santiago, I had the opportunity to shadow in hemodialysis and surgery!! Needless to say, hemodialysis wasn’t the most exciting day of clinical observation. However the nurses and patients there definitely made the experience. The patient I talked to was just a plain ole dad, putting his job on hold to take care of his health. It may not be the most fun thing to do 3 times a week, but at least he had the right attitude about it. We also had so much fun with the nurses… By the end of the day, they were asking us to translate things/how to say words in English, and sharing about their vacations to Walt Disney World (shout out to the most wonderful place on earth!).

The next week, I shadowed in surgery at Hospital Clínico Universidad Católica and it was so cool!! I didn’t even faint. The first half of the day, I watched a gastronomia in the very clean, well-equipped operating room, where they took out half of this lady’s stomach via endoscopy. I stared in disbelief at the surgeon, who through just 4 or 5 little tubes, stapled half of the stomach, cut it out of the way, pull it out and then proceeded to suture the half of the stomach that was staying in her body… Like seriously?! Mad props go to the surgeon that could suture endoscopically. I still don’t even think I believe it to this day. Ask any of mis compañeras…those sutures were pretty much the only thing I talked about the days immediately following this observation. The second half of the day, I observed a sinus surgery. Looking at the inside of a nose is not as fun as looking at the inside of your thoracic cavity…however it was a fine day of observation indeed.

Last Sunday, a few friends and I participated in a 5K/10K in Santiago! Among the facts of where the race was to be held and how much it would cost, we also learned that the first 1000 runners to register would receive a free shirt. And let’s be real…we only do things for the tshirts, right? Totally kidding. Anywho, the time came for us to pick up our numbers and our poleras. I was a tad unwilling to travel 45 minutes on public transportation to get to this place, but I’m so glad I did. It’s called Mallsport and is exactly what it sounds like. There are so many outdoorsy stores there it’s a hiker/extreme sports person’s DREAM! I probably turned in circles for a while just to take it all in… Besides the two floors of stores, there were go-karts, rock-climbing and laser tag inside and surfing and ice skating outside! Literally was the coolest thing ever.

The race itself was very well-organized for a first year event. We all gathered at the starting line anxiously awaiting for the countdown clock to dwindle down to the start of the race. Por fin we started and quickly left the pack. After a while, we all separated and ran our separate paces. I was super glad to meet Nina at the start of the second loop! We ran together for most of the second loop and then sadly lost each other. At this point, I was starting to second guess my decision to run a 10K. But you know what? You’re only in Chile once. This totally vale-d la pena. As I turned the corner and saw the finish line in the distance, all my cross-country training (thanks Coach Raabe!) came right back; something in my head clicked and I just sprinted. Out of nowhere. Have absolutely no idea where that energy came from but I finished STRONG. And the best part was hearing everyone cheer for me at the finish line. I sincerely wanted to brag to the person beside me about how great my friends were. I would also like to take this moment to brag on one of the summer program kids, Sierra. She won the race for our age division! Like a boss.

More friends!

Our group!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had some of these super great friends in tow when I went to see Chicago: the Musical at Teatro Municipal de Las Condes this past Thursday. It was SO great. First of all, they matched the actors/actresses so closely to the characters in the movie. The scenery and orchestra were all fantastic and they all were great singers. It really made me want to just get up on stage and dance and sing with them!! But also teach them some dancing skills, because their battements, for example, were not up to par with the fabulous kicklines of the Wofford Dance Team. Regardless, I absolutely loved the performance. The best part about going on a Thursday night was that it wasn’t sold out; I tell you this because our original seats were on the very left side, literally right over the orchestra pit. However we moved during intermission to the middle section on the floor and it was absolutely fabulous. Great decision, team.

Anxiously awaiting the start of the show!

Oh hey there orchestra pit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also got to partake in watching the Chilean national team play…twice! Last Thursday against Paraguay and this past Tuesday against Bolivia. For the game against Paraguay, we went to HBH in Plaza Nuñoa. If you ever want the best soccer game experience without actually going to the soccer game, go to HBH. I really felt like I was there. (This made up for the fact that we tried to get tickets to the Tuesday game and were not successful :( Going to HBH was definitely the next best thing.) The whole place was filled with people whose eyes were glued to the tv, waiting for Chile to score another goal and take the victory! Chants were constantly spread throughout the place; as soon as one would stop, another would start. SO fun.

I also write this post after a long day of celebrating Bruno’s birthday! Yesterday night, we decorated the living room with blue balloons and a Feliz cumpleaños banner while Josefina was off distracting him. (He totally knew what was happening though.) As soon as the clock struck midnight, we brought him out to see our display of felicidades and cracked open a bottle of champagne. Chileans are really into celebrating the whole 24 hours, and that we did. Tonight, we had family and neighbors over for a big dinner (of pastel de choclo!! A really Chilean dish made of pino, a mixture of hamburger meat and onions, with choclo on top, the Chilean word for corn. It’s really similar to Shepherd’s pie). We sang happy birthday to him, ate cake, took pictures… It really felt like I was part of the fam.

Inolvidable I tell ya.

Nina has been such a blessing to our family. Her outgoing personality was just the encouragement I needed to speak more with my family. And in doing so, I feel much more comfortable speaking in general. It could be that I’ve been here for 4 months now, but I’d like to think that she had a little something to do with it too! I’ve also realized that with our new addition to the family, I really don’t want to leave here. At all. Can’t I just stay here forever? I’m going to miss everyone so much!! I just wish that I have made at least half the impact on them as they have on me.

 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

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Dr. King at your service

Whoa, that title sounds weird.

It will become real so soon though! Ahhh! Anywho…first off, a little update: we finally made it to Mendoza!!! I can’t begin to describe the happiness I felt because it was actually happening. I made so many fun memories with Brenna, Phoebe and Martha (including a lost passport/all forms of identification scare) and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything!

