Greetings from beautiful Chile! I arrived safely and on-time yesterday morning, and have been gradually adjusting to the time difference, the language, and the fact that it’s February and it’s 80 ºF outside.

My flights felt like they took forever, but that’s mostly because I’m really bad at sleeping on planes, and so spent most of my time doing my pre-program readings, watching the in-flight movie without sound as I pretended to do my pre-program readings, and trying to ignore the toddler two rows back who would not stop whining. I flew from San Francisco to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Santiago, for a total of about 13.5 hours of flight time — the whole trip was 20.5 hours, including waiting for my first flight at SFO and the layover between my flights. There were a few other girls from my program on my second flight, two of whom I met while waiting to board; we reconnected once we were at baggage claim, off the plane and past immigration. In the baggage claim area, there were airport employees wandering around with trained dogs to check everyone’s bags for vegetable and animal products, which you have to declare for customs. (They may have been checking for other things, too, but all they found while I was there was a sachet of lavender in the carry-on bag of one of the other girls on my program.) Outside customs our program staff miraculously found us in the crowd and brought us over to where the rest of the group was hanging out — our flight was the last one to arrive that morning, so most of the group was already there. We waited around a little longer for one more person who was supposed to be on our flight (it turned out her connecting flight was delayed so long that she missed our flight to Santiago; she finally made it here this morning), then finally headed out into the wonderful Chilean sunshine.

The first two days of the program are spent in Algarrobo, a little town on the coast not too far from Santiago. (I’m not exactly sure how long it took us to get here, since I fell asleep on the bus.) Driving across Chile, I noticed that this region looks a heck of a lot like Northern California does in the summertime: hills covered in greenish-brown brush, lots of orchards and vineyards along the road, people advertising various food items they grow and sell. All the billboards are in Spanish, and the speed limit is measured in km/h, but other than that we might as well have been driving around the hills in the Bay Area.

But then we got to Algarrobo, and as soon as the beach came into view, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas California anymore:

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