I hope this finds everyone’s new year going well – it certainly seems to be going fast. Since my last post, I had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks in Chile and Argentina as part of the Tippie Global Learning Opportunity – and while I see that some of my classmates have already posted regarding this AWESOME event, it is the most interesting thing that has happened to me since my last post. BUT, in an effort to spare you some of the redundancies, I am going to talk about the first day of the mini-trip to the larger-than-advertised port city of Valparaiso that prefaced the formal portion of the program for some of my classmates and I.
My journey began in not-so-sunny Cedar Rapids, IA and around 13-14 hours later I touched down in sunny-breezy-and-80ish Santiago, Chile. I arrived a day behind the larger group, and while this might not seem like a big deal, I speak veeeerrrrryyyyy little Spanish – and the journey to Valpo from Santiago requires no less than a 20-30 minute cab ride and a 2 hour bus ride. Fortunately, the Chileans I encountered were patient and inviting people. So while they obviously didn’t understand much of what I was saying, they were more than gracious in helping me mutter through my “conversations” using grunts, nods and hand signals…and while this obviously increased my travel time a bit, I made it eventually and with little trouble. (Note: words cannot not accurately describe the joy I felt for being able to make it from point Santiago to Valpo without being able to speak Spanish…seriously man, little victories.)
So after traveling roughly 20 hours, I pulled up in a taxi cab in front of the Robinson Crusoe Inn, a small, but charming independent hotel run by American expats. To my surprise and relief, the group I was meeting was actually standing in the lobby of the hotel – waiting to be picked up for a multi-vineyard tour of the Casablanca Valley! So I calmly got out of the cab, dropped off my bags and got back into a van for another hour or so. Our guide was an English expat named Mike – who like us had come to Chile to study, but fell in love with a Chilean girl and relocated permanently. Great guy. We visited two vineyards on our tour, Emiliana (a popular organic vineyard that practices “bio-dynamics” to create their wines) and Casas del Bosque (a more traditional “touristy” type vineyard that was nonetheless spectacular). Both vineyards offered several varieties of great wine (including the Carmenere that Chile is known for), and unbelievable views of the scenic Chilean countryside. I would recommend this to anyone going to Chile, and probably rate it as one of my favorite aspects of this trip.
After we left Casas del Bosque, Mike took us back to our hotel in Valparaiso; and at that point it was early/mid evening – so the hunt for dinner was on. After hiking up and down several Valpo blocks (sidebar: Chile is mostly the Andes, and Valpo sits at the base of a mountain, so much of the neighborhood we stayed in was reminiscent of San Francisco in that it each block was straight up and down!), we settled on a completely non-descript diner/restaurant that is only being mentioned because it looked like the place Rocky probably ate breakfast at in Siberian Russian before he fought Drago (Rocky is a pop-culture reference for those international students reading this; you should Google he and Drago…). It was bizarre to say the least – but the food was tasty enough, and it was quiet since we were the only table there…for 2 hours (as Tara mentioned in here posting, dinners in Chile could last for hours – but in a good way).
After dinner, it was time to take in our first Chilean bar experience. We made our way to an Irish pub style bar called El Irlandes – which literally translates to “The Irish”…I think (see http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/irland%C3%A9s). (On a side note, we took a cab to the bar from the non-descript “Rocky diner and one of my more Spanish inclined classmates had a nice conversation with the cab driver making fun of me cramming myself into the front seat of his tiny Chilean cab. If you can’t tell from the pictures – I’m a big dude, so yes it was funny.) Once we arrived at El Irlandes, we were greeted by yet another expat (this one Irish obviously) who had opened up a great little bar with a spectacular beer list, including many local options – and this is where we ended our day. After spending several hours, and 1,000’s of Chilean Peso’s (exchange rate is roughly 500 pesos = $1), in the wee hours I made my through the winding, hilly, dog-filled streets of Valparaiso back to the Robinson Crusoe (in Chile and Argentina, they don’t manage the stray dog population – they let them roam free, so fido is everywhere!); where I would love to say the night raged on, but after 20 hours of travel, and another 15 hours of taking in Valpo and the Chilean wine country, I was spent.
I hope you enjoyed my day – and if nothing else, I hope you took away from this that business school is so much more than text books and lecture notes. This was just the first day of my South American experience – and I wrote 900 words! As usual, if you have any questions, comments, complaints or otherwise – please feel free to reach out. I’d love to talk more about my experience. Viva la Valpo!