But what I haven’t been telling y’all is that for the past 4 weeks I’ve been shadowing at hospitals here! Yes, my clinical observation class that I’ve been talking about forever has FINALLY started! So far, mis compañeros y yo have traveled out to a Mapuche ruca (a center for the indigenous people of Chile), a palliative care center (for patients who have AIDS/cancer/terminal illnesses), Hospital Sótero del Río (a genereal hospital where we  observed the maternity ward), a primary care/outpatient center called Centro de Salud Comunitario, Santiago de Nueva Extremadura, and the emergency room in Clínica San Carlos de Apoquindo. Now, I know that was a whole mouthful of crazy names, so I’ll put it in English for y’all.

Things I’ve learned while shadowing:

  1. Terminal illness–don’t think I’ll be working in that area. Although the center was nice (well-lit for being so closed in, and very nice facilities for being solely run on donations) I don’t think I see a future there. It was just so somber and sad…don’t think I could handle it. It was neat to experience the center though: it is the only one of its kind in South America. There are 40 beds throughout the center, but only around 20-25 are actually occupied. The patients seem like they are very well taken care of. We didn’t get to talk to them ourselves, but everyone on staff was nice and welcoming.
  2. Sometimes the efficiency in this country is less than satisfactory. Thank goodness for America. Don’t get me wrong…things run smoothly (most of the time) here but there’s always room for improvement.
  3. Mental illness is no joke. While at the ruca, we learned that if a patient came to a general hospital and the doctors determined that they couldn’t heal the patient because the problem was more mental than physical, they would send them to the machi at the ruca in hopes of healing their bad spirits. Interesting, huh?
  4. What you see on the streets is real life. While at the primary care center, I had the opportunity to talk to the mom of a girl who they suspected had asthma. While the doctor was off running around the office checking on certain tests they had run, I had a little heart-to-heart with the mom. I asked her what her job was and she replied that she sold things on the side of the street. Things they don’t need, things they could possibly make…all is fair game. Whatever brings in money to the household. After talking to her, everything got real. All the people that peskily ask me to buy things on the street have a name, have a story, have a reason to be there. They just want to provide for their family! And although I live in the nice part of town, situations like this still exist in Santiago.
  5. Location really does matter. One week, I was at the primary care center in the poorest sector of Santiago and the next, I was in the richest! And boy did this make a difference. I shadowed in the emergency room of a clinic (what they call private hospitals here) in Las Condes and it was soooo nice. When I entered the hospital, I thought I was back in the states. Everything was modern and huge and clean and nice…I couldn’t believe my eyes. Because of this, the emergency room wasn’t what you’d think: blood, guts and tears everywhere. Nope. This emergency room was more like Urgent Care and was calm for most of the day. I quickly learned that I’m not sure I want to go into ER, just because of the inconsistency. I like being certain of what’s going to happen. And here is definitely not the place!
  6. Standing on your feet all day is exhausting. Got some newly formed respect for doctors now. Keeping track of 5 million different patients while walking around for  hours on hand? You go, doctors, you go.
Also, fun fact: I’ve seen two live births. No big deal.
Just as I learn things at each hospital I attend, I become more and more aware that I am growing. Estoy creciendo. When Maricarmen first said this phrase to us at the beginning of the semester, we all shook our heads in disbelief and thought that this woman is crazy. But actually, she is so right. Not only am I learning more of what I like and don’t like in the medical field, I’m also learning things about myself. I’ve come to realize what I put my identity in. So much of my identity is formed from my surroundings: my family, friends, where I live. And when you’re uprooted and move to a different location, you have no choice but to thrive in those situations. And that I believe I have.

More updates: a new student is coming a new student is coming! That’s right–our family will be receiving another student. There will soon be 2 gringas in this household! I’m so excited to get to know them and teach them everything I know about Chile. Although they are coming on Wednesday, I still don’t know who they are. Also, great news! I leave for San Pedro de Atacama (a desert in the north) on Thursday! Super excited. Promise to blog about that soon after I get back.

But until then, chao! Xoxo

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Bendiciones disfrazadas

Welp, I’ve definitely learned the Chilean way of life, that’s for sure.

As I’ve mentioned before, Chileans are on their own time schedule. Who cares if you’re 20 minutes late? Just blame it on the metro/micro. But it also includes flexibility, and that’s one value that I learn constantly here.

A couple weekends ago I went surfing with Brenna in Viña del Mar. Well, close to it… We had thought about going surfing at the beginning of April, but it just didn’t work out. However, we had already contacted the guy at the surfing company. Good thing he was flexible and was totally okay with us coming a different day. The week came and we booked a hostel and worked ourselves up for the most epic thing that would happen to us in Chile (being second to Patagonia of course) and then we got the dreadful email THE DAY BEFORE that there was a minimum of 4 people to go out and the surf guy only had the two of us signed up for the class… But everything else was set! The hostel, our bus tickets… We decided to go anyways and try to talk our way into doing it.

So we arrive in Viña, finally find our hostel thanks to a taxi colectivo (in which the driver was a lady! que extraño! You don’t see many of those around here) and wake up Saturday morning with the surf company address in hand. We prepared ourselves to play the dumb gringa card so maybe just maybe we could still surf. (Disclaimer: We also noted that the hostel we stayed at had a surfing opportunity offered through them, but quickly realized it wouldn’t be a logical backup plan because they would have to call the prof and prepare…)

While we ate breakfast, the lady working at the hostel said that we were very lucky! Usually it’s cloudy and cold in the mornings, and it was the exact opposite on this lovely day! So we walk to the address of the surfing company, which was only about 5-10 minutes from the hostel. Turns out, they’re not there anymore. They’ve moved and decided not to inform the rest of the world via internet that they have changed locations. Lucky for us, I had the number of the surf guy so I called him and pretended I hadn’t gotten the email (playing dumb gringa right here). He insisted that surfing still wouldn’t happen that day…but was kind enough to inform us of another surf company we could go with…which was 30 minutes down the road.

After a short bus ride and walking up the cerro a bit, we finally find the surf company and about 4 others lined up on the beach! SO CUTE. By this time it was 11:00, and we figured that we had already missed the morning classes offered. Sad! The people surfing looked so cool. I wanted to be one of them stat!

Our little friend Marcelo made that happen. He was the owner of the small little surf shack we walked up to. Good news: classes started any time we wanted, it could only be the two of us, and it was the same price of the original surf company. Sign us up!! In no time, we were in the water, attempting to stand up on the board and surf those waves like it was nobody’s business. We spent HOURS out there, and the best part was, Marcelo didn’t care! Everything was so chill and so perfect. If we hadn’t been optimistic and spontaneous about going 30 minutes down the road to Playa La Boca in Concón, we wouldn’t have gotten to hang ten. But I’m so glad we did. It was AWESOME. AND I can now say that the first time I’ve ever gone surfing was in the Pacific in Chile.

And about our trip to Mendoza: if the weather cancels it again, I might scream. Two weekends ago we had planned on going to the wine country of Argentina, only to learn that there was a storm heading that way and the pass between Chile and Argentina would be closed. We were informed that buses would be cancelled that weekend, so we decided to delay our trip a week and explore around Santiago a bit, including Barrios (neighborhoods) Brasil, Yungay & Concha y Toro. Brenna and I also tried our hand at baking pan palafito, Chilote bread! It may not have looked the same as it did at the hostel breakfast in Chiloe, but it was still scrumptious! (Ps thanks Ally for listening to our SOS and helping us fix our dough. Much love!)

So here comes the next weekend. Boiling over with excitement to actually go to Mendoza this time (okay maybe not excited to that extent, but you catch my drift). Annnnnd alas, the bus company calls us again. This time in the middle of our first shadowing day of clinical observation (eeeeee!). The buses are cancelled. For that night and probably cancelled for the next day as well…because of another storm. Grrrrr. Just in case the storm would blow over, we made a plan for the little time we’d be there. I am sad to report that we never got to carry out this plan. BUT this weekend, things could change. We are planning on going…again. Third times a charm, right?

Despite the adversities, I enjoyed my weekends in Santiago. I even got to adventure to Pomaire, a little town outside of Santiago and walk through the marketplace and make pottery!! Cute little piggies. Who doesn’t love those?!

Without the troubles, I wouldn’t have been able to know Santiago better. I would have loved to gone to Mendoza this past weekend (especially because Parker was there and it totally would have been cool to meet up with him!!!) but everything happens for a reason, right? I have come to learn this firsthand. If I had gone to Mendoza, I wouldn’t have attended church and had one of the best worship services of my life (it was ROCKIN, for the record). I wouldn’t have sat under the trees in the park and soaked up the sun. I wouldn’t have aimlessly explored the city and discovered parts of town I didn’t know existed.

I guess you could say that all these cancellations were blessings in disguise. Bendiciones disfrazadas.

Xoxo

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PATA FREAKING GONIA

Brace yourselves.

This may just be the longest blogpost you’ve ever read. But it’s about Patagonia, so I think you can make an exception.

Can I just say that I am so glad that I went on this trip?! Oh my goodness my heart is so happy just thinking about all the memories I made there. So without further ado, here’s what we accomplished:

Wednesday: After a whole day of anxiously sitting through classes, we were on our way to the airport Wednesday night! Only after sitting through rush hour traffic for an hour and a half…thanks to those tacos (traffic jams) in Santiago. When I booked my flight, it didn’t assign me a seat…so I went up to the ticket counter at the gate and the attendant graciously gave me a seat number…in the front of the plane! Winning. I ended up sitting next to a man and this kid, who I’m pretty sure was traveling alone…crazy! The flight attendants checked on him every time they passed our row! So cute. We pulled the bum card and slept in the airport that night…along with a couple of other gringos embarking on the same adventure as us. Good to know I wasn’t alone on my first airport sleeping experience.

Thursday morning started bright and early just before 6AM. After the first penguin company cancelled on us (the day before!) we attempted to find another. Alas, no penguins were seen that day… We rode into the city and went to the address listed, only to find that it was pretty much nonexistent. We aprovechared the day though, and waited on the rest of the group to come into town and spent the rest of the day exploring until we caught the bus to Puerto Natales at 3. We saw the sunrise on the hill, went to the naval museum, went to a small cafe (where I had hot chocolate and didn’t spill it on everyone else’s food), talked to some other gringos that happened to be on the same flight as us, and walked along the water at the port. Finally, at 6 we rolled into Puerto Natales. Our first stop was the Bus Gomez office to pick up our tickets to go to the park the next day, and lucky for us, the guy working there was standing out on the sidewalk waving at us to tell us where to go. (You see, he was expecting us this whole time and called me twice to make sure I was coming…) We then checked into our hostal, stumbled into a trail mix store (which was so genius…whoever came up with that idea was brilliant. Especially outside of Patagonia!) and bought groceries for the weekend.

Come Friday morning at 7AM, we could be found upstairs chowing down on breakfast, preparing ourselves for the day ahead. After a two hour bus ride to the actual park, we could begin our hike. In Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, there are two trails that everyone hikes: the circuit and the W trail. The circuit is what is sounds like; it goes all the way around the park in a circle. But the most popular trail to hike at Torres del Paine is the W trail.

We started on the right side of the W and worked our way to the left.

And we’re off!

One of my favorite things about being down here is that it’s a small extranjero world: you run into the same foreigners all the time! For example, remember the guy from the Netherlands that we met at Pucon? Definitely saw him coming down the trail to Las Torres as we were working our way up! When we saw him, we had to do a doubletake. We couldn’t believe we ran into him again!! Also, we ran into some fellow IES kids as soon as we pulled into the park and then again when we hiked to Los Cuernos! Even though we had only seen each other 3 days before, it was such a joyous reunion!

FRIENDS!!

The hike to Las Torres is no joke. The beginning is a little rough and the middle smooths out, but the last leg of the hike has got to be the worst! Imagine climbing straight up rocks for about a solid 45 minutes. That’s exactly what we did. The view at the end made it so worth it though. I couldn’t actually believe that I was at this incredible place that you always hear about. That’s on everyone’s jackets. I was at Patagonia. WHAT.

Can’t believe I was actually here.

In front of Las Torres

ABSOLUTELY amazing.

Our victory song was as follows: WE MADE IT.

On Saturday, we started our hike to Los Cuernos as soon as the sun was up so we would have enough time to hike beyond that to see a little of the French Valley. It was cloudy and rainy the whole three and a half hours, which was a bummer. But literally nothing could damper the beauty of Patagonia. Yeah the sky may not have been sky blue, but the hike along Lake Nordenskjöld was still beautiful.

Our view when it finally stopped raining!

Now, you can’t just come to Patagonia and not make some Chilean friends. Our first friend was Daniel. He stayed in our room at Refugio Las Torres and I kind of woke him up when we returned from our day of hiking. But he was totally cool with it! He ended up hanging out with us the rest of the weekend haha! He just happened to be taking the same route we planned on taking. We also made friends with the park ranger at Campamento Italiano. You see, when we hiked up to the French Valley, we passed by his little office, and he asked us where we were going. He wanted to make sure we knew to be back before sundown…how sweet! Then we asked his opinion on our hike for the next day. We were in a bit of a pickle: the sun doesn’t rise until 8AM and it would take about 5 hours (according to the map) to get to the catamaran at Lake Pehoe. Problem was, the catamaran left at 12:30 and we didn’t have any flashlights, other than the one Daranee brought. He was hesitant to tell us that it was a bad idea, knowing that teníamos ganas de ir (that we really really wanted to go)!

But boy, did we put him in for a surprise.

We decided to do it. The beginning would be the hardest part, carrying our packs and all. We’d start at 7, only being in the dark for one hour. We’d have Daranee’s flashlight and the flashlight on Daniel’s phone. We’d also have Daniel with us, who has hiked around this park millions of times! (He actually works for the refugio company in the park and every now and then casually runs the trails. Which I should mention are sometimes crazy hard. No big deal.)

We completed the hardest part of the hike (the first fourth of it) in 45 minutes. All uphill, up rocks, across rivers, through mud… We did it. And the best part: the sun was just rising as we completed it! What a treat, right? Literally couldn’t believe that we had hiked this so fast.

We started on the right side of this map…and got halfway in 45 minutes. HOLLA

Good morning from Patagonia :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our new friend, Daniel!

The rest of the hike was a breeze. We arrived at Campamento Italiano at 9 and greeted our park ranger friend. He was smiling from ear to ear, so surprised and proud of us for completing that hike in such short time. Although the next half of the hike from Campamento Italiano to Paine Grande/Lake Pehoe was relatively flat, it took us longer to complete (probably because we were exhausted from climbing up the very first part at a rapid pace!).

On our way to Paine Grande

We could finally breathe a sigh of relief…our biggest fear of missing the catamaran/missing the bus out of the park/complicating transportation back to Santiago was eliminated! We were able to catch a glimpse of Paine Grande and Los Cuernos as we made our way across the lake, as a little farewell to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

Los Cuernos

So all in all, I guess my grand excursion could be summed up in this way:

22389562398 blisters

51 kilometers

5 friends

4 days

1 exhausted (but overly joyous) Courtney

 

Hasta luego! Xoxo

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Just a few more months and I’ll be fine…

Update: I’m still learning. But mostly learning to not be ashamed to admit when I don’t understand. I hate that feeling of not knowing… I love to know everything. And I like to be right. I don’t like to be wrong, which is probably why I don’t like to open my mouth and speak. The Spanish that comes out is most likely super inferior to whoever I’m talking to. And I don’t like not knowing what to say. It’s even worse in Spanish than it is in English. And this is a daily occurrence. Welcome to my life.

A couple weekends ago, a few of us ventured with Maricarmen and Marcel for an exciting fun-filled weekend at Chiloe. Amongst the (almost) penguin tour, lunch on the beach, dinner at a fancy restaurant in town, super interesting and informative talleres (including learning how to weave wool and a humongous, delicious lunch served by the cutest little farm family), “hiking” in the Chiloe national park and meandering through a feria artesenal, I learned some things.

I loved spending time with everyone this weekend. We bonded over our love for penguins (even though there were none), spelling out CHILE on the beach with our bodies (which was totally hilar by the way), attempting cartwheels and push-up squares, and telling stories around the dinner table at the hostel. As all these events played out, I began to realize that I don’t want to leave. Only a few more months with these great people is so depressing to think about. I don’t even want the thought of leaving to come to mind, because leaving would mean going back to our home states and probably never seeing them again. I don’t want that to happen!

MARICARMEN

CHILE

Love love loveeee them

So for the remainder of my time I have here, I will take advantage of every opportunity I have to get to know everyone better. Maybe, just maybe, I will be ready to leave when the time comes. But then again, maybe not… :)

 

Now, for your listening pleasure, the inspiration for this blogpost. The one and only…NEEDTOBREATHE

More Time

 

“Please don’t worry now, it will turn around. Cause I need more time, just a few more months and we’ll be fine. So say what’s on your mind, cause I can’t figure out just what’s inside.”

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Takeaways

So as an avid RUF goer, you know that David Fisk likes to ask you what your takeaways are at the end of each large group/small group meeting. I thought I’d fill you in on my takeaways from Chile so far.

I finally had the chance to listen to all of the sermons from RUF this semester and they’ve been absolutely amazing. But I really do think that spurred me to think more of what God is doing through me during my time in Santiago.

This past Friday was Good Friday, and the start of Semana Santa. Everyone, and I mean everyone, left Santiago to vacation at the beach or cualquier location, leaving me lonely and bored in the city. There was a bit of miscommunication–I thought we were going hiking on Friday and not Saturday, so all morning I was trying to wake everyone up. That definitely failed. I was so discouraged; it seemed like nothing was going as planned. Everything was falling through. But it was beautiful outside and I wanted to enjoy the day! I decided to go to the park behind my house to read. (Multiply by Francis Chan is a wonderful read by the way, thanks Ashleigh!) When I wasn’t being interrupted by the numerous evangelists/Jehovah’s witnesses coming up to me, I was intrigued by how fitting the content was to my life right now. God has a plan for me here. He sent me to Santiago for a purpose. He knew what He was doing! And we don’t get to tell Him what we’re doing today or the next day or next week or even the rest of our lives. He’s got it all figured out. And because of that we can REST in Him. How many times a day do we wonder how something will get done, or how we’re going to get somewhere on time? And how much better will we feel when we don’t have that burden anymore? Gosh we serve an amazing God.

On Saturday a group of us went hiking in Cajón del Maipo to see El Morado, a natural monument in the area. Number 1, El Morado itself was absolutely breathtaking. Number 2, the mountains surrounding El Morado were GIGANTIC. Pictures can’t even begin to convey how high they were. It was spectacular spectacular. As we hiked along the path, all I could think about was frolicking about the scenery and singing “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” They were literally that amazing. But the most wonderful thing was thinking that God made these mountains, and He said that they were good. He also made us, and said that we were good. So basically we can equate ourselves to the most beautiful mountains in the world? Can you say powerful? And also, confidence booster?

Celebrating Easter Sunday in Santiago was wonderful! Although I missed my family traditions back home, I loved experiencing this special day in Chile. A group of us decided to go to the cathedral in Plaza de Armas for mass. I swear I felt my jaw drop when we walked into the doors of the cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful. I was so proud that I understood most of the service, which was all in Spanish obviously. But the neatest thing to me was being able to recognize the Apostles’ Creed and the Great Thanksgiving before communion. Listening to this huge cathedral full of chilenos say these rituals gave me the goosebumps! Being able to witness the Chileans’ faith was an incredible experience.

I can’t wait to see what else God will reveal to me here. This weekend was an eye opener, and I pray that I will be able to see more of Him every day!

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This is not real life. Cachai?

I feel as if every blogpost I write opens with a reminder of how long I’ve been here/a countdown of the time I have left. But only because I absolutely cannot believe that time is flying by so quickly! As of yesterday, I’ve been in sweet, sunny Santiago for a whole month. A month?! I feel like I just arrived! Either way, I now know how important it is to take advantage of my time here, and do everything possible! Hence the trip I took this weekend to Pucón.

Like a cool kid, I managed to not have classes on Friday (HOLLA). So on Thursday night, Phoebe, Elizabeth, Martha and I were on our way to Pucón via an overnight bus. We arrived in the cute little town of Pucón at 9 the next morning, and set out to find our hostel, with the help of a random hostel owner who tried to convince us to stay at her own hostel. After checking in, we decided to go on a horseback ride and explore the Mapuche (Chilean indigenous people) countryside. The trail we followed, after traveling through a shallow river and narrow spaces in the forest, stopped on the side of a mountain, with an awesome view of the whole town of Pucón. Getting to this location was a challenge though, seeing as my horse loved to stop and eat…all the time. I found myself constantly yelling, “camina!” and “que no comas!!!” The latter was the most popular phrase of the day.

When we returned to the Mapuche ranch where we started, a feast was waiting for us. And by feast, I mean empanadas (de queso y pino), sopapilla, pebre (pico de gallo), mole, some kind of thing made from trigo (wheat) with some marmelada to put on top, and also a drink made from the same trigo stuff… Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious. We then headed to Lago Villarrica which was just down the road from our hostel. After a quick trip to the grocery store to get lunch food and snacks for our hike the next day, we returned to el lago to watch the sunset, which was amazing by the way. The mountains around the lake were just incredible. After our eyes were satisfied, it was time to satisfy our tummies. We dined at Club 77, and had these humongous hamburgers, with delicious avocado on top. A little fella, aka a dog, joined us at our outside table as we watched the Chile v. Peru game through the window of the restaurant. He was so cute, I just wanted to love him and take him home! One of the most interesting things we witnessed though was a wedding procession down the street. Bernardo O’Higgins is THE street in Pucón. It has all the restaurants, tourism agencies and stores you could think of. As we were just about to walk home, we heard all these horns honking. What the heck is going on? We then realized that the first car was decorated and the bride and groom were sitting in the back. Then about 15 cars followed behind them, with their flashers on and honking profusely. It was such an interesting thing to watch, as the cars drove up and down the street. When we got back to our hostel, we were greeted by some Israeli friends. Apparently Pucón is a huge stop for Israelis traveling in South America. So we had some friendly company as we made our sandwiches for the next day. Also, fun fact: all the signs in our hostel were in Hebrew, English and Spanish.

Now for Saturday. Bright and early, at 6:45, we stumbled out to the back shed to meet Gina, our hostel owner. (Our hostel had a tourism agency within it and we decided to book our courageous hike to the top of volcán Villarrica with them, which in hindsight was an awful decision, just because other companies offered it for less). We piled into a van with 7 other eager hikers, including 2 girls from the Czech and 1 guy and his parents from the Netherlands and of course some pololos. When we reached our starting point, a beautiful sunrise was there to greet us. What the perfect start to our day! We started the hike, and when we got to the ski lift, totally took advantage of it, although it cost extra. It was either 7.000 pesos and saving your energy or 1 hour of hiking through boring terrain and wasting precious energy. We went with saving energy.

Volcán Villarrica is no joke. The hike was one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, I have ever gone on. It dominates the skyline of Pucón, all 2800 meters of its glory. The hike could be divided into 3 parts: rock, glacier, and then rock again. The first portion took about an hour and a half, the glacier about 2 and a half, and the last rock part about 30 minutes. Even though this may seem super cray, have no worries. We had 3 guias that helped us along the way; one of them, Pablo, stuck with us and encouraged us the whole time (if by encourage, you mean screaming “vamos!” at us 50 million times). Through our spanglish conversations, we became fast friends. Can you say nuevo mejor amigo? We looked to him for help especially when we started hiking the ring of ice that was around the volcano. He helped us put on our crampons and told us when we needed to wear gloves, etc. Basically told us how to hike this monstrous volcano as safely as possible.

But when we got to the top, oh man. I would say it’s absolutely incredible, but I feel like you wouldn’t believe me. Everything here is absolutely incredible. But this. This was far beyond anything I’ve ever seen. You could see mountains for days, lakes on every side, even the 2 neighboring volcanos, Llaima (which is on the border of Chile and Argentina) and the other, which I cannot remember. We even got to peek into the crater. It was amazing. You could see the layers of all the different sediments…green for sulfur, red for iron…it was literally the coolest.

By far, sliding down was the best part of the hike. It made the 4+ hours of hiking worth it. The glacier part of the volcano we struggled up earlier? Slid down the whole thing in 20 minutes. It was SO fun. At this point, Pablo kept telling us to bend our knees and keep our ankles together, because if you did not, a visit to the hospital would probably be needed. Being rescued and carried down on a backboard would not be fun, and we saw this firsthand. Apparently there was some guy who was taking pictures and stepped back too far and fell and broke his ankle? I don’t know the whole story, but I do know that 7 guides carried him down the volcano, and we ended up following them. We went down a different way than we came up, and the steps I took felt like I was ice skating but in dirt. It was the weirdest thing. Also on our descent, we encountered clouds moving in for the rain expected later that night.

Just as anyone else would get into a hot tub after a long day of physical activity, we found some hot springs to do the same. Besides the hot springs that have been turned into spas, there are Las Termas Geométricas and Los Pozones, which are natural. Every tour company we talked to tried to persuade us that Geométricas was the way to go, but Los Pozones was cheaper, and it was natural. It was such a good choice. There were 5 pools; we didn’t try all of them. We had heard that the last was the warmest, so when we got off the bus and walked into the chilly weather outside, we practically ran to the hot spring. And boy oh boy was it maravilloso. There we met two sisters, one of whom is currently living in Santiago, and more Israelis (told you they all come here).

On Sunday morning, we woke up to the rain pattering outside our windows. It felt so nice to sleep in, whereas the day before we were up before the sun was! After cleaning our room in the hostel, we ventured to ask Gina if we could leave our things there for the day as we explored the town some more. She was SO nice and let us do exactly that, even though our bus back to Santiago wasn’t until 10 that night. We decided to set out to find los Ojos del Caburgua, which consists of waterfalls. It’s not as near as rigorous as the previous waterfall hikes I’ve attempted to go on. Ojos del Caburgua is just a really nice place to have a picnic, and take lovely pictures of course. After we missed our bus stop the first time, we drudged through the drizzling rain and found them! The water there was absolutely phenomenal. It was the brightest, clearest blue I’ve ever seen. Like it looked so fake, as if it belonged on a putt-putt course.

After we successfully found the waterfalls, we set out to find La Creperia, a fabulous restaurant with delicious crepes. We are the only people dining there for a while, but that didn’t stop us from ordering hot chocolate and manjar frutilla crepes. (My mouth is watering at the name of it.) The waitress brought out our food and we started to partake in what would be the best, warmest meal ever, after walking around in the chilly rain. The first two bites of my crepe were fantastic. And then tragedy struck.

Somehow, silverware and plates clashed and would not move. The plate with Martha’s hot chocolate ended up being the first to move, and emptied all its contents atop my huge crepe. I was heartstruck. My crepe and Martha’s hot chocolate were ruined. Thank goodness it didn’t burn me. The waitress kindly brought out a mop and cleaned everything up, including taking my hot chocolate-covered crepe away (which I tried a bite of…and wasn’t bad at all…definitely edible). So there I sat, watching Phoebe, Elizabeth and Martha devour their crepes while I sipped on my hot chocolate. And waited. And waited. And waited. No new crepe for me.

Life lesson: in Chile, if you spill something on your food, don’t expect them to bring you another for free. That’s totally American to think such a thing. They will only bring you another plate of food if it’s their fault, like if the chef messes up when cooking your food. So needless to say, I was starving the rest of the afternoon until we bought empanadas before our bus ride back. Coming back to Santiago was pretty boring, besides the man sitting across from us who blasted some Defying Gravity. And sang all the words. Love him.

During our activities this weekend, we kept repeating the phrase, “this is not real life. Cachai?” I cannot believe we hiked a volcano/glacier/survived to tell it. I cannot believe that I’ve been able to go to such amazing places. I cannot believe that I can study during the week and then travel to some of the most unique places in this world. I have definitely caught the travel bug, and am eager to go wherever, whenever. I only have 102 days left here!! Let’s get to adventuring.

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But where are all the people?

In order to spare everyone from reading a blogpost 5 pages long about this weekend, I decided to split the festivities into two. Here comes the second part!

Friday was filled with hiking, which you have already read if you keep up with my adventures. But Saturday was set aside to explore the city of Santiago! Martha and I decided to find this little cafe that served American type brunch. I know you’re thinking, Courtney…this is your fourth week being in the city. Do you really miss America and American food that much? The answer is no, I wasn’t desperate. But at the same time, it was nice to have a little taste of home :) One review called Café Melba a gringa breakfast paradise. I’d say that’s accurate. This little café serves breakfast and lunch, but I have a feeling that breakfast is more popular. And I can totally understand why. The food was absolutely AMAZING. Martha ordered the french toast with grilled pineapple and bananas and I ordered the blueberry lemon pancakes with TONS of blueberries on top. Both were absolutely delicious, but if I went there again (which will most likely happen) I will most definitely get the french toast!!

Martha and our scrumptious brunch!!

Now that our tummies were full, it was time to explore! We ventured to the zoo en el centro. Fun fact: the zoo was definitely located right across the street from the salsateca I went to last weekend…crazy!! Another fun fact: the zoo is on the side of Cerro San Cristóbal, which means if you didn’t ride a funicular (like an elevator) up the hill and start the zoo at the top, you had to walk up zillions of stairs to go through all the exhibits. And we didn’t take a funicular, so it was up up up we went. Although we were constantly climbing stairs, we really enjoyed the zoo. I think the best part was either the monkeys or the penguins. Or both. I can’t wait to possibly see penguins in their natural habitat when I go to Patagonia!!!

After the zoo, came Cerro Santa Lucía, another cerro to climb! However this one had stairs and wasn’t as vigorous as Cerro San Cristóbal. This is a veryyyy touristy place to visit in Santiago; I encountered many tour groups and heard a lot of English being spoken… The architecture at Santa Lucía was beautiful! The yellow and white colors of it were so cheery :) There were also ruins from an old Spanish fortress. Since pictures can better convey this place than my words, I’ll stop the talking and let you see for yourself.

This past Sunday, I decided to finally find this church that Jennifer Ridings recommended to me: Viña las Condes, which is a contemporary Christian church in Las Condes. I looked up directions to this church from my house and discovered that there were two ways to get there: by bus or by metro. I decided to try the bus first, and then catch the metro back home. That meant I would have to catch one bus and go down for a few blocks, and then catch another and go for a few more blocks. After about 45 minutes, I found the church!! I was so proud of myself. I think this is the first time that I’ve had to travel public transportation by myself to an area that I hadn’t been to before. And there was success! HOLLA.

Compared to church services in the states, this service was way long. Like two and a half hours long. Chileans like to sing, and I’m totally okay with that! We sang these awesome Spanish worship songs for about an hour, and I couldn’t help but get goosebumps. It was then that I truly experienced that worshiping God goes totally beyond our home churches and totally beyond the US. These Chileans sang with their whole hearts and meant it. They were truly so thankful for the love that God has shown them. Literally every hand in the church was raised. The Spirit was totally there, and I soaked in every glorious minute of it. The pastor preached about the wise man and the foolish man who built their houses upon rock and sand, but he also made it a point to preach that God will use you wherever you are to shine His light. I was meant to hear that. I was meant to find this church this particular Sunday morning and hear that message. It was absolutely awesome. My heart felt so full by the end of the service!

But by far, one of my favorite parts was when the people in the congregation turned to the person standing beside them and prayed for one another. It was so incredible to see the faith that each had. Now as for me, the poor little gringa in the midst of all these Chileans, I was just standing there, soaking in this incredible experience, partly because it was so awesome and partly because I didn’t have anyone to pray with. But alas, here comes some random woman to save the day! She came up to me and laid her hands on me and continued to pray for me for about 10 minutes straight. It was so sweet! Although I didn’t catch all that she said, I really appreciated it! She doesn’t know how much it meant to me, for someone to have reached out and shown me love at the most appropriate time! Needless to say, I will return to Viña las Condes!

Now for some tidbits of information about Chile in general. You know I love me some fun facts!

  1. Chileans are late. To everything. And they don’t care. I was so worried about catching the bus on time and getting to church before it started at 11. Welp, I found my way there and at 11 on the dot, the church was still pretty empty. Everyone was there around 11:15, no worries. The service was still spectacular!
  2. Chileans love carbs. Their diet is heavy in bread and rice and bread and rice…so many great foods. I think I’ll fit in well here.
  3. Chileans are direct. This could also be categorized as a culture shock to me, coming to a big city from a small town! But Chileans say what they need to say when they need to say it. Enough said.
  4. Chileans do not stay in Santiago on the weekends. But really though. As I was walking to the bus stop to church on Sunday and from the metro to my house, I literally passed no one on the sidewalk. How could this be? That millions of people just disappear for fun on the weekends? Well, truth is that Santiago is boring on the weekends, according to my host mom. I did not see anyone until I went to Museo Bellas Artes and the park located right next to it. Then I realized that everyone who stayed in Santiago this weekend was there. Much to mi madre chilena’s liking, I am planning on traveling these next couple weekends. So don’t you worry. I’ll find something to do and places to explore!
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Hiking on hiking on hiking

I’m pretty sure all I do here is hike. And I’m okay with that. The city is surrounded by the Andes and I LOVE it. Last weekend and this weekend were filled with hiking trips. And of course both have stories.

So last weekend a group of us wanted to hike Saltos de Apoquindo, which is a crazy hike with a super cool, or bacán, waterfall! We met bright and early at 7:45 at the metro station so we could all travel together. As we were on our way to the hike, we walked through a farmers market. I wanted to buy everything there; it looked so good! We finally found the entrance to the park that held this hike with a waterfall. It happened to be beyond Católica’s sports complex, past a whole slew of soccer fields and even an equestrian practice/training area. The kind gatekeeper graciously broke the news to us that alas, we could not access the waterfall from here. That entrance was different than the one we were currently at. So we decided to aprovechar (to take advantage of/enjoy) our time and hike the trails there. We hiked to Alto Naranjo, which is a mountain in the foothills of the Andes. Although we were supposed to follow the yellow trail the whole time, we turned onto the green trail, which was a teeeeeny bit harder. Okay, maybe it was a lot harder. It literally felt like we were scaling the mountain at times. But the view at the top was definitely worth it!! You could see the Andes forever, and there was an awesome view of Santiago. I really don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing this city from afar.

Also, I’d like to point out that these mountains are some of the most arid mountains I’ve ever hiked. There’s only dust beneath my feet, compared to the luscious leafy floor of the mountains of the Upstate. Needless to say, we were covered in dirt when we returned to Santiago! No worries. Nothing a pool the temperature of Antarctica couldn’t fix.

This past Friday, we decided to try to find Saltos de Apoquindo again. We looked up directions to Parque Natural Aguas de San Ramón, thought we knew where we were going. We were able to navigate the metro, but the bus up the hill was where we took a wrong turn…literally. We caught the right bus, but it was going in the other direction… Are you kidding me. When we realized we were riding into neighborhoods/the city and not towards the mountains, we started to panic. We asked some random ladies on the bus for help and they replied, “Just stay on the bus so you don’t get lost! It’ll go around in a loop.” We even reached out to the bus driver, which I’m pretty sure felt sorry for us gringas by this point. By the time we got off at the correct bus stop, it became a race against time. They closed the trail to Saltos de Apoquindo at 10, because it takes about 8 hours to hike the whole thing and they close the park at 6. It was currently 9:45.

So here we are, at the bottom of the hill. Hoping that we see a taxi colectivo in sight. We only found one… And one taxi was not going to fit all 8 of us girls. So the group decided to split up, with half in the taxi and half walking. We’d catch another taxi if we saw one. Welp, we didn’t see one. And the people in the taxi had the only directions…smart move, right? Alas, we kept walking up the hill, in hopes that we could find this place on our own. At one point, we got to a dead end. We called the group that went via taxi, hoping they could give us directions. However, they were no help. There was what seemed like an old entrance to the park that wasn’t in use anymore, so surely there would be another entrance nearby. Brenna and I thought we should go left, but everyone else said go right. So we went right. And after 20 minutes, we realized the street numbers were going down (when we should have been going up). But that wasn’t the only thing going down. We were walking downhill… At this point, we knew we were far from the park, and everyone was ready to give up. But Brenna and I were not! Even if we didn’t hike this trail today, we would at least find the place and know exactly where it was!! When we got back to the dead end spot, we went in the other direction and it was literally 2 minutes away from there, I kid you not. You don’t know how happy I was to have found this place, after hours upon hours of traveling.

Because it was most definitely past 10AM at this point, we hiked the smaller trail, which had views of a waterfall and a swinging bridge. The trail was difficult at the beginning, but flattened out towards the middle of the hike. We peacefully ate our lunch by the creek, which made me want to be at camp all the more!! Shoutout to Asbury Hills! Also I’d like to note that the creek was SO cold. Much colder than any creek hike I’ve ever gone on.

So upon my hiking adventures, I’ve come up with some life lessons.

  1. Go with your gut. If only Brenna and I would have gone left and not right…
  2. Always know where you’re going. Aka look up the directions yourself and be familiar with the area so you don’t spend an hour riding a bus around town. Because I know everyone loves to do that.
  3. Put on sunscreen. Because you’re hiking in Chile where the ozone layer is thinner and because you’re ascending the Andes, it is absolutely necessary to apply sunscreen a bajillion times during the hike. Or you will end up a lobster. Guaranteed.

Chile is pretty much the best country ever. Apart from the US obviously. There are so many opportunities to explore, and so many trails to hike! Claudia, my teacher for my advanced Spanish grammar class and for my medical Spanish class, has mentioned the names of some of her favorite trails nearby. Surprisingly, I haven’t been to any of them yet. However, my goal is to hike them ALL.

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TRM…Total Rookie Move

Actually this post should really be called, “How Not to Read a Course Catalog in Spanish,” because we definitely learned that the hard way.

So on Monday, we went to La Católica for orientation (where we got a whole bunch of free things HOLLA). We left the university with a fresh course catalog in hand, eager to get back to our houses to read it from cover to cover and figure out exactly what way we could integrate ourselves with los chilenos. So I think that religion classes are interesting and I thought that learning more about it (slash learning about it in Spanish) would be cool. So I narrowed down the possibilities to two classes: Matrimonio, Familia y Sexualidad and Religiones y Cristianismo. Martha, Brenna and I decided that we would visit these classes together, because we were all somewhat interested in them (and because we didn’t want to be the only gringos in the class haha).

Bright and early Wednesday morning, we were off to our first religion class: Matrimonio, Familia y Sexualidad. It started at 8:30 at a campus of Católica that we had never been to before… We were able to find the campus easily, but the classroom not so much. We tried asking a student if they knew where our classroom was but they had no idea. Fail. To our surprise, a janitor working in the courtyard overheard us and graciously gave us directions. We find the classroom…with only one girl in there. Everyone else trickles in and finally comes the professor, 15 minutes late. It’s totally obvious that we’re Americans, mostly because we’re sitting next to Brenna, who is blonde haha. After sitting in on the class, neither one of us three want to take it. It was just weird and so abstract and we just weren’t interested in it anymore.

So here we go on our way, leaving the beautiful garden-y Católica campus of Lo Contador to go to the much bigger Católica campus of San Joaquín on the other side of town. We bebop down the metro lines and arrive at the lovely campus with a little hesitation; we’re not sure if the class is in the religion building, or the building with the J classrooms (the class was in room J2). We decide to go with finding the J classrooms, and that we did! We arrived at about the same time that the class before us was supposed to get out: 11:20. However, we saw no one coming to or leaving from this classroom. We think, oh the teacher is just going over a bit so we’ll wait here. We even asked another kid if he knew where this class was supposed to be; he had no idea. Once he heard our broken Spanish, he immediately switched to English, which sounded so great! Then he went to find his actual class, leaving us standing in the hallway. Twenty minutes pass. It’s almost 12:00 and we saw one kid go in the classroom, so we’re like what the heck. We’re already going to stick out because we’re extranjeros. We’ll just go explain our situation to the teacher when class is over.

We sneak in and sit in the back, and about 10 minutes later, realize that the name written on the board is not our teacher’s. And the material was not about religion… This class was definitely The Philosophy of the Dead. We even found it in the course catalog underneath the philosophy section. And we discovered that it was a three hour class and did not get out for another hour and a half. No wonder no one came out of the classroom when everyone was supposed to change classes. By now we were so confused. Why would they overbook a room and not tell anyone?

We decide to venture over to the religion building to ask someone there about the class and figure it all out. They looked at the catalog with us and even agreed that it should be in J2. There was so much confusion why it wasn’t there. Then we realized the days. On the schedule it listed the class on L, M at 11:30, which means lunes and martes (Monday and Tuesday), not miércoles (Wednesday) which we totally thought it was… (Miércoles  is assigned a W for Wednesday in the schedule for classes.)

Boy did we feel so dumb after that. We walked back to the metro, in disbelief of what we had just done. If we ever looked like extranjeros in Santiago, now would be the time. On the bright side, I know exactly where to go on Monday morning!

That, my friends, was a total rookie move. Hopefully we’ll be able to avoid those the rest of the semester. Until next time!

Xoxo

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